This week in L.A. theater, Jaime Robledo's Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini was our pick of the week, while ModRock at the El Portal also got a "Go." All new theater reviews are below.
Our stage feature is an interview with Val Kilmer about his new Mark Twain solo show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Citizen Twain.
New theater reviews, published June 27:
THE BABY With its atmosphere of gleeful perversity, playwright-director Dan Spurgeon's adaptation of Abe Polsky's 1970s cult movie is so weird it will almost have your eyes a-bugging and your jaw a-gaping — but that's frankly due to the strangeness of the source material itself. Mousy, spinsterly-seeming social worker Mrs. Gentry (Jana Wimer) arrives to inspect the home of single mom Mama (drag artist Frank Blocker), who is raising Baby (Torrey Halverson), a grown, exceedingly attractive young man in his early 20s, who sleeps in a crib, wails like an infant and pee-pees in his diaper with gleeful abandon. Mama, who has many secrets (not including the fact that she's played by a burly dude with a deep voice) loathes the nosy Mrs. Gentry, but the eagle-eyed social worker eventually reveals a few creepy secrets of her own. No one would call this cheeseball material anything more than trivial, but Spurgeon's often hilarious production boasts crisp comic timing and a delicious campiness. Wimer, resplendent in her hideous, beige, 9 to 5-esque officewear, offers a wonderfully deadpan performance, which is engagingly offset by Blocker's leering, bug-eyed turn as Mama. However, the standout is Halverson's unsettling infant — he's the poster boy for the piece's atmosphere of escalating unwholesomeness. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd.; Wed., June 26, Fri., June 28 and Sat., June 29, 8 p.m. Thevisceralcompany.com. (Paul Birchall)
THE HOUSE OF YES Wendy MacLeod's black comedy about a family's disturbing reaction to favored son Marty (Jonathan Cahill) bringing home a fiancée (Gentry Roth) features erratic characters behaving strangely. How strange? Jackie-O (Anna Baragiola) is obsessed with former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Brother Anthony (Luke McDonough) falls in love with the fiancée at first sight. Their mother (Michelle Simek) is the alpha female "protecting" them while simultaneously feeding their neuroses. And Marty's relationship with his sister is too close for comfort. A dark show with such a bizarre tone requires an ensemble that can toe the line between absurd and unbelievable effortlessly, and this one is only successful in varying degrees. Baragiola, also acting as producer, feels out of sync with the others in a way that at times can be intriguingly disconnected but elsewhere seems unrehearsed. Cahill is best in show — he plays both the boy raised in this family and the man who desperately seeks a way out with equal aplomb. Roth is good as the bewildered newcomer but McDonough looks uncomfortable in his role and Simek never quite gets a handle on the tone. The production is beautifully staged by Summer Olsson but these players are too uneven to carry the play. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through June 30. studio-stage.com. (Kevin O'Keeffe)
HUNGRY WOMAN Adapted from her novel Hungry Woman in Paris, Josefina López's play gives voice to Latina women under siege by their culture. Depressed and dissatisfied, Canela (Rachel González), at 29, is being pressured by her family to marry and have kids. When her lifelong gal-pal kills herself, Canela flees to Paris, searching for self-fulfillment and abandoning her career as a journalist to study cooking at a frou-frou culinary arts school. Stories about women finding their true place in this world are still too few, but genuine feminism is ill-served by this overwritten play, dominated as it is by a self-absorbed central character who kvetches nonstop. Tasked with a nearly continuous monologue, González's one-note grousing grates on the senses. Set and image designer César A. Holguín creates intriguing effects by projecting colorful images and symbols onto a tilting platform rather than the proscenium's rear wall. Corky Dominguez directs. Casa 0101, 2102 E. First St., Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through June 30. casa0101.org. (Deborah Klugman)
THE LAST DAYS OF MARY STUART Director Becca Wolff has created an "electro-opera," as it is designated in the program notes, about the tumultuous reign and ugly demise of the woman known as Mary, Queen of Scots. It's a mostly successful venture, but don't come expecting a lesson about this extraordinarily messy chapter in English history. Wolff has taken a bare minimum of facts and, combined with hefty creative license, crafted an entertaining musical that features some good vocals and an inviting electronica score by Byron Kahr and John Nixon. It all takes place in an intimate night-club setting, complete with tables for your drinks. Marianne Thompson does the honors as Mary Stuart, and Laila Ayad is Elizabeth I, with both actresses bringing searing passion to Wolff's lyrics. The electronica band of Kahr, Nixon and Ryan Adlaf do their part with the musical arrangements, while Elizabeth Harper furnishes an eerie but effective lighting schema. Forget the history; come for the songs and music. Tilted Field at Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 and 10:30 p.m.; through July 20 (no perf July 4). sonofsemele.org. (Lovell Estell III)
GO: MODROCK This jaunty jukebox musical, with book by Hagan Thomas-Jones, direction by Brian Lohmann, arrangements by David O, musical direction by John Ballinger and choreography by Michele Spears, is set in England in 1965, when London was said to swing like a pendulum. Younger Brits are divided into rival factions: The Mods are obsessed with fashion and dressing up, while the Rockers dress down in Levis, T-shirts and leather jackets. The Mods regard Rockers as roughneck hooligans, and the Rockers consider Mods fops and sissies. In a nod to Romeo and Juliet, Mod Kate (Melinda Porto) falls for Rocker Adam (Steven Good), despite the unspoken rule that the two groups can't fraternize. A fierce rivalry develops between Adam and Simon (Scott Kruse), Kate's clotheshorse brother. When the two groups converge on the same popular night-spot, an improbable but lively rumble ensues, staged by Joe Sofranko. The rudimentary plot may be predictable but there's ample compensation by an engaging, top-notch cast, including Michael Hawley and Harley Jay as goofball Rockers. The 20 hit songs include "Downtown," "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "For Your Love" and "There's a Kind of Hush." El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. modrockmusical.com. (Neal Weaver)
REPUBLIC COUNTY Zombie Joe's Underground is not exactly the first company that leaps to mind as a likely interpreter of Plato. But any doubts that playwright Joe Musso's blithely antic burlesque of The Republic is in the right theater are quickly swept aside the first time Lizzie Borden (a blood-spattered Carrie Daniel) rushes onstage swinging her fabled ax. Musso's political allegory references Monty Python or Benny Hill as much as it does the father of Western philosophy (or Wes Craven). Dorrie Braun is the unstable evangelical in charge of this not-so-ideal state's biggest employer, the county employment office, and runs the government-cheese-for-work program for a list of degenerate clients/poets (played by David Wyn Harris, Cimcie Nichols, Edgar Allan Poe IV and Justin Vanden Heuvel) that reads like the index of the Norton Anthology. Director Roger K. Weiss' somewhat wobbly staging nails a respectable percentage of Musso's outlandish laugh lines, a score that promises to improve as the show finds its comic footing. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through July 6. zombiejoes.com. (Bill Raden)
PICK OF THE WEEK: WATSON AND THE DARK ART OF HARRY HOUDINI
Sequels are tough. Expectations are generally high and you can never attain the novelty factor of the first outing. Writer-director Jaime Robledo's Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini, the second installment in his Watson series, is less dazzling (far fewer action set-pieces) and more talky than the first but maintains his inventive staging and bizarre humor, sending his beloved characters on an ultimately darker, more spiritual journey. Estranged for the past 10 years, sleuthing duo Dr. Watson (Scott Leggett) and Sherlock Holmes (Joe Fria) reunite to solve a string of grisly murders marked by signs of the occult. Their hunt takes them to New York City, where they encounter a legendary escape artist, the mysterious Harry Houdini (a charismatic Donal Thoms-Cappello), who seems to know more than he's letting on. Meanwhile, Watson is spooked by visions of his departed wife, Mary (CJ Merriman). With its fractured timeline, Robledo's plotting is more ambitious and demanding than the first installment, 2010's Watson: The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes, yet offers deeper rewards. He neatly incorporates cinematic conventions, such as showing a murder re-enact itself in slow-motion rewind. Nods to Hitchcock (a runaway carousel, cleverly staged) and Bruce Lee (the hall-of-mirrors sequence) delight, as do numerous pop-culture references. Carrie Keranen is a welcome addition as Violet Hunter (a minor character from Doyle's novels and Watson's love interest) and her gowns (period costuming is by Linda Muggeridge) are especially gorgeous. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, E. Hlywd. Fri., Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; through July 27. sacredfools.org. (Pauline Adamek)
Shows that are ongoing or not yet reviewed:
21st Annual Young Playwrights Festival: Visit youngplaywrights.com for a full schedule and list of performances. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
Alcestis: A new adaptation of Euripides' play, about a woman who volunteers to die in order to spare her husband's life. Written and directed by Nancy Keystone and created in collaboration with Critical Mass. Starting June 29, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.
The Amazing Bubble Man: Louis Pearl has been thrilling audiences around the world for over 30 years with the art, science, and fun of bubbles, as well as comedy and plenty of audience participation. Expect square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, fog-filled bubbles, giant bubbles, bubble volcanoes, and people inside bubbles. Sat., June 29, 11 a.m., 1 & 3 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 11 a.m., 1 & 3 p.m. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy: A new comedy that finds Leon and Natalya Trotsky in Mexico during their final days as guests of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, when a group of actors revolts and turns their world upside down. Written by Peter Lefcourt and directed by Terri Hanauer. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Attack of the Rotting Corpses: Zombie Joe's disgusting new thriller-comedy about a condo complex in the San Fernando Valley, where the water supply becomes contaminated with a dangerous microbe, transforming the residents (and their pets) into ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through July 12. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
The Baby: Social worker Ann Gentry finds herself with a very unusual case: the Wadsworth family, whose youngest member, Baby, is an adult man who sleeps in a crib and acts like an infant. Based on the 1973 cult movie of the same title, adapted for the stage and directed by Dan Spurgeon. Fri., June 28, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 8 p.m. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Bob: Ever since the proto-fascist philosopher Thomas Carlyle first articulated the Great Man theory, thinkers and historians have been trying to drive a stake through its vampiric heart. Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb takes his stab in this breezily surreal and all-too-brittle satire from 2011. The play weaves a Fielding-esque web of outrageous coincidence and absurd misadventure as its eponymous protagonist travels roadside America to seek his fortune-cookie destiny of becoming a "great man." As Bob, star Jeff Galfer gives a creditable turn as Nachtreib's caricatured hero as he ages from Forrest Gump dimwit to Gordon Gekko-like misanthrope. And the show's alternate-cast ensemble — including standouts Jacqueline Wright, Tara Karsian, Jud Williford and Michael McColl — lend inspired support playing the cartoonish dreamers, losers and outright lunatics who cross his path. Despite a smart and technically accomplished staging by director Chris Fields, however, the cleverness of Nachtrieb's intellectual reach winds up disappointingly shy of the play's comic grasp. (Bill Raden) Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 30. echotheatercompany.com.
Bob Baker's It's a Musical World!: The Bob Baker Marionette Theater continues its 53rd season with a day at the circus, a stop at an enchanted toy shop, and a visit to a teddy bear's picnic. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Bobbywood: The Longest Death Scene: Written by and starring voiceover performer Bill Ratner, a Best of Fringe 2012 Honoree and 8-time Moth Story Slam Winner. Ratner delves into the mystery of what happened to his uncle, actor Bobby Jellison, who played I Love Lucy's "Bobby the Bellboy" for thirteen episodes. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through June 29. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5774, www.complexhollywood.com.
The Boomerang Effect: A comedy, written by Matthew Leavitt, consisting of five interrelated short plays that peek into the sex lives of five different couples in various bedroom scenarios. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-9111.
Brecht on Brecht: A multimedia revue focusing on the work of the youthful Brecht, featuring poems, songs, and excerpts from some of Brecht's greatest plays, including Fears and Mysteries of the Third Reich, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, and The Threepenny Opera. Conceived by George Tabori from various translations, arranged and directed by Alistair Hunter. Musical director Gayle Bluemel. Presented by The Other Theatre Company. Fri., June 28, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 2 p.m. Atwater Playhouse, 3191 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-556-1636, www.atwaterplayhouse.com.
Bronzeville: The theater element of this multimedia, interdisciplinary project about the time when African American families took over L.A.'s Little Tokyo and renamed the neighborhood "Bronzville," while Japanese Americans were interred in camps during WWII. The play, written by Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolfolk, tells the true story of a black family who moved into a home left vacant by a Japanese family after they were forced to go to a camp, and the black family discovered a member of the Japanese family hiding in the attic. Starting June 29, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 14. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.
The Circus Is Coming to Town: Interactive kids play, presented by Storybook Theatre. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 6. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Citizen Twain: Val Kilmer is Mark Twain in this solo show about the American author and his legacy. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Thu., July 4, 8 p.m. Continues through July 14. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged): ALL the comedies, ALL the tragedies, ALL the histories, and even a nod to the sonnets, all compressed neatly into a 97-minute package, performed by three actors. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, 310-656-8070, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.
Connie Loves Juice: John Cantwell's romance-horror-soap opera-comedy incorporates dance, film homages, pop culture references, and photography. Fri., June 28, 9 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 9 p.m. Cavern Club Theater, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-969-2530, www.cavernclubtheater.com.
Cooperstown: Brian Golden's drama is a well-intentioned homage to the monumental career of Jackie Robinson, with the action set in a diner (a stunner by Desma Murphy) in Cooperstown on the eve of Robinson's Hall of Fame induction. Junior (Cecil Burroughs), a black man, hopes to wheedle a promotion to manager of the diner from its white owner, whose cynical political ambitions would be aided by hosting the induction dinner. Trouble looms, however, because of a planned civil-rights protest by Junior's ultra-militant sister (Jamye Grant) and her cohorts. On site for the ceremony is an endearing baseball groupie (TJ McNeill), whose amorous puppy-dog attachment to waitress Dylan (Alexa Shoemaker) makes for a humorous diversion but is as insubstantial as Junior's puzzling relationship with the owner's neglected wife (Ann Hu). There is much to enjoy here, especially if you're a baseball fan. Director Darryl Johnson's cast perform consistently well, but Golden's winding, here-and-there script makes disappointingly ineffective use of the rich potential of the subject matter. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 20. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO Cops and Friends of Cops: The title Cops and Friends of Cops references the raucous "cops only" night held monthly at the tumbledown St. Louis bar in Ron Klier's suspenseful drama. While Dom (Paul Vincent O'Connor) prepares the bar for the night's guests, he is joined by the shabby-looking Paul (Johnny Clark), who insists on staying, in spite of Dom's repeated warnings that "the place is slammed with cops" and his prediction that things will "turn rowdy." After Emmett (Andrew Hawkes), plus Roosevelt (Rolando Boyce) and his soon-to-be-retired partner Sal (Gareth Williams), clamor in, the mood turns deeply malevolent — fast. Emmett's inexplicable browbeating of Paul turns increasingly ugly and confrontational, while Sal's seemingly endless assortment of "all in good fun" racist jokes slowly begin to anger his young African-American partner. This initial ratcheting-up of tension, however, is nothing compared with what happens after a gun is suddenly produced and the reason for Paul's visit is revealed. What follows is anything but predictable. Klier's rough-hewn characters are completely convincing, and the script, in addition to forcefully probing issues of morality, bigotry, loss and redemption, takes hold and allows little in the way of relief, as does Klier's highly charged, violent staging. The ensemble work here is first-rate, while Danny Cistone nails his meticulously crafted bar mock-up, complete with pay phone and old-timey jukebox. (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29, $25. VS. Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.vstheatre.org.
GO The Crucible: Arthur Miller's play, first produced on Broadway in 1953, was Miller's impassioned response to McCarthyism and the witch-hunts launched by the House Un-American Activities Committee. But the fact that it has become an oft-produced American classic and the basis for two films (including a French version with screenplay by Jean-Paul Sartre) reminds us that it's not just a political screed. Miller presents the Salem witch trials, and the ensuing executions, as a lethal combination of greed, personal resentment, religious fanaticism and hysteria, ordinary human fears and the need to find someone to blame for all misfortunes. It was a climate in which honesty and integrity were dangerous, and lies and manipulation could thrive. Co-directors Armin Shimerman and Geoffrey Wade have given the piece a highly presentational production, in which the actors deliver their lines directly to the audience rather than to each other. This approach drives the ideas home with force and clarity but some loss of psychological subtlety. The large ensemble (all roles are double-cast) delivers a production that is powerful and always engrossing. There are especially fine portrayals, in the performance reviewed, by James Sutorious as Deputy Governor Danforth, Bo Foxworth as John Proctor and Ann Noble as Reverend Hale. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 6. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
Dead Man's Cell Phone: A lonely woman is forced to confront her assumptions about morality, redemption and the need to connect in a technologically obsessed world as she steps into the life of a dead man by taking his cell phone calls. Written by Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Richard Israel. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610.
GO Dying City: When Peter (Burt Grinstead) unexpectedly shows up at Kelly's (Laurie Okin) Lower Manhattan apartment, the mood is prickly and awkward. That's understandable; Peter is the identical twin of her husband, Craig, a hard-as-nails soldier who recently died in a military accident in Iraq. But during their conversation, many questions tug at this pair, threatening to bring them down into an emotional undertow. Did Craig really die in an accident? Why is Kelly's phone number unlisted and why is she obscuring evidence she may be moving out? Christopher Shinn's writing is sophisticated and elusive, presenting only tantalizing fragments and expecting you to make the connections and piece the backstory together. The language is raw and real — people really do talk this way — and Shinn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for this play, perfectly captures the discomfort of a relationship that exists only through a marital connection yet becomes cathected and extremely complicated. Director Michael Peretzian stages the one-act play well, using lighting and sound cues sparingly but above all extracting superb and deeply expressive performances from his cast of two. Both actors are called upon to negotiate some difficult emotional terrain, and Grinstead, in particular, demonstrates his range. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 5, $30. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven: A Zombie Joe take on E.A.P.'s narrative poem of love-lorn madness, accompanied by an original live score by Christopher Reiner. Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through July 26. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
GO Falling for Make Believe: The Colony Theatre's latest effort isn't quite there yet: Mark Saltzman's world-premiere musical about the wordsmith half of songwriting duo Rodgers and Hart requires polishing (and a hit would help get the faltering theater back on its feet). But for music lovers and nostalgic theater buffs, this revue directed by Jim Fall offers tender moments, two dozen of the pair's greatest hits and a sobering glimpse at the backstage paradox of Lorenz Hart — snappy wit and lyric genius but a sodden, tormented closet case. Saltzman hangs the narrative on Fletcher (Tyler Milliron), a Pennsylvania Dutch farm boy who longs to hit it big, or at least find himself a talented boyfriend. After a series of go-nowhere run-ins with Hart (Ben Goldberg), the two finally connect and the play picks up tension and momentum. Their affecting dynamic creates the evening's most potent moments, but both seem slightly miscast: Saltzman's script calls for a hunkier farm boy and a homelier lyricist. Those discrepancies should be addressed, as should an oddly layered set design that leaves intimate scenes swimming in a cavernous space. Rebecca Ann Johnson adds pizzazz as Hart's Broadway muse, along with some dreamy renditions of "Bewitched" and "Blue Moon." (Jenny Lower). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 30, $29-$49. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
The Fantasticks: The enduringly popular 1960 American musical, about a boy and a girl who are destined to be together, despite their chosen paths in life which almost steer them apart. Book and lyrics by Tom Jones. Music by Harvey Schmidt. Directed by James Fowler and Barbara Schofield. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through July 13. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Fathers at a Game: In Trey Nichols' explosive play, fantasy and reality collide with deadly force. Moe and Edie are buddies watching their sons play football, but something strange is lurking underneath this harrowing and comedic portrait of the American Dream. Part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Fri., June 28, 9:45 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 9:45 p.m. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Fourth Wall: Peggy, a woman of generally good taste, has left one wall undecorated in her living room, to the consternation of her husband, Roger. A comedy with songs by Cole Porter. Written by A.R. Gurney, directed by Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 20. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.
Golden Tongues: Cervantes Interludes and Cause Celebre: The first and second of three readings in the tradition of Hispanic Theater, presented by Playwrights' Arena. Written by Oliver Mayer, Cervantes Interludes is a theater piece that connects two of Cervantes' plays to the contemporary TV and film industry in the style of Quentin Tarantino and Judge Judy. Velina Hasu Houston's Cause Célébre is a contemporary play inspired by Ana Caro's Valor, Agravio y Mujer. A megastar gives herself to an ardent suitor, but he deserts her. Disguised as a man, she pursues revenge only to find that love entangles her in a unique notoriety from which no one is immune. Sat., June 29, 4 p.m. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 2520 Cimarron St., Los Angeles, 323-731-8529, www.clarklibrary.ucla.edu.
Golden Tongues: Painting in Red: The third of three readings in the tradition of Hispanic Theater, presented by Playwrights' Arena. Directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, this twist on Calderon's The Painter Of His Own Dishonor, concerns a painter who struggles with his own personal desires, including a hasty marriage, only to discover that his wife's former lover has returned and reignited passions in both artist and muse. Sun., June 30, 5 p.m. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 2520 Cimarron St., Los Angeles, 323-731-8529, www.clarklibrary.ucla.edu.
Groundlings Prom After-Party: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Damon Jones. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through July 6. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
Heart Song: A middle-aged Jewish woman struggling with a crisis of faith is convinced to join a flamenco class for "out of shape" women which forever changes her life. Written by Stephen Sachs. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-30/stage/fried-octopus-bootleg/full/. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 14. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013: Over 1,000 performances of 200 plus performing arts productions will be presented at 20 venues throughout central Hollywood. Visit hollywoodfringe.org for a complete list of showtimes and locations. Mondays-Sundays. Continues through June 30, prices vary by show, www.hollywoodfringe.org/. Fringe Central Station, 6314 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-455-4585, www.hollywoodfringe.org.
How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment. One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable, Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional, species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity. (Bill Raden). Sat., June 29, 5:30 p.m., combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Human Puppet: An experiment in interactive theater that puts spectators in control of the performers. Via radio remote, audience members can guide the words and motions of a single actor, and determine how he/she interacts with the environment and other performers. Presented by the Brimmer Street Theatre Company. Fri., June 28, 10:30 p.m. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
I Am Google: What if Google was not a high tech search engine, but a regular guy in an apartment full of maps, calendars and reference books whose job was doing research 24 / 7 without time to crash? What if Twitter was his ex-girlfriend and currently dating Facebook. What if Wikipedia was just his know-it-all buddy giving him bad information while Bing seeks to destroy him at every turn? Come visit Google and get all your questions answered, LIVE and in person! Free cookies for all visitors! Written and performed by actor and computer expert Craig Ricci Shaynak. Fri., June 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 5:30 p.m. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 N. Lilian Way, Los Angeles, 323-993-7204.
I Could've Been Dancing...An Evening of Song and Laughter: Ben Fuller and Sara Collins serenade audiences with a selection of songs and duets, filled with sharp banter and tongue-in-cheek interpretations. Presented by the Brimmer Street Theatre Company. Fri., June 28, 9:15 p.m. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
The Interview: A dark comedy that examines enhanced interrogation techniques and the endless cycle of man's inhumanity to man. An American citizen is being detained and interviewed, but he doesn't know where he is or why he is there. His Interviewers seem to think he knows something and they will stop at nothing to get the information they need, but oddly enough they never seem to ask him anything. Written and directed by Michael Franco. Fri., June 28, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 3:30 p.m. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
Ionescopade, A Musical Vaudeville: Taken from the works of "Theatre of the Absurd" playwright Eugène Ionesco, this is a zany musical vaudeville featuring mime, farce and parody. Music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden, original concept by Robert Allan Ackerman, directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 25, 8 p.m.; Wed., July 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom: Judy Gold's critically acclaimed off-Broadway show about her life story, told through references to the sitcoms she grew up watching as a child in New Jersey. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 28. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Life, Audited: A comedic and poignant journey of one man's battle to defend himself against the IRS, told through receipts, anxiety, and diet coke. Written and performed by Steve Mize. Part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Fri., June 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 1 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Little Pussy: John Grady's one man performance of his true tales of being picked on, chased down, and beat up, from childhood to adulthood. Chosen as "Best of the FrigidNY Festival." Sat., June 29, 1:25 p.m. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
The Katrina Comedy Fest: In 2006, the mayor of New Orleans proposed celebrating Hurricane Katrina's first anniversary with a fireworks display and comedy hour, which was canceled due to public outrage. Through the words of five New Orleans residents, experience the heartbreak, humanity, and "comedy" of those who rode out the storm. Written by Rob Florence, directed by Misty Carlisle. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 30. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Love Letters: A benefit performance for the Malibu Playhouse starring the ever-ageless Sam Elliot and his wife Katharine Ross Elliot, in A.R. Gurney's story about lovers with a long history. Sat., June 29, 7:30 p.m. Edye Second Space, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, 310-434-3414, www.smc.edu.
Love Songs, A Musical: Six friends and colleagues live through the vagaries of love and marriage. Book, music, and lyrics by Steven Cagan, directed by Kay Cole. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28, www.crtheatre.com/lovesongs.html. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.
GO Mahmoud: Like it or not, in a country of melting-pot mongrels, the dislocating immigrant experience is part of our cultural DNA. So it is no surprise that performer Tara Grammy's partly autobiographical solo show (co-written with Tom Arthur Davis) about Toronto's Iranian expatriate community should resonate with such poignant and universal familiarity. Grammy interweaves multiple characters: Mahmoud, a middle-aged cab driver and refugee from the Khomeini revolution; a flamboyant Spanish gay man and his Iranian boyfriend, who has returned to Tehran on family business; and Grammy herself, both as an adolescent born in Tehran but raised in Canada, and as an adult struggling to launch a career in Toronto's film and TV industry. The freshest and funniest material — aided by Davis' smart and brisk staging — belongs to the 11-year-old Tara and her fixation on somehow mitigating the physical differences between her own dark complexion and that of her class's most popular blond, blue-eyed girl. What ultimately thwarts all the characters, however, is an Iran of the imagination whose relation to the truth becomes increasingly problematic as headlines from that country's 2009 elections hint at a more complicated and disturbing reality. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom is the tops in New American Theatre's take on the classic tale of love and mischief, here set in 1930s Greece. Director and company founder Jack Stehlin brings energy and cheeky wit to the character of Nick Bottom by fully exploring the hills and valleys of Shakespeare's linguistic landscape. As director, however, Stehlin doesn't get the remainder of the cast to a similar level of performative precision and understanding. The actors, while competent, never quite find the rhythms and finer contours of the language that are crucial to making Shakespeare feel contemporary while retaining his lilting lyricism. The transposition to '30s Greece also lacks dramatic justification, making Barbara Little's costuming as quizzical as it is colorful. Roger Bellon's original music and John Farmanesh-Bocca's choreography add flair to the fairies' moments onstage, but not enough to deliver whatever message about class or Orientalism is intended by reimagining them as gypsies. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A summer standard, this is the Theatricum's signature production of Shakespeare's wondrous enchanted forest tale of love, fairies, and the power of nature. Sat., June 29, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 13, 4 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 14, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Tim Robbins directs this workshop production of Shakespeare's summer tale about mystical romance and foolish humans. Starting June 29, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream: With its partner-swapping plot twists, high-strung lovers and mind-altering magic flowers, Shakespeare's most popular comedy was meant for the excesses of the disco age. The Troubadour Theater Company's sequined reboot of one of its classic mash-ups embraces the polyester suits and gold chains in this unfailingly energetic romp directed by Matt Walker. Choreographed within an inch of its life, the show weaves in glam-era hits punctuated by sassy grooving from the triple-threat cast. (Katherine Malak's Hermia and Suzanne Jolie Narbonne's Hippolyta offer some of the night's sleekest moves.) A trampoline even provides a launch pad for some exquisitely timed acrobatics. There's an actual script in there, too, the original text peppered with whip-smart jokes and bawdy sight gags. The hijinks leave room for some wicked improvising, with Walker, who doubles as puckish Robin Goodfellow, the chief offender. The quartet of lovers may get the most stage time, but Rick Batalla's Nick Bottom and his motley crew of thespians steal the show. The production's controlled mania would work best as one intermissionless push; the abbreviated second half felt labored, and some '90s-vintage jokes could use refreshing. It should take only a few hours or so — this cast could, and do, make jokes in their sleep. (Jenny Lower) Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; through July 7. (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com.
GO One Night in Miami: Although rooted in a historic event, Kemp Powers' period piece about a meeting between Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, Malcolm X and Cassius Clay is less about these gentlemen per se than it is about the struggle of African-American men in general to deal with the ubiquitous racism that continually challenges their manhood. The play takes place in a motel room following Clay's victory over Sonny Liston in 1964. At 22, fresh off his triumph, the young boxer (Matt Jones) is both less scarred and less knowing than the others. He's also a recent convert to Islam, which raises the eyebrows of Cooke (Ty Jones) and Brown (Kevin Daniels) — both alcohol-imbibing, womanizing, pork chop-loving hedonists. Well directed by Carl Cofield, the play heats up around the philosophical divide between Malcolm (Jason Delane) an ideologue and devout Muslim who scorns the White Establishment, and Cooke, a musician and player in the music business who's successfully worked the system for his own gain. (Sadly and ironically, both these men would be dead within a year.) Powers' perspicacious script gives the performers plenty to work with, and they make the most of it, bouncing off each other with savvy, skill and humor. Delane is excellent as an understated Malcolm, struggling to master not only his passions but his well-founded fear that his life is in danger. A charismatic Jones augments an intense portrayal with his gifted singing voice. Giovanni Adams and Jason E. Kelley add menace and levity as Malcolm's bodyguards. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Ophiliamachine: "I expel all the semen which I have received. I transform the milk of my breasts into deadly poison." Lifted from Heiner Müller's eternally confounding Hamletmachine, the words are a fitting part of the opening tableau of Polish playwright Magda Romanska's similarly themed postmodernist drama, now in its world premiere at City Garage. Seated behind an old typewriter on a stage that's segmented into halves, Ophelia is realized as something of a triadic entity — brain/narrator, terrorist and madwoman (Kat Johnston, Megan Kim, Saffron Mazzia), while Hamlet (Joss Glennie Smith), situated in the other half of the stage, mostly watches television. Romanska uses this framework for a vigorous deconstruction of the feminine psyche, image and gender roles, and her script — heavy laden with dense imagery and symbolism — explores love, sex, violence, politics, class sensibilities, feminist aesthetics, the vacuities of mass culture and the timeless mystery of death. This is theater that's not easily accessible and is devilishly bleak at times, but it's not without shards of humor, and is relentlessly provocative and challenging under imaginative direction by Frédérique Michel. The production is nicely embellished with a collage of visuals projected on a huge screen and two monitors. Cynthia Mance, RJ Jones and Leah Harf round out the cast. (Lovell Estell III) City Garage, building T1.Bergamont Station, 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 pm.; Sun., 4. p.m.; through July 28. (310) 453-9939, citygarage.org.
Perennial: Tammy Minoff's tepid relationship drama centers on small people who can't understand why relationships aren't easier than they are, though its smattering of laughs compensates somewhat for taking the long way around to where we always knew we were going. Immediately after moving to New York, Rosemary, a painter (read: free spirit), meets Tom, the architect who will be instantly smitten with her. By the end of the week, they've moved in together, and their relationship plays out in contrast to that of Donald and Mae, friends of Tom's a few years married who have hit a rough patch, thereby offering up the obligatory alarming future. The well-executed multimedia design by Paige Selene Luke (lighting), Adeline Newmann and Joe LaRue (video) and Borja Sau (sound) plays nicely off of J.J. Wickham's simple, fluid set, but staging that necessitates the actors' incessant fidgeting with its various elements can become a distraction, dissipating some of the couples' chemistry. (Mindy Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-558-5702, www.sidewalkstudiotheatre.com.
Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers: A radical retelling of the J.M. Barrie classic, written by Michael Lluberes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
Philosophy in the Boudoir: Brazilian theater company Os Satyros performs this explicit stage adaptation of the Marquis de Sade's 1795 book. This show contains frontal nudity, sex, and extreme violence. Audience discretion is advised. Fri., June 28, 11:59 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 10:30 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Private Eyes: A play about deception and broken trust, written by Steven Dietz. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
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 Aug. 31. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Rent: Because of its repetitive musicality, rock opera Rent lives or dies on the vocal strength of its cast. This production has mostly excellent, robust and irrepressible singing that is only occasionally obliterated by the mediocre live band. The plot of Jonathan Larson's legendary Broadway smash in some ways clings to its source material (Henri Murger's novel and Puccini's opera), gaining gravitas with its contemporary updating to Manhattan in the mid-'90s. Tuberculosis becomes AIDS, the oppressed mobilize and artists sell out. This production's highlights include the hilarious "Tango: Maureen" (sung by Reagan Osborne and Kate Bowman) and "Light My Candle" (Juan Lozano and the sultry Lauren Joy Goss as a sexed-up Mimi). Jonathon Grant steals the show with his dynamite performance as cheeky drag queen Angel, especially in his athletic first solo, "Today 4 You." Director Kristen Boulé never finds the balance between the show's rock & roll power and its quiet, reflective ballads, and commencing Act Two in full house lights undermines the dreamy, multipart harmonies of "Seasons of Love." (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
revolver: Chris Phillips' cannily written play examines the need to stand up against oppression and avenge violence with violence versus the necessity for love and forgiveness. The six scenes are alternately comic, brutal and surreal. The piece initially seems fragmented, but the interrelatedness of the scenes, and their thematic unity, gradually emerge. Among the more striking scenes are a flamboyant tango danced by Jesus Christ (Terrance Spencer) and Judas (Daniel Montgomery), wittily choreographed by Janet Roston, and a posthumous encounter between Matthew Shepard (Daniel Montgomery) and his assailant Aaron (AJ Jones). Ryan Bergmann has assembled a terrific team of actors, and directs them with skill and nuance. Robert Paterno scores as Jim, who's bent on wreaking terrible revenge on the man (John Colella) who raped and abandoned his lover. And there's a gem of a performance from Matthew Scott Montgomery, who brings fatalistic charm, fearful vulnerability, and impeccable comic timing to his two roles: He's Nelly, an effeminate actor who's limited to playing gay bit parts, while his ex-lover Butch (Jones), whom he both loves and resents, achieves far greater success by "acting straight." And he's also a young gay reporter interviewing his hero, a crusading gay journalist (Colella). (Neal Weaver) Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 21. (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.
Rodeo Town: A yuppie dentist gets pulled into the lore of a dusty, unmarked place called Rodeo Town when his Range Rover breaks down in the middle of a road trip. Written by Graham Bowlin. Directed by Cameron Strittmatter. Fridays, Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 29. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
The Royal Family: George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's comedy about a family of actors, a parody of the Barrymores, will be performed by Topanga's own theatrical clan, the Geers. Sat., June 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 6, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 20, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 31, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 7, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 4 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
The Ruby Besler Cabaret: A funny, sexy show starring principal writer and producer Anastasia Barnes. Her character, Ruby, goes to secretarial school in Manhattan while pursuing the dream of being a Broadway star. Along the way, she beds and loses a great love before moving on to the next chapter of an adventurous life. Sat., June 29, 10 p.m. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO The Scottsboro Boys: From its haunting, memory-play opening to the uplifting poignancy of its final, surprise reveal, John Kander and Fred Ebb's 2010 risk-taking musical retelling of one of the galvanizing episodes of the early civil-rights movement makes for a stirring summation of the songwriting team's 45-year Broadway career. The Scottsboro Boys' biggest gamble is its greatest coup: namely, its conceit of staging one of the most outrageous injustices of the Jim Crow South as a minstrel show. But how better to implicate a 21st-century audience in the degradation of Jim Crow than through one of its most pervasive and contemptible cultural artifacts? David Thompson's incisive book nicely blends broad burlesque with the harrowing tale of nine black teenagers arrested off a rural Alabama freight train in 1931 and framed with the state's then-capital crime of black-on-white rape. Of the nine, the book focuses on the illiterate Haywood Patterson (the magnificent Joshua Henry), fashioning a portrait of resilience, dignity and resistance under adversity. Director-choreographer Susan Stroman mines Kander's canny survey of early jazz (ranging from faux-Stephen Foster blackface tunes and New Orleans rags to 1930s swing) and pulls out some thrilling production numbers, most notably Deandre Sevon's show-stopping, Max Fleischer-homage tap dance to "Electric Chair." (Bill Raden). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 p.m. Continues through June 30. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Sewer Rats at Sea: A genre-bending production exploring what happens when a stowaway sneaks aboard a yacht and falls for a stunning woman whose wit matches his own. The drama plays out at sea as characters, trapped, find their secrets slipping out. Written by 20-year-old playwright ZK Lowenfels. Sat., June 29, 8:30 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
GO Smoke and Mirrors: If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted. The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd, and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians, Selznick has highly capable assistants — Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel — who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
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.
Steel Magnolias: An eclectic group of ladies share their joys and sorrows in this beloved comedic drama by Robert Harling. Fri., June 28, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 29, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 2 p.m.; Wed., July 10, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 11, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 13, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
Sweet Karma: Henry Ong's drama, based on true events about a Khmer Rouge survivor and Oscar winner who was tragically gunned down in the streets of Los Angeles. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 20. Grove Theater Center, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.
The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare's rowdy romp about the lovely Bianca and her sister "Katherine the Cursed," who must be married off before Bianca is allowed to entertain suitors. Sun., June 30, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 6, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., July 14, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 16, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 4 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
Through a Glass Darkly: In playwright Jenny Worton's adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's 1964 brooding film, the often transcendent sadness of the cinematic original makes only a tepidly involving transition to the stage. Sparks fly and despair settles in like the crust atop chocolate pudding for members of a Swedish family during its vacation. The escalating mental illness of daughter Karin (Meg Wallace) is prompting her to say things like, "Vacations mean you have all the time to look into the abyss!" As Karin disappears more into a world of delusion, dad David (Anthony Auer) seems more interested in finishing his novel — with tragic results. Director Steve Jarrard's staging captures the underlying melancholy of the film, but the adaptation lacks the subtlety of Bergman's original — this production is claustrophobic and ponderous. Wallace offers a genuinely moving turn as the emotionally decomposing daughter, but Auer's bristly, self pitying David misses the gravitas needed to locate his character's sympathetic elements. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 7. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-720-2009, www.ravenplayhouse.com.
To Begin the World Over Again: The Life of Thomas Paine: Ian Ruskin's play about the story of Thomas Paine, America's eloquent and egalitarian "apostle of freedom" who inspired revolutions on two continents. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 30, 7 p.m. Continues through June 30. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, 310-306-1854, www.electriclodge.org.
True Hustle: In this solo show, Marie Lively shares the true story of how a naive Christian temp became a corporate smut queen for one of the most famous (and infamous) pornographers in town. Presented by the Brimmer Street Theatre Company. Fri., June 28, 7:45 p.m. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
A View from the Bridge: A revival of Arthur Miller's 1955 story of Eddie Carbone, a Brooklyn longshoreman who has never been in touch with his true feelings. Directed by Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson. Starting June 29, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
GO We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915: Don't let the disconcerting title put you off: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury's compelling drama is a stunning work of ferociously creative stagecraft. In director Jillian Armenante's deceptively improvised-seeming production, a group of actors, under the leadership of a young, angry actor (Julanne Chidi Hill, fierce), attempt to stage a play about a 19th-century African atrocity during which the German army slaughtered entire populations of African tribes. It sounds dire, I know, but the tale is told impressionistically, sometimes as a rehearsal exercise, sometimes as a dreamlike set of dances, fights and interactions. A ladder becomes a railroad trestle, a Sparkletts water bottle becomes a tribal drum, and Spolin-esque theater games are mocked but then utilized to make searingly powerful emotional points about race and morality. Through exercises meant to channel an atrocity, the cast simultaneously juggle a number of issues, from the near-comic self-absorption of actors, to the ultimate inability to depict true evil, to a final, unbearably disturbing coda that suggests the past is not nearly as distant as one would wish. Armenante's assured intellectualization and the perfect comic and dramatic timing of the cast together craft a rare work of charged political agitprop that awakens us to the pure imaginative potential of the theater. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
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White Hot: A dark, psychological thriller by playwright Tommy Smith, about a love triangle between a troubled woman, her sexy sister, and her opportunistic husband. Fri., June 28, 7 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Years to the Day: A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee after only staying in touch via social media. See stage feature. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 29, $25-$35. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com.
Yes, Prime Minister: An award-winning British comedy of political power and intrigue, set against the backdrop of the collapsing Euro, austerity measures, and the 24-hour news cycle. Written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, directed by Jonathan Lynn. See stage feature. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 14. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.