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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Bedroom Farce

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Mon, Jul 26, 2010 at 8:53 PM

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NEW REVIEW GO  BEDROOM FARCE

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Photo by Ron Sossi

The title is apt, since the action occurs in three radically

different bedrooms in a 1975 English suburb. Kate (blond and

taffy-voiced Kate Hollinshead) and Malcolm (buff and playful Jamie

Donovan) are having a party in their new flat. Nick (Scott Roberts) and

Jan (Ann Noble) are invited, but Nick has put his back out and is

confined to his bed in agony -- and he's annoyed that Jan is going to

the party without him. Obstreperous and self-obsessed Trevor (Anthony

Michael Jones) and his noisily neurotic wife, Susannah (Regina Peluso),

are also invited, but their tempestuous marriage is rocked by one of

its endless crises. When Trevor makes a pass at former girlfriend Jan,

Susannah goes into massive hysterics, wrecking the party. Trevor

descends on bedridden Nick to "explain" his behavior, while Susannah

runs to Trevor's bemused parents, Ernest (Robert Mandan) and Delia

(Maggie Peach), for solace. Alan Ayckbourn's play plumbs no great

depths, but he's unflaggingly inventive in exploring comic surfaces,

and director Ron Bottitta has assembled a likable and deftly stylish

cast to keep the pot boiling on Darcy Prevost's huge and handsome set.

Kathryn Poppen's trendy '70s costumes add further charm. Odyssey

Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; variable schedule,

through September 26. Call theater for info: (310) 477-2055,

odysseytheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)

For all NEW THEATER REVIEWS seen over the weekend, press the More tab directly below:

NEW THEATER REVIEWS Scheduled for publication July 28, 2010


NEW REVIEW THE BAKER'S OVEN

click to enlarge rsz_bakersoven.jpg
Photo by Adam Neubauer


The softly Southern lilt of the imploring, impassioned pastor's

voice sermonizing on patriotism playing as preshow background music is

the red flag. Well, that, juxtaposed with the jarring opening scene, in

which a dark electro-rave song slaps the audience while a little girl

spanks her knockoff Barbie doll until its legs fly off. Anachronistic,

that toy, considering the play's setting is the Great Depression, and

Mattel didn't launch Barbie dolls until the late '50s. But in light of

the lurid action that follows, that's a negligible quibble. As

playwright Christopher Goodwin unleashes one monstrous act of human

nature after yet another, you almost laugh at the utter absurdity of

the plot and its evil mastermind, the charred-and-shriveled-hearted Roy

Baker (Jim Eshom); and you begin to wonder if Goodwin's a 21-year-old

theater major who (mis)read Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho

too many times before writing and mounting his first play in the

college's "experimental" theatre. He's not. And though theater majors

might congregate at a coffee shop afterward to discuss the symbolism of

such unnecessary blanket violence (the U.S.'s history of military

invasions seems a likely and politically correct response) and sexual

abuse (organized religion, ditto), searching for meaning in this

quasi-Greek tragedy of a play is as fruitless and confusing as its

ludicrous final scene. Lila Green directs. Zombie Joe's Underground

Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.;

through August 7. (818) 202-4120 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

NEW REVIEW GO BEDROOM FARCE

click to enlarge rsz_bedroomfarce.jpg
Photo by Ron Sossi


The title is apt, since the action occurs in three radically

different bedrooms in a 1975 English suburb. Kate (blond and

taffy-voiced Kate Hollinshead) and Malcolm (buff and playful Jamie

Donovan) are having a party in their new flat. Nick (Scott Roberts) and

Jan (Ann Noble) are invited, but Nick has put his back out and is

confined to his bed in agony -- and he's annoyed that Jan is going to

the party without him. Obstreperous and self-obsessed Trevor (Anthony

Michael Jones) and his noisily neurotic wife, Susannah (Regina Peluso),

are also invited, but their tempestuous marriage is rocked by one of

its endless crises. When Trevor makes a pass at former girlfriend Jan,

Susannah goes into massive hysterics, wrecking the party. Trevor

descends on bedridden Nick to "explain" his behavior, while Susannah

runs to Trevor's bemused parents, Ernest (Robert Mandan) and Delia

(Maggie Peach), for solace. Alan Ayckbourn's play plumbs no great

depths, but he's unflaggingly inventive in exploring comic surfaces,

and director Ron Bottitta has assembled a likable and deftly stylish

cast to keep the pot boiling on Darcy Prevost's huge and handsome set.

Kathryn Poppen's trendy '70s costumes add further charm. Odyssey

Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; variable schedule,

through September 26. Call theater for info: (310) 477-2055,

odysseytheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW GO BREWSIE & WILLIE

click to enlarge rsz_brewsie_willie.jpg
Photo by Scott Groller


If the name Gertrude Stein isn't enough of a clue to not expect your

average, well-made play, just walk into the seventh floor,

downtown-penthouse performance space of this mesmerizing production by

CalArts' Center for New Performance and L.A. stage experimentalists,

Poor Dog Group. That's where Jesse Bonnell, John Kern and Jeffrey Elias

Teeter's video projections of the surrounding cityscape create the

uncanny effect that Efren Delgadillo Jr.'s combat-detritus set is

perched high upon a vertiginous, open-air promontory. Such lofty, if

illusory, heights provide an apt metaphor for the elevated discourse of

Stein's lucidly conversational, postwar novella and its

all-too-prophetic admonition against the political and intellectual

conformity awaiting America's returning WWII GIs. Set during the limbo

period between the end of the war and demobilization, director Travis

Preston and writers Marissa Chibas and Erik Ehn's elegant adaptation

follows the fears, gripes, prejudices and dreams of Stein's archetypal

cross section of soldiers and military nurses as they pass the time

fraternizing and musing about their uncertain futures. Brewsie (Jonney

Ahmanson), a thoughtful sergeant "foggy in the head" but who wants "to

be clear," provokes a probing dialogue with his fellow dogface, the

voluble Willie (a dynamic Brad Culver), which soon includes their less

reflective comrades. As the inarticulate men and women struggle to find

words for their thoughts, Stein's apprehensions about parallels between

the regimented thinking demanded by the Nazi's military-industrialism

and those invited by our own consumer-industrial society are gradually

given voice. Preston's vibrantly inventive direction of a first-rate

ensemble, plus some additional, authentic ambience provided by circling

LAPD helicopters, together suggest that any similarity between Stein's

fears and the straits in which we find ourselves today is strictly

intentional. 7th Floor Penthouse, 533 S. Los Angeles St., dwntwn.;

Wed.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 1, brownpapertickets.com. A CalArts'

Center for New Performance in association with Poor Dog Group

production. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW GO JAYBIRD AND HALLELUJAH Writer-director Pel Tedder's comedy-drama promises to change the way

you think about life, death and the afterlife. Perhaps it will. A bit

like an upbeat No Exit on wheels, Tedder's stories concern a

handful of unhappy souls riding a bus through purgatory on New Year's

Eve. They need to make it to the intersection of Jaybird and Hallelujah

in order to cross over to Heaven, but unseen rioters threaten to lock

them in limbo. As personal tales are revealed, we are drawn into their

torment and recriminations. The flaring temper of an aggressive and

sexually charged jock-type Willie (Eric Goldrich) is kept at bay by his

adoring girlfriend, Adriana (Sarah Delpizzo), reminding him of the

power of positive thinking. We soon learn why he's there, but her

presence in purgatory is more mysterious. One smooth-talking character,

Swamp Rat (Greg L. Grass) has the colorful and musical vocal delivery

of a preacher. There are some beautiful and touching moments in this

fine play. Flashes of comedy are underpinned by its serious theme.

Don't expect sets or costumes -- this production runs on the smell of an

oily rag, sustained by the power of Tedder's nicely modulated writing

and some convincing performances. Most nights The Ukomo Theatre Project

presents the same play with two different casts, interpretations and

strikingly different endings. It's an ambitious attempt and worth the

effort. Subtitled "The Redemption" and "The Salvation," the versions

perform in repertory. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd.,

N.Hlywd.; Sat., 9:15 p.m.; through Aug. 7, ukomoproject@live.com. (818)

761-2166. Ukomo Theatre Project(Pauline Adamek)

NEW REVIEW LADY LANCING, OR, THE IMORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

click to enlarge rsz_ladylancing.jpg
Photo courtesy of Ark Theater Company


The Ark Theater Company's fetching idea of staging Oscar Wilde's

farce has, at its core, the original, unrevised script and four-act

format. The addition of a minor character and some name changes do

little to alter the story or to temper the fun. It's the rough edges of

this production that keep that fun at bay. The play is, after all, a

gentle comedy with farcical overtones. Here, the tone and pace turn

those gentle qualities into a kind of sedative, under the ultralight

touch of co-directors Douglas Leal and Derek Livingston.

Notwithstanding some glaring instances of flubbed lines (a contagion

that spread throughout the cast with the consequence of seeming to dull

Wilde's otherwise pointed wit), Kenn Johnson and Leal acquit themselves

well in the roles of Jack and Algernon, the two puffed-up dandies whose

name-swapping high jinks and romantic foibles lie at the play's heart.

JoAnna Jocelyn infuses the requisite imperious dignity and stuffiness

to her role of Lady Brancaster, while Anna Quirino and Caroline Sharp

are quite good as Jack and Algernon's love interests, despite Sharp's

wobbly British accent. Osa Danam's costumes are beautifully

understated, and Christina Silvioso's painted backdrops add a visual

comic touch. Ark Theater Company at The Attic Theatre and Film Center,

5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun. 2 p.m., through

August 15. (323) 969-1707. (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW NOT ABOUT HEROES

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Playwright Stephen MacDonald's 1982 drama about the World War I

friendship between British poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen is

an Anglophile's orgy of poetry and irony. The stage simmers with

repressed sexuality and doomed talent -- chilled with that stiff upper

lippiness that has boys quoting poetry as they march off to get

slaughtered in the Somme. In 1917, at the Scottish mental hospital

where they have both been committed for shell shock, wide-eyed novice

poet Owen (Robert Hardin) nervously approaches his idol, celebrated war

bard Sassoon (Josh Mann), to ask for his autograph and to get his

opinion of his own verses about the horrors of WWI. The two men kindle

a warm mentor-prodigy relationship that stops an inch short of a

lip-lock -- and, even though they never declare their obvious romantic

love, Sassoon is left bereft after Owen returns to his unit and dies

pointlessly in the trenches. MacDonald's drama is incredibly

well-researched -- some might say overresearched, as the piece strives

to shoehorn into the text almost every single fact about its subjects'

lives. Yet, director Bill Hemmer's elegant if unevenly paced production

limns the shifting power dynamic between the two poets, as well as

offers a compelling portrait of a war that literally crushed a whole

generation of young men into the mud. Hardin's delightfully boyish Owen

matures and become ravaged by the conflict, before our eyes -- while

Mann's subtly arch turn as Sassoon belies the affection for his prodigy

lurking below the surface of his snarky ironic exterior. Although the

play is ultimately perilously overwritten and a bit static, the

production itself recalls the mood and tone of those fringe British

dramas that are frequently staged in the backrooms of London pubs, in

which nothing ever seems more crucial than art and beauty. Lounge

Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; through August 22. (323) 960-7744. (Paul Birchall)

NEW REVIEW SPEECH AND DEBATE Stephen

Karam's hit 2007 off-Broadway play riffs on the presumed nerdiness of

high-schoolers who opt for forensics over sports. In this case, three

outcasts are also determined to triple their misfit status via drama,

the school newspaper and a "gay-straight-alliance." The journey through

youthful angst begins as gay Howie (Matt Strunin) trolls online for sex

only to discover, to his major gross-out, that he's sexting with the

theater teacher. Meanwhile, ambitious but untalented would-be

coloratura Diwata (Tiffany Jordan) captures Howie's attention with her

"blogalog" about the same teacher's unjust casting policies. Also

pulled into the electronic circle is aspiring reporter Solomon (Simon

Daniel Lees), who is obsessed with sexual predators. Through a series

of scenes, subtitled with Speech and Debate rules, the three find a

mutual attraction bordering on friendship, which ultimately allows them

to find solace in their eccentricities. Finally they collaborate on a

bizarre musical performance-art piece mixing aspects from the plays of

Arthur Miller and Wicked among several mismatched ingredients, which is

fascinating in its pure awfulness. Though not quite convincing in terms

of youth, the acting of the students is superb, compassionately

exploring the constant pain and few joys the characters experience.

Unfortunately the same is not true of Nina Donato in a pair of adult

roles that fly into caricature -- a choice seemingly pushed by director

Jon Cortez to get some laughs, which prove to be at the expense of the

production. Cortez also keeps the pace so sluggish through clumsy scene

breaks, they interfere with the crispness of his young stars. Mike

Rademaekers' clever set easily transforms between schoolroom and

bedrooms, which provide the unfollowed cues for agile scene

transitions. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 22. (877)

620-7673. (Tom Provenzano)

[TITLE OF SHOW] "Musical about making a musical." Music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen, book by Hunter Bell. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 5. (323) 957-1884. See Theater feature

NEW REVIEW THREE SISTERS AFTER CHEKHOV

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Photo by Thomas Sanders


Adapted from Chekhov's classic, Trinidadian playwright Mustapha

Matura's multi-storied melodrama tracks the wavering fortunes of three

sisters living in 1941 colonial Port of Spain. The action -- colorfully

inlaid with Caribbean culture and language -- transpires in their

multihued, middle-class apartment overlooking the city's main drag.

Alma (understudy Elayn Taylor), a spinster in her 40s, serves as the

family's matriarch, while 30-something Helen (Yvonne Huff), trapped in

an unhappy marriage, has fallen hard for a gallant British officer

(Douglas Dickerman). The youngest, Audrey (a lively and appealing

Diarra Kilpatrick), cherishes buoyant dreams -- soon to be shattered by

the shadow of war in Europe and local unrest among the island's poor,

arising from water shortages, skyrocketing prices and government

corruption. Meanwhile, trouble ferments within the family when the

sisters' doted-upon brother Peter (Terence Colby Clemens) becomes

enamored of a sexy manipulative social climber named Jean (Nadege

August). The play gathers speed as romantic entanglements intensify and

the motifs of war, manhood, personal integrity and freedom from

colonial rule shift to the fore. Director Gregg T. Daniel displays a

deft hand, but the performances are something of a patchwork, with

certain characters far more vividly drawn than others. In addition to

Kilpatrick's endearing Audrey, the evening I attended featured

understudy Jeorge Watson, injecting a welcome dynamic as Helen's

implicitly unscrupulous and predatory spouse. Designer Shaun Motley's

shabby chic interior works well, but the set's hand-painted blue

backdrop lacks the very dimensionality it's supposed to suggest. Lost

Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.;

through Aug. 8, lowerdepththeatreensemble.org. (800) 838-3006. A Lower

Depth Theatre Ensemble production. (Deborah Klugman)


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