Early and Often
Not since the anticapitalist plays of Brecht have we seen such a savage and cynical send-up of Chicago as that presented in this amusingly sour comedy by Barbara Wallace and Thomas R. Wolfe. On the eve of JFK's election, a state senator (Mat Lageman) in debt to the mob meets an unpleasant end and the unexpected vacancy prompts ambitious party worker Art Ruck (Bryan Bertone) to seek the nod of local party leader Flannery (Bjorn Johnson) for the position. However, Flannery has other plans and Ruck's attempts to scheme his way to the top are complicated by an unexpectedly pregnant girlfriend (Catherine Urbanek), the dead senator's scathingly bitter widow (Amanda Weier) and the disappearing corpse of the senator himself. Director Ron West's production, with a crisp pace and perfect comedic timing, artfully crafts a world where venom spews and "politics" turns out to be another word for "thuggery." Bertone's wonderfully weaselly party hack is strangely likable for all his pathological lying. Excellent turns also are offered by Weier as the amusingly embittered, Dorothy Parkerlike pragmatic widow, by Urbanek as Ruck's panicky girlfriend, and by the entire supporting ensemble of scoundrels and rogues who look as though they would not be out of place in a 1960s police lineup. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 26. openfist.org.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: April 7. Continues through May 26, 2012
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