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Stage Raw: Nan Martin

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Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 4:33 PM

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COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
NEW REVIEWS
STAGE FEATURE on Cousin Bette, Love Bites and A Torrid Affaire

THE 31ST ANNUAL L.A. WEEKLY THEATER AWARDS

NAN MARTIN

click to enlarge rsz_1nan_martin.jpg

Acclaimed stage, screen and television actress, Nan Martin, passed away Thursday morning (March 4) due to complications from emphysema. She was 82. Born in Decatur, Illinois, and raised in Santa Monica, California, Martin became one of the leading actresses of her generation, consistently working to within four years of her death. She was the first female student body president of Santa Monica High School, attended UCLA and studied at the Max Reinhardt School and Actors' Lab. She first achieved public notice during the production of Archibald MacLeish's "J.B." in the role of Sarah for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Play in 1960. When the Ford Foundation helped to set up a program under the Department of State for Cultural Exchange, Martin was the chairperson of the theater committee and a member of the Arts Advisory Committee, appointed by President Kennedy. She was an enthusiastic supporter of regional theater during the 1960s, acting in productions at the Arena Stage (Washington D.C.) and the Alley Theater (Houston) and participated in the inaugural season of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1967 with Friedrich Durrenmatt's "The Marriage of Mr. Mississippi."

During the 1980s, she enjoyed a string of successes, particularly with the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa and for which she won several Dramalogue Awards for Best Performance. Several prominent playwrights had close relationships with Martin, including Edward Albee (for whose play, "Three Tall Women," Martin won the coveted Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actress Performance of 1995), Tennessee Williams ("Eccentricities of a Nightingale") and Horton Foote ("Dividing the Estate" and "Getting Frankie Married").

Television audiences will remember Martin best by her regular appearance as the lively Mrs. Louder on "The Drew Carey Show" and plentiful guest appearances on such hit shows as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Gideon's Crossing," "Nip/Tuck," "The Practice," :E.R.," "Golden Girls." and many more.

She is survived by husband, architect Harry Gesner, and sons, musician and writer Casey Dolan (by the first marriage) and actor/producer Zen Gesner.

LARS HANSEN MEMORIAL CELEBRATION

Has been set for Sunday, March 14 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, 3 p.m. A major force in Southern California's theatre scene for nearly 30 years, Hansen died on January 31 at his Palm Springs home after a battle with liver cancer. He was 60. Many of Hansen's personal and professional friends will participate in the program by singing some of his favorite songs. Scheduled to perform are Eileen Barnett, Yvette Cason, Mary Jo Catlett, Stan Chandler, Mara Getz, Diana Gordon, Gary Gordon, Jenny Gordon, Robert Patteri, Linda Purl, Rebecca Robinson, Lisa Robinson, Camille Saviola, and JoAnne Worley. The public is invited. The Colony Theatre is located at 555 N. Third Street in Burbank.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, and list of shows being reviewed this weekend, press the More tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for March 5 - 11, 2010

(for a list of SHOWS BEING REVIEWED THIS WEEKEND, scroll down to the bottom of this page.)


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

BERBUCE BOBS HER HAIR BOOKS WITH FEET performs the dialogue and the narrative of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; March 5-6, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 6 p.m.. (310) 394-9779.

CATS Andrew Lloyd Webber's feline musical. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens March 9; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru March 21. (800) 982-ARTS.

CHICO'S ANGELS: Pretty Chicas All in a Row The dragtastic Angels go undercover as beauty pageant contestants. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; opens March 11; Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; thru April 18. (323) 969-2530.

CLOUD NINE Caryl Churchill's absurdist story following an English family from the Victorian era to the present. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 939-9220.

CUBA AND HIS TEDDY BEAR The Actors Collective presents Reinaldo Povod's story of a single dad on the mean streets of the Lower East Side., (323) 463-4639. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 5; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (323) 465-0383.

THE DIVINERS The Production Company presents Jim Leonard Jr.'s Depression-era Bible Belt fable. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 10, www.theprodco.com. (310) 869-7546.

THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Jazz Age musical homage, book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 12700 Center Court Dr., Cerritos; Fri., March 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 6, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 3 p.m.. (562) 467-8818.

THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES Audience-participation musical for children and their families, music by Phil Orem, book and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz and David Wechter. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; opens March 6; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru July 10. (323) 851-7977.

HARAM IRAN Paul Deratany's dramatization of the real-life trial and execution of two teenagers convicted of being gay in Iran in 2005. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4. (323) 957-1884.

HELL HATH NO FURY Surprise party goes awry when the ladies discover they're all seeing the same guy. Written and directed by Ben Gillman, presented by Above the Curve Theatre. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (310) 486-0051.

HOW TO WRITE A NEW BOOK FOR the BIBLE: A PLAY FOR AN OLDER ACTRESS Staged reading of Bill Cain's new play. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Mon., March 8, 7:30 p.m.. (714) 708-5555.

INFLUENCE Shem Bitterman's dark comedy, the final work in his Iraq War trilogy. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru April 4...

JEFFREY TAMBOR'S "PERFORMING YOUR LIFE" The TV star's one-man show and Q&A., $40. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Wed., March 10, 8 p.m.. (310) 506-4522.

KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN Break-Thru Theatre Company presents the Kander and Ebb musical. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 960-5774.

MARGUIRITE DURAS: A Theatrical Reading French actress Astrid Bas reads Duras' L'amant and La Musica Deuxième. Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, 10361 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Wed., March 10, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 286-0553.

MORMON AMERICAN PRINCESS Steven Fales is the gay Mormon cowboy. Metropolitan Community Church, 953 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Sat., March 6, 7:30 p.m., www.plays411.com...

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Michael Murray. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., March 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; March 25-26, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; April 21-22, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 1, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 2, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sun., May 16, 2 & 7 p.m.; May 20-21, 8 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

OLD GLORY West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's play about the mysterious death of an American soldier in Iraq. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 841-5421.

THE PAJAMA GAME The 1954 Broadway musical set in a unionized pajama factory, music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28, www.ctgsc.org. (818) 508-3003.

PALISADES PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL Four evenings of plays written by Pacific Palisades playwrights Diane Grant, Richard Martin Hirsch, Gene Franklin Smith, and Noelle Donfeld and Sandra Shanin. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Tues., March 9, 7:30 p.m.; Tues., March 23, 7:30 p.m.; Tues., April 13, 7:30 p.m.; Tues., April 20, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 454-1970.

RENT SANTA Clarita Regional Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's rock musical about young NYC artists too poor to pay for their apartments in the East Village. The Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center, College of the Canyons, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia; opens March 6; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri., March 19, 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (661) 476-3800.

THE ROSE BOWL QUEENS World-premiere bowling alley musical by Barbara Hart and Cheryl Foote Gimbel. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 11, www.plays411.com/queens. (323) 960-7712.

SALAM SHALOM Saleem's story of an Arabic Ph.D candidate housed with an Israeli graduate student at UCLA. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru April 16, www.SalamShalomThePlay.com. (323) 655-7679.

SPIKE HEELS Theresa Rebeck's contemporary comedy of manners. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; opens March 5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, www.theatermania.com. (818) 392-7526.

THAT HOOTCHIE Write Act Repertory presents Shoshannah's one-woman show about a notorious party girl. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; opens March 8; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 31. (323) 469-3113.

WEIRD ON TOP Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Thurs., March 11, 8 p.m.; Thurs., April 22, 8 p.m.; Thurs., May 13, 8 p.m.; Thurs., June 17, 8 p.m.; Thurs., July 15, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 12, 8 p.m.. (818) 508-3003.


VILLA PLAY READING SERIES Euripides' Helen, a reworking of the legend of Helen of Troy., Free, ticket required. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Fri., March 5, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 6, 3 p.m.. (310) 440-7300.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS Musical tribute to dancing dame Ginger Rogers. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (562) 436-4610.

NEW REVIEW GO

CAVE QUEST When Seattle game programmer Justin Yi (West Liang) reaches

the summit of a Tibetan mountain where Buddhist nun Padma (Kim Miyori)

has been meditating in silence for three years, his reaction is tres

2010: he texts a photo to his business partner back home tracking him

on Google Earth. Meanwhile, Padma barricades the door. She's easily --

and obliviously -- steamrollered by the fast-talking, panic

attack-prone scion of Generation Y who, like the web itself, respects

few boundaries. The two are from different planets, though Padma was

once a west coast kid from Fresno. Justin's got a proposition for the

nun ranked in the top three on hardcorebuddhist.com (an accolade she

absorbs with a blank stare). She can share with the masses the wisdom

she learned meditating for 18 hours a day in a small wooden box through

a video game he wants to develop. The game's seventh level would be 

"enlightenment." Even "a quick fix is still a fix," he chirps. Not so,

insists Padma, and Les Thomas' intellectual play becomes a snowed-in

showdown between two stubborn forces. Director Diane Rodriguez captures

the tiny motions that show Padma's comfort in her harsh world -- and

Justin's ease in upending it. Though the characters are vividly drawn,

for most of the play, they dig in their heels so that their arguments

become smartly, though perhaps excessively, reincarnated - an issue

easily resolved with tighter plotting. East West Players, 120 N. Judge

John Aiso St., Little Tokyo; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

March 14. (213) 625-7000. (Amy Nicholson)

CELADINE With its contrived plot and wan humor, this piece of trivia by Charles Evered reminded me of the chick-lit historical romances I devoured when I was 10. Celadine (Giselle Wolf) is an exceptional 17th-century woman, an acclaimed playwright who once had King Charles' affections. Suffering writer's block, she now runs a coffeehouse with her garrulous friend Mary (Holly Hawkins), a former prostitute. High-spirited and unconventional -- but with a dark secret, of course -- Celadine cavorts with a young mute, Jeffrey (Will Barker); for laughs, they play horse (Jeffrey) and rider (Celadine), and he mends her pantaloons' seam while burrowed beneath her skirt. The play's real action jumpstarts around a smooth-talking thespian named Elliot (Michael A. Newcomber), who wants Celadine to write another play; soon after, there's an unexpected visit from the king (Larry Cedar), who assigns Celadine a dangerous espionage mission to help root out Protestant spies. The comedy might have worked had it been doused in tongue-in-cheek wit. Though Newcomber charms his way through the vapid script, the miscast Wolf is too earnest and declamatory. Hawkins and Cedar do their best, but there aren't enough clever, farcical elements for them to properly exercise their talents. Most annoying is how the abundant skills of Stephen Gifford, Luke Moyer and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg -- scenic, lighting and costume designers, respectively -- are frittered away on such prosaic material. Andrew Barnicle directs. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Sun., 2 & 7p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; through March 7. colonytheatre.com. (818) 558-7000. (Deborah Klugman). 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.

DREAMGIRLS Broadway's girl-group musical, music by Henry Krieger, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru April 4. (213) 628-2772.

GO THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES "The Female of the Species is more deadly than the male," wrote Rudyard Kipling some 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. 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 (Merritt 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 offering some fake adoration for the famous author, Molly pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Margot over her sequence of celebrity-motivated, contradictory exegeses that, Molly believes, were responsible for her 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's having "settled" 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 over Molly's intention to murder her mother. 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 to resolve a lingering question of genealogy. (The farce is not intended to hold a mirror to life's most probable outcomes.) When Frank finally grows a pair and starts ordering Tess around, her eyes light up and her shoulder straps fall. 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. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 208-5454.

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; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (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.

JESUS HATES ME Chance Theater presents Wayne Lemon's comedy centered on a WalMart Jesus mannequin. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 7. (714) 708-5555.

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 SUBJECT WAS ROSES Richly textured performances by Frances Conroy and Martin Sheen provide the best reason to see Neil Pepe's meticulous staging of Frank D. Gilroy's 1964 chestnut. The story concerns an only son (Brian Geraghty), home from the Army after World War II. He's now a little more grown-up and able to recognize the fractures of his parents' marriage. The play, and the production, are beautifully understated, and if the climactic scene is less cathartic than it might have been in 1964, that's no reason to stay away. (Steven Leigh Morris). Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru March 21. (213) 628-2772.

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.

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 RADIO HOUR Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sun., March 7, 6 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

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.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Shirley Jo Finney directs a vivacious five-person ensemble in Ifa Bayeza's choreopoem based on the life and death of the 14-year-old black child from Chicago, brutally murdered during a 1955 working vacation in Mississippi, for the "crime" of whistling at a white, female shopkeeper. His funeral, and the open casket demanded by his mother, became a flashpoint for the nascent civil rights movement. Despite the performances' visceral intensity, its lingering, emotionally exploitive depiction of the murder helps boils the history down to a black-and-white sketch of good versus evil. It provokes righteous self-satisfaction more than our introspection. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 3. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 3. (323) 663-1525.

BARBRA'S WEDDING Daniel Stern's two-character comedy takes place in the Malibu digs of Jerry and Molly Schiff (Wilson Green, Mary Beth Evans). The seemingly happily married couple's placid existence is thrown into disarray when their ordinarily quiet street is transformed into a media horror show with the pending nuptials of their neighbor Barbra Streisand. The street is choked with limos, there are scads of celebrities arriving, and the din of news copters is continual and deafening, forcing them to take refuge inside. Jerry's daily jog is interrupted; Molly wants to block out the whole riotous scene with a specially prepared meal. Before cabin fever sets in, the forced proximity engenders a verbal altercation about Jerry's need to hobnob with the stars, his failed acting career, and even the circumstances of their wedding ceremony. Clocking in at just more than an hour, the script offers some laughs but not nearly enough satire to make the show memorable -- the ending drift takes on the tone of a therapy session. Brent Mason's strikingly beautiful two-tiered set piece with its immaculate kitchen is notable. John Coppola directs. Second Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 7. (866) 811-4111. A Studio C. Production (Lovell Estell III). Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; thru March 7, www.barbraswedding.com. (866) 811-4111.

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 March 28. (323) 666-3259.

BLOOD WEDDING Federico Garcia Lorca's 1932 tragedy. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 225-4044.

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.

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 Writer-director Bill Sterritt centers his play on Rose (Dyan Kane), the reclusive keeper of a lighthouse on an island off the coast of Maine. She's obsessed with Greek mythology and living by the Greek ideal, and convinced that the modern world is going to hell. She's visited by Jason (Chris Pauley), clad in antique Greek armor, but it's not clear if he is her long-lost husband or the mythological Argonaut Jason. Or maybe he's a hallucination. Rose's daughter Tina (Ashley Archambeau) wants to turn the lighthouse into a tourist attraction. Several ships have foundered in the vicinity, and it's rumored that the beacon goes dark in heavy weather. Tina suspects Rose of turning off the light deliberately and calls in an agent from the Department of Transportation (Rob Ullett) to investigate her mother. He's soon making love to both mother and daughter. Meanwhile long-lost husband Jason emerges from the sea, tangled in flotsam and jetsam. I found much of the performance inaudible or incomprehensible, due to the lack of projection from the actors, loud sound effects, and extensive use of distracting strobe lights. What I was able to hear sounded precious and pretentious. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 7. Produced by SPQR Stage Company. (323) 463-3900, or spqrstageco@aol.com. (Neal Weaver). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 463-3900.

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.; Sat., 3 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.

COMEDY VS. ART SMACKDOWN "Funny artists and artistic comics battle" in this monthly event, curated by Elisha Shapiro. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Second Monday of every month, 7:30 p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 315-1459.

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 fiance (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. (Martin Hernandez). 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.

CONTROL ME/PARENTS WHO LOVE TOO MUCH Two world-premiere comedies by Michael Sargent. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 466-7781.

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., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 850-7827.

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

THE EVENT/THE INTERVIEW John Clancy's one-person narrative The Event, and Lawrence Bridges' unscripted world premiere The Interview. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs..; thru March 25, www.needtheater.org...

THE FIRST LADY Elevating contemporary historical figures to the mythic heights of classical opera invariably risks inviting the mock-heroic. For composer Ken Wells' new chamber opera, which depicts the behind-the-scenes political and emotional fallout from the death and marital infidelity of FDR (libretto by Wells, Richard Roudebush, Gayle Patterson & Matt B. Wells), the dramatic challenge was clearly to bar mockery and its first cousin, melodrama, from the party. Wells successfully meets that challenge with dignity ... perhaps too successfully. Director Courtney Selan's production is a monument to dignified stateliness. For a libretto that paints Eleanor Roosevelt (mezzo-soprano Jennifer Wallace) as cold, emotionally withdrawn and domineering, Selan's declamatory, presentational staging can feel like a trip to the National Portrait Gallery. Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd (soprano Hannah Waldman), FDR's mistress and the object of Eleanor's ire, comes off no less chiseled in marble, especially following a romantic duet with the president (baritone Eric Carampatan), when she impassively stands upstage, as the love of her life suffers his fatal stroke. In fact, Wells reserves his most moving aria for the character that is the piece's true dramatic heart -- Anna Roosevelt Boettiger (soprano Rebecca Sjowall in an outstanding performance). Considering that it is Anna who, out of loyalty to her father, invites Lucy to Warm Springs, knowing she is also betraying her mother, and that the bulk of the opera concerns her attempts to win Eleanor's forgiveness, the work might be more accurately called The First Daughter. Still, Wells' score (ably conducted by Stephen Karr), a postminimalist mix of Romanticism and themes culled from Broadway show tunes, Episcopalian hymns and negro spirituals, delivers more than its share of effective moments. Designer Adam Rigg's white sunroom set and beige-and-tan costumes frame the proceedings with the nostalgic appeal of a sepia photo. NPI Auditorium, UCLA, 720 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; 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. (Bill Raden). NPI Auditorium, UCLA, 720 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.. (310) 794-3711.

NEW REVIEW GO FORGIVENESS

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Photo by Kurt Boetcher


What

happens to love when the specter of childhood sexual abuse rears its

ugly head?  Soon-to-be-married Jill (Emily Bergl) and Ben (Peter Smith)

are driving to visit Jill's dad Sam (Morlan Higgins) and stepmom Pat

(Lee Garlington) when Jill breaks it to Ben that her father raped her

when she was 13.  Twenty years have passed.  A recovered alcoholic who

served time for his crime, Sam - now  a born-again Christian - actively

struggles for redemption.  Jill has forgiven him, but Ben,

newly-apprised, is  horrified and repulsed. Prodded by Jill's anxious

scrutiny - will this new knowledge change his feelings for her? - Ben

steadily becomes more angry and confused.  Playwright David Sculner's

aptly titled play meaningfully examines the various ties that bind us

to our loved ones, as well as the snags and hurdles to be mended and

overcome if these bonds are to remain secure.  Directed by Matt

Shakman, the production's weakest element appears at the beginning  in

the interchange between Jill and Ben, which reverberates with little

more persuasiveness than a polished staged reading; also, sans light or

sound effects, it's difficult for the performers to sustain the

illusion of driving.  Once the couple arrives at their destination,

however, the drama becomes more compelling, as the  dynamics of Sam and

Pat's  marriage come into play, and the presence of Jill's adolescent

stepsister (Kendall Toole) ups the ante for everyone. Black Dahlia

Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 28.

(800) 838-3006.  http://www.thedahlia.com (Deborah Klugman)

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-scéne 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.

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.

HARLOW GOLD "Sexy, witty and gritty" cabaret created by choreographers Dominic Carbone and Tracy Phillips., $10-$25. The Bordello, 901 E. First St., L.A.; Sun., 10 p.m.. (213) 687-3766.

HOT PANTS, COLD FEET Wedding satire, written and performed by Will Matthews and Cassandra Smith. I.O. West, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 20, www.matthewsandsmith.com. (323) 962-7560.

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.

NEW REVIEW KHARMFUL CHARMS OF DANIIL KHARMS
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Photo by Taso Papadakis

Here's

a fascinating oddity:  A series of short works by a now almost

forgotten Russian author.  Daniil Kharms was a brilliant, early

Soviet-era writer who, like most brilliant writers, happened to be

decades ahead of his time. He may also have been a madman, or driven

mad  - after all, he died in a lunatic asylum during Stalin's reign,

starving to death during the Siege of Leningrad. Kharms, a founder of

the Russian OBERIU absurdist movement, wrote about seemingly

inconsequential incidents that are peppered with unbearable cruelty -

or which piquantly showcase the utterly random pointlessness of

existence. A pompous historian attempts to give a history lecture, but

is repeatedly interrupted by a colleague who starts bashing his head

with crocker plates.  The writers Pushkin and Gogol commence a literary

argument, but wind up brawling and cursing like beasts. Later, a

lecherous couple indulges in illegal pre-coital love talk, leading

directly to their arrest by thugs from the state milita. A short time

later, the leading thug, now alone, coos to herself using the same love

talk for which the couple was arrested.  Director Olya Petrakova's

cheerfully ironic production is marred by pacing problems - some skits

plod and the repetitious nature of some of the items inevitably causes

our attention to wane about halfway through the series. Petrakova and

her cast aim for the tone of an old Monty Python episode, and, in

particular, of the bizarre Terry Gilliam cartoons, in which characters

rip off each other's limbs or have sex or cheat on their spouses, and

then act as if nothing has happened.  Yet, the ultimate lack of context

frequently leaves us frustrated - which is, of course, more than half

of the intention.  The end result is a fascinating tour de force of

unusual spectacle and oddly mean spirited comedy.  The cast's

performances are mostly amiable, if a little flat in tone and one

dimensional in characterization, coming up short on the uniquely

Eastern Bloc mix of humor, rage, and confusion seemingly required by

Kharms' deceptively simple text. ArtWorks Theatre, 6567 Santa Monica

Blvd, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (800) 838-3006 or

http://www.brownpapertickets.com. An ARTEL production. (Paul Birchall)

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. See Stage feature.

LOVE YOU! Lily Ann's musical spoof of the Hollywood nightclub lifestyle. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 28, www.lilyannsloveyou.com. (323) 284-7982.

GO 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.

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.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS: The Ancient Australian Art of Genital Origami Extra-bendy male performers twist their private parts into shocking works of art a'la 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 28...

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.

GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers, including Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams and Stephen Sondheim. Here, under the direction of artistic directors Brian Lohman and Dan O'Connor, they're tackling the Bard, taking the most minimal suggestions from the audience and spinning them into dizzily amusing mock-Shakespearean epics. At the performance I attended, they created a comedy that might be called Much Ado About Bluebirds. Miranda (Lisa Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly only the songs of bluebirds) of the Duke of Kent (Lohman). Kent has decided to marry her off to the elderly Duke of York (Floyd Van Buskirk), but she has already developed a fancy for Price (O'Connor), a young man from the village, who loves her, and has learned to tweet like a bluebird to woo her. The course of true love is threatened by a couple of mischievous fairies (Brian Jones and Edi Patterson) and a man-eating bear, until the blissful final scene, which is as sententious as any old Will created. The company (including Michele Spears and Stephen Kearin) is clever, nimble and quick on its feet, and the result is an amiable, crowd-pleasing divertissement. (Neal Weaver). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (323) 401-9793.

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

SLAUGHTER CITY There's a lot of anger onstage in poet-playwright Naomi Wallace's 1995 agitprop. Certainly the union meatpackers who work in the play's foul sausage factory -- Sarah Krainin's viscera-strewn, blood-spattered set looks like it hasn't been cleaned since the publication of The Jungle -- are bitter, mainly at the dithering plant manager, Baquin (Bart Petty), with whom they're deadlocked in stalled contract negotiations. And black floor supervisor Tuck (Brent Jennings) is no less happy with the condescending indignities heaped on him by a racist, white management. Not all the grievances are job-related. Veteran gutter Roach (Christina Ogunade) has rage and intimacy issues stemming from a childhood molestation. And her illiterate, would-be suitor, Brandon (Christopher Emerson), still bears the raw, psychic scars from an extreme act of employer violence dating from his youth. Throw in anti-Semitism, homophobia and gender discrimination, add several musical numbers (courtesy of composer Andrew Ingkavet) and a dose of comic relief, and you'd have enough plot material for 10 such shows. But Wallace then adds the parallel storyline of the otherworldly, ambisexual scab, Cod (Noelle Messier), his/her love for Roach's gal pal, Maggot (Sarah Boughton), and hate for the mysterious, Mephistophelian Sausage Man (Alexander Wells), and the play's message -- along with its indignation -- all but disappears in the resulting fog of metaphors. Director Barbara Kallir and a talented ensemble's efforts to bring clarity to the chaos are only occasionally rewarded. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; through March 15. (Bill Raden). Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru March 15...

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.

THE STORY OF MY LIFE Music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, book by Brian Hill. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4, www.havoktheatre.com. (818) 505-1875.

TITUS ANDRONICUS 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 be hired today as a staff writer for CSI: New York. Director Thomas Craig Elliott'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' daughter Lavinia (Erin Fleming). Titus then invites Tamora and family over for a feast -- at which revenge is served by the piefull. If anything, Elliott'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, Elliott commendably emphasizes characterization, and the staging digs into the text to find motivations for the coterie of increasingly heartless characters. Lilly's elegantly wicked Tamara -- 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 initially offputting, but his gradual decline into rage and madness becomes compellingly chilling. (Paul Birchall). Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 856-8611.

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.

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.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7779.

WHAT'S UIP, TIGER LILY? Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea., free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.

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.

NEW REVIEW GO WIREHEAD
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Photo by Cathryn Farnsworth

Beneath

the slippery, allegorical surface of playwrights Matthew Benjamin and

Logan Brown's crackingly funny sci-fi farce lurks a satirically savvy

questioning of what is generally known as the "digital divide." Namely,

for all the handheld computing horsepower (and its supposed competitive

advantage) available to the tweeting class, does being perennially

plugged-in actually represent a disconnection on a more fundamental,

human level? As an answer, Benjamin and Brown fast-forward to a near

future in which the iPhone has morphed into the "Z Drive," a pricey,

intelligence-boosting, intracranial implant that gives those who have

the financial wherewithal an Einstein-like genius. For have-nots like

midlevel account executives Adams (the fine Jeremy Maxwell) and Destry

(an antic Marc Rose), the technology produces only indignation,

especially when a junior company intern with the surgery, Hammy (Riel

Paley in a riotous turn), immediately wins a leapfrog promotion to

become their boss. But Hammy's machine intelligence also turns him into

something of an omniscient Ernst Stavro Blofeld on speed. Taking

matters into their own hands, the boys form "The Hackers," a terrorist

resistance group whose idea of a surgical strike is carried out with

meat cleavers. Director Larry Biederman's supercharged staging (abetted

by set designer Efren Delgadillo, Jr.'s clever use of scrims, and the

wit of Dan Weingarten's lights and Drew Dalzell's sound) races along

like a manic blend of Davids Mamet and Cronenberg, whisking the black

comedy into a bloody froth of Grand Guignol proportions. Stage 52

Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru March 14,  http://www.echotheatercompany.com (800) 413-8669. An Echo Theater Company production. (Bill Raden)

GO WIT Playwright Margaret Edson won the Pulitzer Prize for this intense drama about an English poetry professor who must wrestle with her painful and imminent death. Directed by Marianne Savell, Nan McNamara delivers a peerless performance as Vivian Bearing, a 50-year-old expert on the poetry of John Donne, who unexpectedly finds herself diagnosed with the fourth and final stage of metastatic ovarian cancer. Bearing's doctor (Phil Crowley) and his research assistant (Daniel J. Roberts) are scientists first, with concern for their patients' comfort being an afterthought. So they have no compunction about insisting that Bearing undertake a full regimen of powerful chemotherapy in order to document its physiological effects on the human body. Edson's commentary on American medical practice, however salient, merely lays the groundwork for the play's most compelling and universal theme: the human struggle not only with mortality's looming oblivion but with the unfamiliar and sometimes humiliating infirmity that precedes it. That Bearing's lifelong subject of scholarly study -- the poet Donne -- was himself consumed by this topic adds another involving layer to the brew. Tough, unsentimental, yet increasingly vulnerable, McNamara's understated duelist-with-death is pitch-perfect. She's supported across the board by a worthy ensemble. Tawny Mertes is especially winning as the kind young nurse whose humanity imparts the play's final message. (Deborah Klugman). Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 462-8460.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

THE ANTARCTIC CHRONICLES In his documentary Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog described the denizens of Antarctica's McMurdo Station 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 boredom of total snow madness inspired Herzog's gang of adventurers to start their own theater troupe. (Amy Nicholson). Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 10. (323) 960-7744.

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.

NEW REVIEW BROADS! At retirement community

Millennium Manor, four mature and feisty gals have formed a singing

group called The Broads, and perform in an annual variety show -- which

we're  seeing. Recently widowed Elaine (June Gable) founded the group,

along with her plump, nearsighted sister Myra (Barbara Niles), who

interrupts the show to promote her gay song-writer son. Puerto Rican

live-wire Nilda (Ivonne Coll) sashays around in a Carmen Miranda

outfit, complete with towering fruit-bowl head-dress, and blond, buxom

Louise (Leslie Easterbrook) revels in the wonders wrought by her Botox

and plastic surgery. The book, by Jennie Fahn, regales us with often

corny old-age jokes, and Joe Symon's songs address subjects supposedly

dear to stereotypical seniors: Social Security, early bird specials,

etc. Providing a wisp of plot and a stab at realism, Louise announces,

mid-show, that this is her last performance: She must leave the Manor

because her savings have run out. But this is musical comedy, so the

problem is immediately solved. Jules Aaron offers stylish direction,

with Kay Cole's clever choreography. Stephen Gifford's set is handsome,

and Shon LeBlanc provides the glittery, glitzy costumes. It's the four

talented women, however, who provide the chief attraction, with their

accomplished performances. El Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim

Boulevard, North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru

April 4. (818) 508-4200 or  http://www.broadsthemusical  A Route 17 Production. (Neal Weaver)      


GO COUSIN BETTE Drawn from Balzac's La Comédie 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. See Stage feature

NEW REVIEW DIRTY

ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS This slight musical comedy by composer-lyricist David

Yazbek and playwright Jeffrey Lane closely follows the 1988 movie,

filled with sight gags and overwrought farce in this story of a pair of

con-men who compete for marks in the French Riviera. A few amusing

numbers show off the talents of Chip Phillips as the patter-singing,

posh, older swindler and Matt Wolpe as the crude pop-singing young

hustler. Their moments together bring instant life to the stage, even

through the goofiest of comic bits. Director Richard Israel, who

normally turns small theaters and ensembles into huge, polished

productions, fares less well here. Most damaging to the production is

that none of the supporting cast is sufficiently skilled at singing or

dancing. Only Michael Manuel, as the chief of police, rises above his

limited hoofing/crooning ability with his charm. Set designers Dove

Huntley and Rob Corn create some magic with the Noho Arts Center's

balconies. This is an unusually large 99-seat acting space - in fact

some well-choreographed scene changes provide some of evening's more

entertaining moments. Interact Theatre Company at NoHo Arts Center,

11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru March 21. (818) 508-7101. (Tom Provenzano)

DON JUAN DISPENSO Tony Tanner's take on the legend of Don Juan. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (800) 838-3006.

INDULGENCES IN A 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.

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.


MEN OF TORGUGA Jason Wells' comedic thriller about covert governmental and corporate operations. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theatre.). Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 356-PLAY.

PEL TEDDER PRESENTS: A Naughty Night of Comedy Three one-act comedies: "Blood is Slicker Than Water," "Bee Stings & Ding-a-lings" and "Confessions of a Kept Man.". NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 761-2166.

NEW REVIEW GO OEDIPUS

EL REY Brilliantly staged by director Jon Lawrence Rivera, Luis

Alfaro's transmogrification of the story of Oedipus to prison and the

barrio makes for powerful stuff. A chorus of inmates unveils the saga:

A gang leader, Laius  (Leandro Cano), informed that his infant son will

one day destroy him, orders his henchman Tiresias (Winston J. Rocha) to

take the child away and kill him.  Fast forward a generation: Both

Tiresias and his "son" Oedipus (Justin Huen) are incarcerated together

in North Kern State Prison. (Intellectuals of sorts, they frequent the

prison library.) On his return to the barrio after his release, Oedipus

meets up with and slays Laius, before falling for Jocasta  (Marlene

Forte) -- the two flagrantly light each other's fire, to the

community's displeasure.  As per Sophocles' original, the tale unwinds

to a tragic and  enlightening denouement, with all the classic themes

evident: the folly of pride, the immutability of fate, the reluctance

of human beings to confront obvious truth. Alfaro spins much of this in

a colloquial lexicon that makes it all the more forceful.  Some of his

passages - Tiresias' musings on what a father really is, after Oedipus

has beaten and reviled him (beautifully played by Rocha) - are

memorable and moving.  Huen is charismatic, the ensemble is strong and

the  production design - lighting (Jeremy Pivnick), scenic design (John

H. Binkley) and sound and music composition (Robert Oriol) - is

impeccable. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 683-6883. (Deborah Klugman)

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.

THE PARTY OF THE YEAR: An Operetta Review Scenes from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," "The Mikado" and "Ruddigore," Franz Leh<0x00E1>r's "The Merry Widow," Jacques Offenbach's "La Parichole," "The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein," Victor Herbert's "The Enchantress," Sigmund Romberg's "The Student Prince" and Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus.". California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks; Through March 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.. (805) 980-0784.

A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER 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 dry-cleaners is 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 hard-boiled 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 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.; through March 6. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com. (Mayank Keshaviah). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (800) 838-3006.

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 David Wally's sex comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 18. (866) 811-4111.

TORRID

AFFAIRE Theatre Unleashed presents Andrew Moore's sex comedy. Sherry

Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

March 6. (818) 849-4039. See Stage feature.

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 March 6. (818) 202-4120.

(

NEW REVIEW (YOU'VE

NEVER SEEN) FIGHT CLUB?!?  As an afficionado of the bizarre brilliance

that is Zombie Joe's Underground, I thought I knew what kind of

satirical lunacy to expect from a late-night event with the above

title. But far from the anticipated burlesque of the 1999 film,

adaptor-director Amanda Marquardt (who claims never to have seen it)

presents her own somber theatrical vision of Chuck Palahniuk.'s novel.

With the three lead actors, Mark Nager as the unnamed protagonist;

Lamont Webb, portraying Tyler Durden; and Dana DeRuyck as Marla; she

nearly succeeds. Each brings conviction to their roles in this fantasy

of two men building a world-wide underground, fighting army of

anarchists. Webb is particularly engrossing in his role as the

mysterious creator of Fight Club. The power of their fights,

choreographed by Aaron Lyons, are intensified in the tiny venue, and

Nicole Fabbri's intense make-up effects make it all the more effective.

The rest of the cast and Marquardt's ultimate direction, however,

suffer from the lack of skillful acting. The venue's intimacy, so

supportive of the fight scenes, becomes merely claustrophobic as the

piece devolves into a jumble. The show's two hours, sans intermission,

might have been been reduced to a bearable length by shortening

interminable blackouts that punctuate the event every few moments,

grinding its momentum to a series of halts. ZJU Theater Group, 4850

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru March

20. (818) 202-4120. (Tom Provenzano)

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

AN ACT OF REPARATION 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.

AN ADULT EVENING OF SHEL SILVERSTEIN Shel Silverstein's American vignettes. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27. (866) 811-4111.

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, rceives 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 28. (310) 822-8392.

BUG Tracy Letts' tale of loss, conspiracy theories and bugs. USVAA Theater, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 559-2116.

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.

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.

GO DUAL CITIZENS What a difference a continent makes. I saw Anna Skubik's "Broken Nails" last year in Wroclaw, Poland, where a dim, suspended lightbulb and a stark pool of light (lighting by Anna Cecelia Martin) are just part of the Grotowskian theatrical landscape. Despite the recession, we're a comparatively buoyant culture, and that stark aesthetic feels exotic on an L.A. stage, where half of our theaters, it seems, are dedicated to musicals that parody movies. In and around a huge suitcase, an 80-something Marlene Dietrich (a life-size cloth puppet) engages with Skubik. In one scene they're attached at the hip. Dietrich is hammering out the inner meanings of words like fame, while taking painful injections to defy her obvious age. With her fiery red hair, Skubik is her nurse/keeper, and the relationship is as touchy as in Ronald Harwood's The Dresser. There are moments when Dietrich/Skubik sings, which is not this production's strength. It flies, however, on the intricacy of the relationship between the two women, both quite animated, despite one being inanimate. That single idea, of what's alive and what isn't, of what is an imitation of life, and what isn't, caught in the frame of an aging diva, is a source of infinite fascination. And Dietrich's various reactions to Skubik's proddings hold an almost childlike appeal. In one scene, we hear extended applause, and Dietrich asks, "How long does a moment last?" It's a question anyone in the theater should relate to, and probably anyone beyond the theater, too. Romuald Wicza-Pokojski directs. The evening's first half is also a solo show, Look, What I Don't Understand (if one doesn't count the puppet), written and performed by Skubik's partner, American actor Anthony Nikolchev, and directed by Yuriy Kordonskiy. Also set around suitcases, but with the compelling centerpiece of a wire cage, Nikolchev portrays an array of characters with telling idiosyncrasies in the story of his Bulgarian family's entrapment by the Soviets, and their eventual exile to an Italian refugee camp, where they wait as they hope to enter the communist-phobic United States. The study in tyranny and living in margins is harrowing in its authenticity, ensnared by the truthfulness of the performance. (Steven Leigh Morris). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 14, 7 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (310) 477-2055.

ESCANABA IN LOVE Jeff Daniels' sequel to Escanaba in da Moonlight. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; Thurs., April 1, 8 p.m.; thru April 3. (310) 512-6030.

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...

A GIANT ARC IN THE SKYSPACE OF DIRECTIONS Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Michael Vukadinovich's post-apocalyptic fairy tale. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

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. 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.

LITTLE WOMEN Adapted by Jacqueline Goldfinger from the book by Louisa May Alcott. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 7, www.northcoastrep.org. (858) 481-2155.


NEW REVIEW LOBBY HERO
click to enlarge rsz_lobbyhero.jpg
Photo by Steven Moses

Kenneth

Lonergan is known for writing flawed characters that gently chew on an

audience's heart, but in Pacific Stages' inaugural season opener, he

dangles them in front of you for so long you eventually stop caring.

That's a shame, because director Robert Bailey's well cast ensemble is

terrific. A young, sweet, directionless security guard named Jeff

(Edward Tournier) stumbles into the limelight of a murder

investigation.  His supervisor, William (Kareem Ferguson), has landed

there as well, since it's his brother who's been accused of the crime. 

Further complicating the drama are a hair-trigger rookie cop and her

alpha dog partner (Dana Lynn Bennett and Nick Mennell).  Lonergan's

critically acclaimed 2000 film, You Can Count on Me, seems to have been

the template for Lobby Hero, down to the thickets of dialogue and

Jeff's similarities to the film's Terry Prescott.  (Did Bailey

subconsciously cast a Mark Ruffalo look-alike?)  Whereas the film

catches every nuance of Lonergan's intricately wrought characters and

conversations, the stage occasionally swallows them. The spark of

possibility is there, though:  Mennell closes Act 1 with such a fierce

roar of fire, the entire theatre is set alight.  He's so fine, his

every slick entrance is greedily awaited, but neither he nor the rest

of the cast can stoke that kind of excitement through to the end of Act

2.  Smartly, executive director/founder Jeryll W. Adler has three of

the four actors onboard as Pacific Stages Artists Company Members. This

bodes well for the acting standard of future shows at this El Segundo

theater. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Ave., El Segundo; Thurs.-Sat, 8

p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru March 21. (310) 868-2631.

(Rebecca Haithcoat)

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.

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

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.

SHOWS BEING REVIEWED THIS WEEKEND

BUG Tracy Letts' tale of loss, conspiracy theories and bugs. USVAA Theater, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 559-2116.

CLOUD NINE Caryl Churchill's absurdist story following an English family from the Victorian era to the present. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens March  5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 939-9220.

CONTROL ME/PARENTS WHO LOVE TOO MUCH Two world-premiere comedies by
Michael Sargent. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 466-7781

DON JUAN DISPENSO Tony Tanner's take on the legend of Don Juan. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (800) 838-3006.

DREAMGIRLS Broadway's girl-group musical, music by Henry Krieger, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru April 4. (213) 628-2772.

THE EVENT/THE INTERVIEW John Clancy's one-person narrative "The Event,"
and Lawrence Bridges' unscripted world premiere "The Interview." Son of
Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Thurs..; thru March 25,
www.needtheater.org...

A GIANT ARC IN THE SKYSPACE OF DIRECTIONS Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Michael Vukadinovich's post-apocalyptic fairy tale. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

INFLUENCE Shem Bitterman's dark comedy, the final work in his Iraq War trilogy. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; opens March 6; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; thru April 4...

OLD GLORY West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's play about the mysterious death of an American soldier in Iraq. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; opens March  5; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru April 25. (818) 841-5421.

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.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7779. 

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