Weekend Theater Reviews

{mosimage}PICK GO BACK OF THE THROAT Not since a couple of dark suits named Goldberg and McCann paid an inquisitive visit to a sensitive soul named Stanley has there been a more harrowing game of cat-and-mouse played out onstage. Yussef el Guindi’s drama unfolds in the apartment of a young Arab-American some time “after the attacks.” Khaled (Ammar Mahmood) is at first gently, almost apologetically questioned by two government cops (Doug Newell and Anthony Di Novi), but the lawmen soon ratchet up their game, having been led to Khaled’s by his former girlfriend, Beth (Vonessa Martin). Director Dámaso Rodriguez keeps the show’s menace to the scale of a human nightmare, never allowing the 75-minute play to become a PowerPoint lecture about police abuse against Arabs. Furious Theater Company, Pasadena Playhouse Balcony Theater, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru July 29. (626) 356-PLAY. See longer review in next week’s Stage feature.  (Steven Mikulan)

  KING CAT CALICO FINALLY FLIES FREE!  Edgar Landa’s animated staging of Aaron Henne’s new play is a remarkable exercise is serious goofiness, a comedy about loneliness, abuse and addiction. This surreal romp crawls inside the head of an animal hoarder who’s arrested for criminal neglect of the 150 felines residing in her tiny abode (15 were found in her freezer) and we watch the critters, played by the graceful ensemble, shuffle through the big yellow door, while our heroine, Heidi K. Hendrickson (Laura Carson), struggles to push it shut. The plot consists of both Heidi’s trial, some flashbacks and depictions of her fragile mental state and chronic addiction. (An appearance by a pill-popping Rush Limbaugh [Charls Sedgwick Hall] strains the metaphor a bit.) During the raid on Heidi’s house, King Cat Calico (Mark McClain Wilson) breaks free, so the play also examines what “freedom” really means. We see hints of Heidi’s molestation by her father (Don Boughton), who, in a repeated tableau from the confines of a screened yellow box, guiltily offers Heidi a kitten before driving away to kill himself. Despite the cartoon take on a harrowing theme — the judge (Elizabeth Clemmons) and court-appointed psychiatrist (Michael Kass) contort in sexual paroxysms while trying to do their jobs — Henne’s depiction of Heidi’s obsessive-compulsive disorder is right in line with the empirical research in the field, though it’s unlikely Heidi would have been jailed after a first offense, especially when the charge is animal neglect, not cruelty. However, this production never ceases to engage the imagination, thanks in part to Reagan’s whimsical costumes, while set designers Maureen Weiss and Josh Worth have carved emblematic cubicles and cages around the newspaper-lined stage floor. Son of Semele Ensemble, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Silver Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (added perf Mon., July 10, 8 p.m.); thru July 16. (800) 838-3006. (Steven Leigh Morris)

LEMONS ARE FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY Claire Titelman’s self-directed solo performance is as fun as it is bizarre, and that’s saying something. When it begins, a young woman (Titelman) is sitting at her kitchen table wearing a little girl’s party dress, surrounded by platters of roast chicken and deviled eggs. She appears to be waiting for somebody, although it soon becomes clear that her guest will never arrive. She explains that for years, she has confined herself to her kitchen, meticulously preparing to host a birthday party. There is no set; the show is actually performed in a tiny kitchen. Initially, it’s awkward to be so close to the performer. Soon enough, however, a sense of intimacy develops between this perverse character and her 10-person audience. Over the course of the half-hour journey, she reveals the reason for her cloistered, ritualistic existence. Unfortunately, once exposed, the events of her traumatic past prove less interesting than the peculiar rituals they spawned. Even though the soliloquy deflates towards the end, Titelman’s intriguing, obsessive mannerisms keep the piece afloat. The character’s mother euphemistically describes her as “specific,” yet there is an undeniable universality about this young woman; look past the deviled eggs and chiffon, and this is a play about the comfort of routine and the seductive power of isolation. Private Residence, 420 ½ Rialto Ave., Venice; Thurs.- Fri., 8 p.m.; thru June 30. (323) 620-2692. (Stephanie Lysaght)


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