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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Cooperation and Dissent

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Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 12:30 PM


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Bury the Dead just opened at the Actors' Gang. Photo by Jean-Louis Darville. You can find this week's New Theater Reviews embedded in the new theater listings. Press the READ ON at the bottom of this section. New Reviews and listings will be regularly posted here on Monday afternoons. They will no longer appear online until Thursday morning at laweekly.com/theater Received the following essay from Corbett Barklie, who has over 16 years of experience consulting for non-profit arts organizations in Southern California and across the nation. Currently, she consults for organizations with operating budgets under $ 1 million. She has been the Executive Director of ARTS Inc., working with the National Endowment for the Arts in the Challenge and Advancement Program. Since 2002, she has been an Adjunct Professor in the USC School of Theater. She invites confidential responses to this essay at practicedissent@gmail.com. Public comments can be made in the comments box below. -- SLM Effective Dissent, Pathway to Change BY CORBETT BARKLIE "The world is again embracing change. I see it everywhere I look: in politics certainly and in social systems, religion, personal relationships. And, we in the arts, intuitively feel the need for change too. I wonder why, throughout our forty-five year nonprofit history, the winds of change have always stopped at our doorstep. Why, even through violent, political transitional times, have we remained in a rigid embrace with existing nonprofit models, structures and tenets? Change is in the air and is impacting virtually every aspect of American society. Why can’t we change too? "Perhaps it’s because non-profit arts organizations are not designed for change; we are designed for cooperation. Cooperation is a fundamental part of our nonprofit spirit - a spirit that believes in working together as a means of moving forward. The scarcity of nonprofit resources furthers this notion that “we’re all in this together” and cooperation is the only way to advance. We are a field in need, we believe, and this belief unites us in deep spiritual and emotional cooperation. But this spirit of cooperation has made us a society of Pollyannas; we naively believe that our inherent goodness will and should be rewarded. We are spiritually and emotionally immobilized by our commitment to cooperation. "And it seems to me that it is this commitment to cooperation that has created a particularly unfriendly environment for change because cooperation is hostile to dissent. Our willingness to embrace one another as spiritual and emotional partners has closed the door on our ability to openly question one another. It’s this lack of questioning – which is the seed of dissent - that prevents change from occurring. We don’t have to look far to see the importance of dissent. Look at the American public’s response to the war in Iraq and other recent political policies. Look at the critical role dissenters have played in our society. Not just recently but throughout our history. After all, American society was founded on dissent with England and monarchy. It’s difficult and frightening to imagine what the world would be like today without organized, committed dissent. Even more important than dissent itself is the singular kind of energy and engagement that results from it. Dissent spurs debate, debate deepens commitment and clarifies opinions, it allows us to see more clearly our differences and similarities, it creates energy and that energy leads to intuitive, organic change. "Complaining is NOT dissent. A complaint starts in a personal place and stays there. It’s hard to spend a full day among arts groups without hearing complaints, full of personal resentment, bitterness and often a sense of entitlement. They are plentiful, personally necessary, and completely useless except to further unify arts groups and deepen the already existing commitment to cooperation. "Dissent, however, is thoughtful and clearly enunciated. Dissent, at its strongest, rises above a personal agenda. It is a well-constructed statement or activity that can be equally understood by all members of our non-profit arts society. It resonates. Although the seed of dissent is often planted in personal frustration, it grows beyond that: Dissent is generous. "Of course there is also risk associated with dissent – which has kept us from engaging in it. Speaking out might alienate funders. There is even a chance that open communication might alienate colleagues and artists. Historically it’s been good behavior and cooperation that have met with fundraising success. I teach this to my fundraising students at USC: read the guidelines, follow the rules, don’t argue with funders and be gracious, be supportive, build relationships and don’t burn bridges. In other words: cooperate! And I know that that’s good advice for young people just entering the field. I know that this is the best way to build credibility as well as contributed revenue. But these fundraising strategies have been over-embraced and have in many ways defined our nonprofit culture. And let’s face it, cultural strategies based on public relations’ tenets are not likely to produce a healthy and critical arts society that fosters honest communication and open pubic debate. It’s not surprising that this inability and/or unwillingness to engage in dissent has created a static nonprofit arts society." For this week's New Theater Reviews and comprehensive listings, press the READ ON tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS

For August 29 – September 4, 2008

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deobrah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas.

OPENING THIS WEEK: LARGER THEATERS

AGAMEMNON Aeschylus' tale of the return of Mycenae king. GETTY VILLA, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; opens Sept. 4; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 440-7300, www.getty.edu.

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNETerrence McNally's romantic comedy. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; opens Aug. 29; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. (562) 436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

MEMPHIS Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music and additional lyrics by David Bryan. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; opens Sept. 3; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (858) 550-1010.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Musical romance, book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; opens Sept. 3; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (310) 825-2101.

VANITIES Jack Heifner's comedy about three best girlfriends, music and lyrics by David Kirshenbaum. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Aug. 29; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 30, 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (626) 356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

OPENING THIS WEEK: SMALLER THEATERS

HANDS-ON THERAPY "Melancholic-comedy" by Toby Champion. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Aug. 29; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. www.handsontherapy.tix.com.

ROSE'S DILEMMA Neil Simon's story a writer's-blocked novelist. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens Aug. 29; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (626) 256-3809.

SPIDER BITES By Jacqueline Wright. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; opens Aug. 29; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 4. (323) 856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.

28 PLAYS LATER Short-attention-span comedies. KOOS ART CENTER, 530 E. Broadway, Long Beach; opens Aug. 31; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 21, (Added perf Sept. 14, 4 p.m.). www.alivetheatre.org.

Theater Special Events

VENICE CABARET THEATRE1920s French-style cabaret. Blankenship Studio, 132 Brooks Ave., Venice; Sat., Aug. 30, 8 p.m.. (866) 922-5538, www.myspace.com/venicecabarettheatre.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: LARGER THEATERS

AS U2 LIKE IT The Bard's “As You Like It” set to the music of U2. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (818) 955-8101.

GO AS YOU LIKE IT Directors Ellen Geer and Melora Marshall set this evergreen Shakespearean comedy in the years after the American Civil War, but, fortunately, they apply the concept with a light, tactful hand. Ameena Maria Khawajas musical direction, Mike Peeblers exciting fight choreography and Shon LeBlancs handsome costumes add to the fun. (NW). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28, (No perf Sept. 14.). (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

BABY Parenting musical, book by Sybille Pearson, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr., music by David Shire. West Valley Playhouse, 7242 Owensmouth Ave., Canoga Park; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (818) 884-1907.

BEETHOVEN, AS I KNEW HIM: THE MUSIC OF LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN$ Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

EDUCATING RITA Teacher-student story, by Willy Russell. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 21, (Added perfs Aug. 30 & Sept. 6, 3 p.m.; Sept. 11 & 18, 8 p.m.). (818) 558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

KING O'LEARY The Actors' Gang sets King Learduring the Gold Rush. Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 838-4264.

GO L'EFFLEUR DES SENS Choreographer-director Cati Jean has MC Gregg guide us through this French-style cabaret, which consists of nine fleshy, erotic dances performed by the host and a bevy of seven beauties with jaw-dropping precision. Gregg's improvised humor borders on the puerile, but the dancers' dexterity and skill are beyond reproach. (SLM). King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 9 p.m.; thru Sept. 18. (323) 960-9234, www.kingkinghollywood.com.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT We dont seem to be able to avoid unpleasant topics, sighs Edmund Tyrone (Aaron Hendry) to his father, James (William Dennis Hunt), in Act 4 of Eugene ONeills genre-creating family melodrama. The claustrophobic parlor drama is an odd fit for the Theatricum Botanicums forested stage, as the ensemble, when not shouting, are perilously close to being drowned out by crickets. (AN). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

GO THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES In their cotton-candy chiffon dresses, songbirds Missy, Suzy, Betty Jean and Cindy Lou (Kim Huber, Bets Malone, Julie Dixon Jackson and Kirsten Chandler) are pleased as punch to entertain their senior-class prom. As it's 1958, tonight's track list is pure bubblegum pop, soured up by cat fights over stolen songs and stolen boyfriends. Playwright-director Roger Bean, however, is only half-successful in manufacturing drama and character development from the story's personality clashes and a looming prom-queen vote. Under playwright-director Roger Bean's hand, the ladies are fine comedians and even finer singers, and the show gets a punch of energy in Act 2. (AN). Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Tues.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (949) 497-2787.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Mon., Sept. 1, 6 p.m.. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

GO RESPECT: THE GIRL EM-POWERED MUSICALMusical history of the female experience throughout the 20th century, by Dorothy Marcic. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (818) 508-0281, www.elportaltheatre.com.

ROMEO & JULIET, TOGETHER AND ALIVE AT LAST Sandra Fenichel Asher's story of a school play. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (562) 494-1014.

THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 18th-century comedy of manners. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723, www.theatricum.com.

GO WICKED In this musical riff on the witches of Oz (by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Hollzman), Joe Mantello directs a marvelous spectacle that looks like a diversion but is actually quite the opposite. Eden Espinoza as the green-skinned, bespectacled girl-witch Elphaba has a contagiously smart appeal. After recognizing that Elphaba's not going to power-play along with the Wizard's (John Rubinstein) Stalinist shenanigans, Mrs. Morrible (the delightful Carol Kane), starts a witch hunt for the girl, and the whole thing starts to resemble some of the tawdrier chapters in American history. (SLM). Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 11. (213) 365-3500.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD, DOWNTOWN

GO THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama reminds us of WWII's less benevolent aspects. He tells the story of Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook (Steven Schub), who devoted his life to attempting to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Political complexities inevitably overshadow Bergson's personal life, but they are fascinating in their own right. Deborah LaVine skillfully melds a fine cast into a gripping production. (NW). Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

GO ASSASSINS When composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writer John Weidman look at assassins, their vision is wayward, tough, ambiguous, sympathetic and bitterly satiric. Richard Israel's on-target production is stark and lively; Johanna Kent's music direction is sure-footed, and the entire cast is splendid. (NW). El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 460-4443, www.tix.com.

GO THE BAD ARM — CONFESSIONS OF A DODGY IRISH DANCER Máire Clerkin comes from Irish stock and grew up in London. This blend might explain her satirically grim portrait of the world she grew up in, and the cheerfully British mask she places over it. In some ways, Clerkin's one-woman show is a study in the loneliness of being ignored by her workaholic dance-teacher mother, who focused all her attention on the paying customers. This child's-eye view could be peevish stuff were Clerkin not so intractably good-humored. Nor does she place herself above her mocking portraits, including at age 14 a groping suitor in the dance hall, his eyes boggling, tongue swishing lips as he grabs her hips at arm's length and pushes her around the dance floor like a mop. "Hot in here," he notes. "What do you say we step outside for some fresh air?" "That sounds like a good idea," she chirps back with wide-eyed innocence, and with a politeness that forms the outer crust of British civility. Aside from her animated impersonations and snapshot transitions between them, the focal point of Clerkin's coming-of-age saga is her right elbow, that drifts outward while performing Irish folk dances, a "bad arm" that her mother says is responsible for her placing poorly in so many competitions. The requisite of keeping both arms slammed into one's body emerges as a metaphoric constriction in a world that Clerkin captures so meticulously, with the help of Dan O'Connor's direction and Maxine Mohr's pristinely delicate sound design. Intro to snogging (French kissing) is one of many rites of passage detailed by Clerkin with a blend of intrigue and disgust, as is binge-drinking and the morning-after consequences in one high-stakes public display. Clerkin's glorious riffs of traditional Irish dance and disco, and some intermingling of both genres, make her argument for transcendence with nary a word spoken. (SLM) Bang Theatre, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sun., Aug. 31, Sun., Sept. 7 & Thurs., Sept. 11 & 18, 8 p.m. (323) 653-6886.

>NEW REVIEW GO THE BONES OF LESSER MEN Sure-handedly directed by L. Flint Esquerra, Yves Lola St. Vil’s play, in this world premiere production, presents an engaging mix of sex and politics. Set in the 1990s at Elly’s Place, an African-American-owned diner in Brooklyn, the play focuses on an electoral race for governor that includes a viable Black candidate, the much talked about but unseen “Collins.” Among the regulars at Elly’s Place are the youthful Brooklyn (William Christopher Stephens), who can hardly contain his enthusiasm for Collins, while the middle-aged Junior (Freedom) is skeptical of all politicians. When not cooking, Elly (Staci Ashley) provides a maternal influence, which extends to Collins’ mistress (Randa Walker). Early in the play, much of the uproarious humor emanates from Free (Carl Crudup), a teller of tall tales. But the hilarious, well-written banter of Act 1 gives way to something much darker in Act 2 when one of the characters appears with a series of escalating injuries and bruises. Director Esquerra handles the light and dark elements equally well, adding to the shock in Act 2. As with many plays set in diners or bars, playwright St. Vil includes various stock characters, including a street hustler (Antonio Ramirez) and a church lady (Barbara Barnes), but superb character development puts refreshing new twists on these archetypes. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (Added perfs Tues., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 27 & Sept. 3, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 28 & Sept. 4, 8 p.m.) (323) 957-1152. (Sandra Ross)

BOYLE HEIGHTS Josefina Lopez's play about a family's fear of gossip. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 263-7684, www.casa0101.org.

GO CARNY TRASH A burly man named Aye Jaye spins yarns from his life in the carny. Jaye has a rich background in the art of con art. His lecture-demonstration paints a vivid portrait of Americana, mid-20th-century, a rare blend of garishness and romanticism, a study in how Minnesota farmers were dazzled and tricked before there was TV. (SLM). Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS is a reminder that even the father of our modern mother tongue had to learn while he earned. So it is with director Ron West and his Open Fist ensemble's creaky, modern-dress version of Shakespeare's mistaken-identity protofarce. West moves the action from ancient times to "the beach community of Ephesus, circa 1964," a bare-bones setting consisting of little more than grips dressed as beach cops on bicycles, which is more of a non sequitur sight gag than fully realized production concept. Certainly, it's no help to West's cast members, who must resort to desperate mugging rather than a thorough mastering of their text. (Bill Raden). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

THE COMICAL TRAGEDY OR TRAGICAL COMEDY OF MR. PUNCH This lavishly mounted, highly ambitious adaptation of writer Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKeans 1995 graphic novel is a marvel of expressionistic spectacle. Unfortunately, no amount of scenic splendor can camouflage a torpid, overly elliptical script lacking even rudimentary character shadings or conflict-driven scenes. (Bill Raden). Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (213) 389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.com.

CRAVE Sarah Kane's "fantasia of love, lust, pain, humor, sadness, hope and resignation.". Sierra Stage, 1444 N. Sierra Bonita Ave., West Hollywood; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 12. (213) 905-2727.

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON Interpretive piece set to the music of Pink Floyd. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sun., 8 & 9:30 p.m.. (323) 850-7827.

DELEARIOUS Lyricist-playwright Ron West and composer Phil Swanns overly ambitious travesty about King Lear, modern musicals and the King James Bible is often fun, always energetic <0x2014> but ultimately overbearing. West and Swann also stage, musically direct and play featured roles in this rollicking, far-too-long exercise. (TP). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 882-6912, www.openfist.org.

GO FABLES DU THEATRE The three tales in director Chris Covics' imaginative if occasionally assaultive tour de force are just the top layer of an unpredictable theatrical experience that veers between jaw-dropping creativity and brattiness. At the start of playwrights Brenda Varda and Marva Lewis' trio of one-acts, the entire venue appears to be in a state of chaotic ruin — an actor is laughing drunkenly and slobbering all over an audience member, while other cast members, covered in blood, emerge from behind the stage curtain. The ensemble, finally wrangled like cats into their proper places, perform the vignettes: In "The Stage Coffeehouse," a coffeehouse owner (Ramiq Sayer, flamboyantly channeling The Nutracker's Drosselmyer) oversees the ill-fated romance between two of his patrons. In "Xeera's Night," a succubus (a splendidly sultry Tulie Bouquess) genuinely falls in love with her victim, with horrific results. The play's delicate text is frequently interrupted by mishaps: Fired performers storm the stage, and a rumpled, hirsute critic (not from this paper, thankfully) repeatedly bawls out the cast from his seat. Covics' production shifts in tone from scene to scene — one moment, a genuine homage to French-lite sentiment, as in The Little Prince; the next, a playful spoof of theatrical pretentiousness. The result's an unpredictable show that doesn't just blow out the fourth wall, but hits the fifth and sixth walls as well. (PB) Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; through Sept. 27. (323) 466-7781. An Unknown Theater and Immanence Theatre Artists coproduction.

GO FINALLY Stephen Belbers haunting Rashomon-styled drama is powered by Morlan Higgins strong, emotionally nuanced performance. He plays four characters: a washed-up semipro football player; a damaged, miserable wife; a dog with a penchant for Byron and Tennyson; and a football coach. These people are linked by a common thread of guilt, violence and betrayal. Matt Shakmans staging is simple but forceful. (LE3). Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.. (800) 838-3006, www.thedahlia.com.

GROOVE AU GOGO Brilliant shards sparkle in whats otherwise a broken plate-glass window -- what creator Jason M. Solomon calls an acid vaudeville/variety show. Beat-poet rants against social contradictions of modern society (performed by Mike Estim<0x00E9> and Jonathan Kite) get mired in the wafer-thin lighting design that plagues the evening. The shadows, echoes and lingering moments of an empty stage betray the abundant talent on the stage, under Kal Clarkes direction. (SLM). Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 954-9795.

>NEW REVIEW INHERIT THE WIND A fictionalization of the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s masterpiece tells of a high school teacher, Bertram Cates (John Paul Karliak), who is put on trial for breaking state law by teaching Darwin’s theories of evolution. To argue the case, a nationally famous politician and orator, Matthew Harrison Brady (James Rice), and a well-known trial lawyer, Henry Drummond (Robert Craig), descend on “heavenly Hillsboro,” setting up an ideological clash of titans that is documented by reporter E.K. Hornbeck (Julie Terrell). While cross-gender casting often proves interesting, Terrell, sounding like Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hudsucker Proxy, doesn’t quite sell the character. Likewise, Craig, who flubs too many lines, and Rice try too hard to be “larger than life.” At times, even the townsfolk are played a bit hyperbolically as simpletons and hicks. Where director Tiger Reel fails to give his actors nuance, he succeeds in his set design, which is cleverly minimalist, even using the walls as prop storage. The color palette of the citizens’ costumes, a simple Puritan black and white, likewise sets a stylized tone. The production uniquely employs a folk band that plays religious music between scenes, but it gets to be a bit much when it holds up the action of the story. One wishes for a more strongly acted and nuanced production, given the resurrection of Evangelical fervor in the last few years that makes the play as relevant today as it was when it debuted in 1955. This production is nonetheless required viewing for anyone who has never seen the play. (MK) Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 908-7276. An Action! Theatre Company Production.

LAST DANCE Marsha Norman's Southern comedy. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (323) 882-8043, www.actorscircle.net.

LATINOLOGUES TU Rick Najera's comedy showcase. Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 10 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (213) 289-9860, www.latinologues.net.

LONG DAY CUT SHORT Two one-acts by Tennessee Williams: The Unsatisfactory Supperand Hello From Bertha. Actor's Art Theater, 6128 Wilshire Blvd., No. 110, L.A.; Wed., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. (323) 969-4953, www.plays411.com/longstay.

LOVERS AND OTHER STRANGERS Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna's romantic comedy. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 960-7827, www.plays411.net/lovers.

MACBETHChris Berube turns Shakespeare's play into a modern-day political thriller. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (323) 850-7827, www.berubians.com.

MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: ABI'S CHOICE Late-night Masterpiece Theatreparody. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Chris Berube's take on Shakespeare's romantic comedy. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 850-7827.

GO MONEY & RUN Wayne Rawley's popular Seattle serial, inspired by The Dukes of Hazzard and Miami Vice, debuts with its first installment, "Money, Take Run," in which two hot-blooded criminals, Money (Johanna Watts) and Run (Joshua Sliwa), meet-cute when holding up the same liquor store. When the narrator tells us to "stay tuned for scenes from the next episode," we can only hope that theater's fun is less disposable than this show's TV origins. (AN). Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.. (800) 595-4TIX, www.moneyandrun.net.

>NEW REVIEW THE PAVILION Craig Wright (Orange Flower Water, Recent Tragic Events) wrote this play “about time,” in 2005, and this is its Los Angeles premiere. Being about time, and small-town folk, it ambles onto the poetical-theatrical turf of Thornton Wilder and Dylan Thomas, which could explain why the narrator (Chris Smith) is clad in black. He reminds us (in case we might forget) that we're in a theater. He propels a styrofoam ball across a wire to represent a shooting star, as background for a very bitter, slightly sweet romance between Kathi (Kristin Chiles) and Peter (Tim Hamelen) at their 10-year high school reunion. (Smith jumps in – often in drag -- to play all the sniggering, swaggering peers Kathi and Peter crash into, many also suffering the heartache of time passing.) Peter is now floundering and Kathi's in a desolate marriage. Peter left Kathi pregnant in high school; on his father's orders, he stopped answering her calls like a cad. And now he's returned to make amends, she's not having much of it, or him, for a while. Chiles' Act 1 shrillness yields to an emotional depth approaching wisdom in Act 2. Hamelen reveals an appealing sensitivity and stoic resolve throughout. Wright includes too much precious narration in order to put a high school reunion in the context of the Big Bang, and the rise and fall of empires. Obren Milanovic directs with wistful intelligence before trying to charm us with the cleverness of the play's many theatrical conceits. Some in the audience might have been charmed. (SLM) Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (323) 939-9220.

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keelings merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. The citys banks are being hit by a gang of robbers known as the Ex Presidents, surfers who always wear the masks of former chief executives while making their withdrawals (in this version Ms. Condi Rice makes an appearance). Utah gets his man, but not before a Grand Guignol scene of blood and guts thats so hideously over the top you cant stop laughing. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com.

POUR SOME SUNDAY ON ME All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

PROBLEM CHILD Part one of George F. Walker's "Suburban Motel" series. Tres Stage Theatre, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 461-3673, www.fordamphitheatre.org.

RABBIT HOLE David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize winner. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (323) 855-1556, www.camelotartists.com.

SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the audience to determine which ones continue. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11 p.m.. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

>NEW REVIEW SISSYSTRATA After last year’s scintillating gay version of “The Bacchae” the same production team set to work on this adaptation of “Lysistrata,” Aristophanes' ancient Greek anti-war comedy in which the women of Athens withhold sex from their men until peace is declared. Playwright Allain Rochel and director Michael Matthews leap headlong into a politically-incorrect fantasy in which West Hollywood muscle men are called in to help the Iraq war effort, leaving their sissy boyfriends home to whine, bicker and complain – fabulously. Lip-syncing drag numbers and lisping limp-wristed stereotypes, worthy of Fred Phelps’ slogan “God hates fags,” abound in this self-mocking production. Unfortunately, under Matthews' staging, the caricatures emerge as merely embarrassing rather than hilarious. Only Michael Taylor Gray, in the title role, possesses the needed physical and vocal prowess, yet his character becomes absurdly strident rather than satirical. The butch men are even weaker than the sissies as the whole adventure turns flat and tedious. Marjorie Lockwood’s unflattering costumes, especially for the femmes, would shock any snapping queen who need only swish into any Out of the Closet for better drag. The cartoon set design representing West Hollywood’s enormously popular bar-restaurant The Abbey (substituting for Aristophanes’ Acropolis) provides a bit of visual amusement. (TP) Celebration Theater, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 957-1884, www.tix.com.

Sissystrata

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GO SOME KIND OF LOVE STORY This strange, almost Pirandellian one-act is not what we expect from Arthur Miller. A former New York policeman turned private investigator, Tom (Jack Kehler) is hell-bent on freeing a man he believes has been falsely imprisoned for murder. His only real lead is the woman in the case, Angela (Beege Barkette), but she stubbornly refuses to reveal what, if anything, she knows. Over a five-year period, their sparring has continued: They have been lovers, adversaries and mutual tormentors. He feels that his love for her has brought him back from living death — but he knows he can't trust her. She insists that if she gives him the information he seeks, she will lose him. Neither we nor he can tell if she is a pathological liar, a devious whore, a schizophrenic with multiple personalities, a virtuoso con artist and opportunist, or all of the above. In a single, brilliantly written scene, they play out their story of mutual obsession. Michael Arabian directs with sensitive precision, and his actors serve him with finesse. Barkette is endlessly fascinating as the mercurial, protean Angela, and Kehler provides an admirable foil as an ordinary guy trapped on an emotional roller coaster. Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 31. (323) 960-4442 or www.thehayworth.com. (Neal Weaver)

GO SONA TERA ROMAN HESS Cuban-born playwright Dennis Miles has composed an elegy to lost love and distant battles, set — as he mentions in the program — somewhere in the world, sometime in the past. An old farmer marries a young girl, who ends up running off with the farmer's even younger son. Miles doesn't bother much with that part of the drama, instead beginning his play with the couple, pregnant and broke, returning to the embittered old farmer for help and forgiveness. Into this scenario, Miles drops a traveling circus troupe and the encroaching front line of a devilish war, thus spinning the action toward the kind of surrealism this playwright is known for, full of heightened language and stylized charm. Director Kiff Scholl's production strives for — but falls shy of — matching that style entirely, making for a lopsided experience. Unspecific blocking and characterization muddy some of the more poetic moments, and though Greg Wall as the farmer and Kathleen Mary Carthy as his cat-crazy companion deliver some strong performances, the rest of the cast appear somewhat lost in this miasma. Davis Campbell's set nails the fractured reality of the world, though actors at times self-consciously avoid smacking their heads into slanted rafters. And Becky Gradjeda's sound design lends a haunting rhythm to the words. The Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 21. (323)960-7864. (Luis Reyes)

THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES Frank Gilroy's domestic drama. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 18. (323) 460-4443, www.tix.com.

SubUBURBIA Eric Bogosian's play set in a 7-Eleven parking lot. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Through Aug. 31, 8 p.m.. (323) 465-4446.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

WOMEN OF MANHATTAN John Patrick Shanley's study of relationships. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (323) 882-8043, www.actorscircle.net.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: THE VALLEYS

>NEW REVIEW GO DYNAMITE KABLAMMO When not romping through whirlwind comedy nights, the three-man, two-woman sketch group Dynamite Kablammo has been marshaling video hits online to showcase their brash and off-kilter humor. With new member Meredith Rensa -- a fearless brunette with the face of Vivian Leigh -- the ensemble of Greg Kaczynski (who directs), Dane Biren, Dana DeRuyck, and Matt DeNoto blitz the audience with skits that build in momentum as they shake off their SNL roots with premises that splinter off in clever and unexpected directions. An unhinged blood donor recruit offers reluctant volunteers cocaine; ancient Greek sirens are re imagined as gruff Jersey grandmas, luring Odysseus with soup and sweaters; and when a frozen man's testicles climb into his brain, the gang doesn't go for easy horndog jokes but the primal fun of his hapless balls lurching him around like a broken puppet. Though the room feels too small for big laughs, everyone's chuckling quietly as DeNoto motors through a monologue where he plays a losing coach confessing to running over his rival's dog ("I'm not saying I was drunk . . . because you can't be drunk on meth"); then there's the go-for-broke sound effects of an XXX old time radio show called "Commie Dearest," on which a cuckolded husband dismisses his wife's Soviet seducer with "Your sexual ideas are just as underdeveloped as your political ones." ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (818) 202-4120. www.zombiejoes.com. (Amy Nicholson)

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Dynamite Kablammo Photo by Steve Yager

GO FREEDOM OF SPEECH In her solo show, actor Eliza Jane Schneider conjures the people she met on a cross-country sojourn in a decommissioned ambulance. She displays a remarkable ability to conjure a character through sounds and snippets of words. By design, the piece roams as much as Schneider did on her sojourn. This renders the performance a facile tour de force in a presentation still distilling its larger meaning. Sal Romeo directs. (SLM). Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (818) 754-4264.

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME This adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel (book and lyrics by Gary Lamb, music by William A. Reilly) is more like an old-fashioned operetta (with a dash of 19th-century melodrama thrown in) than a modern musical. There's something enduringly touching about the hopeless love of the hideous, deformed bell ringer, Quasimodo (Bill Mendieta), for the beautiful Gypsy girl Esmeralda (Amy Bloom). But the adapters have been too faithful to the original novel: The Gypsy is so deceived by the transparently vicious guardsman that she often seems like a ninny. (NW). St. Matthew's Lutheran GLBT Church, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.. (818) 942-6684, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

ICEBERG AHEAD! Jay Parker's backstage comedy about an heiress and a theater producer. Lizard Theater, 230 W. Main St., Alhambra; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (626) 371-0014, www.lizardtheater.com.

MY OLD FRIENDS Retirement-home musical by Mel Mandel and Norman Sachs. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 21. (818) 841-5421, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

>NEW REVIEW SCAREDYCATS As the Neighborhood Watch group in Cheryl Bascom's new farce is arriving at the home of the Pudneys (Julian Berlin and Dan Wingard) -- “20 miles from Rosemead” -- we see how the local police rep, Officer Melton (Bradley Snedeker), can't keep his paws off Mr. Pudney's blonde vixen wife or, later in the play, the babysitter (Lauren Waisbren) for the stuck-up Gleasons (Derek Long and Meeghan Holaway). The neighborhood is a cauldron of infidelity, bigotry, petty jealousy and paranoia. A gunshot, or what sounds like a gunshot, is reason enough for the group to seize a young Latino (Patrick Gomez) whose father owns a pool cleaning company, and who was caught in the yard looking for his cell phone. Bascom's satire of fearing fear itself might stand a chance in a production that's not so over the top. The glaring mockery in Doug Clayton's staging (Mrs. Pudney opens the play striding across her own living room, weapons in hand) reduces to mere frivolity what borders on an American comi-tragedy: that we'll never be secure by being so insecure. Bascom must take some responsibility for underscoring the obvious: One neighbor greets a very swishy couple (Christian Malmin and Josh T. Ryan) with the salutation, “Hi gays, I mean guys.”) On the matinee I attended, somebody slammed the door and an entire shelf, with its contents, came crashing down, flummoxing the actors. It was a metaphor for the production's hyperkinetic energy defying a higher purpose, or any purpose at all. The show features some strong comedic talent that deserves better – Ben Brannon and Heather Corwin as a neo-con neighbor and his horrible, pregnant wife; Long's sneering lech, Pat Gleason, and Waisbren's opportunistic babysitter with a penchant for playing dumber than she is. (SLM) Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., S. Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (866) 811-4111.

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Scaredycats Photo by Jose Fernandez

THE SOUND OF MURDER William Fairchild's thriller about a children's book writer and his trophy wife. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 5. (818) 700-4878, www.lcgrt.com.

SUFFER THE LONG NIGHT Writer Mary Ruth Clarke and writer-director-actor-producer Greg Glienna tell the dizzy tale of an inept community theater. Theres plenty of hilarious stuff here and some engaging performances (including Brandon Alexander as an addled high school athlete), but the piece desperately needs sharper editing, pruning and timing. (NW). Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 14. (323) 960-7745.

YOU WILL MOST LIKELY DIE Dynamite Kablammo's San Fernando Valley comedy. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues., 8:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (818) 202-4120, www.zombiejoes.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: WESTSIDE, BEACHES

>NEW REVIEW ABIGAIL'S PARTY What might have been provocative 1979, when Mike Leigh's play first appeared, now feels dated. Beverly (Nikki Glick) -- a happily childless, unhappily married woman at the start of her descent into middle age -- and Laurence (Darren Richardson) -- her unremarkable estate agent husband with a love for classical music and sandwiches -- have the neighbors over for drinks. As gin and tonics go down, tensions come up. Playwright Mike Leigh derived much of his work from improvisation, which makes for some pleasantly unexpected turns and subconscious outbursts. However, in revival, it really does reveal itself as a product of its time. Director Julian Holloway shapes this production well for the most part, but a conspicuously contemporary Schwepps bottle and pointless stage business for actors who have to engage themselves while others speak certainly distract from the main action. The cast is primarily strong, with a stellar performance from Phoebe James as a gregarious young party guest. And Charles Erven's set delights in subtleties of the '70s, though Graham Oakes' sound design could actually use some touches of nuance. (LR) Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; from Sept 7: Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 19. (310) 477-2055.

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Abigail's Party: Photo by Enci

GO ALLEY CAT Marnie Olson plays voluptuous Carma in her play (co-written with director Caroline Marshall) about a female sex addict trying to fathom the depths of her self-destructive compulsions, and whether they're part of some desire for, or resistance to, intimacy. She relishes her power over men, she explains to her skeptical therapist (Elisabeth Blake, who also turns in an affecting cameo as the understandably troubled, newly pregnant wife of Carma's musician boyfriend, Rocky (Tui Ho Chee). The production straddles the line between comedic drama and soap opera, but it's salvaged largely by the delicate performances of the entire ensemble, the truthfulness of which passes the severe test of playing in a venue the size of a living room. Excellent portrayals also include Michael Patrick McCaffrey's petty thief/"recovering" coke addict/new-age bookstore clerk, clearly missing some major brain circuitry, and Suzie Kane's Gypsy card reader, Wanda — "Money up front, in the Buddha please." Though Olson and Marshall's script hovers dangerously close to being trite, it avoids that plunge with the buoyancy of its intelligence and humor. As an actor, Olson probes the crisis of her intimacies and loneliness with such a deft mixture of deflective mockery and inner torment, her struggles take on the universal qualities of a culture plagued by addictions and despair. The larger question — why are we all so alone? — comes blazing from the stage with blanching heat, and that temperature is this comedy's higher purpose. (SLM) Psychic Visions Theater, 3447 Motor Ave., West L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 31. (310) 535-6007. Roadkill Productions.

BAD PENNY consists of speeches and dialogues by Mac Wellman that accrue into an existential theatrical poem/meditation on American life. Production designer Charles Duncombe and director Fr<0x00E9>d<0x00E9>rique Michel provide a beautiful NYC scenic backdrop and well-coordinated presentation style. Theyre working with a largely young company that makes the language perfectly intelligible, but the interpretation fails to reach the needed depths of experience. (SLM). City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 7. (310) 319-9939.

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: BEYOND RETIREMENT Cynthia Galles' Social Security comedy. Found Theater, 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 30. (562) 433-3363.

NEW REVIEW GO BURY THE DEAD In Irwin Shaw’s 1935 expressionistic anti-war play, six soldiers, killed in combat in an unspecified war, stand up and refuse to be buried. At a time when the U.S. is still reeling from the effects of its wars in Vietnam and Iraq, Shaw’s play possesses a raw power, but it never lets us forget that it’s delivering a message. For the government, the recalcitrant corpses are first and foremost a public relations and morale problem. Soon, however, the dead men’s women-folk are brought in to persuade them to lie down and submit to burial. In a massive but predictable set-piece, each of the soldiers (Andrew Wheeler, John Pick, Brandon Hanson, Colin Golden, Jesse Luken, and Brian Allman) is confronted with a wife, sister, girl-friend or mother, begging him to stop bucking the system. In a telling moment, one tough wife (Donna Jo Thorndale) asks her husband why he waited till he was dead to stand up and fight back. Matthew Huffman’s somber production is terrific, and so is his cast. The Depression-Era detail offers additional interest, but the piece remains more a potently vivid poster than a play. (NW) The Actors’ Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru Sept. 13. (310) 838-4264 or www.theactorsgang.com.

CEMETERY GOLF Jim Loucks' one-man show about organized religion. Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 13. (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com.

>NEW REVIEW CORIOLANUS Intermingling war veterans and theater professionals, director Stephan Wolfert has pared Shakespeare's epic about the Roman warrior Caius Marcius (later dubbed Coriolanus) down to a comparatively lean two hours (with intermission) and fiddled with a bit of the plotting – most noticeably, the demise of the arrogant hero. Coriolanus holds his own people (who haven't served in the military) in open contempt. After many triumphant returns from battles to a starving populace, and at the urging of his mother, Volumnia (Adeye Sahran), Coriolanus (Daniel Kucan) runs for election as a Roman consul. Echoes of our own politics bounce around the stage as discussions of military experience hang in the air. Ultimately, they just ask the big guy to be polite to the commoners, whom he can't endure. Anticipating countless social revolutions to come, Shakespeare has the enraged consular officials ban their own war hero in the name of the people. Understandably, Coriolanus joins the enemy Volscians and leads the foreign army against his own “ungrateful” homeland. After Coriolanus' mother successfully pleads with him to spare Rome, Shakespeare has the Volsciuns kill Coriolanus; but here, he falls on his own sword – not unlike Sophocles' Ajax, who also became deranged from combat, pride, and the urgings of a woman (the goddess Athena). In an outdoor park setting, Wolfert directs the play on three stages, with terrific amplification, enunciation, atmosphere and sense. The acting has more posturing than layering, so that it vaguely resembles a Tom Cruise flick. (Kucan bears some resemblance to the movie star.) Nice performances, however, by Michael Allen as Roman senator Menenius, Bruce Cervi as Volsciun General Aufidius, and Sarhran as Coriolanus' tormented mother. (SLM) The West L.A. Civic Center, 1645 Corinth Ave., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (310) 428-6610, www.wlanc.com. Veterans Center for the Performing Arts and the Los Angeles Area Veterans Artists Alliance.

FUCKING HOLLYWOOD Paul Wagar's update of Arthur Schnitzler's 1987 play “La Ronde.” Ark Theater Company, 1647 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 28. (323) 969-1707.

GO GREAT EXPECTATIONS Margaret Hoornemans delightful adaptation of Charles Dickens saga (book by Brian VanDerWilt and Steve Lozier, music by Richard Winzeler, and lyrics by Steve Lane) remains so faithful to the novel that the epic twists and turns of fate, and of social ascension and decline, emerge. They emerge at the cost of the musicals impetus, but it may be worth that sacrifice. (SLM). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 31. (310) 477-2055, www.greatexpecationsmusical.com.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT Stephen Adly Guirgis puts Jesus' disciple on trial. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 6. (866) 811-4111.

MAXIMUM SECURITY All-female prison rock musical by Evelyn Rudie. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Through Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m.; Through Aug. 31, 2 p.m....

PEN Seventeen-year-old Matt (Dennis Bendersky) is a good kid who wants to do right by his disabled mom, Helen (Jill Remez), an MS victim confined to a wheelchair. But Helen is such a bitter, bile-spewing individual that it's difficult to spend an hour with her, let alone days, months and years. Besides her illness, Helen broods over the desertion of her husband, Jerry (Robert Mackenzie), soon to marry a younger woman and move 3,000 miles away. Encouraged by his dad, the college-bound Matt also plans to flee the thorny maternal nest. Written by David Marshall Grant, the play takes on a fundamental moral dilemma: How much do we owe a loved one in need, and how much do we owe ourselves? Drama triggered by this kind of conflict could pack a gritty punch, but this production — at least its first act — unwinds as a lukewarm melodrama despite the characters' heated Sturm und Drang, delivered at a too-unvaried pace under Jeff G. Rack's direction. Notwithstanding her dour expression and sharp tongue, Remez's insufficiently nuanced portrayal never really pinpoints the pain at the core of this unhappy woman's existence. Bendersky does fine as a frustrated teenager, but here again more finely tuned direction could yield so much more. Mackenzie's conflicted, pleasure-loving Jerry is the most probing performance of the three. The play turns fantastical in the second act, an artistic choice intended to address the invisible bonds among individuals, but one that, in terms of storytelling, left me thoroughly confused. (DK) Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; in rep, call theater for schedule; through Aug. 31. (310) 364-0535.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES: THEATER SPECIAL EVENTS

BEDLAM AT THE BALLPARK Plus “Extra Innings: A Vaudeville Revue.” All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall, 429-E Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 23. (562) 495-5900, www.allamericanmelodrama.com.

MYSTERIES EN BROCHETTE The beachside hotel dishes out dinner and mystery delights in its Saturday shows with four different performances that alternate., $75, includes dinner. Marina del Rey Hotel, 13534 Bali Way, Marina del Rey; Sat., 7 p.m.. (310) 301-1000.

PAPA SPEAKEASY'S BURLESQUE Lovely ladies entertain you. Stages Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.. www.theatreyawp.com.

SPARK: AN EVENING OF STORYTELLING Monthly series of storytelling "sparked" by a particular theme. (Resv. required.). Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; First Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 3. (866) OFF-MAIN.

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