Weekend Theater Reviews

Richard Brooks(left) and James Avery(Photo: Stephen Simon)

 DIRK Like the book on which it’s based, the plot in this stage adaptation of Douglas Adams’ novel Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is nigh impossible to follow — but what fun it is to try. Adapted by James Goss and Arvind Ethan David, and innovatively staged by director Jeff Griffith, Dirk features a labyrinthine storyline embracing aspects of both 19th-century ghost stories and 21st-century science fiction. The title character, oddball detective Dirk Gently (Scott Burkin), speaks in clipped tones, often musing on matters like telekinesis and quantum mechanics that have only a tenuous connection to the already convoluted plot. This involves the inexplicable shooting death of a software company entrepreneur (Daniel R. Vasquez); suspicion falls on a naive former school chum of Dirk’s named Richard (Tripp Pickell), a swain of the dead man’s sister (Heather Williams). Besides the spot-on performances, the production is distinguished by its digital scenography (designer Anaitte Vacarro) adroitly interwoven with live action — one minute you see the characters on the screen and the next minute on stage — and by elaborate sound effects (David Marling and Lee Osteen) that underscore the bedlam. As a dotty professor, Carl J. Johnson stands out within an accomplished ensemble. ROAD THEATRE COMPANY, Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 N. Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 2 (no perf Nov. 23). (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman)

TAXI TO JANNAH Mark Sickman’s terminally cute comedy about an Arab immigrant who’s driven by a dream of building a mosque in his community will leave viewers scratching their heads as to his motivation. Nasrudeen (Mueen Jahan) doesn’t seem like an especially devout Muslim, and there is already an established mosque in his neighborhood. Nevertheless, he squirrels away money from his taxi business and, with his father-in-law (Avner Garbi), starts paying rent on a crumbling black Baptist church whose pastor (Archie Lee Simpson) has decided to close before the city condemns and tears down his chapel. (Again, the questions: Why does Nasrudeen pay rent to a man who doesn’t seem to own the building? If the Rev. Johnson does own it, why is the city tearing it down, or why doesn’t he sell the property?) Most of the play, competently directed by Deborah Lawlor, consists of unconvincing setbacks that Nasrudeen suffers from contractors and a city bureaucrat (Sloan Robinson). A subplot involving his son Omar’s (Christopher David) being a target of Arab bashing fades in and out of focus, and Omar’s plight is never developed enough to make a clear statement about the issue. Instead, the taxi driver muddles through with his long-suffering wife (Anna Khaja) who’d rather have a dishwasher and new fridge than a mosque. At least we clearly understand her priorities. FOUNTAIN THEATRE, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 3. (323) 663-1525 or (Steven Mikulan)


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