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Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Jeff Goldblum as a Writing Teacher

Starting this week, we will now include our listings of all ongoing shows, below the new reviews, to help make it easier for you to decide which shows to see this week.

The writing of neurologist Oliver Sacks has inspired a new work at Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena -- Kathryn Walat's Creation. See our main theater feature for the review of this show, and also of the perplexing Seminar at the Ahmanson, starring Jeff Goldblum as a writing teacher.

In addition, our critic Lovell Estell III got such a kick out of Anteaus Company's You Can't Take It With You, our pick of the week. For reviews of that show and others playing this week, see below.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication Oct. 25, 2012:

 GO  AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Ikeda and Aya Cash
Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Jeff Goldblum, Jennifer Ikeda and Aya Cash
Craig Schwartz

Theresa Rebeck's comedy about a writer's group, starring Jeff Goldblum. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Dwntwn. See Stage feature.  

PICK OF THE WEEK: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU

Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Jeff Goldblum as a Writing Teacher
Geoffrey Wade

Imagine a home where live snakes, spontaneous ballet dancing, fireworks explosions 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. 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. Antaeus Company, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 9. (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org (Lovell Estell III)

ONGOING SHOWS

1776: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Oct. 28. Fred Kavli Theater, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.

44 Plays for 44 Presidents: L.A.: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3, drivetheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-525-0661, www.attictheatre.org.

Ain't Misbehavin': Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

GO Bach at Leipzig: Risky gamble, trusting a contemporary audience accustomed to being spoon-fed sitcom jokes to engage in an intellectual comedy about classical organists (bor-ing) competing for a prestigious post in Leipzig (where?) in 1722 (snore). Yet playwright Itamar Moses not only does so but also further complicates his play with existential questions, religious sparring, classical-music jargon and references to almost every comedic device ever employed in the history of theater. Oh, and he name-drops Molière (with good reason). Who does this guy think he is?! To be sure, an adjustment period is necessary in director Stephanie Coltrin's production, and the first act drags while that occurs. The punch lines come across as a little cheesy ("What brings you here?" "Stagecoach") until the structure emerges -- cleverly, Act 2 opens with the line, "Structure is only clear in retrospect." The fun really begins then, with the cast, namely David Graham and Don Schlossman, hitting their strides and galloping through the devices of a classic farce (kudos to fight choreographer Patrick Vest). The play ends with a nod to the unseen Bach, master of the complex fugue. The production doesn't reach the lofty height of its inspirations, but its aim is good. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

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.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 1. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Anghttp://www.laweekly.com/2012-10-18/stage/blue-orange-krapps-last-tape/eles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

The Beat Goes On!: Written, directed and choreographed by Cate Caplin. Sundays, 1 & 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-595-4849.

GO The Belle of Belfast: For our review, see our stage feature. World premiere by Nate Rufus Edelman. (In rep with Year of the Rabbit). Fri., Oct. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 27, 5 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 28, 7 p.m., ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

The Bellflower Sessions: Andy Bloch's world-premiere comedy, directed by Bryan Rasmussen. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27, brownpapertickets.com/event/270301. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

Black Women: State of the Union- Taking Flight: Starting Oct. 27, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202, www.bhplayhouse.com.

GO Blue/Orange: For our review, see our stage feature. Joe Penhall's comedy-drama, directed by Ty Mayberry. Mondays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Dance Conservatory of Pasadena, 496 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena.

Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-De-Do: The Purple People Eater, the Invisible Man, and Roaring '20s dancing skeletons are among the more than 100 marionettes featured in this annual Halloween-themed show. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Nov. 10, $15. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

GO The Book of Mormon: That Broadway might have found its salvation in a religious satire written by some of the raunchiest theater creators of the past 15 years is ironic. But for all the sly winks and outright punches thrown, The Book of Mormon -- written by Robert Lopez of Avenue Q and Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park -- has a big ol' surprisingly squishy heart. The plot is simple. Two young, odd-couple elders in the Church of Latter-Day Saints are assigned to a village in Uganda for their two-year mission. Once they arrive, they're faced with people more concerned with how to be saved, literally, from a vicious warlord, AIDS and poverty than how to be saved, figuratively, by Christ. If you've ever watched South Park, you know Parker and Stone's routine: Take the most outrageously self-satisfied, outlandish, preposterous cultural happenings and say what everybody else is only thinking. One episode, "Smug Alert!," poked fun at the "progressive" attitude of San Franciscans by having them stop midconversation to fart, lean down and inhale deeply. In another, they take down Puff Daddy's "Vote or Die" campaign by having the rap mogul actually pull a gun and shoot people. It's safe to say, then, that we had very particular expectations walking into the West Coast premiere of The Book of Mormon. Paired with Lopez (see the brilliant song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q), would there be any soft underbelly of religion left unstabbed, any guts left unflung all over the stage? Of course the show is funny. The opening number, "Hello," has the elders practicing their spiels in the tradition of doggedly going door-to-door. One bursts out brightly, "Did you know that Jesus lived here in the USA," while another rings a doorbell over and over, referencing the joke of people hiding in their houses from the very persistent Mormons. When elders Price (the spot-on Gavin Creel, who shakes and slides with the same jerky, loose-limbed moves of a young Martin Short) and Cunningham (the lovable Jared Gertner, who's going to have to fight Zach Galifianakis comparisons) find out they're being sent to Africa in the standout number "Two By Two," one exclaims, "Like Lion King!" In fact, the writing team has tucked in so many off-the-cuff, hilariously accurate references that the musical feels like a really good Easter egg hunt -- you'll still be finding eggs a year later. The same applies to choreographer and co-director (with Parker) Casey Nicholaw's razor-sharp dance sequences; you could watch them over and over and continue to pick up on subtle tricks. Highlights include the "Thriller" sequence in "Spooky Mormon Hell Dream" and the clap-on/clap-off in sparkling tap number "Turn It Off." The latter features an excellent performance from Grey Henson, playing the chipper, closeted, de facto leader of the Mormon compound in Uganda; his future is blindingly bright. But Parker and Stone have proven time and time again they know black humor and biting satire and even how to write a damn good song. What's more impressive is how they have dug deeper and gotten to the root of our struggle with religion. The age-old question of "why do bad things happen to good people?," practical applications of the very unpractical notion of faith, fear of loneliness, not living up to the expectations of a perfect God and, well, a fiery hell as your eternity -- the show addresses these issues, but instead of relying on snarky chortles and eye rolls, the laughter is gentler, tinged with empathy. They know which buttons to push, but underlying all the ribbing is a tenderness that prevents the show from being bitter and angry. So, sure, they might occasionally want to tell God to fuck off -- and hey, haven't we all? -- but the care they've taken with The Book of Mormon gives them away. The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. (Rebecca Haithcoat. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25, BookofMormonTheMusical.com. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-365-3500, www.broadwayla.org.

A Bright New Boise: Mondays, Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

Build: Michael Golamaco's world premiere, directed by Will Frears. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark: For our review, see our stage feature. West Coast premiere by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. Directed by Jo Bonney. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Chekhov Unscripted / Twilight Zone Unscripted: Presented by Impro Theatre. (In rep.). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Christine Suarez: Mother. F***ker: Fri., Oct. 26, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 27, 3 & 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, 310-315-1459, www.highwaysperformance.org.

Cinderella: Sat., Oct. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 28, 2 p.m. Terrace Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-3636, www.longbeachcc.com.

The Circle: Back between the wars, dryly ironic but characterization-thin confections the likes of W. Somerset Maugham's dusty, 1921 drawing-room comedy were the bread and butter of English repertory companies. On little more than a week's rehearsal, technique-steeped veterans could take Maugham's upper-crust archetypes, brittle dialogue and slightly salacious storylines and make them seem like the height of Congrevian wit. Not so with director Jules Aaron's handsome but fitful revival. The issue is not merely that Aaron's experienced ensemble doesn't have the stage chops to pull off Maugham's antique affections -- they don't -- but that few modern actors do. The contemporary stage long ago came to prize gritty naturalism and the inner life over actorly artifice. Thus, while Ross Alden and Shelby Kocee both bring a seductive polish to the play's stock, love-frustrated romantic leads, neither Aaron nor his supporting players are ever quite able to find the light touch or nuance needed to unlock the laughs from Maugham's heavy-handed comedic gargoyles. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

Cirque Du Soleil: Dralion: Thu., Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 4, 1 & 5 p.m. Long Beach Arena, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-3636.

GO Cymbeline: Shakespeare's underperformed romance is a mishmash of familial ties tested, lighthearted foppery, dark betrayals and supernatural interventions. In the hands of director Bart DeLorenzo and a talented ensemble, the sometimes convoluted proceedings ultimately feel like a satisfyingly complex journey, a romp of sorts in which boys become men and childish love matures. DeLorenzo uses doubling to excellent effect, giving several actors both "good guy" and "bad guy" roles. Adam Haas Hunter plays all the naiveté of Posthumus, and makes quick transformations into a bombastically villainous Cloten. Andrew Elvis Miller drips with treachery as the snakelike Iachimo, and shifts into stoicism as Caius Lucius. Keith Mitchell's scenic design captures the play's ever-shifting tone and terrain, as does Ken Booth's lighting. (Amy Lyons). Fri., Oct. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 4, 2 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 10, 2 & 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 18, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

Dangerous Corner: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

GO David Mamet's November: David Mamet's Oval Office farce November centers on an imploding U.S. president, Charles Smith (Ed Begley Jr.), running for a second term, while his own re-election committee has cut off funds and his lesbian speechwriter, Bernstein (Felicity Huffman), is already drafting his concession speech. "Why? Why? We won the first time," he pleads to his chief of staff (Rod McLachlan). Retorts his adviser: "Because you've fucked up everything you've touched." When the play premiered on Broadway in 2008 (starring Nathan Lane), Smith might have been a stand-in for George W. Bush, whose approval ratings then were in the cellar, and what might have transpired if not for term limits: selling pardons to criminals in order to raise campaign funds, and hiking from $50,000 to $200 million his fee from a national turkey association for pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey on national TV. In 2012, the play contains only the faintest echoes of topical parody; rather, it works as a more general satire of a political system for sale. The play's high points are in some of the details. Comedically combining plot elements of Glengarry Glen Ross and Oleanna, the desperate president of the United States (who wants mainly to walk away with enough funds for a legacy library) finds himself bartering and betraying: Bernstein will give him a poll-boosting speech only after he marries her to her female partner on national TV, a broadcast already promised (for $200 million -- cash) to the national poultry association. Scott Zigler's staging (on Takeshi Kata's scrumptious Oval Office set) has a weird psychological credence, thanks largely to Begley's silky, very funny performance, flush with emotion yet bereft of histrionics. His Smith is a walking moral vacuum, struggling to find something noble within or beyond him. Mamet's dialogue sparkles with P.C.-savaging wit -- undone by absurdity that shatters plausibility: Turkeys explode in the anteroom, and a livid, violent Native American (the fine Gregory Cruz) bursts in while the Secret Service is on a coffee break. Huffman is a terrific foil for Begley, while McLachlan's chief of staff and Todd Weeks' poultry rep also sail through seamlessly. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.

Death of a Salesgirl: Written by Patricia Scanlon, directed by Matthew McCray. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 17. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.

The Detective's Wife: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.

Dirty Filthy Love Story: Written by Rob Mersola. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 17. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

The Doctor's Dilemma: Sat., Oct. 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 28, 2 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 11, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 17, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 25, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

Doomsday Cabaret: Sat., Oct. 27, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 10, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 16, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 8 & 11 p.m. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.

Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them: Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 10. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

Empanada for a Dream: Starting Oct. 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

GO The Fainting Couch: A love quadrangle among a ballerina, two fools and their evil boss, the Magician, lies at the heart of playwright Robert Riemer's twisted revisiting of the Stravinsky ballet Petrushka. With themes like manipulation and doubling, the play shares much with the original, and direct references to the Russian ballet abound, from props to set design to its meta-underpinnings. But the play's most stylish riff emerges in the way director Zombie Joe choreographs the proceedings as one demented pas de deux after another. It's a challenging approach, which his small cast matches note for note. Rehyan Rivera's Magician stalks the stage with the right edge of unhinged menace, and Natalie Hyde puts the broken-toy physicality of her deceptively fragile Ballerina to disconcerting use. The story really belongs to the two fools, however, as Ricky Lacorte's dim Large Fool embodies the dark, absurdist soul of the play, while Donna Noelle Ibale brings an existential flavor to the comedic terror of her vaudevillian Small Fool. (Mindy Farabee). Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Faith: Part One of a Mexican Trilogy: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

Fat Pig: By Neil LaBute. Fri., Oct. 26; Sat., Oct. 27; Sun., Oct. 28. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, 310-306-1854, www.electriclodge.org.

The Feast Of Spook Show: Wed., Oct. 31, 9 p.m., $10. El Cid, 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-668-0318, www.elcidla.com.

The Fifty Year Sword: Wed., Oct. 31, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.

Finding Barb: Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Jan. 10, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 20, 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?: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 24, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Flipzoids: Ralph B. Pena's drama develops around an elderly Filipina named Aying (Becca Godinez), who lives in Anaheim but longs to be back in the Philippines. She spends hours alone on the beach, recalling folk tales and practicing familiar rituals that make her feel closer to her culture. One day she's espied by Redford (Maxwel S. Corpuz), a flamboyant gay man with wild platinum hair, who camps out in a nearby public restroom. Unlike her daughter Vangie (Ellen D. Williams), who is mortified by her mom's erratic behavior, Redford is intrigued by Aying, perceiving her as a seer and possibly a personal savior. Pena's script transcends the typical immigrant-experience play to explore the realm of lost souls. But the production, under Jon Lawrence Rivera's overly stylized direction, misses its mark. Godinez's performance, while skillful, emerges as more caricature than character; like designer Bob Blackburn's punctuating sound, it rings too hollow for this intimate story. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

GO Focus Group Play: Carrie Barrett's comedy Focus Group Play, presented as part of the Katselas Theatre Company's LAbWORKS 2012, is set in a focus group assembled by a manufacturer to research attitudes toward its new products, a group of Meal Replacement Bars. But things don't go quite as planned. The group's pretty blonde moderator (Jen Drohan) desperately tries to keep chaos at bay and gather meaningful reactions from the obstreperous members of the group: Mandy (Celia Finkelstein) is a garrulous, needy young woman, who wants to be a stand-up comic, and whose talent for digression disrupts any reasonable discussion. Marta (Caro Zeller) is a no-nonsense Latina with an unexpected knowledge of geometry. Debbie (Darcy Shean) is a model who specializes in demonstrating household appliances. Jim (Brian Hamill), the only male in the group, is a family man with a touch of paranoia. Pamela (Alissa Ford) is an opinionated firebrand, who spearheads a rebellion against the company's hypocrisy and preposterous advertising claims. Though Barrett's mostly funny script bogs down occasionally, director Eric Hunicutt keeps the pace brisk and the laughs coming. In a top-notch cast, Drohan shines as a young woman trying to maintain her dignity despite impossible odds. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4, (702) 582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, www.bhplayhouse.com.

GO Fraternity: Jeff Stetson's all-male political drama, Fraternity, written 25 years ago, has a prescient power to it. Set in Birmingham, Ala., the storyline presents a prosperous group of black men, members of a private gentleman's club, and the tragic history that shaped each of their lives. A shocking bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in their hometown resulted in the death of four little black girls, accelerating the civil rights movement. Stetson's story, set in 1987, explores racial issues, elitism, shifting loyalties and eroded principles. When a pompous senator, Charles (2009 Tony winner Roger Robinson), competes with his former speechwriter, the younger and idealistic Paul (TV's Rocky Carroll, from NCIS), who's challenging his seat, Charles demands support from his privileged pals. Initially, there are the typical clubby banter, comedy showboating and gentle ribbing among longtime friends. But it's not long before the gloves come off and some fiery exchanges turn accusatory and menacing. As the men reflect on the ideals that shaped their careers, the actors infuse their performances with the jaded weariness of compromise. While Robinson capitalizes on the comedic elements of his arrogant senator, Henry Miller directs with a firm hand, muting the drama to let its quiet strength emerge. Stetson's play proves bombastic yet provocative. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28, ebonyrep.org. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-964-9768, www.ebonyrep.org.

GO The Full Monty: This crowd-pleasing musical, with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek, and the 1997 movie on which it's based, pull off a seemingly impossible feat -- making a sweet, heartwarming, nonthreatening show about a band of male strippers. In Buffalo, N.Y., steel worker Jerry (Will Collyer) and his co-workers have been laid off, and their egos and wallets are suffering. Fighting for custody of his son (Owen Teague), and inspired by the success of a professional male stripper (Todd Stroik), Jerry enlists his friends (Ryan O'Connor, Justin Michael Wilcox, Morgan Reynolds, Chip Phillips and Harrison White) to join him in creating a strip show in a local club. To outdo the Chippendales, they promise to deliver "the full Monty" -- total nudity. Inevitably, this small-theater rendition isn't as slick as the Broadway version, but director Richard Israel provides enough ingenuity and humanity to make it work on its own terms. John Todd provides the inventive and athletic choreography, and Johanna Kent supplies crisp, energetic musical direction. There are terrific performances by Collyer, O'Connor, Reynolds, White, Wilcox, Wendy Rosoff, and Jan Sheldrick, as a tough, show-business broad who comes out of retirement to serve as the strip show's accompanist. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-9232.

G()D()T: Admirers of Samuel Beckett's work will find a few moments of humor (and some answers, of a sort) in Steve Gough's riff on the absurdist classic Waiting for Godot. Here, the enigmatic Mr. Godot (good performance by Nicolaus Mackie) is a bewhiskered, elderly Brit with a quirky disposition, inclined to obtuse philosophical musings, outbursts over the fate of tramps Vladimir and Estragon, and pacing about in his windowless "office." He is joined by Snook (Tyson Turrou), his "personal assistant," who, when he isn't pandering to Godot's inconstant moods, bangs away on an antique typewriter and papers the walls with his useless missives. Time is reduced to a painful abstraction here, where the only challenge is to find meaning to it all. Unfortunately, Gough's plodding script doesn't offer much in the way of engagement. Like the original tramps, this pair also is waiting, but for what isn't really clear. Ilmar Taska directs, and Max Ruether rounds out the cast as the messenger. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18, 800-838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/275533. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

Ghost Light: In Dan Spurgeon's one-act scare fest, two couples break into a small studio theater on a stormy Halloween night. Would-be horn-dog Josh (Nick Echols) is hoping to put the moves on sorority girl Kelly (Stacy Snyder), who'd rather be at the party at the Beta house. Mike (Curtiss Johns) is hoping for a really scary evening, while his date, Julia (Stefani Davis), is nervous about the whole thing. Mike tells a spooky story about a guy named Wesley, who died in the theater, and brings out a Ouija board. Wesley seems to be speaking to them via the Ouija, and other strange happenings proliferate, until the lights go out and all hell breaks loose. The plot is minimal and the characters are sketchy, but director John B. McCormick keeps the chills and thrills coming thick and fast. Judging by the screams, laughter and nervous giggles, the audience was happily terrified. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27, thevisceralcompany.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, 323-251-1154, www.undergroundtheater.com.

Godspell, Jr.: Fridays, Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

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.

Yard Sale This Sunday!: Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Hah Nah: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 25, hahnah.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

The Hamlet Project: "Tragedy, comedy, drinking games. A new Hamlet every month!" First Thursday, Friday of every month, 8 p.m., thehamletproject.tumblr.com/. St. Nick's, 8450 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-6917.

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.

Henry VI: The popularity of Shakespeare's history plays have long lagged behind that of his tragedies and comedies, and Henry VI, Part 1 is one reason why. Shakespeare's earnestly patriotic first play lacks the poetry and moral brilliance of his later work, instead laying the groundwork for England's War of the Roses with a cast of basic villains and heroes. Chief among them might be a demonically inclined Joan of Arc, whose dark arts have suddenly empowered the subjugated French. Meanwhile, back in England, enmity is sowed between the royal houses of Lancaster and York, the former symbolized by a red rose, the latter white. The Production Company has handsomely staged this production, making room for an impressive amount of pageantry and choreography within the constraints of the space. Eerily stylized at times, it is also crisply paced under Christopher William Johnson's direction. Some strange choices emerge, however -- for instance, heavily accenting the French faction only points up the fact that the Brits are all played with American accents. And without any standout performances, the production's aggressive tone might underscore some of the play's humor, but the few quieter moments mainly fall flat rather than wringing some emotional balance from the text. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 10, (310) 869-7546, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles.

Hooked: Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11, hookedagain.net. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.

How to Write a New Book for the Bible: Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 18. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

I Ought to Be in Pictures: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 11. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com.

It's Just Sex: Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., ovationtix.com. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.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 Nov. 11, plays411.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

GO A Kind of Love Story: Jenelle Riley's lighthearted comedy is seriously funny and endearingly sweet. Mark (Michael Lanahan) and Ally (Carrie Wiita) were indoctrinated, while growing up, by fairy tales, Disney movies, romantic comedies and Hollywood endings. Each is convinced that the perfect mate is out there somewhere, if they could only find him/her. Meanwhile, both suffer all the hurts and indignities inflicted by the dating game. Treated like doormats by their friends, ridiculed by their acquaintances, they desperately hold onto their optimism despite unhelpful advice from a vain and dunderheaded Superman (Will McMichael) and condescending Belle (Rebecca Larsen) from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Ally puts up with a boorishly obnoxious boyfriend (Rick Steadman) because she thinks he's better than nothing, while Mark is surrounded by women who think he's a great guy but wouldn't dream of dating him. Erin Matthews provides a hilarious portrait of Ally's voluptuous, airheaded roommate, and there are sterling performances by Carrie Keranen, Curt Bonnem, Jennifer Christina Smith, Donelle Fuller and Terry Tocantins. The witty and handsome set design by Tifanie McQueen and whimsical projections by Anthony Backman add to the fun. Uncredited hair and wigs enhance character. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

KONG: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla: Saturdays, Sundays. Continues through Nov. 25, (800) 838-3006, SkyPilotTheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

GO Krapp's Last Tape: For review, see our stage feature. John Hurt performs Samuel Beckett's play. Presented by Gate Theatre Dublin. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

The L. Ron Hubbard Golden Age Theatre: Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., $10 ($5 online). The Golden Age Theatre, 7051 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-798-1635, www.goldenagetheatre.com.

Little Shop of Horrors: Presented by Theatre Unleashed. Directed by Josh Morrison. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27, theatreunleashed.com. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.

Loving the Silent Tears: A New Musical: Inspired by the poetry anthology by Supreme Master Ching Hai. Starring Jon Secada, Jody Watley, Debbie Gravitte, Kiril Kulish, Liz Callaway and Patti Cohenour, with Black Uhuru, Camellia Abou-Odah, Mark Janicello, Brian Joo, Liel Kolet, Katie McMahon, Heather Fabiana Passoni and Siavash Shams. Sat., Oct. 27, 4 p.m., $45-$75, www.silenttearsmusical.com/. Shrine Auditorium & Expo Center, 649 W. Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-748-5116, www.ckfreelance.com.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Sun., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 29, 7 p.m. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

GO Manish Boy: There's a reason Ralph Harris' solo show is returning to L.A. yet again. After earlier incarnations at the Stella Adler in 2008 and 2009 (the former under the title North Philly), this hugely entertaining, autobiographical account of a 40-something ladies' man facing possible fatherhood opens its longest run yet at Stage 52. Harris made his name in stand-up, and he skillfully delivers belly laughs throughout. But the paternity scare wrought by a long-lost ex-girlfriend is really just a frame on which to hang a richly woven tapestry of the people and experiences that have made him, in the end, more mannish than boyish. Harris is a marvel of mannerisms and verbal tricks, conjuring vivid, affecting portraits of his hot-tempered father, a crack-smoking uncle, his Burt Bacharach-loving grandfather and even the sensual, cocoa butter-rubbing friend of his mother, Miss Betty. Harris disappears so utterly into his characters that, even for the audience, resurfacing feels like waking from a dream. The show runs a shade long at 90 minutes without intermission, though director Oz Scott keeps things moving. In one of the evening's highlights, Harris channels his 7-year-old self in a whirling dervish of a monologue. (Jenny Lower). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4, manishboy.com/. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-549-9026.

The Manor: Thu., Nov. 1, 6 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 6 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 1 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 4, 1 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 10, 1 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 11, 1 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 14, 6 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 15, 6 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 16, 6 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 17, 1 p.m. Greystone Mansion and Park, 905 Loma Vista, Beverly Hills, 310-286-0119, www.greystonemansion.org.

Mel Brooks' The Producers: Performed as part of the Help Youth Charities Annual Theatrical Fundraiser. Starting Nov. 1, Thursdays-Saturdays; Sun., Nov. 4, 2 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 11, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, 323-525-0202, www.acmecomedy.com.

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.

The Muesli Belt: Starting Oct. 27, 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.

Not With Monsters: Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Onassis: For most people, Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis was best known for three things: acquiring the ultimate trophy wife in the person of presidential widow Jackie Kennedy; his decadelong affair with opera diva Maria Callas; and creating a vast, international shipping empire through freebooting Blofeldian guile. But that trio is not the focus of this oddly laudatory and overly laundered rags-to-riches tribute by solo-performance biographer Anthony Skordi (also co-writer with Willard Simms). Skordi's Onassis is a slyly mischievous, perennially priapic wheeler-dealer bent on leveraging respect from a world that considers him little more than a vulgar and grasping arriviste. His tragic flaw is in approaching his personal and family relationships with the same calculated ruthlessness as in his business dealings. Unfortunately, neither director Bruce Katzman's crisp staging (on Adam Haas Hunter's efficient set) nor Skordi's zesty, Zorba-like portrayal are finally able to transcend a text that has all the poetry and none of the depth of the man's Wikipedia entry. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.

Orestes 3.0: Inferno: This world premiere is another installment of Charles L. Mee's reimagining of Euripides' Greek tragedy Orestes, relating the violent, politically challenging myth to contemporary society. While awaiting trial for murdering his mother, Orestes (Johanny Paulino) is being tortured by three Furies. His sister, Electra (Megan Kim), with whom he has an incestuous relationship, is tugging him back from the brink of madness. Mee has woven in references to L.A., as Helen of Troy (the fine Katrina Nelson) prances out in a Marilyn-esque bathing suit, talking about her skincare regimen; later, the cast "drives" rolling chairs while checking their iPhones and trying not to crash. True to form, Mee never shies away from discussions of graphic sex, and S&M figures prominently. The problem stems not from his adaptation (though 20 minutes could be shaved off) but from the company executing it. Mee has a longtime collaborative relationship with Anne Bogart's SITI Company, a natural fit for the intensely physical component of most of his scripts. While Frédérique Michel's choreography and direction are artful attempts, her cast is, for the most part, simply not seasoned enough to produce a cohesive vision. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25. City Garage, Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-319-9939, citygarage.org.

GO Potential Space: In Kirsten Vangsness' steamy, intrepid new play, a neurotic gal named Dulcie (Vangsness) yearns for love and a fulfilling sex life but can't seem to make either work. Instead, she inhabits a fractured inner world where a trinity composed of her brain (Lauren Letherer), her heart (Wendi West) and her noisome libido (Jennifer Flack) squabble constantly for her attention. Despite Dulcie's troubles, she refuses to go "boyless," as her gay best friend Andy (David Wilcox) recommends; trapped between rutting and romance, she begins not only to accept abuse but to encourage it. Directed by Bill Voorhees, the show registers as raunchy, reiterative, at times histrionic; it is also honest, funny and, speaking as a woman, easy to relate to. As a performer, Vangsness, who seems to specialize in loopy ladies with a forthright edge, does not disappoint. Flack is also terrific as Dulcie's unruly inner sexpot, proud of her blow-job prowess. But while sex is pivotal to the narrative, it is the character's quest for self-understanding and her denuding display of vulnerability that makes it compelling. The worthy supporting ensemble includes Eric Neil Gutierrez as Dulcie's most accomplished lover and Grace Eboigbe as a devastating rival for another love interest. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.

The Rabbi & the Shiksa: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.

The Red Room: Christopher Knopf's play examines the plight of an old Hollywood family when the tide turns against it. Paterfamilias Edwin (Brad Blaisdell) wanted in his youth to become an actor, a career choice that earned him the sarcasm and contempt of his bullying father (Don Savage). When he loses a hand in a freak accident, Edwin pursues a film producing career instead, becoming a Hollywood icon. Then, after one too many failures, the studio asks for his resignation, blighting the hopes of his wife (Janet Fontaine) and leading him to shift the blame onto his sons, Will (Robert W. Arbogast), David (Chad Coe) and Johnny (Lane Compton, who also plays young Edwin). Edwin seems destined to crush his sons' spirits, as his own father crushed his. Director James J. Melton elicits fine performances all around, but since the characters consistently evade confrontation, the drama seldom ignites. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

The Rock of Abandon: Stephen Blackburn's murder mystery. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18, (323) 960-7787, plays411.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.

Ruddigore: Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, adapted by Eugene J. Hutchins. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 10. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Seven Corpses: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5774, www.complexhollywood.com.

GO Sideways the Play: The well-known saying may be In vino veritas, but in playwright Rex Pickett's adaptation of his novel, booze from a hundred bottles of wine flows around the stage, and the dysfunctional characters still all lie like shag rugs. Pickett's novel, of course, has already been adapted into an Oscar-winning film, but in this deft iteration of the tale, the author returns to his original narrative. The results, in director Amelia Mulkey's winning, funny and wise production, are more involvingly intimate than the movie. Pickett's tale of a pair of middle-aged man-boys enjoying a week of Santa Ynez Valley tippling whilst becoming romantically entangled with a pair of beautiful but naive wine servers boasts a gentle sincerity that's strangely theatrical. You may wonder how a story that is so outdoors-oriented as this tale of touring Santa Ynez Valley wineries could possibly translate to the comparatively close environs of a tiny stage. Yet director Mulkey's production adroitly captures the mood of rural Santa Ynez, with C.J. Strawn's barnlike set populated by a cast of supporting actors with grizzled beards, sunburned faces and tank tops, looking like denizens of the wine country. As Miles, the self-absorbed writer and wine connoisseur, John Colella imbues his character with equal parts self-loathing and vulnerability. Jonathan Bray's turn as Miles' heartless best pal and traveling buddy is a droll study in piglike manhood. Julia McIlvaine delivers an exquisite, luminous turn as Miles' sensitive, inscrutable love interest. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

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 Nov. 18, (866) 811-4111, silencethemusical.com/. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thehayworth.com.

Slice: Paul Kikuchi's world-premiere comedy. Presented by Metamorphosis Theatre Company. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18, 877-MTC-8777, metamorphosistheatre.org. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.

Nevermore: Jeffrey Combs is Edgar Allan Poe. Wed., Oct. 31, 8 p.m., $20. Trepany House at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-666-4268, www.trepanyhouse.org.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4, plays411.com. Porticoes Theater at St. James Methodist Church, 2033 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Wed., Oct. 31, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 4 p.m., plays411.com. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-458-8634, www.milesplayhouse.org.

Theatre in the Dark: Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com

The Turn of the Screw: Given the monstrosities of our age, it's hard to regard a 19th-century ghost story as anything more than quaint, even if it is sourced in Henry James. Add to this consideration the dense literary timbre of Jeffrey Hatcher's script, and you've got an uphill battle for audience attention. Happily, this production, artfully directed by Dan Spurgeon, with accomplished performances by Amelia Gotham and Nich Kauffman, triumphs over those expectations. Shouldering most of the narration, Gotham portrays a governess hired to supervise the care of two orphans at a remote estate. Initially self-possessed, she begins to lose her bearings after sighting the specters of the dead former governess and her lover, while observing the strange behavior of her wards, whom she believes to be possessed by these spirits. Gotham's onstage transformation to madness is superb. The versatile Kauffman, capable of communicating a ton of meaning with a single squint, portrays all the other characters: the commanding master who hires Gotham, the uneducated housekeeper, a comic figure, the scary phantom and the disturbed 10-year-old Miles, at times a threatening presence. Any dramatized horror story needs creative lighting, and designer Dave Sousa, embellishing Tyler Travis' engaging black-and-white set, stylishly obliges. Underground Theater, 1312 Wilton Place, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 27. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27, thevisceralcompany.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, 323-251-1154, www.undergroundtheater.com.

Urinetown: The Musical: Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28, fraggledproductions.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

Vincent: The Next Arena presents Jean-Michel Richaud as Vincent van Gogh. By Leonard Nimoy, directed by Paul Stein. Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18, (323) 417-2170, thenextarena.com. VS Theatre (formerly the Black Dahlia Theatre), 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.

Wonder of the World: By David Lindsay-Abaire. Presented by the Wanderlust Theater Company. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3, (323) 240-6915, wanderlustla.org. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles.

GO Year of the Rabbit: Watching Keliher Walsh's multifaceted mini-saga about war feels like peering through a kaleidoscope at tiny, glittering particles that shift and tumble before locking into place to reveal a pattern. The three related storylines are presented in a fragmented fashion until the connections eventually are revealed. One involves a bomber flight duo, Lt. Bridges (Ashanti Brown) and Lt. Skinner (Will McFadden), and the impact and subsequent fallout their intimacy has on their tour of duty in the Persian Gulf. The unifying storyline is that of Lieu (Elyse Dinh), a Vietnamese child orphaned and cursed by the horrific war that destroyed her country. Lieu's presence touches all the characters, whether they realize it or not. Dinh's graceful and alluring performance adeptly evolves from a small child to a survivalist to a woman on a mission, and her lilting accent perfectly complements Walsh's evocative and poetic language. Despite the play's choppy nature, Dinh's complex performance is reminiscent of a fluid stroke of calligraphy. Brown also is outstanding as a woman carving out her military career under the watchful eye of her ex-military father (Meshach Taylor). Director James Eckhouse elicits fine performances from all (Walsh also has a key role in her own play), and Joseph Slawinski's dramatic sound design beautifully counterpoints some subtle music cues. In repertory with The Belle of Belfast. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

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