A "beguiling interactive adaptation" of the Aladdin story is this week's Pick of the Week. It features with Bruce Vilanch and Ben Vereen, among others. Warm feelings also for the just-closed Bash at Hollywood's Theatre Asylum and Second City's A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. See below for all the latest new theater reviews.
This week's stage feature takes a look at current shows at the Broad Stage and Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and how such multi-purpose performance venues are the architectural wave of the future.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication Dec. 19, 2013:
PICK OF THE WEEK: ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH Wit and the magic of a well-designed spectacle combine in the beguiling, interactive adaptation, embellished with comic characters, polished performances and colorful tech and costumes. Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, Kris Lythgoe's engaging script preserves the basic story of a penniless youth (Jordan Fisher) who garners wealth and the hand of a beautiful princess (Ashley Argota) via a dusty old lamp and a genie (Ben Vereen). It elaborates on this with zany subplots involving the boy's humongous, man-crazed mom (Bruce Vilanch); his clueless, clownish brother, Wishee Washee (Ben Giroux); and his narcissistic evil nemesis (Josh Adamson), whose dastardly stratagems provoke the audience simultaneously to boos and laughter. When his luck runs low, Aladdin turns to the Slave of the Ring, a captivating siren portrayed by dancer Vanessa Nichole. If this sounds like appropriate fare for the kiddies but perhaps not for you, a mature adult, be assured: This is family entertainment in the best sense. In fact, a few of the jokes may sail over the youngsters' heads. Designer Chris Wilcox's dazzling lighting augments a storybook set nearly as vivid as any Disney cartoon. An on-the-mark company of dancers, including children, execute Spencer Liff's snazzy dance steps. One caveat: The vocals are fine, but the inclusion of popular songs from other sources (e.g., "You Don't Know Me," sung by Fisher's Aladdin) struck an odd note; I would have preferred something more original. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 3 & 7 p.m.; Sat.- Sun., 11 & 3 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 24, 3 p.m.; through Dec. 29. (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org (Deborah Klugman)
If any production inaugurating a new stage company is tantamount to the raising of an aesthetic flag, the banner flying over newly minted Eleventh Story Productions' crack revival of Neil LaBute's harrowing, 1999 triptych of modern morality plays is the blackest of Jolly Rogers. Originally subtitled Latter-Day Plays, the one-acts use twin prisms of true blue American Mormonism and bleak Euripidean tragedy to refract LaBute's tales about acts of supreme savagery committed by otherwise blandly unassuming individuals. In "Iphigenia in Orem," John Delbarian plays a traveling salesman who matter-of-factly regales an unseen listener with the story of the apparently senseless death of his infant daughter. "A Gaggle of Saints" features a pair of betrothed college students (Zach McFarlane and Yelizaveta Rybalchenko), who relate how a romantic weekend road trip consummated their engagement with a brutal Central Park attack carried out by the fiancé and several frat brothers. In "Medea Redux," Shanté DeLoach plays a single mother in police custody methodically recounting the shocking chain of events that led to her unthinkable crime. Under Abanoub Andraous' austere but sensitive direction, an outstanding ensemble skillfully hits all of LaBute's poisoned nuances to realize the playwright's profoundly disturbing meditation on the thin line that separates Apollonian rationality from the basest of Dionysian passions and violence. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; closed. (323) 962-1632, theatreasylum-la.com. (Bill Raden)
CABURLESQUE CHRISTMAS: HOLIDAYS AT THE KNOCK SHOP If you can imagine what a Yuletide stag party would be like, you'll have a good idea what's offered in this high-octane, irreverent Xmas show. Featuring a cast with names like Madame Mistletoe, Side Pipin' Sally, Ditzy Dreidel and Ming Long Dong, it's an hourlong mix of burlesque, cabaret and bawdyhouse humor and hijinks, with a dash of soft striptease and a tasteful bit of lap-dancing tossed in. The host/emcee for the evening (or is he a procurer?) is Papa Clause, decked out in Santa-suit red, who despite his best efforts often fails to keep his "gals" in check when they troll the audience for willing participants; and they don't share their attentions with just the guys, either. The eight-member cast's vocal skills aren't quite as stimulating as their attire or physical assets, but they jiggle and bounce their way through traditional numbers like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "White Christmas." It's certainly a reasonable way to ease holiday boredom. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 pm.; though Dec 22. (213) 237-9933, ArchwayLA.com. (Lovell Estell III)
GO: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: TWIST YOUR DICKENS!
Frank Caeti, Brendan Jennings, Ithamar Enriquez and Joe Liss
Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Second City's twist on the Dickensian classic is back to remind you that you've been naughty. Very naughty, in fact, judging by the responses from audience members, who are (anonymously) asked to write down "the worst thing you've ever done." Some of those responses are incorporated into the performance; the rest are displayed in the lobby. Penned by The Colbert Report alums Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, the show satirizes both the original Victorian tale and other holiday staples such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. Reprising his role as Scrooge, a caustic and curmudgeonly Ron West is so over-the-top as the classic meanie that you can't help but laugh at him. He's surrounded by a cast with solid comic chops, including standouts Amanda Blake Davis (as Tiny Tim and others) and Frank Caeti (especially in his role as the planted heckler). Though some bits fall flat (such as the Sinatra-esque Gino Santini mangling holiday hits), the anachronistic interjections, improv elements and running gags keep the good times rolling. Director Marc Warzecha's efficient transitions, aided by excellent design elements, support the comic energy put forth by the actors to provide some needed holiday laughter. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Mon. (Dec. 23 only), 8 p.m.; Tues., Wed., Fri., 8 p.m.; Thurs., 7 & 10 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (no performances Dec. 24-25); through Dec. 29. (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
KAWL RADIO PRESENTS IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Apparently writer-actor Jim Martyka decided that what the world needs now is an adaptation of the ever-popular Frank Capra Christmas movie It's A Wonderful Life as a staged radio play. But he sought to improve this visually boring format by adding a framing device: a corny and stereotypical backstage backstory about the employees of the fictional, failing radio station. The adaptation, though pedestrian, is straightforward, but director Erin Scott has chosen to put the focus on the foibles and failings of the radio actors. Their busy byplay constantly threatens to overwhelm the main plot and stop it in its tracks, robbing it of both atmosphere and resonance. In short, it's a muddle that might appeal to die-hard fans of the original movie but may leave others wondering, "What's the point?" Theatre Unleashed at the Belfry Theatre, Upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Dec. 21. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. (Neal Weaver)
GO: IMPRO THEATRE'S JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED See theater feature.
GO: PARFUMERIE See theater feature
WALKING' IN A WINTER ONE-HIT WONDERLAND
Rick Batella and Beth Kennedy
The 10th anniversary of the Troubadour Theater Company's A Christmas Carol-inspired holiday spectacular feels a bit like a drunk relative recounting an inside joke at a family reunion. Directed by Matt Walker, the show cycles through video footage and oddball characters from previous "Troubie" seasonal productions, revealing the origin story of one in particular: the Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy), the gangly antagonist from the 1970 stop-motion classic Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, who in this version must be dissuaded, Scrooge-like, from quitting show business. Riffs on overnight sensations from the likes of Right Said Fred, Modern English and Gotye provide the soundtrack, but several punchlines fall flat, until their flatness becomes the joke. The self-referential gags may please the company's fans, but the diluted source material -- a dozen forgettable bands and an overexposed morality tale -- underserves the ensemble, whose sharpness is blurred here. Troubadour Theater Company at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 18, 8 p.m.; Dec. 28, 4 p.m.; Jan. 4, 4 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 8, 8 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 15, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 19, 4 p.m.; no 7 p.m. shows Jan. 12 and 19; through Jan. 19. (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com. (Jenny Lower)
ONGOING SHOWS REGIONWIDE:
GO: Aladdin and His Winter Wish: Wit and the magic of a well-designed spectacle combine in the beguiling, interactive adaptation Aladdin and His Winter Wish, embellished with comic characters, polished performances and colorful tech and costumes. Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, Kris Lythgoe's engaging script preserves the basic story of a penniless youth (Jordan Fisher) who garners wealth and the hand of a beautiful princess (Ashley Argota) via a dusty old lamp and a genie (Ben Vereen). It elaborates on this with zany subplots involving the boy's humongous, man-crazed mom (Bruce Vilanch); his clueless, clownish brother, Wishee Washee (Ben Giroux); and his narcissistic evil nemesis (Josh Adamson), whose dastardly stratagems provoke the audience simultaneously to boos and laughter. When his luck runs low, Aladdin turns to the Slave of the Ring, a captivating siren portrayed by dancer Vanessa Nichole. If this sounds like appropriate fare for the kiddies but perhaps not for you, a mature adult, be assured: This is family entertainment in the best sense. In fact, a few of the jokes may sail over the youngsters' heads. Designer Chris Wilcox's dazzling lighting augments a storybook set nearly as vivid as any Disney cartoon. An on-the-mark company of dancers, including children, execute Spencer Liff's snazzy dance steps. One caveat: The vocals are fine, but the inclusion of popular songs from other sources (e.g., "You Don't Know Me," sung by Fisher's Aladdin) struck an odd note; I would have preferred something more original. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 & 7 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 24, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Aspirin & Elephants: This is the 25th anniversary of the first production of playwright Jerry Meyer's angsty family play, and if the plot and situations seem as though they're steeped in the attitude of the 1990s, at least Chris DeCarlo's crisp staging keeps things moving at a good clip. While cruising the Norwegian fjords, middle-aged Jewish dad Steve (Kip Gilman) recovers from a heart attack that has left him feeling unmanned and depressed, even though he's doted upon by his lovely wife (Wendy Michaels). Meanwhile, their daughters are having marital problems: Steph (Amanda Maddox) and her careerist brute of a hubby, Scott (Todd Cattell), are at loggerheads, while Liz (Ryan Driscoll) frets that she earns more money than her aspiring screenwriter husband, Arnie (Michael Marinaccio). Murphy interestingly sublimates the characters' underlying angst and relationship frustrations behind sitcomlike one-liners; the barbs hint at the anger that lurks beneath. Gilman's jokey but indefinably sad Steve is engaging, and so is Michaels' fiercely devoted wife. DeCarlo's staging is serviceably pleasant, but the ultimate message of the piece is still quite trivial. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 26. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.
Astroglyde 2013: 10 all-new mini plays, created and performed in ensemble at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre. Fri., Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Bob Baker's Holiday Spectacular: One of the theater's most requested shows, which has charmed audiences for generations. The Wizard of Fantasy and his sidekick Demi Star embark on a magical journey with a cast of over 100 exquisitely designed marionettes. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Jan. 5. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Bob's Holiday Office Party: A comedy in its eighteenth year, written by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk, about Bob, an insurance salesman in Iowa. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
Caburlesque Christmas: Holidays at the Knock Shop: A naughty and nice holiday celebration under the management of Papa Clause and Madam Caress. A show with classic burlesque, comedy, and strip tease. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
Christmas 2: What if Jesus never got around to his public ministry -- what if the King of Kings instead remained an underachieving mensch with a hot wife and an overbearing mother, living in a rundown shack in Bethlehem? That's the half-clever premise of this double-cast, world-premiere play, written and directed by Jeff Goode, which marries a loose Christmas Carol plot structure with sitcom sensibilities. Despite a boozy, gyrating angel and Madonna/whore jokes aplenty, the story winds up neither as edgy nor as funny as it tries to be. The show's strongest moments involve the appealingly milquetoast Jesus (Nathan Wellman) and his firebrand cousin John (Anthony Backman), and some soul-searching by a morally compromised Roman centurion (Brett Koontz). But original humor and topical zingers get buried in the oppressively long, domesticated script. By the umpteenth "Did you look under the manger for your [fill in the blank]?" joke, it feels like an interminable episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. (Jenny Lower). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
The Christmas Carol Murder Mystery: The story of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, slightly condensed, with a murder that takes place by the end of Act 1. Jacob Marley becomes the detective, thanks to night school, and Bob and Ethel Cratchit, Fred, Elizabeth, Belle, and Tiny Tim are all suspects. Directed by Ken Salzman. Sun., Dec. 22, 7 p.m. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
GO: A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!: Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Second City's twist on the Dickensian classic is back to remind you that you've been naughty. Very naughty, in fact, judging by the responses from audience members, who are (anonymously) asked to write down "the worst thing you've ever done." Some of those responses are incorporated into the performance; the rest are displayed in the lobby. Penned by The Colbert Report alums Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, the show satirizes both the original Victorian tale and other holiday staples such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life. Reprising his role as Scrooge, a caustic and curmudgeonly Ron West is so over-the-top as the classic meanie that you can't help but laugh at him. He's surrounded by a cast with solid comic chops, including standouts Amanda Blake Davis (as Tiny Tim and others) and Frank Caeti (especially in his role as the planted heckler). Though some bits fall flat (such as the Sinatra-esque Gino Santini mangling holiday hits), the anachronistic interjections, improv elements and running gags keep the good times rolling. Director Marc Warzecha's efficient transitions, aided by excellent design elements, support the comic energy put forth by the actors to provide some needed holiday laughter. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 & 9 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 7 & 10 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
GO: A Christmas Carol: What made Ebenezer Scrooge such a miserable old coot? Adapter-director Christina Harris elaborates on this aspect of Dickens' cautionary tale in Sierra Madre Playhouse's amiable musical production of A Christmas Carol, embellished with songs and upbeat ensemble dancing. Scott Harris portrays the tight-fisted miser as less an icy capitalist than a bad-tempered old man with chronic indigestion (my take). The classic narrative involving Jacob Marley (Karl Maschek) and the ghosts (Kelly Kitko, Hector S. Quintana and Tim Stafford as Christmases Past, Present and Future, respectively) unwinds with enough technical flair and professional skill to preserve one's attention, despite the story's umpteenth retelling. The disciplined ensemble includes teens and children, with the youngsters performing adeptly and -- speaking of the 8- and 10-year-olds -- remarkably on cue, surely a directorial coup. Anthony Bravo's soft-spoken Bob Cratchit and his family, including an endearing Amelia Grace as Tiny Tim, furnish an apt contrast with the story's fantastical characters, all underscored by Jeremy Pivnick's lighting, John Zalewski's sound and Liz Peterson's lively costumes. Still, some of the backstory and drawing room scenes need pruning, and not all the group vocals are quite on the mark. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, $28. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens' holiday classic, adapted for the stage by Geoff Elliott. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
GO: A Christmas Carol: The Yuletide Lords of Misrule at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre are presiding over a "turbocharged," nontraditional version of the Dickens classic, which means you can expect a lot of fun and laughs. The opening scene sets the impious tone with an offering of familiar carols performed with sardonic menace by the cadaverous-looking "Steampunk Chorus" (outfitted in a loud mix of raunchy dance-hall garb), led by whiz guitarist Annalee Scott. The basics of the story are all here, but director Denise Devin has spiced the production with a few surprising twists, once again working theatrical magic with her customary no-frills staging, deftly marshaling a sizable ensemble in this limited performance space. Sebastian Muñoz does the honors as Scrooge, and Devin turns in sprightly performances as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, while Zombie Joe makes a memorably scary appearance as the tormented ghost of Jacob Marley. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Disney's The Lion King: Marvel at the breathtaking spectacle of animals brought to life by award-winning director Julie Taymor, whose visual images for this show you'll remember forever. A five-time Tony award-winning production. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 26, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 28, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 29, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 31, 2 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 2, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 5, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tue., Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 8, 1 & 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 9, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 11, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 12, 1 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.hollywoodpantages.com.
Dysfunctional Family Christmas: This farce by Paul Storiale kicks off with the Logans, Joanne (Elyse Ashton) and Dean (Rob Schaumann), planning to sell their house, ship Grandpa Logan off to a nursing home and move to Florida. They've invited their three misfit children home for one last family Christmas. Just when the kids are due to arrive, they discover that Grandpa has died in his sleep; they decide to conceal the fact in order to not spoil the holidays. Predictably, endless complications and mishaps ensue, involving daughter Christine (Kara Hume) and her Jewish fiancé (Matthew Clay); son Adam (Alex Polcyn) -- who may or may not be gay -- and his nympho girlfriend (Sara Swain); actor son Braden (Brian Spengel), who has spent his whole life being ignored; and bossy neighbor Mrs. Braskett (Barbera Howard). Storiale's script is broadly written, obvious and short on logic and credibility, but it proved amusing enough to please friendly opening-nighters. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. BrickHouse Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood, 818-506-5436.
The Eight: Reindeer Monologues: Vixen, one of Santa's reindeer, accuses Santa of sexual harassment. When the media descends upon the North Pole, the rest of The Eight are compelled to share their stories and perspectives. Written by Jeff Goode, directed by Royana Black and David Peryam. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Theater 6470 at the Complex, 6470 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383.
: Exploring the dynamic and complicated reality of a family with an autistic 18 year-old, this play poses difficult questions about loving someone who is hard to love. The Martins try to lead a normal life, but when a relative comes to visit, the entire family is thrown out of equilibrium. Written by Deanna Jent. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-10-24/stage/falling-rogue-machine/
. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
God's Gypsy: Originally upper-class and also half Jewish, the real woman ultimately canonized as St. Teresa of Avila rose to prominence in 16th-century Spain during the time of the Inquisition. A nun given to rapturous episodes featuring personal visits from Jesus Christ, Teresa sparred openly with Church authorities over her pious determination to separate wealth and politics from the religious orders. Though Coco Blignaut's God's Gypsy traces much of this intriguing character's trajectory, the play doesn't operate as straight-up biography, opting for an emphasis on her spirituality while, despite an almost three-hour running time (including intermission), skimping on hard facts and useful historical context. As a result, the play quickly begins to suffer from the same overwrought quality that frustrated contemporaries spied in Teresa herself, an aspect not ameliorated by the production's penchant for mannered acting. Instead, standouts here include composer-musician Lili Haydn's romantic score and the handsome, atmospheric set design by Joel Daavid, who pulled double duty as director. (Mindy Farabee). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Jan. 12. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
Goldilocks and The Three Bears: Suitable for the kindergarten set, writer Scott Martin's benign adaptation of the classic children's story features Caitlin Gallogly as a friendly and cherished little girl, whose mom (Bonnie Kalisher) just isn't a good cook. Searching for adventure, the tyke stumbles upon the three bears' habitat and, after sampling their food and furniture, makes off with the recipe for Mama Bear's delicious porridge. She's tracked down (with the help of the audience) by Teddy Bear (Jason Galloway); the two meet, find they have much in common, then teach their parents (both sets are played by Kalisher and Anthony Gruppuso) to be unafraid and respectful of each other. Composer Richard Berent's tunes are simple but catchy, as are some of the lyrics (credited to Martin and Rob Meurer). The performers are veterans of this larger-than-life storytelling style; Gallogly is especially endearing and easy to relate to. Lloyd J. Schwartz and Barbara Mallory Schwartz co-direct. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 22. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Winter Noise! Festival: Teatro Arroyo's Nativity Play L.A. Pastorela, and Dance Laugh Listen workshop and performances with musicians, comedians, and poets. Sat., Dec. 21, 3 p.m.-midnight. Highland Park Ebell Club, 131 S. Avenue 57, Highland Park, 323-478-9562.
Holiday Readings: A program of holiday-themed theater readings from a number of authors, among them Loudon Wainwright, William Maxwell, and Santa Claus himself. Sat., Dec. 21, 2 p.m. Westwood Branch Library, 1246 Glendon Ave., Westwood, 310-474-1739.
GO: The Homosexuals: Philip Dawkins' comedy revolves around Evan (boyishly cute blond Brian Dare), who arrives in town as a naive, newly out greenhorn but soon joins a mildly incestuous circle of gay friends, including four guys and one girl, Tam (Kelly Schumann), a history teacher and sassy, self-defined fag hag. Collin (Matt Crabtree) falls for Evan on sight, and they become lovers. Michael (Kurt Quinn) is the nice-but-nebbishy guy who can't get laid. Mark (David Fraioli) is a slightly saturnine art teacher and gay activist, whose attempt to seduce Evan ends in a fight. British Mark (Ben Patterson) is buff, black and British, and his attempt to seduce Evan ends in stalemate, perhaps because both men are tops -- though that might be negotiable. Peter (Butch Klein) is a musical comedy queen, who becomes Collin's successor as Evan's lover. Each of the six scenes is interesting and entertaining, but there's little real action and the narrative arc is weak -- a fact emphasized by the playing of the scenes in reverse order, à la Merrily We Roll Along. But the piece is largely redeemed by director Michael Matthews' fine production and excellent performances from all the actors. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21, $26. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
GO: I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers: Bette Midler and Hollywood super-agent Sue Mengers have many things in common: both were self-invented, and both are marked by a large dollop of sass and brass, a mean wit and a knack for uninhibited, earthy language. So Midler was the obvious choice to play Mengers in John Logan's solo play. But Midler is not content to merely display her own qualities, producing instead a richly layered portrait, deftly directed by Joe Mantello. Logan invites us to an afternoon with Mengers at her lavish Beverly Hills home, circa 1981. She's ensconced on a sofa, in a voluminous blue caftan, her long blond hair swinging, with cigarettes, telephone, booze and plenty of grass on hand. She tells us about her birth in Germany, her family's emigration to the United States to escape the Nazis and her determined rise to power as the agent who represented everybody from Barbra Streisand and Gene Hackman to Cher and Nick Nolte. She's outrageous, gossipy, contemptuous of anyone who doesn't meet her standards, imperious (pressing an audience member into service to fetch her drinks), likable and, ultimately, sad as she realizes her glory days are over, and the world has passed her by. (Neal Weaver). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Impro Theatre's Jane Austen Unscripted: A full-length, fully-improvised play in the style of Jane Austen. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. The Broad Stage, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, 310-434-3200, www.thebroadstage.com.
GO: In the Heights: If ever there was a critic-proof musical, it is Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes' exuberant, irresistible and almost risibly sanitized 2007 paean to community and immigrant aspiration. Almost, because -- even if the Washington Heights depicted by Hudes' cloyingly wholesome libretto and Marco De Leon's grit-free, storybook-barrio set looks more like Sesame Street than any known avenue above Manhattan's 131st Street -- once Miranda's high-octane Latin hip-hop opener kicks in, and Michael Torrenueva (as the Dominican bodega owner Usnavi) literally sings the neighborhood to life, any qualms melt away in the sheer warmth of this immensely likable company's embrace. Powered by choreographer Daniel Lazareno De Dios' electrifying production numbers, director Rigo Tejeda's staging (a reprise of his 2012 production) expertly weaves Miranda's salsa and merengue rhythms with Hudes' limpid conflicts into a driving and seductive Technicolor fantasy. Standouts include vocal powerhouse Veronica Rosa as Nina, the Puerto Rican Stanford dropout who returns to the 'hood to face the disappointment of her striver parents (Martica De Cardenas and Luis Marquez); James Oronoz as her forbidden (i.e., non-Hispanic) love interest; Vivian Lamolli as brassy gossip Daniella; and Anastasia Silva as the matriarchal neighborhood eminence grise who almost mystically ties up all the plot strands to deliver the evening's celebratory ending. (Bill Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
The Invisible Play: The office dork smitten with the comely gal in the next cubicle is a familiar comic setup. In Alex Dremann's strained satire, the unhappy swain, Colin (Trevor H. Olsen), has much bigger problems than the simple disregard he engenders from the willowy Fran (Jennifer Flack): He is literally disappearing! Once an active member of the editing staff of a publishing house for existential books, he's now invisible to his colleagues and utterly forgotten -- even though he can see them and react to their mistakes and misunderstandings. Dremann's clever twist on corporate dehumanization is muddied by glib (as opposed to meaningful) exhortations to personal responsibility and the facile insistence that love is the path to redemption. The writer's discerning theme outpaces his dialogue as well. Directed by Amanda Weier, the production is most entertaining in its second half when Flack, a skillful comedian, takes center stage as the oblivious object of Colin's ardor. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
: Although the wow factor is missing, aficionados of John Lennon probably will appreciate this tribute to the iconic musician, which juxtaposes renditions of his most famous songs with a narrative of his life. Lennon impersonator and lead singer Tim Piper addresses the audience in a confiding manner as he relates events in Lennon's life -- his troubled boyhood in Liverpool culminating in the death of his mother, up through The Beatles, his marriage to Yoko Ono and his transformation into a family man and spokesman for the counterculture antiwar movement. There are no surprises in writer-director Steve Altman's script, and watching and listening to Piper, an American donning a Liverpool accent, failed to persuade me that I was hearing the real McCoy. That said, Piper's backup band, Working Class Hero, performs well and provides an opportunity for those who wish to reimagine the legend to do so. (323) 960-4442, justimaginetheshow.com
. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
KAWL Presents It's a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play for the Stage: A play within a play that takes place at KAWL, a struggling 1940s radio station that good-hearted owner Michael Anderson is barely keeping alive. Anderson calls on friends to perform Frank Capra's classic It's A Wonderful Life as its last program. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. The Belfry Stage, Upstairs at the Crown, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.
GO: Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel: Director-adapter Paul Sand's tour de force of ferocious Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht lieder collaborations, Kurt Weill at the Cuttlefish Hotel, boasts many of the trappings of a night of difficult theater: The venue, a shabby restaurant backroom at the end of the dodgy area of the Santa Monica Pier, is deliciously seedy, literally perched above the sea during high tide. The stage and all the seating are on the same level, creating dreadful sightlines. And, on the night reviewed, just before the show, fishermen on the dock below pulled up a dying baby shark, covered with tumors. How Brecht would have loved it! The revue consists of some of the great melodies of the Brecht-Weill canon, performed cabaret-style by an ensemble of sexy but sinister performers whose morally ambivalent attitude perfectly reflects the dark, carny atmosphere of the Santa Monica Pier after sundown. Whether it's the sensuously cruel turn offered by Shay Astar, who sings "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" with a cool, luscious voice that seems equal parts ice cream and razor blades, or the piercing vibrata of Megan Rippey's sweet but diabolical "Pirate Jenny," Sand's production, assisted by Michael Roth's dynamically evocative music direction, crafts rich and textured renditions of these wonderful, infernal songs. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 & 9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 28. Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, 310-458-8900, www.santamonicapier.org.
The Latina Christmas Special: Three comedies about navidades con la familia. Told in one-woman format by three Latina comedians: Sandra Valls, Diana Yanez, and Maria Russell. Sat., Dec. 21, 5 p.m. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Light Up the Sky: Moss Hart's 1940s comedy about a group of theater luvvies awaiting opening night -- and then suffering the aftermath -- gets an amusing if straightforward staging in director David McClendon's mostly engaging production. Newbie playwright Peter (Nick Denning) anticipates the opening of his first major play, an avant-garde production that has attracted the participation of gorgeous diva actress Irene (Stephanie Erb), a flamboyant director (John Combs) and a boorish money man (Arthur Hanket), all of whom gush over the young man's talent and passion. However, when it looks like the show's a flop, the same fawners turn on the writer, who is forced to learn some sobering truth about the Business they call Show. Director McClendon executes Hart's droll testament to (and critique of) the theatrical world at a crackling pace, though the grotesqueries of the play's stereotypes are sometimes more tired than scintillating, and McClendon's orthodox staging never quite manages to fully enliven it. Still, nice turns are offered by Erb's shrill star, Denning's callow playwright and Martin Turner as an elder playwright who becomes Peter's mentor. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
Little Miss Scrooge: A new modern-day musical about Estella Scrooge, a cool and calculating Wall Street whiz (and a direct descendent of Ebenezer), who goes to Pickwick, Ohio on Christmas Eve to shut down the Harthouse Hotel, a haven for the lost, lonely and dispossessed. Written by Paul Gordon, Sam Caird, and John Caird. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 2 & 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 7 p.m. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.
Live! From the Last Night of My Life: A despondent fellow, Doug (Pete Caslavka), is disillusioned by how he has ended up, stuck in a depressingly menial job working the graveyard shift at a gas station's convenience store. Packing a handgun, he decides to end it all at the conclusion of his shift at dawn. Throughout the night, Doug pontificates at length, recalling key episodes in his past, while playing to the security camera that his oppressive manager had installed. In between interacting with mundane customers -- some moronic, most obnoxious -- Doug is visited by his hostile, screaming parents, his first girlfriend and later his college sweetheart, plus Danny Zuko and John Travolta. With its broadly drawn characters and fantasy elements, sad sack Doug remains this play's naturalistic, fixed point. Playwright Wayne Rawley has done a great job balancing the tone, even throwing in a couple of fun dance routines. But at close to three hours, Doug's last night feels as if it will never be over. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
Marilyn - My Secret: This drama-comedy with music chronicles the life of Norma Jean from unwanted orphan, to bit player, to sex goddess. Written by Willard Manus and Odalys Nanin, directed and produced by Odalys Nanin. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.
Merry F***in' Christmas, Y'all.: Mia Jensen meets her dysfunctional Texas family in a rented vacation home in the Colorado mountains for the Christmas holidays. Written by Marnie Olson, directed by Kerr Seth Lordygan. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 5. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Mom's Gift: A sentimental family comedy about emotional repression, Mom's Gift mines predictable scenarios -- getting a daughter married off, engineering intergenerational détente -- for a few genuinely snappy quips and some amusing battle lines without adding up to much more. Almost a year after her mother was killed by a drunk driver, tightly wound Kat (Gina Yates) returns home to celebrate her father's birthday. She finds there the usual sorts of guests: her ditzy younger sister, Brittney (Trisha Hershberger); Kevin (Cyrus Alexander), the neighbor she grew up crushing on; and Trish (Lisa McGee-Mann), the amiable home-care nurse who helped out after the accident. There's also one rather surprising visitor -- the ghost of her dead mother, sent back from the beyond with vague orders to right some wrongs and a mandate to rope Kat into her mission. Nice pacing, a soupçon of red herrings and a couple mild plot twists move the production along, but ultimately it lacks both real drama and credible warmth. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 19. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
GO: The Mystery Plays: Leave it to horror specialists the Visceral Company to concoct the perfect corrective to the season's saccharine tide of Christmas stage fare with director Christopher Basile's deftly mounted, minimalist revival (skillfully accented by Ric Zimmerman's low-key lighting) of playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's arresting duet of haunting -- and haunted -- one-acts. The haunting comes in "The Filmmaker's Mystery" when chance leaves a Lovecraftian movie director (Daniel Jimenez) the sole survivor of a holiday train disaster and he finds himself the object of a spectral stalker's (Michael Mraz) mysterious obsession. The haunted appears in "Ghost Children" in the person of a New York attorney (Devereau Chumrau) who is forced to confront a long-suppressed truth when she flies back to Oregon to assist in the sentence-reduction appeal of her brother (Alex Taber), imprisoned for slaying their abusive parents and an innocent younger sister 15 years before. Aguirre-Sacasa's engaging homage to the Amicus portmanteau horror films of the 1960s is elevated by a supremely accomplished ensemble (including versatile standout Frank Blocker) tackling multiple roles in a wryly poetic, keenly probing and spooky meditation on the unspoken fears ("the world beneath the world," as one character puts it) that power fictional mysteries and spur seemingly senseless, real-world frights. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 29, 3 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 5, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 5. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Orwellian: Larry Cedar's solo show consists of three monologues by George Orwell, presented vivaciously in director Thomas Bigley's engagingly intimate production. In an excerpt from Orwell's essay "Down and Out in London and Paris," Cedar portrays the author, who finds himself slaving in a filthy Parisian restaurant kitchen. This shifts into a monologue derived from Animal Farm, in which Old Major, the grand old Lenin-esque pig, urges his fellow farm animals to revolt. The largest portion of the bill, though, Cedar reserves for a sort of compression of 1984, with poor old Winston Smith describing his dystopic world and his star-crossed romance with the rebellious Julia. With his lanky frame and emotionally subtle voice, Cedar is a brilliant storyteller and Orwell's words come to life through his dryly ironic narration. However, clocking in at well under an hour, the piece's brevity and straightforward simplicity ultimately work against it, and the material feels more like an academic exercise than a dramatic effort. Forty-five more minutes of revolting pigs surely would help somewhat. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Parfumerie: Adapted by E.P. Dowdall from the Hungarian play Illatszertar, by Miklos Laszlo. Directed by Mark Brokaw. Set during Christmastime, 1937 in Budapest Hungary, the play centers around two bickering employees at an upscale boutique, who have been building an anonymous romantic relationship through letters to one another for two years. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-246-3800, www.thewallis.org.
GO: A Perfect Likeness: Charles Dodgson, more popularly known as Lewis Carroll, was a fascinating study in contrasts: a conservative, reticent, religiously devout lecturer in mathematics whose incredible imagination bred Alice in Wonderland and other wildly fantastical novels and poems. In writer-director Daniel Rover Singer's 90-minute two-hander A Perfect Likeness, the prim Dodgson (Daniel J. Roberts) spends an afternoon with an even more celebrated literary icon, Charles Dickens (Bruce Ladd), struggling to reconcile his prior adoration for the universally acclaimed older writer with an appalled response to Dickens' rough language, bald earthiness and frank skepticism. Singer's script lends equal weight to both characters, but from the opening curtain Roberts seizes the limelight, with a pitch-perfect portrayal of a personage who might easily have been reduced to caricature. Ladd, a bit too stagily flamboyant at first, gains firmer footing as each character's secrets spill out and the encounter grows more intimate. Aficionados of either writer will appreciate the scenario's biographical detail, but this isn't a biopic and you don't have to be interested in 19th-century British literature to appreciate the play's odd-couple jousting and emotional poignancy. A scene in which Dodgson goes into a trance to reveal his nagging torments is optimally underscored by designer Will Hastings' lighting. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21, $25. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, 626-441-5977, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.
GO: Peter and the Starcatcher: Much like the dastardly pirates terrorizing the high seas in his fun Peter and the Starcatcher, playwright Rick Elice has ransacked the best of British kids lit, giving us plucky, pint-sized sleuths fresh from the Boy's Own adventures and larger-than-life characters straight out of rowdy pantomimes. Based on the 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the tale is an imagined prequel to one of England's most beloved plays, Peter Pan, Or, The Boy Who Never Grew Up. A trio of orphans, including a forlorn nameless Boy -- later Peter (Joey deBettencourt) -- are enlisted into service aboard the good ship Neverland, bound for exotic lands and bearing a precious cargo. Boy meets the Captain's daughter, Molly (Megan Stern), and they both escape to a mysterious island when pirates take her father's ship. No wires or stage trickery for this Peter, though. The low-tech staging (by co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers) is fresh and inventive, employing the simplest of devices, such as a rope held aloft to represent the crowded confines of a ship's cabin. The cast of 12 tilts and leans in unison to suggest the passage of the ship over uneven seas, and nimbly skips through a hundred different characters. The show is extra kid-friendly, with vomit, fart and poop jokes abounding, plus schoolboy pranks, silly puns and pratfalls. Two musicians perform gorgeous live music and sound effects from their proscenium perches above the stage. Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 26, 2 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 30, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 2, 2 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 8, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 12, 6:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 12, $55-$110. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A humorous adaptation of Robert Browning's classic poem, written and directed by Jennifer Taub Gwillim. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through Dec. 28. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
GO: Play Dead: Sitting through a performance of the Geffen Playhouse's delightful spook show Play Dead resurrects memories of a long-gone time when such shows were truly scary -- and scads of fun. Performed by Todd Robbins, who co-wrote the show with director Teller (of the magician duo Penn & Teller), Play Dead is a tongue-in-cheek, loving homage to the spectacle and hocus-pocus of the carnie era, when 25 cents would buy a ticket and hot dogs were a nickel. It's also very much a blunt-force display of that curious human fascination with bloodshed, gore, death and the afterlife. Clad in a natty white suit, Robbins makes an ideal host for the proceedings, melding a parlous demeanor with a carnival barker's sturdy voice and the polished delivery of a master magician. Tom Buderwitz's impressive set is loaded with trade items, props and macabre bric-à-brac (a neon "Jesus Saves" sign is situated opposite John Dillinger in a cell). Robbins makes artful use of the many onstage "coffin boxes," wherein lie the restless remains of notorious folks such as serial killer and eater of children Albert Fish. The assorted tricks and illusions are astonishing for their artistry and variety. The final feat of magic is a tour de force. In deference to Robbins' wishes not to give away the tricks, no more can be said other than that the show is a blast from start to finish. (The Geffen warns that the production contains some disturbing images and brief moments of nudity, so material may be inappropriate for children.) (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Pure Imagination: The Musical World of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse: A celebration of the music of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, pop music song writing sensations of the 1960s. Conceived and directed by Bruce Kimmel. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 26. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
The Queen Family's Very Special Holiday Special: The annual Queen family telethon, which this year includes all faiths from Atheists to the Amish. Directed by Will Thomas McFadden. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Jan. 4. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
GO: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Santasia - A Holiday Comedy: The annual holiday romp and multimedia cult hit. Presented by Loser Kids Productions. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 2 & 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 24, 8 p.m. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Sherlock Through the Looking Glass
: What happens when Sherlock Holmes, the world's foremost logician, enters a realm where logic does not exist? Written and directed by Gus Krieger. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-12-05/stage/sherlock-through-looking-glass/
. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks: A touching comedy about a formidable retired woman who hires an acerbic dance instructor to give her private lessons. Starring French film actress Leslie Caron. Written by Richard Alfieri, directed by Michael Arabian. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
Smoke and Mirrors: A semi-autobiographical, fantastical coming-of-age story about a boy who uses magic to escape reality after the death of his father. Interweaving illusions, special effects, and audience participation, themes of love, loss and magic are explored in this highly stylized show. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
The Steward of Christendom: Set in the early 1930's at an Irish county mental home, where 75-year-old Thomas Dunne has been committed by his daughter. Here, his mind wanders in and out of lucidity as he remembers his childhood, his wife and children, and his career as the head of Dublin's Metropolitan Police, where he rose through the ranks to the highest position a Catholic could hope to achieve. Written by Sebastian Barry. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 30, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 5. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.
STOMP: The international dance percussion hit. Created by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 26, 2 & 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 28, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 29, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 30, 8 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 2, 8 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 4, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 5, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Saban Theatre, 8440 W. Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 323-655-0111, www.sabantheatre.org.
Walkin' in a Winter One-Hit Wonderland: The 10th anniversary of the Troubadour Theater Company's A Christmas Carol-inspired holiday spectacular feels a bit like a drunk relative recounting an inside joke at a family reunion. Directed by Matt Walker, the show cycles through video footage and oddball characters from previous "Troubie" seasonal productions, revealing the origin story of one in particular: the Winter Warlock (Beth Kennedy), the gangly antagonist from the 1970 stop-motion classic Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, who in this version must be dissuaded, Scrooge-like, from quitting show business. Riffs on overnight sensations from the likes of Right Said Fred, Modern English and Gotye provide the soundtrack, but several punchlines fall flat, until their flatness becomes the joke. The self-referential gags may please the company's fans, but the diluted source material -- a dozen forgettable bands and an overexposed morality tale -- underserves the ensemble, whose sharpness is blurred here. (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 & 7 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 8, 8 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 15, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 19. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.
What We Don't Say: A raw, honest look at relationships from the male perspective, featuring an all-male cast. Inspired by the forthcoming book Married to the Franchise, written by Dr. Jon Carroll. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 20. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Wonderful Life: Actor and writer Jason Lott's solo show, a retelling of Frank Capra's classic film It's A Wonderful Life. Fri., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 22, 2 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.