GO COMPLEXITY Just how many lies does it take to destroy a marriage? As many as necessary if you’re Cathy (Jennifer De Castroverde), an obsessive secretary with a disturbed longing for her boss. And it sure doesn’t hurt if the spouses in question are ripe for retribution over their mutual indiscretions. Playwright John Bunzel’s clever and chilling dark comedy is a cautionary tale of the destructive powers of lies and how you just shouldn’t tell one when trying to save your sorry ass, or salve your psychic ache. Despite Cathy’s pixieish demeanor, she is a psychopath with abandonment issues whose intermittent monologues rationalizing her twisted logic are both hilarious and disturbing. She manipulates self-absorbed Manhattan investment banker Tom (director Jack Stehlin) and his alienated wife, Jill (Shannon Holt), like a puppeteer, filling each with suspicion and exploiting a tragedy that has driven both apart. While Stehlin goes overboard at times in portraying Tom’s brutish rage, his holds a firm directorial handle on Bunzel’s crisp and sardonic exchanges with Jill, her dad (Neal Vipond) and her putative and neurotic lover, David (Nicholas Read). And Cindy Mariangeli is refreshingly frank as Tom’s caustic and mercenary mistress, the only honest character in the basket. CIRCUS THEATRICALS STUDIO THEATER AT THE HAYWORTH, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; performs in rep, call for schedule. (323) 960-1054. (Martín Hernández)
PYRENEES Perhaps the biggest relief about playwright David Grieg’s story of an amnesiac holed up in a French mountain resort is that the mysterious man turns out to be no figure of intrigue or international terrorism, but just a bloke from Scotland who took a fall in the snow. On the lam from a mediocre life and from a wife who probably cares more than she should about their hollow marriage, the middle-aged man (Tom Irwin) is interviewed by a young, epileptic member of the British consulate (Tessa Thompson). The more they talk about life and its expectations the more they click — until the wife (Frances Conroy), who has been tracking her husband all over Europe, appears on the scene. Grieg works in some points about personal responsibility and redemption (the play briefly flirts with becoming a resurrection fable), but Pyrenees is so overwritten that Grieg can’t find the turn-off switch to end it as it rolls past the two-hour mark. His inclusion of a scene-chewing proprietor/waiter (Jan Triska) only slows things down. Director Neel Keller’s production feels as cold as Grieg’s alpine setting. Irwin owns the stage with his portrayal of a man without a memory and quite happy to be that way, but Thompson, her British accent tenuous at best, barely makes her character two-dimensional. KIRK DOUGLAS THEATER, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru July 30. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Mikulan)
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GO ZERO HOUR During the 1950s, Zero Mostel became as famous for his politics as for his comic talents. Summoned before HUAC, he not only refused to name names but, unlike many witnesses, goaded his interrogators instead of quavering before them. Writer/solo performer Jim Brochu’s biographical drama is structured as a meeting with a New York Times journalist in 1962 shortly before the comedian’s death. The piece begins stridently, with Brochu portraying a blustering Mostel as arrogantly seizing control of the interview by asking his own questions while snidely taunting his unseen guest as he sketches the man’s portrait. Directed by Paul Kreppel, the narrative then travels from Mostel’s early years as the seventh child born into a large Orthodox Jewish family to his post-blacklist professional successes, achieved more than once in edgy collaborations with Jerome Robbins, whom Mostel despised for naming names. At some indecipherable point the play’s discordant tone fades, and by its end we’ve come to respect — in some ways even feel close to — this outsize personality, whose physical girth was matched by an educated wit and a sprawling humanity. West Coast Jewish Theater at the EGYPTIAN ARENA THEATER, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 13. (323) 595-4849. (Deborah Klugman)