Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Japanese War Brides Musical Tea, With Music

Joan Almedilla, Jennie Kwan, Janet Song, Yumi Iwama and Tiffany-Marie Austin
Joan Almedilla, Jennie Kwan, Janet Song, Yumi Iwama and Tiffany-Marie Austin
Michael Lamont

A musical about World War II war brides, Tea, With Music, for which the author, Velina Hasu Houston, has added songs and music for this production, is our Pick of the Week. For all new theater reviews, see below.

This week's stage feature looks a couple of plays aiming to be light fare: Michael Green's The Coarse Acting Show at Sacred Fools Theater Company, and Rob Mersola's Dirty Filthy Love Story at Rogue Machine

It's busy time for the holiday theater season, with Center Theatre Group and the Geffen Playhouse each opening two productions -- Anything Goes and Second City's Christmas Carol at the former, and Nothing to Hide and Coney Island Christmas at the latter. Also opening this week is Elevator Repair Service's marathon Gatz at REDCAT. See reviews of all these next week.

 NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication November 29, 2012

ANGELS FALL

Stewart Skelton and Danielle Doyen
Stewart Skelton and Danielle Doyen
The Production Company

Upcoming Events

Lanford Wilson's 1982 drama takes place on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, where six people gather anxiously in a Catholic church after authorities warn about a possible nuclear mishap. The play's most urgent conflict concerns the kind, moral parish priest (Carl J. Johnson), distressed because his foster son (Gabe Fonseca), a Native American doctor, is leaving the impoverished reservation to pursue a more lucrative career elsewhere. Less dramatically compelling plotlines track the tribulations of a loquacious, middle-aged professor (Stewart Skelton) burned out by academe, and those of a wealthy widow (Penny Peyser) catering to the whims of her youthful lover (Michael Sanchez). Directed by Alex Egan, the production's weakest link is Fonseca's simplistic rendering of the troubled young physician, a man torn between temptation and duty. Then again, all the performances appear at best under-rehearsed, with even the usually excellent Johnson seeming distanced from the good father's emotional core. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Dec. 22. (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. (Deborah Klugman)

THE COARSE ACTING SHOW Michael Green's spoof of amateur theatricals, p\resented by Sacred Fools Theater Company,  660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m.; Through Dec. 15. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org. See stage feature.

DIRTY FILTHY LOVE STORY

Burl Moseley
Burl Moseley
John Flynn

Rob Mersola's comedy about a romance between a hoarder and a trash man.  Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles P| Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. | Through Dec. 29. (855) 585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. See stage feature

THE LAST ROMANCE

Mariko Van Kampen and Howard Storm
Mariko Van Kampen and Howard Storm
Ed Krieger

It's a pity that a play nominally devoted to taking chances manages so few of its own. This capable production of Joe DiPietro's geriatric love story retreads familiar plot devices, dredging up exhausted clichés -- those kids these days and their rap music! -- that may comfort but offer little to challenge or excite. An affable Italian-American octogenarian (Howard Storm) living with his caretaker sister (Dorothy Sinclair) falls for the AARP hottie (Mariko Van Kampen) at the local dog park. Storm's self-deprecating humor is pitch-perfect, but the underwritten women struggle to not come across as shrill or grating. Older folks deserve a play that speaks to their concerns, but this script treads water on themes better dealt with in Moonstruck. Michèle Young's costumes artfully telegraph character, but the honeyed operatic interludes of Matthew Ian Welch, as young Ralph, are easily the most transporting. Directed by James Paradise. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Dec. 1, 2, 16, 2 p.m.; through Dec. 19. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Jenny Lower)

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Japanese War Brides Musical Tea, With Music
Devin and Joe

Shakespearean comedies are meant to delight, and Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group's turbocharged production of Much Ado About Nothing does the Bard's comedic work justice. Cousins Beatrice and Hero become intertwined with lovers suited to their dispositions: one couple a sweet, budding romance, the other a fiery war of wit. Despite a difficult-to-understand and superfluous moving tableau that opens the production, the show is lively, keeping the story moving and the audience engaged. The actors serve the play, though at times the delivery becomes garbled in haste and the meaning of the lines is lost. Amir Khalighi and Jennifer Kenyon give strong and touching performances as the classic pair, Benedick and Beatrice, yet the two lack chemistry as a believable match. Sarah Fairfax ably portrays the matriarch, Leonata, in a gender swap of a traditionally male role. Director Denise Devin makes a few awkward blocking choices, which are redeemed through the animated interactions between characters that highlight the wit of the script. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 2. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com. (Jazmine Green)


ONE NOVEMBER YANKEE

Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit
Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit
Robert Arbogats

"Art imitates life imitates art" observes one of the characters in writer-director Joshua Ravetch's ambitious, idea-packed new play. The two don't so much "imitate" each other as merely "intersect" in Ravetch's trio of tales about art's mystical power to provide healing catharsis. Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit play three pairs of conflicted, middle-aged siblings in four scenes anchored by the towering wreck of set designer Dana Moran Williams' crumpled Piper Cub. In one scene, the plane serves as installation artist Hamlin's sculptural metaphor for "civilization in ruins." In another, it is the still-smoking air disaster that has sidelined Swit and her fatally injured brother in the wilderness. In a third, it is the chance discovery by sibling backpackers that finally brings closure to a traumatizing family tragedy. Hamlin and Swit are fine, but not even these venerable TV veterans can breathe life into Ravetch's forced, pedestrian dialogue and patently contrived situations. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., through Jan. 5. (818) 763-0086, thenohoartscenter.com. (Bill Raden)

GO THE SANTALAND DIAREIS
The season brings with it enough Christmas- and holiday-themed fare to

set your teeth on edge from sugar overload. Fortunately for the cynics

among us, the Blank Theatre has brought back its not-safe-for-children,

one-man hit show for the fourth year running. Based on comedian David

Sedaris' sardonic radio segments on NPR's Morning Edition, the show

charts the protagonist's increasingly bizarre experience as a costumed

elf at Macy's department store. Sedaris' tale takes us from the

laborious interview process and training to the hell that is frenzied

parents and excited kids during the most intense shopping period of the

year. Paolo Andino climbs back into the elf suit for a second time, and

it's still a perfect fit. Cute, sly and bouncing with verve, Andino

carefully modulates the tone, delivering a comedic monologue that is

never too sarcastic or snarky. He also glides from raconteur to warbler

in the show's handful of brief musical interludes. But it's his gift for

impressions that really makes this show sing. Blank Theatre Company at

the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 16. (323) 465-4446, stellaadler-la.com.

(Pauline Adamek)

GO SILENT  That Los Angeles now is considerd the homeless capital of the United States makes the West Coast premiere of Irish playwright Pat Kinevane's one-man show all the more apt. His flair for speaking on behalf of society's throwaways was showcased in the Odyssey Theatre's 2011 production of Forgotten, about geriatrics in a nursing home; in Silent, it sparkles with unsettling intensity and physicality. First seen as arms and legs protruding from under a shabby blanket, homeless Dubliner Tino McGoldrig calls the dark expanse of a back alley home, collects bottle tops ("hobo chic") for money and has a disturbing obsession with silent-film star Rudolph Valentino. Channeling a raft of scary characters, Kinevane constructs a harrowing and sometimes morbidly humorous narrative about Tino's broken life, as the character speaks passionately of a gay brother harassed into suicide; an emotionally arid home life; a failed marriage and parenthood; bouts with depression, alcoholism and social service agencies; and the constant, feverish effort to maintain a drop of sanity and a hope for better things tomorrow. Kinevane's at his best when he evokes the elusive, sexually charged screen presence of Valentino (in one segment, the blanket is fashioned into the famous cape the actor wore in The Sheik). Jim Culleton provides smart, perceptive direction, while Denis Clohessy's music and sound are subtly unnerving. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 16. (310) 477-2055, x2, Odysseytheatre.com. (Lovell Estell III)

PICK OF THE WEEK: TEA, WITH MUSIC

Joan Almedilla, Jennie Kwan, Janet Song, Yumi Iwama and Tiffany-Marie Austin
Joan Almedilla, Jennie Kwan, Janet Song, Yumi Iwama and Tiffany-Marie Austin
Michael Lamont

When one of the characters in Velina Hasu Houston's stirring, surprisingly fiery world-premiere musical mentions an estimate of how many Japanese "war brides" there were after WWII -- 100,000 -- your jaw drops. The musical, based on Houston's 1987 play, focuses on five such women who married and moved to Kansas. As the show opens, the group has gathered for tea to mourn Himiko, who recently has committed suicide. What follows is a probing of the women's difficulties of adjusting to the heartland of a brand-new country and overcoming the general consensus that they were prostitutes. But more troubling are the deeper implications of what becoming an American after being considered one of the country's great enemies entailed. Setsuko (Yumi Iwama) marries a black man on the cusp of the civil rights movement, and Chizuye (Janet Song) marries a Mexican; both encounter double doses of racism. Atsuko (Tiffany-Marie Austin) has a Japanese-American husband, which sounds easy yet is almost as difficult. And Himiko (Joan Almedilla) is abused by her husband and ridiculed among her own community. The addition of songs, from the poetic and touching "She's Gone/I Was Born in a Storm" to the satirical "This Is My Country," feels natural -- no small feat for an already successful play. Adam Blumenthal's hazy lighting is emotive, and each member of the cast's emotional ascent to the play's climax is flawless. As the five of them, forces joined, appear upstage, the last shred of that stereotype of the meek and mild Japanese bride is eradicated -- reason enough to see this powerful, polished premiere. East West Players, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 9. (213) 625-7000, eastwestplayers.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE;

 GO Anna Lucasta: Phillip Yordan originally wrote this play for a Polish family, but its blunt theme of liberated female sexuality was deemed unsuitable for the white public, so it debuted in 1944 with a black cast. It has since become something of a staple in the African-American theater canon ( it was also made into a film with Sammy Davis Jr. and Eartha Kitt). Joe Locasta (Robert Clements) has thrown daughter Anna (portrayed with girlish seduction,
charm and grainy attitude by Ashlee Olivia), out of his Pennsylvania home for sleeping around, so she takes up the despoiled life of a New York B-girl and prostitute. Her fortunes change when Joe's friend sends his son Rudolf (Dwain A. Perry), into town seeking help with finding the young man a wife. The $800 he brings with him set off a frenzy of conniving by covetous relatives to pair their Anna with Rudolf so they can rip him off, but their scheme amusingly backfires. Notwithstanding its dated moral perspective, Anna Lucasta is an enjoyable play with elements of sex, love, family dysfunction and happyily-ever-after
redemption framed with irony and humor. On balance, the performances are quite good under Ben Guillory's direction. Tom Meleck's bifurcated set piece is handsome and effective. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9,
(866) 811-4111. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

Anything Goes: Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Cabaret: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.

A Christmas Carol: Twist Your Dickens!: Written Peter Gwinn and Bobby Mort, directed by Marc Warzecha. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 6 & 9:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Coney Island Christmas: Donald Margulies' "holiday show for people of all faiths." schedule varies; through Dec. 30. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Elevator Repair Service: Gatz: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 1 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 1 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.

Hansel and Gretel: Book by Lloyd J. Schwartz, music and lyrics by Hope and Laurence Juber. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through March 2, (818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, www.theatrewest.org.

 GO Intimate Apparel: Lynne Nottage's lyrical drama tells the tale of the naive-but-indomitable black seamstress, Esther (Vanessa Williams), in 1905 New York. Esther makes her living creating fine lingerie, and she's worked 18 years to save enough money to launch her dream -- a beauty salon for black women. She's accepted the fact that love and marriage are not in her future -- though there's a strong attraction between her and the Hasidic fabric dealer, Mr. Marks (Adam J. Smith). Then she receives a series of affectionate letters from George (David St. Louis), a handsome young Caribbean man who's working on the Panama Canal. Since Esther can't read or write, she relies on her customers, the prostitute Mayme (Kristy Johnson), and the wealthy-but-dissatisfied white woman, Mrs. Van Buren (Angel Reda), to read the letters and write her replies. When George proposes marriage, despite the warnings of her practical, cynical landlady (Dawnn Lewis), and the fact that she's never seen him, she accepts, with disastrous results. Director Sheldon Epps leads a fine cast in a deft, subtly calibrated production, and Williams makes a gallant, vulnerable figure of Esther. John Iacovelli's diaphanous, fabric-dominated set and Leah Piehl's lacy costumes echo the lingerie motif. (Neal Weaver). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 2. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

The Morini Strad: Two weeks before Willy Holtzman's The Morini Strad was set to open at Burbank's 270-seat Colony Theatre, the theater went public with a grim announcement that the 37-year-old company needed $49,000 to open Holtzman's play, and $500,000 by the end

of the year in order to prevent the indefinite suspension of

programming. The theater reported that, since 2008, its subscriber base

has slipped from 3,800 to 3,000 and, since 2010, the theater has seen a

20 percent drop in single-ticket sales. The $49,000 came in, and

artistic director Barbara Beckley sounds hopeful that the half-million

dollars "to clear our financial obligations and produce our last two

shows and stabilize us into the future" is on the near horizon. And so

the show went on. But the audience for a Sunday matinee performance of

The Morini Strad was, again, a sea of silver hair. Ticket prices for

this show range from $20 to $42, with a limited number of $15 tickets

for students and groups. Those non-discounted tickets aren't cheap, but

they're not terrible. The bigger problem in drawing younger audience

might be the play itself. The Morini Strad is a thin, morose work

straining to be inspirational and profound. Aging, dying violist Erica

Morini (the fine Mariette Hartley), a former child prodigy, is the owner

of a rare but damaged Stradivarius violin. Before she dies, she wants

it repaired, and the play concerns her relationship with a younger

artisan, Brian Skarstad (David Nevell) -- a violin builder and repairer

-- who can restore it to its former glory and value. She's a diva who

runs on attitude and entitlement, the violinist answer to Terrence

McNally's Maria Callas in Master Class; he's a dull man with a wife, two

kids who need dentures and a dog that needs de-worming. She baits him

and tests his loyalty and his patience against the backdrop of the same

motif from a Tchaikovsky violin concerto played repeatedly over the

sound system and by a real child violin prodigy (Geneva Lewis). What is

life for? What is art for? Why did Erica give her life for art? What did

it get her in the end? Why can't Brian do the same? Should he give up

his restoration business to build violins? We're invited to address

these questions, if we care to. Stephen Gifford's set and Jared A.

Sayeg's lighting design create the opulent veneer of Erica's Fifth

Avenue digs blending into Brian's workshop, but Stephanie Vlahos' production more or less wheezes along its 95-minute, predictable

trajectory. Despite this tepid production, which obviously arrives at a

moment of crisis for the Colony, this theater has the legacy and the

talent to warrant continued support. It fully deserves the stabilization

to which Beckley refers. But part of that stabilization needs to

include productions that will attract people in their 20s and 30s at

prices they can afford -- even at the cost of aggravating the theater's

diminishing subscriber base. It may be callous to say, but at this point for the Colony, little else really matters. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 

818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

Nothing to Hide: Written by Derek DelGaudio, directed by Neil Patrick Harris. TuesdaysFridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org

Plaid Tidings: Written and directed by Stuart Ross. Starting Dec. 1, Sat., Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Straight No Chaser: Fri., Nov. 30, 8 p.m., $39.50-$59.50. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-365-3500, www.broadwayla.org.

 GO Tea, With Music: Book and lyrics by Velina Hasu Houston, music by Nathan Wang. Presented by East West Players. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000. See New Reviews

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:

30 Minute Musicals: Home Alone: Fri., Nov. 30, 11 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 1, 11 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 7, 11 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 11 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/296543. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

7 Eight 9: Presented by Company of Strangers. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.

86'd: Written by Jon Polito and Darryl Armbruster, directed by Ronnie Marmo. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, plays411.com. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.

Angels Fall: Written by Lanford Wilson, directed by Alex Egan. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles. See New Reviews.

 GO Avenue Q: How can you not like a musical puppet show that looks a little like Sesame Street but sounds more like South Park? Director Richard Israel's charming local production of the Tony Award-winning musical proves that the show plays brilliantly on a small, intimate stage. After all, Avenue Q is at its heart a puppet show, and what's the point if you're so far back in the house you can't see the puppets? Utilizing a fast-paced staging that's rich with youthful energy, as well as angst, the show boasts some hilarious and surprisingly subtle performers, who also manipulate their puppet characters with style and acrobatic skill. Admittedly, the show is essentially a straightforward staging of the Broadway script -- a nice introduction to the work, but if you've already seen the play, it's not certain that this production adds much to it. Still, it's easy to enjoy Chris Kauffman's amusingly ironic turn as mousy puppet Princeton, and Danielle Judovits' beautifully vulnerable Kate Monster -- and it's fun to experience the lively renditions of peppy ditties on topics as diverse as masturbation, racism and puppet sex. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, (323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

 GO Bad Apples: Anybody concerned that Circle X's new musical about America's most notorious prisoner-torture atrocity was going to be some sort of Abu Ghraib: The Musical! can rest easy; Bad Apples is a thoughtful, penetrating and theatrically thrilling meditation on the all-too-human dimensions of what Hannah Arendt famously called the banality of evil. No mere docu-musical, playwright Jim Leonard's nonlinear book is more a palimpsest of the newspaper headlines in which real names and relationships have been freely overwritten, not to protect the innocent but to drive home the point that, when it comes to the psychodynamics of unchecked power and authority, nobody is innocent. James Black gives a powerful performance as the seductively charismatic military prison guard who draws both an uneducated subordinate (an outstanding Kate Morgan Chadwick) and his immediate superior (the fine Meghan McDonough) first into a sadomasochistic menage a trois and then into scandal and criminal disgrace. Director John Langs' electrifying cabaret staging (on Francois-Pierre Couture's stylish tier-block set) and Cassandra Daurden's dynamic choreography make the three-hour show fly. The evening's real star however, may be the supremely accomplished rock score by composer-lyricists Rob Cairns and Beth Thornley. It is their tortured torch songs, hip-hop metal arias and soaring love ballads whose wit, poetry and memorable pop hooks elevate the grotesquely abhorrent into the profoundly universal. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 1. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Bad Evidence: Playwright Terry Quinn's bleakest of black comedies resides in a savagely misanthropic literary suburb where friends and neighbors go by names like LaBute and Albee and Strindberg. It's the kind of neighborhood where deception and sexual betrayal are as ubiquitous as backyard barbecues, and where words not only cut like a knife but are also usually wielded with a homicidal intent. Act 1 features a lacerating, coital dance of death by Glory Simon and James Wagner (in a marvelously malign duet) as marrieds whose mutual contempt has become a bitterly sadomasochist conjugal embrace. Act 2's cocktail party of the damned widens the focus to include their incestuous circle of pranking emotional ambushers (that includes standout Justin Sintic). Director Katie Sabrira Rubin delivers a seamless staging (amid Adam Haas Hunter's clever set pieces), but neither she nor her capable ensemble can finally anchor the play's glib cynicism in a recognizable or toxicity-mitigating humanity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

 GO Bob Baker's Nutcracker: Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Jan. 27. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

 GO A Bright New Boise: Ever wonder what transpires in the heart and mind of a fundamentalist zealot? Samuel D. Hunter ventures into that murky terrain in his dark, droll and ultimately explosive work A Bright New Boise, set in a soulless big-box store in Boise, Idaho. Just arrived from a small town, new hire Will (Matthew Elkins) comes across as a gentle guy and docile worker, although his authorship of a Christian e-novel does set him oddly apart from the average Joe. Will's motive for procuring this particular dead-end job is to introduce himself for the first time to another store employee: his biological son, Alex (Erik Odom). Raised in foster homes, Alex is looked after by his foster brother, Leroy (a razor-sharp Trevor Peterson), a snaky, irreverent rule-breaker determined to protect the unstable boy from the psychological predator he deems Will to be. Funny, compassionate and disturbing all at once, Hunter's quintessentially American scenario portrays an individual trapped in an emotional and cultural wasteland, his life configured by uncaring impersonal forces, his spirit hobbled by unnamed guilt. Elkins' performance -- so palpable and so genuine he might be the guy standing next to you in the supermarket line -- captures it all. Betsy Zajko is on the mark as a no-nonsense, anti-union store manager with a compassionate streak and a relenting heart, while Heather L. Tyler, as Will's coequally isolated co-worker, compounds the pathos. Designer David Mauer's set aptly reflects the unvarnished bleakness of these characters' lives. John Perrin Flynn directs. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

The Christmas Present: Guy Picot's dark comedy. Tue., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 5, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 18, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 19, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

The Coarse Acting Show: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org. See Stage feature.

Dirty Filthy Love Story: Rob Mersola's "darker than black comedy." Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.  See Stage feature

Do Like the Kids Do: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, iamatheatre.com. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

Dungeons & Groundlings: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Deanna Oliver. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Jan. 26. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Finding Barb: Barbara Heller has taken her personal quest for her spiritual path and turned it into an earnest and sweet musical. The show's pretty songs -- beautifully sung -- are composed by Avi Avliav, who performs live on electric piano, conveying sensitivity and flair. (Two songs are credited to co-composer Katie Thompson.) Heller, who wrote the book and lyrics and also stars, dominates the stage with her confessional, acting out episodes from her life alongside co-star David Scales. Scales plays every male Barb encounters, including her father, doctor, rabbis and various boyfriends. Heller's younger sister is shown on video as a hand puppet, dispensing sage advice. Unafraid to play dorky, sometimes childish and ever hopeful, Heller brings a fearless approach to her story that proves endearing. Director Eve Minemar has selected a bare-bones staging approach that complements Heller's courageous, unvarnished performance. While somewhat appealing, this tale is not all that compelling. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 10, findingbarbshow.com.
Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

The Fisherman's Wife / Doesn't Anyone Know What a Pancreas Is?: A distant offspring of "tentacle" (sci-fi or horror-themed) porn, Steve Yockey's bizarre sex comedy builds around an estranged husband and wife whose disintegrating relationship is treated by a mysterious nomad. Carrying a knapsack of unusual sex aids, the unorthodox marriage counselor (Patrick Flanagan) calls on the embittered, frustrated Vanessa (Sarah McCarron) while her mate, Cooper (Michael Hanson), is off fishing. While Vanessa is being sexually relieved and enlightened, the helpless Cooper is undergoing brutal rape by a duplicitous squid-octopus duo (Kim Chueh and Gary Patent). The play, an outrageously raucous cartoon, comes with an ick factor that will make some people laugh, others wince (count me in here), and still others react both ways. Flanagan's oddball shaman is sharply and drolly drawn, whereas McCarron and Hanson are missing the details that make for a smartly etched caricature. Chueh is an appropriately smarmy cephalopod, while John Burton's puppets compound the weird humor. Gates McFadden directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 13, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

GO Foote Notes: A Young Lady of Property & The Land of the Astronauts: Subtlety and skill are on ample display in this duo of Horton Foote one-acts, directed by Scott Paulin. "A Woman of Property," set in Foote's Harrison, Texas, in 1925, revolves around a high-spirited, 15-year-old named Wilma (Juliette Goglia), whose mom has died and whose dad is about to remarry and sell the family home. In an outstanding turn, Goglia's performance captures both the innocence of the play's time and place and the spirit of confused rebellious adolescence that transcends it. In "The Land of the Astronauts," set in 1983, the modern world looms closer to Harrison. The plot concerns a young family nearly torn apart when the father (Aaron McPherson), overcome by a sense of futility, goes off the deep end and pursues his fantasy of being an astronaut. Laetitia Leon is spot-on as his warm, lovely wife, Lorena, who doesn't quite understand but knows how to comfort her man and get him back on track. Supporting performances help weave the sense of community that is the hallmark of Foote's work: among them Talyan Wright, beguiling and utterly professional as Lorena's young daughter, and Matt Little as the helpful young deputy obviously vulnerable to Lorena's charm. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment. One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable, Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional, species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

 GO Hughie: Eugene O'Neill's one-act is part of an intended series of plays under the rubric of "By Way of Obit," essentially monologues about a dead person to a third party. Hughie was the only one published and, though it's not one of the playwright's most popular works, it has showcased marquee actors such as Jason Robards and Al Pacino. After an evening of extended drinking, Erie Smith (Andrew Schlessinger) swaggers into the lobby of his decrepit Manhattan hotel with only the night attendant to keep him company. The reason for this petty gambler's binge was the death of Hughie, the former night clerk, a fact that emerges as Erie gradually regales the new guy (Joe Hulser, adroitly channeling boredom, incredulity and attentiveness) with fables about past times, women he's bedded, big names he's associated with, his hardscrabble youth and all the big money he's pocketed over the years. But beneath the bluster is a frail, vulnerable human being craving connection and redemption, and it is this flawed, softer side that makes the character interesting. Schelssinger turns in a good performance, but he does overwork the "tough-guy hustler" shade of Erie's personality. That quibble notwithstanding, this is a neat, engaging production under Martha Demson's direction. (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 13. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

 GO In the Red and Brown Water: Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney sets this music-, dance- and myth-infused work in the "distant present," weaving his story around talented young athlete Oya (Diarra Kilpatrick), who risks her future to care for her ailing mother. The play charts a downhill course for this lovely, open-hearted person: Her mother dies, the prized scholarship goes to someone else and Oya is trapped in the barrio, plagued with passion for an unfaithful lover (Gilbert Glenn Brown) and for the same fulfillment as every other woman in her circumscribed community -- a child. It's no accident that Oya's barrenness parallels the predicament in Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma, or that she bears the name of a Yoruba goddess. McCraney pulls together a confluence of elements -- although predominantly Yoruba -- to present a visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America. Kilpatrick's portrayal embraces every bit of her feisty, soulful character, made more compelling by the intimate performance space. Brown's slick, calibrated womanizer is an aptly fashioned foil and the remaining ensemble is strong. But designer Frederica Nascimento's set, with its pale walls and light wood backdrop, is too tidy and sterile to reflect the play's darkness. Shirley Jo Finney directs. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Sundays; Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 24. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

 GO Justin Love: The tiny Celebration Theater can barely contain the energy and talent bursting from every aspect of this world-premiere musical that both blasts and lionizes Hollywood through through the tale of an action-movie superstar coming out of the closet. Structurally the piece follows the classic 20th-century Broadway musical form, with the book by David Elzer (who, full disclosure, is a publicist with whom the Weekly works often) and Patricia Cotter skillfully recounting the story of fresh-faced Midwestern newbie Chris (Tyler Ledon) whose apprenticeship with Cruella-like publicist Buck (Alet Taylor) leads him to a secret affair with super-hot star Justin (Adam Huss). Sharp performances by these stars, along with an equally fine ensemble -- every one of whom can really sing and act -- make Michael Matthews' expert direction even stronger. But what makes this truly special is an extremely smart (not just clever) package of music and lyrics by Lori Scarlett and David Manning (beautifully realized by music director John Ballinger) that recalls the style of William Finn's Falsettos series of musicals from the 1990s. There is still some trimming and tuning in store for this piece as it grows from its present digs to a larger space, as it is likely to do. Even within the limits of this theater, the multi-use set by Stephen Gifford, with inventive use of projections by Jason H. Thompson, give the production its sense of largeness. (Tom Provenzano). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, plays411.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

 GO The Magic Bullet Theory: Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola's The Magic Bullet Theory is the second play to be produced locally this year focusing on the 1963 JFK assassination. Dennis Richard's Oswald: The Actual Interrogation was performed in January and February at Write-Act Repertory, also in Hollywood. Though strategically ambiguous, Richmond Shepard's staging of Richard's play appeared at least in part to support the lone-gunman theory (the conclusion drawn by the Warren Commission): that a single ricocheting bullet (from one of three shots) killed the president of the United States and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, both of whom were riding in the sedan with their wives as part of a parade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. With the exception of a couple of flashbacks, Oswald arrived at its view through an extended interrogation scene between the accused Lee Harvey Oswald and a mild-mannered Dallas Police Department captain, Will Fritz -- a scene cobbled together from Fritz's hand-scribbled notes. That production also posited the suggestion that Oswald had been framed. The tone of that production combined the noir melodrama of Dragnet and Law and Order, honoring the almost theological conviction of baby boomers that those three shots heard around the world in November 1963 represented the beginning of the end of innocence for the United States. The Magic Bullet Theory, however, written and produced by post-baby boomers, defies all such reverence, and with that defiance carries a healthy skepticism that any era of American history, or any other history for that matter, was innocent. Its larger point is its derision for the controversial single- or "magic" bullet theory. As directed by JJ Mayes, it presents a sketch-comedy conspiracy, irreverently choreographed by Natasha Norman, that unambiguously leaves the Warren Commission report in tatters. In fact, one scene dramatizes the single-bullet theory with an actor holding a bullet, which carries a tail of red string, from the assassin's rifle to and through the passengers (actors posing dutifully in a cardboard cutout of the open sedan). The scene demonstrates the trajectory of the bullet, which would have almost had to reverse directions in midair to support the single-bullet theory, in the meantime slicing through 15 layers of clothing, about 15 inches of tissue and a necktie knot, taking out a chunk of rib and shattering a radius bone. (This point of view also could be found in Oliver Stone's movie JFK as well as its parody on Seinfeld.) The play replaces that theory with a highly speculative suggestion that the assassination was a botched conspiracy, headed by The Texan (Rick Steadman) -- Lyndon Baines Johnson goes unnamed -- employing a couple of "Yale-Fuck" killers (Pete Caslavka and Monica Greene), as well as Oswald (Michael Holmes), plus Charles Harrelson (Tocantins), who, with Oswald by his side, fires shots before placing the murdering rifle into dimwit Oswald's hands, thereby also supporting the notion that Oswald was framed. Life may be stranger than fiction, but this fiction hangs on the most tenuous of threads: that the Texas contingent and the CIA were so peeved by President Kennedy's soft handling of Cuba, they just wanted to scare him, to let him know what they could do if he didn't stand up to Castro. In flashback, we see The Texan order the parade slowed to 10 miles an hour so the hired guns could fire and miss, sending a message, Mafia-style. But something went terribly, terribly wrong. Imagine the JFK assassination replayed by Monty Python. The Brit sketch-comedy troupe infuriated millions of Catholics with its version of the Crucifixion in Life of Brian. (The crowd whistles to the lyric "Always look on the bright side of life" as the Savior hangs and nods in rhythm.) The Magic Bullet Theory is a comparatively local sacrilege -- a couple of thugs dance in slo-mo, mock anguish whenever they see somebody killed. The production dances gleefully with nihilism, finding its footing somewhere between bravery and childishness. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15, $25, plays411.com/magicbullet. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.

A Midsummer Night's Dream / Macbeth: Directed by Amanda McRaven (Macbeth) and Beth Gardiner (Midsummer). Presented by Fugitive Kind Theater. Sat., Dec. 1, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 6:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 6:30 p.m., brownpapertickets.com. The cARTel House (Collaborative Arts LA), 1436 S. Main St., Los Angeles.

A Mulholland Christmas Carol: Written by Bill Robens, directed by Alina Phelan. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.

 GO Point Break Live!: Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.

Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin: It takes singer Sophie B. Hawkins a song or two to perfect Janis Joplin's gravelly growl, but she gets there just in time and maintains the requisite throaty cackle of the bad-girl icon throughout. Though Hawkins' girl-next-door prettiness needs a bit more roughing up to achieve a true Joplin metamorphosis, her singing carries the show. But writer-director Gigi Gaston's thin storyline tells us nothing new about Joplin and veers into caricature territory far too often. Fans of the Joplin songbook likely will enjoy the covers, but those expecting any glimpses beyond the streetwise flower-girl public persona Joplin perfected before her untimely death will feel shortchanged. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680'.

She Who Finds a Husband: By P.R. Hawkins and Joylynn Jossel, based on the book by E.N. Joy. Sat., Dec. 1, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 4 p.m., $55, www.maaala.org/fundraiser2012.html. Museum of African American Art, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd., Third Floor Macy's Department Store, Los Angeles, 323-294-7071, www.maaala.org.

 GO Silence! The Musical: In the daft and campy Silence! The Musical, based on beloved Grand Guignol horror film The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter doesn't just eat a liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti: He also sings in a lovely baritone. This droll retelling of the film -- book by Hunter Bell, music and lyrics by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan -- is clearly targeted at fans of the movie, and the material assumes a certain amount of familiarity with the original work. However, within that context, director Christopher Gattelli dishes up some brilliant stagecraft. Opening with a band of singing and narrating chorines in lamb costumes, the play follows the same narrative trajectory of the film, but with surprisingly ambitious, yet ghoulish, production numbers meshing a South Park sensibility with crisp choreography, cheerful (though not particularly memorable) music and smirking irony. Although the work is straightforward, the Carol Burnett Show-style parody tends to wear thin after about an hour and a half. Still, it's hard not to find the overall quirkiness irresistible. As FBI Agent Clarice Starling, Christina Lakin does a perfect deadpan imitation of Jodie Foster -- but the true standout is Davis Gaines' dead-on, leeringly charismatic turn as the amusingly menacing, cannibalistic killer. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9, (866) 811-4111, silencethemusical.com/. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thehayworth.com.

Slipped Disc: Bertolt Brecht, in defining his vision of "epic theater," coined the term Verfremdungseffekt, or "alienation effect," which implied that in order to be effective, theater should keep an audience from fully losing itself in the story being told. Playwright Ingrid Lausund, also German, seems to have embraced Brecht's vision, but she and Green Card Theatre perhaps take the concept of alienation further than the master had intended. Set in a nondescript office, this play consists of a series of vignettes that attempt to satirize the cutthroat environment of corporate culture. There is little plot, character development or story to speak of, all of which hinder audience engagement. Add to that a preponderance of earsplittingly loud shrieks, howls and buzzer sounds, and the audience is only further alienated, but in a way that ironically subverts Brecht's vision. Director Christopher Basile and the cast give it their all, but if there were anything engaging or impactful in Lausund's original, the effekt has sadly been lost in translation. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org.

Snowangel: Written by Lewis John Carlino, directed by John Coppola. Sat., Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 13, 3 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., Jan. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 26, 8 p.m., plays411.com. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-988-1175.

 GO Terminator Too: Judgement Play: Some of the folks involved with the long-running Point Break Live! have regrouped to present another live spoof of a popular movie, this time putting everyone's favorite action ham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in their sights. The interactive stage show recruits their leading man from the audience, getting willing showoffs to leap onstage, do some push-ups and deliver the iconic line "I'll be back" for an audience rating. The one with the most strangled Austrian accent gets the role for the night and is prompted throughout with dialogue on laminated flash cards presented by a saucy Latina maid (Melanie Minchino). It's tempting to suspect the hero in the performance reviewed was a slightly coached plant; he was way too good. Supporting cast brings ample enthusiasm for the absurd and fast-paced nonsense, especially petite Joya Mia Italiano doing her best, squeaky-voiced Edward Furlong impersonation as the bratty teenager John Connor, and ripped, no-nonsense Christi Waldon as Sarah Connor. Production values are deliberately (and hilariously) low-tech, including robo-costumes made from aluminum roasting trays and cars clearly constructed from cardboard. Plastic ponchos are provided to protect the audience from the barrage of water gunfire and blood splatters throughout. Silly, messy and moderately funny, the show's two 45-minute acts fly by. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 8. The Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-358-1881, www.viperroom.com.

 GO Their Eyes Saw Rain: Playwright West Liang also stars in his astonishingly intense ensemble drama, set in a fictitious small country town. The specter of tragedy hangs over the townspeople of Castle, emblematized by an ever-present decay caused by months of relentless rain. Or is that really the cause? Stern and unyielding, Terrance (Liang) bullies his two younger brothers Joanus (Kavin Panmeechao) and Billy (Marc Pelina) into community service, dropping books off at the homes of their neighbors and assisting where they can. With this goodwill mission, Terrance (as active reformer) struggles to fill their recently deceased father's shoes, even as the mental illness that took him begins to crowd Terrance's consciousness. Meanwhile a blossoming romance between Joanus and a young, single mother, Peach (Samantha Klein), provokes an eruption from her wannabe sheriff boyfriend, Jake (James Thomas Gilbert). Director Justin Huen's staging and direction are beautifully rendered. Performances from the cast of eight are all good, especially the precision and detail of Liang's somewhat one-note paranoid paternal figure. A brief scene where the true extent of Terrance's psychosis is revealed is breathtaking in its intensity, courtesy of Gregory Niebel's teeth-rattlingly powerful performance. Their Eyes Saw Rain may have an all too predictable and tragic trajectory, but it's a trip worth taking. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, companyofangels.org. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, Los Angeles, 323-489-3703, www.companyofangels.org.

Vincent: The Next Arena presents Jean-Michel Richaud as Vincent van Gogh. Written by Leonard Nimoy, directed by Paul Stein. Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, (323) 417-2170, thenextarena.com. VS Theatre (formerly the Black Dahlia Theatre), 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

Who Can Stop The Moon?: Written and directed by J. Michael Ferniany. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 2, (323) 960-4420, whocanstopthemoon.com. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, www.anthonymeindl.com/theatres.htm.

ONGOING SHOWS SITUATED IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:

ASTROGLYDE XX: Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

A Christmas Carol:Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16.GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

A Down & Dirty Christmas: Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Dec. 21. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

The Golden Girls: LIVE! The New Lost Episode: Fridays, Saturdays,8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/280493. Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.

 GO Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla: Adam Hahn's spoofy homage to King Kong, the 1933 creature feature about a colossal gorilla that is captured and then runs amok in New York City, is an ambitious undertaking. Just how do you depict a giant ape onstage
without stop-motion animation trickery and cinema magic? Director Jaime Robledo's brand of creative staging and low-tech gimmickry include trompe l'oeil shifts in perspective and scale. So when platinum blonde, bewigged scream queen Anne (Sara Kubida) is in the grip of Kong's giant paw, the actor playing Kong (all snuffles and primal bellowing from
Germaine De Leon) can be seen clutching a Barbie doll. Cast members tilt and sway in unison to suggest the passage of a ship. Tifanie McQueen's scenic and prop designs are minimal and effective, and curiously less complicated to reset than the lengthy scenes in front of the curtain should warrant. Yet some of these odd scenes, including shipman Jack Driscoll's (Eric CurtisJohnson) confessions to an AA meeting and the Skull Island native chief (Arden Haywood) shedding his headdress to instruct us about "race" movies from the 1930s, offer some deliciously amusing rewards. Audience members are enlisted into the air squadron for
Kong's Empire State Building-set climactic demise with a supply of do-it-yourself paper airplanes. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9, (800) 838-3006, SkyPilotTheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

Much Ado About Nothing:Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 7. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See New Reviews

The Muesli Belt:Is there a sadder place on Earth than a shabby bar with only a couple
booze-soaked regulars parked on the stools day in and day out? Playwright Jimmy Murphy is from Ireland, so he probably drew from real-life experience to create Black Pool, the pub that's the setting for his play about gentrification in Dublin. Longtime owner Mick (John McKenna) is worn out by his struggling business and worn down by a glib developer (Andrew Graves, as shiny-slimy as a car salesman), but heavy on his conscience is what effect his decisions will have on hisfaithful, resistant-to-change customers. Plenty of plays have made freshthe issue of gentrification -- a recent one concerning East L.A., Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, comes to mind. But in Murphy's work, the outcome is clear from the top of Act I, and like the Black Pool barflies, the play seems just too damn tired to fight it. At least Kathleen M. Darcy's salon owner, Nora, even with red-rimmed eyes, doughyface, bleach-stained shirt and her demands of "encore" after she slams avodka, has a little fizz left in her yet. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays,Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 2. The
Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.

One November Yankee: Written and directed by Joshua Ravetch, starring Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 5. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com. See New Reviews.

She F*&%ing Hates Me: A Love Story:Written by Scarlett

Ridgway Savage. Starting Dec. 1, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 15. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Sherlock's Last Case: Written by Charles Marowitz, directed by Larry Eisenberg. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 13. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.

The Tortoise and the Hare Make a Holiday Wish: Presented by the Limecat Family Theatre Company. Starting Dec. 2, Sundays, 1 & 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

 GO You Can't Take It With You:Imagine a home where live snakes, spontaneous ballet dancing, fireworksexplosions and occasional xylophone playing are ho-hum affairs, and you'll have an idea of the unhinged eccentrics in this delightful production of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 70-year-old Depression-era comedy You Can't Take It With You. The Sycamore household is part carnival, part asylum. Penny is an aspiring Picasso, and also
fancies herself a successful dramatist (with a bulging stack of unfinished plays to prove it). Her hubby Paul specializes in explosives and chance ignitions, while daughter Essie consistently flutters about like a prima ballerina. Grandpa (Joseph Ruskin, in a wonderful performance), enjoys the life of a retiree, but has some ugly tax problems, and daughter Alice, who is in love with her boss' son and wants to marry him, must try to bring her beau's snobby parents into the Sycamore fold. The operative word here is fun; there always seems to be some monkeyshines going on and there are a few pleasant surprises that pop up. Director Gigi Bermingham has done an excellent job of balancing the play's comedic elements and pacing the three acts, and Tom Buderwitz's set design is marvelous. Note that as with all Antaeus
productions, the play is double-cast. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:

 GO Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play: Even after 60 years and counting, Eugene Ionesco's classic absurdist farce The Bald Soprano is still one of France's most popular and frequently produced plays. And as director Frederique Michel demonstrates in this steadfastly enjoyable revival, it's still good for a load of laughs. The opening tableau reveals a middle-aged Parisian couple, the Smiths (Jeff Atik, David E. Frank in drag, skillfully blending impertinence and camp), relaxing at home. She decorates the Christmas tree and discusses banal details about dinner, while he responds with outbursts of guttural gibberish from behind a newspaper. Things turn even more bizarre with the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Bo Roberts, Cynthia Mance) -- who initially don't seem to even know each other -- and a loquacious Fire Chief (Mitchell Colley). The evening gradually segues into a frenetic outbreak of meaningless chatter, jarring non sequiturs, grade-school storytelling and oddball silliness,
all of which Michel and her cast (which includes Lena Kay as a ditzy maid) serve up with impeccable comedic skill and elan. Ionesco satirizes middle-class manners and banality, and at the same time constructs a dramatic environment where logic, language and reality are wittily disassociated, and therein is the fun and laughs in the piece. Cast performances under Michel's direction are first-rate. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Dec.23, brownpapertickets.com/event/289020. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.

Bob's Holiday Office Party: Starting Dec. 6, Thursdays-Saturdays,8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22, plays411.com/bobs. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.

A Child Left Behind: Written and performed by Alan Aymie. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 20. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

Enchanted April: Written by Matthew Barber, directed by Gail Bernardi. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.

The Last Romance:Written by Joe DiPietro, directed by James Paradise. Sundays, 2 p.m.;
Sat., Dec. 1, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org. See New Reviews

Mrs. Mannerly: Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, directed by Robert Mackenzie. Thursdays, 8
p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 2 p.m.; Sat.,Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 14. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

 GO Nora: Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of A Doll's House restructures Henrik Ibsen's fierce family drama, stripping the play to its emotional essence, a goal that's underscored by director
Dana Jackson's spartan but evocative production. On a simple set consisting of some chairs, a Christmas tree in the back and, later, a bed, Jackson's staging puts its emphasis where the play's money is -- on the subtext driving the car crash that is the marriage of Nora and Torvald Helmer. Brad Greenquist's brutally curt and entitled Torvald comes across as the sort of business executive who sees a trophy wife as being merely part of his resume, while Jeanette Driver's Nora, with surface-level bubbliness belying an interior desperation and, yes, horror, is subtle and touching. Add to this Martha Hackett's wan, hard-used Mrs. Linde and Scott Conte's self-loathingly desperate Krogstad, and the production boasts some incredibly nuanced characterizations. Although the decision (by Bergman, not Jackson) to add a dramatic, pace-interrupting sex scene to the final act jars, the clarity and power of the show's performances make this a textbook dynamic production of the tragic drama. (Paul Birchall). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 27. Pacific
Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.

Present Laughter: Noel Coward's comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 2, 7 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

The Rainmaker:Written by N. Richard Nash, directed by Jack Heller. Starting Dec. 6,
Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through March 24. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Santasia: A Holiday Comedy: Produced by Loser Kids Productions. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 24, (800) 838-3006, santasia.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

Silent: Written and performed by Pat Kinevane. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 6, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13,8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com. See New Reviews

Smoke and Mirrors: Written by and starring Albie Selznick. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, (800) 595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.

 GO Theatre in the Dark: This collection of vignettes is performed entirely in the dark. No, really -- upon arrival,you'll notice a solitary candle burning at stage center, which after
the preshow announcements is blown out, plunging us into 90 minutes of inky darkness, only very occasionally alleviated by a momentary flash or murky ghost light. Lord help you if you have claustrophobia! If not, however, the collection of one-act sketches is an unexpectedly vivid series of ghost stories, radio-style dramas and other mysterious theatrical episodes that emphasize virtually all senses but sight. Incidents range in tone from Anna Nicholas' macabre "Our Dark Connection," in which seemingly random members of the audience are
dragged out of their seats and into the black by an unseen monster, to Friedrich Durrenmatt's compellingly disturbing "The Tunnel," a narrated tale of a man who discovers he's on a train to oblivion (both are directed with maximum eeriness by Ron Sossi). "One of the Lost" is
Ernest Kearney's spooky tale of the ghostly final transmission of a Russian cosmonaut on a secret space mission. John Zalewski's sound design is incredibly evocative -- and Sossi and his co-directors artfully manipulate all the senses within the live performance to craft a
set of dramas that utilize darkness almost as a character. (Paul Birchall).

GO THEATRE IN THE DARK: MORE DARK The second half of the Odyssey's Theatre in the Dark festival, represents truth in advertising.Save for the odd ghostly hospital monitor or the emergence of one pale, glowing blue eye, this collection of 15 short, moody vignettes offers
up nearly 90 minutes of theater in the dark, laced with an immersive soundtrack of things to go bump in the night. Clever, deftly choreographed and technically impressive, the production efficiently transports its audience as far afield as the drizzly London of a randy radio play ("Forbidden Fire") or a fairy-laden British forest (an excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream), but the true setting of many of its episodes is the liminal space between consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death, or sanity's thin border, a strange
netherworld well calibrated for unleashing the imagination. (Mindy Farabee). Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.



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