Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including Rogue Machine's Latest, Set in a Big-Box Store
Matthew Elkins (top) and Eric Odom in A Bright New Boise
Samuel D. Hunter's new play at Rogue Machine,A Bright New Boise
, takes a probing look at religious zealotry and is this week's Pick of the Week. For all our new theater reviews, see below. The works of six black female playwrights (State of the Union: Black Women --Taking Flight
) are the topic of this week'sstage feature
. Some other news items in L.A. theater: Burbank'sColony Theatre
-- the little theater that could -- is in financial distress, and has gone public with the anxious news. The esteemed company started in 1975 as a 99-seat theater on Riverside Drive in Silver Lake (now home of the Knightsbridge Theatre), before graduating to mid-size status in 2000, and relocating to its current Burbank digs. More news on that to come in the next couple days. Performance-artistRachel Rosenthal
, who's also founder and director of TOHUBOHU! Ensemble, celebrates her 83rd birthday Nov. 2-3. Gohere
(for tickets and directions) for an evening of the troupe's improv. Or you candonate
directly to the company.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication November 1, 2012
PICK OF THE WEEK: A BRIGHT NEW BOISE: Ever wonder what transpires in the heart and mind of a fundamentalist zealot? Samuel D. Hunter ventures into that murky terrain in this dark, droll and ultimately explosive work set in a soulless big box store in Boise, Idaho. Just arrived from a small town, new hire Will (Matthew Elkins) comes across as a gentle guy and docile worker, although his authorship of an online Christian novel does set him oddly apart from the average Joe. Will's motive for procuring this particular dead-end job is to introduce himself for the first time to another store employee: his biological son Alex (Erik Odom). Raised in foster homes, Alex is looked after by his foster brother Leroy (a razor-sharp Trevor Peterson), a snaky irreverent rule-breaker determined to protect the unstable boy from the psychological predator he deems Will to be. Funny, compassionate and disturbing all at once, Hunter's quintessentially American scenario portrays an individual trapped in an emotional and cultural wasteland, his life configured by uncaring impersonal forces, his spirit hobbled by unnamed guilt. Elkins' performance -- so palpable and so genuine he might be the guy standing next to you in the supermarket line -- captures it all. Betsy Zajko is on the mark as a no-nonsense anti-union store manager with a compassionate streak and a relenting heart, while Heather L. Tyler as Will's coequally isolated co-worker compounds the pathos. Designer David Mauer's set aptly reflects the unvarnished bleakness of these characters' lives. John Perrin Flynn directs. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; Mon. 8 p.m., Sat. 5 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m.; through Dec. 9. (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com (Deborah Klugman)
GO THE BEAT GOES ON
L to R: Sara Kubida, Eric Curtis Johnson, Nathan Wellman, David Caprita, J.R. Esposito
This is the fourth installment of a series of shows, under the overall title of Rockin' With the Ages, designed to provide opportunities for performers older than 60. Although there has always been formidable talent involved, the first edition, back in 2009, was a simple, slightly slap-dash showcase. But each successive edition revealed an increase in professionalism. Now, the producers have recruited David O for the sharp musical direction and sophisticated arrangements, Cate Caplin for the slick choreography, Keith Mitchell for the silvery art deco set and Ann Closs-Farley for the spiffy costumes, and the show looks ready for prime time. Fifteen seasoned pros deliver a sparkling variety show that includes an eclectic array of material, from ballroom dancing to tap, a medley of Al Jolson songs, a tribute to George M. Cohan and even a hip-hop rap number. The songs include lesser-known stuff like "Bye-Bye Blues," as well as standard favorites like "Shakin' the Blues Away" and "Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On," plus musical comedy gems like "When I'm Not Near the Girl I Love, I Love the Girl I'm Near" and "Hernando's Hideaway." Theatre of Arts Arena Stage, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs., 2 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 5 p.m.; through Nov. 11. (818) 606-6679, email@example.com. (Neal Weaver)
GO BLACK WOMEN: STATE OF THE UNION -- TAKING FLIGHT Six new plays take a refreshing look at the anxieties and issues of black women. Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz. (Steven Leigh Morris) See stage feature.
GO DEATH OF A SALESGIRL Death of a Salesman goes into a cinematic blender, which transforms the original's thematic preoccupations into a noir grudge match between the past and present. Down-on-her-luck salesgirl Catherine (playwright Patricia Scanlon, in fine form) has arrived at a grungy motel with her last $300, intent on getting a good night's rest. It won't be easy -- the forces conspiring against Catherine are not just economic, and when her old pal Frank (a ferociously funny Paul Dillon) shows up, Catherine completely loses hold of the situation. Miller's play is not only a timeless classic but also newly timely, and Scanlon and Dillon bring total commitment to this baroque take on the desperation born of a Loman-esque frenzy to succeed. Only the play's final moments hit a false note, reading a bit too literal and pat. A lesser pair of actors would be overshadowed by the production's technical achievement. Sound designer John Zalewski and scenic and lighting designer Francois-Pierre Couture have produced strong collaborations before, and here again Zalewski's hallucinatory soundtrack meshes seamlessly with Couture's richly metaphoric design, while the two are ably abetted by Dan Lund's unsettlingly Disney-style animation. Director Matthew McCray is known for his finesse with multimedia staging, and his orchestration of Salesgirl's impressive array of elements is flawless. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Silver Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; through Nov. 17. (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.org. (Mindy Farabee)
GO FAITH: Part I of a Mexican Trilogy This is the final installment of Evelina Fernández's epic trilogy chronicling the Mexican-American immigrant experience. A World War II Arizona mining town is home to Esperanza (Lucy Rodriguez), Silvestre (Sal Lopez) and their daughters, Faith (Esperanza America), Charity (Alexis de la Rocha) and Elena (Olivia Delgado). The girls are a charming but disparate bunch: Faith is steely and rebellious, Charity is a starry-eyed sentimentalist and Elena is an often annoying busybody. Esperanza's love and concern for her daughters is rooted in old-school values and virtue, but trouble emerges when young men come calling (Xavi Moreno, Matias Ponce) and Faith's talents as a singer attract the attention of a record producer (Geoffrey Rivas). Notwithstanding its slightly overwritten script and transparent plot turns, Fernández's play offers an engaging and upbeat take on the surprises and opportunities life can spin your way, and of the importance of heritage -- of never forgetting where you came from. Performances, including some outstanding vocals, are top-notch under José Luis Valenzuela's direction, while Cameron Mock's withered, latticework scenic design functions as an eerie yet fitting backdrop. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Nov. 11. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Lovell Estell III)
GO KONG: A GODDAMN 30-FOOT GORILLA
L to R: Sara Kubida, Eric Curtis Johnson, Nathan Wellman, David Caprita, J.R. Esposito
Adam Hahn's spoofy homage to King Kong, the 1933 creature feature about a colossal gorilla that is captured and then runs amok in New York City, is an ambitious undertaking. Just how do you depict a giant ape onstage without stop-motion animation trickery and cinema magic? Director Jaime Robledo's brand of creative staging and low-tech gimmickry include trompe l'oeil shifts in perspective and scale. So when platinum blonde, bewigged scream queen Anne (Sara Kubida) is in the grip of Kong's giant paw, the actor playing Kong (all snuffles and primal bellowing from Germaine De Leon) can be seen clutching a Barbie doll. Cast members tilt and sway in unison to suggest the passage of a ship. Tifanie McQueen's scenic and prop designs are minimal and effective, and curiously less complicated to reset than the lengthy scenes in front of the curtain should warrant. Yet some of these odd scenes, including shipman Jack Driscoll's (Eric Curtis Johnson) confessions to an AA meeting and the Skull Island native chief (Arden Haywood) shedding his headdress to instruct us about "race" movies from the 1930s, offer some deliciously amusing rewards. Audience members are enlisted into the air squadron for Kong's Empire State Building-set climactic demise with a supply of do-it-yourself paper airplanes. SkyPilot Theatre Company at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 25. (800) 838-3006, SkyPilotTheatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)
THE MUESLI BELT
(l to r) Kathleen M. Darcy, Lisa Dobbyn, and Ian Patrick Williams
Is there a sadder place on Earth than a shabby bar with only a couple booze-soaked regulars parked on the stools day in and day out? Playwright Jimmy Murphy is from Ireland, so he probably drew from real-life experience to create Black Pool, the pub that's the setting for his play about gentrification in Dublin. Longtime owner Mick (John McKenna) is worn out by his struggling business and worn down by a glib developer (Andrew Graves, as shiny-slimy as a car salesman), but heavy on his conscience is what effect his decisions will have on his faithful, resistant-to-change customers. Plenty of plays have made fresh the issue of gentrification -- a recent one concerning East L.A., Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, comes to mind. But in Murphy's work, the outcome is clear from the top of Act I, and like the Black Pool barflies, the play seems just too damn tired to fight it. At least Kathleen M. Darcy's salon owner, Nora, even with red-rimmed eyes, doughy face, bleach-stained shirt and her demands of "encore" after she slams a vodka, has a little fizz left in her yet. Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Dec. 2. (818) 846-5223, theatrebanshee.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
GO THEATRE IN THE DARK: DARK (EVENING ONE)
This collection of vignettes is performed entirely in the dark. No, really -- upon arrival, you'll notice a solitary candle burning at stage center, which after the preshow announcements is blown out, plunging us into 90 minutes of inky darkness, only very occasionally alleviated by a momentary flash or murky ghost light. Lord help you if you have claustrophobia! If not, however, the collection of one-act sketches is an unexpectedly vivid series of ghost stories, radio-style dramas and other mysterious theatrical episodes that emphasize virtually all senses but sight. Incidents range in tone from Anna Nicholas' macabre "Our Dark Connection," in which seemingly random members of the audience are dragged out of their seats and into the black by an unseen monster, to Friedrich Dürrenmatt's compellingly disturbing "The Tunnel," a narrated tale of a man who discovers he's on a train to oblivion (both are directed with maximum eeriness by Ron Sossi). "One of the Lost" is Ernest Kearney's spooky tale of the ghostly final transmission of a Russian cosmonaut on a secret space mission. John Zalewski's sound design is incredibly evocative -- and Sossi and his co-directors artfully manipulate all the senses within the live performance to craft a set of dramas that utilize darkness almost as a character. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, W.L.A. In rep with More Dark (Evening Two), through Dec. 16. Call or check website for schedule. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
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, attictheatre.org.
8 Ways to Say I Love My Life: Starting Nov. 3, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, casa0101.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, ictlongbeach.org.
Ameryka: Staged reading of Nancy Keystone's work-in-progress. Sun., Nov. 4, 2 p.m. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-440-4500, skirball.org.
GO And Then There Were None: In this era of high-tech TV police procedurals, every so often you just want to enjoy an old-fashioned whodunit mystery, in which red herrings are knocked off one by one and near-omniscient murderers ply their maniacal trade without fear of DNA testing or security cameras. If this is the mood you're in, director Linda Kerns' fast-paced, sometimes ghoulish production of Agatha Christie's locked-room warhorse is a delightful panoply of murders, misdirection and folks dressing for dinner. Ten strangers are lured out to an isolated mansion on an island off the Devon coast. Before long, their dark secrets are revealed -- and a maniac makes quick work of most of the group. Is the killer prissy Mrs. Brent (a nicely hateful Deborah Marlowe), brittle Judge Wargrave (a believably stern Steve Gustavson) or fidgety Dr. Armstrong (hilariously neurotic Wenzel Jones) -- or perhaps one of the others? With this quick-paced, un-stodgy production, director Kerns' shrewd staging playfully tricks us again and again. The killer, after all, is essentially onstage the entire time, committing his (or her) dreadful deeds under your very eyes -- but you don't notice a thing, so cunningly are we distracted by other incidents. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 17, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, actorsco-op.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 Angeles, 323-644-1929, atwatervillagetheatre.com.
Bad Evidence: Terry Quinn's dark comedy. Presented by Rise and Shine Productions. Starting Nov. 3, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play: Starting Nov. 1, Thursdays, Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. City Garage, Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-319-9939, citygarage.org.
GO Blue/Orange: 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. For review see our stage feature.
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, 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, 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, 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, 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, odysseytheatre.com.
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.
Conk and Bone: Suspension of disbelief comes easy to theatregoers. Who else would buy a bunch of cats who sing or, as in Joe Musso's world premiere, a watch whose hands spin wildly because the owner entered a room where "all time runs together; the past is the present is the future"? Setting this play in Louisiana was smart, as magical realism flourishes a little better in the South than anywhere else. If you grew up in the country, you learned to conjure up imaginary characters to keep you company; if you're an outsider, "down there" is shrouded in mystery. But if you use a good chunk of the script to set up a scenario -- two bumbling dudes prep a room for Death (the cast's one bright spot, Paul Vroom) to do his dirty work -- it has to result in an excellent payoff. Unfortunately, Musso doesn't offer enough of the dudes' backstory to impress upon us the depth of their bond, and using a historical figure as a metaphor for their relationship just isn't enough. Cricket S. Myers' nuanced sound design, on the other hand, takes us right back to the inky nights loud with whispering wind, insect symphonies and the unknown noises that made us so likely to believe in ghosts in the first place. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 4, (323) 871-5826, mutineertheatre.com. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Creation: World premiere by Kathryn Walat, directed by Michael Michetti. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 11. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, bostoncourt.com. See stage feature for our review.
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). 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, 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, 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.
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, roguemachinetheatre.com.
The Doctor's Dilemma: George Bernard Shaw's turn-of-the-century play is a platform for his diatribe against doctors. Shaw's passionate distrust and satirical takedown of the medical profession is wrapped up in a slightly dull, five-act drama that's enlivened by mildly comedic undercurrents and interesting discussions on contemporary morality. Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Geoff Elliott) has just been knighted for developing a revolutionary new cure for tuberculosis. As he celebrates with several colleagues, including some who practice questionable methods for their own gain, Sir Colenso is petitioned by a ravishing beauty (Jules Willcox), who begs him to cure her ailing husband, Louis Dubedat (Jason Dechert). The lovestruck Colenso faces a series of moral dilemmas that prove his undoing. Dechert is good as the smoothly charming artist with sublime talents, blithely grifting everyone he meets without a qualm. Freddy Douglas, however, overplays his pompous Walpole, giving him a boisterous and shrill tenor that undermines the comedy. (Pauline Adamek). 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, anoisewithin.org.
Doomsday Cabaret: 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, theblank.com.
Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them: This warm, sweet-tempered sophomore effort from new collective Artists at Play occasionally lapses into sentimentality. Tomboy Edith (Amielynn Abellera) and tightly wound big brother Kenny (Rodney To) fend for themselves in a Midwestern farmhouse, with parental supervision coming via sporadic bank deposits from their absentee father. They don't mind, until Edith's penchant for arrows and BB guns upsets their makeshift family. Abellera captures a 12-year-old's physicality beautifully, but her Edith occupies a less central position than the title suggests. The evening's most authentic and delightful moments actually arise from the secondary plot: Kenny's tentative romance with pre-calculus study buddy Benji (Brian Hostenske), who steals the show with his shy humor and unaffected style. Abandonment themes dovetail when Benji's homophobic mother kicks him out. Playwright A. Rey Pamatmat spells out some revelations better left unsaid, but his affection for his characters is palpable. Jennifer Chang directs the L.A. premiere. (Jenny Lower). Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through Nov. 10. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, gtc.org.
Empanada for a Dream: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, 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, thelatc.org.
The Feast Of Spook Show: Wed., Oct. 31, 9 p.m., $10. El Cid, 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-668-0318, 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, 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, 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, atwatervillagetheatre.com.
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, bhplayhouse.com.
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, themettheatre.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, 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, groundlings.com.
Yard Sale This Sunday!: Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, groundlings.com.
Hah Nah: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 25, hahnah.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Hairspray: Presented by 3-D Theatricals. Fri., Nov. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 4, 2 p.m., (714) 589-2770, 3dtshows.com. Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Redondo Beach, rbpac.com.
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, 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.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: Starting Nov. 2, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 25, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, theatreasylum-la.com.
GO How to Write a New Book for the Bible: Priest/playwright Bill Cain puts together fragments of his family history in this exquisite play about the beauty of a simple life and dignified death. The impending cancer death of his mother, Mary (Linda Gehringer), forces the dramatized priest/screenwriter Cain (Tyler Pierce) home to see her through. The title concept invokes Cain's theory that the Bible is not a rule book but a story of a family, and that each family today must be an extension of that story. Cain refers to his family as a highly functional one, over protests of his Vietnam vet brother, Paul (Aaron Blakeley), but he's supported by evidence provided by the specter of long-dead father Pete (Jeff Biehl). The play deftly moves between homespun comedy and heartbreak under the lithe supervision of director Kent Nicholson, who strips the stage bare of everything but a few essential pieces of furniture, a door, an all-important multifunctional crate and hanging pieces of glass representing the fragmented life story -- all realized skillfully by scenic designer Scott Bradley. The acting throughout is superb, including several nonfamily characters played without confusion by Blakeley and Biehl. (Tom Provenzano). Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 18. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, scr.org.
I Ought to Be in Pictures: Neil Simon's 1980 comedy relies on two familiar tropes: the grown-up child who descends without warning on the father who abandoned his family many years ago, and the male fear of commitment. Herb (Robert Wulf), a failing screenwriter in W. Hlywd., barely remembers he has a daughter until 19-year-old Libby (Genevieve Joy) turns up on his doorstep to ask him to help her launch an acting career. But, of course, they develop a bond of affection and mutual respect. Meanwhile, his long-suffering girlfriend Steffy (Kelly Hare) is trying to elevate their one-night-a-week relationship to something more satisfying. The play is sweet, modest and predictable, which seems acceptable to the Falcon Theatre's usual clientele, but audiences looking for freshness and excitement may be less pleased. Director Gregg W. Brevoort gives the piece a respectable production, but that's not enough to rejuvenate this bland and dated little confection. (Neal Weaver). Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Nov. 11. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside, Burbank, 818-955-8101, falcontheatre.com.
GO In the Red and Brown Water: Playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney sets this music-, dance- and myth-infused work in the "distant present," weaving his story around talented young athlete Oya (Diarra Kilpatrick), who risks her future to care for her ailing mother. The play charts a downhill course for this lovely, open-hearted person: Her mother dies, the prized scholarship goes to someone else and Oya is trapped in the barrio, plagued with passion for an unfaithful lover (Gilbert Glenn Brown) and for the same fulfillment as every other woman in her circumscribed community -- a child. It's no accident that Oya's barrenness parallels the predicament in Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma, or that she bears the name of a Yoruba goddess. McCraney pulls together a confluence of elements -- although predominantly Yoruba -- to present a visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America. Kilpatrick's portrayal embraces every bit of her feisty, soulful character, made more compelling by the intimate performance space. Brown's slick, calibrated womanizer is an aptly fashioned foil and the remaining ensemble is strong. But designer Frederica Nascimento's set, with its pale walls and light wood backdrop, is too tidy and sterile to reflect the play's darkness. Shirley Jo Finney directs. (Deborah Klugman). Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.
Julius Caesar: There were a handful of other Elizabethan dramas written about Julius Caesar, but Shakespeare's offers a more entertaining dramatization of Rome's political climate (which was as nasty and cutthroat as our own) and the aftermath of the emperor's murder. Principal among the assassins are Brutus (Jack Stehlin) and Cassius (Tom Groenwald), who are the head and talons of the conspiratorial mob. The curious thing about this play is that the focus is really Brutus, not Caesar, and Stehlin (who also directs) renders a superb performance, investing the character with equal parts cunning, glacial detachment and simple human fragility. Equally commanding are Groenwald's voluble, emotionally intense Cassius and Scott Sheldon's dignified and loyal Marc Antony. This is a lean, well managed production with the rest of the large cast turning in good performances in multiple roles. Stehlin's contemporary staging -- which includes some attractive choreography by Jade Sealey -- sacrifices none of the play's on-the-edge intensity. Kitty Rose's smattering of props gets the job done effectively, and her present-day costumes (mostly dark suits) are strangely appropriate and attractive. Noah Silverstein's faux panels of statuary and sculpture are subtly evocative of the period. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 17, (310) 701-0788, NewAmericanTheatre.com. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles, mccaddentheatre.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, celebrationtheatre.com.
GO Krapp's Last Tape: 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, centertheatregroup.org. For our review see our stage feature.
The Long Way Home: Reflections on the Tracers Journey: Rogue Machine presents John DiFusco's world premiere. Starting Nov. 3, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 24. USVAA: United States Veterans' Artists Alliance, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-559-2116, usvaa.org.
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, greystonemansion.org.
Matty: An Evening With Christy Mathewson: Written and performed by Eddie Frierson. Sun., Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, 626-441-5977, fremontcentretheatre.com.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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, secretrose.com.
The Rivals: With its broad, satirical sweep and outlandish plot contortions, Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th-century masterwork of ironic artifice and romantic double-dealing remains a milestone in the development of that most quintessential of English stage confections, the comedy of manners. Its acerbic swipes at class, social mores and the lunacy of bodice-ripping sentimentalism reverberate in the best of Wilde and the silliest of Hollywood screwball. But Sheridan is also a souffle. And though director David Schweizer packs plenty of seductive panache into his high-energy, semi-period revival (on Karyl Newman's handsome, carnivalesque set), this soufflÄ won't rise. Under the gilded lily of the Actors' Gang's commedia-inflected house style, only the play's sturdiest caricatures -- the irascible dunderhead Sir Anthony Absolute (VJ Foster) and the drunken Irish stereotype Sir Lucius O'Trigger (Steve Porter) -- survive with laughs. Not so funny are the suitor-protagonists -- Brian T. Finney's Captain Jack Absolute emerges as a grimacing, louche grotesque and Chris Shultz's Mr. Faulkland as a one-note facial tick. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 17, (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, theactorsgang.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.
Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin: It takes singer Sophie B. Hawkins a song or two to perfect Janis Joplin's gravelly growl, but she gets there just in time and maintains the requisite throaty cackle of the bad-girl icon throughout. Though Hawkins' girl-next-door prettiness needs a bit more roughing up to achieve a true Joplin metamorphosis, her singing carries the show. But writer-director Gigi Gaston's thin storyline tells us nothing new about Joplin and veers into caricature territory far too often. Fans of the Joplin songbook likely will enjoy the covers, but those expecting any glimpses beyond the streetwise flower-girl public persona Joplin perfected before her untimely death will feel shortchanged. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 4. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, machatheatre.org/home.html.
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, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Seed: A Weird Act of Faith: Written by Sigrid Gilmer, directed by Shishir Kurup. Starting Nov. 3, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18, cornerstonetheater.org/seed. Chuco's Justice Center, 1137 E. Redondo Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-235-4243.
Seminar: Jeff Goldblum stars in Theresa Rebeck's comedy. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 18. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. See stage feature for our review.
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, 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 Nov. 17. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, 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, 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, fremontcentretheatre.com.
The Hamlet Project: Election 2012: Thu., Nov. 1, 7:45 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 2, 7:45 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 3, 7:45 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/284745. St. Nick's, 8450 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-6917.
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, trepanyhouse.org.
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, milesplayhouse.org.
Vincent: The Next Arena presents Jean-Michel Richaud as Vincent van Gogh. Written by Leonard Nimoy, directed by Paul Stein. Sundays, 6 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16, (323) 417-2170, thenextarena.com. VS Theatre (formerly the Black Dahlia Theatre), 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.
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 Nov. 11, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, atwatervillagetheatre.com.
GO You Can't Take It With You: 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 You Can't Take It With You. The Sycamore household is part carnival, part asylum. Penny is an aspiring Picasso, and also fancies herself a successful dramatist (with a bulging stack of unfinished plays to prove it). Her hubby Paul specializes in explosives and chance ignitions, while daughter Essie consistently flutters about like a prima ballerina. Grandpa (Joseph Ruskin, in a wonderful performance), enjoys the life of a retiree, but has some ugly tax problems, and daughter Alice, who is in love with her boss' son and wants to marry him, must try to bring her beau's snobby parents into the Sycamore fold. The operative word here is fun; there always seems to be some monkeyshines going on and there are a few pleasant surprises that pop up. Director Gigi Bermingham has done an excellent job of balancing the play's comedic elements and pacing the three acts, and Tom Buderwitz's set design is marvelous. Note that as with all Antaeus productions, the play is double-cast. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
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