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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: To Ser With Love

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Mon, Oct 20, 2008 at 11:52 AM


Sneak previews of the weekend's NEW THEATER REVIEWS are embedded within the COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS found by pressing the READ MORE button at the bottom of this section. Reviewed over the weekend: Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings featuring Betty Garrett at Theatre West; Sefan Wolfert's excerpts from trials and anecdotes of the military experience during a time of war, Fit for Society, at the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts; Stephen Fife's new epic, Savage World, about a champion African-American boxer who may be wrongly imprisoned for the murder of a Jewish couple, presented by the MET Theater; and another new play, this one about RFK by Brian Lee Franklin, Good Bobby, at Greenway Arts Alliance; Josh MacDonald's play, Halo at Theatre 40, about what happens when an image of Jesus Christ appears on the side of a diner; Ralph Harris' one-man show, North Philly at the Stella Adler; and Daniel Keleher's Money Shot, which follows a group of over-sexed 20-something entrepreneurs “consumed by their own logic and rituals, they refuse to notice the coming apocalypse wreaking devastation on the outside world”; and John Millington Synge's Playboy of the Western World and The Shadow of the Glen, presented by Ireland's Druid Theatre and UCLA Live, which performed last weekend. TO SER WITH LOVE
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In her solo performance, Ser, Karen Anzoategui combines soccer and politics to examine growing up as an Argentinian in a Mexican community. Her performance is one in REDCAT's Studio series, tonight at 8:30 in the corner theater located within Disney Hall. For more details on the series, visit http://redcat.org/season/0809/the/studio.php For this week's stage feature on The Most Mediocre Story Never Told, visit: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-10-16/stage/lies-and-legends/ For last weekend's New Theater Reviews visit: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-10-16/stage/theater-reviews-the-sequence-faithful-two-trains-running/ For Comprehensive Theater Listings embedded with New Theater Reviews, press the READ ON tab below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS

For October 24-30, 2008

(The weekend's New Reviews are embedded in "Continuing Performances" below . You may also be able to search for them by title using your computer's search program.)

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

OPENING THIS WEEK

BABY IT'S YOU! Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux's musical about the discovery of girl group the Shirelles. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; opens Oct. 26; Sun., 3 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 14, (No perfs Nov. 26-27.). (00) 595-4849, www.tix.com.

BACKSEATS & BATHROOM STALLS Rob Mersola's "not-so-romantic comedy of bad manners.". Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 25; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 7 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 23, 9 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (323) 960-7829, www.plays411.com/backseats.

A BOO CELEBRATION Interactive mystery theater, plus pumpkin scuplting, swing sounds and a raffle. GMT Studios, 5751 Buckingham Parkway, Culver City; Sat., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.. (661) 268-0380, www.shambala.org.

EAST OF THE 5, SOUTH OF THE 10 Margaret Weatherford's updating of the myth of Persephone. Cottage Home, 410 Cottage Home Rd., L.A.; Thurs., Oct. 30, 8 p.m.. (213) 628-7000, www.cottagehomela.com.

EBAN SCHLETTER'S WITCHING HOUR Hey, boys and ghouls, check out Eban Schletter's Witching Hour. It's an album -- and now a stage production -- that's deliciously creepy fun and perfect for this season of warm, whistling winds and alliterative apprehensions. Such guests as Dave Foley, Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob Squarepants), Jill Sobule, Grant Lee Phillips, Paul F. Tompkins, Crissy Guerrero, Scott Aukerman, Laura Milligan, Tracy DeNisi and many others will perform what composer Schletter describes as "an art record in a children's Halloween costume." I am dying to call it "corn on macabre" but will resist as long as I possibly can. Oops! Phillips gets Brechtean on "Forever Lurking." you'll sob with fear at Sobule singing "The Legend of Lagunaloch Lake," and you can finally find a reason not to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas for the 80 billionth time., $10. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Wed., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 30, 8 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

FAKE RADIO: WAR OF THE WORLDS Re-recreation of the infamous 1938 broadcast, with guest star John Larroquette. Hollywood Center Studios, 1040 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., Oct. 25, 8 p.m.. (877) 460-9774, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/45993.

THE FINAL DESCENT "Halloween glitter rock musical," by Ian MacKinnon's performance collective The Discount Cruise to Hell. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Oct. 24-25, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459, www.highwaysperformance.org.

FOR ALL TIME K.J. Sanchez's look at the various social, familial and economic effects of the criminal justice system. Shakespeare Festival/LA Theatre, 1238 W. First St., L.A.; opens Oct. 26; Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 23, (Added perfs Nov. 12 & 19, 8 p.m.). (213) 613-1700, www.cornerstonetheater.org.

THE HEIRESS Psychological drama by Ruth Goetz and Augustus Goetz, based on the Henry James novel Washington Square. Orange County Performing Arts Center, Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens Oct. 24; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (714) 556-2787, www.ocpac.org.

THE KENTUCKY CYCLE PART I & PART II Robert Schenkkan's series of nine plays reimagining Southern history. National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens Oct. 24; Fri., 8 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 13. (562) 985-5526, www.calrep.org.

LADY BIRD, PAT & BETTY: TEA FOR THREE Elaine Bromka portrays three former first ladies. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos; Fri., Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 25, 2 & 7:30 p.m.. (562) 467-8818, www.cerritoscenter.com.

THE LADY WITH ALL THE ANSWERS Mimi Kennedy is Ann Landers, in David Rambo's biography. (Call for added perfs.). Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Oct. 24; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (626) 356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

LIONS Vincent Melocchi's story of the "hopes, disappointments and dreams" of a group of Detroit Lions fans. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; opens Oct. 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 7, (No perfs Nov. 27-29.). (310) 822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.

A MAN'S A MAN Bertolt Brecht's 1926 horror comedy. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 25; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 21, (Call for added perfs; no perf Nov. 27.). (310) 477-2055.

MARY'S WEDDING Stephen Massicotte's saga of young lovers. (Call for added perfs.). Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Toluca Lake; opens Oct. 25; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (818) 558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

MUSICAL MONDAYS Cabaret cool with Lainie Kazan. (In the theater lobby.)., $125. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Mon., Oct. 27, 8:30 p.m.. (323) 933-9244, Ext. 54.

NIGHTMARE ON FAIRFAX AVENUE Sketch comedy presented by Fred Willard. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., Oct. 25, 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111, www.bangstudio.com/.

PIN-UP GIRLS Andrew Moore's strip-tease story. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (818) 849-4039, www.theatreunleashed.com.

QUIXOTIC Kit Steinkellner's modern retelling of Cervantes' Don Quixote. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens Oct. 30; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (310) 396-3680, www.latensemble.com.

SONGS OF ASCENSION Multimedia performance featuring vocalist Meredith Monk and visual artist Ann Hamilton, with the Todd Reynolds String Quartet. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 2, 3 p.m.. (213) 237-2800, www.redcat.org.

SPRING AWAKENING Coming-of-age rock musical based on the 1891 German play by Frank Wedekind, music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 30; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 7, (No perfs Nov. 5 & 27; call for added perfs.). (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

THYESTES' FEAST Fragments of lost Greek plays adapted to an ancient world of high fashion, by Peter Wing Healey. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 26; Sun., 7 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 30. (323) 960-7745, www.plays411.com/feast.

TRUE WEST GIRL Wyoming stories by Barbara Bragg. M Bar, 1253 N. Vine St., L.A.; Fri., Oct. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 7 p.m.. (323) 856-0036.

TWO GRANDMA'S FROM BROOKLYN Barbara Haber and Irene Chapman's musical reminiscences, from Tin Pan Alley to show tunes. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Oct. 25, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 2 p.m.. (818) 700-4878, www.lcgrt.com.

U.S. DRAG Gina Gionfriddo's black comedy about two young women who join an anti-serial killer advocacy group. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theatre.). Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Oct. 25; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (800) 595-4849, www.tix.com.

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR And other Eric Carle stories, brought to life via glow-in-the-dark puppets. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Sat., Oct. 25, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.. (310) 506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu.

THE WAR PLAYS PROJECT: WAR AND RELIGION Followed by a benefit performance of Bill Sterritt's Nihil Obstat (7 p.m.). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Sun., Oct. 26, 5:30 p.m.. www.warplaysproject.com.

THE WEIR Reading of Conor McPherson's Dublin tale. Neighborhood Playhouse, 415 Paseo Del Mar, Palos Verdes Peninsula; Tues., Oct. 28, 7 p.m.. (310) 378-9353.

WICKED DAY SCAVENGER HUNT Fans of the Oz musical can grab a map at Selma Park and hunt for prizes while helping to "greenify" Hollywood. Selma Park, corner of Selma Ave. and Schrader Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Oct. 26, 9 a.m.. www.wickedday.com/events-la.html.

WILL ROGERS' AMERICA Rich Hoag is the cowboy humorist. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; opens Oct. 25; Sat., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (805) 667-2900.

THE WITCHING HOUR Four tales of terror, in the vein of classic TV horror anthologies. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 24; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 11 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (323) 378-5910.

A YEAR OF STOLEN LIGHT Tim McNeil's dark love story. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 26; Sun., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (323) 960-4418, www.plays411.com/stolenlight.

THE YEAR OF THE HIKER John B. Keane's play about the return of a man who, 20 years before, left his family to hike through Ireland. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Toluca Lake; opens Oct. 25; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 30. (818) 846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.

ZOMBIE ATTACK! Justin Tanner's tale of the undead. 2nd Story Theatre, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; opens Oct. 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 29. (310) 374-9767.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS

AUNTIE MAME The musical about eccentric Mame Dennis, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, music by Jerry Herman. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (562) 494-1014, www.lbph.com.

GIRL'S ROOM Joni Fritz's play about three generations of women. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed., Sat.-Sun., 3 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (818) 508-0281, www.elportaltheatre.com.

THE KING AND I Deborah Gibson stars in Rodgers and Hammerstein's classic. Fred Kavli Theatre for the Performing Arts, Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (805) 449-2787.

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. The long-running show is slated to close Oct. 30.(SLM). King King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 9 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 960-9234, www.kingkinghollywood.com.

>NEW REVIEW GO PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD/THE SHADOW OF THE GLEN Lying within the “great gap between a valiant story and a dirty deed” is the core idea of John Millington Synge's 1907 classic comedy, Playboy of the Western World, here presented by Galway's Druid Theatre with Synge's The Shadow of the Glen. Both were performed over the weekend at UCLA. The two plays unfolded within Francis O' Connor's primal rustic set, with its dirt floor, and sparse wooden furniture, enclosed by looming stone walls that dwarfed the actors, as though they were Beckettian insects, groveling. This effect was mitigated somewhat by shadow-like cross-beams against the back wall that formed a kind of crucifix, and drew the eye down to the dirt floor. Beyond that, there was little abstraction, just perfectly tattered rags and the frayed dignity of Kathy Strachan's costumes, and the crisp elegance of director Garry Hynes' realistic stagings. In Playboy, a fearful, dimwitted young farmer, Christy Mahon (Simon Boyle), takes refuge in a reclusive tavern in County Mayo, only to find the locals struck by his story of having just killed his father, which he renders ever more dramatically with each telling. That the story of such a deed is so glorified forms the play's glorious perversity. With the arrival of Christy's father (Tom Hickey) -- “ his skull bloodied from the wound inflicted by his son -- that perversity twists like a condemned man from a noose. After Christy is implicated as a liar, he then tries to actually commit the deed he's been boasting of, which only further enrages the townsfolk who loathe the deed as much as they loved the story of it. Lovely performances by the ensemble -- from Boyle's scampering, buck-toothed Christy to Sarah-Jane Drummey's interpretation of the proprietor's daughter, with a temper and yearning for excitement that's as fiery as her shock of red hair. Marcus Lamb loomed as though on stilts, portraying Pegeen's afeared-of-everything would-be suitor, Shawn Keogh, and Catherine Walsh's Widow Quinn who's outlived all her children and destroyed her husband, strided the stage like an army lieutenant. The Shadow of the Glen opened the bill as a kind of warmup, sharing Playboy's story of an old man returning from his alleged death. With echoes of Moliere's The Imaginary Invalid, Dan Burke (Hickey) lies on a bed in an isolated hovel, watched over by his embittered wife, Nora (Walsh, here with softer edges and a smaller stride than in her portrayal of the Widow Quinn, yet feisty nonetheless). We learn of the old man's demise when Nora speaks of it to a visiting Tramp (Peter Gowen). When Nora leaves for a moment, the dead man rises, parched with”drought.” His game is a test of his “bad wife's” loyalty. The game is as cruel and pointless as in Playboy. Both plays employ rapturously beautiful words to envelop the blistering darkness of the people who speak them. UCLA Live, UCLA, Ralph Freud Playhouse. Closed. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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Druid Theatre's Playboy of the Western World at UCLA Live. Photo by Nick Burchel

GO THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY A few years ago, reflecting on The Trial of the Catonsville Nine presented early at his then new Mark Taper Forum, Gordon Davidson remarked on the death of the docudrama, that theater couldn't compete with the ability of the video camera to capture the microscopic physical detail and subtext of people being interviewed, and what they reveal behind and beneath their words and gestures. Co-writers Steve Cosson and Jim Lewis, working with song-writer-lyricist Michael Friedman and New York-based The Civilians theatre company, demonstrate that one creative solution to this puzzle is to use musical theater to inflate the scale of the presentation, rather than try to put it under the microscope of videocam naturalism. This Beautiful City is an ode to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and follows multiple views from all sides of the local political and theological equations, as pastor Ted Haggard rolls into town, sets up his mega-church and takes a dive when he's outed and finally confesses to using meth. The six-actor company depicts a range of residents whom the actors interviewed for this piece, from resident atheists to religious zealots to one trans-gender “girl”. Mercifully, these are not parodies that load the argument to spoon feed what a lefty audience in Culver City wants to hear, but interpretations reaching for the deepest and most sincere comprehension of the characters, of how life's agonies turn into religious conversions, how God and Jesus become substitutes for a kind of unqualified love and compassion that simply don't exist in Colorado, or anywhere else on Earth. Some of the interviews are sung – a four-piece band sits perched high stage left, while sermons by evangelists and baptist preachers have their own, innate brand of musicality and choreography. The piece is too long -- the rise and fall of Haggard defines its rhythm, but it keeps going for another 20 minutes, as though its caught between its commitment to be a musical, docu-dramatic portrait of a city, and the almost classical-Greek study in the hubris of one mega-church leader. Right now, it's trying to be both. Still, if you want to understand this country, and why the good citizens of Silver Lake and Soho are so perplexed by the way things unfold here, Colorado Springs is a pretty good place to start. (SLM) Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (213) 628-2772. Presented by Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles, and the Vineyard Theatre, New York City

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This Beautiful City Photo by Craig Schwartz

GO> TWO TRAINS RUNNING The seventh of 10 plays in his “Pittsburgh cycle” that chronicles 100-years of African-American history, this is one of August Wilson's talkiest plays, and this production runs well over three hours. Yet the success of director Israel Hicks' revival can be attributed to the consistency and quality of the cast . The setting is a diner, circa 1969 Pittsburgh, that conveniently serves as a neighborhood hangout. Its owner, Memphis (Glynn Turman), is a shrewd businessman with a soft edge, who has some lively patrons: mentally disturbed Hambone (Ellis E. Williams); Wolf (Felton Perry), a numbers man; Holloway (Roger Robinson), a street-corner prophet and believer in magic; and Sterling (Russell Hornsby), an ex-con with more ambition than job prospects. The only woman, Risa (Michole Briana White), is a waitress at the diner who bears horrible self-inflicted scars on her legs. Not much goes on here. Most of the buzz is generated by the gilded funeral of a slick ghetto preacher named Prophet Samuel, and the pending demolition of the diner. Yet Wilson is a master storyteller, and this play is filled with humorous, engaging dialogue and earthly sagacity. In one hilarious segment, Holloway talks of a grandfather who loved being a slave so much, he wanted to die and pick cotton in heaven for a “white God.” And then there is West (Earl Billings), an undertaker who has grown rich on the misfortunes of the neighborhood. These characters form a curious gestalt that eerily mirrors the tumult of the times and the harsh realities of inner-city life. Edward E. Haynes' expansive diner set piece works perfectly for the production. (LE3) Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; through Nov. 9. (323) 964-9766. An Ebony Repertory Theatre production.

>NEW REVIEW GO WAITING IN THE WINGS Noel Coward’s career was in eclipse, and he was dealing with his own declining powers when he wrote this bitter-sweet comedy set in a charity retirement home for aging actresses. The result is a sentimental and nostalgic valentine to Edwardian Era theater, and the leading ladies he adored in his youth. Perhaps its strongest asset is its wonderful roles for older actresses, fully realized in this production. The affectionate portraits are strung on three strands of plot: the long-running feud between glamorous Lotta Bainbridge (Katherine Henryk) and her ancient rival May Davenport (Magda Harout), the efforts of the home’s residents to persuade “the committee” to build them a solarium, and the intrusion of a pushy newspaper columnist (Corinne Shore) who invades their space in search of a “human interest” story. The piece is saved from soap-opera bathos by Coward's wit, and frank acknowledgement of the realities of decline and death. Director Charlie Mount has assembled a fine, large ensemble who offer richly nuanced performances. Among the highlights is Betty Garrett’s impish turn as a woman who has retreated into blissful memories, dementia and playing with matches. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through Nov. 23. (323) 851-7977 or http://www.theatrewest.org (Neal Weaver)

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Waiting in the Wings Photo by Charlie Mount

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 IN SMALLER THEATERS IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND DOWNTOWN

ADRAMELECH'S MONOLOGUE Valere Novarina's story of a king who finally breaks his silence, translated by Guy Bennett. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 5. (213) 389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.com.

ANGRY YOUNG WOMEN IN LOW-RISE JEANS WITH HIGH-CLASS ISSUES Matt Morillo's comedy about "being young, female, and living in the big city.". Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 9. (323) 960-5574, www.angryyoungwomen.net.

GO ASLEEP ON A BICYCLE is Tony Foster’s humorous journey into a dreamscape world where nothing is as it seems. Linda (Gina Garrison) is lying asleep, but this doesn’t stop her unconscious from roaming wild. In her dream state, she encounters a ravishingly beautiful Italian film star (Maya Parish), an axe-wielding murderess (Alexandra Hoover), her emotionally fragile brother (Josh Breeding), her alcoholic mother (Cheryl Huggins), who finds herself attracted to a lesbian nun (Patricia Rae), and a cheating husband (Robert Foster). Initially, these characters appear happenstance, without apparent significance, but Foster gradually and skillfully constructs a delicate, meaningful web of emotional, spiritual and psychological connections between and among them, constantly shifting between past and present, reality and fantasy. The writing is razor sharp and at times quite funny, although context and meaning sometimes become frustratingly obscure. The finale is clearly a case of one twist too many. The play is engaging and intelligently directed by David Fofi, who draws fine performances from a cast that also includes Jade Dornfeld and Deanna Cordano. The bedroom set piece by designer Joel Daavid, with a towering tree, is beautifully imagined and realized. (LE3) The Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., through Oct. 12. (323) 960-4410.

BAD HABITS Two one-acts by Terrence McNally: Dunelawn and Ravenswood. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Thurs., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (323) 465-0800.

BARE NAKED ANGELS Eight actors dramatize their own true stories. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 19. (323) 465-0800.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER African-American writer-performer Virginia Watson illustrates her life story. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (323) 769-5049, www.plays411.com.

CHICO'S ANGELS: CHICAS IN CHAINS The Angels go undercover as high schoolers, in Oscar Quintero and Kurt Koehler's parody. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (323) 969-2530.

CHILDREN OF A LESSER GODDESS Dorothy Spirus' one-woman show. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 960-7774, www.plays411.com/goddess.

CINEMA NIGHT LIVE Plays-turned-films become plays again, live on stage. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (323) 465-0800.

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.

EAGLE HILLS, EAGLE RIDGE, EAGLE LANDING Brett Neveu's suburban comedy. Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (323) 960-7738, www.plays411.com/eagle.

EARTH SUCKS In writer-director Jonas Oppenheim’s frothy sci-fi musical comedy, Earth’s main contribution to the Cosmos is rock & roll. Angsty high school junior Echo (Emily Stern, perhaps a little too snide) fantasizes about falling in love with a handsome outer space creature who would whisk her away to the stars for a variety of adventures doing whatever it is a human and an alien can do together. To achieve this goal, Echo transmits a song out into the galaxy, luring to Earth a wacky outer space rock band, headed by the illustrious Fluhbluhbluh (Lucas Revolution), a handsome young bachelor in a red spandex Gumby suit, who speaks through a bug-eyed sock puppet. Unfortunately for Echo, it turns out that her NASA scientist dad (Christopher Fairbanks) has been negotiating with sultry, villainous she-alien Ulinia Swords (Nakia Syvonne), who’s aiming to use NASA’s radio telescope to broadcast a diabolical siren song that will turn the entire population of the universe into her slaves. The piece boasts a number of invigorating hard-rock numbers in the style of the Ramones, the Talking Heads and Devo. Still, the crackling music is integrated into a singularly sloppy book, with problems compounded by unfocused gags and Oppenheim’s hyperactive blocking. The show would earn more respect as a rock opera without any dialogue: Syvonne’s hilariously wild-eyed, throaty turn is both funny and tuneful, in the style of Eartha Kitt. And Revolution’s alien crooner brings to mind David Byrne. (PB) ArtWorks Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Nov. 2. (323) 960-7744. A Citizens of Earth production.

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Earth Sucks Photo by Emika Honda

THE ELEPHANT MAN Bernard Pomerance's story of the disfigured Englishman. (Call for added perfs.). Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (323) 462-8460.

GO FATBOY John Clancy's 2004 Edinburgh Fringe hit adaptation of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi has landed here just in time for the Wall Street meltdown and one of the most surreal election campaigns in American history. What does a farce from the turn-of-last-century about a slovenly, debauched and debauching glutton- king of Poland and his equally hideous wife have to do with us? Try start with Macbeth, then move on swiftly to Charles Keating. Remember Home sweet Home Savings & Loan? Enron? If that's too far back in time, try Countrywide Financial Corporation and the predatory sub-prime mortgages that we're all now going to pay for. In Jarry's play, the padded fat bastards starved and beat their subjects while attaining ever more riches and power, until a little revolution had the minions chasing their persecutors into the wilderness. Ian Forester directs it like a Punch and Judy puppet show, with padded clowns punching each other until they roll on the ground. Mark Mendelson's cheesy set comes with the painted-on grime of an old vaudeville theater, fake footlights included. Alexander Wells and Rebecca Jordon play the happy-miserable couple in white-face, Fatboy and Fudgie, who do little but eat money like lettuce leaves and gleefully hurl abusive epithets at each other – a none to subtle dramatization of our consumer culture. There's no dramatic arc, it's not that kind of play. Fatboy screams throughout, and mentions this aspect in one of many asides. He wants pancakes, she wants money. The rest is a stream of creative curses that turn obscenity into an art. They actually mention art a couple of times, along with catch phrases like “human dignity,” “truth” and “beauty” -- before they both collapse in paroxysms of laughter. Oh, yes, Fatboy survives his kangaroo trial for international war crimes by mocking the court and murdering his opponents. There's quite a bit of neck snapping, with sound effects. Just when you're ready to dismiss all this is as beyond over-the-top, the lights dim, and Fatboy turns menacing. He looks straight at us, and holds us accountable for living by the values that have gotten our country exactly where it is right now. Fat bastards, that means you. Grand performances also by Alan Simpson, Bobby Reed and Abigail Eiland. (SLM) Imagined Life Theater, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (800) 838-3006, www.needtheater.org.

>NEW REVIEW FIT FOR SOCIETY is a pastiche of war veteran stories written by Brian Monahan (who is from a military family) and Stephen Wolfert (a veteran of the U.S. Army). Some are direct, personal accounts, some are first person dramatic monologues delivered straight to the audience, and some are monologues to an invisible character. And even though the work is earnest and, at times, powerful, the stylistic disunity weakens the overriding idea. And because the evening runs scattershot over a wide range of veteran themes -- most of which have been introduced to us in media coverage of the last 40 years of war -- we aren't challenged by the kind of specificity that opens up new ways of understanding the futility, waste and tragedy of war. Director Stephan Wolfert, however, shapes the performances of his excellent cast well, inspiring an authentic, gripping tone throughout. Standouts include Ian Casselberry's infantryman divested of his humanity and Arnell Powell's brusque dill sergeant. And Randy Brumbaughs lights are particularly effective on the small, open stage. But what we ultimately see is a truly inspired series of previews for several potentially stirring plays. The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts, 446 S. La Brea, L.A. Sat. & Mon., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Tues. perf. Nov. 11, 8 p.m.; through Nov. 11. (888) 398-9348. (Luis Reyes)

GO 43 PLAYS FOR 43 PRESIDENTS Often, it’s not just the who, what and why that make a history lesson viable but the how — as in how you tell it. That’s the premise behind 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, a witty, sardonic collection of miniplays about the American presidency. Studded with song and dance, these distinctive one- to five-minute segments — originally created by five writer-performers of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists theater ensemble — reveal some basic human truths about the 43 individuals who have inhabited the Oval Office (as well as some uncomfortable aspects of our nation’s political legacy). Each segment plucks facts from the textbook version of history and combines them with lesser-known, more subversive revelations. Among the famous, the infamous and the all-but-forgotten, only a few, including George Washington (Michael Holmes), emerge with their reputations untarnished. The ironic portraits include John Adams (Kelley Hazen) as a fretful neurotic, who signed legislation that shredded the Bill of Rights; Indian fighter William Henry Harrison (Tina Van Berckelaer), who enthusiastically exterminated thousands of Native Americans but on his deathbed sought treatment from a Native American healer; and Ulysses Grant (Rafael Clements), who, as a young man despised guns but was forced by his father to attend West Point. Of particular interest this election season is the sketch about the 1876 electoral-college shenanigans that put popular-vote loser Rutherford B. Hayes in the White House. Directed by Paul Plunkett, this production features an accomplished ensemble of six, adept at underscoring both the playful and the poignant. (DK) Sacred Fools Theater, 661 N. Heliotrope Ave., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 21 & Oct. 26, 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (310) 281-3887.

GO FREAK DANCE: THE FORBIDDEN DIRTY BOOGALOO Much of the propulsion in Matt Besser's dance confection comes from the great breakdance interludes by the Bad Newz Bearz crew. The rest derives from Besser's comic-book satire of self-righteous programs claiming to use the arts to get kids off drugs. Lindsay Hendrickson's staging is perfect. Brian Fountain and Jake Anthony wrote the music. (SLM). Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

GEM OF THE OCEAN First installment, set in 1904, of August Wilson's 10-play "Pittsburgh Cycle.". Fountain Theater, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (323) 663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

GONE, RETURN, UNDONE John Markland's drama about two former best friends. MOTH, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (323) 960-7735, www.plays411.com/gonereturnundone.

>NEW REVIEW GOOD BOBBY Few families have commanded more public fascination or newsprint than the Kennedy clan. In his engaging character study, Brian Lee Franklin constructs a compelling portrait of the “other son,” Robert Francis, and the historical milieu that shaped him. The play opens at a 1958 subcommittee hearing with “Bobbie” (Franklin) and Senator John McClellan (William Stone Mahoney) aggressively interrogating Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (R.D. Call in a convincing turn) about Joffa's mob connections. From the outset, Franklin creates a profoundly flawed and conflicted image of Kennedy, one that is steadily and skillfully nuanced throughout this production. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in his relationship with his father Joe, (Steve Mendillo), whose vaulting ambition contoured the lives of all of his sons, and whose approval of “good Bobby” was desperately sought by RFK but, according to Franklin's play, never fully realized. We follow RFK's rise to national prominence, his battles during the civil rights era as U.S. Attorney General, his involvement in his brother John's presidential campaign (and more than a few unsavory deeds during that time), the aftermath of JFK's assassination, and Bobby's gradual ascension into the Democratic party's nominee for president in 1968. The script is very well written, and Franklin can be forgiven for some questionable Oliver Stone moments involving a shadowy CIA agent (Jim Metzler). The performances are uniformly high caliber under Pierson Blaetz’s fine direction. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Avenue, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., through November, 23. (323) 655-7679 (Lovell Estell III)

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Good Bobby opens this weekend at Greenway Arts Allaince. Photo by Ed Krieger.

GRUESOME HOTEL Murder-mystery comedy about a corpse and nine suspects in a hotel lobby. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Through Oct. 25, 8 p.m.. (323) 469-3113, www.writeactrep.org.

GROUNDLINGS SPECIAL LADY FRIEND All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mitch Silpa. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.. (323) 934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

HUGGING THE SHOULDER Younger brother tries to detox his heroin-addicted sibling, in Jerrod Bogard's drama. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (323) 252-2042, www.complexhollywood.com.

INTO THE WOODS Brothers Grimm characters interact, in James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim's musical. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 14. (323) 939-9220, www.lyrictheatrela.com.

JAMES & JOSEPH Jaimyon Parker's anti-drug story. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 960-7724, www.plays411.com.

JANE AUSTEN UNSCRIPTED Austen-esque tales, improv'd anew each night. Theatre Asylum, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (323) 960-7753, www.plays411.com/janeaustenunscripted.

GO JOE'S GARAGE Joe (Jason Paige) wants to play music. But after a neighbor (Maia Madison) files a noise complaint with the cops on his garage band, Joe and his girl Mary (Becky Wahlstrom) fall prey to a domino chain of gang rape, venereal disease, wet t-shirt contests, prison time, cyborg threesomes, and madness. What's to blame? "Music," hisses the Central Scrutinizer (Michael Dunn), a robot narrator dangling from the rafters -- certainly not the religious and government figures who sure seem to be pulling the strings. Like novelist Terry Southern, Frank Zappa's weapon against hypocrisy was to confront audiences with a circus mirror of their culture's greed and lust. Some saw their reflection; others argued Zappa was warped. Pat Towne and Michael Franco's world premiere staging of Zappa's narrative album crackles with outrage and grief masked by a leer --- Jennifer Lettelleir choreographs plenty of sex, but like Robert Crumb's comics, it's more repellent than titillating. Musical director Ross Wright and the seven piece band help the snappy ensemble animize Zappa's eclectic sound which ranges from dissonant juggernauts to deceptively sweet ditties. Per Zappa's request, the song "Watermelon in Easter Hay" plays once his hapless everyman has succumbed to creative censorship; the band puts down their instruments, turns off the lights, and cues Zappa's original version. In that isolating darkness, Zappa's limber guitar feels like a lifeline -- we're struck by our need for music, and our need for today's apolitical musicians to break loose and write the next chorus. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 22. (323) 882-6912, (Amy Nicholson)

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Joe's Garage Photo by Maia Rosenfeld

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN Manuel Puig’s novel dealt with the volatile relations between frivolous gay window-decorator Molina (Chad Borden), and Valentin (Daniel Tatar) — an earnest, straight political prisoner — sharing a South American jail cell. A previous dramatization zeroed in on that relationship. But, writing the book for this musical version, with score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Terrence McNally faced the task of “opening up” the story, and creating opportunities for musical numbers. The Spider Woman (Terra C. Macleod), a symbolic fantasy figure, had to be expanded into a role for a female star. So, like a ballet with too many divertimenti, the story must constantly stop in its tracks to accommodate splashy numbers or conventional, often irrelevant songs. Director Nick DeGruccio and choreographer Lee Martino have mounted a terrific production, with a fine cast, an athletic dance ensemble, a huge and handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, slinky outfits for the Spider Woman by Anne Kennedy and sterling musical direction by Michael Paternostro. The actors are fine and make the show moving when the script lets them. But too many numbers and distractions clog the show’s arteries, and the compelling central tale falls prey to Broadway razzle-dazzle. (NW) Bootleg Theatre, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., through Oct. 26. (800) 595-4849 or www.havoktheatre.com. A Havok Theatre Co. production.

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.

LEADING LADIES Ken Ludwig's comedy about a pair of actors plotting to scam an elderly woman. (Call for added perfs.). Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 16, (No perf Oct. 31.). (323) 462-8460.

THE LIEUTENANT NUN Billed as a comedy, playwright Odalys Nanin’s cartoonlike dramatization of the life of 17th-century Basque noblewoman Catalina de Erauso offers little insight into this unique historical personality and the conventions she battled. Victim of a rigid Spanish patriarchy, the teenage Erauso fled the convent where she’d spent her childhood. She donned men’s clothes and became a Spanish soldier who lived and fought under the name of Guzman. Condemned to death for brawling, she confessed to being a woman and was not only spared execution but — remarkably — granted a dispensation by the pope to continue to live as a man. Her proven virginity and her service to the state saved her, and her memoirs brought her celebrity in her lifetime. Co-directed by Johanna Siegmann and Ivonne Coll, this adaptation features Nanin in the title role and employs broad strokes to portray Guzman as a swaggering, courageous hothead, irresistible to women, who go wild over her lovemaking techniques. The play opens on high melodrama, later shifting into a bawdier vein with no hint of tongue in cheek. The dialogue is simplistic and the acting over the top. No effort is made to give shading to the characters or, more interestingly, to the ideological dynamics behind the church’s acceptance of her transvestism and its apparent “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitude toward her sexual preferences. (DK) Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Oct. 26. (323) 960-7829.

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The Lieutenant Nun Courtesy ILDK Media

GO LOUIS AND KEELY LIVE AT THE SAHARA You can find several clips of singer-partners Louis Prima and Keely Smith, with a small jazz combo behind them, on YouTube. The pair practically invented the genre of the lounge act, playing as they did during much of the 1950s at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, lingering on the margins of fame. Think of them as antecedents to Sonny and Cher, or a musical version of Abbott and Costello. Smith was the “straight-man” woman and long-suffering wife of the hyperactive, philandering Prima, whom you’ll see hopping in front of the bandstand like a maniac, throwing his entire body into each beat, a grin plastered across his face, the biggest ham since Hamlet. Keep these tiny-screen presences in mind when you see Vanessa Claire Smith and Jake Broder’s sublime new musical about the duo and their tempestuous life on and off stage, Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara.Certainly not the first musical to chronicle a musical group — other recent entries include Pump Boys and Dinettes and Jersey Boys — this has to be the first one to take a lounge act seriously, rather than as a spittoon for gobs of ridicule. In a glorious world-premiere production directed by Jeremy Aldridge for Hollywood’s Sacred Fools Theater Company, Prima and Smith are re-created with accuracy and richness — perhaps because the writers are also the leading players. Vanessa Claire Smith’s cropped brunette ’do apes that of Keely Smith’s, a look that Liza Minnelli adopted later — though the silky, tender singing style of both Smiths couldn’t be more contrary to Minnelli’s comparatively ostentatious, belting interpretations. Prima had a more gruff sound than that depicted by Broder, whose sculpted, jazzy tones more closely resemble Bobby Darin’s. What Broder delivers in thunderbolts, though, is Prima’s exuberant, maniacal self-choreography — leaping, lurching, swaying and sashaying. Why this guy is jumping around so much becomes the musical’s central question. The answer to that question could come with dismissing Prima as a narcissistic clown, The creators, however, treat their subject with far more compassion than that, as Prima’s plight approaches tragedy. (Broder played Mozart in the Broadway production of Amadeus, which provides a small window onto the vainglorious hysteria that Broder depicts here so brilliantly.) He croons in musical styles from ’20s Dixieland jazz through ’30s swing, ’40s big band and ’50s scat — and their accompanying lingo (“cats,” “chicks” and “gigs”). Broder’s song-and-dance routine, capturing Prima’s cocky romantic domination over Smith, as well as his solipsistic devotion to his music, is a bravura performance not to be missed. And having an onstage, seven-piece backup band (doubling as supporting players) doubles the impact, particularly with sounds so carefully modulated by musical director Dennis Kaye. A piano, two saxophones, a string bass, drum set, a trumpet and trombone, all on the stage of this 99-seat theater, places us in the equivalent of a small recording studio. When the band hits its stride with enveloping riffs of Dixieland blues and Big Band stylings, hang on to your seat. The musical current is that strong. This journey through Prima’s life comes on the eve of his death in 1978. (Smith is still alive and thriving.) Though it sweeps in biographical details from the ’20s — his “craziness,” he says, captured hearts during the Great Depression — the story kicks into gear during the late ’40s with its AStar is Born plot featuring Smith as the ingenue who saves Prima’s foundering big-band act and resurrects it with a ’50s spin in Las Vegas. And though he’s doing all the jumping and prancing, and giving all the orders, the newspaper reviews focus on her talents, not his. Prima’s jealousy erupts, not so much in offstage screaming matches (he barely speaks to her) but in the tensions that escalate on the stage, which everyone can see, and which perversely renders their act more popular. He actually encourages the onstage hostility, for just that reason. And so, through 16 songs (ranging from “Basin Street Blues,” “That Old Black Magic,”and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to the song that defined Prima’s career, the medley of “Just a Gigolo” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody”) one passionate love and cruel marriage is played out almost entirely between the lines. If the purpose of musical theater is to express in song what can’t be expressed in mere words, this is about as perfect as a musical can get. It’s simple without being simplistic, summing up 80 years of gender relations in 90 minutes. Yet this is not just a musical about men and women but about life, and art as an expression of it; the devastating costs of recklessly turning a private life into a public one; and that old, blinding obsession with fame. Smith’s desperate words accompany her tortured decision to leave her husband, “Life is happening right in your face and you don’t even notice. You don’t hear anything unless it’s in the key of B flat!” I walked out of the theater wrenched by a depth of emotion that seemed to make no sense, coming from a musical about the quaint saga of an almost forgotten lounge act. That’s when I realized I’d been punched in the gut and didn’t even know it. It was a delayed reaction to the blow landed in Broder’s reprise of “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” He just kept on singing that refrain, as the band packed up and left him there, until his death bed slowly rolled in. What may first look like a musical comedy is actually a musical tragedy, ancient Greek style: the deluded protagonist who’s undone by hubris and sent into exile.Exile was a bad end for Oedipus, but imagine if Oedipus’ delusions included eternal celebrity from a Las Vegas lounge act. The program cover contains the slogan, “Nothing lasts forever.” I hope this show does. (SLM) Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (800) 838-3006, www.louiskeelyshow.com. Note: This production has changed venue since this review.

LOVELACE: A ROCK OPERA The story of Deep Throat actress Linda Lovelace, book, music and lyrics by Charlotte Caffe. Hayworth Theater, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (323) 960-4442, www.plays411.com.

THE MAGIC STRING Egomaniacal would-be writer Cody is more inclined to harangues than normal conversation. His therapist tells him his blockage is due to selfishness, and urges him to live for others. He obediently complies by adopting an obsessive-compulsive carpet-sweeper salesman addicted to marathon apologies. After too many jumpy scenes about Cody's literary constipation, playwright/director Nicole Hoelle engineers an arbitrary happy ending. (NW). Mount Hollywood Congregational Church, 4607 Prospect Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 663-6577.

MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: WHAT'S LOVE MADE OF, ANYWAY? Awful screenplays condensed and performed live. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

GO MONEY & RUN If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. To lure audiences away from movies and TV, some theaters are taking cues from their competition. Recent successful productions riff off Showgirls, Point Break and Charlie’s Angels; now 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. Their romantic fireworks are outdone by the goofball supporting characters, which include Tobias Jelinek as a turtleneck-wearing manhunter, Pete Caslavka’s drunken bum, and the grandstanding and fierce Alyssa Bostwick as Big Momma Bob, the local liquor-emporium czarina who wants to see Money strung up by her belly shirt. Rawley’s honed his clever quips and sharp timing — even an opening-credits sequence is a hoot. It’s live, but is it theater? As the narrator (Rawley) tells us to “stay tuned for scenes from the next episode,” and the cast races through a quick montage, the best we and this production can hope is that theater’s fun, albeit flattened reinvention is less disposable than its origins. (AN) Lyric Hyperion Theater Café, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; indef. (800) 595-4TIX.

>NEW REVIEW MONEY SHOT It’s been all of five Earth years since NASA’s famously overachieving rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, began wandering the Martian terra firma in hope of identifying traces of extraterrestrial life. If only the space bots had touched down on Daniel Keleher’s pseudo-Labutian burlesque of amateur online pornographers instead. Keleher’s two-hour roar of sexual invective, off-color cliche and raunchy non-sequitur is fairly teeming with inhuman caricatures alien to earthly drama. A four-man fuck-film crew, calling themselves the Super Cocks, pin their hopes for the Web-sex big time to legendary porn auteur, the Cunt (Kahlil Joseph), who agrees to helm their upcoming gang-bang opus. Never mind that the horse-hung, star performer (Shawn Colten) has broken under the strain of concealing an affair with the scriptwriter (Dante Walker) from the group’s violently homophobic, resident sociopath (Gregory Myhre). He needn’t have worried. The loathsome leader is far too preoccupied with seducing Cocks-member James Jordan’s new girlfriend, Tiffany (Danielle See), to notice. When the inexplicably compliant girl accepts a particularly degrading role as the film’s multiple-penetrated sex object, the resulting insult and injury exposes the men’s over-exaggerated macho swagger as the more malevolent expression of sexual violence. Long before that happens, however, any remaining motivational logic is simply drowned out by a mind-numbing, locker-room misogyny that Keleher evidently believes to be witty repartee. Director Justin Huen’s limited range of moods —loud and louder— is not surprisingly less than helpful to his overwhelmed ensemble. The Alexandria, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (323) 960-7776, www.plays411.com/moneyshot. (Bill Raden)

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Money Shot Photo by Jon-Sesrie Goff.

GO THE MOST MEDIOCRE STORY NEVER TOLD In his autobiographical one-man show, Jay Sefton takes every aspect of the autobiographical one-man show and dismantles it before our eyes. This is because his show isn't really about his youth in Philadelphia and subsequent move to L.A., nor is it about his older and more macho brother, Joe, whom Sefton portrays and who frequently hijacks the show. Sefton's exploration probes the essence of a story, and the distinctions, if any, between a legend and a lie. Joe keeps goading Jay to make things up or the show will be a bore. The awful truth is that his brother maybe right -- that a normal, honorable if meek youth with caring parents is the pleasant kind of existence that nobody wants to hear about stage, or see in movies, or read in books. Edward Albee once said that he writes a play in order to understand why he's writing it. Sefton's show is so clearly undertaken with the goal of Sefton trying to understand why he should be telling his life story, the result breezes past narcissism on a charm-filled meta-literary excursion, under Debra De Liso's nimble direction – something like a magic carpet ride. Meta Theatre, 7801 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (323) 960-7780. (Steven Leigh Morris) Note:

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Most Mediocre Story Never Told Photo by Ed Krieger

NIHIL OBSTAT Bill Sterritt’s spare three-character play, set in France in 1095 A.D., centers on the machinations within the papacy in the period just before The Crusades. Pope Urban II (Matt Haught) and The Cardinal (Aaron Preston Crothers) are discussing an impending papal dictum when The Cardinal suggests that the Pope’s speech be reviewed by the local Censor (Chris Pauley). The Pope, believing that he is “cloaked in infallibility,” is aghast at the suggestion, but concedes in order to win the support of the peasants he will send into battle. The Censor, despite his humble origins, defies the Pope when The Cardinal forces his hand, resulting in a powerful theological debate on the justification for Holy War. As the Censor grows bolder, we see that this peasant is more honorable and true to his faith than either man of the cloth. While the play initially gets bogged down in its ecclesiastical verbiage, and the parallels to Bush and Cheney are a bit heavy-handed, once the Censor enters the picture, the words come to life and the drama unfolds. Sterritt’s direction paces the dialogue a bit too quickly at first, but the actors eventually slow down, ramping up the tension and the menace within a compact play that runs just under an hour. (MK) Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through November 2. (323) 793-2153. A SPQR Stage Company Production.

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Nihil Obstat

NO PLACE TO BE SOMEBODY Charles Gordone's "Black-black comedy.". Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 9. (323) 960-4443, www.plays411.com/noplace.

>NEW REVIEW GO NORTH PHILLY Ralph Harris' one-man show is the latest in a slew of recently performed, compelling solo performances (including Alex Lyras and Robert McCaskill's Common Air, Chazz Palminteri's A Bronx Tale, and Jay Sefton's The Most Mediocre Story Never Told) that offer a portrait of a community, or of a family, with one performer crawling inside and impersonating a gallery of characters floating around a central idea, replicating the motion of moths around a light. In North Philly, the centerpiece is the 94th birthday party for his grandfather. Yet Harris goes beyond imitating his eccentric family members who gather for the occasion. In a snappy tan vest and matching trousers, he drapes himself over a barstool and spins himself back to his childhood, where every dollar was counted and coveted – imitating himself as a child, precocious and fearful. The musculature of the piece, as in most shows of this ilk, derives from the cadences and colloquialisms of dialect, accentuated by Don Reed's studied direction. Depicting himself as a child, Harris reenacts having to play “retarded” on the street in order to protect himself from being beaten up and robbed by the local gang. The performance is as rich as the writing: from details of the “wet money” he would always carry, from having to stuff dollar bills into his mouth as a protection from being robbed; to catching ringworm in a local swimming pool; to his grandfather's “sliding” dentures. In one scene, Harris conjures his estranged father's wedding day. This does raise the question of how Harris, Jr. would have obtained that insight, a quibble in a haunting show that also needs an editor and possibly a dramaturg. The play's final portrait of Harris' 94-year-old grandfather, facing down a gunman in the post office, is brilliant for its physical and vocal detail, as well as its blend of drama and wisdom. It's the light around which the other stories flutter, yet it's still a random source of the piece's chaotic unity – perhaps because the grandfather has no interaction with the other characters whom Harris has introduced us to. North Philly is nonetheless a compassionate and often enchanting work in development. Stella Adler Theater, 6773, Hollywood Boulevard, Second Floor; Wed., 8 p.m.; through December 17. (323) 960-7612. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage feature later this week.

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North Philly Photo by Keith J. Leman

POLITICO! The idea of an almost entirely improvised rock opera based on a presidential campaign stuffs the ballot box with possibilities, but the final tally hangs like a dangling chad on the performers’ satirical wit, and their ability to locate a political edge. With the general concept that the Devil is running our political show, and candidates’ relatives, with their sundry addictions and improprieties, can drive a campaign manager to drink, the comedy on the night I attended was both obvious and blunt, when surprise and sharpness were called for. Director Joseph Limbaugh appears here as a somewhat lumbering Devil/satyr (with perky assistant Karina Bustillos, in horns) in order to set up each scene for the actors/characters who happen to be present. Musical director Susan Peahl did a first-rate job modulating composer Jonathan Green’s and Brian Lohman's opening and closing chorals, beautifully sung a cappella by the ensemble. The scenarios include the PR nightmare for Liberty Party campaign manager Molly Hatchet (Kimberly Lewis) – representing candidate Senator Scott Turner (Brian Lohmann, who had somewhere else to be, and didn’t appear onstage that night). Turner’s son, Beverly (Barry O’Neil), is lead singer of the band Involuntary Ragnarock, and has impregnated his girlfriend – as musicians tend to do – and Hatchet was grasping for strategies of containment. Robert Covarrubias has a nice turn as stern Special Agent Gregory Eagleson (who has a soft side), while Alexis Kraus and Diana Costa put in respective appearances as the drug-induced visions of Sacajawea and Susan B. Anthony. Stage presence so frequently fell victim to the the ad hoc essence of improv, I found myself wishing that this American apple-pie filling was more tart, or that somebody would write a script for these guys. (SLM) Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 9 p.m.; through Nov. 14. (323) 525-0202.

PORCELAIN Chay Yew's story of an Asian homosexual's murderous confession. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 9. (323) 957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

RAZORBACK John Pollono’s “pitch-dark comedy” — set in a rustic Maine cabin – is packed with terrific roles. The roles may be richer than the play’s essential qualities. These qualities start from those in any family drama by Sam Shepard, mingled with the comedy of idiot-thugs pitched against ineffectual poet-philosophers found in Harold Pinter’s early plays, and Quentin Tarantino’ film Pulp Fiction. Pollono is a good writer, but with 30 new plays per week opening in L.A. alone, one asks for aspects of originality and theatricality in a new work rather than those of indie-film derivation, which prevail here. Dean (Richard Fancy) is an aging ex-thug with a few months to live, condemned by what appears to be colon cancer. Fancy plays him defined by brute dominance and machismo yet with clearly elucidated soft spots for his second wife, Sandy (Suzanne Ford, in a nicely textured performance), and their intellectually precocious “son,” DJ (Edward Tournier). Dean’s boozy ex, Ruth (Laura Gardner), arrives in a blather of intoxication, along with the tattooed, bloodied adult son, Rocco (the excellent Jack Maxwell). Turns out Rocco is on the run, and if we never met whom he’s running from, or understood why, there wouldn’t be an Act 2. The character study of Act 1 yields to the hostage drama of Act 2. Large weapons get brandished, family secrets get unleashed, there are jokes about the overwrought violence in which the play indulges, like the fantasy of a gangster comedy to star Robert DeNiro and Chris Rock. In their stead, we get terrific portrayals by Rob Bottitta and Patrick Flanagan as the Mafia up from the city. And though the play’s ultimate worldview can be found in innumerable DVDs arriving in the mail from Netflix, this is still a good workout for the actors, the writer and for director Elina De Santos, who shapes the action as seamlessly as she can. Stephen Gifford’s realistic set is also effective, under Leigh Allen’s lights. (SLM) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 2 (323) 960-7726.

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Razorback Photo by John Perrin Flynn

RESTAURANT REVELATIONS Live collage of movies scenes set at restaurants. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 25. (323) 465-0800.

>NEW REVIEW SAVAGE WORLD Inspired by the story of an African-American boxer wrongfully convicted of murdering a white, Jewish couple, playwright Stephen Fife’s sprawling melodrama revolves around the efforts of a reporter named Sol Eisner (Erik Passoja) to establish the athlete's innocence. The play starts in the present with the now middle-aged Eisner struggling to provide direction for his university educated son (Nate Geez), inexplicably hostile and rebellious. It then flashes back to the '70s, to his meetings with the accused, Calvin ”Savage” James (Vincent M. Ward), and his labyrinthine search for evidence of the man’s innocence. The juicy core of the conflict is whether Savage, a proven liar, thief and abuser of women, is indeed not guilty. But instead of exploiting this ambiguity with the depths of ferocity it deserves, the nearly three- hour piece meanders through a plethora of manipulated subplots and extraneous characters more suitable to a convoluted B-movie police drama than an intense character-driven drama. Ultimately, the production gains traction from Passoja’s fastidiously calibrated portrait of a solidly middle class Jewish intellectual – somewhat nerdy - willing to take risks for his principles. The many solid supporting performances include Latarsha Rose as Eisner’s love interest, Tom Badal as his Uncle Jack, whose support Sol craves, and Ernest Harden Jr., as a pivotal witness whose story keeps changing. As Savage, Ward needs more complexity and volcanic heat. Subpar lighting contributes to the production’s lack of focus . L. Flint Esquerra directs. Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood; Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Nov. 23. (323) 960-7788. (Deborah Klugman). A MET Theatre and Stealfire Production production.

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Savage World Photo by Stephen Fife

GO SEA CHANGE This world premiere of Nick Salamone’s latest play offers an elegant study of enduring friendship among five friends (three gay men and two lesbians). From pot smoking, the spaced-out high life of their youth in the '70s, to a sober, sadder and wiser middle age a quarter century later, the quintet explores companionship, sensuality and love on a small fishing boat off Cape Cod. The boat's owner, Gene (Ryun Yu), is outed as a future priest who's sending his lover, Val (Nick Cimiluca), into a tailspin that spurs the entire group into a orgy of philosophy, pop-psychology and nature worship. Twenty-five years later, AIDS and mental illness have intervened in the friends' lives as they reconnect for a reunion on the boat. Salamone's clear sense of character and story sometimes fall prey to some florid language, but director Jon Lawrence Rivera and the fine cast (who also include Fran De Leon, Clay Storseth and Lisa Tharps) are skilled enough to navigate through these overwrought moments. Gary Reed's stylishly crafted boat set provides a vivid sense of place. Elizabeth Huffman's witty costume designs and expert hair and makeup help the actors add further credibility to the age transitions. (TP) L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, Davidson/Valenti Theater, 1125 N McCadden Pl., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Oct. 12. (323) 860-7300.

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Sea Change Photo by Allison Moon

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.; thru Oct. 25. (310) 281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO/SHOPPING & FU**ING Two short plays, by David Mamet and Mark Ravenhill, respectively. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (800) 595-4TIX, www.insightamerica.org.

SO FRESH AND SO CLEAN Comedy, poetry and beatboxing by Joe Hernandez-Kolski and Joshua Silverstein. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 653-6886, www.bangstudio.com/.

GO SPEECH & DEBATE Playwright Stephen Karam’s quirky high school comedy imaginatively (and sometimes disturbingly) reinvents the witch-hunt of The Crucible through the teenage frame of The Breakfast Club, mixing in a touch of Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator.” In a small, claustrophobic Oregon town, sexually precocious teenager Howie (Michael Welch) engages in come-hither provocative cyberchat with a much older man, who turns out to be none other than his own drama teacher. Fiendishly ambitious high school newspaper reporter Solomon (Aaron Himelstein), driven by his own repressed sexuality, learns of Howie’s interactions and wants to make his story public in a huge exposé. Along with Diwata (Mae Whitman), a vengeful theater brat who has been passed up by the drama teacher for one too many acting roles, Solomon and Howie form an organization that to the rest of the world appears to be the school’s Speech and Debate club, but which, in fact, has a darker and more confrontational purpose. Although Karam’s writing occasionally slips on its own soap opera suds, the combination of artistry and a brash, youthful energy is unsettling enough to elicit a few squirms — exactly the kind you’d hope for in the theater. Director Daniel Henning’s psychologically shrewd direction drives the action while being engagingly intimate. Himselstein’s sweetly neurotic Solomon; Whitman’s shrill, driven Diwata; and Welch’s technologically sophisticated but emotionally naive gay boy are hilarious, touching and disturbing by turns. (PB) 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct 26. (323) 661-9827. A Blank Theatre Company production.

THE STAR-SPANGLED GIRL Neil Simon's comedy about a pair of '60s radicals who fall for the ultra-patriotic girl next door. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (818) 500-7200, www.itsmyseat.com.

TILTED FRAME Multimedia improv comedy, directed by Patrick Bristow and Matthew Quinn. Theatre Asylum, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 20. (323) 960-7753, www.plays411.com/tiltedframe.

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.

TORN BETWEEN TWO BITCHES Michael Sargent's love story set in the 90's zine scene. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 466-7781, www.unknowntheater.com.

GO TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY "Is the sense of tragedy palpable?" presses stately news anchor Frank (Frederick Ponzlov) to in-field reporter John (Matthew McCray). If either man -- or fellow correspondents Michael (Daniel Getzoff) and Constance (Sarah Boughton) -- recognizes the question's absurdity, they aren't showing it. Gifted with gravitas and eloquence, the four graveyard shift journalists in Pulitzer finalist Will Eno's sharp satire on round-the-clock spin are honing panic that the sun has set and may never rise again. Is it true? Facts are non-existent but the puffery they spout to fill up time sure sounds like a crisis. And, as Frank notes, if the morning comes, then we'll have to pray for afternoon. Our own doubts about whether the crisis even exists cloud Eno's meaning. But as the pressure to say something unmoors all the newscasters, their anchoman crumbles, begging for nonsense human interest stories -- even little lies. Donald Boughton's crisply comedic staging deepens as the play eventually reveals its darker resonances: A fumbling man-on-the-street (Jonathan C.K. Williams), first tries to will the media back to life like they were Tinkerbells or stock market indexes. The man ]reminds us that if we're united, our shared uncertainties can become our common faith. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 16. (800) 383-3006, www.sonofsemele.org. (Amy Nicholson)

EL VAGON OF THE IMMIGRANTS Silvia Gonzalez's bilingual play about immigrants crossing the border in a boxcar. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (213) 382-8133, www.fridakahlotheater.org.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SUNDAY 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.

THE WAY WE GET BY Eight people deal with various crises, by Neil LaBute. Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (818) 685-9939.

THE WOMEN Clare Booth Luce's The Women is thought of first as an expose of female competition among a pack of well-groomed wildcats who claw until they draw blood, and then out-do each other commiserating. Less remembered is Luce's curious stance against emotional feminism, as betrayed wife and mother Mary (Vanessa Waters) comes to believe that the cause of her divorce wasn't that cheap tramp, Crystal Allen (Stephanie O'Neill), but her own pride. Fempowerment, not femme fatales, wrecks homes. "Love has pride in nothing but its own humility," writes Luce invoking Khalil Gibran, and so the challenge of mounting her play is in scaling its icy peaks and humble lows. Elise Robertson's staging stays in the middle ranges. The 15-woman ensemble is fine; the costumes by O'Neill and Rachel Kanouse are great, as are Robertson's sets. But both the cruelty and the heartbreak are mannered, not meaty. And unlike George Cukor's triumphant film version, the maids, manicurists, and career girls nearly steal the show from under the society dames, though as the fatuous breeder Edith Potter, Emma Messenger is a vicious riot as she flicks her cigarette ashes over her newborn son. Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (323) 960-1054, www.circustheatricals.com. (Amy Nicholson)

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The Women Photo by Jeannine W. Stehlin

WOMEN WITH DOGS Relationship comedy by Rick Pagano. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (323) 960-5773, www.plays411.com/womenwithdogs.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS IN THE VALLEYS

ARMS AND THE MAN George Bernard Shaw's romantic comedy. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 5. (818) 500-7200, www.itsmyseat.com.

ARMSTRONG’S KID Stanley Bennett Clay’s drama about guilt, anger and repression centers on a trial stemming from 14-year-old Thaddeus’ (Tory Scroggins) false accusation of molestation against his dad’s charismatic gay best friend, Mr. Drake (Clay). After prison time and sizable civil court reparations, Drake’s tried to move on after 10 years, though his reclusive digs hint of a life forever divided into Before and After. When Thaddeus, spurred by a range of secret motives, drives up for their first confrontation in a decade, their bourbon-fueled talks quickly escalate from civilities to tirades. Clay has the foundation for a play about modern-day witch-hunts and the wounds of loneliness. At present, however, it’s a series of traded speeches where the two men keep reversing their arguments. Clay’s direction feels hemmed in; still, as the dignified drunk, he has a bitter hauteur, while Scroggins’ more layered and contradictory role results in the young actor coming across as swaddled and stiff. The scenes with the the most frisson come when alcohol and anger spur both men to fling slurs that undercut their moral authority and allow us to question each one’s self-image as the victim. (AN) Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Nov. 9. (323) 480-3232 or www.ticketmaster.com.

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Armstrong's Kid

GO THE BELLE OF AMHERST Few writers embraced as many contradictions as 19th Century New England poet Emily Dickinson. Though a life-long spinster and a near-total recluse from the age of 30, she was a doubter with a longing to believe, a reverent iconoclast, a fiercely romantic virgin, and a timid soul who wrote daring verse. (Oonly seven of her poems were published in her lifetime.) Playwright William Luce captures more of her in this monodrama than one might reasonably expect, weaving her poems into the dialog so gracefully that one hardly realizes what he’s up to till a rhyme or a familiar phrase rings out. Modern scholars have suggested that this shrinking violet may have concealed a lurking serpent: Luce has her say, “My love frightens people.” And her mentor, Rev. Thomas Wentworth Higginson, admitted being afraid of her, and thanked his stars that she lived no closer. Under the deft direction of Tony Sears, actor Kate Randolph Burns gives us a rich, multi-layered Dickinson, capturing her thorny charm and wicked humor as well as the pain and fear of a woman who could write, “Will there really be a morning?” and died uncertain if her “letter to the world” would ever be received. (NW) The Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru Oct. 12. (866) 811-4111 or www.theatermania.com.

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The Belle of Amherst Photo by Tony Sears

BLOOD BROTHERS Twin boys, separated at birth, are reunited, book, music and lyrics by Willy Russell. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (866) 811-4111, www.bloodbrothersla.com.

BUSH IS BAD: ALASKAN BEAUTY QUEEN EDITION Political satire, including musical parody of the McCain-Palin ticket, by Joshua Rosenblum. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 16. (818) 508-7101, www.nohoartscenter.com.

DEAD SERIOUS Dutch Parker's story of a cuckolded husband. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 807-6251, www.itsmyseat.com.

FAHRENHEIT 451 Ray Bradbury's book burner. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (323) 960-4451, www.plays411/raybradbury.

THE FAMILY OF MANN The kooky world of sitcom writing, as seen by Theresa Rebeck. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (323) 769-5858, www.theatreneo.com.

GO THE FRIENDLY HOUR Tom Jacobson's lovely new play chronicles the rituals of a women's club in rural South Dakota from the late '30s to 2007, and we watch the women with whom we grow increasingly familiar age and engage in theological disputes that are really at the heart of the matter. God's purpose, and the purpose of community, interweave and clash through the decades as five fine actors portray many more roles. Leading the pack is Kate Mines' prickly creationist Effie and Ann Noble's proud, forward-thinking Dorcas Briggle who, had she lived somewhere else, would have joined the Unitarian Church. (Deana Barone, Mara Marine and Bettina Zacar round out the cast.) The play desperately needs pruning – its length is partly responsible for a monochromatic quality that dampens Mark Bringleson's otherwise animated and tender staging. If this were scaled down to six pointed scenes from its perpetually unrolling carpet of the club's rites and characters' domestic crises, the impact of the survivors' dotage in 2007 could be that much more gripping. Still, Jacobson has put aside the conspicuous cleverness of his past works, Bunbury and Ouroboros, for an impressionistic landscape that straddles the literary worlds of Anton Chekhov and Thornton Wilder. Desma Murphey's wood-framed set, against which a backdrop of clouds peers through, contains both elegance and allegory, and Lisa D. Burke's costumes contain similar affection and wit. (SLM) Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (866) 811-4111, http://roadtheatre.org. A Road Theatre Company production.

HOW CISSY GREW Non-linear drama about a rebellious girl, by Susan Johnston. (In the Forum Theatre.). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (866) 811-4111, www.elportaltheatre.com.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES provides a platform for audience members to interact with infamous or celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created by the ensemble in a series of monologues. The results are tame at best, featuring dated public figures Christine Jorgenson, Billy Carter, David Koresh, and others. How much more volcanic the show might have been had we been able to challenge Karl Rove, Eliot Spitzer, or Sarah Palin. (DK). Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 14. (323) 960-4451.

LOVE'S OLD SWEET SONG William Saroyan's comedy about a mysterious telegram. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (800) 838-3006, www.syzygytheatre.org.

GO M. BUTTERFLY David Henry Hwang’s 1988 drama receives a fine staging by director Derek Charles Livingston. Hwang artfully blends the story of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly with the incredible case of Bernard Boursicot, a French diplomat working in China, who was convicted of treason in the 1980s. The play spans some 20 years and opens with René Gallimard (Sam R. Ross, in a splendid turn) pacing about in a jail cell in France, where he recounts the sad, often humorous tale of his decades-long love affair with the beautiful opera diva Song Liling (the masterful J. Manabat), whom he met one night at a show. His eerie attraction to the singer gradually evolves into an obsession bordering on idol worship of this “perfect woman,” even compelling him to divorce his wife, Helga (J.C. Henning). Among a series of surprises slowly unveiled is that the lovely Song is actually a Chinese “Mata Hari,” who wheedles classified information from the Frenchman. The play’s engagement and humor derive from the brilliant subtlety of Hwang’s interweaving themes of sex, gender, racism, reality and illusion. Livingston manages his cast superbly, and August Viverito’s minimalist set design serves the effort well, along with his slyly understated costumes. (LE3) The Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443 Chandler Blvd.; North Hollywood., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. through Nov. 8. (800) 838-3006.

MAGIC? MAYBE ... Jennifer Emily McLean's fantasy about a young woman who denounces magic. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Sun., 11 a.m.; thru Dec. 7. (323) 636-9661, www.theatreyawp.com.

MASTERGATE Larry Gelbart's satire about congressional hearings into guerrillas funded via a Hollywood blockbuster. Actors Group Theatre, 4378 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (800) 838-3006, www.brownpaperticketscom/event/44915.

NUTS Tom Topor's play about a high-class prostitute on trial for murder. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (818) 206-4000, www.ravenplayhouse.com.

O SOLO NEO Three solo performers in five shows. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (818) 202-4120, www.zombiejoes.com.

GO THE SEQUENCE For over 80 years, theater artists have been trying to make peace with technology and science, fields that would seem to defy the arts – from Elmer Rice’s disturbing 1923 The Adding Machine; to Heinar Kippart's 1964 drama, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer; to Tom Stoppard’s impenetrable Arcadia in 1993; through David Auburn’s emotionally wrought 2001 psychological exercise, Proof. . Generally, though, real science is employed to move the plot along and involve characters without boring the audience with technical details. In Paul Mullin's new play, The Sequence, however, the protagonist is the scientific inquiry at the heart of the play – the mapping of the human genome. In a very pleasing twist of expectations, some fiercely human, comic moments make for breathtaking dramatic tension – stemming from questions of whether the ultimate credit for unraveling DNA should go to scientist Craig Venter (Hugo Armstrong) or Francis Collins (William Salyers) of the federal government, and whether reporter Kellie Silverstein should get a Pulitzer prize for writing a story about the two-man race. Mullin’s often outlandish explanations of the subject make this a fascinating, rapid-fire entertainment, that moves from childlike storytelling to music hall and beyond. Director John Langs and his bright (and often over-articulate) actors maneuver with assurance through Mullins slippery slopes between reality and fantasy. Gary Smoot’s simple but sharp scenery, Jason H. Thompson’s projections and Jose Lopez’s present beautifully crafted visual production – adding Robbin E. Broad and Joseph M. Wilbur’s pounding sound design creates an even more profound environment. (TP) Boston Court Theatre, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 9. (626) 683-6883.

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The Sequence Photo by Ed Krieger

THE SUGAR BEAN SISTERS Nathan Sanders' story of two eccentric sisters. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (626) 256-3809.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALL THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

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. (Luis Reyes) 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.

ABSOLUTELY HALLOWEEN A young girl's magical All Hallow's Eve adventure, book, music and lyrics by Chris DeCarlo, Evelyn Rudie and Matt Wrather. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (310) 394-9779.

ASSES & ELEPHANTS Playwright Suzanne Bressler's sweet but unevenly executed romantic comedy offers an election year twist on all themes Romeo and Juliet, in which politics makes for strange bedfellows – or, more accurately, it threatens to prevent the bedfellows from getting to bed. On Election Day 2004, likable young slacker Jake (Brian Kelly), a devoted liberal, decides to throw a house party to celebrate the Dems' almost certain victory – and he invites Ruby (Kristen Pate), the cute former high school classmate he runs into at a local restaurant. Ruby shows up to the party – but Jake quickly discovers to his horror that she's a proud Republican with conservative opinions on government bailouts, the Second Amendment, and the War in Iraq. Notwithstanding this, Jake hopes to win the lovely girl by pretending to be right-wing, and thereby enraging his pals. Complications ensue when the presidential race takes its abrupt historical turn, forcing Jake to choose between love and politics. Bressler's comedy boats a genuinely appealing premise for a breakneck romantic farce – and the work cleverly touches on the idea that our times are so politically polarized, it's hard for love to flourish between people of dissenting opinions. However, the dialogue is top heavy with uninspired gags and banal exchanges, and the play flounders through an inert mid-section. Still, director Elina DeSantos assembles an attractive and energetic ensemble and crafts a production that boasts a variety of intriguing psychological insights. Kelly offers a cleverly nuanced turn as a character consumed by his own self loathing, as he compromises his beliefs for romance, while Pate's Republican beauty is believably sincere. (PB) The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth Street, Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; added perf election night, Nov. 3, 8 p.m.; through November 3. (323) 960-7711. Election Night Productions.

click to enlarge Asses_and_Elephants_photo_2.jpg

Asses & Elephants Photo by Ed Krieger

BLITHE SPIRIT Ghost comedy by Noel Coward. Hermosa Beach Playhouse, Pier Ave. at Pacific Coast Hwy., Hermosa Beach; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 26, 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (310) 372-4477.

BUS STOP William Inge's romantic comedy. (In the Studio Theater.). Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 9, 2 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 16, 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (562) 494-1014, www.lbph.com.

CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER Immigrant tale by Herb Gardner. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (310) 828-7519, www.morgan-wixson.org.

DESPERATE WRITERS Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber's showbiz satire. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 23. (310) 392-7327, www.edgemarcenter.org.

DIVA Howard Michael Gould's Hollywood-insider comedy. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com.

>NEW REVIEW GO HALO Nately, Nova Scotia -- a town too small for a movie theater -- has just been blessed with a major tourist attraction: An image of Jesus on the brick wall of the local Tim Horton's coffee shop. The Savior makes for good publicity and great business. Horton manager Bob (Gary Ballard) has doubled his receipts, the local chicken shack is selling a 12-piece Apostle Meal, and everyone's wearing obnoxious baseball hats crowned with a fuzzy halo – made in China, notes agnostic barista Casey (Frances Manzo). Midway through Act 1, it becomes clear that playwright Josh MacDonald is mining for richer stuff than small town satire. He's interested in the murky intersections of faith and cynicism, commerce and celebration, and miracles and delusion. All of his characters, including Casey's newly devout jock boyfriend, Jansen (Glen Brackenridge), a fired-up newscaster (Christine Joelle), a hippie priest (John T. Cogan), and a coma patient's grieving father and daughter (David Hunt Stafford and Emily Button) are fumbling in the dark. Though director Bruce Gray's ensemble occasionally wavers, the production is strong, nicely framed by set designer Jeff G. Rack's glowing halo that hovers above the stage. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Mon.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 6. (310) 364-0535, www.theatre40.org. (Amy Nicholson)

CONTINUING SPECIAL EVENTS

THE ALL NIGHT STRUT! Musical revue spanning 1924 to 1951, including such tunes as "Chatanooga Choo Choo," "In the Mood" and "Fascinating Rhythm.". International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 9. (562) 436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

FACE OF THE WORLD FESTIVAL '08 Solo performance, music and dance. (Call for schedule.). Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sun..; thru Dec. 14. (213) 489-0994.

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.

MYSTERY MEAT Monthlong multimedia extravaganza, hosted by Phil Van Hest. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (866) 811-4111, www.garagetheatre.org.

ONE-ACT FESTIVAL Eight one-act plays presented by Above the Curve Theatre., abovethecurvetheatre@gmail.com. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (310) 486-0051.

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.

10-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL Sixteen new plays presented over two weeks. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 26. (866) 811-4111, www.actoberfest.com.

WHAT'S THE STORY? New solo performance works-in-progress. (Also at Cafe Metropol, call for info.). Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Mon., Oct. 27, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 17, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.. (310) 450-1312, www.whatsthestoryla.com.

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