COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for Oct. 8-14, 2009
(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
OPENING THIS WEEK
MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; opens Oct. 10; Sat., Oct. 10, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (949) 497-2787.
UNDER POLARIS Cloud Eye Control's "epic multimedia odyssey," with live music by The Need. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Oct. 14-17, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.
AMERICAN GRIND E. Yarber, Tracy Lane and Chewri Anne Johnson on modern life in America. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.fromthegrounduptheatre.org
CHARLES PHOENIX'S RETRO SLIDE SHOW TOUR OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA The pop-culture historian celebrates '50s & '60s car culture with a kitschy slide show. The Automobile Driving Museum, 610 Lairport Street, El Segundo; Sun., Oct. 11, 4:30 p.m., www.charlesphoenix.com. (310) 909-0950.
CHESAPEAKE Lee Blessing's magical-realist fable. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (800) 838-3006.
CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT Dramatic musical based on Dracula author Bram Stoker. Book, music and lyrics by Scott Martin. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; opens Oct. 10; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (310) 358-9936.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE The Robert Louis Stevenson classic, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens Oct. 14; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (310) 364-0535.
THE FOREIGNER Larry Shue's comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (626) 256-3809.
THE GLORY OF LIVING Rebecca Gilman's story of a 15-year-old runaway and her car-thief boyfriend. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.elcentrotheatre.com. (323) 230-7261.
GOD SAVE GERTRUDE Deborah Stein's "punk rock riff on Hamlet," music by Dan Hanburt, lyrics by Stein and Hanbury. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; opens Oct. 10; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (626) 683-6883.
IT AIN'T ALL CONFETTI Rip Taylor's comedy-career retrospective. The Magic Castle, 7001 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Sun., Oct. 11, 7 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 12, 8 p.m.. (323) 851-3313.
JUST IMAGINE Tim Piper stars as John Lennon in this world-premiere multimedia biography. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8, www.justimaginetheshow.com. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 7.
MOVING ARTS' 15TH ANNUAL PREMIERE ONE-ACT FESTIVAL For full schedule, go to www.movingarts.org. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 666-3259.
NOT WITH MONSTERS Zombie Joe Underground presents Adam Neubauer's "madcap race through time and classic horror monsters.". ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (818) 202-4120.
SAMMY DAVIS AND FRIENDS David Williams is Sammy Davis Jr. KSLG Playhouse Theater Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.; Oct. 9-10, 8 p.m.. (323) 227-5410.
SHANGRI-LA CHINESE ACROBATS . Caltech Beckman Auditorium, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena; Fri., Oct. 9, 8 p.m.. (626) 395-4652.
10-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL Info and tickets at www.attictheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 9; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 525-0661.
THE VILLAGE VARIETY PACK See GoLA., $15. The Village at The Gay & Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Mon., Oct. 12, 8 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 26, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 9, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 23, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.. (323) 860-7302.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
GO ART Playwright Yasmina Reza's scintillating 1994 comedy debates a variety of ideas, and you find yourself agreeing with the last comment a character makes - until the next guy says something that is just as clever. Nouveau riche Parisian dermatologist Serge (Francois Chau) purchases a 200,000 franc painting by a trendy modern artist. The trouble is, it's a blank white canvas - and no amount of describing it as a masterpiece of "plain magnetic monochrome" will prevent Serge's prissy aesthete best pal Marc (Bernard White) from questioning his friend's intelligence and sanity. When Marc and Serge's amiable buddy Yvan (Ryan Wu) attempts to make peace between the squabbling pair, it becomes clear that deep seated hostilities undercut the various relationships -- and you know there's going to be trouble when one character starts fingering his magic marker. For a play with such philosophical subtext, director Alberto Isaac's crisp and smart production gives touching attention to the characters, assisted by Christopher Hampton's glib yet emotion-packed translation. Alan E. Muraoka's chic white set, minimalist except for a few Top Design-esque pieces of furniture, perfectly captures the pseudo-trendy art world. White's uptight and slightly smug Marc is hilariously passive-aggressive, while Chau's cheerfully upbeat Serge keeps you guessing whether he's a genius or an idiot. However, Yu's Yvan is the show-stopper -- a goodnatured nebbish battling both his Bridezilla fiancée and his pals' eventually revealed low opinion of him. The play's brilliance lies in the way it has you believing that nothing is more important than settling the question of which of the three is right in their definition of art. David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 11. (213) 625-7000. An East West Players Production. (Paul Birchall)
GO AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY Tracy Letts' 2007 Great American Family Drama, or so we'd believe from the national press, four Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize, has pulled in at last to the Ahmanson Theatre in a Steppenwolf Theatre Company production, handily staged by Anna D. Shapiro. (Steppenwolf was the company that commissioned the work.) The drama, set in Oklahoma, consists of almost four hours of revelations about a truly fucked-up family, liberally peppered with dashes of Gothic humor. Oh we love our gothic family epics. Pulitzer Prizes have gone to Crimes of the Heart, The Kentucky Cycle, and now this. We meet Beverly Weston (Jon DeVries), a crusty, hard-drinking T.S. Eliot-quoting member of literati pontificating to his newly hired Cheyenne Indian housekeeper (DeLanna Studi) about the point and pointlessness of existence. (She will eventually be seen sitting cross-legged on a bed, perched at the pinnacle of Todd Rosenthal's three-tier set, as a kind of metaphor of the stoic, silent and dignified tribe these resident clowns superseded.) He's hiring the sweet-natured woman to care for his cancer-afflicted spouse (Estelle Parsons), who wanders between cogency and unconsciousness, between staggering forward and lying prone, from all the pills she's imbibing. The next thing we know, Beverly has disappeared, along with his boat, and this can't be good. What follows is a gathering of the clan, and what a clan. Imagine a cross between Long Day's Journey Into Night and Del Shore's Comedy, Daddy's Dyin', Who's Got the Will? It has some of the gravitas of O'Neill's classic and much of Shore's brand of sitcom humor. This very combination, on the four-hour boiler, results in, well, a very funny, and finely performed potboiler. Compared to O'Neill, it's a mere shadow, but compared to the gloss of so many family dramas on our stages, Letts is at least reaching for a suggestion that his clan represents the state of America in the world. "This country was always a whorehouse," is how a character recalls Beverly's conviction. "At least it had promise. But now it's just a shit hole." The reach is a bit of a strain - present a nutty, masochistic family onstage and then say, hey this is the U.S.A., and as funny as much of the farce may be, the play feels as long as it is largely because the power of subtext, of the unspoken, keeps getting punctured by the jokes. It doesn't dig deep enough to justify its length, but when it does make that subterranean plunge, and lays off the one-liners for a span or two, the power of the drama, and of these terrific actors, rumbles through the theater with exquisite grandeur. Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 972-4400. (Steven Leigh Morris)
CREDITORS August Strindberg's psychological thriller, adapted by Doug Wright. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (858) 550-1010.
ECLIPSED Playwright Danai Gurira powerfully dramatizes the ugly realities of women caught up in the Liberian Civil War. The action unfolds circa 2003, inside a derelict jungle compound occupied by the kidnapped "wives" of a guerrilla commander. Bahni Turpin, Edwina Findley and Miriam Glover pass the time chatting, grooming hair, scrounging for food, and, offstage, mechanically satisfying the sexual needs of the General. The wives are known simply as numbers, bluntly emphasizing their lack of autonomy and dehumanized condition. Turpin (No. 1) is by turns sweet and caustic, a comforter and authority figure to the younger girls. Findley, pregnant with the General's child, possesses an infectious sense of humor, while Glover (No. 4), is a study in childlike naiveté. The dynamics change when a former captive turned fighter (Kelly M. Jenrette) convinces Glover to join the cause, which puts them at odds with a government peacekeeper (Michael Hyatt), whose own daughter was kidnapped. Cast performances are quite good, even though it is difficult at times to understand the dialogue through the affected West African accents. Sibyl Wickersheimer's jungle set piece is stunning, and Robert O'Hara provides sensitive direction for this production, which in spite of its dearth of action and bleak subject matter, conveys the resilience of the human spirit. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat. 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through October 18. (213) 628-2772. (Lovell Estell III)NEW REVIEW GO ELECTIONS AND ERECTIONS
LOL! LATINA ON THE LOOSE Mina Olivera's solo performance. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (213) 489-0994.
Theater - Large
LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage characters - including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather (about Lena Horne) or Ella (about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (310) 208-54545.
MATTHEW MODINE SAVES THE ALPACAS Oh, dear. Blair Singer's comedy about a washed-out former celeb, Matthew Modine (played by Matthew Modine, somewhere between appealing and appalling) trying to crawl his way back onto the A-list by enlisting himself in a hip charity with the help of jaded publicist Whimberly North (Peri Gilpin) is not bad for a comedy dreamed up, as Neil Simon would say, somewhere on the 23rd floor. So down they go to the Equadorian Andes in all their Hollywood ignorance and arrogance to save a dying indigenous tribe and their alpacas, and down we go with them, wondering how could a movie-biz satire -- directed by John Lando in a deliberately goofball style somewhere between Benny Hill and Saturday Night Live - go so astray. There's such talent on this stage, from the inimitable Mark Fite of the perverse clown-show Clowntown City Limits, to French Stewart - a comedian who can milk a deadpan stare literally without blinking an eye - the mystery of what makes a comedy work seems almost terrifying. There are moments of lowbrow comedy that suggest the promise of what this could be. As is, Singer's lackadaisical comedic logic is held together with the very frayed duct tape of charm and silliness, so that the satire plays itself out as a string of jokes that skewer the obvious. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (310) 208-5454.
GO MEDEA There's admirable ambition in David Sefton's first effort producing a spectacle from the ground up, for UCLA Live. And director Lenka Udovocki's lucid and visually astute rendition is right on track for the scale and substance of such an undertaking. She stages the play on a floor of sand against the rude concrete back wall of the palace beyond, with a corrugated steel door and shed (set by Richard Hoover). There's also a visual motif of power lines that crackle and short- circuit, and the play is accompanied by a chorus of Cal Arts and UCLA students, who sing much of their dialogue in unison while the Lian ensemble underscores scenes with musical riffs played live onstage with Persian instruments. This is an elegant and elegiac production. The challenge of this and, we hope, future endeavors like it, is to overcome the time constraints that mitigate against the military precision of movement and the vocal dexterity and comfort levels of ensembles that have been performing together for years. In the title role, Annette Bening reveals intelligence and raw emotional honesty but not the range so essential for this Herculean role -- compared to say Yukiko Saito's Elektra (for Tadashi Suzuki) whose voice transforms from the growl of a bear to the that of a songbird in an instant; or Maude Mitchell's Amazonian Nora in the Mabou Mines Dollhouse. Bening's Medea and her Jason (Angus Macfadyen) play out their respective agonies with unwavering conviction, which includes some evocatively harrowing tenderness, but this epic still dwarfs them. UCLA, Freud Playhouse, Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 18. (310) 825-2101. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO NEVERMORE Poor Edgar. In Dennis Paoli's one-man play, beautifully directed by Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs portrays the bedraggled Southern poet, Poe, in a staged reading. He's a bundle of idiosyncrasies -- tremors and a hesitation to complete sentences. The man is ill with fevers and despondent over the recent death of his wife, yet from the twinkle in Combs' eye, it's clear he rather enjoys the attention of strangers, and is deeply proud of his masterwork, "The Raven," which he'll recite when he gets around to it. His concentration, and his ability to perform, are steadily more impeded by the after effects of a bottle of whiskey, which he clutches at the inside of his suit. Fortunately, he recites "The Tell-Tale Heart" while still lucid, and what an absurd, showoff-y, macabre display it is -- pure Victorian melodrama, in the style of Chekhov's one-act, one-man show: "On the Harmfulness of Tobacco," also about man making a presentation ostensibly for one purpose, while undone by another. Chekhov's character is persecuted by his wife, or by his imaginings of her. Edgar is torn by the presence of his fiancée, who is assessing whether her groom-to-be can stay on the wagon. The harrowing answer becomes self-evident as, in one scene, he goes off on a spontaneous rant against Longfellow; and in another, as he's leaping around to a poem about bells, he abruptly falls off the stage into the orchestra pit. It's an almost unbelievably hammy turn, as mannered as the style of the era he's depciting, a gorgeous rendition of a tragic clown whose heart has been cleaved open by loss and regret. His rendition of "The Raven" is clearly an homage to his late wife, and how any hope of her return is forbidden by the reprise of this show's title. (SLM) Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 31. (323) 666-4268.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Children's musical, book by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Hope Juber, lyrics and music by Hope and Lawrence Juber. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER Cocktail party musical, songs by Stephen Sondheim. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (714) 708-5555.STEEL MAGNOLIAS Cathy Rigby stars in Robert Harling's small-town comedy-drama. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (562) 944-9801.
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.
NEW REVIEW THE TRAGEDY OF KING RICHARD III
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GO ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS The title of Brian Christopher Williams play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it is--but it is much more than that, something far richer. Growing up during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old gay boy Horace (a terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on his hunky gym teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the Vietnam War, and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to escape the draft. In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo) has economic reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when Anita Bryant (Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign against gay rights, Horace learns that there are people who will hate him for who he is. He must come out to his loving but irascible parents, and he's overcome by jealousy when he realizes his adored teacher is having an affair with a neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He retaliates by betraying the teacher, in a way he knows is shameful. Williams' play becomes a funny and touching family saga as well as the tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow up. Richard Israel provides wonderfully nuanced direction, and the entire cast is splendid. (Neal Weaver) El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through Nov. 1. (323) 460-4443 or tix.com. A West Coast Ensemble production.
BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN Actors Co-op presents Mark Twain's classic, music and lyrics by Roger Miller, book by William Hauptman. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 462-8460.NEW REVIEW GO BOBBY BENDON GETS BY
CARNIVAL KNOWLEDGE: LOVE, LUST AND OTHER HUMAN ODDDITIES Naomi Grossman's solo comedy. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 8, www.plays411.com/carnivalknowledge. (323) 930-1804.
DON JUAN TENORIO By Jose Zorrilla. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (323) 225-4044. In Spanish only.
EVEN YET, ITS MIGHTY DARING SINGS Interactive exploration of the current economic recession by Caitlin Moon, Harvey Granville Barker, and X Repertory Theatre. XRT, 1581 Industrial St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (213) 536-4331.
FAKE RADIO Old-time radio dramas performed live: Meet Me in St. Louis (Thursdays), The Lone Ranger (Fridays), The Philadelphia Story (Saturdays). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24, www.fakeradio.net. (877) 460-9774.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.
GO F*CKING MEN Ah, the late 1980s, the halcyon days of male nudity, where the promise of on stage gay promiscuity and frontal views were surefire ticket sellers throughout the world of waiver - well those days are back in Joe DiPietro's all-male rendition of Arthur Schnitzler's classic 1900 play of sexual mores, La Ronde. Ten scenes pair two strangers becoming intimate, with one of the duo moving on to the next scene until the circle is completed. DiPietro keeps to his generally middle-of-the-road style of dialogue (well known from oft produced Over the River and Through the Woods and I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change) which actually brings a subtle reality to the more sordid moments of gay indiscretions. Director Calvin Remsberg has gathered a fine ensemble, mostly perfectly cast from the nearly infantile, stoned sexiness of college boy Kyle (Michael Rachlis) to the nervous, violent energy of GI Steve (Johnny Kostrey). Only the fine Chad Borden is miscast as a closeted action movie-star - his characterization is just so obviously gay. Tom Buderwitz's scene design concept with moving screens and furniture pieces is initially fascinating, but becomes quite clumsy and distracting. However sound by Lindsay Jones, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick and costumes by Daavid Hawkins are all sharp and collaborative. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 957-1884. (Tom Provenzano)
GOGOL PROJECT Director Sean T. Cawalti's production of playwright Kitty Felde's adaptation of three short stories by Russian Absurdist Nikolai Gogol is a whirligig of ferocious creativity. In "The Nose," a pompous small-town politician (Tom Ashworth) wakes up to discover that his nose has decided to go AWOL, and he's frustrated when the wandering member transforms into an enormous schnoz capable of rescuing dogs from wells and romancing local lovelies. "Diary of a Madman" shows a low-level drone of a civil servant (Ben Messmer, wonderfully bug-eyed) spurned in love and going insane, imagining he hears local dogs sending each other love letters. In "The Overcoat," a mild-mannered postal clerk (Kristopher Lee Bicknell, sweetly channeling Charlie Chaplin) buys a new overcoat, which ultimately brings him nothing but tragedy. Performers caparisoned in Pat Rubio's stunning Commedia-style masks interact with the dazzling puppets designed by the production's six-person mask crew in a manner that often suggests a spooky Russian tragic version of Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The astonishing, Big Bird-sized nose puppet, snorting up Danishes provided by the town baker, is a particular delight. Elsewhere, the show's imagination is best showcased in details, from the sequence in which a murderous barber's fantasies of killing his client are projected in shadow puppet form on the wall behind him, to the scenes involving the talking dogs, whose beautiful puppet forms are manipulated Bunraku-style with masked puppeteers. Ultimately, though, Felde's workmanlike script is so broad and perfunctory, we feel little emotional connection to the characters or the situations, and the production's admittedly gorgeous artifice essentially upstages the storytelling. The end result is an experience that is undeniably provocative but also assaultive and occasionally hyperactive. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 3 p.m. Call theater for additional performances; through November 1. (800) 838-3006 or rogueartists.org. A Rogue Artists Ensemble Production. (Paul Birchall)
GOTHE GOLDEN GAYS Even non-fans of The Golden Girls will be amused by John Patrick Trapper's uproarious play with music, which simultaneously spoofs the TV series and the neuroses of aging gay men. Diagnosed with Sitcom Affective Disorder by the unconventional Dr. Leche (Aaron Barerra), four gay men turn to drag in order to work out their identification with characters from The Golden Girls. Samuel (David Romano) identifies with the acid-tongued tongued Sophia, mother of the imperious Dorothy, who's impersonated by Damien (John W. McLaughlin). Promiscuous Blanche is played by the equally promiscuous Blaine (John Downey III), and Roger (Irwin Moskowitz) rounds out the quartet as the ditzy Rose. The plot is secondary to the reprise of various scenes from the much-beloved TV show. The uncredited costumes are hilarious, particularly Dr. Leche's get ups, with additional kudos for dragographer ChaCha Cache. Trapper's lyrics make the musical numbers equally hilarious, thanks in part to musical director Robert Glen Decker. Lori J. Ness Quinn's over-the-top direction matches perfectly with the outrageous material, which includes lots of Bea Arthur jokes. The actors turn in superior performances, with a special nod to McLaughlin's Dorothy. (Sandra Ross)., $30. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 18, www.plays411.com/thegoldengays. (323) 465-0383.
HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST An apostle of the Holocaust and, with Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has been depicted in numerous books and films. Assassinated in 1942, this ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis as well as on suspected enemies of the Reich - one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors about his "Jewish blood." Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed politicking around these insinuations. Another element in the fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite's confrontational dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has somehow maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters. Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue some of them. (Heydrich's real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.) Later, Anna is brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose Fuehrer struck me as a deluded insane asylum inmate) - whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives. Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi ideas, as if we didn't understand these already. Under L. Flint Esquerra's direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing -- except for Sherman who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible performance. (Deborah Klugman) MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 24; (323) 957-1152.
HIGH CEILINGS Jillian Crane's ensemble comedy about a reluctant bride-to-be. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (800) 838-3006.NEW REVIEW GO HOW KATRINA PLAYS The late Judi Ann Mason's character study swirling around the tempests of hurricane Katrina is partly an act of devotion to her brother, journalist BJ Mason (Christopher Carrington) who died at his computer while reporting on the effects and after-effects of the disaster. The play is a poetical docudrama, accompanied (too sparingly) by the fine Bourbon Street Band. A montage of scenes intersect. Drag queen Bella Sera (Wil Bowers) emcees a traditional hurricane party, with the vivacious ensemble, but in this story, it's the hurricane and not the party that gets out of hand. Director Tchia Casselle guides a series of monologues and scenes that depict an elderly woman (Elisabeth Noone) abandoned and trapped in a nursing home as the waters rise; a mother (Kvon Harris) and her 10-year-old son (Justin Galluccio) separated by the flood, spend the play seeking each other, sometimes in different cities; a mixed-race couple (Barika A Croom and Jacob White) hold each other in an attic, as the floodwaters rise on their honeymoon. And Kimberly Niccole turns in a tender, harrowing performance as a young woman seething with racism. Beamed, still-images from the disaster accompany the narrative, which, just through words and the performances, provides a visceral sense of what it must have been like in the filthy holding pen of Houston Astrodome. The performance is a memorial filled with a grim, grimy and sometimes animated testament to who we are, and what we become, in the wake of disaster. Write Act Repertory theater, 6128 Yucca Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (323) 469-3113. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop juke-box musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., and Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 960-4412.
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Hard-core, exploitation-cinema auteurists have probably still not forgiven Howard Ashman (book & lyrics) or Alan Menken (score) for their 1982 musical burlesque of Roger Corman's immortal, low-budget horror allegory about the moral price of success. And, judging by director Jaz Davison's somewhat awkward staging on John Paul De Leonardis' clumsy, turnstile set, final absolution won't be forthcoming. By transforming Seymour (Mark Petrie), the green-thumbed shop assistant at Mushnik's Skid Row Florists, from the serial-killing schnook of the Corman original to merely a passive-aggressive facilitator of the botanical puppet monster Audrey II (the voice of Pamela Taylor) and her homicidal appetites, Ashman blunts Corman's edgy black comedy into a kind of anodyne Merry Melody. Of course, it is precisely Menken's melodies -- his crowd-pleasing takeoffs of doo-wop and early Motown rock classics -- that have always been this show's irresistible soul, and under Debbie Lawrence's capable music direction, that remains the case here. Leslie Duke, as Seymour's Brooklyn-honking love interest, Audrey, elevates every number she sings, particularly in her sweetly funny rendition of "Somewhere That's Green" and her soulful turn in the duet, "Suddenly, Seymour." Taylor rocks the house with her rousing Audrey II solo, "Mean Green Mother." But the production's outstanding pipes belong to vocal powerhouse Cloie Wyatt Taylor, whose incandescent gospel stylings are all but wasted in the supporting, choral role of Chiffon. (Bill Raden) Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (323) 667-0955.
LOST IN RADIOLAND World premiere of Ryan Paul James and Denny Siegel's 1940s-era comedy. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (323) 467-6688.
LOVE SCENES Moe Bertran stars in David Pumo's study of gay New Yorkers. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, www.plays411.com/lovescenes. (323) 969-2530.
MIX TAPE: TAKING FLIGHT Six original one-acts by Little Bird Productions. Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (323) 960-7770.
GO MOTHER Writer-director Mary-Beth Manning's mother Joan was a loving, mercurial and idiosyncratic woman, whose rapid mood changes sometimes bewildered her impressionable young daughters. The youngest of 15 children from a blue-collar Irish American family, she -- and her husband Ray, Mary-Beth's father - grew up, married and reared their family in a small Massachusetts town. Lively and well-crafted, Manning's show pays tribute to her mother's expansive spirit, chronicling their complex relationship from her own kindergarten years - when her parent loomed large and intimidating -- through adulthood when, as a struggling actress in New York and L.A., she still spoke regularly to her mom about her career and her love life (a habit for which she sought psychiatric intervention). The play takes a more somber turn after Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer Emerging from the shadow of a strong-willed, colorful and/or influential parent is common, in literature and in life; under Diana Castle's direction, Manning's storytelling gifts, her timing and sense of irony for the most part create an entertaining and involving solo show that transcends the ordinary, though its hundred minute length, without intermission, is a strain. The preponderance of some anecdotes, especially in the prodution's final third, dilutes what we already anticipate as the story's poignant climax. Imagined Life Theatre, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct 10. (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman)
MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTHIN Shakespeare's comedy, transported to 1940s Tennessee. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.
GO THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP It's been 18 years since this manor mystery was the No. 1-produced play in America, and it hasn't worn out its welcome. In a dreary, rural house, the widowed master (Kevin Remington) has brought home a bride (Michael Lorre), a tremulous blond actress who might not have the wits to survive the local vampires and werewolves (or the grudging maid and infatuated stable boy). Charles Ludlam's fleet-footed thriller comedy is in the key of camp, but this production tampers down the winks and nudges, staging it as an exercise in theatrical imagination. Lorre's sparse set design is a model of how to turn a small budget into an asset. The furniture and decorations are drawn with thin, white lines on flat, black-painted wood, and the actors set the tone by first finishing the final touches with chalk. Irma Vep is always staged as a play for two performers, and Remington and Lorre (who also directs) are great sports, changing from a bumpkin with a wooden leg to a bare-breasted Egyptian princess in less time than it takes to tie your shoes. The actors' physicality is great, but dresser Henry Senecal and stage manager Akemi Okamura also take deserved bows at the end. WeHo Church, 916 N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Oct. 11. (323) 667-1304. A Deconstructed Productions production. (Amy Nicholson)
GO NAKED BOYS SINGING When this musical, written and directed by Robert Schrock, debuted at the Celebration Theatre in 1998, it was the first show to acknowledge candidly that it featured nudity for its own sake, without explanation, justification or apologies. (The opening number was, and is, called "Gratuitous Nudity.") Some audiences were astonished to discover that, when the actors are relaxed, uninhibited and enjoying the situation, nudity is remarkably unshocking. The show has achieved enduring worldwide success, though a brief L.A. revival a couple of years ago was decidedly lackluster. One wondered if the show would hold up, now that the novelty is gone. Not to worry. This new production, featuring eight talented and very naked men (Eric B. Anthony, Jeffrey A. Johns, Jack Harding, Timothy Hearl, Marco Infante, Tony Melson, Daniel Rivera, and Victor Tang), proves that when performed with wit, insouciance and skill, the show still has the capacity to charm. It's exuberant, and full of joie de vivre, and when the actors are having fun, the audience has fun. Though not all the voices are strong, the cast are all engaging, Schrock's direction is crisp and fast-paced, and the songs offer ample wit and humor. Gerald Sternbach provides excellent musical direction. Macha Theatre, 1107 Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through November 22. (323) 960-4424. (Neal Weaver)
NEVER LAND U.S. premiere of Phyllis Nagy's play. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (323) 422-6361.
NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN Brian Copeland's solo show. Hayworth Studio, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 21, www.briancopeland.com. (213) 389-9860.
GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111
RUBY, TRAGICALLY ROTUND The theater-in-the-round set for Boni B. Alvarez's dramedy about a Filipina college student named Ruby (Ellen D. Williams, in a great performance) puts its actress on a center pedestal and encourages the audience to take in a 360-degree view of a self-described "fat girl" as she tries to wriggle into her tightest jeans. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera confronts the audience head on with Williams' weight: She strips, straddles her boyfriend (Kacy-Earl David) and above all, stands with confidence, daring us to deny her sex appeal - and it's hard to deny when she struts her vamp walk. Her mother Edwina (Fran De Leon), however, disagrees. A former Miss Manila, she'd rather hide Ruby away like a fairy tale beast while she presses her more timid daughter Jemmalyn (Marc Pelina) to practice around the clock for first prize in the Miss Sunnyvale pageant. Backed by her sassy chorus of junk food-loving friends (Angel Felix, Alison M. De La Cruz, and Regan Carrington), Ruby vows to take the crown herself, even if her imposed group diet turns her posse into the Lord of the Fries. Alvarez's play has an up-with-Ruby cheer that undermines its call for equality and empowerment: Ruby's quest for the crown reveals her care only about the swimsuit, not the talent or the interview, and Jemmalyn's legit argument that she alone has put in the effort to win gets dismissed by the playwright as being petulant. A subplot where Edwina betrays her husband Jepoy (Robert Almodovar) with wealthy white neighbor Kline (Mark Doerr) hints that beautiful women are limited by their reliance on looks, but largely seems designed only to give the gorgeous villain more stage time. Alvarez and Rivera's climax obliges in a Grand Guignol finale that turns this into a play about child abuse, not fat pride. Though riveting and well-acted, the alternately chipper and dark play feels as bipolar as the undiagnosed Edwina herself. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (213) 489-0994. A Playwrights Arena production (Amy Nicholson)
GO SAVIN' UP FOR SATURDAY NIGHT A thunder'n'lightinin' romance between ex-spouses crackling around a restraining order lies in the vain heart of Jeff Goode (book) and Richard Levinson's (songs) new musical, set in an undisclosed locale that sounds a whole lot like west Texas. And though this is a countrified variation on Erin Kamler's urban and urbane Divorce! The Musical, that played at the Coast Playhouse earlier this year, director Jeremy Aldridge does double-duty to seduce us into an environment, as he did with last year's hit at this same theater, Louis & Keely, Live at the Sahara. David Knutson's set transforms the theater into small town canteen/gas station, with plastic L.P records and American flags pinned to the wall. Jaimie Froemming's Texas costumes can make you feel a tad out of place for leaving that shirt with the fringe and the cowboy boots in the closet. And there are other striking similarities between Savin' Up and Louis & Keely: a marriage on the rocks, an onstage band (honky-tonk rather than jazz, consisting of musical director/guitarist John Groover McDuffie, who's also on Pedal Steel; Peter Freiberger on bass; Dave Fraser on piano; John Palmer on drums; and Al Bonhomme, alternating on guitar). Levinson's songs are a throwback to early Elton John, when he was working with Bernie Taupin, with a twist of Randy Newman's harmonic grandeur. Each of the two acts opens with a ballad accompanied just by piano ("Dr. Bartender" and "Small Town") that have simple yet haunting harmonic progressions from John's earliest albums, and the shit-kicking Act 2 "Gotta Lotta Rockin' To Do" is a musical nod to John's "Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting)." Also echoing Louis & Keely is a dimension that makes this show just right for L.A. -- a prevalent tension between narcissism and the capacity to give of oneself, that's perfectly embodied in the delusions of Eldridge, Jr. (Brendan Hunt), a local homophobe who believes he possesses the charisma and style of Elvis Presley. In fact, he has a slight speech impediment and a deranged glint in his eye. His singing act dominates the bar, with his name in lights as a backdrop. (A number of the bulbs tellingly need replacing, like in his own emotional circuitry.) Can he win back his ex, Lucinda (the vivacious Natascha Corrigan) - a woman of machine-gun wit and fury who works double time to penetrate the impenetrable veneer of Eldridge's ego? Things get touchy, when Eldridge's long time friend, bartender Doc (the bear-like Bryan Krasner) finally has the guts to make a move of Lucinda, while sweet Patsy (Courtney DeCosky) cares for Eldridge - but not that much. It's a thin entertainment, enhanced by Allison Bibicoff's sashaying choreography, but an entertainment nonetheless. Its tone of sentimentality sprinkled with metaphysics is embodied in the song "Here," beautifully rendered by Rachel Howe, who plays a daffy waitress. The place and people can make you so insane, you want to flee, she croons: "And I know someday/We're all just gonna disappear/So I want to take the time right now to say/I really love it here." Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct 4 & 11, 7 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris)
SHHH ... QUIET AS KEPT Brandi Burks uncovers the truth. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (323) 600-7402.
GO SHINING CITY Conor McPherson's pristine study in urban loneliness, first produced in 2004, unfolds in a Dublin walkup where a sexually confused therapist, Ian (William Dennis Hurley), listens, and listens, and listens some more to the half completed sentences spewed by his despondent client, John (Morlan Higgins), who keeps bursting into paroxysms of sobbing over the loss of his wife, killed in an auto accident. Making matters worse, the couple were estranged at the time, and what will eventually unfold is John's story of his blazingly pathetic and unconsumed adultery with someone he met at a party -- his blunderings, his selfishness, and his need not so much for sex but for the validation that comes from human contact, which his now-late wife couldn't provide to his satisfaction. John is haunted by her ghost, and Ian must ever so gently tell him that what he saw or heard was real, but ghosts simply aren't. (That gently yet smugly articulated theory will be challenged, along with every other pretense of what's real, and what isn't.) While listening to his forlorn client, and answering with such kindness and sensitivity, Ian is himself going through hell: A former priest, he must now explain to his flummoxed wife (Kerrie Blaisdell, imagine the multiple reactions of a cat that's just been thrown out a window) that he's leaving her, and their child, though he will move mountains to continue to support them financially. Ian's plight becomes a tad clearer with the visit of a male prostitute (Benjamin Keepers) in yet another pathetic and almost farcical endeavor to connect with another human being. Director Stephen Sachs' meticulous attention to detail manifests itself in the specificity with which Ian places his chair, in the sounds of offstage footsteps on the almost abandoned building's stairwell (sound design by Peter Bayne), in the ebbs and flows of verbiage and silence, in Higgins' hulking tenderness, and in the palate of emotions reflected in the slender Hurley's withering facial reactions. This is a moving portrait, in every sense: delicate, comical, desolate and profoundly humane. It's probably a bit too long, the denouement lingers to margins of indulgence, but that's a quibble in a production of such rare beauty. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 19. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO THE SOMETHING - NOTHING An excessively late start, covered by pounding, annoying club music led this reviewer to notice only the flaws in the first part of this outing -- but Fielding Edlow's smart script and the fine acting eventually prevailed. Three solipsistic New Yorkers nearing 30 pride themselves on their cynical worldliness while simultaneously hiding their desperate loneliness and fear of intimacy. Liza (Annika Marks) awkwardly uses the most complicated words in conversation, which is ironically laced with the youthful crutch of "like" several times per sentence. She persists in trying to keep up with those she secretly believes are her intellectual superiors. She is alternately adored and scorned by her near-psychotic lesbian roommate Luna (a delightfully grotesque performance by Robyn Cohen) as well as by her love interest, a narcissistic would-be writer (played with sexual zeal and emotional vacancy by Michael Rubenstone). The three characters spiral down into self-pity, lifted occasionally by some moments of genuine human contact -- generally shut down by the receiving party. Edlow's dialogue bounces between razor-sharp and languid, creating a weird uneasiness. She ends the second act with a character shouting, "This is not a Neil LaBute play" -- a remarkable insight, as the play does feel like a female response to LaBute's constant woman-baiting. Director Kiff Scholl smartly allows his hand to disappear, giving over the storytelling to the richly textured, sad characters. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; though Oct. 24. (323) 960-7721. (Tom Provenzano)
GO STOP KISS Manhattan traffic newscaster Callie (Deborah Puette) meets Sara (Kristina Harrison) the week the young blonde schoolteacher arrives in the city. Both have always identified themselves as straight: Callie's got her friend-with-benefits George (Christan Anderson), who she assumes she'll marry once they both stop trying to find someone better, and Sara has just left her boyfriend of seven years, Peter (Justin Okin), behind in St. Louis in her quest to find a bigger, harder, more worthwhile life. The two women gradually become best friends, deliciously tormented by their quiet hints that they both want a more physical relationship. But no sooner do they stick a tentative foot out of the closet than they're pushed out in the worst possible way -- as a news story about a violent bigot who puts Sara in a coma. Diana Son's time-jumping play about coping with the unexpected skips from their first meeting to Callie's first sitdown with the investigating cop (Jeorge Watson); we're rooting for the couple to get together under the shadow of the consequences. But Son's equal emphasis on romance makes the play looser and more inviting than a social problem drama, and the question isn't about the source of hate, but the depth of Callie's love when Peter announces that Sara's family wants to move her hospital bed back to Missouri. Under Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkin's direction, the ensemble opening night was still a little stiff, but Puette's tender performance captures a haphazard woman realizing that she's finally sure of at least one thing. (Amy Nicholson) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 12. www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production
SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.
VINNIE: THE DEATH & AFTERLIFE OF VINCENT VAN GOGH Peter Abbay's portrait of the artist as a dead man. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, www.eventbrite.com/org/281608557
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
A BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING Interactive homo-nuptials, by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (818) 745-8527.
BOSTON MARRIAGE David Mamet's Victorian comedy. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., Oct. 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 17, 3 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 1, 3 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 7, 8 p.m.. (818) 700-4878.
GO CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD Most productions of Mark Medoff's pioneering 1979 drama about the romance between a deaf student and her hearing-abled teacher are directed and staged from the point of view of a hearing audience, who are introduced to the world of the hearing-challenged. Yet, director Jonathan Barlow Lee's haunting production of the play, staged by Deaf West Theater to celebrate the piece's 30th anniversary and the epochal role the drama played in the advent of Deaf Theater, is compellingly told from the point of view of the deaf, with those who can hear being subtly poised as outsiders. The play tells the story of beautiful, deaf student Sarah (Shoshannah Stern), a pupil at a school for the deaf who steadfastly refuses to learn how to communicate - either verbally or through ASL. Although Sarah's choice exiles her from any contact with the hearing world, the young communications instructor assigned to her, James (Matthew Jaeger), finds her fiery spirit irresistible - and they eventually fall in love, a romance that is ultimately threatened by the stresses of their two hugely different worlds. Though Act 2's focus on 1970s earnest-revolutionary issues inevitably causes the dramatic momentum to sag, Medoff's play has aged less in terms of its activist stance for the deaf and more in terms of the tightening of protocol in teacher-student relationships over the decades: The romance between a teacher and his student now actually seems somewhat creepy, and we can't help but wonder whether James' kind concerns for his student would be so intense if she weren't so physically attractive to him. Still, Lee's production -- orchestrated for audiences at all level of hearing ability -- dazzles, and the ensemble, encompassing hearing, deaf, and hard-of-hearing actors, offer beautiful, subtle acting turns. Stern's ferocious performance as Sarah is particularly powerful. With the exception of one elementally searing moment, the actress doesn't utter a sound - yet, we're struck by how much passion and love can be communicated via ASL during her operatic, yet paradoxically silent performance. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 11. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)
FINDING NEO Original one-acts by Denise Devin, Alex Dremann, Michael Erger, David Garry, Mark Harvey Levine, David Lewison, Marina Palmier, Donaco Smyth, and Ralph Tropf. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 29. (877) 620-7673.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS World-premiere play with music by Laurie Stevens and Ronald Jacobs. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (877) 620-7673.
GO FRIENDS LIKE THESE Playwright Gregory Crafts' drama is billed as a show about teen violence, conjuring up images of gangs with guns or distraught loners firing wildly into a crowd of peers. In fact, while the latter event eventually finds its way into Crafts' story, that's not its central focus.Instead, the play is mostly about some of the pernicious perils of adolescence - specifically the targeting of geeks by jocks, and the painful experience of the outcast in a teen community worshipful of its own rigid standard of "coolness." At the heart of the plot is the blossoming friendship between Garrett (Matthew Scott Montgomery), a sullen geeky kid, and Nicole (Sarah Smick), a pretty cheerleader who's just called it quits with her boyfriend Jesse (Alex Yee). Disgusted with Jesse's arrogance and infidelity, Nicole finds herself drawn in by Garrett's candidness and unassuming manner. To the surprise of all, and the chagrin of some, their relationship blooms. Especially disturbed are Jesse - stunned that Garrett has become his rival, and Diz (Sari Sanchez), Garrett's former girl chum, who believes him to be her soul mate and now seethes with jealousy. Understated from the top, Montgomery's performance deepens and expands as his character gradually undergoes changes. Smick is likewise layered and sympathetic, and Sanchez plays her one note role exceptionally well. Yee and Ryan J. Hill as everyone's buddy are also effective. Designer Andrew Moore's visually grating and incongruent backdrop needs rethinking. Sean Fitzgerald and Vance Roi Reyes co-direct. The Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (818) 849-4039. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Deborah Klugman)
GROSS INDECENCY: THE THREE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE There's wonderful irony in the fact that, though Oscar Wilde's enemies succeeded in branding him a sodomist, and sentencing him to two years hard labor, they accidently conferred upon him a kind of posthumous glory, fame and historical importance that he probably wouldn't have achieved otherwise. Writer Moises Kaufman captures the tale's ironies and complexities by taking an objective, documentary approach, and constructing his play as a mosaic of primary sources: court records, personal letters, autobiographies, memoirs, and newspaper accounts. Susan Lee directs with brisk, efficient clarity, and Kerr Seth Lordygan contributes a serviceable if slightly colorless portrait of Wilde. Though Wilde's friend and lover, Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas, was an obnoxious egotist, he must have had considerable charm and glamour to have captured Wilde's love and loyalty, but Joshua Grant plays him as charmless, petulant and prissy. Andrew Hagan is persuasive as Wilde's nemesis, the malicious, paranoid Marquess of Queensbury, and Darrell Philip and Dean Farrell Bruggeman score as the rival attorneys. The notion of casting women (Casey Kramer, Allie Costa, Beth Ricketson, and JC Henning) as Oscar's "rent boys" seemed initially perverse, but they provide deft characterizations and sly comedy. (Neal Weaver) The Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru Oct. 11. (818) 508-3003.
GO THE MATCHMAKER When playwright Thornton Wilder lifted the character Frosine from Molière's The Miser, and transplanted her in his adaptation of a 19th Century Viennese farce by Johan Nestroy, he can't have realized that he was launching her as one of the most enduringly popular characters in 20th Century American theatre. Renamed Dolly Gallagher Levi, she became the formidable protagonist of both The Matchmaker and the Jerry Herman musical version, Hello, Dolly! The play remains a delicious piece of faux Americana, which doesn't need the songs to be a zany theatrical warhorse. Dolly (Amanda Carlin) is playing matchmaker for wealthy Yonkers merchant Horace Vandergelder (James Gleason), but she's actually out to capture him for herself. When Horace heads for Manhattan to woo widowed Mrs. Molloy (Alyss Henderson), his two clerks, Cornelius (Patrick Rafferty) and Barnaby (Colin Thomas Jennings), take advantage of his absence to run off for a Manhattan adventure of their own. Comic confusions, mistaken identities, and multiple romances result. Director Dave Florek's production is sturdy rather than brilliant, but he elicits plenty of charm from his large, engaging cast. Particularly noteworthy are Don Fischer and James Greene in goofy featured roles. Jeff McLaughlin's sets and Sherry Linnell's costumes capture the period flavor. The Victory Theatre Center, 3326 West Victory Boulevard, Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., thru Oct. 18. Produced by Interact Theatre Company. (818) 765-8732. (Neal Weaver)NEW REVIEW GO MOM'S THE WORD Six mothers wrote these intertwined jokes and rants about parenting, and even those who haven't undergone birth themselves (a minority in the audience that I was part of) feel sympathy pangs after Kimleigh Smith starts the show screaming and pleading for the pain to go away. That agonizingly true opener arcs from "What have I done?" to 'How couldn't I have done this?" Though the trajectory of the show is a vindication of motherhood, the five actors (all parents themselves) cathartically focus on the smelly, slimy, exhausting, self-denigrating, unsexy, paranoid, and bewildered qualities that motherhood brings out. This certainly isn't a Precious Moments valentine to parenting; happy moments are so rare, it's a small feat that director Jerry London makes the closing sufficiently upbeat that the parents in the house don't immediately make a drop off at the nearest orphanage. In a nifty bit of casting, Smith, Gina Torrecilla, Becky Thyre, and Cathy Schenkelberg are joined by real life gay dad Hutchins Foster, who steps into a originally female role with just a few tweaks. This casual and enthusiastic evening is worth a baby-sitter for moms and dads who want to hear others speak the unspeakable. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 508-0281. (Amy Nicholson)
PRIVATE EYES Steven Dietz's comedy of suspicion. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, http://www.privateeyesla.com. (323) 960-7782.
PULP GRAVEYARD Theatre Unleashed takes on "comic books, pulp fiction and dime-store novels," old-time live radio drama style. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 17, www.theatreunleashed.com...
REP*A*TROIS Three plays in rotating rep: Heroes by Gerard Sibleyras, Painting Churches by Tina Howe, and Boston Marriage by David Mamet. (Call for schedule.). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Nov. 7. (818) 700-4878.
ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES Hank Garrett emcees this senior-citizen musical revue. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (818) 506-0600.
SCARECROW Playwright Don Nigro's Midwestern Gothic makes for an uneasy fit on a legitimate stage. Perhaps that's because the one-act psychological horror began life as the script for a 1979 experimental video shot at the Iowa Writer's Workshop, in which the cinematic, windswept vistas of Iowan corn fields stood in for the roiling subconscious of Nigro's sexually frustrated young heroine, Cally (Linda Tomassone). In director Antony Berrios' production, those fields are necessarily pruned to a dozen, desiccated stalks (on designer Vincent Albo's farmhouse set), thereby diminishing the figurative effect and throwing the poetic onus onto Nigro's humorless, derivative text. The tale deals with the troubled, claustrophobic relationship between 18-year-old Cally and her reclusive, repressive, evil-obsessed mother, Rose (Deborah Lemen) -- think Carrie and Margaret White, albeit without Stephen King's telekinetic fireworks. Their chief contention is over boys and sex, both of which Rose considers ultimate threats to be kept apart from her virginal daughter with a shotgun. Rose's vigilance cannot extend into the adjacent corn fields, however, into which Cally daily disappears to rendezvous with the mysterious Nick (Ian Jerrell), a beguiling drifter who may either be a figment of her romantic fantasies or the malevolent incarnation of Rose's worst fears. Both Tomassone and Lemen acquit themselves well in the melodramatic clinches (though Cally appears more salon-groomed than corn-fed), and while Jerrell delivers a measure of dash, he misses the menace that might stoke Nigro's otherwise suspense-starved story. Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 17. (818) 859-3160. (Bill Raden)NEW REVIEW GO SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM Playwright Kathleen Clark's comedy is a funny and touching tale about rekindling lost dreams or letting them go. It's another soccer Sunday and three middle-class, suburban housewives are teamed up against their 8-year-olds in a mom versus son tournament. Nancy (Jennifer L. Davis) is a 40-ish former model seemingly resigned to a less glamorous life, Lynn (Tammy Taylor) is a 30-something who single-handedly and thanklessly runs the local PTA, and Allison (Michelle Coyle) is in her twenties and new to the unnamed neighborhood as well as to soccer - she totes a copy of Soccer for Dummies. Despite Allison's protests, they decide to throw the game so their kids can feel good, a choice they later realize is a metaphor for how they sacrifice their own goals and feelings for the sake of their families. "How can you feel trapped by what you love?" one of them laments as they reveal their true feelings and end up bonding as a team, both on and off the field. Clark's balance of snappy one-liners and serious reflection (especially an Act 2 monologue delivered by Davis) make up for the play's predictability. The cast is exceptional under Donald Shenk's first-rate direction, StillSpeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Dr., San Marino; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 18. (626) 292-2081. (Martín Hernández)
SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.NEW REVIEW THAT PERFECT MOMENT
UNDERGROUND WOMAN Very loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, Victoria E. Thompson's dark comedy focuses on a cynical woman who just wants to be left alone. Thompson performs as Delia Donovan, a woman who desires only to drink herself to death. Her dysfunctional family has other plans, however. Led by therapist Elise Rosen (Maaren Edvard), her family stages an intervention. Self-mutilating daughter Rachel (Maegan McConnell) can barely hide her resentment as she tells her mother she loves her. Newly sober son David (Chris Kerrigan) is illiterate, unable to read the letter penned by the therapist to his mother. Bitter adult sister Harriet (Hilarie Thompson) resurrects old grudges and blames her older sister for her not becoming a cheerleader in high school. Delia's husband, Don (James Loren), writes a convincing enough intervention love letter -- until it's revealed that he's having an affair with the therapist. Director Anita Khanzadian elicits superior performances from Thompson and Edvard, but some of the supporting players are a bit overblown, bordering on shrill. Two exceptions: Adam Sherman does an excellent job as Delia's equally cynical nephew, and director Khanzadian is fine as Delia's mother. Victoria Profitt's homey set adds to the persuasiveness of the play. The Michael Chekhov Studio in association with Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 18. (818) 238-0501. (Sandra Ross)
WEIRD ON TOP Improv comedy, apparently. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Thurs., Oct. 15, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 19, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 10, 8 p.m.. (818) 508-3003.
WONDER OF THE WORLD David Lindsy-Abaire's divorce comedy. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (818) 841-5421.
THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT Ray Bradbury's fantastical comedy. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN DOWNTOWN AREAS
CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25 years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired, she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; indef. (310) 394-9779.
DEAD GUILTY Richard Harris' suspense thriller. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 7. (562) 494-1014.
THE DOCTOR DESPITE HIMSELF Molière's 1666 satire, translated by Clara Bellar. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (310) 306-1854.
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED Douglas Carter Beane's look at Hollywood dealmaking. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (310) 828-7519.
GO THE NEED TO KNOW In a much-evolved solo show that she first presented at Burbank's tiny Sidewalk Studio Theatre seven years ago, and which she's been touring ever since, April Fitzsimmons has grown into the role. Given that her show is autobiographical, this is a bit like saying she's grown into herself, which is also probably true. Perhaps the show has taught her more about the complexities of life, but it's also taught her how to act. Her impersonations of family and friends, her vocal range, her physical dexterity and her comedic timing are now more fully accomplished, and a scene referring to Obama has been added. What starts as a domestic romp from her childhood in Montana and her fling with a man engaged to somebody else, slides into an adventure monitoring Russia and the Middle East as part of a U.S. Air Force intelligence team. Partly to spite her father and her family's Navy heritage (her father refused to support her wish to pursue an acting career in L.A.), she joined the Air Force, and found herself in the south of Italy, working as an intelligence analyst. Even then, she had a raw morality that simply bristled at evidence of nuclear materials being illegally trafficked across foreign lands, evidence that never made it into the press, because the "need-to-know" standard, and U.S. relations with those foreign governments, prevailed against it. That bristling was also the germinal fuel of Fitzsimmons' eventual antiwar activism: It's not wars that protect our freedom, it's the Bill of Rights, she tells a heckler at a beachfront, antiwar ceremony honoring U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Having marched with an M-16, and been privy to the byzantine workings of the military-intelligence network, Fitzsimmons' has earned the right to stage an agitprop performance. She describes being a teenager in the south of Italy, living on the estate of an older Mafioso as refuge from her barracks. He sidles up to her and complains of his "tensseeon," that the cure is "amoooree." Yet Fitzsimmons flips this cheesy pickup line into poetry, when, at show's end, she speaks of the tensions in the world, and how the only cure is amore. Steven Anderson directs. Actors Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; through October 24. (310) 838-4264. (Steven Leigh Morris)
THE NERD Larry Shue's comedy about a nerd. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (310) 454-1970.
RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie<0x2019>s musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. (SLM). Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.
THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED Douglas Carter Beane's look at Hollywood dealmaking. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (310) 828-7519.
THE NEED TO KNOW April Fitzsimmons' journey from military recruit to peace activist. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (310) 838-4264.
THE NERD Larry Shue's comedy about a nerd. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (310) 454-1970.
THE RECEPTIONIST If there is a premise behind playwright Adam Bock's superficial political satire, it might be the notion that even Adolf Eichmann had a beloved mother, and, no doubt, an efficient receptionist too. It is in the latter's domain of a generic, office waiting room (in Chris Covics' appropriately bland-moderne set) that Bock places his comic cautionary study in the mindless, bureaucratic surrender of moral judgment to the dictates of duty -- what Hannah Arendt meant by "the banality of evil." And there are few duties more banal than Beverly Wilkins' (Megan Mullally of NBC's Will & Grace). Holding down the front desk of the innocuous-sounding "Northeast Office," the veteran employee sorts the mail, makes the coffee and screens the incoming calls for her harried boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), at least when she isn't gossiping on the phone or giving relationship advice to Mr. Raymond's flighty, love-hungry assistant, Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan). It is only with the surprise visit of the Central Office's affable Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) and Mr. Raymond's inexplicable absence that Beverly's comfortable routine begins to unravel and the horrific nature of the Northeast Office's "services" is finally brought to light. Though Mullally nails the officious manner and mercurial pettiness of the practiced office functionary, Bart DeLorenzo's detail-mired direction ultimately proves unable to bridge the miscalculated disconnect between Bock's cobweb-thin characterizations and the discordant heft of his message. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru November 23. (310) 477-2055. (Bill Raden) An Evidence Room/Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production.
RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.
SOCK & SHOE The "Sock" portion of this pair of clown and puppet acts features former Cirque du Soleil maestro Daisuke Tsuji in the latest incarnation of the nouveau pantomimist's quest to take clowning out of the circus and onto the performance-art stage. Call it clowning for those who hate clowns. "Death and Giggles" (co-created by Tsuji and puppeteer Cristina Bercovitz) eschews the Cirque's more egregious audience pandering and slapstick grotesquerie for an often lyrical and richly metaphoric exploration into the metaphysics of dying. Framed by an ocean-surf drowning, the narrative has Tsuji, who is made up in simple whiteface and dressed in a sports coat and tie, on a balloon-strewn stage, improvising and miming his way through a series of life memories, ranging from a petulant, hyper-active child being called to dinner, to a school cafeteria food fight, to the sexual awakening of adolescence, through adult experiences of love, marriage and loss. Each scene is punctuated by the wit and vivid atmospherics of composer Jonathan Snipes' striking sound design which, in what may be the show's cleverest conceit, is cued by Tsuji's bursting of successive balloons as each, drowning breath is released. The evening's curtain-raiser, "Sole Mate," an ingratiatingly cute exercise in close foot puppetry, has Bercovitz's sneaker sing the titular, romantic ballad (music by Snipes, lyrics by Snipes, Bercovitz & Jessica Erskine) as it searches through Erskine's mismatching footwear for its missing mate. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m., Sept. 26 & Oct. 10; thru Oct. 23. (310) 838-4264. (Bill Raden)
THREE SISTERS As with much of Anton Chekhov's work, this play about the Prozorov family deals with the decay of the pre-Soviet Russian aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century and the uncertain future that lies ahead for the country. Set in a provincial town, the story centers on the lives of the titular femmes, Olga (Vanessa Waters), Maria (Susan Ziegler) and Irina (Murielle Zuker), who have lost their father and live in the family home with their older brother Andrey (Scott Sheldon) and his wife Natalia (Cameron Meyer), while they long to return to the glamour and excitement of Moscow. The challenge with Chekhov, of course, is striking the fine balance between the almost slapstick comedy and heartbreaking tragedy that alternately define the lives of his characters. Company co-founder and director Jack Stehlin does a laudable job with the humor in the text, and his balletic transition between Acts III and IV is innovative; however he never fully draws out the emotional weight of loss in the piece, leaving it to ubiquitous Russian "philosophizing." Kitty Rose's layered set facilitates the numerous entrances and exits, and Zale Morris' finely detailed costumes have the appropriate period feel to them. The cast, too, is solid, but Meyer stands out in completing her emotional journey on stage and making us feel something, even if hatred, for the vicious figure she becomes. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m. (Wed. perfs until Oct. 14 only); Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Sun. perfs Oct. 18 and Nov. 8, 7 p.m.); thru November 8. (310) 477-2055, ext. 2. A Circus Theatricals Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)