Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Prancing Horses on a Stage the Size of a Football Field
The Canadian troupe Cavalia wowed critic Lovell Estell III this week with its equestrian spectacle Cavalia's Odysseo . Good notices also for Diane Glancy's The Bird House at the Autry National Center, and for a revival of Carlos Murillo's Dark Play (or Story for Boys) at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre. For all the latest New Theater Reviews, and theater listings, see below.
This week's two Theater Features look at a new one-man play by Richard Creese and performed by David Melville for the Independent Shakespeare Company. It's called Solemn Mockeries and studies 18th century forger William-Henry Ireland, who grew to be expert at manufacturing Shakespearean artifacts -- letters, documents and even the complete manuscript of a "lost" play -- all to please his dad. We also reviewed the jukebox musical Divorce Party: The Musical, about a hausfrau whose gay husband walked out on her, and how her friends attended to her recovery.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS: scheduled for Publication March 7, 2013:
GO: THE BIRD HOUSE
Cherokee playwright Diane Glancy offers a sad slice of contemporary
country life in a small, dusty town in West Texas. Struggling with a
dwindling congregation in his (almost) ghost town, evangelical preacher
Jonathan (aka Reverend Hawk, played by Choctaw actor Randy Reinholz) and
his dependent sisters face eviction from their church home. Glancy
crams several related themes into her play, from the bleak fate of the
impoverished elderly to the cold-hearted business decisions of the
church to the destruction of the environment when government sells out
to developers. Glancy compares Reverend Hawk's imminent eviction with
the plight of the Native Americans whose lands were taken over forcibly
by white settlers. Ellen Dostal is good as Jon's older sister, Clovis,
who, following a debilitating stroke, speaks to the audience directly,
vividly describing her frustration. Portraying Native American cowboy
Rope, Lakota actor Robert Owens-Greygrass gives a passionate and
disturbingly vivid speech that illustrates the rape and poisoning of the
land and its water by the fracking process. While Glancy offers few
solutions for her beleaguered characters, her play stands as a heartfelt
indictment of the deplorable predicament many are facing in today's
tough economic climate. The play is beautifully staged and directed by
Robert Caisley. Native Voices at the Autry National Center, 4700 Western
Heritage Way, Griffith Park; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;
Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 17. (323) 667-2000, theautry.org. (Pauline
PICK OF THE WEEK: CAVALIA'S ODYSSEO
This vast equestrian spectacle (the stage, the size of a hockey field, encompasses 15,000 square feet) created by Normand Latourelle and
directed by Wayne Fowkes, features 67 horses of 11 breeds as well as 45
international human performers, including riders, trainers, acrobats,
aerialists, dancers, stilt walkers and musicians. The horses are
beautiful, spirited and disciplined, jumping, dancing and performing
elaborate feats of equine choreography. The trick riders display
courage, reckless physical prowess and panache, and the scenery,
projected on a huge screen, take us from the American Southwest to the
steppes of Central Asia. The show consists of several episodes,
featuring Cossacks, drummers, an equestrian carousel and an African
village festival featuring drummers and acrobats. In a startling finale,
the stage is flooded with 80,000 gallons of water so horses, riders and
acrobats can splash away like mad.The production has a natural appeal
for horse lovers, but you don't have to be an aficionado to appreciate
the beauty of magnificent galloping horses, working in precision
ensembles.The athletic human choreography is by Darren Charles and Alain
Gauthier, and the equestrian direction and choreography is by Benjamin
Aillaud. The show's compound is large, so walking shoes are recommended.
White Big Top, 777 N. Front Street, Burbank; call or check website for
schedule; through March 27. (866) 999-8111, cavalia.net (Neal Weaver)
Young Actors Ensemble
I'll Be Back Before Midnight:
The tone of Peter Colley's thriller hews closer to the telegraphed
setups of a slasher film than to the psychological terror of Hitchcock.
Though widely produced and even adapted into a 1992 made-for-TV movie,
the script has had persistent issues throughout its history: a thin
premise, vaguely sketched characters and hackneyed gags, leaving a few
chilling thrills to hold the piece together. Those thrills hit the mark
when they do arrive, enhanced by both the foreboding upstage space in
Stephen Gifford's set and Drew Dalzell's hair-raising sound design.
Playing out those thrills are Greg (Tyler Pierce, whose chiseled
physique hardly suggests "bookish scientist") and his wife, Jan (Joanna
Strapp, who delivers quite a blood-curdling scream), who have come to
the country to repair their marriage. Their whiskey-loving neighbor,
George (Ron Orbach), and Greg's incestually creepy sister, Laura (Kate
Maher), drop in, and mayhem ensues. The actors are strong and have done
good work around town, but their talents and Colley and David Rose's
direction aren't enough to disguise the holes in the writing. (Mayank
Keshaviah). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3
& 8 p.m. Continues through March 17. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third
St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
The legendary boxer's one-man show. Fri., March 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., March
9, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 10, 7 p.m., $32-$514. Pantages Theater, 6233
Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org.
One Night With Janis Joplin:
Musical tribute to the rock legend, created, written and directed by
Randy Johnson. Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.;
Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 11. Pasadena
Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Four performances of Cole Porter's 1940 musical, benefiting the Betty
Garrett Musical Comedy Workshop. Sat., March 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 10, 2
p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Staged reading of John Logan's play, presented by L.A. Theatre Works.
Thu., March 14, 8 p.m.; Fri., March 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 16, 3 & 8
p.m.; Sun., March 17, 4 & 7:30 p.m., www.latw.org. James Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood, 310-206-8365.
Sunday Night Solo Series: February 10: Lee Meriwether in The Women of Spoon River; February 17: Jim Beaver in Sidekick; Kres Mersky in Isadora Duncan: A Unique Recital; Abbott Alexander in The Nameless One; Dina Morrone in The Italian in Me; Anthony Gruppuso in The Face Behind the Face, Behind the Face; April 7: Steve Nevil in As Always, Jimmy Stewart.
Sun., March 10, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 17, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 24,
7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd.
W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Nina Raine's story of a deaf boy. Starting March 10, Sun., March 10, 7
p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 16, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun.,
March 17, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 14. Mark Taper
Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:
GO: Absolutely Filthy:
Just 'cause I have a ton of dirt on me doesn't make me a monster," says
The Mess (playwright Brendan Hunt), the adult incarnation of Pig Pen
from the Peanuts comics, who is now a homeless man, in Absolutely Filthy.
His desire to be more than an "accumulation of [his] sins" drives the
story of a reunion of the old gang after the demise of Charlie Brown
(played by Scott Golden, credited as The Deceased -- the characters are
given abstract names for legal reasons). Hunt's exploration of the
dysfunction of these familiar characters all grown up is darkly
hilarious. Through a series of flashbacks, prompted by their arrivals at
the church to pay their respects, The Mess' journey to his present
state is revealed. While the cast is solid across the board, Hunt truly
steals the show, and not just because he keeps his "cloud of dust," a
Hula Hoop, in constant motion the entire time he's onstage (a feat in
itself!). His clever writing, comic timing and use of understatement to
tremendous effect allow Hunt to weave sociopolitical commentary,
gross-out humor and insightful observations into engaging and
entertaining rants. Director Jeremy Aldridge deftly manages a massive
cast, making great use of Stephanie Kerley Schwartz's set, itself an
inventive homage to homelessness with its junk-themed design. Standouts
in the cast include an out-of-the-closet Schroeder (Curt Bonnem as The
Pop Star), hard-ass sports agent Lucy (Anna Douglas as The Big Sister)
and recovering alcoholic judge Franklin (KJ Middlebrooks as His Honor).
It seems that the Fools' late-night series Serial Killers, where
this show originated, has once again yielded comedy gold. (Mayank
Keshaviah). Fri., March 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., March
10, 7 p.m., $20. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los
Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs:
There are several moments late in Alex Lyras' fascinating performance
of Mike Daisey's controversial monologue when Lyras drops the mask of
his nameless, first-person investigative narrator and directly pleads
for the evening's truth claims as Alex Lyras, actor. The asides are as
tantalizing as they are telling. Because experiencing Lyras and director
Robert McCaskill's staging of Daisey's Michael Moore-esque mix of
polemics and sardonic reportage is to feel weirdly double-distanced from
the actuality of its subject -- the harshly impoverished working
conditions of Apple's Chinese iPhone and iPad plants. Despite Lyras'
persuasive delivery, the show never quite shakes the penumbra of
question marks raised by Daisey's own admitted fabrications of his
reporting trip to China (said material since excised). The force of each
incendiary revelation and Tim Arnold's accompanying photojournalistic
video projections somehow feels diminished unaccompanied by a
fact-checking footnote that goes beyond the piece's now bitterly ironic
emotive linchpin, Lyras as Daisey declaring, "Trust me! I was there."
(Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 10,
800-838-3006, agonyecstasy.brownpapertickets.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320
Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
World premiere of Buddy Farmer's drama. Starting March 9, Fridays,
Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14,
323-960-7711, plays411.com/baggage. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica
Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Bitch Trouble: Stories About Friendship:
Written and performed by Alice Johnson Boher. Wed., March 13, 8 p.m.;
Wed., April 10, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m.; Wed., June 12, 8 p.m.;
Wed., July 10, 8 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/316188. Cavern Club
Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-969-2530,
Playwright Andrea Kuchlewska combines unlikely ingredients in her
comedy: an est-like training program for self-realization, the
art/science of linguistics and a stormy love affair involving a pair of
obsessive linguists. Eve (Meredith Bishop) and Micah (Scott Kruse) may
be experts in the arts of language, but that doesn't mean they can
communicate. He has been trying for ages to tell her that he loves her,
but she refuses to acknowledge that anything but love of language unites
them -- and she never stops talking. In desperation, he signs up for a
course with "take control of your life" guru Jack (Scott Victor Nelson)
in the hopes that it will enable him to confess his love. But Eve has an
intense love-hate relationship with the program, so it becomes one more
obstacle. Also present is a little girl named Evie (Tess Oswalt), who
may or may not be a childhood incarnation of Eve. The play is always
interesting and fun to watch, and director Jennifer Chambers keeps the
comedy in the forefront, but the insistently nonlinear structure
sometimes proves distracting. Credibility also is an issue. Eve is such a
fanatic, intellectual bully and egocentric blabbermouth that one
wonders why Micah bothers. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 23,
plays411.com/complete. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles,
Dayna Dooley's solo show. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.
Continues through March 10, 323-960-5772, daynalandtheshow.com. Stella
Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles,
Dirty Filthy Love Story: There are two stars in Rob Mersola's new comedy, Dirty Filthy Love Story.
The first is David Mauer and Hazel Kuang's set. In a coup de theatre,
the entire back wall of what looks like a cardboard-cutout living room
drops forward and slams to the ground, revealing the home to be the
garbage-bag, stacked-boxes and strewn-clothes rat's nest of the play's
hoarder-protagonist, Ashley (Jennifer Pollono). The other star is Joshua
Bitton's understated performance as the mentally challenged garbage man
Hal, hired by Ashley's next-door neighbor Benny (Burl Moseley) to clean
the trash from her side yard so he can sell his home. The sexually
charged romance between Hal and Ashley grows increasingly macabre,
homicidal and strained, and the play's main joke really turns on the
passionate, nihilistic attraction between them. Pollono and Moseley were
too screechy at the performance reviewed, under Elina de Santos'
absorbing, sitcom-style direction. And I couldn't understand why, in one
scene, Benny would fail to defend himself against the lovers, who have
targeted him for death. After all, they've already struck him with a
frying pan that's now sitting in front of him on the couch. But when he
regains consciousness, rather than pick up the weapon, he merely rants
about his plight. Such details can be worked out. This is a world
premiere, after all. Mainly, though, the play is about its premise and
nothing more. With transitional songs referring to a world under siege
by garbage, this is a work that could actually be about something.
Either it needs to be as thin as farce, or reconsidered more deeply.
(Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m.;
Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2
N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202.
It's difficult to imagine the infamous seducer of women as a
swashbuckling Southern gentleman, but director Steven Sabel has pulled
it off somewhat, in an adaptation that's not without problems. With a
nod to Molière's untidy rendition of the story, Sabel sets the action of
the play in the antebellum South (the erratic regional accents and a
prominently displayed Confederate flag are the only indicators of this),
with Dustin Lovell doing the honors as Don Juan. Upon returning to the
town where his beloved Donna Elvire (a fine performance by Michelle
Farivar) lives, the honey-tongued scoundrel is targeted for revenge by
Donna's brothers (Doug Mattingly, Neil Miller) and woos the lovely
Mathurine (Lila Bassior) and Charlotte (Mamie Wilhelm), both of whom he
plans to marry. It gets laughs intermittently, but the physical comedy
is overworked, the performances are glaringly uneven and Sabel's script
is sluggish and overwritten. Archway Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St.,
dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 16.
www.archwayla.com. (Lovell Estell III)
Presented by Doma Theatre Company. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,
3 p.m. Continues through April 14, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre,
1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
GO:A Family Thing:
The screwed-up clan on display in Gary Lennon's densely bleak comedy
gives new resonance to Tolstoy's renowned adage about how every unhappy
family is unhappy in its own way. Turmoil and pain are woven into the
DNA of the three Burns brothers of Hell's Kitchen. The oldest, Frank
(Saverio Guerra), is a coke addict with a volcanic temper, no job and a
wife (Andrea Grano) he despises. Baby brother Sean (Sean Wing) is a gay
TV writer, who is first seen preparing to commit suicide off the
Brooklyn Bridge; he's stopped by a passerby (Darryl Stephens), who later
becomes his lover. Just out of prison, Jim (Johnny Messner), a hulky,
tattooed mass of bully-boy attitude and wrath, has vowed to kill Sean
because he's gay and Frank because he thinks he snitched him out to the
cops. Working it out is what this bunch is ultimately forced to do and,
notwithstanding the unpleasant circumstances, it's a load of laughs to
watch. Lennon can write funny; he is also a virtuoso of gritty,
in-your-face dialogue, and his well-crafted script gives PC niceties the
heave-ho. These are engaging, splendidly flawed characters, and the
cast turn in vigorous, entertaining performances under Chris Fields'
savvy direction. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 17, 877-369-9112,
www.EchoTheaterCompany.com. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., Los
GO: Hattie ... What I Need You to Know:
Before there was a Sidney Poitier, a Denzel Washington, a Morgan
Freeman or a Halle Berry, there was Hattie McDaniel. In the engaging
bio-musical Hattie ... What I Need to Know, Vickilyn Reynolds
honors the life of this extraordinary entertainer, who in 1940 became
the first African-American to win an Oscar with her performance as Mammy
in Gone With the Wind. Fittingly, the show opens with a video of
that historic evening, after which Reynolds (who bears a noticeable
resemblance to McDaniel) appears onstage and, for two hours, does a
beguiling job of bringing McDaniel to life. Reynolds' script covers a
lot of ground and could use some tightening, and at times her loose,
conversational style distracts and meanders. Still, she and director
Byron Nora succeed in making McDaniel's story an entertaining
experience, recounting her early days singing in a gospel choir;
difficulties with her overprotective parents; a string of unhappy
marriages; struggles with racism in and outside of Hollywood; and her
slow, determined rise to success, which ultimately placed her in the
friendly company of stars like Clark Gable, Mae West, Bing Crosby and
Marlene Dietrich. As interesting as this all is, the real payoff is
hearing Reynolds sing the selection of jazz, blues and gospel songs with
commanding artistry and passion. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3
p.m. Continues through April 14, 323-960-5774. Hudson Backstage
Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252,
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, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through April
27, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los
Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
I Don't Have to Show You No Stinking Badges:
It comes as something of a surprise that this Casa 0101 production is
L.A.'s first revival of Luis Valdez's wryly transgressive interrogation
of Hollywood's jaundiced representation of Mexican-Americans. After all,
the play had its 1986 premiere in a lavish production at LATC, and the
industry's history of pandering to prejudice has hardly improved. That
said, though director Hector Rodriguez adds some original sardonic
touches, his staging never quite rises to the level of formal
sophistication demanded by the text. Act 1, which introduces Monterey
Park power couple Connie (Carmelita Maldonado) and Buddy Villa (Daniel
E. Mora), isn't supposed to play with the banality of an insipid TV
sitcom, it's meant to burlesque it. Things improve in Act 2 when the
play's angry energy -- nicely articulated by Alex Valdivia as the
Villas' Harvard-dropout son -- is finally unleashed in Valdez's
hallucinatory, feverishly funny pastiche of movie genre tropes. (Bill
Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through
March 10. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684,
I Wanna Be Loved: Stories of Dinah Washington, Queen of the Blues: Barbara Morrison is
Dinah Washington! Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues
through March 31. Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan
Blvd. Ste. 101, Los Angeles, 323-296-2272, www.barbaramorrisonpac.com.
Keena Unbranded: The Solo Experience:
Keena Ferguson's one-woman show. Thu., March 14, 8 p.m.; Fri., March
15, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., March 22, 8 p.m.,
www.keenaferguson.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way,
Written and directed by Larissa Wise. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7
p.m. Continues through March 10. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No.
105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.
Written by The Latino Theater Lab. Starting March 14,
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6. Los Angeles
Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.
Oh, Yes She Did! From Slave-Ship to Space-Ship: Black Women Pioneers of America:
Writer-performer Sandy Brown pays passionate homage to eight famous
African-American women in an energetic solo performance that would
benefit from the input of an experienced director. Carefully researched,
and aptly costumed for each period, her dramatic renditions inform us
about 18th-century poet Phillis Wheatley, Underground Railroad conductor
Harriet Tubman, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and acclaimed cabaret
entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. Brown sings and dances well
and delivers her lines with presence. But the end result can be
characterized as detailed impersonations of historical figures rather
than emotionally in-depth portrayals with the feel of authenticity. The
most successful segment is her depiction of soul singer Billie Holiday, a
hard-luck individual who criticized the status quo and was incarcerated
for drug use. Brown's focused monologue, and her singing, nab the
essence of this woman's torment. With its song-and-dance numbers, her
take on Baker also entertains. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 2 &
7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 6:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m.
Continues through March 24. Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los
Angeles, 323-422-6361, www.theatretheater.net.
Playwright Doris Baizley consulted with defense attorney Anne Raffanti
before writing this revealing one-act about a law-enforcement officer
who realizes that the man he wants to entrap is not that different from
himself. Estranged from his family, stressed-out FBI agent Richard Roe
(Gregory Itzin) labors on a sting operation, visiting online chat rooms
and posing as a young girl to provoke the interest of possible sex
offenders. His latest assignment targets none-too-bright, middle-aged
John (JD Cullum), who likes fishing and country music and whose marital
sex life has stalled. But while John nurtures baneful fantasies about
young teens, he does exercise self-control, trying hard to stay "just
friends" with (he believes) the young female person he's met online. At
his superior's insistence, however, Richard continues to entice John
with revealing photos and pleas for them to meet -- all so the FBI can
score an arrest. Baizley's setup is somewhat simplistic, but Itzin is
riveting as a scrupulous man forced to act against his conscience.
Cullum communicates smarminess and vulnerability, but his demeanor
suggests he's talking to someone directly rather than communicating by
email -- a fine point but one that nonetheless diminishes his
credibility. Jim Holmes directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8
p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 14, 702-582-8587,
www.katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los
Sixty Miles to Silver Lake:
Dan LeFranc's emotion-tinged drama attempts to explore the thorny
relationship between a father and son struggling for connection after an
ugly divorce. It takes place in Ky's (Wes Whitehead) Volvo as he
travels to Silver Lake for a weekend along with son Denny (Daniel David
Stewart). It's the chemistry between Ky's rough edges but soft heart and
Denny's boyish innocence and vulnerability that provides emotional
heft, not the play's beggarly thin plotline. The father spends much time
plying his son for info about his ex-wife's shopping habits, love life,
motherly peculiarities and shortfalls; there is also a lot of pointless
talk about soccer and a great deal of puerile wisecracking The dearth
of substance in much of the dialogue is telling early on. Some jarring
moments impart the distinct sense that the time frame of this ride is
not what it seems, but this bracketing artifice is mainly clunky and
confusing. Performances under Becca Wolff's direction are satisfactory.
(Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.
Continues through March 10, 859-893-5376. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa
Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Sketches From the National Lampoon:
After a rocky couple of decades -- its most recent CEO was sentenced to
50 years for fraud in December, long before the former gold standard of
comedy pimped out its brand with lowbrow gross-outs (see: Van Wilder) --
the company is angling, yet again, for a comeback. Founder Matty Simmons
has returned as producer, with a documentary, Broadway musical and
other projects in development. But this talent-packed revival of stage
and radio sketches directed by Pat Towne only awakens nostalgia for when
NL was still cutting-edge, and not for the stale humor itself.
Painfully patched over with shiny new references to Justin Bieber and
Lady Gaga, the bits take aim at targets that were exposed, if not
thoroughly dismantled, long ago. Grandma fetishes and swinger wives
barely register in our Dan Savage age. The talent onstage probably could
power a weekly show at the Upright Citizens Brigade, but as for the
material, the times, they have a-changed. Hayworth Theatre, 2511
Wilshire Blvd., Westlake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.;
through March 17. (323) 337-1546, www.nationallampoon.brownpapertickets.com.
GO: Solemn Mockeries: Richard
Creese's play about Shakespeare forger William-Henry Ireland. Presented
by Independent Shakespeare Company at Atwater Crossing, 3191 Casitas
Ave., Ste. 168, Atwater Village. Sat.-Sun., 4 p.m.; through March 10.
See Stage Feature
Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, and York Theatre Royal present
Donald Freed's new play. Starting March 9, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, 702-582-8587, www.ktcla.com.
Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.
Something to Crow About:
The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays,
Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette
Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995,
Songs of Bilitis:
Erotic psychological thriller based on the novel by Pierre Louÿs,
adapted for the stage by Katie Polebaum with Rogue Artists Ensemble.
Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 30. Bootleg
Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856,
Southern Gothic Novel: The Aberdeen Mississippi Sex-Slave Incident:
Carson McCullers wrote that the essence of the Southern Gothic is a
"fusion of anguish and farce that acts on the reader with an almost
physical force." McCullers, of course, meant "high" Southern Gothic.
This 17-character, late-night literary burlesque by solo
performer/writer Frank Blocker aims somewhat lower. Any anguish here
stems from the risibly purpled prose of the apocryphal potboiler he
enacts, a heavy-breathing Dixie whodunit straight off the checkout of a
Piggly Wiggly called The Reigns of Aberdeen. Its farcicality has
less to do with its hackneyed plot or ludicrous caricature of small-town
Mississippi than it does with the sheer physical dexterity of Blocker's
quick-change characterizations. And though the satire tends to err on
the side of the overly broad, whenever Blocker zeroes in on his target
-- such as his "June Bug" chapter's incisively funny, extended parody of
Steinbeckian portentousness -- the results are priceless. (Bill Raden).
Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 30,
thevisceralcompany.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place,
Los Angeles, 323-251-1154, www.undergroundtheater.com.
Written by Philip Ridley, directed by Edward Edwards. Fridays,
Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 31,
tendernapalm.com. Six 01 Studio, 601 S. Anderson St., Los Angeles.
Terminator Too Judgment Play: Interactive sci-fi spoof, from the folks who brought you Point Break Live!.
Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 30,
brownpapertickets.com/event/306759. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.
To Be Young, Gifted and Black:
Robert Nemiroff has taken some excerpts from diaries, political
speeches and letters written by his former wife, Lorraine Hansberry, and
combined them with scenes from her plays to assemble a sketch of the
life, work and intelligence of this important and idealistic American
playwright. To Be Young, Gifted and Black, however, is not a
play. Rather, it is a series of staged monologues and duologues, with
the cast of eight each taking their turn in a spotlight on simple
risers. The subject matter is worthy and intellectual, and some of the
excerpts are impassioned and impactful. It's largely serious with a few
comedic observations sprinkled throughout, yet the staging and general
tone of the evening are dull and slow. Additionally, ill-timed and
sluggish lighting cues, along with perplexingly random sound effects,
drag the show's length to two and a half hours. The cast all give fine
if restrained performances, with some singing beautifully. Greyson
Chadwick shines in a handful of dramatic and emotional scenes. (Pauline
Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., March 16,
2:30 p.m. Continues through March 17. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St.,
Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
Irvine Welsh's novel, adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. Starting
March 9, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through
April 13, 323-960-7785, www.plays411.com/trainspotting. Elephant Stages,
6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Trouble With Words:
Gregory Nabours' song cycle, with choreography by Janet Roston.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 31,
323-944-2165. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles.
Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love:
Brad Fraser's "swinging" story, set in 1989 Edmonton, Alberta.
Presented by Rise Above Theatre Movement. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays,
2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through March
10, 800-838-3006, chromolume-theatre.com. The Attic Theatre and Film
Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, www.attictheatre.org.
Four world-premiere short plays by Will Wissler Graham, Corinne
Kingsbury, Daria Polatin, and Mallory Westfall. Mondays, Saturdays,
Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, 800-838-3006,
unscreenedla.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way,
Frank Strausser's Valentine's Day play set in an emergency room.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 31,
TheBlank.com. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles,
This 1973 thriller by Ira Levin is less well known than his play
Deathtrap, and methinks for good reason. An elderly couple (Karen
Kahler, Patrick Skelton) invites a youthful one (Amelia Gotham, Mark
Souza) to an old mansion where the former worked as servants for
decades. Seeming kindly, they have a strange request: for the girl,
Susan, to pose as the much-loved, long-dead sister of their
cancer-ridden employer, so the old woman can die happy. Susan naively
agrees and soon is propelled into a terrifying nightmare and fears for
her life. Camped up, the ludicrous scenario might play well; otherwise,
only masterful performances all around could make its silliness
palatable. Director Dan Spurgeon deftly coordinates the action within
the tiny proscenium, but the ensemble is mired in the melodrama.
Production values are appropriate except for Susan's hairdo, which is
way too modern for the period. Underground Theater, 1312 Wilton Place,
Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March 30, thevisceralcompany.com.
Von Bach: Plenty of writers have mined the comedic vault of the Frankenstein tale to great effect. With his comedy Von Bach,
writer Owen Hammer manages to send up both the countless horror
classics the story begat as well as the parodies, in his own reimagining
of Shelley's myth. Modern screenwriter Minna McPheeters (Maia Peters)
is impassioned to script the definitive film based on a mad scientist
but comes up against a venal producer, Hilary (Summer Stevens), and a
litigious heir, Conner (David Wilcox). Worse, she runs into the
reanimated corpse of the guy on whom all these movies are based -- Dr.
Von Bach himself (a suitably Lurch-like JR Reed). Hilarious and
well-crafted short film segments nicely mask the numerous scene changes
and flashbacks. Unfortunately, the high caliber of the cinematic bits
soon begins to outshine the complex story that's unfolding somewhat
prosaically onstage. Hammer, however, strikes a poignant note by having
Von Bach reference an Emerson quote: When you commit a crime, "The world
is made of glass." (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.
Continues through March 10, 866-811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000
Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, www.fremontcentretheatre.com.
GO: Walking the Tightrope:
Given that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling
-- the equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and
Obey your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a
work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft
and genuinely involving emotion. Playwright Mike Kenny's drama Walking the Tightrope
is about grief, but the handling of the subject is deft and nuanced,
while also being told from a child's point of view. The play takes place
in a British seaside town, circa 1950s, as little girl Esme (a
beautifully gamine but not obnoxious Paige Lindsay White) arrives for
her annual visit to her grandparents. She discovers that her grandmother
is nowhere to be found and her sad grandfather (Mark Bramhall) fibs
that she has gone to join the circus, a lie that Esme quickly realizes
is meant to keep the old man from accepting the truth himself about his
wife's passing. Richly evocative, director Debbie Devine's heartfelt
production is touching and truthful without descending into mawkish
sentimentality. Bramhall's crusty, grieving granddad and White's
thoughtfully perky Esme are great together. Tony Duran also delivers a
standout turn, as the ghostly presence of the grandmother's spirit.
(Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues
through March 30. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles,
GO: What May Fall: In Peter Gil-Sheridan's thought-provoking drama What May Fall,
a man plummets to his death from a Minnesota skyscraper. It's a
terrible event (particularly for the poor fellow), but the random
incident becomes the inciting incident for a meditation on how death
affects us all. Death, of course, is everywhere and can happen anytime
-- but our reaction to it is often unpredictable. For uptight business
executive Mack (Nicholas S. Williams), the man's death forces him to
confront the desire of his pregnant schoolteacher wife, Jo (Alana
Dietze), to abort their possibly disabled child. For Mack's executive
assistant, Mercy (a delightfully nebbishy Christopher Neiman), the death
provides the impetus to take control over the art he wants to create.
And for Arthur (Brad C. Light), a window washer who was the closest
witness to the accident, the death throws up a mix of survivor's guilt
and terror over the randomness of mortality. Gil-Sheridan's crisp
dialogue-driven characters are interconnected in ways that may seem a
tad coincidental, but director Mary Jo DuPrey's intimate staging
artfully brings to mind the mood of ensemble films by Robert Altman.
Performers subtly craft characters grappling with flaws, who change
following the death -- and often not in the way one expects.
Particularly effective turns are offered by Williams as an engagingly
uptight (and somewhat tortured) business executive, by Neiman as a
frustrated and bitter assistant and by Dietze as a brittle wife. (Paul
Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues
through March 23, $25, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/328606. Theatre of
NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611,
GO: When You're in Love, The Whole World Is Jewish:
World premiere of Bob Booker's comedy/musical revue, directed by Jason
Alexander. See Stage feature. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7
p.m. Continues through March 10, worldisjewishtheplay.com. Greenway
Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679,
Steve Yockey's psychological drama. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B
Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884,
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
And the World Goes 'Round:
Kander and Ebb musical revue, featuring "Cabaret," "Maybe this Time,"
"All That Jazz," "New York, New York" and more Broadway hits. Fridays,
8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 10. North Hollywood
Performing Arts Center (NoHoPAC), 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood,
The Baby Project: Book by Lori Jaroslow, music by Fonda Feingold and Noriko Olling,
lyrics by Fonda Feingold and Lori Jaroslow. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 17, www.roadtheatre.org. NoHo Senior
Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
Belz! The Jewish Vaudeville Musical:
Written and directed by Pavel Cerny, with English lyrics by Charles
Kondek. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through
April 14, brownpapertickets.com/event/276015. Whitefire Theater, 13500
Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Richard Broadhurst's play about a depressed elderly man rescued from
the brink of suicide by a solicitous angel of death strives to be wise
and poignant but comes off as sappy and conventional. Planning to poison
himself while sitting on his favorite park bench, Max (Eddie Jones)
gets rattled when he finds it occupied by a laid-back guy named Randall
(John Towey), who refuses to move. The two cross verbal swords, after
which Randall reveals his celestial status and launches a campaign to
persuade Max to live out his natural lifespan. The plot meanders through
a series of capricious coincidences that undercut the story's internal
logic. Meanwhile, details about Max's life and what has driven him to
this desperate point are sparse, so the performers must fill in the
gaps. Jones is disappointingly one-note in displaying anger and
depression, while Towey has yet to develop an interesting persona. Anita
Khanzadian directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 24, www.interactla.org. Avery
Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-766-9100.
Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and score to his innovative
"concept musical" in 1970, with book by George Furth. For a comedy
musical about love, it proves resolutely unromantic and honest.
And,surprisingly, its acerbic wit and laserlike scrutiny of marriage,
dating and relationships does not feel at all dated. Director Albert
Marr's incorporation of cellphones and Facebook effortlessly adds a
contemporary feel. The loose story centers on Robert (a charismatic Ben
Rovner), a handsome, single, mid-30s New Yorker surrounded by
well-meaning but smug married friends. Their cheerful efforts to push
him toward joining their club are undermined by their conjugal lives,
which are fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional. The ensemble's vocal
skills are good but not stellar, though Julie Black sings brilliantly as
funky girlfriend Marta. Also impressive is musical director William A.
Reilly's furious piano and synth live accompaniment. Despite some
appealing performances, this company's average Company barely
matches Sondheim's marvelous material. (Pauline Adamek).
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 30,
crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North
Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
GO: Dark Play (Or Story for Boys)
Playwright Carlos Murillo's engrossingly disturbing drama gives a
high-tech twist to the theme of innocence corrupted -- like a quirky
mashup of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and the MTV online-dating docudrama
Catfish. Nick (Daniel Christopher), a seemingly normal but unbelievably
twisted and cynical teenager, creates the fake online persona of ideal
babe Rachel (Hannah Drake) and uses it to seduce Adam (Josh Saleh), a
sweet innocent who dreams of finding his dream girl. As Adam's love for
the mythical "Rachel" grows, Nick's confusion over whether he's just
tricking the boy or actually falling in love with him drives him to
insinuate himself physically into Adam's life. The chat room and webcam
add a contemporary gloss to what is essentially an epistolary tragic
romance. However, one of the marvels of the piece is that it deftly
shows online romantic obsession from the point of view of the obsessed.
As Adam woos Rachel, our real focus is on Nick's feelings, and
Christopher's performance offers a nuanced combination of rage, desire,
unbridled need and, yes, perversion. Murillo's taut and evocative
dialogue erupts with unexpected spurts of bitterness and melancholy, and
director Tommy Statler's pitch-perfect rendering captures both the
pathology of Nick's mind and the chaos of his immature emotions.
Whitmore-Lindley Theater, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; closed. (Paul
Writer-director Randall Gray recklessly defies all the rules of
dramaturgy -- and not in a good way. He sets his play in a combined
medical practice that features a psychiatrist and former Nazi torturer
(Mark Colbenson), his seemingly psychotic secretary (Wendy Rostker), a
surgeon who faints at the sight of blood (Rick Lee), a dementedly
sadistic dentist (manic Jon Christie) and a song-belting secretary who
wins the lottery (Sara Jane Williams). The plot, such as it is, is a
series of tenuously related incidents. Gray has turned the piece into a
pseudo-musical by inserting, seemingly at random, some current hits and
old chestnuts, including "I Will Survive," "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best
Friend" and "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha, Ha!" The mostly young
and dedicated cast give their all to overcome inept script and
direction. But ultimately it's just bad community theater. (Neal
Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 1 & 8 p.m.
Continues through March 24. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive,
Giving Up Is Hard to Do:
The best moments in Annie Abbott's one-woman show center on the
intimate and raw details surrounding her mastectomy and subsequent
decision to forgo reconstructive surgery. Her tempered grief, and her
insecurity as she later dives, one-breasted, into the online dating
pool, create sharply funny and poignant scenes, which later include
breaking into acting, the sudden death of her lumberjack-sized husband
and her older daughter's epileptic seizures. Abbott is a likable
storyteller who never lapses into self-pity, but she ventures into a
market glutted with one-person shows. The presentation -- combining an
unclear framing device, an oddly artificial present-tense narrative and
overly animated staging, directed by Joel Zwick (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
-- at times feels forced. For a cozy chat over a cup of coffee, I can
think of few better companions than Abbott, but this show may find
limited appeal. (Jenny Lower). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4
p.m. Continues through March 17. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory
Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
Golden Girls Live: An All Male Parody: Performed at a gay bar, this show is ideal for people who are ardent fans of sitcom The Golden Girls --
and who also may have had a few drinks. Four male performers in drag
enact a "lost episode" in which Dorothy's husband has died and the three
other Girls fly in from Miami to lend her support. On one recent
evening, a few performers were slow on their lines. While the riffs and
gags didn't seem especially funny, the audience laughed heartily.
(Deborah Klugman). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues
through March 17. Oil Can Harry's, 11502 Ventura Blvd., Studio City,
Jane Austen Unscripted:
Presented by Impro Theatre. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.
Continues through April 14. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.,
Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Ladyhouse Blues: It's 1919. Times are changing. Workers are striking. Women are
demanding the vote. Then as now, bigoted fundamentalists like Liz Madden
(Kitty Swink), the Ozark-born matriarch in Kevin O'Morrison's flawed
melodrama, are digging in their heels. Liz smirks at newfangled
inventions like electricity and phones, denounces all things foreign,
including the French language, and emphatically favors her son over her
four daughters. A character like this can spark juicy drama, but this
production, under Anne McNaughton's direction, is disappointingly
bloodless, underscoring the contrived aspects of the script. Although
the action takes place during a hot spell that people complain about,
nobody sweats. The women peel potatoes and stir stuff, but nothing is
out of place in the kitchen. The performances are variously off-key: As
Liz's eldest daughter, Liza de Weerd displays remarkable vocalizing
power for someone with TB. Swink, radiating little maternal warmth,
vents Liz's biases in a chilly vacuum. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 2
p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March
24, 866-811-4111, www.Andak.org. New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St.,
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot:
Stephen Adly Guirgis' controversial play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April 6,
brownpapertickets.com/event/314649. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W.
Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
Love Me Deadly: Matthew Sklar's ghost play, directed by Sebastian Muñoz. Sundays, 7
p.m. Continues through March 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120,
Dorothy Fortenberry's dark comedy "transforms a present-day children's
play space into a maternal re-education facility in the not-too-distant
future." Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 7,
chalkrep.com. Pint Size Kids, 13323 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks,
Mrs. Warren's Profession:
George Bernard Shaw's 1893 classic. Starting March 14, Thursdays,
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues
through April 21. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112
Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
My Big Gay Italian Wedding:
Italian gay boy Anthony (Nick Losorelli) finally gets up the nerve to
propose to his hunky, Polish boyfriend, Andrew (Josh Saleh), and tell
his conservative parents, Angela (Mary Cavaliere) and Joseph (Robert
Gallo), that he wants a big, traditional Italian wedding. They react
with consternation -- "First Obama, now this!" -- but eventually come
around. But Angela consents to the wedding only if Andrew's mother flies
in from Florida for the occasion. When she refuses, Anthony's black
friend, Rodney (Ronaldo Cox), agrees to impersonate her, in a blond wig.
The farcical proceedings culminate in a wedding ceremony of (barely)
controlled chaos, with two rival best men, feuding lesbian bridesmaids, a
drunken Rodney and a flamboyant gay wedding planner (Matt Hudacs), all
ending in traditional Italian dances. Both Anthony Wilkinson's script
and Paul Storiale's direction tend toward the broad and obvious, but the
enthusiastic audience didn't seem to mind. theatreunleashed.com. (Neal
Weaver). Sat., March 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 10, 3 p.m.; Fri., March 15, 8
p.m.; Sat., March 16, 8 p.m. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006
Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-761-0704.
Rick Abbot's comedy about a theater group trying to stage a play.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24,
abovethecurvetheatre.com. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood, 818-506-3903, www.actorsworkout.com.
GO: Smoke and Mirrors:
If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing
magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting
reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de
force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted.
The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path
to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the
age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of
challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd,
and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward
show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then
regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of
fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing
moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a
mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians,
Selznick has highly capable assistants -- Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel
-- who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet
directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2
p.m. Continues through April 28, 800-595-4849,
smokeandmirrorsmagic.com.Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Therapy:In his day job, playwright-director Jeff Bernhardt earns his bread as a
licensed clinical social worker. So one must grant him the benefit of
the doubt when it comes to the technical accuracy of the therapeutic
issues confronted in this drama about the spillover of the personal into
the professional for a trio of conflicted psychological counselors
(Lynn Ann Leveridge, Marcie Lynn Ross and Jed Sura). But what might be
intriguing on a therapist's couch isn't necessarily so on a stage. There
is very little narrative energy in characters spilling their guts about
offstage domestic and childhood traumas for two hours. The few sparks
that do fly are generated by Luis Selgas, in a nicely restrained
performance as a dryly taciturn and bitterly sardonic patient resisting
treatment. Bernhardt delivers some clever twists, but his script feels
as cluttered with the dramatically irrelevant as is Eloise Ayala's
furniture-crammed set. Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., NoHo;
Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through March 17. (800) 838-3006,
www.brownpapertickets.com/event/322663. (Bill Raden)
Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues
through April 27. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim
Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com
ONGOING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
Not long ago, people regarded as exotic or subhuman were tossed into
cages for the viewing pleasure of the American public. Such was the
dreadful fate of Congo pygmy Ota Benga, who was displayed with monkeys
at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. In Charles Duncombe's world-premiere drama, Caged,Megan
Kim and R.J. Jones are naked, snatched-from-the-jungle "noble savages,"
who, confined in a cage stocked with toys, convincingly channel
primitive angst, lethargically striding about, communicating and
reacting with grunts and violent upsurges and hitting each other
playfully. Extended commentary about the exhibit is provided by a keeper
(Katrina Nelson) and an interviewer (Leah Harf), whose theories and
statements of facts are a bladed mix of the outrageously comical and
idiotic. But it's the cavalcade of spectators and their assorted
hang-ups that provide the wallop of humor and irony here: a boy with his
parents wanting to see tricks; a man meeting another man for a
blowjob;several couples in distress, mirroring the plight of the
captives; a lonely woman seeking affection; an elderly woman with a huge
ax to grind. The contrasts and the heavy-handed subtext are striking --
and unsettling. Though not overly dramatic, Duncombe's smartly written
script is delightfully provocative and insightful. Performances are
sharply calibrated under Frederique Michel's direction.(Lovell Estell
III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through
March 24. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan
Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.
Neil Simon's romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., March
20, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., April
4, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre
St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
GO: A Heap of Livin':
In Elliot Schoenman's evocative family drama, Lawrence Pressman plays
iconic folk singer "Ramblin'" Harry Roe, whose impeccable, 1960s
left-wing credentials include marching with Dr. King, singing with Pete
Seeger and protesting at Kent State. Now elderly and frail, sustained
mainly by his memories of the good old days, Harry's a crotchety penance
to his two long-suffering daughters. Older daughter Pearl (a
marvelously brittle Didi Conn) has served daddy like a drudge through
his declining years, while younger daughter Eden (Jayne Brook) has fled
across the country to avoid having anything to do with her neglectful
papa. On the eve of a massive tribute concert set to honor Ramblin'
Harry, the sisters confront their varying degrees of resentment and
rage. Schoenman's play is functionally a drama about children
confronting the role of being caregivers for an increasingly
recalcitrant elder, but the piece also thoughtfully encompasses a debate
on the regrets of children forced to live in a genius parent's shadow.
Although Schoenman's dialogue occasionally veers awkwardly into the
realm of soapy melodrama, director Mark L. Taylor's production crackles
with heartfelt emotion. Brook's prissy Eden and Conn's rumpled,
increasingly bitter Pearl are great turns, but they ultimately orbit
Pressman's powerful portrayal of a steely, idealistic artist. (Paul
Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues
through March 17, inkwelltheater.com. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda
Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
GO: Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy:
Music and book by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner. Directed
by Dan Bonnell. See Stage feature. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2
p.m. Continues through March 30. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport,
GO : The Rainmaker : A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and
seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens
her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her
family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom
and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's,
watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly
dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience
where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I
dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna
Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that
often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though
the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched
beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so
that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to
turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional
pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh
Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues
through May 19. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa
Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
See Rock City:
Arlene Hutton's study of young married life in 1940s rural Kentucky.
Wed., March 13, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 17, 2 p.m.;
Fri., March 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 8 p.m.; Wed., March 27, 8 p.m.;
Thu., March 28, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro,
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