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Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including the 'Elliptical Comedy' Kin

Rhonda Lord and David Hunt Stafford in Kin at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills
Rhonda Lord and David Hunt Stafford in Kin at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills
Ed Krieger

Bathsheba Doran's "elliptical comedy about those who save us and those who don't" drew praises from Jenny Lower, and is is this week's Pick. For all the latest new theater reviews, and theater listings, see below.

This week's stage feature looks at three solo shows in the DougasPlus series and Radar L.A. festival. The shows are performed by Luis Alfaro, Trieu Tran and Roger Guenveur Smith.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication October 3, 2013:

GALLERY SECRETS

Amy Ellenberger and Rod Menzies
Amy Ellenberger and Rod Menzies
Chalk Rep

Four one-acts, performed by the Chalk Repertory and set in the exhibition halls of the Natural History Museum, deal, directly or indirectly, with the museum's history. Tom Jacobson's A Vast Hoard, directed by Janet Hayatshahi, set in 1913 and played in the Rotunda, deals with the efforts of two officials (Joseph Gilbert and Amy Ellenberger) to persuade wealthy Harris Newmark (Rod Menzies) to donate his family portraits to the museum. Ruth McKee's Skin and Bones, directed by Andrew Borba, is set in 1929 in the African Mammal Hall. Zakiyyah Alexander's Under the Glass, directed by Jeff Wienckowski, is set in 1978 and played in the Gem and Mineral Hall; it deals with the Colonel (Tony Amendola), who's obsessed with his geologic specimens. Prom Season, by Boni B. Alvarez, directed by Jennifer Chang, is set in the Dinosaur Hall and examines the conflict between randy teenagers and a dedicated security guard. The plays themselves are blandly pleasant, but the real star of the evening is the museum itself: The evening offers a fascinating tour of the exhibits. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park; Oct. 5, 6, 7, 11 & 13, 7 p.m. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org. (Neal Weaver)

HOSPITAL In the new theater production Wunderbaum, the irreverently incisive Rotterdam theater collective, whose work has wittily examined the abrasive interstices between culture and the lives of ordinary people, teams up with Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the veteran skid row performance troupe, whose angry activist aesthetic zeroes in on society's most downcast and dispossessed. The mix in this show, turns out to be not so much oil-and-water as it does gin-and-tonic, a bit too heavy on the tonic. Hospital's subject is the history of healthcare -- or the lack of it -- in America and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands. The combined ensembles draw from their individual medical histories for raw material, though it is the cradle-to-grave enactment of LAPD Artistic Director John Malpede's lifetime brushes with hospitalization that ultimately forms the evening's tongue-in-cheek spine. That includes a wryly explosive opening scene of disciplined anarchy in which Maartje Remmers gives birth to a rubber-baby stand-in for Malpede while simultaneously videoing the chaos onto a projection screen that looms above Maarten van Otterdijk's hospital-green surgical-theater set. Filled with politically pointed anachronisms and playful metatheatrical asides, Hospital succeeds in personalizing the despairing intractability of universal healthcare, but in a sermon preached to a Radar L.A. choir of the presumably already converted. Tower Theatre. Closed. (Bill Raden)

PICK OF THE WEEK: KIN

Rhonda Lord and David Hunt Stafford in Kin at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills
Rhonda Lord and David Hunt Stafford in Kin at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills
Ed Krieger

In Bathsheba Doran's elliptical comedy-drama Kin, the title becomes shorthand for the people we save and those who redeem us. Sean (Grinnell Morris) is a personal trainer and Irish émigré; Anna (Melissa Collins) is a Columbia University adjunct who's just completed her first book, a bone-dry exegesis of Keatsian punctuation. We can see where this is going, but their onstage meet-cute gets postponed; instead we chart the couple's romantic progress via separate encounters with their respective tribes, whose stories are equally compelling. There's Sean's mother, Linda (Rhonda Lord), a boozy agoraphobe since an assault decades ago derailed her life; her brother and Sean's surrogate father, Max (a delightful John Combs); Anna's father (David Hunt Stafford), a retired colonel nursing a broken heart since the death of Anna's mother, or so she believes; and best of all Helena (Elizabeth Lande), a thwarted actress whose quirky humor belies her profound loneliness. Collins offers a rich turn as the layered Anna, who aches for connection even as she pushes others away, but it's Lande who steals the show.Director Jules Aaron's even hand delivers both humor and sensitivity, while Jeff Rack's lovely minimalist, modular set allows actors to dwell onstage, lingering in each other's scenes like emotional subtext. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 27. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org (Jenny Lower)

LAKE ANNE Marthe Rachel Gold's lumbering melodrama is a concoction of dramatic setups that never develops into an interesting or credible narrative. Widowed Anne (Laurie O'Brien), a former ballerina, lives with her grown mentally and physically disabled son, Will (Alex Smith), in a house that's been owned by her family for generations. Although it's about to be auctioned off, Anne refuses to sell it when someone makes her a generous direct offer. Meanwhile, Will needs a heart operation that she keeps postponing. (She thinks maybe he's better off dying before she does.) A dalliance with her sister-in-law's son and her dream of resuming her career collapse simultaneously when the man in question returns to his steady girlfriend. Gold's prosaic dialogue and John Frank Levey's lackadaisical direction leave the performers floundering. Act 2 is a bit more compelling, as the play's impending crisis and the loss of her home and lover give O'Brien something solid to work from. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 9. roadtheatre.org. (Deborah Klugman)

GO: THE LARAMIE PROJECT: 10 YEARS LATER The original production of The Laramie Project rode on the wave of passion and grief spawned by the murder of Matthew Shepard. The current work, which looks at Laramie and the related issues as they appear 10 years after the fact, is necessarily more contemplative and thoughtful, but it builds up its own brand of steam. Predictably, opinions of Laramie, Wyo., citizens were all over the place. Some felt that Matthew had been forgotten too quickly, while others felt that his story had become a millstone around the town's neck, fostered by the media. But largely due to 20/20 broadcast, which ignored the trial evidence and claimed that the murder was not a hate crime but just a drug-infused robbery gone wrong, a softer, less upsetting, revisionist view has been adopted by many local citizens. The script, richly based on actual words of those involved, including murderer Aaron McKinney (Michael Hanson, alternating with Dylan Seaton), and Shepard's mother, Judy (Elizabeth Herron), is acted with passion by 10 wonderfully gifted actors, accompanied by folk singer Johanna Chase. Director Ken Sawyer demonstrates that, although the documentary approach is not sensational, it's nevertheless gripping, effective and deeply affecting. Gay and Lesbian Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m. (no perf Oct. 20); through Nov. 16. (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org/theatre. (Neal Weaver)

GO: THE PLAYER KING The name John Wilkes Booth isn't likely to be forgotten, but many are unaware that the infamous assassin was part of an accomplished family of actors. In this solo show, Darin Dahms brings the Booth clan to life. Drawing on historical and biographical material, Dahms constructs what is mostly a commanding portrait of the Booths. It touches on the drunken, tormented theatrical genius of patriarch Junius Brutus; his problematic, strained relationship with second son Edwin -- who at age 13 traveled with his father as a caretaker -- and the dissolute, and fatefully disillusioned, John, whose final performance in the theater was his most memorable. One of the more gripping segments of the show, and the most dynamically scripted, tells of the day of Lincoln's assassination, and the dark, chaotic aftermath. Dahms is a talented, engaging performer, and he's at his best when channeling these characters or delivering one of many splendid soliloquies from the Bard's more famous works (King Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet). His performance more than offsets a script that tends to flit about and needs greater coherency and context. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/464197. (Lovell Estell III)

ROMEO AND JULIET The good intentions of the appealing, youthful ensemble of this production of Shakespeare's great tragedy of young love and death are tragically outdone by the technical requirements of the Bard's language. With a minimal set consisting of a few slabs and an arch, director Tony Cronin's straightforward, modern-dress production achieves a level of workmanlike competence that slips into sloppiness toward the end, with clumsy blocking and line readings that suggest a lack of psychological analysis on the textual level. The piece's under-rehearsed feel is evident in a number of boisterous but clichéd arm-waving acting turns, awkward chemistry and blustery performances. The pacing is crisp, though, hinting interestingly at the unstated idea that the characters' true tragic flaw is not rage but impatience. Moments provided by Zachary Kanner's sweetly nerdy Romeo are winning, as is Julia McIlvaine's unusually glacial and prim nurse -- a turn that's against the usual casting type. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sept. 27 & 28, Oct. 6, 17, 19 & 25, 8 p.m.; Sept. 29, Oct. 11, 13 & 27, 2 p.m. (310) 458-8634, milesplayhouse.org. (Paul Birchall)

ONGOING SHOWS REGION-WIDE:

Ah, Wilderness!: Eugene O'Neill's idyllic American comedy, about a young man, his young love, and his coming-of-age. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-09-19/stage/prometheus-bound-getty-villa/full/. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
Ashes to Wings: Two actresses, three musicians, and four dancers unite for a soul-shaking expression of femininity. The story of one girl's journey into womanhood, and the spirit within guiding her path. Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 2 p.m. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea, Los Angeles, 323-525-0202, www.acmecomedy.com.
Awake and Sing: Clifford Odets' drama, set in 1930s Bronx, about the Berger family's first generation clashing with the younger generation's desire for independence and freedom. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
GO: The Bells of West 87th: Elin Hampton's play derives its comedy from the antics of an eccentric family. At 39, Molly (Cameron Meyer) has never escaped from the tyranny of her critical, exploitative parents, who have decided she's a lesbian because she won't wear makeup, and taunt her about her lack of a social life. Dad Eli (Robert Towers) is an elderly leprechaun obsessed with performing magic tricks and keeping the world informed of the state of his prostate. Domineering Mom Ida (Carol Locatell) walked out on Eli five years ago, and moved in with Molly. Now Molly has acquired a beau, Chris (James Marsters), an amateur poet who works at a miniature golf course, and she brings him home to meet the family, with predictably messy results. Superficially, the piece resembles You Can't Take It with You, but that play's sunny disposition is replaced by a more jaundiced view, as Molly strives to escape her tyrannical family. This is essentially sitcom stuff, but it's cleverly written and acted expertly by a solid ensemble, including Dagney Kerr as Molly's glamorous married sister. Director Richard Pierce keeps things moving briskly on the handsome, two-room set designed by Jeff McLaughlin. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.
Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-De-Do: First played at the theater in 1963. Featuring a fantastical cast of over 100 Halloween-themed puppets, from the Purple People Eater and the Invisible Man, to a gaggle of "Roaring 20's" skeletons dancing the night away in Hernando's Hideaway. Starting Oct. 5, Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Live Arts Exchange (LAX): Local artists perform interdisciplinary dance, theater, art, and music pieces. Visit liveartsexchange.org for a complete schedule of events. Through Oct. 6, liveartsexchange.org. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
GO: Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes: Daniel Beaty's West Coast premiere revives the lost-to-history account of Roland Hayes, a son of former slaves and the first internationally lauded African-American classical singer. Raised in the South on hard work and spirituals, Hayes (Elijah Rock) overcomes early tragedy to perform in Chattanooga's black churches. When an instructor intervenes to provide professional training, Hayes confronts the objections of his sassily beatific mother, Angel Mo (Karan Kendrick), who believes her son is destined for life as a preacher. Condensing Hayes' life story inevitably leads to some whiplash plot twists and hurried catharsis, but Rock and Kendrick's chemistry under Saundra McClain's direction sustains and clarifies the play's themes. Accompanist Kevin Ashworth tackles a grab-bag of supporting roles, perhaps most jarringly as Hayes' father, when his pale skin imbues the endearment "boy" with inadvertent menace. But his presence offers a pleasing, if farcical, dimension. Shaun Motley's handsome, sweeping wooden set stands in for Georgia fields and concert halls alike. Most stirring is Rock's lustrous timbre as the mature Hayes: Harmonizing with Kendrick through earthy spirituals, he soars through von Gluck's "O Del Mio Dolce Ardor" before dipping into a soul-trembling version of "Were You There?" The superb music direction is by Rahn Coleman. (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
Broadway Bound: Neil Simon's autobiographical Pulitzer Prize-winning play about Eugene and his older brother Stanley, who are trying to break into the world of show business as professional comedy writers while coping with their parents' divorce. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.
GO: The Burnt Part Boys: With a hardscrabble Appalachian setting and a score that engagingly echoes the melodies of Copland, Bernstein and Sondheim, this captivating new musical (book by Mariana Elder, music by Chris Miller, and lyrics by Nathan Tysen) is both a sensitive meditation on grief and a heartfelt coming-of-age tale. Ten years after their dads perished in an accident at an isolated mine, a group of teenagers embark on a pilgrimage to visit the spot. Along the way, they are forced to confront their own mortality, their memories of their family and their goals for the future. Director Richard Israel's intimate and beautifully atmospheric production crackles with youthful energy, and, as the characters embark on their rural journey, the piece takes on the feel of a ghost story of loss and redemption. Under Gregory Nabours' crisp musical direction, the bluegrassy songs are executed with heart and gusto. The ensemble is populated by a cast of mostly young performers with unexpectedly subtle vocal chops and strong emotional range. A powerful turn is offered by Daniel David Stewart as Pete, the angry teen whose impulsive actions force his older brother (an equally powerful Aaron Scheff) to pursue him into the wild. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-9232.
Captured Aural Phantasy Theater: Night of Noir: Captured Aural Phantasy Theater's love letter to Los Angeles, performed in their signature variety show format, featuring live performances of classic noir-themed stories culled from movies, books, and hard-boiled 40's crime comics, presented in the style of an old radio show. Sun., Oct. 6, 8:30 p.m. El Cid, 4212 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-668-0318, www.elcidla.com.
Cowboy Versus Samurai: The Los Angeles premiere of this re-imagining of the classic Cyrano de Bergerac tale featuring Asian Americans in a small town in Wyoming. Written by Michael Golamco, directed by Peter J. Kuo. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler St., Los Angeles, 213-627-9621.
GO: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Any adaptation of a novel is a compromise of approximation whose objective should be to faithfully capture the spirit and ideas of the prose in a dramatically compelling way. Which is why Philip K. Dick fans, who have repeatedly suffered the indignity of having their favorite sci-fi author plundered by dumbed-down Hollywood blockbusters, will cheer adapter Edward Einhorn's 2010, high-fidelity transliteration of Dick's wryly ironic, psychedelic, 1968 hall of mirrors. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the time is a war-ravaged future in which the question of what it means to be human has been vastly complicated by a band of renegade androids passing themselves off as flesh-and-blood (it's the source material for Blade Runner). Freelance assassin Rick Deckard (Eric Curtis Johnson), a man who relies on a mood device to feel anything at all, is charged with weeding the imposters from the populace via administering "empathy tests" and summary execution. Suffice it to say that nothing is what it seems. Jaime Robledo's inventively cinematic staging (on DeAnne Millais' computer-detritus set) and an unusually fine ensemble (including Lynn Odell, Corey Klemow, Marz Richards and Rafael Goldstein) capture all the nuanced terms of Dick's allegory. But the real discovery of the evening is Kimberly Atkinson and her subtly delineated dual turn as the doppelgangers Rachael Rosen and Pris Stratton. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19, bit.ly/ElectricSheepLATix. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
The Dream of the Burning Boy: In the wake of the sudden death of popular high school student Dane (Matthias Chrans), each of the characters in David West Read's play comes to terms with the tragedy in a flip but ultimately sincere way. This starts with Dane's English teacher, Larry (Jeff Hayenga), and includes Dane's sister, Rachel (a manically intense Jayne McLendon); his girlfriend, Chelsea (Joslyn Kramer); his friend Kyle (Zach Palmer); and his mother, Andrea (a scene-stealing Melissa Kite). As the characters try to find solace, the hidden ways in which they are connected come to light, nudged along by Steve (Tyler Ritter), the young guidance counselor. Director Edward Edwards deftly balances the comedy and tragedy in the piece, playing its emotional intensity palpably and engagingly. But while cast and director give it their all in a tonally spot-on rendition of the high school experience, a number of the characters and storylines could stand to be fleshed out. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Malibu Playhouse, 29243 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibuplayhouse.org.
The End of It: Breaking up is hard to do, particularly if you're embedded in a 20-year marriage. That's the not terribly surprising message of Paul Coates' play, illustrated by three couples: one straight (Kelly Coffield Park and playwright Coates), one gay (David Youse and William Franklin Barker) and one lesbian (Ferrell Marshall and Wendy Radford). The three couples appear sometimes separately, sometimes simultaneously, suggesting that they are almost interchangeable as they deal with such issues as anger, grief, blame, resentment, loss of desire, fear of aging and abandonment. Coates' script is intelligent, perceptive and sometimes funny, but almost fatally restrained. Only Park is given the opportunity to tap into the raw emotions inherent in the situation. Director Nick DeGruccio marshals his fine actors through a nearly impeccable production, on François-Pierre Couture's blandly elegant set, but no amount of direction can provide the excitement the text fails to supply. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
Fall Shorts: An evening of 11 new ten-minute comedies. Written by Steve Korbar, Bette Smith, Lina Gallegos, Maureen A. Martin, Raegan Payne, Barbara Lindsay, Pedro Antonio Garcia, Rhea MacCallum, and Daniel Guyton. Featuring 20 actors and a rapid-fire pace. Starting Oct. 8, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Flowers for Algernon: Deaf West Theatre combines signed and voiced dialogue for a new perspective on this modern American classic, about an intellectually disabled man who undergoes experimental surgery to increase his IQ to the level of genius. Written by David Rogers, inspired by the book by Daniel Keyes, directed by Matthew McCray. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Gallery Secrets: 4 Plays, 4 Exhibit Halls, 4 Time Periods: Four one-acts, performed by the Chalk Repertory and set in the exhibition halls of the Natural History Museum, deal, directly or indirectly, with the museum's history. Tom Jacobson's A Vast Hoard, directed by Janet Hayatshahi, set in 1913 and played in the Rotunda, deals with the efforts of two officials (Joseph Gilbert and Amy Ellenberger) to persuade wealthy Harris Newmark (Rod Menzies) to donate his family portraits to the museum. Ruth McKee's Skin and Bones, directed by Andrew Borba, is set in 1929 in the African Mammal Hall. Zakiyyah Alexander's Under the Glass, directed by Jeff Wienckowski, is set in 1978 and played in the Gem and Mineral Hall; it deals with the Colonel (Tony Amendola), who's obsessed with his geologic specimens. Prom Season, by Boni B. Alvarez, directed by Jennifer Chang, is set in the Dinosaur Hall and examines the conflict between randy teenagers and a dedicated security guard. The plays themselves are blandly pleasant, but the real star of the evening is the museum itself: The evening offers a fascinating tour of the exhibits. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park; Oct. 5, 6, 7, 11 & 13, 7 p.m. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org. (Neal Weaver). Sat., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 11, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 7 p.m. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-763-3466, www.nhm.org.
Goldilocks and The Three Bears: A musical version of the classic tale, performed for children and families by Storybook Theatre. Starting Oct. 5, Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 22. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Grace and Glorie: A sweet and funny story of a hospice worker who comes to the aid of an aging grandma in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Written by Tom Ziegler. Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 9, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 10, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
GO: Groundlings Online University: See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-08-22/stage/groundlings-el-grande-coca-cola/full/. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. The Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
The Guardsman: A Hungarian stage star, terrified that his recent marriage is already on the rocks, concocts a scheme meant to invigorate the passions of his starlet wife. His absurd plan unleashes a series of hilariously unintended consequences in Molnár's comic game of love and marriage. Written by Ferenc Molnár, directed by Michael Michetti. Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 2 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 1, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 2, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 10, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 30, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.
Hamlet: An all-female production of Hamlet -- why?! The gender-bending (and multicultural) casting permits this motley cast of women to tackle the tragedy's meaty classic roles but adds nothing to the production. Rather, it distracts and detracts. Lisa Wolpe and Natsuko Ohama co-direct and star (as Hamlet and Polonius, respectively) in a lively rendition that gallops toward its (implied) bloody finale. Yet this tragedy could have used a firmer hand on the reins. Some perfs are good, others woeful. Emphatic gestures and shouted delivery, as well as the random sound design, rob the text of its subtleties, making this Hamlet for Dummies. Wolpe's interpretation of the gloomy Dane is bitter, sarcastic, playful and energetic as she roughs up both Ophelia and Gertrude in tempestuous scenes. Unfortunately, Wolpe also sometimes rushes her delivery of the scintillating text. Ophelia (Chastity Dotson) is excellent in her descent from confusion into insanity, while the majestic set of faux stone, with its trapdoor for the grave scene, is superb, including its upstairs realm for the lumbering, un-wraithlike ghost of Old King Hamlet (Elizabeth Swain). The swordplay is excellent; the rest is -- silence. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 10, 8 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
The Homosexuals: A funny and heartwarming play that explores various friendships through the lens of sexual tension. On his first night in a Mid-western city, Evan meets a circle of men who become his closest friends and potential lovers. Written by Philip Dawkins, directed by Michael Matthews. Starting Oct. 10, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 1. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
GO: Humor Abuse: As the title indicates, Humor Abuse is no lighthearted evening of sidesplitting laughs. Demonstrating elaborate pratfalls, juggling and elegant comedy bits, Lorenzo Pisoni's solo clown show charts his upbringing as a fourth-generation vaudevillian and performer, focusing mainly on a relationship with his father that was more work than play. Lorenzo took to the stage in his parents' company, the Pickle Family Circus, when he was only 2 years old, honing his clown skills under the tutelage of his father, Larry Pisoni. In recounting their relationship, Lorenzo projects a tone that is bittersweet and melancholy, with an undercurrent of both resentment and deep respect. Frequently subverting our expectations, he engages us throughout his 90-minute confessional show by performing various routines. One is a commedia dell'arte sequence, in which he deftly dons and doffs masks as he leaps in and out of an old steamer trunk. Another is a nail-biting, Chaplinesque routine in which he plays a Sisyphean bellhop struggling to get five pieces of luggage to the top of a staircase. Pisoni's movements are fluid and effortlessly precise and his prodigious skills are a joy to watch, even as his buffoonery is tinged with sadness. Co-creator and director Erica Schmidt has created fine staging, with clever lighting by Ben Stanton and original music and evocative sound design courtesy of Bart Fasbender. (Pauline Adamek). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3, $40-$60. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.
In My Corner: The theme of fathers and sons occupies well-trodden ground in the theater, but Joe Orrach's exploration of his relationship with his Puerto Rican father is unique in its presentation. Having been a professional boxer and tap dancer, Mr. Orrach is hardly an average Joe, and he and co-writer Lizbeth Hasse infuse this solo show with elements of his former lives, cleverly employing choreography, a jump rope and a speed bag in the storytelling ... not to mention a live jazz trio. Headed by nimble pianist and musical director Matthew Clark, the musicians provide a rich rhythmic and melodic undercurrent to the show, with a sound that's at times reminiscent of another Bay Area jazz virtuoso, Vince Guaraldi. Director Jeremiah Chechik helps Orrach combine the storytelling with the physicality of the show (such as using the speed bag as a dance partner) and, with lighting designer Briana Pattillo, creates some solid visuals onstage (especially the boxing ring). However, this former pugilist doesn't land as many punches as he ought to; despite his fascinating source material, the show meanders between episodes, lacking a strong enough dramatic throughline to build emotional momentum. Also, other than his father's character, none of the rest of Orrach's family is as well developed in the piece. Still, with some reworking, Orrach and Hasse could potentially turn Joe's multifaceted life experience and talents into a knockout of a show. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
The Interview: Susan Josephs' dystopian play set in the United States at a time when everyone needs to undergo a government interview in order to have children. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.
Ise Lyfe: Pistols & Prayers: A spoken word hip-hop theater piece, written and performed by artist and educator Ise Lyfe of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. The production is a sociopolitical commentary, blended with a glimpse into Lyfe's coming of age as a man, artist, and advocate for social change. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 27. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.
Just Imagine: Although the wow factor is missing, aficionados of John Lennon probably will appreciate this tribute to the iconic musician, which juxtaposes renditions of his most famous songs with a narrative of his life. Lennon impersonator and lead singer Tim Piper addresses the audience in a confiding manner as he relates events in Lennon's life -- his troubled boyhood in Liverpool culminating in the death of his mother, up through The Beatles, his marriage to Yoko Ono and his transformation into a family man and spokesman for the counterculture antiwar movement. There are no surprises in writer-director Steve Altman's script, and watching and listening to Piper, an American donning a Liverpool accent, failed to persuade me that I was hearing the real McCoy. That said, Piper's backup band, Working Class Hero, performs well and provides an opportunity for those who wish to reimagine the legend to do so. (323) 960-4442, justimaginetheshow.com. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
Kamikaze!: Zombie Joe directs Vanessa Cate in her one-woman theatrical odyssey, conquering her darkest fears, challenges, and limitations with her spirit of truth and triumph. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
GO: Kin: In Bathsheba Doran's elliptical comedy-drama Kin, the title becomes shorthand for the people we save and those who redeem us. Sean (Grinnell Morris) is a personal trainer and Irish émigré; Anna (Melissa Collins) is a Columbia University adjunct who's just completed her first book, a bone-dry exegesis of Keatsian punctuation. We can see where this is going, but their onstage meet-cute gets postponed; instead we chart the couple's romantic progress via separate encounters with their respective tribes, whose stories are equally compelling. There's Sean's mother, Linda (Rhonda Lord), a boozy agoraphobe since an assault decades ago derailed her life; her brother and Sean's surrogate father, Max (a delightful John Combs); Anna's father (David Hunt Stafford), a retired colonel nursing a broken heart since the death of Anna's mother, or so she believes; and best of all Helena (Elizabeth Lande), a thwarted actress whose quirky humor belies her profound loneliness. Collins offers a rich turn as the layered Anna, who aches for connection even as she pushes others away, but it's Lande who steals the show.Director Jules Aaron's even hand delivers both humor and sensitivity, while Jeff Rack's lovely minimalist, modular set allows actors to dwell onstage, lingering in each other's scenes like emotional subtext. (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
Kinetic Theory Circus Arts Halloween Extravaganza: Two spooktacular shows: The Invitation, featuring Kinetic Theory's Youth Circus Troupe, ages 8-13; and Dracula: A Symphony of Terror, featuring Kinetic Theory's Pre-professional Troupe, ages 13-25. The 2pm performance features both shows. The 8pm performance features Dracula: A Symphony of Terror only. Starting Oct. 5, Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 2. Kinetic Theory Theatre, 3604 Holdrege Ave., Los Angeles, 310-606-2617, www.kinetictheorytheatre.com.
Lake Anne: Marthe Rachel Gold's lumbering melodrama is a concoction of dramatic setups that never develops into an interesting or credible narrative. Widowed Anne (Laurie O'Brien), a former ballerina, lives with her grown mentally and physically disabled son, Will (Alex Smith), in a house that's been owned by her family for generations. Although it's about to be auctioned off, Anne refuses to sell it when someone makes her a generous direct offer. Meanwhile, Will needs a heart operation that she keeps postponing. (She thinks maybe he's better off dying before she does.) A dalliance with her sister-in-law's son and her dream of resuming her career collapse simultaneously when the man in question returns to his steady girlfriend. Gold's prosaic dialogue and John Frank Levey's lackadaisical direction leave the performers floundering. Act 2 is a bit more compelling, as the play's impending crisis and the loss of her home and lover give O'Brien something solid to work from. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 9. roadtheatre.org. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO: The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later: The original production of The Laramie Project rode on the wave of passion and grief spawned by the murder of Matthew Shepard. The current work, which looks at Laramie and the related issues as they appear 10 years after the fact, is necessarily more contemplative and thoughtful, but it builds up its own brand of steam. Predictably, opinions of Laramie, Wyo., citizens were all over the place. Some felt that Matthew had been forgotten too quickly, while others felt that his story had become a millstone around the town's neck, fostered by the media. But largely due to a 60 Minutes broadcast, which ignored the trial evidence and claimed that the murder was not a hate crime but just a drug-infused robbery gone wrong, a softer, less upsetting, revisionist view has been adopted by many local citizens. The script, richly based on actual words of those involved, including murderer Aaron McKinney (Michael Hanson, alternating with Dylan Seaton), and Shepard's mother, Judy (Elizabeth Herron), is acted with passion by 10 wonderfully gifted actors, accompanied by folk singer Johanna Chase. Director Ken Sawyer demonstrates that, although the documentary approach is not sensational, it's nevertheless gripping, effective and deeply affecting. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 16. Davidson Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Los Angeles, 323-860-7300, www.lagaycenter.org.
The Last Look Back: A benefit reading of a world premiere play by Stephen Serpas. Set in 1998, an attractive young intern embroiled in a presidential sex scandal meets with a legendary entertainer on the last day of his life. Directed by Gates McFadden. Proceeds will support EST/LA, an artistic home for new works from established and emerging playwrights in Los Angeles. Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 8 p.m. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
The Liar: David Ives' adaption of Pierre Corneille's 1644 French romantic comedy of the same title. When the charming and handsome pathological liar Dorante enters Paris, he impresses everyone who hears his stories. But as his lies multiply, Dorante struggles to keep his lies straight and get the girl he desires. Starting Oct. 10, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 1. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
The Light Bulb: A stylized farce about eight marketing executives who must create the campaign for the first-ever light bulb that will not burn out. Written by Joshua Ravetch, directed by James J. Mellon. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
Lily Ann's LOVE YOU!: Some shows somehow succeed in being fun or entertaining in spite of an overload of faults. Such is the case -- sort of -- with this cabaret- style musical comedy by Beyonde Productions, with book, music and lyrics by Lily Ann. Brimming with groan-inducing shtick, it takes place in a Hollywood nightclub owned by Nicolas Caged (Austin Springer), a red-bedizened Elvis impersonator, whose singing and cache of antics are bad in a laughable sort of way. The star of the evening is the ultra-sexy Mary Lynn (Yvette Nii), who does sing a bit better, and whose desperately stretched sequined dresses garner sympathy from the audience. Mary Lynn is being courted by the "other" Elvis impersonator, Charles Love (Jamie Lane) and country-boy hunk Toby Kiss (Jesse Welch, who actually can sing). In addition to a slew of mediocre songs and music, the evening includes a return-to-the-'60s dance routine, some nifty conga playing by Bob Hardly (Jah-Amen Mobley) and a cheeky murder mystery. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 12. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-979-7078.
The Lion in Winter: A comedic drama that takes place in King Henry II of England's castle at Chinon, France at Christmastime, 1183. King Henry has three surviving sons by his estranged wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Richard (The Lionheart), Geoffrey and John. Henry wants the kingdom to stay united after his death, but all three sons want to rule and it is likely to be torn apart by revolution. Written by James Goldman, directed by Michael Cooper. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Little Shop of Horrors: A comedy-horror rock opera based on the 1960 movie. Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., Los Angeles, 310-645-5156, www.kentwoodplayers.org.
The Long Way Home: Reflections on the Tracers Journey: A look back at the conception, creation, and theatrical journey of the landmark Vietnam play Tracers, utilizing poetry, projections, storytelling, and live music. Written by John DiFusco, directed by John Perrin Flynn. Presented by Rogue Machine Theater Company and USVAA. Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 7. USVAA: United States Veterans' Artists Alliance, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-559-2116, www.usvaa.org.
Lost Girls: Idiosyncratic characters, colorful language and clever one-liners don't always make a dramedy click. John Pollono's latest play is set in working-class New England and revolves around a divorced single mom, Maggie (Jennifer Pollono), who wakes one snowy morning to discover her car and teenage daughter, Erica (Anna Theoni DiGiovanni), missing. A call to law enforcement triggers a visit from Maggie's ex, Lou (Joshua Bitton), a state trooper. Accompanying him is his attractive second wife, Penny (Kirsten Kollender), whose presence fuels an already flammable mix of past resentments, not only between Lou and Maggie but between Maggie and her malcontent mom, Linda (Peggy Dunne). Director John Perrin Flynn has a skilled ensemble, but their talents don't coalesce into a believable narrative. The main problem is the plot's awkward contrivances. The production is often entertaining, but the many loose ends suggest it's been rushed to production prematurely. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 28, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 14. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Lovecraft: Nightmare Suite: Six strange tales of monsters, mayhem, and cosmic horrors brought to life through a combination of storytelling, puppetry, and shadow play. All text is taken directly from the short fiction, essays, and poetry of the godfather of modern horror, H.P. Lovecraft. Conceived and directed by Dan Spurgeon. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Marilyn ... MADNESS & Me: A tale of unrequited love, focused on the last month's of Marilyn Monroe's life as told in first-person by the man who lived it, and confirmed by excerpts from Marilyn's diary. Written by Frank V. Furino, from an original concept by Didier Bloch. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, and I'm in Therapy!: Written by Steve Solomon, directed by Andy Rogow. Solomon's 90-minute comedy, inspired by his family and all the people in his life whose sole purpose was to drive him into therapy. One part lasagna, one part kreplach, and two parts Prozac. Starting Oct. 10, Wednesdays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Janet & Ray Scherr Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2700, www.toaks.org.
GO: The Normal Heart: When the AIDS plague emerged in 1981, writer-activist Larry Kramer was devastated to learn that the larger society wasn't remotely concerned that gay men were dying by the thousands, and the gay community was refusing to admit its own responsibility. He set out to call the world to account, and tell unpopular truths to power. Driven by his own passionate concern, he launched ham-fisted attacks in all directions, making himself hated and resented. But in his semi-autobiographical play The Normal Heart, he is considerably defter, capturing the absurdity as well as the courage of his surrogate, Ned Weeks (Tim Cummings), and making his story a chronicle of the times. He reminds us of how terrifying AIDS was when nobody knew what it was, how it was spread or how to avoid it. Director Simon Levy has mounted a deeply moving production at the Fountain Theatre, bathed in the compassion without which it would be merely a horror story, and performed by a deeply committed ensemble. Cummings captures the desperation of a man who cares so much he's incapable of tact or coherence, and Bill Brochtrup ably renders the charm and ultimate disintegration of his lover, Felix. Lisa Pelikan, Matt Gottlieb, Fred Koehler, Verton R. Banks and the rest of the cast provide terrific support. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 24. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
GO: The Old Settler: John Henry Redwood's bittersweet romantic comedy The Old Settler is set in 1943 Harlem in the comfy home (a handsome set by Thomas Brown) of middle-aged sisters Elizabeth (Ruby Hinds) and Quilly (Jolie Oliver). Elizabeth is dignified and restrained, while her sister is outspoken and nit-picky. These church-going ladies are often like oil and water, but there's an unmistakable sisterly love and devotion that underpins the acrimony. Their bond is tested when Elizabeth decides to take in as a renter the handsome, ultra-countrified Husband Witherspoon (John R. Davidson). He's come up from the South looking for his sweetheart, Lou Bessie (played with sass and attitude by Crystal Garrett), who is only interested in a good time and the man's money. It isn't long before Husband and Elizabeth are tenderly eyeing one another. The story of a May-December romance is an old one, but it receives a charming and inventive treatment by Redwood, and also offers a sobering glimpse into the pre-civil rights-era African-American experience. The outcome is predictable, but this doesn't detract from what is a thoroughly enjoyable production with emotionally vibrant performances under the direction of William Stanford Davis. (Lovell Estell III). Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.
Oy!: The story of two German Jewish sisters, Selma and Jenny, who in 1995 return to their home in Paris after a trip to the German city of their youth and try to investigate the swirl of emotions, opinions and memories that surfaced during their trip. This play questions forgiveness, the work of memory, and the state of modern racism in the world. Written by Hélène Cixous, directed by Georges Bigot. Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
Pato, Muerte y Tulipán (Duck, Death and Tulip): Enter a world made of paper, words, leaves, water, snow, moons and suns as Duck and Death invite young and old to join them on a road full of questions about what it means to be alive. Three dimensional figures emerge from the flat pages of a story book in this beautiful and moving performance from Mexico's Compañía Proyecto Perla, presented in Spanish and English by a mix of live actors and puppets. Recommended for ages 5+. Written and directed by Haydeé Boetto, based on the story Ente, Tod und Tulpe by Wolf Erlbruch. Sat., Oct. 5, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 2 p.m. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.
GO: The Player King: The name John Wilkes Booth isn't likely to be forgotten, but many are unaware that the infamous assassin was part of an accomplished family of actors. In this solo show, Darin Dahms brings the Booth clan to life. Drawing on historical and biographical material, Dahms constructs what is mostly a commanding portrait of the Booths. It touches on the drunken, tormented theatrical genius of patriarch Junius Brutus; his problematic, strained relationship with second son Edwin -- who at age 13 traveled with his father as a caretaker -- and the dissolute, and fatefully disillusioned, John, whose final performance in the theater was his most memorable. One of the more gripping segments of the show, and the most dynamically scripted, tells of the day of Lincoln's assassination, and the dark, chaotic aftermath. Dahms is a talented, engaging performer, and he's at his best when channeling these characters or delivering one of many splendid soliloquies from the Bard's more famous works (King Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet). His performance more than offsets a script that tends to flit about and needs greater coherency and context. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 2. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
Play/Time: Six writers will each write a new short play for a group of actors every week for six weeks. Each week features different plays so every show will be different. When all is said and done, Theatre Unleashed will have written and produced 36 new works. Part of the Late Night series. Starting Oct. 5, Saturdays, 10 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
Poems for Mary: A staged reading of a new play by Lloyd J. Schwartz. After their father's death, two grown children find a box of poetry that they didn't know their father wrote. By reading the poems, they are surprised, moved, and amused to discover things about the man they thought they knew. Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Presidential Suite: A night in Las Vegas with eight of America's greatest presidents competing in a pageant that will determine which among them is the "Most Valuable President" in United States history. Book by Matthew Hoffman & William Norrett, music and lyrics by David P. Johnson. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-761-0704.
R II: A new production of Shakespeare's Richard II, conceived, adapted and directed by Jessica Kubzansky to be bare and raw, performed by only three actors. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-09-26/stage/richard-rii-boston-court/. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 9, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.
GO: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
GO: Rebecca's Gamble: Issues of science, medical ethics and criminal law propel Art Shulman and Robert Begam's provocative courtroom drama. Director Rick Walters has transformed this small venue into a courtroom interior surrounded by audience members, some of whom render a verdict at play's end. The site-specific setting is used to good effect. The accused, Dr. Rebecca Adler (Diane Linder), is charged with murder for her part in the cryonic disposal of her terminally ill patient. Counsel for the defense is Joe Purcell (Randy Vasquez), while the state is represented by Scott Novak (Jerry Weil), with Judge Dale Fox (Henry Holden) presiding. The format follows the procedures of a real court proceeding: Witnesses are called, testimony is given, cross-examination is allowed and a verdict is rendered. There are even a number of emotional outbursts, which are a bit overworked. The compelling thing about this thoughtfully written script is that it explores in detail some topical scientific, ethical and legal subjects that are easily grasped. Cast performances, on balance, are quite good, notwithstanding a few glaring instances of botched lines. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 6. Theatrecraft Playhouse, 7505 1/2 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-876-1100.
REDCAT's Radar L.A. Festival: An international festival of contemporary theater. REDCAT gathers the some of the most influential theater companies from around the globe to perform alongside innovative Los Angeles artists. Visionary works of theater from Latin America, the Pacific Rim, and Los Angeles in 18 productions performed in downtown's historic theaters and throughout the city. A professional symposium will highlight interdisciplinary approaches and new theatrical forms. REDCAT will be the late night festival hub with a line-up of DJs and informal performances. Visit redcat.org/festival/radar-la-festival-2013 for a complete schedule. Through Oct. 6, www.redcat.org/festival/radar-la-festival-2013. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
Rodney King: New light is shed on the man whose famous question "Can we all get along?" continues to resonate 21 years after it was first posed to a riot-torn Los Angeles in 1992. Created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith. Fri., Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 1 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Romeo and Juliet: The good intentions of the appealing, youthful ensemble of this production of Shakespeare's great tragedy of young love and death are tragically outdone by the technical requirements of the Bard's language. With a minimal set consisting of a few slabs and an arch, director Tony Cronin's straightforward, modern-dress production achieves a level of workmanlike competence that slips into sloppiness toward the end, with clumsy blocking and line readings that suggest a lack of psychological analysis on the textual level. The piece's under-rehearsed feel is evident in a number of boisterous but cliched arm-waving acting turns, awkward chemistry and blustery performances. The pacing is crisp, though, hinting interestingly at the unstated idea that the characters' true tragic flaw is not rage but impatience. Moments provided by Zachary Kanner's sweetly nerdy Romeo are winning, as is Julia McIlvaine's unusually glacial and prim nurse -- a turn that's against the usual casting type. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sept. 27 & 28, Oct. 6, 17, 19 & 25, 8 p.m.; Sept. 29, Oct. 11, 13 & 27, 2 p.m. (310) 458-8634, milesplayhouse.org. (Paul Birchall). Sun., Oct. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 11, 2 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 25, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 27, 2 p.m. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-458-8634, www.milesplayhouse.org.
Rumination: Written by Amir Khalighi and set in 13th century Persia, this play is a spiritual and physical journey into the heart of prolific poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhī, better known as "Rumi." Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Sheet Cake Sliding: Playwright Stacia Saint Owens' black comedy about the travails of an unhappy family crackles with ferocious energy and malice. However, in spite of director Nicholas Newell's commendably crisp staging, the work is undermined by its scattershot, intentionally disjointed structure and a ham-fisted quirkiness. Pompous greeting-card executive and dad John Jones (Trever H. Olsen) considers that he's the embodiment of the American dream, but he's a rigid authoritarian at home, fond of browbeating his family -- and his borderline abusive behavior has reduced his wife to a grinning cipher and turned his kids into damaged basket cases. Although the acrimony between father and family is fairly straightforward, the story is told in fragments, inexplicably narrated by a pair of talking Dalmatians, and anchored by the presentation of a large number of cakes, which symbolize an undercurrent of family rot or something. Performances are sprightly, particularly Jennifer Flack as John's dead-inside, Barbie-like wife, but the work's overall shrillness becomes increasingly irritating and off-putting. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
Silent Witnesses: Written and performed by Stephanie Satie. Decades after World War II, a group of women who survived the Holocaust as children meet in a group moderated by a therapist and begin to tell their stories for the first time. Based on true events. Directed by Anita Khanzadian. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Smokey Joe's Cafe: This Tony Award-nominated and Grammy Award-winning tribute to legendary songwriters Leiber and Stoller is a song-and-dance celebration of thirty-nine of rock 'n' roll's greatest hits, from "Stand by Me" and "Fools Fall in Love," to "Jailhouse Rock," "Spanish Harlem," and "Yakety Yak." Book by Stephen Helper and Jack Viertel, music by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 13. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
St. Jude: Written and performed by Luis Alfaro and directed by Robert Egan, Alfaro faces his father's stroke and a flood of family memories with poignant clarity and gentle humor. Fri., Oct. 4, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 4 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 7 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
GO: Steel Magnolias: Robert Harling's comedy-drama about female friendships has seen many stage incarnations since its debut in 1987, not to mention a popular film version with Dolly Parton. Now comes a sparkling revival from East West Players with an all-Asian-American cast. Hiwa Bourne does the honors as the sassy, opinionated Truvy, whose small-town Louisiana hair salon (well designed and accoutered by Christopher Scott Murillo) is a gathering spot for a small group of gal pals. The shy, self-effacing Annelle (Lovelle Liquigan) is Truvy's newest hairdresser and able assistant. Clairee (Dian Kobayashi) is the sobersided widow of the town's mayor struggling to find a purpose in life. M'Lynn (Patti Yasutake) is the overly protective mother of bride-to-be Shelby (Ruth Coughlin), whose battle with diabetes and its poignant aftermath provide a thin but serviceable emotional arc. Then there's the terminally cranky Ouiser (Karen Huie), who, by her own admission, has been in a "bad mood for 40 years." Sprightly banter, ensemble chemistry and comic timing are the heart and soul of this piece, and the cast ably acquit themselves, guided by the perceptive direction of Laurie Woolery. (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 6. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.
Stories About the Old Days: Bill Harris' drama-comedy, directed by William Arrigon, about a poor black couple in Detroit struggling to overcome the nightmares of the past with hope and humor during the summer of 1970. Starting Oct. 5, Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.
The Sunshine Boys: Taxi stars Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch reunite to perform as two reuniting vaudevillians in Neil Simon's 1972 classic comedy. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 24, 2 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 27, 1 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 31, 2 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 3, 1 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
GO: Tone Clusters: As a storyteller, Joyce Carol Oates frequently traverses aberrant corridors of the human psyche. That's readily apparent in this 1990 (since updated to 2003) one-act, about a middle-aged couple, Frank and Emily Gulick (Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James), whose son has been accused of the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old neighbor. The couple's nightmare compounds a thousandfold as they are interviewed live on TV and interrogated about an event too horrendous for them to accept. They're bombarded with questions as they squirm, deny basic facts and search desperately within themselves for an alternative explanation for the obvious. Some of the queries mimic the sensationalized reporting of tabloid TV, while others are stultifyingly theoretical and pedantic and humiliatingly above their heads. Oates intended the piece as a cacophonous expression of a society out of sync with humanity rather than a realistic portrait of two tormented people, but the production's strength is in fact the wonderful craftsmanship of both performers (James is particularly spot-on), and the nuanced complexity of the emotions they depict. As the offstage inquisitor, Jeff Wiesen's voice sounded canned rather than live, perhaps an effort by director Mike Peebler to conform to Oates' original concept. (Deborah Klugman). Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com.
Tracers: The stories of a group of young American soldiers who endure the horrors of combat in Vietnam and the PTSD challenges of coming home. A series of events intertwined with music, movement, and ritual. Written and directed by John DiFusco. Presented by Rogue Machine Theater Company and USVAA. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. USVAA: United States Veterans' Artists Alliance, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City, 310-559-2116, www.usvaa.org.
Trust: As the newly-crowned prince of rock n' roll, Cody is living a charmed life, which leads his fiancé Becca to seek her own adventures with the strangers around her. Written by Steven Dietz. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 9. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
Tylerr Pery Superstar: Jeremy Evans' and Brandon Kirks' one-act satirical comedy about Tylerr Perry and his stop-at-nothing approach to winning an Oscar. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 22. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.
Uncle Ho to Uncle Sam: PlaywrightTrieu Tran recalls the harrowing journey he took from Vietnam to Canada to the United States, and his quest to find some place to belong. Written by Tran with Robert Egan and directed by Egan. Sat., Oct. 5, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 4 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
A View From the Bridge: Many consider Arthur Miller's dramas moral tragedies, but you also can think of them as mysteries, as their narratives contain events whose true meaning only becomes clear at the end. Longshoreman Eddie (Vince Melocchi) is a salt-of-the-earth type who thinks he's doing a good deed when he lets a pair of his wife's distant cousins, both illegal immigrants from the old country, move in with his family. He soon has reason to rue this decision, though, as his lovely niece, Catherine (Lisa Cirincione), falls in love with the more handsome of the two cousins, Rodolpho (Jeff Lorch) -- and Eddie is destroyed by his own inexplicably over-the-top jealousy. This is a mostly powerful, admirably straightforward production by co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, which stumbles slightly during the clumsy, frenetically staged final sequence. The production is anchored by Melocchi's nicely gruff Eddie, whose turn suggests a character swept along by passions he lacks the articulacy to express. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
War Horse: A drama from the National Theatre of Great Britain, set during WWI, about Albert and his beloved horse Joey. Oct. 8-12, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 12, 2 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 13, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.hollywoodpantages.com.
WaveFest: A theater festival comprised of three "waves" of short plays over six weekends, centered on the theme "Go West." The plays will explore stories of the Westside and Southern California through the lens of history, neighborhood, culture, myths, and the entertainment industry. For a complete schedule and line up visit SantaMonicaRep.org. Fri., Oct. 4; Sun., Oct. 6; Sat., Oct. 12; Sun., Oct. 13, www.SantaMonicaRep.org. Church in Ocean Park, 235 Hill St., Santa Monica, 310-399-1631, www.churchop.org.
We Got Lucky: Allen C. Gardner's new play about a Southern California bromance that becomes strained during life's changes. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 17, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-521-8600, www.workingstage.com.
What Kind of God?: A life spent immersed in Catholic school and culture erupts into crippling disillusionment for 17-year-old Aaron (Brett Donaldson) when he can no longer deny his homosexuality. Unable to cope, and wracked with doubts about the faith and his calling to the priesthood, he turns to his mentor, Father Bart (Robert Keasler), who reveals that he is gay. As it turns out, the loathsome Bishop Michael (playwright Steve Julian) has returned to the parish where ghosts of his past sexual predations lurk, and has picked Father Bart to chair a committee looking into sexual abuse. The resultant events inexorably expose secrets and unravel the lives of those involved. This could have been an engaging drama about a topical subject had Julian gone beyond the superficial. Offered instead is an unwieldy, melodramatic tale about homosexuality in the priesthood, teen sexuality, family bonds and the underbelly of church life and politics, which is neither surprising nor of much interest. Aaron's progressive, shrill meltdown approaches parody after a while, and cast performances are only satisfactory under Aaron Lyons' direction. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.
The Wizard of Oz: Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2011 stage adaptation of the beloved 1939 film hits on two troubling entertainment trends: the increasing, lazy reliance on digital technology to replace theatrical stagecraft, and a much older drift toward sitcom-style quippiness in children's storytelling. Technical challenges that should have inspired ingenious problem solving (How does one create a cyclone onstage?) are hastily dispatched with CGI. More disappointingly, the classic's earnest simplicity has been repackaged for the 21st-century child. The Wicked Witch (Jacquelyn Piro Donovan) suffers most in director Jeremy Sams' translation, her terror reduced to cartoonish villainy and self-aware punch lines. Only Dorothy (Julia McLellan at the performance reviewed) plays it absolutely straight, with a spunky sincerity the show could use more of. (See: the likely unscripted f-bomb in act two.) Webber and partner Tim Rice's adequate score blends new compositions with embellished versions of the originals. But there's no magic, so it all feels a bit empty and grim beneath the grins and glamour. (Jenny Lower). Fri., Oct. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 5, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 6, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.hollywoodpantages.com.

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