Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Trauma Dolls

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Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 2:17 PM
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This week's Theater Feature on Camelot and Baal


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Photo courtesy of Highways

Next Friday and Saturday, January 29 and 30, at 8:30 p.m. Highways presents (Un)Concrete Musique, a trio of of multimedia musical performance.

In "Trauma Doll," Cora Ripatti employs an original electronic music soundscape, a backdrop video by Danish filmmaker Karim Ghahwagi, live vocals and dance to grapple with the emotional tears from the death of her sister to lupus, and a shooting that left her other sister paralyzed.

Y&S present "Luz Y Sombra," an electro bilingual opera set in L.A. -- "a tragedy that can dance too."

Marlena Dali and Michael Turner's "Siren Reef" is an environmentalist, multimedia art performance and gallery installation that stresses the importance of protecting the world's various coral reefs.

Highways Performance Space is located at 1651 18th Street, in Santa Monica, CA, ½ block north of Olympic. (310) 315-1459 or here.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the Read On tab directly below.


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


ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

BAD THING "Asher Hartman mixes elements of theater, installation, performance and painting to explore the guilt and pleasure inherent in American violence.", free. SEA AND SPACE
EXPLORATIONS, 4755 York Blvd., Highland Park; Fri., Jan. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m.. (323) 982-0854.

BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA Charles L. Mee's "fantastical road trip through the American landscape written as Robert Rauschenberg, one of America's greatest living artists, might conceive it". [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; opens Jan. 23; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673.

BRIDE OF WILDENSTEIN: THE MUSICAL AUTOMATA in collaboration with IBEX Puppetry present the story of an aging socialite and her philandering game hunter husband. VELASLAVASAY PANORAMA, 1122 W. 24th St., L.A.; Jan. 28-31, 8 p.m., www.brownpapertickets.com/event/95650. (213) 746-2166.

CAROUSEL Reprise Theatre Company presents the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood; opens Jan. 27; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.reprise.org. (310) 825-2101.

THE CITY Clyde Fitch's 1909 play, adapted and directed by Stan Mazin. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.

DARWIN: AN ADVENTURE FOR ALL AGES Kid-friendly blend of puppetry, technology and dance, created by Corbin Popp and Ian Carney. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Sat., Jan. 23, 11 a.m. & 3 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 30, 11 a.m.. (213) 628-2772.

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD Bert V. Royal's dark parody of the "Peanuts" comic strip. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.UrbanTheatreMovement.com. (323) 469-9988.

EXILES Carlos Lacamara's story of Cuban refugees adrift. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-4442.

"FIRESIDE AT THE MILES" Reading of The Young Man From Atlanta, by the Ruskin Group Theatre. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m.. (310) 458-8634.

THE GOLDEN GAYS The drag sitcom spoof continues with the girls moving on up to a de-luxe apartment in the sky. Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 31, www.thegoldengays.com...

THE GOOD SOLDIER SCHWEIK Ken Roht directs Robert Kurka's satirical opera. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat., Jan. 23, 8 p.m.. (562) 432-5934.

KATAKI Shimon Wincelberg's WWII tale of an American soldier and a Japanese soldier stranded together on a Pacific island. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kataki2010.com. (323) 856-0665.

THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD Jimmy Murphy's Irish wake at a London pub. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; opens Jan. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.theatrebanshee.org. (818) 846-5323.

MALINCHE The life and influence of Malintzin Tepenal, by Victor Hugo Rascon Banda. (Alternating perfs in English and Spanish; call for schedule.). Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.fridakahlotheater.org. (213) 382-8133.

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Shakespeare's comedy, set in the frontier mining town of Windsor, Colorado. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14, www.LyricTheatreLA.com. (323) 939-9220.

NAKED IN THE TROPICS Odalys Nanin's story of gay sex, drugs and rock'n'roll in a West Hollywood night club. Danny Indart, lyrics by Odalys Nanin and Danny Indart. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; opens Jan. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-1057.

NARROW WORLD Fresh Baked Theatre Company presents Daniel Damiano's dystopian drama., freshbakedtheatrecompany@gmail.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 7. (602) 689-7714.

ON THE FRITZ: AN EVENING WITH FRITZ COLEMAN The NBC4 weatherman's "humorous observations on life and news in Southern California.". Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; opens Jan. 22; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 31, www.hermosabeachplayhouse.com. (310) 372-4477.

PASTORAL Reading of Frank Tangredi's drama about a pastor's test of faith. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Jan. 26-27, 8 p.m.. (626) 356-PLAY.

PLAYWRIGHTS 6 STAGED READING SERIES Free readings of plays by finalists in the 2010 Play Contest, including three new pieces by Los Angeles playwrights. Underground Theater, 1312 N. Wilton Pl., L.A.; Tues., Jan. 26, 8 p.m.; Tues., Feb. 9, 8 p.m.. (323) 467-0036.

SEX, DREAMS & SELF CONTROL Kevin Thornton's coming-out memoir., $10. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Tues., Jan. 26, 8 p.m., http://www.cavernclubtheater.com/SEXDREAMS.HTML. (323) 969-2530.

SIX DEGREES OF FORNICATION World premiere of David Wally's sex comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; opens Jan. 28; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 4. (866) 811-4111.

SONGS FOR A SUNDAY: AN EVENING WITH JERALYN GLASS REFELD Trinity Care Hospice Foundation presente Ms. Refeld's one-woman show., $25. James R. Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance; Sun., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.. (310) 781-7150.

SPIKE HEELS Theresa Rebeck's contemporary comedy exploring "sexual harassment, misplaced love, and the possibility of a four-sided love triangle.". Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 31, www.plays411.com/spikeheels. (323) 965-9996.

STAGE DOOR George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Depression-era comedy. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, www.openfist.org. (323) 882-6912.

STOMP Return of the avant-garde noisemakers. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Jan. 26; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.stomponline.com. (213) 365-3500.

TICKET TO RIDE -- A MUSICAL BIOGRAPHY OF THE BEATLES Musical story of the rock & roll legends, written and directed by P.M. Howard. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; Jan. 22-23, 8 p.m., www.tickettoridemusical.com. (562) 480-7951.

WHO IS CURTIS LEE? World premiere of Ashford J. Thomas' play set in 1950s North Carolina. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; opens Jan. 22; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 957-1152.


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Photo by Craig Schwartz

Director David Lee's 8-actor version of Lerner & Loewe's musical chestnut uses its economical imperative to strive for an ensemble concept that makes fun of its own minimal devices. The result is somewhat tentative, a production groping for its purpose, but it's also pleasant. Shannon Stoke's vocally pleasing and gentle King Arthur needs the machismo of Richard Burton, despite his pacifist politics, or the subtext of his wife's (Shannon Warne) erotic distraction is a wee too obvious. Warne's voice is gorgeous, as is Doug Carpenter, who conjurs memories of Robert Goulet playing Lancelot. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (no perf Jan. 19, 27 and Feb. 3; added perfs Feb. 3, 2 p.m.); thru Feb. 7. (626) 356-7592 (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature

GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, starring Hershey Felder. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 28, 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.

JACKIE MASON: NO HOLDS BARRED The funny man's comedy tour de force. Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Blvd. (on the Veterans Administration grounds), L.A.; Through Jan. 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 3 p.m., www.broadwayla.org. (800) 982-2787.

GO MARY POPPINS The riveting theatricality of Bob Crowley's production design, climaxing in chimney sweep Bert (Gavin Lee) soft-shoeing straight up, then upside down across the proscenium arch, and culminating in a showstopping umbrella flight over the audience by the famous titular nanny, produces an excitement that far outshines the limited value intrinsic in much of the musical's written material. Likewise the sublime showmanship of choreographer Matthew Bourne and stage director Richard Eyre hides the flaws in Julian Fellowes' disjointed script and new music by George Stiles and Anthony Drew. Unlike most of Disney's Broadway smashes that producer Thomas Schumacher has magically transformed from animated film to stage, this is a hybrid between Disney's 1964 movie masterpiece, whose fun and fanciful score by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman still holds up, and the operetta gleaned from the original novel (with rights held by the Cameron Mackintosh team). The two styles battle one another for dominance, and neither wins. Most of the film's story lines are banished in favor of closer adaptation of the P.L. Travers books with the familiar songs wedged into the scenes, while the new songs more closely fit the story, but lack spark. Nevertheless the production is an audience pleaser, with demonstrable talent on or off the stage. (Tom Provenzano)., $20-$92. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7. (213) 628-2772.

ORDINARY DAYS 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," which 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 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 -- which actually sound like an homage to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. The characters are 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. (Tom Provenzano). 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.

PALESTINE, NEW MEXICO When U.S. Army Captain Catherine Siler (Kirsten Potter) stumbles into "Bumfuck" -- a New Mexico Indian reservation -- she's already tripping, exhausted from crossing the desert, dehydrated and addicted to her now-terminated prescription meds for pain and stress. That's before she drinks a peyote-laced beverage given to her by one of the natives, for dehydration. So in Richard Montoya's mess of a new play, which contains the germ of a beautiful idea, there are dreams, and then there are dreams. I tracked at least four plays, each in different styles, and for a 90-minute experience without intermission, that's the dramaturgical definition of a cake just been put in the oven, with ingredients still bumping up against each other. Lisa Peterson directs. (Steven Leigh Morris). Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Sun..; thru Jan. 24. (213) 628-2772.

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.

THE PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW Paul Reubens returns as the kooky character he debuted on the Groundling stage in 1981. Club Nokia, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.peewee.com. (800) 745-3000.

GO THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the 7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good," along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin' good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog, stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm stems from the delight -- and the unintended comedic faux pas -- displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate. The non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well. A song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.

RIVERDANCE The Irish step-dancing spectacular. 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. 24, www.broadwayla.org. (213) 365-3500.

WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Fri., Jan. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 24, 2 & 7 p.m., www.ANoiseWithin.org. (818) 240-0910.


GO ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920S SHANGHAI 1920s Shanghai is the setting of Debbie McMahon's wonderfully environmental tour de force of clowning, dancing and blood, which evokes, with ferocious imagination, not just a bygone era but also the atmosphere of the Grand Guignol. Upon arrival at the theater, we are ushered into an ante-chamber outside the actual auditorium, which has been set up to resemble a Shanghai bazaar. There are sallow-eyed maidens serving tea -- and also warm absinthe, strained through sugar, Thomas De Quincey--style. The scent of the absinthe wafts through the entire theater, melding with dry ice and creating a mood that elegantly mixes pleasure and decay. The play's first act, "Sing Song Girl Sings Last Song," is a haunting ballet of despair, involving a cast that includes jaded "Sing Song Girl" prostitute Bright Pearl (Tina Van Berckelaer), a young virgin protégé (Amanda Street) who dreams of becoming Top Whore, and calculating Madame Old Bustard (Dinah Steward), who plots to sell the virgin to be raped and mutilated by a piglike mobster (Roy Starr). Anchored by Jeanne Simpson's pleasingly melodramatic choreography, the dance tackles a compelling story of rage, despair and vice. Steward's charmingly sinister Old Bustard steals every scene she's in -- but Street's scheming, loathsome virgin is a standout as well. Act 2's vignette, Chris Bell's "The Cabinet of Hands," is a gripping horror tale, with a sharp twist of quirky humor. A prissy young French couple (Robin Long and Zachary Foulkes), vacationing in Shanghai, gets more than they bargain for when they go slumming at the opium den owned by a seemingly kind old woman (Kevin Dulude). As the thrill-seeking Westerners get happily stoned on The Dragon's Tail, the old woman's diabolical true nature shows through. The final scene consists of a jaw-dropping gorefest that will have you simultaneously howling with terror and laughter (while slipping your hands in your pockets for safekeeping). Dulude's wicked old woman is the perfect embodiment of mysterious evil -- and the horrific fate of Long's ill-fated naif hilariously suggests an anti-drug teaching moment that's very effective. (Paul Birchall). Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (800) 838-3006.

GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., TBA, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

NEW REVIEW GO BAAL Peter Mellencamp's adapatation of Bertolt Brecht's early, poetical drama is about the cruelty and demise of a Bacchanalian poet who recognizes, curses and is cursed by civilization's thin veneer. Ben Rock's staging is sometimes forced, more often intense and seductive, with Gregory Sims' growling title character bearing a physical resemblance to young Al Pacino, but with a voice like Tom Waits. Sacred Fools Theatre Company, 660 Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perf Thurs., Jan. 28, 8 p.m.); thru Feb. 20. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER 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, still wearing 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 of Marcus' emotional abuse. Sara Wagner directs. (Amy Nicholson). Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.

BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's 50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11, www.bobbakermarionettes.com. (213) 250-9995.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST . Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

CONFUSIONS Quintet of interlinked plays by Alan Ayckbourn. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 7, www.plays411.com/confusions. (323) 960-5775.

NEW REVIEW DOCTOR NOGUCHI Given director-playwright Gary LeGault's pedigree, you would think that a camp meditation on celebrity, based on the star-studded body count of L.A. County's controversial, former Chief Medical Examiner, Thomas T. Noguchi (Hayden Lee), would be a comedic slam dunk. You'd be wrong. Despite a list of credits that includes working with the likes of Charles Ludlam and Warhol superstars Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn, LeGault's indifferently staged, pallidly scripted evening delivers little of the outrageous burlesque or incisive social ironies those names might imply. Charting the publicity-seeking coroner's career between Marilyn Monroe's (Julia Stoddard) "suicide" in 1963 and John Belushi's (Jeremy Ebenstein) overdose in 1982, the play unwinds as a series of vignettes in which a quizzical Noguchi ponders the paradox of his illustrious clientele's self-destruction while at the peak of their fame, even as he is visited by each of their resurrected spirits seeking some sort of existential closure. But if LeGault's necrographic portraiture rarely achieves even a Wikipedia-weight likenesses, the production is not without its charms. These are mainly found in Lee's slyly winsome portrayal of a flawed philosopher-poet, whose fastidious pursuit of truth becomes corrupted by his own vanity and the corrosive effects of fame-by-association. With decided deficits in plot and engaging conflict to fuel that performance, however, LeGault's slender conceit simply lacks the comic mileage to make it to the final curtain. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (310) 360-7064. (Bill Raden)

F*CKING MEN Joe DiPietro's observations on the sex lives of modern urban gay America. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (323) 957-1884.

GO THE GLASS MENDACITY Devotees of Tennessee Williams will surely delight in this send-up of the playwright's best-known dramas. Maureen Morley and Tom Willmorth have blended characters and motifs from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire into one big, irreverent stew of laughs. Gathered together at the Belle Reeve plantation are Mitch (Ken Johnson, who doubles as a narrator), Amanda (Stephanie Strand), Maggie (Renee Scott), Brick (a dummy named Eliot Barrymore), Stanley (Joe Dalo) and Blanche (Catherine Cronin, who traveled by way of a certain streetcar). The occasion is Big Daddy's (a hilarious Quincy Miller) arrival from the hospital and a celebration of his birthday. As in Cat, the cigar-smoking patriarch has cancer but is told he is suffering only from a "spastic colon." And we must not forget dear Laura Dubois (Strand), who limps and vomits her way throughout, while fixated on her menagerie of animals made of ice cubes. From this disparate collection of Williams' familiars, the writers weave a quirky narrative involving lust, insanity, infidelity, sibling rivalry, intrigue and lots of mendacity. It probably helps if you have some knowledge of Williams' plays, (in one scene Stanley calls out "Starland," instead of Stella). Andrew Crusse provides the solid direction. (Lovell Estell III). Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.

GRAVITYWORKS L.A. premiere of creator-director-producer Russell Boast's cabaret that's "part comedy troupe/part vaudeville act/part kick-ass music.". Cinespace, 6356 Hollywood Blvd., Second Level, L.A.; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 25, www.gravityworkstheshow.com. (800) 838-3006.

HAMLET The Porters of Hellsgate present Shakespeare's tragedy. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (951) 262-3030.

HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE Tommy Carter's drama of urban malaise, police brutality, and corruption. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.plays411.com/hellzkitchen. (323) 962-0046.

THE INTERNATIONALISTS Poor Dog Group re-creates the space race. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.plays411.com...

JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus' drama about growing up in a deaf household. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 28. (323) 469-3113.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox 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 Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 960-4412.

MOIST! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.MoistOnStage.com. (323) 960-4442.

ORPHEUS DESCENDING Gale Harold, Denise Crosby and Claudia Mason star in Tennessee Williams' modern retelling of the ancient Greek legend. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/92508. (800) 838-3006.

PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE Steve Martin's 1993 comedy. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7714.

NEW REVIEW GO PROJECT: WONDERLAND Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, opens Robert Prior's play by defending his friendship with 11-year-old Alice Liddell before taking major hits off a hookah. (A professor, Michael Bonnabel, scribbling the mathematical formula for Wonderland, leaves that substance out his equation.) Thus, um, inspired, Carroll (Lon Haber) dons a blonde wig and reveals himself as Alice before plunging down the rabbit hole. Apart from the entrance of five other Alices chanting Carroll's lines like a Greek chorus, Prior's Wonderland is familiar turf -- a trip though our childhood memories of the text and the Disney cult cartoon laced with Jefferson Airplane and melodramatic music, but otherwise played straight. The stars here are Teresa Shea's costumes and sets and Lynn Jeffries' puppets, a whirlwind of giant lobster claws and waves of parachute silk and 15-foot flower hats and packs of angry cards buzzing about the stage. Amidst the chaos, standouts include Bonnabel's Caterpillar, Jabez Zuniga's Queen of Hearts, Matthew Patrick Davis's Mad Hatter, Lori Scarlett's Mock Turtle -- hell, pretty much everyone navigating this manic, uncertain, but enthusiastic staging. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (213 389-3856. (Amy Nicholson)

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.

GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers, including 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 Bluebirds. Miranda (Lisa Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly only the songs of bluebirds) 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 bluebird 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. (Neal Weaver). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 14, www.plays411.com/shakespeareunscripted. (323) 401-9793.

SIT 'N' SPIN Storytelling by Jill Soloway, Maggie Rowe, Jaclyn Lafer and assorted guests of varying hilarity., free. COMEDY CENTRAL STAGE, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Every other Thursday, 8 p.m., www.sitnspin.org. (323) 960-5519.

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Photo by Jordan Photography

Tilted Frame Network is the creation of Combined Artform, a San Francisco based theatrical production company headed by artistic director Matthew Quinn. This multi-media, improv comedy show has audiences and actors in Los Angeles and San Francisco interact with each other via internet and television. It's an intriguing idea with loads of potential but one in need of much fine tuning. The performance I attended started out with the customary routine involving audience suggestions, but quickly morphed into an awkward free for-all, with so-so performances by cast members in both cities. The material, for the most part, was quirky and capable of tickling some funny bones, but little that was breath-taking. One really funny skit was a take on The Dating Game, with Misa Doi, LaKendra Tookes and Natalie Chediak as three eligible bachelorettes. Daniel Sullivan was in the hot seat up in San Francisco asking the questions. Ditto for Paul Baumgaertner as a friendly cable-car pot dealer. A bigger problem besides the hot and cold material was the many technical gaffes that occurred throughout. Blank screens, sound implosions, and malfunctioning monitors kill the spontaneity that is the heart of improv comedy. This show has "test product" written all over it, but there are sparks of  brilliance here that provide hope for future outings. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Jan. 29.  http://www.tiltedframe.com an Artform production. (Lovell Estell III)

THEATRE'S CLASSIC HITS A sampling of theater history, from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Oscar Wilde. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Jan. 31. (323) 667-0955.

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.

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. 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' free fall 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. (Bill Raden). Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (323) 667-0955.

THE WINDUP PUPPET SHOW Windup puppets come to life to the music of Manheim Steamroller. Created by Chris Berube, directed and co-written by Wendy Carter. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28, www.berubians.com. (323) 850-7827.


AFTER HOURS SHOW Presented by Neo Acro Theatre Company. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Jan. 30...

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: "They Fell," with Erol 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. (Lovell Estell III). Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.neoacrotheatre.com...

ARTS IN THE ONE WORLD Only at Calarts: "Presentations, performances and workshops that demonstrate how survivors, artists and scholars give testimony and bear witness to circumstances of conflict and social injustice, opening imaginative space for participation in the recovery of historical memory and social renewal.". California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Pkwy., Valencia; Through Jan. 24, www.artsintheoneworld.org. (661) 253-7800.

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.; thru Jan. 23. (818) 605-5685.


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Photo by Daniel Cerny

Reminiscent of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev 1914 Russian play, He Who Gets Slapped,   shifts the setting to Weimar Germany circa 1933. A small traveling circus run by Ludwig Bricke (John Moskal) and his common-law wife/lion-tamer Maria (Stephanie T. Keefer) serves as a haven for those at the margins of society: Jackson (Jeff Williams), a black American clown in whiteface; Tilly and Polly (Justin Hertner and Lee Biolos), a longstanding gay couple; Bezano (Patrick Koffel), the Communist horse trainer; and the newly-arrived mysterious clown named "He" (an impressively nuanced Joshua Grenrock).  As the story, which takes place entirely in the circus dressing room, unfolds, multiple love triangles emerge, though the one of greatest consequence is that between Bezano, Maria, and the bare back rider Consuelo (Tanya Goott), who is engaged by her father Count Mancini (Kurt Hargan) to the wealthy Baron Von Reinhardt (Ed Brigadier), the head of the local SA stormtroopers.  While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from what could be an extremely compelling piece of theatre, Cerny has done his best to minimize them, and his Brechtian-style entr'acte additions, such as the "news clowns," provide girding for the menacing backdrop of Nazi Germany on the rise. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; thru February 14. (866) 811-4111.  An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production.  (Mayank Keshaviah)

FRIENDS LIKE THESE Gregory Crafts' teen violence drama. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 30, www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

GBLT: GAYS, BACON, LETTUCE AND TOMATO Tasty treats from Theatre Unleashed's sketch comedy troupe Die Gruppe. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed., Jan. 27, 9 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 30, 10:30 p.m., www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE Paula Vogel's story of survival behind the wheel. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

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Photo courtesy of Parson's Nose

Lance Davis' abridged 75 minute adaptation  of Moliere's classic eschews all subtlety in an amusing, accessible romp with plenty of flair and humor. Davis plays Argon, a mousey, myopic hypochondriac in a tizzy over his mounting medical bills.  His solution: to marry off his unfortunate daughter  Angelique (Amanda Pajer) to the loutish son of a quack doctor,  in order to secure his in-law's services for free. Possessed of a gargantuan ego, the self-preoccupied ninny Argon swallows whole the extravagant protestations of love by his beautiful but conniving second wife (Marisa Chandler)  -- even as she plots with her lover  (Mark McCracken), behind Argon's back -- to secure all his wealth. Under Mary Chalon's direction, the production evolves with outsized brio --  a stylistic  approach that succeeds  by virtue of  Davis' considerable  acting skill, in tandem with the talents of Pajer and Chandler, both of whom render their shtick with calibrated craft. Some of the other characters come across as less crisply but are still good enough to keep the farce crackling. Designer Holly Victoria's lovely period costumes add professional polish. Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena;  Fri.-Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 5, (626) 
403-7667. http://www.parsonsnose.com A Parson's Nose Theater Company production (Deborah Klugman)

THE JAMB World premiere of J. Stephen Brantley's comedy. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (818) 508-3003.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an outstanding band, under Greg Piper musical direction, is just undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles catalogue followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead, creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off his lofty saint-like perch, but the result of a plodding timeline narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiney, until the music returns him to his proper place. (Tom Provenzano). Platinum Live, 11345 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

MIXED BLESSINGS World premiere of Jeff Bernhardt's drama about a gay German college student and his straight Jewish roommate. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 31, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/90619. (800) 838-3006.

NEW BEGINNINGS Neo Acro Theatre Company presents six original short plays by local writers. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun..; thru Jan. 31...

ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.plays411.com/ontheair. (323) 960-4420.

ONE MAN, TWO PLAYS Dan Hildebrand in The Nonsense by Kevin Cotter and Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Andrew Kazamia. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-5650.

PROOF David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize winner, starring disabled actress Teal Sherer. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-7863.

RAY BRADBURY'S WISDOM 2116 Two by science-fiction author Ray Bradbury: Wisdom (1916), a new play, and 2116, a new musical, book and lyrics by Bradbury, music by John Hoke, developed, directed and choreographed by Steve Josephson. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.Plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.


GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 822-8392.

CHAPTER TWO Neil Simon's 1977 comedy about a widowed writer. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 454-1970.

11, SEPTEMBER 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, where the entire saga plays out. A rising tension from the violence in the air and some very intriguing interconnections add 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 and conspiracy theories become the philosophical frame for plot developments that 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 trustworthy, or why Martin would drop by uninvited and wind up reading Angela's diary, conveniently left in her bed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 7, www.11septemberplay.info. (310) 477-2055.

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Photo by Jeremy Rousch of Vibble

In Tiffany Antone's choppy farce, the sensibility of a Saturday morning cartoon collides with a potentially fecund philosophical debate on the ego's relationship with the id. Yet, the results are strangely disjointed and unsatisfying. Jane Doe (Jessica Runck) is desperate to scale the career ladder at her marketing job, but her many hours of overwork are being undercut by bizarre nightmares and odd signals from her subconscious - she dreamily fills her briefcase with ice and snow shoes instead of the important files she needs, for instance, while travel brochures for trips to the North Pole mysteriously appear on her desk.   Her well meaning shrink, Dr. Annabelle (Coco Kleppinger), is sympathetic - but Dr. Annabelle's partner, bug-eyed, twitching, and stammering Dr. Snafu (Isaac Wade, annoyingly channeling the mad scientist from the Back to the Future movies) has a more intriguing suggestion.  He offers to clone Jane, so that she will be able to get more done.  It's an idea that you and I both know will clearly end in tears - and, sure enough, Jane's clone (a sweetly gamine Sara Kaye) turns out to be nothing like her original, and winds up eclipsing Jane's life.  With a frenetic staging that makes an imaginative if assaultive impression, director Mary Jo DuPrey's production boasts some tight choreography, strong comic timing and gleeful mugging.  Runck's priggishly brittle Jane is nicely contrasted against Kaye's sweet, earth-mother  clone.  Marika Stephens's calculatedly surreal set - all sloping, angular furniture that puts one in mind of the villain's lair in an old Batman episode - abets the cartoon mood.  However, all the craftsmanship is ultimately in the service of a half baked play, whose uneven tone, glib dialogue and messy plotting get stranded somewhere between a theological argument and a screenplay wannabee about a wacky office. Powerhouse Theater, 3116  Second Street, Santa Monica.  Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6. (310) 396-3680.  Los Angeles Theater Ensemble. (Paul Birchall) 

ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (310) 397-3244.

IT'S CRIMINAL! THE COMEDY! Courtroom adventures with criminal defense attorney Murray Meyer. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (323) 960-7780.

LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.

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Photo by Vitor Martins

In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and Joy (Robin Becker) have lost a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they have become fanatical super patriots, eager to condemn anyone who questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew (writer Pasqualini) also have a son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an émigré from a Muslim country, whom they have adopted. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their courses have diverged. While Andy enlisted and went to his death in battle, Michael also enlisted, but decided it was a mistake, and deserted his post. Though Mel and Andrew are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy are determined to force the boy to face his fears and accept his duty, even by reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. This issue becomes a catalyst, leading to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's play is not really a thesis drama, but it often sounds like one, treating its characters as mouth-pieces. There are, however some potent scenes. Though we're clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's too whiny and self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux has able actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome hysteria and shouting. Pacific Resident Theatre, 705 ½ Venice Boulevard, Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru March 28. (310) 822-8392 or  http://www.PacificResidentTheatre.com (Neal Weaver)

GO AN OAK TREE On the simplest storytelling level, actor-performer Tim Crouch's play is the tale of a hypnotist falling apart at the seams, who after accidentally striking and killing a young girl with his car, 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, for each performance he employs a different actor, 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 unfettered, and inexplicably moving, for being such a head trip. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 14. (310) 477-2055.

PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY Phil Van Hest's rants and raves. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (866) 811-4111.

PICK OF THE VINE Nine original short plays selected from submissions by playwrights from around the world. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 31, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Feb. 11, 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 13. (310) 512-6030.

PRINCESS BEAN'S MESSY WORLD Rock & roll kids musical about a petite punk princess. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat., 12:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.princessbean.com. (310) 490-2383.

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE Ray Cooney's marriage farce. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.johnsmithcheats.com. (310) 828-7519.

THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (626) 256-3809.

3RD STREET COMEDY . Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica; Sat., 9 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (310) 656-8070.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION The Kentwood Players present John Guare's drama. Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 13, www.kentwoodplayers.org. (310) 645-5156.

A SONG AT TWILIGHT Orson Bean, Alley Mills and Laurie O'Brien star in Noel Coward's last play. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.odysseytheatre.com. (310) 477-2055.

UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL Glen Berger's tale of a library book returned 133 years overdue. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 28. (310) 512-6030.

WEST Steven Berkoff's 1983 working-class London play. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 6, www.hellion-pictures.com/west. (310) 823-0710.

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