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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Mr. Kolpert

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Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 10:24 AM
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NEW REVIEW GO MR. KOLPERT

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Photo by Charlie Fonville What to do when you're settled, successful and sociopathic? For bored couple Sarah (Lauren Olipra) and Ralf (Tommy French), the answer is, terrorize Sarah's tee-totaling co-worker Edith (Kimberly Dilts) and her meathead husband Bastian (J.T. Arbogast) at a dinner party for four. Sarah and Ralf claim that they've killed Mr. Kolpert from Accounts and locked him in the trunk. An enraged Bastian makes good on his claim to kill them all, including his missus who may or may not be joking about having an affair with Mr. Kolpert. Everyone is lying -- or "kidding" -- in David Gieselmann's comedy of lethally bad manners, and it's cruel fun once the audience is clued in to its odd, bright artificiality. Between the blood and fake vomit are digressions into chaos theory which hint that there's a method in Gieselmann's madness. What sticks is his caricature of yuppies as being so dulled by civility and Chardonnay that the only wake-up is a sharp knife. Director Mike Monroe could scale back Bastian's out-of-the box rage, but otherwise the cast is terrific with Arbogast's oily charm, Olipra's feline callowness, and Dilts' nuanced comedic turn as the perfect wife with her own axe to grind. Fake Gallery, 4319 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 9. (323) 644-4946. (Amy Nicholson)

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NEW REVIEW AFTERMATH Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama studies a widow named Julie (Annie Potts), and her almost adult children, still struggling to come to terms with her husband's suicide three years previously. More like an emotionally raw drama with a sprinkling of good laughs, Shoenman's play unfolds like a typical 1950s kitchen-sink drama, the strip-mining kind where secrets and recriminations are laid bare and the obligatory catharsis ensues. This notion is visually supported by co-producer and set designer Gary Guidinger's realistic kitchen and teenager-bedroom set. What isn't necessary is the slide show across the back flats repeatedly displaying the pathetically inadequate suicide note Julie was left with, and which also illustrates her children's passage to adulthood. Everyone in the capable cast gets at least one monologue, from the hostile son Eric (Daniel Taylor) to the mild-tempered daughter Natalie (Meredith Bishop) to their father's former best friend and Mom's possible new boyfriend Chuck (Michael Mantell). With her pixie haircut and thick NY accent, Potts wavers from droll to distraught, only sometimes stridently overcompensating for first-night nerves and an ensemble performance that occasionally seemed to lose its rhythm. At its best, the incisive dialogue volleys back and forth like an enthralling game of tennis. Mark L. Taylor directs this slice of dysfunction well. A guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (310) 477-2055. (Pauline Adamek)


THE BREAK OF NOON Neil LaBute's profile of a modern-day prophet. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 208-5454. See Theater Feature on Wednesday

NEW REVIEW BUT NOT FOR LOVE

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Photo by Monica Bivens

This long one-act by Matthew Everett, originally commissioned by the Playshop Theatre in Meadville, Pennsylvania, tackles the hotly contested subject of gay marriage. Eleanor (Krystal Kennedy) and her brother Ephram (John Croshaw) are getting married in a double wedding -- and both are marrying men, turning the event into a media circus, with protestors, news vans, and cops camped outside the church. Both Eleanor and Ephram's husband-to-be, Patrick (Andy Loviska), are political activists who want their wedding to be a public statement, while Ephram and Eleanor's fiance Roland (Chadbourne Hamblin) resent having their private lives turned into a political spectacle. Things are further complicated by Patrick's brother (Nick Sousa), who's a religious zealot, determined to prevent the wedding by any means necessary, and the minister, known as The Duchess (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson), who's a post-operative trans-sexual. And Duke (Patrick Tiller) the cop assigned to monitor the demonstrations, is strongly attracted to the Duchess, unaware of her gender-change. The production, helmed by director Richard Warren Baker, is most successful in its quieter, more human moments than in its strident political declarations, when it topples over into melodrama. The events are not always credible, but there are strong performances from Sousa, St. Clair-Johnson, and Tiller. The Renegade Theatre, 1514 North Gardner Street, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 6 p.m., thru March 14. (323) 960-4443 or www.plays411.com/forlove. (Neal Weaver)

NEW REVIEW GO CRACK WHORE GALORE - LIVE!

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Photo by Danny Roew

Created by Tonya Cornelisse, Ryan Oliver, Danny Roew, Graham Sibley and director Gates McFadden, this obscenely funny late night rock music comedy sketch features Cornelisse and Sibley as a pair of Brit-trash rockers who met in a London rehab and somehow made it it to Hollywood, or at least to its sidewalks, in pursuit of Rock 'n' Roll stardom. Their band is called Crack Whore, and their hourlong cabaret opens with warmup balladeer Jackie Tohn, on acoustic guitar, crooning with remarkable vocal dexterity about low self-esteem and love. Into her act crash wafer thin, obnoxiously loud drummer Abbey (in shades, skirt, and torn fishnets) and guitarist Danny Galore (in vest and ripped shirt) wielding a shopping cart filled with mannequins and other crap for their act. Commenting loudly on how each of Tohn's song is worse than the next, they "set up" behind her, while she attempts to finish her act. They smash open a rolldown screen (to be used for a preview of their sex tape, sold after the show in the lobby). The moment when the livid Tohn leaves the stage captures the moment when '60s folk yielded to punk. What follows is pornography in song. You'd think Abbey is beyond a melt-down, but in a moment of despondency, she crawls inside the shopping cart: "I can't do this anymore, Danny, I just can't." To woo her back, and out, he croons the love song that he wrote just for her: "It's all clogged up/The pressure's all built up/I think I might explode/Now I need to blow my fucking load . . ." Abbey swoons in adoration, and they're back on track. The power of love, and of song. They try to tell us their "story," or to sell us their story - which is the larger point -- but can't agree on the details. She's told a wrong version so many times, he can't quite grasp what's real anymore. There, but for the grace of God. . . It's not a life-changing event, but the energy electrifies, the music is surprisingly good, and the performances are top-tier. Ensemble Studio Theater - Los Angeles at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Thurs. & Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru March 12, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. (323) 644-1929. (Steven Leigh Morris)

NEW REVIEW FIREHOUSE

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Photo by Jason Bonzon

Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and respect of the p eople they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's message-minded melodrama jumpstarts around the community's perceived betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear on a firefighter named Perry (Kamar de los Reyes) to make a bogus choice between loyalty to his unit and loyalty to his Puerto Rican ethnic group. A 20 year department vet, Perry is on the cusp of retirement when a crisis erupts at the South Bronx firehouse after a colleague named Boyle (Gerald Downey) rescues another firefighter from a burning building but leaves behind a 12 year old child. Boyle steadfastly maintains he didn't see the girl for the smoke, but his credibility is open to question -- in no small part because of his personal history as a former cop who was tried and acquitted for shooting an unarmed civilian. Whereas the community, represented here by Perry's fiancée Aida (Jossara Jinaro), a criminal defense attorney, is up in arms, most of Boyle's buddies give him the benefit of the doubt and pressure Perry to do the same. Garcia gleaned aspects of his story from real life headlines in this effort to offer up an intrepid examination of how our native prejudices cloud our judgment. Too often, however, the characters seem mere profanity-riddled mouthpieces for one side or another's point of view, a problem exacerbated by Bryan Rasmussen's overheated direction. Most discrepant is Jinaro's counselor-at-law, unconvincing as a perspicacious professional not only by virtue of her mini-skirted and otherwise revealing attire but in her strident insistence that Perry take her side for personal reasons rather than principled ones. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks; Fri, 8 p.m., thru April 29. (323) 822-7898 or theatermania.com (Deborah Klugman)

NEW REVIEW GO A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Though critics and theater folk may blanch at yet another production of Shakespeare's romantic dream-comedy, Mark Rucker's staging reminds us why it remains the most popular of Shakespeare's plays. The story of four lovers intertwined with faeries, royalty and crude workmen sidelining as thespians is probably the most accessible of all classics, with surefire laughs that work in almost every production. In Rucker's take, the events materialize in an exciting pastiche of varied moments of 20th Century pseudo-European society thrust into a slyly homoerotic mosh-pit of punk-disco muscle sprites ruled by powerful bi-curious Oberon (Elijah Alexander) and his Rolling Stones-esque servant Puck (Rob Campbell). Every line of the apparently uncut text is delivered with clarity and humor by a highly skilled cast. But the real star is the Cameron Anderson's intense yet functional set that begins as a huge white expanse before taking us on a whirl down into the center of the earth, leaving a gorgeous wooded path and, at times, a wooden flying boat out of the imaginary world of 'Wynkin, Blykin and Nod." This stunning set is all the more remarkable is it depends simply on old fashioned stage rigging rather than showoff hydraulics. Splendid costumes by Nephelie Andonyadis and consummate lighting by Lap Chi Chu complete the picture, while composer John Ballinger and choreographer Ken Roht perfectly marry sound and movement. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 20. (714) 708-5555. (Tom Provenzano)

NEW REVIEW GO MR. KOLPERT

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Photo by Charlie Fonville

What to do when you're settled, successful and sociopathic? For bored couple Sarah (Lauren Olipra) and Ralf (Tommy French), the answer is, terrorize Sarah's tee-totaling co-worker Edith (Kimberly Dilts) and her meathead husband Bastian (J.T. Arbogast) at a dinner party for four. Sarah and Ralf claim that they've killed Mr. Kolpert from Accounts and locked him in the trunk. An enraged Bastian makes good on his claim to kill them all, including his missus who may or may not be joking about having an affair with Mr. Kolpert. Everyone is lying -- or "kidding" -- in David Gieselmann's comedy of lethally bad manners, and it's cruel fun once the audience is clued in to its odd, bright artificiality. Between the blood and fake vomit are digressions into chaos theory which hint that there's a method in Gieselmann's madness. What sticks is his caricature of yuppies as being so dulled by civility and Chardonnay that the only wake-up is a sharp knife. Director Mike Monroe could scale back Bastian's out-of-the box rage, but otherwise the cast is terrific with Arbogast's oily charm, Olipra's feline callowness, and Dilts' nuanced comedic turn as the perfect wife with her own axe to grind. Fake Gallery, 4319 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Tues.-Wed., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 9. (323) 644-4946. (Amy Nicholson)


NEW REVIEW NO. SAINTS LANE The setting for Eric Czuleger's dark comedy is a remote cabin in Scagway, Alaska, where amidst the battering of a winter storm, Mer (Meredith Schmidt) and her slow-witted daughter Dizzy (Kirsten Kulken), are once again on the run from Mer's violent spouse Hunter (Adam Navarro), who has just finished duty in the Special Forces. This time, Mer has decided to end the abuse permanently by asking her current lover Jay (Joe Calarco), to kill her husband. Initially, things seem to go as planned, but the celebration is short-circuited when the batterer hobbles in bruised and bloodied, with the intention of reclaiming his family. Up until then, the play had some legs, albeit wobbly ones, but most of Act 2 turns in to muddled attempt to explore the volatile dynamics of love, attraction and repulsion, and even the effects of torture on the human psyche - little of which is articulated or emerges from the incoherent structure. The contrived finale is just puzzling. Cast performances are barely adquate, with Calarco (who does fine job with the sound design), being the only exception. Steve Jullian directs. Actors Circle Theater, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru. March 6. www.actorscircle.net. (Lovell Estell III)

NEW REVIEW STEALING BUFFALO

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Photo by Sherry Netherland

Profanity, perversion, and a pig iron do not a Mamet play make. While the "master" is known for his liberal use of the f-word, the c-word, and other unmentionables, his machine-gun dialogue generally contains an undercurrent of danger, social commentary, and revelation of character. Many Mamet imitators fail to grasp this subtext, and, like Vern Urich and Craig Ricci Shaynak, create pieces that superficially resemble Mamet's patterns but lack his depth. In this take on American Buffalo, Jed (Urich) enters like Teach from the original, uttering a string of f-bombs followed by the word Mamet instead of Ruthie. He has again failed to get the rights to put on his favorite play in Los Angeles. Jed's rotund friend Stu (Shaynak), also an actor, is having troubles of his own with women. After a lengthy lecture by Jed on "bangin' broads" (a phrase that becomes noisome from repetition), the two concoct a scheme to "steal" Mamet's work. A strange attempt to fuse Mamet-speak and Swingers, this unending string of one-liners quickly ventures into tedium, with its numerous tangents, such as a listing of all the celebrities whose sign is Sagittarius, replacing an actual story. The pizza box-laden set (presumably an homage to Mamet's junk shop) lacks any sense of design, and the literal projections only elongate the tangential riffs on pop culture that bring the action grinding to a halt. While the inspiration for the piece is Urich's own experience, the result lacks the stakes and tension to turn documentary into drama. Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 700-4878. www.thegrouprep.com (Mayank Keshaviah)

NEW REVIEW WOMEN OF SPOON RIVER: THEIR VOICES FROM THE HILL

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Photo by Rebekkah Meixner


Lee Meriwether has a long history with a fictional little town. In 1962, Charles Aidman's adaptation of Spoon River Anthology, Edgar Lee Masters' book of poems, went straight to Broadway following its Theatre West premiere. Meriwether, the still-gleaming former Miss America and current soap opera matriarch, was an understudy for that production. In 2002, Theatre West staged a revival of its Broadway baby, and Meriwether co-starred. In 2011's incarnation, Meriwether and director Jim Hesselman have narrowed their sights, creating a one-woman show that gives voice solely to Spoon River's female residents. The result isn't bad, though the monologues are too brief to offer any real chance for Meriwether to delve into any serious character exploration, and the audience any opportunity to reciprocate with any real emotional response (especially harsh in the more quietly devastating instances, such as the suggested rape of one underage inhabitant). Still, Hesselman and Meriwether have successfully distinguished each woman, no small feat with 26 characters. The lingering question, however, is why this show, now? Considering there's a dearth of hearty roles for women, especially those over 40, it makes sense to write your own. But in varnishing an antique that neither showcases your ability nor attracts a younger demographic, both actor and theater have wrung this "River" dry. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; thru February 20. 323-851-7977 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

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