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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: An Oak Tree

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Mon, Jan 11, 2010 at 3:30 PM
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This week's stage features on Ben Bradley's Murder and The Princess and the Frog


NEW REVIEW GO AN OAK TREE

click to enlarge rsz_oaktree.jpg
Photo by William Adashek

On the simplest story-telling level, actor-performer Tim Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist, falling apart at the seams, who accidentally struck and killed a girl with his car, and how he one day finds the victim's father on his stage. Wrenching stuff. But on a conceptual level, the event takes this very emotional saga and uses it as a kind of ping pong ball to bat around the idea of suspension of disbelief - realities that we create through suggestion. In order to accomplish this, he employs a different actor for each performance, whom he meets less than one hour before the performance, and who reads the role of the father from a script. And so, through a frame of hypnotism that's just one of the play's many artifices, begins a breathtaking examination of the blurred  line between what is real and what is suggested, of how we live in dream worlds in order to get by, and how theater itself is a kind of hypnosis that serves this very same purpose. Its brilliance is unfetttered and inexplicably moving, for being such a head-trip. Odyssey Theater, 2055 Sepulveda Boulevard, West Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 14. (310) 477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday.

BEN BRADLEY MEMORIAL has been announced for Saturday, January 23 at Barnsdall Art Park, Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, 11 a.m. Potluck reception to follow.

For all the latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS (scheduled for publication, January 14, 2010)

NEW REVIEW
ALMOST, MAINE Love is very much in the air in the idyllic community of

Almost, Maine, the setting for John Cariani's homage to Cupid's often

strange, unpredictable machinations. The play is formatted as a series

of star filled, romantic encounters that are mostly sugary sweet, with

a sprinkling of salt for good measure. Director Ashley Archambeau does

a fine job marshaling the cast of 18, all of whom turn in good

performances. This more than makes up for the sillier, vacuous moments

that spring up during some of these vignettes. A good example of this

would be "They Fell," with Erout Dolen and Adam Sandroni as two pals

whose underlying sexual attraction for each other causes them to fall

on the floor. It's funny for all of 10 seconds, but the skit lasts far

longer. Ditto for "This Hurts," where a bout of head bashing with

ironing boards turns gratingly sentimental and silly. "Where it Went"

is a heart wrenching meditation on love lost with Luke Wright and

Arianna Arias as a couple whose once magical attraction has evaporated.

"Sad and Glad" tosses in a bit of the mysterious with Greyson Lewis and

Lauren Andrea as strangers brought together by a misspelled tattoo. Neo

Acro Theatre Company at the Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia

Blvd.; North Hollywood.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Jan. 30.

http://NeoAcroTheatre.com (Lovell Estell III)


NEW REVIEW 

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER

click to enlarge rsz_bloodandthunder1.jpg
Photo by J. R. Lawton

In The Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Marcus (Keith

Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived hurricane, Katrina.

Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he watches a lot of TV

-- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But Marcus' theories

and conclusions have always gotten him, brother Quentin (Tony Williams)

and Marcus' girlfriend Charlie (Candice Afia) in over their heads with

one bad hustling scheme after another. Still, Marcus is convinced he's

the brains of the group, even if he has to badger Quentin and Charlie

until they agree. When Quentin limps in, sopping wet and still in his

orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet hole in his thigh, the two

siblings have a violent score to settle. Terence Anthony's taut one-act

drama is effective agony. Two character twists may not add up, but

while the audience perches practically in the living room of Jorge I.

Velasquez's realistic dingy set, with the rain hammering down, the

tension is as thick as the storm clouds we imagine overhead. Solid

performances keep the spell going, particularly by Afia as the

strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free from Marcus' emotional

abuse. Sara Wagoner directs. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Silver

Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.

(Amy Nicholson)


NEW REVIEW 11, SEPTEMBER

click to enlarge rsz_11september.jpg
Photo by Heather Kampf

Playwright-performer Paul Kampf may have come up with the

perfect rationalization for writing what would seem, at face value, the

most implausible plot twists for his psychological thriller. It

concerns an affair between a mathematician, Martin Healy (Kampf),

visiting New York from his London home to attend a conference, and a

waitress, Angela Madison (Liz Rebert), with whom he becomes smitten.

Under Gita Donovan's direction, the actors' waves of attraction and

repulsion (from mutual distrust that slowly and hauntingly seeps out)

have a truthfulness that matches the authenticity of  the uncredited

studio apartment set, where the entire saga plays out. A rising tension

from the violence in the air and some very intriguing inter-connections

adds to play's capacity to entrance, and Chris Cash's musical

compositions help segue the many scenes with a delicate solemnity,

giving the event a cinematic feel. References to chaos theory and

conspiracy theory become the philosophical frame for plot developments

what might otherwise raise eyebrows in skepticism. The play rides the

line between exploring and exploiting coincidences, yet it gets bogged

down in its own psychological realism. This raises questions that can't

be answered by chaos theory, or any other - such as why the characters

sometimes blurt out incendiary details of their past, given how neither

is particularly trust-worthy, or why Martin would drop by uninvited and

wind up reading Angela's diary, conveniently left in her bed. Breadline

Productions at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los

Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Feb. 7. (310)

477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris)       


NEW REVIEW

GO AN OAK TREE

click to enlarge rsz_oaktree.jpg
Photo by William Adashek

On the simplest story-telling level, actor-performer Tim

Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist, falling apart at the seams,

who accidentally struck and killed a girl with his car, and how he one

day finds the victim's father on his stage. Wrenching stuff. But on a

conceptual level, the event takes this very emotional saga and uses it

as a kind of ping pong ball to bat around the idea of suspension of

disbelief - realities that we create through suggestion. In order to

accomplish this, he employs a different actor for each performance,

whom he meets less than one hour before the performance, and who reads

the role of the father from a script. And so, through a frame of

hypnotism that's just one of the play's many artifices, begins a

breathtaking examination of the blurred  line between what is real and

what is suggested, of how we live in dream worlds in order to get by,

and how theater itself is a kind of hypnosis that serves this very same

purpose. Its brilliance is unfetttered and inexplicably moving, for

being such a head-trip. Odyssey Theater, 2055 Sepulveda Boulevard, West

Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Feb. 14. (310)

477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature on Wednesday.


NEW REVIEW ORDINARY DAYS 

click to enlarge rsz_ordinarydays.jpg
Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR

Though meant to be ironic because it is a story of New

York City which, of course, is always extraordinary, the title is

actually prophetic about Adam Gwon's light, predictable pop-musical

"ode to New York" that only occasionally rises above the ordinary. Four

whimsical young characters (played by Nick Gabriel, Deborah S. Craig,

David Burnham and Nancy Anderson) try to navigate through the

turbulence of Manhattan searching for love and purpose. Unfortunately

most of the 18 songs are pattery ditties that give the talented cast

little to work with. Only Burnham  gets to let loose with his belting

voice. At one point, in the Metropolitan Museum, Gwon's composition

actually moves into high-gear with some complicated rhythms,

beautifully handled by musical director Dennis Castellano, that

actually sound like an homage to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with

George. The characters in simple situations of youthful angst -- though

a moving tribute to 9/11 stops the show with unearned emotion. The

evening's best aspect is Fred Kinney's mechanical stage design of

Manhattan architecture, complemented by Jason H. Thompson's clever

projections. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa;

Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 24.

(714) 708-5555. (Tom Provenzano)


NEW REVIEW GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising

full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers,

including, in the past, Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams, and Stephen

Sondheim. Here, under the direction of artistic directors Brian Lohman

and Dan O'Connor, they're tackling the Bard, taking the most minimal

suggestions from the audience and spinning them into dizzily amusing

mock-Shakespearean epics. At the performance I attended, they created a

comedy that might be called Much Ado About Blue-Birds. Miranda (Lisa

Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly

only the songs of blue-birds) of the Duke of Kent (Lohman). Kent has

decided to marry her off to the elderly Duke of York (Floyd Van

Buskirk), but she has already developed a fancy for Price (O'Connor), a

young man from the village who loves her, and has learned to tweet like

a blue-bird to woo her. The course of true love is threatened by a

couple of mischievous fairies (Brian Jones and Edi Patterson) and a

man-eating bear until the blissful final scene, which is as sententious

as any old Will created. The company (including Michele Spears and

Stephen Kearin) is clever, nimble and quick on its feet, and the result

is an amiable, crowd-pleasing divertissement. Theatre Impro at Theatre

Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m., thru Feb. 14. (323) 401-9793. (Neal Weaver) 

NEW REVIEW TWENTY-TWO A friend once explained his decision to quit cocaine as his

weariness of the disreputable types with whom he was forced to deal and

of the even scarier places where they invariably dealt. So it is in

actor-playwright Julia Morizawa's hyperkinetic, autobiographical

addiction nightmare. For Leila (Morizawa), the story's 22-year-old

heroine, however, no amount of unsavory associations can deter her from

her unapologetic, single-minded snorting of coke with the fierce

efficiency of a shop vac. Her unbridled enthusiasm for the powder soon

ensnares her two best friends, Zoe (Shaina Vorspan) and the musician,

Danny (Matthew Black), whose cluttered apartment becomes Leila's de

facto drug den. And with her boyfriend/dealer, Eric (Raymond Donahey),

as their enabler/supplier, the friends' walk on the sordid side quickly

careens into a coked-up version of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Director

Donahey intensifies the luridness of the proceedings by seating the

audience on the set like so many uninvited guests. But Morizawa's

restricting focus on the outward spectacle of her characters' freefall

rarely musters pathos for their plunge. While the play hints at deeper

demons whetting Leila's manic appetite (i.e. fear and self-loathing),

the evening's most poignant and revealing moment belongs not to its

protagonist but to its bogeyman, Sol (the fine James Adam Patterson),

when the unscrupulous street dealer speaks with pride over a daughter's

scholastic achievements. Had Morizawa been as generous with her other

characters, she might have delivered something more engaging than

sideshow debasement and morbid, voyeuristic thrills. Knightsbridge

Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan.

30. (323) 667-0955. (Bill Raden)


 


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