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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Theater Folk (Shockingly) Spin into TV and Film!

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Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 3:04 PM
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 COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
NEW REVIEWS
THEATER FEATURES ON NORTH ATLANTIC AND ED HARRIS
THE 31ST ANNUAL L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS


NOIR - FACE THE MUSIC

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Heritage Square and Yale Cabaret Hollywood present a live, unusual reading of an interactive television script. The reading is set for Sunday, February 21, 4 p.m. at the Victorian Parlor of the Perry Mansion at Heritage Square Museum, 3800 Homer Street, Los Angeles, CA 90031 near the Avenue 43 Exit of the 110 Freeway. All proceeds help fund the museum. Admission is a requested donation of $10 with free admission for Heritage Square Members or New Members joining at the $35 level or more. (323) 225-2700, Ext. 223.

Noir - Face The Music is a script commissioned from Ray Malus to create a television program exercising the interactive infrastructure Cable TV companies are deploying for Advertising. This is a world premier. Ben Rock directs. For more here.

SCREAM OF THE BIKINI

Bill Robens and Kiff Scholl's move (directed by Scholl) is being screened Fri. Feb. 19 and Sat. Feb. 20 at 11:55pm at the Laemmle Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 90046 www.laemmle.com

"Scream of the Bikini is a 1960s action-spy-thriller by acclaimed South American
director, Fernando Fernandez. Jasmine Orozco and Paola Apanapal - in their English
language film debuts - are Bridget and Sophia: gorgeous super models by day, brutal
bounty hunters by night. Murder, intrigue and pillow fights await our beautiful leading
ladies at every turn, as they match wits and martial arts with a coterie of madmen and
women bent on world domination. Filmed somewhere in South America in 1966, and
poorly translated and dubbed by Germans, this unintentionally funny James Bond meets
Barbarella love child plumbs the seedy depths of the international fashion model/psychokiller
underworld with a boldness that only a gun to the head can provide."

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.



COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for February 19-25, 2010

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

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK


ARTEL: KHARMFUL CHARMS OF DANIIL KHARMS With its Victorian-esque subtitle, "A Theatrical Incident with Curious Music, Unfamiliar Singing and Improbable Dancing" the Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms returns from last year's successful workshop in an expanded theatrical dance performance., $24-$28. Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (800) 838-3006.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Ifa Bayeza's civil rights drama about the 1955 murder of an African-American teen. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 20; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (323) 663-1525.

BROADS World premiere musical about the ladies of a Florida retirement home, book by Jennie Fahn, music and lyrics by Joe Symon. (In the Forum Theater). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 19; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4. (818) 508-4200.

DOLORES/NORTH OF PROVIDENCE SFS Theatre Company presents Edward Allan Baker's sibling plays. Stephanie Feury Studio Theater, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 24; Wed., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (323) 463-7378.

FACADE: A LYRICAL COMPILATION Spoken-word dramatization by writer-producer Elle Jai, with guitarist Doc Powell. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Feb. 19-21, www.facadelive.com. (626) 818-4802.

FAKE RADIO: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU Old-time-radio version of the play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.. (323) 653-6886.

THE FIRST LADY World-premiere opera about Eleanor Roosevelt. Music by Ken Wells, libretto by Ken Wells, Gayle Strauss, Rick Roudebush and Matt Wells. NPI Auditorium, UCLA, 720 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., March 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.. (310) 794-3711.


HERSHEY FELDER AS MONSIEUR CHOPIN A piano lesson at Frédéric Chopin's salon at 9 Square d'Orléans in Paris, just days after the start of the French revolution. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; opens Feb. 25; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (949) 497-2787.

NEVERMORE Jeffrey Combs is Edgar Allan Poe. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Feb. 23-24, 7:30 p.m.. (858) 481-2155.

THE POETRY OF PIZZA California Repertory Company presents Deborah Brevoort's "cheesy" romantic comedy. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach; opens Feb. 19; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (562) 985-5526.

THE RICKY, JULIAN AND BUBBLES' COMMUNITY SERVICE VARIETY SHOW Starring the Trailer Park Boys. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., Feb. 25. (213) 380-5005.
Black History Month

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER: AFRICAN-AMERICANS, THE ARTS AND AUTISM Special Needs Network, Inc., the Robey Theatre Company and Ebony Repertory Theatre present their first-annual fund-raiser for children with autism. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., Feb. 25, 6-9 p.m.. (323) 964-9768.

SLAUGHTER CITY Naomi Wallace's labor drama set in a unionized meat factory. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 15...

SOAP FAN MYSTERY THEATRE Staged reading of Agatha Christie's The Unexpected Guest by stars of daytime television, including Vincent Irizarry, Jacob Young, Adam Mayfield, Robert Newman, Constance Towers and Hart to Hart's Stefanie Powers., $49.50, $150 VIP. Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Dr., Beverly Hills; Sat., Feb. 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 2 & 7 p.m.. (800) 595-4849.

THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES Martin Sheen, Frances Conroy and Brian Geraghty star in Frank D. Gilroy's family drama. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 21; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru March 21. (213) 628-2772.

TEATRO EN EL BLANCO: DICIEMBRE Chilean writer-director Guillermo Calderon's drama about a future war in Santiago. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Feb. 24-27, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

TOHUBOHU! EXTREME THEATER ENSEMBLE Debut of monthly performances by Rachel Rosenthal's new improvisational theater company. Espace DbD, 2847 S. Robertson Blvd., L.A.; Feb. 19-21, 8:30 p.m., www.rachelrosenthal.org. (310) 839-0661.

TORRID AFFAIRE Theatre Unleashed presents Andrew Moore's sex comedy. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6...

THE UNEXPECTED MAN Yasmina Reza's story of a man and woman on a train ride from Paris to Frankfurt. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 20; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7779.

VILLA THEATER LAB: ALKESTIS Experimental troupe Big Dance Theater's movement-theater version of Euripides' oldest surviving work. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri., Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 20, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

WIT Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning cancer drama. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; opens Feb. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 462-8460.

X REPERTORY THEATRE PRESENTS: AN EVENING WITH DANNY SUSSMAN Moderated by Marc Jablon. XRT, 1581 Industrial St., L.A.; Thurs., Feb. 25, 7-10 p.m.. (213) 536-4331.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

AURÉLIA'S ORATORIO Created and directed by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, starring Aurélia Thierrée. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (858) 550-1010.

CALIFORNIA SUITE L.A. Theatre Works presents a staged reading of Neil Simon's comedy, to be recorded for syndicated-radio show The Play's the Thing. Bruce Davison, Marsha Mason and Amy Pietz star. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Through Feb. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 4 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.

CAVE QUEST Les Thomas' story of a video gamer looking for inner peace who tracks down a legendary American Buddhist nun in a Tibetan cave. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14. (213) 625-7000.

CELADINE Charle Evered's bawdy comedy with spying, swordfighting and crossdressing. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7, www.colonytheatre.org. (818) 558-7000.

NEW REVIEW GO THE COLOR PURPLE Patrons standing outside the Pantages for last weekend's performance of The Color Purple were understandably miffed when it was announced that because of illness, American Idol glamgirl Fantasia would not be performing. But, to trot out the cliché, the show must go on: Brandi Chavone Massey acquitted herself superbly in the Fantasia's role of Celie, the long suffering abused child who gradually transforms into a paradigm of self-sufficiency and proud womanhood. But Celie's painful journey is also a story about the enduring power of the human spirit, and love in its myriad forms. Massey effortlessly plowed through one song after another, never missing a note, and her acting was every bit as impressive. Marsha Norman's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel, (music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Alee Willis, and Stephen Bray), crackles with energy, notwithstanding some awkward plot twists, and a second act that languishes. This is a show that's hard not to get swept up in. The mix of gospel, blues and jazz is as alluring as Paul Tazewell's colorful array of costumes, and Donald Byrd's choreography. Gary Griffin directs. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues.-Fri. 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. http://www.BroadwayLA.org (800) 982-ARTS. (Lovell Estell III)

DOUBT: A PARABLE John Patrick Shanley's Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Sun., 2 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (805) 667-2900.

NEW REVIEW GO THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES

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Photo by Michael Lamont

"The Female of the species is more deadly than the male," wrote Rudyard Kipling just about 100 years ago. That might well be the theme of Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith's satire of all things that have fallen into the gender divide over the past 40 years, at least. The comedy is set in the library/living-room in the secluded, country home of Margot Mason (Annette Bening), a sardonic wit and author of feminist self-help books. (Bening's take is perfectly competent, though narrow in range). Margot struggles to meet an impending deadline for a book she's barely started when an interloper named Molly Rivers (Merrit Wever) wanders in through the French doors (Takeshi Kata designed the detailed, realistic set). Based on a real-life incident involving such an intrusion upon author Germaine Greer, and after blustering out some fake adoration for the famous author, Molly pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Margot for her sequence of celebrity-motivated, contradictory exegeses that, Molly believes, were responsible for her own mother's suicide. (The despondent woman allegedly clutched a copy of Margot's The Cerebral Vagina, before hurling herself under a moving train.) Enter Margot's daughter Tess (a particularly fine Mireille Enos), traumatized by her mother's decades of neglect and contempt for her daughter "settling" into a married life with a nice if dim-witted hedge-fund investor named Bryan (an endearing turn by David Arquette). ("I love you Tess. You know I've always mounted you on a pedestal.") A hausfrau in crisis somewhere between despair and oblivion, Tess has no complaint with Molly's intention to murder her mother in cold blood. Add to the mix (yes, it's a very busy day for an author who desires only to be left alone to write) Molly's macho taxi driver, Frank (Josh Stamberg), furious because Molly stiffed him - because he wouldn't stop talking about how his wife just left him. Margot's publisher, Theo (Julian Sands) also shows up and resolves a lingering question of genealogy. (The farce is not intended to hold up a mirror to life's most probable outcomes.) When cabbie Frank finally grows a pair and starts ordering Tess around, her eyes light up and her shoulder straps flip down. It's a feminist's nightmare, as is the entire play. It's also a comedy of the ilk George Bernard Shaw might have written had he lived another 100 years, though he probably would have left out the gun, which the characters spend most of the play ignoring anyway. Of course this is a joke about hostage plays; it also reveals how the person holding the gun may not actually possess all the power, especially if there's enough wit from the playwright and the people who don't hold the gun. There are enough funny lines to keep an evening of repartee and satire from imploding, especially under Randall Arney's sure-footed direction, yet the comedy does skewer one of the most pressing social debates of the 1980s, like a vehicle that's been spinning in a swamp for some time. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 208-5454. (Steven Leigh Morris)

FENCES August Wilson's sixth entry in his Pittsburgh Cycle, set in the 1950s. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

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.; thru Feb. 21, www.lagunaplayhouse.com. (949) 497-2787.

HOT FLASH! Jenifer Lewis' one-woman show, written by Mark Alton Brown and Jenifer Lewis. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 860-7302.

NEW REVIEW GO NORTH ATLANTIC James Strahs' play is set in 1983 aboard a U.A. aircraft carrier floating somewhere off the Dutch coast, where post WWII and Cold War paranoia has resulted in this intelligence-gathering operation among enlisted men and women. REDCAT, 631 W. Second Street, downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through February 21. (213) 237-2800. The Wooster Group. See Theater feature.

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.

POST OFFICE Staged reading of the mail musical, book and lyrics by Melissa James Gibson, music by Michael Friedman. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Through Feb. 21, 8 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

THE PRICE Arthur Miller's 1968 play about estranged brothers disposing of their dead parents' property. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (323) 851-7977.

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.

SOUVENIR The fascinating idea at the heart of Stephen Temperley's bio-comedy is the gaping divide between the music we hear in our hearts, and that same music heard by those around us. In the early 20th century, Florence Foster Jenkins made a career as an opera diva in New York, evidently oblivious to the fact that she couldn't sing. Not only could she not manufacture a note anywhere near what others would call on pitch, she also couldn't hear the mocking laughter of her audiences. According to Temperley's play, she was in love with the music she heard in her head, as well as the fame it brought her via record sales and concert appearances. This is what makes the imperious stridency of Constance Hauman's performance as Jenkins so endearing. Unfortunately, every interesting insight the play offers is overly narrated by her accompanist, Cosmo McMoon (Brent Schindele, who's terrific on the baby grand that anchors Mike Jespersen's set), and the two-character drama hangs on his moral struggle and failure to tell his employer the truth, and thereby cash in on her delusions. Even with its elegant production design, including a NYC skyline that pops up when needed via slide projections, and Nick McCord's delicate lighting design, Gregg W. Brevvort's production is a one-trick pony. In her various songs and arias, rather than pursuing the elusive notes, which would create an excruciating tension from a musical game of cat and mouse, Hauman is (deliberately) seven miles away, and remains so. Meanwhile, Schindele's accompanist too often mugs his expressions of horror, when a more muted, droll response would not only be funnier, but it would underscore his hidden agenda. The result is one very obvious joke about the essences of delusion, which are anything but obvious. (Steven Leigh Morris). Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 955-8101.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, choreography by DJ Gray, musical direction by David O, directed by Jeff Maynard. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (562) 944-9801.

GO WRECKS The loaded situation in writer-director Neil LaBute's "love story" allows for a kind of velvet glove to reach inside one's heart, and then swirls around the intestines for a while before making its withdrawal. This leaves us, well, touched -- but in a way that's far from sentimental. Ed Harris stars in this monologue, set in a Northern Illinois funeral home. His wife's casket -- her photo perched on its lid -- forms the centerpiece of Sibyl Wickersheimer's set. Cricket S. Meyers' sound design offers the whispers and echoes of voices in an anteroom, where our bereaved widower, Ed Carr (Harris), ostensibly floats -- that would be his public self. But that's not what we're seeing. He refers to himself being "back there" with "them" while he speaks to us through the mirror of his subconscious. What we get is his real eulogy, with the secrets he won't tell them, because he's a private person, he insists. (He won't tell us some secrets, such as his wife's final four words, either.) He has a blazingly clear reason to be so private, which is the melodramatic revelation near play's end, which forces us to confront the definition of love, and how that definition rubs up against social propriety. I didn't buy that revelation, not within the colloquial, ruminative and realistic confines of LaBute's direction. But that's a small matter. The big matter is the gorgeous combination of LaBute's digressive and piercingly insightful love letter with Harris' tender-furious childlike and ultimately profound interpretation. Ed Carr is a bit like a chain-smoking Dostoyevskian narrator, who, while drifting onto free-associated topics and bilious commentary (on anti-smoking campaigns, for example), he is, finally, on message. And his message about the essence of love is upsetting and unimpeachable in the same breath. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 208-5454.

A WRINKLE IN TIME South Coast Rep's original adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's young adult novel. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat., 11 a.m., 2 & 4:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 4:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 19, 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (714) 708-5555.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

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., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., www.accomplicetheshow.com...

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.

AN ACT OF REPARATION G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Irish playwright Cathal Gallagher's play. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 477-2055.

NEW REVIEW THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES

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In his documentary Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog described the denizens of Antarctica's McMurdo base as wanderers who tumbled down to the South Pole for lack of roots attaching them to anywhere sane. Jessica Manuel doesn't seem to fit the profile: the perky Minnesotan homecoming queen left home, family and boyfriend to spend a year cranking fuel valves in the Antarctic's -80 F permanent midnight. Why? To escape the normalcy she saw as a noose. Her solo show traffics in the exotic mundane -- it's an insider scoop on what the heck people eat, drink and do at the bottom of the earth (Answer: Tater Tots, booze, and harass the newbies.) Directed by Paul Linke, Manuel tells her story in a cheerleader's squeal. Thematically, it's as thin as ice, but Manuel dishes on the slow onset of winter insanity and shares how the total snow madness boredom inspired Herzog's gang of adventurers to start their own theater troupe. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 10. (323) 960-7744. (Amy Nicholson)


AS THE GLOBE WARMS Heather Woodbury's improv story of small-town America colliding with the World Wide Web. Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (213) 977-1279.

GO BAAL Peter Mellencamp's adaptation 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. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.vimeo.com/8382742. (310) 281-8337.

BARBRA'S WEDDING Daniel Stern's comedy about Barbra Streisand's Malibu neighbors. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 2 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.barbraswedding.com. (866) 811-4111.

BEWARE OF CUPID Julia Cho directs a collection of original scenes and monologues all about love. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21, www.bewareofcupid.com. (323) 874-1733.

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.

GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide-show about the rural Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up, conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s collagist painter-sculptor, Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone. Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence, politics and metaphysics - though there are digressions for a series of chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitmanesque grandeur, delivered by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorak's Symphony from The New World. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673.

BROAD COMEDY "Six irreverent and hilarious, multi-talented women, known for high-energy musical numbers, left-wing politics, women's issues, and R-rated shenanigans about, well, women's shenanigans.". Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 25. (323) 525-0202.

CALLIOPE ROSE Bill Sterritt's mythological comedy. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 463-3900.

NEW REVIEW CATCH THE TIGER

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Photo courtesy of Dramastage Qumran

Vicki Robinson plays a denizen/chanteuse in a NYC diner, and when she breaks into song, for a blues ditty or a ballad, Melvin Ishmael Johnson's biodrama about Jamaican-born black separatist Marcus Garvey (Isaac Clay) springs to life - particularly with the great supporting sound system. Robinson's voice caresses and slithers, alternating between gentleness and power. It's the kind of modulation that's desperately needed in Johnson's play, and McNeil's staging of it. The plot starts in 1916, when what would have been the 21-year-old J. Edgar Hoover (Daniel Taylor), was newly appointed to the Justice Department, obsessed on bringing charges against Garvey, and getting him deported. The play shows what Hoover and the FBI are famous for, infiltration and betrayal. Garvey is "the Tiger" though all he does is wander around the stage and make speeches, culminating with the phrase "Africa for Africans" -- repeated at least four times. It's also in the program, in case you missed it from the stage. The hollow speechifying seems sufficient to earn Garvey the adoration of most of the characters in the play, as well as the contempt of J. Edgar Hoover, played by Smith with a cadaverous comportment and the hesitant delivery of someone who doesn't quite know what we wants, or why. So if the cat and his would-be slayer are both so inert, there's little else to say. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 850-4436. A Dramastage Qumran production. (Steven Leigh Morris)


THE COFFEE CLUB World premiere of David R. Zimmerman's drama about clients at a group therapy session. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 5 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 469-3113.

COMEDY DEATH-RAY $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

GO CONFUSIONS Alan Ayckborn's 1974 slate of five one-acts, under John Pleshette's tight direction of an exemplary cast, illustrates the comical consequences when we choose not to listen to each other. In "Mother Figure," a quarreling couple (Steve Wilcox and Abigail Revasch) have to revert to childhood in order to connect with each other during an encounter with a formidably maternal neighbor (Mina Badie). "Drinking Companions" offers us a traveling salesman (Brendan Hunt) in a hotel bar masking his loneliness with pathetic yet hilarious attempts at seducing two increasingly harried young women (Revasch and Phoebe James). What a waiter (Hunt) hears is all that we hear too in "Between Mouthfuls," as dialogue of one dining couple (Adrian Neil and Bridget Ann White) is intercut with that of another (Wilcox and Jones), slyly revealing a salacious secret. "Gosforth's Fete" turns into a debacle as the organizer of a charity event (Neil) learns a secret from a local teacher (Badie) that wreaks havoc for him and the teacher's fiancé (Hunt). And in "A Talk in the Park," a quintet of disparate folks (Hunt, James, Neil, White and Wilcox) finds their desperate attempts to connect with each other sadly falling on deaf ears. (Martín Hernández). 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.

COOL NEGROES The opening tableau of writer-director Tony Robinson's "dramedy of generational proportion" is a tumbledown city park circa 1972, where a raucous cadre of black militants is protesting segregation. The revolutionary banter and posturing are soon silenced by police gunfire and falling bodies. After this jarring scene, a flash-forward takes us to the present day, when the park is a haunt for a group of regulars: college professor Louis (Sammie Wayne, IV); former flower child Deborah (Teressa Taylor) ; city bureaucrat Joe (Alex Morris); a gay cop named Mod (Mark Jones); the only caucasian in the group, Eric (Tom Hyler); a buppie named Al ( Dane Diamond); and the irrepressible Mother Barnes (the fine Diane Sellers), a blind sage. Not much transpires here; there is a lot of talking, which, thanks to Robinson's wit and ear for dialogue, somewhat allays the play's static structure. But one gets the feeling that these entertaining characters overstay their welcome, thanks to a script that is overwritten and languorous. From the mix, Robinson constructs a flimsy storyline about black advancement, interracial romance, political correctness, spiritual redemption, the burden of guilt, and generational angst and conflict. Unfortunately, these motifs are neither skillfully nor insightfully probed. The acting is mostly passable, but Sellers is outstanding. Rounding out the cast are Prema Rosaura Cruz, Tené Carter Miller and Leslie La'Raine. A Towne Street Theatre production (Lovell Estell III). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 465-4446.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON The Berubian Company interprets Pink Floyd. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sun., 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 850-7827.

DITCH Taylor Coffman's "humorous look at the trials and tribulations of love.". Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.plays411.com/ditch. (323) 960-7787.

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a powerful human face on the Mariel boat lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity but were instead subjected to a painful bait and switch. Cuban-American mechanic Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing he's going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead, the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law, Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter, Sadia (Heather Hemmens), and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer (Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli (Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his brother-in-law fight over long-ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags occasionally, particularly toward the end, which feels inordinately drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere. Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens' snide but vulnerable Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture, also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-4442.

FAT, BALD & LOUD Craig Ricci Shaynak and his Giant Wheel of Accents and Dialects. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 960-5773.

GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER Neither a major nor even a very memorable member of the Sam Shepard canon, this 1974 script dates from the London-exile period in which Shepard was still trying to crack the nut of the beginning-middle-end dramatic structure. Which means it belongs to a handful of tween plays that share little of the poetical fireworks of the '60s or the craft and thematic riches of his post-Pulitzer prize work. Nevertheless, Shepard did write Geography of a Horse Dreamer as a comedy, and that's where director Jamie Wollrab and the playwright part company. Kris Lemche is Cody, a Wyoming cowboy whose onetime ability to dream horse-race winners has turned into a losing streak after he's kidnapped and imprisoned by gamblers Beaujo (John Markland) and Santee (the fine Scoot McNairy). When effete mob boss Fingers (an inspired Dov Tiefenbach) demotes the men to the dog tracks, Cody's prognosticative powers are temporarily restored but at the cost of his sanity, which leads Fingers' cadaverous, henchman/quack, the Doctor (Thurn Hoffman), to salvage Cody's valuable "dreaming bone" by cutting it out of the back of his neck. Essentially a seduction-of-the-artist allegory embroidered by a pastiche of plot and character archetypes from vintage Warner Bros. gangster melodramas, Shepard's surrealist aims -- along with their intended laughs -- are all but lost in Wollrab's realistic mise-en-sc<0x00E8>ne and some wildly uneven performances. (Bill Raden). Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, www.brownpapertickets.com. (323) 666-2296.

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.

GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey Day. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 934-9700.

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.

JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus has chosen an interesting subject -- growing up in a Jewish household with a deaf mother in the years of 1928-1942 -- but his autobiographical script seldom gains momentum. Henriette (Lene Pedersen) and her older sister Marion (Janne Halleskov Kindberg) hoped for singing careers, but both lose their hearing in early adulthood. The play centers on the plight of Henriette, her self-proclaimed Bolshevik husband, Izzy (Ilia Volok), and their son, Ben (Michael Hampton), who yearns to try out for the Giants before he's sent off to World War II. Stifling any sense of a dramatic trajectory, every scene introduces new and different thematic materials: a discourse on ear surgery in the 1920s; a debate over the relative merits of lipreading versus sign language; an argument about capitalism versus communism; rivalry between sisters;, father-son conflicts;, a lesson in lipreading taught by an amorous teacher (Darin Dahms); and a wartime romance between Ben and his girlfriend (Julie Bersani). All these elements could be combined in a successful drama, but here they don't mesh. There's good work by the cast, but director John DiFusco isn't able to focus the play's rambling structure. Songs of the times and a historical slide show do provide evocative period flavor. (Neal Weaver). Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 27. (323) 469-3113.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

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 April 25. (323) 960-4412.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

LOVE BITES - VOL. 9 The Elephant Theatre Company's annual short-play festival, including Reality Romcom: Day 98 With My Attained Pixie Dreamgirl by Kerry Carney; This Little Piggy by Marek Glinski; Empowerment by Dominic Rains; Surprise by Mark Harvey Levine; Most Likely by Gloria Calderon Kellett; Tag by Tony Foster; Rox-N, Miss Thang by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich; Hard by Steven Korbar. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14, www.plays411.com/lovebites. (323) 960-4410.

LOVE WRITTEN IN THE STARS Magnum Opus Theatre stages an awful unsolicited screenplay. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (310) 281-8337.

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.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.fridakahlotheater.org. (213) 382-8133.

MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game show host (he was the first Tonight Show host), musician and composer ("This Could Be the Start of Something Big") was ahead of his time -- Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart, inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring roundtable "interviews" with historical figures such as Cleopatra, Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to 1981 and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Third Sunday of every month, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

M.O.I.S.T.! 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.

NAKED IN THE TROPICS Writer/director/producer Odalys Nanin's play (with a few songs by Nanin and Daniel Indart) focuses on lesbian immigration lawyer Alicia (Nanin), who is embarking on a love affair with the beautiful Isis (Natalie Salins). But Isis has a teenage son, Andy (Carlos Moreno, Jr.), and Andy is a very busy boy. In addition to impregnating his girlfriend, Linda (Castille Landon), he has also teamed up with Joe (Daniel Rivera), who introduces him to performing seminude (in faintly obscene peekaboo loincloths), gay sex, drugs and drug dealing. When Joe frames Andy to take the fall in a drug arrest, the boy is threatened with deportation to Cuba -- though he was born in the U.S. Lawyer Alicia must defend him in court, where her defense hinges on finding the midwife (drag performer Carey Embry, who plays the role as a Kate Hepburn wannabe, complete with accent, mannerisms and the Hepburn quiver) who delivered him, just north of the Mexican border. Nanin's predictable soap-opera script combines countless genres -- including lesbian romance, boylesk, after-school special, musical and courtroom drama -- to very little purpose, and the author's slack direction doesn't help. The cast strives mightily to score with thinly written characters who are trapped within the lackluster material. (Neal Weaver). Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-1057.

NEW REVIEW ON CARING FOR THE BEAST

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Photo by Ricardo Miranda

The average layperson planning to see director-playwright Shishir Kurup's somewhat bewildering metaphysical fantasy would be well-advised to bring along a beginner's guide to Dharmic religious traditions. For Kurup's heady, 2001 dramatic excavation of the meanings of truth -- the modern corruptions as well as the more ancient, unadulterated permutations -- is virtually awash in the symbology, deities and philosophy of Tantric and Jainist mysticism. The latest entry in Cornerstone Theater's ongoing Justice Cycle opens in the subdivided home of landlord/earth mother/amateur trance-channeler Mae (Page Leong), whose domestic tranquility is quickly turning into a world of hurt. Her gay tenant Charlie's (Marcenus "MC" Earl) terminal bone disease has just entered its painful, chronic phase, which drives his desperate, university-professor lover, Art (Michael Cooke), to undertake a crash course in psychic healing. Neighbor Alissa's (Bahni Turpin) book-project profile of the enigmatic Dr. Narayan (Amro Salama), a repentant, U.S.-trained military torturer, sends her and musician boyfriend Sean (Justin Gordon) into the masochistic deep end in their quest to mentally transcend physical suffering. The lives of all concerned are unexpectedly turned upside-down when Mae accidentally channels the mother goddess, Kali, and the house is blasted with a bolt of her creative energy. Though the play's spiritual speculations can plod and even overwhelm, for we cynical, secular humanists, Kurup's elegant staging (featuring designer Tom Ontiveros' lovely lights and video projections) and a world-class ensemble prove the perfect sugar to help the New Age go down. Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24, www.CornerstoneTheater.org. (213) 627-9621. A Cornerstone Theater production. (Bill Raden)

GO ORPHEUS DESCENDING Lou Pepe stages Tennessee Williams' study of a singer-songwriter, Val Xavier (Gale Harold) who wanders into a Southern mercantile shop, a reluctant seducing machine living in and belonging to a different world. Being both a updated interpretation of the Orpheus' visit to the underworld, with Biblical allusions heavily laced into the plot, Williams' saga is study in the how the otherworldy artist becomes scapegoated and sacrificed to the prosaic reality of the here-and-now. The theater is a bit of an echo chamber, and Brandon Baruch's murky lighting doesn't really help Pepe's decisions to eliminate distracting details such as walls and knicknacks in order to place us inside Val Xavier elevated head and heart. That said, the ensemble saves and elevates the event, particularly Denise Crosby, Claudia Mason and Francesca Casale as the women whose hearts become wrenched by the musician in the house. (Steven Leigh Morris). 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.

PARADISE STREET Title3 is a new company dedicated to giving women strong, unusual, fascinating roles. For its first production, it has chosen Constance Congdon's dark sociological piece about class resentment and privilege. Jane (Molly Leland), a brilliant, assured and beautiful professor of gender and semiotics -- who drops phrases like "the nomenclature of the patriarchal case for hegemony" as easily as ordering a club sandwich -- has just moved to a small college town with her self-centered, elderly mother (Danielle Kennedy). Just before the semester starts, Jane's battered into a coma by a homeless woman (Lane Allison, in a menacing portrayal), who's bitter over being one of society's invisibles. As Jane struggles to make at best a partial recovery from irreversible brain damage, her attacker steals Jane's identity, and is delighted to find that she's treated as an icon. It's true: The haves get more while the have-nots suffer. The mechanics of Congdon's plot don't make a lick of sense, but we're hooked by the premise, and by director Courtney Munch's great ensemble -- filled out by Jiehae Park, Jane Montosi and Lorene Chesley in a variety of roles. By intermission, however, the play has made its point. It nonetheless continues to pad along, wedging in scenes in which a Puerto Rican social worker shows Jane's mother how to use a Kegel exerciser, one of Montosi's characters silently mops an entire floor, and the homeless attacker babysits her publisher's drug-addicted daughter. To paraphrase a program note, Congdon needs to appraise this two-and-a-half hour muddle and chip away everything that doesn't look like the very smart play about class tensions buried inside. (Amy Nicholson). The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 525-0661.

THE PEACOCK MEN Deconstructing American masculinity can be a sticky thicket even in the best of analyses. Add to the mix issues of race and representation, however, and its order of complexity increases exponentially. So it's no surprise that playwright Ronald McCants' idea-packed, satiric foray into the psychic minefield of black male identity can be as profoundly disorienting as it is provocative. For McCants' hapless cast of circus-performing Peacock Men -- African-Americans who, like their brilliantly plumed namesake, have been domesticated into gender-warped docility -- the ride is also downright deadly. One performer, Robert Mapplethorpe's horse-hung the Man in the Polyester Suit (Hari Williams), has already succumbed after his reduction to an erotically objectified exhibit and his mysterious disappearance by the sadistic, white-faced Ringmaster, Steve (Will Dixon). So when avaricious street rapper Cash (Chris P. Daniels) signs on as a replacement, he finds himself with a job both physically and existentially more perilous than he bargained for. Turns out Steve's circus is more of a torture fun house in which Cash and his cohorts (John J. Jordan & Michael A. Thompson) are subjected to humiliations and acts of violence scripted right out of real-world headlines (Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, etc.). While Ayana Cahrr's staging loses crucial dramatic momentum during some of the play's lengthier, overly didactic passages, McCants' nightmare vaudeville proves a field day for its terrifically talented ensemble. (Bill Raden). Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 883-1717.

THE PHARMACIST Written and performed by Jane Russell. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.plays411.com/thepharmacist. (323) 960-5773.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS: THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN ART OF GENITAL ORIGAMI Extra-bendy male performers twist their private parts into shocking works of art ála balloon animals. Warning: Not for kids, and probably not for most adults., $45-$39. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 14...

NEW REVIEW SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER While walking on a Cape Cod beach, writer Ben (Matthew Hannon) spots a naked young woman, Tracy (Christine Weatherup), floundering in the sea. He pulls her ashore, and takes her back to his rundown beach house to recuperate -- but she's far from grateful. She wasn't drowning, she claims, but dancing. Despite the fact that she's rude, arrogant, selfish and demanding, he's enchanted, and after some hot chocolate and sparring, they tumble into bed. Dan Nigro's play starts out as a kooky "meet cute" comedy, then segues into a quietly harrowing portrait of a certain kind of destructive relationship. She's convinced that no one can love her, and therefore he'll inevitably leave her. So she constantly threatens to leave him, but never does, and he cares for her enough to endure the pain and uncertainty she inflicts on him. Weatherup's Tracy is an emotionally volatile woman riddled with conflicts, manipulative, and pathologically self-destructive, while Hannon's Ben is reduced to pure victim and enabler because of his refusal to fight back. Director Benjamin Haber Kamine elicits persuasive performances from his actors, and keeps the proceedings interesting, though a sharper focus on Ben's character might have made for a better balance. Studio/Stage, 520 North Western Avenue, Los Angeles; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m., Sun. Feb. 21 & 28, 8 p.m.; thru March 5 http://www.sharksanddancer.com/tickets (Neal Weaver)

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.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Knightsbridge Theatre's "Greek chorus" adaptation of John Guare's drama. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 667-0955.

GO STAGE DOOR In 1936, when Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's comedy and homage to The Theater (that would be Broadway) showed the divide between the legit stage and the vulgar movie biz in Hollywood (an industry where "You only have to learn a line at a time and they just keep taking it until you get it," and "You don't even have to be alive to be in the pictures,"), the authors were playing off an East Coast/West Coast divide. How strangely apt, then, that the play may now speak more to L.A. theater, and its ongoing love-hate relationship with Hollywood, than to the Broadway of yore. If you think this revival is just a valentine to a bygone era, think again. This week, the Pasadena Playhouse is closing its doors. The year after Stage Door premiered on Broadway, the Pasadena Playhouse was named the State Theater of California. It had, in its 12-year existence, produced the entire Shakespearean canon, as well as 500 new plays. In August 1937, Tempe E. Allison described the Playhouse in The New York Times, as "theatrical refreshment in this dust bowl, if not desert, of the legitimate stage, which has been sucked dry by the gigantic growth of its next-door neighbor, Hollywood." Though that kind of mythology has shifted over the decades, and our legitimate stage is anything but a dust bowl, the authors' portrayal of the theater as a somewhat quixotic and poverty-stricken home for actresses placing an odds-defying bet on a rare moment of spiritual fulfillment has a current sting of truth, even after more than 70 years. The home, here, is a boardinghouse for actresses called The Footlights Club. Some like Louis (Katy Tyszkiewicz) are surrendering into marriages they dread while others, like pretty Jean Maitland (Kim Swennen), get swept away by Hollywood and one of its dapper producers, David Kingsley (Arthur Hanket). Problem is, pretty Jean can't really act, even though she's thriving out West as cover-girl material in a land where artists become employees for hire -- and often they're hired to sit around in the sun. This theory is tested when Jean gets shoveled back by the Studio to star on Broadway -- a cynical marketing ploy. Mephistophelean Kingsley, dripping with self-loathing (a nice turn by Hacket), pushes to replace Jean with his own flame, Terry Randall (a smart, sensitive portrayal by Amanda Weier). Terry, who has talent, has no desire for Hollywood and its games. In her deft and stylish staging of a cast that tops two dozen, Barbara Schofield pits the brunette Terry against blond Jean, the talented against the talentless. Terry had been dating a lefty playwright (Matt Roe) who sold out his pedantically stated ideals quicker than it now takes to swipe a credit card. This production comes on the heels of last year's Light Up the Sky, demonstrating that this company's firm grip on smart, sassy period comedies. Detailed set by James Spencer and Shon LeBlanc's textured costumes further feed the ambiance. (Steven Leigh Morris). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, www.openfist.org. (323) 882-6912.

THROW LIKE A GIRL Bill Becker's transgender portrait. Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 876-1501.

NEW REVIEW TITUS ANDRONICUS

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Photo by Kiff Scholl

Heads are chopped off. A woman, after being raped, has her hands severed and tongue ripped away. Babies are impaled on knives. And, at a special feast, a malicious woman is served her sons, baked in a pie. Yes, here is proof (if needed) that Shakespeare could actually get hired today as a staff writer for CSI: New York. Director Thomas Craig Elliot's somber production of Shakespeare's epic of pulp fiction possesses a murky, intimate mood that has you feeling like you're watching atrocities unfolding in an urban back alley. The creepy, almost claustrophobic tone is abetted by designer Erin Brewster's calculatedly grubby set - brick walls, with shadowy platforms full of mysterious dark pits and doorways. Roman noble Titus Andronicus (Dan Mailley) returns to his home, triumphant after war with the Goths, and helps to install oily politician Saturninus (Brad C. Light) as emperor. Titus' reward for this? Saturninus humiliates him by marrying Tamora (Sarah Lilly), the very same warrior queen whom Andronicus just defeated and enslaved. Tamora's sons then rape and mutilate Titus's daughter Lavinia (Erin Fleming). Titus then invites Tamora and family over for a feast - at which revenge is served by the pie-full. If anything, Elliot's production is slightly too straightforward and contextually threadbare. Although the dialogue is articulately rendered, the stagecraft is prosaic and unambitious - the violence is strangely reigned in and the piece's omnipresent gloom and grubbiness are simply not sensational enough to spark the horror the play requires. Admittedly, Elliot commendably emphasizes characterization, and the staging digs into the text to find motivations for the coterie of increasingly heartless characters. Lilly's elegantly wicked Tomara - shifting easily from graciously sugary to venomously witchy - is a pleasure to watch, and so is Light's dopey Saturninus - a greasy politician who turns out to be out of his depth in the wickedness with which he's confronted. Mailley's stiff and priggish turn during the play's first half is at first offputting, but his gradual decline into rage and madness becomes compellingly chilling. Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 856-8611. http://theatreofnote.com (Paul Birchall)

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.


TWELFTH NIGHT The idea of traipsing through a dark, damp graveyard on a weekend night to watch a Shakespeare play may be a daunting prospect, but at least audiences who attend director Jerry Ruiz's smooth and energetic production will be assured of seeing an engaging rendition of one of the Bard's jolliest comedies. The show is actually presented inside the picturesque (and grave-free) Masonic Lodge on the cemetery property, which provides a striking, dramatic backdrop for any play. (The auditorium's beautifully constructed, colorfully decorated ceiling beams are worth seeing, even aside from the play.) Viola (Hilary Ward) dresses in drag to serve Count Orsino (Owiso Odera) and falls in love with him, but the woman Orsino has his eye on, beautiful Olivia (Teri Reeves), falls for Viola. Meanwhile, Olivia's drunkard uncle, Sir Toby Belch (Matt Gaydos), and his ne'er-do-well pals play a mean-spirited prank on Olivia's prissy, Puritan steward, Malvolio (Charles Janasz). Ruiz's staging is both intelligently introspective and energetic, even though some of the comic shtick doesn't seem to naturally flow from the text and feels weakly timed. Still, the production possesses a commendable clarity, which itself makes it a fine, competently rendered version of the show. It also boasts some remarkably well-defined character work. Reeves' nicely brittle Olivia warms amusingly to Ward's befuddled Viola, while Guilford Adams' glum fool, Feste, plays nicely off of Gaydos' decadent Sir Toby. However, it's Janasz as the brilliantly uptight Malvolio, and his ghoulishly hilarious attempts to woo Olivia all cross-gartered and leering like a gassy jack-o'-lantern, who truly offers this show's standout performance. Chalk Repertory Company (Paul Birchall). Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.chalkrep.com. (800) 838-3006.

WHO IS CURTIS LEE? The titular question of this work by Ashford J. Thomas (who also plays Curtis Lee) set in 1950s Greensboro, North Carolina, is sparked by the appearance of a young man in a ramshackle tavern, who immediately attracts the attention of regulars Herman (Gerrence George) and Otis (Carl Crudup), as well as owner Joe (Logan Alexander). Despite his shabby appearance, the visitor, Curtis, claims to be a songwriter for radio icon Miss Wanda Denise (Kelley Chatman) and a boxer. Herman and Otis don't buy either story, but Curtis' buying them drinks keeps them mollified. Unfortunately, Curtis has no money, bringing him into conflict with the normally staid Joe, who, after threatening Curtis, takes pity on him and puts him to work. Complicating this situation are Calvin Hunt (Richard Lewis Warren), a greedy white developer trying to force Joe to sell the place; Mitchell (James E. Hurd Jr.), a black gangster to whom Curtis owes money; and Angel (Paris Rumford), Otis' ironically named promiscuous daughter. Director L. Flint Esquerra skillfully mines the text's comedy, and Paul Koslo's weathered set provides an authentic mise-en-scéne. Alexander shines in his gruff, pained portrayal of Joe, Crudup and George have solid comic timing, and Hurd Jr. is menacing in his brief appearance. Thomas delivers the sincerity and hotheaded anger of youth, but his writing, characterized by powerful, resonant themes, doesn't always cohere. (Mayank Keshaviah). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 957-1152.

GO WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM Christopher Durang's Loony Tunes aesthetic -- with the help of Daniel Henning's perfectly modulated direction -- is swashed onto our so-called war on terror. Thank goodness Durang has moved beyond family dysfunction. Still, you'd think that by now our recent history, propelled by some deranged might-makes-right cabal from a powerful coven of loons, has been exhausted by American playwrights. Durang's outrage and piety, however, are channeled into a breath of comedic napalm, something like a cross between The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Dr. Strangelove. Durang has now joined ranks with Dario Fo. Sweet Felicity (stylish Rhea Seehorn, trying to be sensible in a world with no sense) wakes up in bed with a stranger, Zamir (Sunil Malhotra), after a night out at a bar. Turns out, Zamir slipped her a drug, raped and married her -- none of which she remembers. The "priest" was Zamir's friend, porno filmmaker Reverend Mike (Nicholas Brendon, sort of like Owen Wilson with a slow-mo brain). Zamir has anger-management issues and feels badly that most of the women in his family are dead. This is cold comfort for Felicity. Yet she finds herself compelled to defend her "husband" when her Dick Cheney-emulating father, Leonard (Mike Genovese) -- a volunteer in the "shadow government" -- drags Zamir him into the torture chamber he'd been claiming is a private closet for his butterfly collection. Narrator and power drill-wielding torture-room assistant Loony Tunes (Alec Mapa) encourages Leonard to "bweak a finger, bweak a finger" -- all of which is based on a misunderstanding by Leonard's spy, Hildegard (Catherine Hicks, spending a good portion of the play with underwear swishing around her ankles), who overhearing Zamir's conversation about a porno movie believes he's describing a terrorist plot. Durang reruns the ending a couple of times, trying to capture the moment where it all -- "it" being the sad plight of our country -- went so wrong. I particularly enjoyed Christine Estabrook as Leonard's blissed-out, seething wife, Luella, who can't stop talking about the theater, even while torture is being committed upstairs, because theater is what's "real." And what has she seen lately? "Two-hundred fifty plays by Martin McDonagh and David Hare." Britain of course dominates our theater's new plays, obviously because "Americans are stupid." Durang is getting a lot off his chest, and off ours. The laughter he generates is from nonsense about nonsense, unnervingly true and cathartic, and beautifully performed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14, www.TheBlank.com. (323) 661-9827.

WIREHEAD The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of a new play by Matthew Benjamin and Logan Brown. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (800) 413-8669.

WISEGUYS Scenes from Casino, Carlito's Way, Bronx Tale, Scarface, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Godfather. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 3, www.hollywoodfightclub.com. (323) 465-0800.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

BAGELS Art Shulman's senior romance. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21, www.secretrose.com. (877) 620-7673.

GO CIRCUS WELT Reminiscent of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev's 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 long-standing 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 involves Bezano, Maria and the bareback 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 storm troopers. While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from what could be an extremely compelling piece of theater, 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. An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (866) 811-4111.

THE CITY Director Stan Mazin's adaptation and update of Clyde Fitch's 1909 play has a lot going for it. That said, references to Lady Gaga and Desperate Housewives can't disguise the fact that it's an overly talky melodrama. Act 1 takes place in Middlebrook, where wealthy patriarch George Sr. (Klair Bybee) holds forth on the values of small town life. However, his wife Molly (Kady Douglas), daughters Megan (Trisha Hershberger) and Teresa (Jaclyn Marfuggi), and especially his son, George Jr. (Hector Hank), are bucking for the lights and excitement of New York City. Interloper Fred Hannock (Glenn Collins) comes to blackmail George Sr. over financial improprieties, and before his unexpected demise, George Sr. reveals to George Jr. that Hannock is his half-brother. The overly long Act 2 takes place five years later in the family's new abode in New York City, where George Jr. is hoping to secure his party's nomination for senator. Lawyer Burt Vorhees (Bix Barnaba) begins the vetting process, asking George Jr. to pressure Teresa not to divorce her playboy husband (Alexander Leeb). But a bigger problem is how to get rid of the drug addicted Hannock who's been installed as George Jr.'s secretary. Mazin marshals the cast well, but some of the acting is uneven. Trefoni Michael Rizzi's plush scenic design can't be faulted. (Sandra Ross). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.thegrouprep.com. (818) 700-4878.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale directs an all-new cast in his play about the Columbine high school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 766-9100.

CONFESSIONS OF A VINTAGE BLACK QUEEN Billie Hall's autobiographical survival story ("child molestation, rape, physical abuse, homophobia, racism, and church abuse"). Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 766-9100.

GO COUSIN BETTE Drawn from Balzac's La Com<0x00E8>die humaine, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation revolves around a cunning woman's campaign to avenge herself on the rich relatives who have callously dismissed her as shabby and unimportant. Sheltered, and fed with scraps of food off her pretty cousin's plate, poor-relation Bette Fischer (Nike Doukas) grows up nurturing her hate, eventually evolving into a plain-faced spinster who is everybody's confidante but nobody's friend. Brilliantly Machiavellian, Bette's fastidious plot to destroy the family involves arranging a liaison between her attractive neighbor and abused wife, Valerie (Jen Dede), and Hector (John Prosky), the lecherous and profligate husband of her virtuous cousin, Adeline (Emily Chase ). Bette also acquires wealth (and thus power) by promoting the work of a young Polish sculptor, Steinbock (Daniel Bess), with whom she's fallen in love -- unfortunately for her, since he ends up betrothed to Adeline's daughter, Hortense (Kellie Matteson). Directed by Jeanie Hackett, the production purposefully underscores the source material's melodramatic elements -- for example, heightening the narrative's key points with the melancholy refrains of Chopin. At least one key performance is overladen with shtick, and some fine-tuning of others is in order. Still, Doukas is terrific, delivering a consummate performance that arouses, for her long-suffering deceitful character, pity, disdain -- and admiration. Alongside the story's bathos is its salient reminder of what cruelty, indifference and injustice can do to the human spirit. (Deborah Klugman). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 506-5436.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Interact Theatre Company presents the con-man musical comedy based on the 1988 film. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 508-7101.

HEAD OVER HEELS Eric Czuleger's new play follows the journey of six women. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800) 838-3006.

GO HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE "Sometimes to tell a secret, you first have to teach a lesson," announces L'il Bit (Joanna Strapp) in the first lines of Paula Vogel's highly acclaimed and richly awarded play (including the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Drama). Set in 1960s rural Maryland, the non-linear, episodic plot focuses on L'il Bit's questionable relationship with her Uncle Peck (David Youse) during the different stages of her adolescence. Because she is more educated than her blue-collar family and becomes well endowed at a young age, L'il Bit always feels out of place, finding solace in Peck's company, even if his advances aren't always appropriate. In addition to the two leads, the three members of the Greek chorus (Skip Pipo, Jennifer Sorenson, and Allie Grant--of Showtime's Weeds in her stage debut) fill out the cast, playing the other members of this dysfunctional family as well as secondary characters. Director August Viverito, who also designed the set, finds the perfect balance between the emotion and humor in the text, all while choreographing the rapid scene changes seamlessly. Strapp and Youse are captivating in their pas de deux, subtly expressing powerful emotions, and the chorus members convincingly shift personas while enhancing the theatricality of the piece with their secondary function as transition markers and set movers. As has been its hallmark, this company tackles the challenge of mounting theatrical classics in a "closet," and once again succeeds admirably, especially with such an intimate piece. (Mayank Keshaviah). Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 20, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM John Orlock's story of two spinster sisters in 1902 Kentucky. Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (818) 238-0501.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about "lust and trust.". Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 762-2282.

THE JAMB Tuffer (Kerr Seth Lordygan) and Roderick (Brad C. Wilcox) are gay men who have been friends for 20 years. Though they seem to love one another, they've never had sex. Now they're on the scary threshold of age 40, and their conflicts are looming large. Tuffer is addicted to sex, alcohol, and meth, while Roderick is an angry control freak with a messiah complex. Tuffer can no longer bear Roderick's constant disapproval, while Roderick is fed up with having to rescue Tuffer from his own self-destructive impulses. In hopes of curing Tuffer's immaturity, Roderick invites him to come along with him on a visit to his ex-hippie mother (Kenlyn Kanouse) in New Mexico -- but Tuffer will come only if he can bring his boy-toy Brandon (Garrett Liggett), with whom, it emerges, he has never had sex. Gay men who only want to cuddle? Playwright J. Stephen Brantley gives a clever and quirkily amusing account of his oddball characters, and achieves a resolution of sorts. But his play doesn't always convince, and one senses a more complex, unexplored level beneath this tangle of relationships. Director Susan Lee provides a brisk, straightforward production, and elicits fine performances from the four actors. (Neal Weaver). 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.

GO THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD What is home to the emigrant? Is it, in the lowercase sense, merely the place where one lays ones hat? Or is it a more mythic capital -- an idea of both origin and aspiration in which the psychic distance between the two becomes the self-measure of the man? In Dublin playwright Jimmy Murphy's remorselessly probing elegy, the question is more than academic. For Murphy's six, middle-aged Irish expatriates who, 25 years earlier, left County Mayo to seek their fortunes in London's working-class Kilburn district, home has become a kind of spiritual sickness that, for one of them, has already proved fatal. And as the survivors gather in a local pub to mourn his passing, a potent cocktail of whisky, guilt and recrimination dissolves what's left of their camaraderie and dreams of youth to reveal only the bitter disillusionments and regrets of old men. Under Sean Branney's sure-handed direction, Dan Conroy gives a blistering performance as Jap, the hard-drinking men's bellicose, hair-triggered leader who, with his sidekick and flatmate, Git (the fine Matt Foyer), has the least to show for the lost years while being the most intransigent in his denial. Maurteen (a simmering Dan Harper) and Shay (John Jabaley) occupy a middle-ground of resigned acceptance of their meager circumstances, while Joe (Steve Marvel), as the group's single, successful exception, serves as the truth-seeking provocateur needling the friends to a lacerating self-knowledge. (Bill Raden). The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, www.theatrebanshee.org. (818) 846-5323.

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.


NEW REVIEW GO A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER

click to enlarge rsz_prayer.jpg
Photo by Neil Reinhold

A sweltering New York City summer; Son of Sam is still at large. A massive citywide blackout is around the corner. The year is 1977, and on the verge of bankruptcy, a city barely keeps it together, not unlike Detectives Francis Kelly (Kevin Brief) and Jack Delasante (Matthew J. Williamson), two of NYPD's finest who have nabbed two of its worst: Jimmy Rosario, a.k.a. Jimmy Rosehips (Matthew Thompson), and Simon Cohn, a.k.a. Sean de Kahn (Gary Lamb). A drycleaning store gets held up. Its owner, Mrs. Linowitz, is shot point blank. There's hell to pay, especially when the boys in blue have no qualms about beating a confession out of these low-life suspects. Problem is, Jimmy and Simon are no rookies, and their ability to manipulate the demons that plague the seemingly hardboiled Kelly and Delasante turns up the sweltering July heat inside the police station. First performed at the Public Theater in 1978, this revival of Thomas Babe's gritty interrogation drama is masterfully orchestrated by director Albert Alarr, whose fluid blocking and brutally realistic fight choreography make full use of Sarah Krainin's impeccably authentic set. The entire ensemble shines, showcasing both the humor and the suffocating pain of a text that poignantly explores "the light" and "the dark" sides of our natures. (The show does contain full-frontal nudity.) Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., N. Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (800) 838-3006. http://www.brownpapertickets.com (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO PROOF What's the link between mathematics and madness? If you inherit your father's genius, will you also fall heir to his lunacy? Playwright David Auburn garnered a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for this play that poses these questions within the framework of a family drama. The story begins a week after the death of Robert, an acclaimed mathematician (Brad Blaisdell, appearing in flashback ); mentally ill in his last years, he'd been cared for by his mirthless, troubled daughter, Catherine (Teal Sherer). Alone and grieving on her 25th birthday, Catherine can just barely tolerate the presence of Hal (Ryan Douglas) a former student of Robert's searching through his papers for some shred of intellectual value. More annoying to Catherine is her older sister Claire (Collette Foy), in from New York and intent on whisking Catherine back with her -- an option Catherine resents and resists. At the nub of the plot is whether, as Catherine claims, she wrote the mathematical proof uncovered in a locked drawer, or whether, as Hal and Claire suspect, Robert devised it during a period of clarity. For this critic, Auburn's script has always registered as contrived and lacking subtlety - but this production blows away this bias by virtue of Sherer's uniquely winning portrayal. That the character - like the performer -- is wheelchair-bound adds a layer of vulnerability that brings the play to life for me as it hadn't before. Make no mistake: Sherer's accomplished performance stands on its own; it's the material that's been enriched. Kudos also to Foy for excellent work. (Deborah Klugman). NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (323) 960-7863.

QUICKIES TOO! SCENES FROM A BAR Original short plays by seven writers, one director, and 23 actors. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (818) 990-2324.

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.

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.

GO SIDHE Otherworldly shadows inhabit playwright Ann Noble's intense drama about two fugitives from Ireland and their ravaging effect on others' lives. On the run, smoldering Conall (Patrick Rieger) and his oddly passive companion, Jacquelyn (Jeanne Syquia), rent a dingy room above a Chicago bar from its tight-lipped owner, Louise (Noble). Louise's steadiest customer is her alcoholic brother-in-law, Vernon (the standout Rob Nagle), who remains inconsolable over the shooting death of his philandering wife, Amy, whom he'd worshipped unrequitedly. Bitter and unhappy, both Louise and Vernon are wont to tear at each other fiercely -- but their problems pale next to those of Louise's tenants, whose mysterious past hints at savage violence and unspeakable secrets. Just how terrifically unimaginable the latter prove to be is something we don't learn until well into Act 2. Adding a supernaturalistic element to this already densely miasmic plot is Jacquelyn's proclivity for experiencing strange apparitions: namely, the "Sidhe," a mythic tribe of pre-Gaelic fairies with startling powers to affect human -- in this case Jacquelyn's -- behavior. Full of dark turns, Noble's story is so packed with tension and conflict that at times it's hard to believe only four characters are taking part. Not every twist is credible, even given the play's supernatural standards. And sometimes the heavy Irish brogue makes essential details difficult to grasp. These qualifications notwithstanding, the production is often riveting, under Darin Anthony's direction. (Deborah Klugman) A Road Theatre production. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20, www.roadtheatre.org. (866) 811-4111.

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

NEW REVIEW GO TWELFTH NIGHT Why set Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in the '80s? The clothes, mostly -- the prankster Sir Toby Belch (Bill Robertson) belongs in a Hawaiian shirt. It's also the decade where the men of MTV, be they Boy George or Bret Michaels, slicked on lipgloss, thus making shipwrecked maiden Viola's (Andrea Gwynnel Morgan) decision to dress in male drag on trend. Viola, aka Cesario, loves Orsino (William Mendieta), Orsino loves Olivia (Rebecca Angel), and Olivia loves Cesario. But Aaron Morgan's likable staging gives equal weight to drunken good time gang Belch, Maria (Anne Nemer), and Sebastian (Joseph Baird) as they make mischief with dour Malvolio (Henning Fischer). Casual and charming with an unexpected jolt of sexual energy when all the couples are tidily paired, this production best finds its voice when Feste the Jester (Devin J. Begley) grabs his guitar and croons "Boys Don't Cry" in a timbre that mates Johnny Cash and Ian Curtis. At this party, any love child is possible. Chrysalis Stage. Vic Lopez Auditorium, 12417 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 21. (562) 212-1991. http://chrysalisstage.com (Amy Nicholson)

URBAN DEATH: ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 202-4120.

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

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 March 14. (310) 822-8392.

THE COLLECTOR John Fowles' psychological and cunning thriller, adapted by Mark Healy. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 397-3244.

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? Doug Havery's story of two daughters and their mother's incurable muscular degeneration. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 364-0535.

DIGGING UP DAD Cris D'Annunzio's story of his father's mysterious death. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 397-3244.

DUAL CITIZENS Polish actress/puppeteer Anna Skubik and her Bulgarian-American partner Anthony Nikholchev star in this comedy-drama's American premiere. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 14, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 477-2055.

THE EXONERATED Presented by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru March 6...

I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE Relevant Stage Theatre Company presents the musical revue, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 838-3006.

JACK AND JILL: A ROMANCE Alive Theatrevolution presents Jane Martin's modern comedy of manners. HELLADA Gallery, 117 Linden Ave., Long Beach; Through Feb. 20, 8 p.m., www.alivetheatre.org. (562) 818-7364.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight - an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art - which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly - but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior - and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main Street, Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 392-7327. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 399-3666.

LEAVING KIEV West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Theodore Apstein's play about his family's migration during the Russian Revolution. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 506-8024.

LOBBY HERO Kenneth Lonergan's murder mystery about a hapless security guard. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Avenue #170, El Segundo; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 868-2631.


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.

LOYALTIES 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 superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew (Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an émigré from a Muslim country. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their paths 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 mouthpieces. 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. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28, www.PacificResidentTheatre.com. (310) 822-8392.

MURDER ON THE HIGH C'S Book and Lyrics by Scott Ratner, music and lyrics by Tim Nelson. Westminster Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminster; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 21...

GO A SONG AT TWILIGHT "I've been in America too long. It's so lovely to see a steak that doesn't look like a bedroom slipper! . . . Memory is curiously implacable. It forgets joy, but rarely forgets humiliation." That's probably not the Noel Coward that you've ever heard before, but Noel Coward it is. Given that this 1966 bittersweet comedy was one of Coward's final plays, it's startling to learn that this James Glossman's beautifully mature staging is actually the show's West Coast premiere (a pruned one act version of the play was produced here in 1975 in a nationally touring double-bill called Noel Coward in Two Keys, starring Hume Cronyn.) Is it too late to nominate Coward for some kind of a "best new writer" award? Some have theorized that the show's explicit homosexuality-related themes were Coward's attempt at "coming out" - but even if one doesn't totally agree with the idea, the show still appears to be years ahead of its time - and this partially explains why it's so ripe for rediscovery. Ensconced in his Swiss hotel suite for the season, elderly author-legend Sir Hugo Latymer (Orson Bean) spits venom at his long suffering, astonishingly supportive wife Hilde (Alley Mills), who also serves as his secretary and dogsbody. In fading health, Sir Hugo realizes that his best days are behind him, but an unexpected visit an unexpected visit from from his former mistress, Carlotta (Laurie O-Brien), can still bring out the elderly writer's flamboyant rage. Retired leading lady actress Carlotta wants permission to publish their long ago love letters in her upcoming autobiography, but when Hugo refuses, it turns out the woman has an ace in her sleeve, involving other love letters to someone even further back in Hugo's past, and memory. Glossman's elegantly melancholy staging showcases both Coward's glittering writing and the unexpectedly piquant themes of regret and bitterness. Bean's crusty, curmudgeonly Sir Hugo may miss the smooth, veneer of civility we expect, but he adroitly conveys the sense of a twisted, petulant old tool, who's as dismayed by the loss of his physical faculties as he is regretful of his past mistakes. O'Brien's faded vixen is wonderfully snarky, with a mischievous malice suggesting a hurt creature who is enjoying her spiteful vengeance. Mills' understanding, but coolly clear-eyed wife, turns out to be unexpectedly powerful. (Paul Birchall). 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.

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