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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: The Unrequited

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Wed, Apr 13, 2011 at 1:57 PM

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COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS (are back!)
NEW THEATER REVIEWS
STAGE FEATURE on The Escort and Fetish

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Ebony Repertory Company's highly-regarded production of A Raisin in the Sun closes this weekend at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 964-9768.

THE UNREQUITED

Cornerstone Theater Company returns to Watts with Shishir Kurups's staging of Lynn Manning's new play The Unrequited (Between Two Worlds) - an adaptation of S. Ansky's The Dybbuk,

set in Watts during Depression-era 1930s. The production is presented

in association with Watts Village Theater Company. Previews begin April

28; the production opens May 4 and runs through May 22 at Youth

Opportunities High School (YO Watts) in the Mafundi Auditorium, 1827 E.

103rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90002.

HOMELESS TALENT

On Friday, April 15, Create Now will host The Transformers Talent Show

at the L.A. Family Housing Shelter in North Hollywood. Confirmed guests

include British Consul-General Dame Barbara Hay, celebrities and

special government visitors from Egypt and Morocco, along with most of

the 60 families at the LAFH shelter. More information here

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS press the More tab directly below.


COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR April 15 - 21, 2011


Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell

Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy

Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden,

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

CABARET DOMA Theatre Co.'s sexed-up take on the Kander-Ebb musical.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 22,

(323) 960-5773, plays411.com/cabaret. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave.,

L.A., theMETtheatre.com.

CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS Newly revised version of Sam Shepard's

surreal comic melodrama about the end of the American Dream. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 4. Open Fist

Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

THE DOUBLE DOUBLE SONNET PROJECT The Global Theatre Project invites

L.A. residents to participate in a group theatrical presentation,

combining Macbeth's witches scene with Sonnet 116 in English and other

languages, in conjunction with the Stratford-Upon-Avon Shakespeare

Birthday Festival. Sat., April 16, 9 a.m.-noon,

theglobaltheatreproject.org. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring

St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

GEORGE GERSCHIN: ALONE Gershwin's life and legendary songbook,

starring Hershey Felder. Starting April 19, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May

9. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

pasadenaplayhouse.org.

HAMLET Shakespeare's tragedy set in modern times, presented by Player

King Productions. Starting April 18, Mondays, Tuesdays, Sundays, 7:30

p.m. Continues through May 10, (310) 909-8629,

brownpapertickets.com/event/166103. Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22, 2107

Bellevue Ave., L.A..

I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER The New American Theatre (formerly Circus

Theatricals) presents Robert Anderson's 1968 family drama. Starting

April 16, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 3 p.m.; Sun., May

22, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (310) 701-0788,

NewAmericanTheatre.com. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl.,

L.A., mccaddentheatre.com.

JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK Sean O'Casey's tragicomedy about a working class

Dublin family during the 1920s Irish Civil War. Starting April 16,

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.;

Wed., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 7 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 25, 8 p.m. Continues through June 5. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055,

odysseytheatre.com.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by

Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Starting April 16, Sat., April 16, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8

p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 1. La Mirada

Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562)

944-9801.

LONESOME TRAVELER World premiere of James O'Neil's musical tour, from

the backwoods of Appalachia to the nightclubs of New York, the 1920s to

the '60s. Starting April 16, Sat., April 16, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.;

Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2

& 8 p.m. Continues through May 8. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St.,

Ventura, (805) 667-2900.

MAXWELL STREET Cake Theatre Center presents Willard Manus' story of a

venerable Chicago bluesman and the white kid who idolizes him. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon. Continues through May 1. Barbara

Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Ste. 101, L.A.,

(310) 330-0178.

ORIXAS: GODS OF CANDOMBLE Leopold Nunan explores the Afro-Brazilian

mythology and religious folklore of Rio de Janeiro. Fri., April 15, 8:30

p.m.; Sat., April 16, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th

St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

QUIDAM Return of Cirque du Soleil's 1996 acrobatic spectacle. (Also

at April the Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, April 27-May 1.).

Wed., April 20, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., April 21, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., April 22,

3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April

24, 1 & 5 p.m. Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300

E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 436-3636.

THE REVEREND'S GOOD WIFE Towne Street Theatre presents a reading of

Felton Perry's comedy. Tue., April 19, 7:30 p.m., (213) 624-4796, RSVP

to info@townestreet.org. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

L.A..

SHOE STORY Ben Snyder's look at the dark side of New York shoe

culture in the 1980s, where a new pair of sneakers could cost you your

life. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May

22. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611,

theatreofnote.com.

SPECTACULAR SUPERHERO VARIETY HOUR Captured Aural Phantasy Theater

presents dramatic readings of vintage comic book stories, with live

sound effects, music and projected art. Fri., April 15, 7:30 p.m.; Fri.,

April 22, 7:30 p.m., capturedauralphantasy.com. Bootleg Theater, 2220

Beverly Blvd., L.A., (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.com.

SWIMMY, FREDERICK, AND INCH BY INCH Puppet show based on the stories

of Leo Lionni, presented by Nova Scotia's Mermaid Theatre. Sat., April

16, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255

Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu.

THE TEMPERAMENTALISTS West Coast premiere of Jon Maran's play about

homosexuality in the 1950s, based on the relationship of Harry Hay and

Rudi Gernreich. Starting April 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

2 p.m. Continues through May 22. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 661-9827, theblank.com.

THE VISIT Staged reading of Friedrich Durenmatt's 1956 play on

justice and morality. Sun., April 17, 7 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga

Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

THE ALL NIGHT STRUT! Fran Charnas' musical that carries us through

the Depression, World War II, and the postwar boom. Thursdays-Saturdays,

8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1.

Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, (818) 558-7000,

colonytheatre.org.

NEW REVIEW THE BLUEST EYE

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Photo by Steve Cicneros

People

often use others to mirror themselves. Pecola (Sola Bamis), the pivotal

figure in Lydia R. Diamond's stage adaptation of Toni Morrison's 1970

novel, is a dark-skinned black child perceived as ugly by others -- and,

unfortunately, by herself as well. Growing up in Ohio in 1941, she

longs for blue eyes to help redeem her from her pariah status.

Eventually she obtains them -- but not before she's undergone a series

of brutal, self-annihilating events. Diamond's narration-laden script

hews to the book, telling much of the story from the vantage of other

characters, chiefly Pecola's kind and more fortunate friend, Claudia

(Tekquiree Spencer), and Claudia's sister, Frieda (Tiffany Danielle).

The result is a talky drama in which the most horrific -- yet most

dramatic -- elements are pushed into the shadows. (One reason may be

that the play initially was created for young audiences.) Perhaps a more

consummate ensemble would have transcended these shortcomings, but as

directed by Janet Miller, they appear obvious. Shamika Franklin is

notable for her crisp, three-dimensional portrait of Pecola's wounded

mother, while Kwesiu Jones and Willie Mack Daniels are uniformly

professional in various roles. One highly enjoyable scene involves

Danika Butler making a splash as the pretty light-skinned

middle-schooler whom everyone envies. But Bamis' ingenuous victim needs

nuance, and Spencer, carrying the burden of language, does an able job

but without the polish and pacing needed to keep us rapt. Phantom

Projects, Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun, 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., thru April 24.

(714) 690-2900, phantomprojects.com. (Deborah Klugman)

BOOMERMANIA Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio's lively musical revue

about baby boomers is much like the boomer culture itself -- fluffy and

pleasant, but also somewhat sad. The show purports to be a lighthearted

gambol down pop-culture memory lane, from the 1950s through the '90s,

with the road of boomer excess ultimately leading to a palace of wisdom

furnished with Sugar Pops, Mr. Spock, Saturday Night Fever and the

Summer of Love. The decades roll by, depicted in a series of quirky

skits and punctuated by renditions of rock songs whose lyrics parody the

absurdities of eras past. Act 1 is fluff itself: In "Sugar Pops,

Captain Crunch," a group of 1950s teens croon their affection for newly

invented sugar cereals to the tune of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch." Later, a

dazed married couple warble "Talking 'Bout My Television," a song

depicting near-hypnotized enchantment with their brand-new TV (sung to

the tune of "The Beat Goes On"). However, when Act 2 moves into the

later decades, Kasper and Sierchio's satire takes on a more melancholy

tone, particularly during a sequence at a 10-year high school reunion,

in which a few adult boomers come to grips with boomer shock: They're

not as special as they thought they were. The show's cast consists of

strikingly youthful performers who appear too young even for their first

legal cocktail, let alone speedballs at Studio 54. Yet, thanks to Mary

Ekler's tightly focused musical direction, their powerful voices evoke

far richer emotions than the material they're often asked to sing. While

many of the musical skits are crisply performed, the narrative material

often falls flat, with frequent allusions to other boomer-dated shows

like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hair only pointing out those

musicals' far more inventive scores. (Paul Birchall).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 15,

(866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, elportaltheatre.com.

GO BURN THIS Lanford Wilson was poetic even in his

passing. The playwright, who premiered Burn This at the Mark Taper Forum

24 years ago, passed away on March 23, 2011, the night the Taper began

previews of its first revival production of the play. Even the play's

premise feels eerily symbolic: Shaken by the unexpected death of their

friend Robbie, three friends find themselves confronting their paralyzed

lives. Anna, consumed by her career as a dancer, struggles to create an

exciting personal life, but chooses a safe lover in Burton. Wilson

introduces an unlikely savior: Robbie's runaway train wreck of a

brother, Pale. Crashing wildly into Anna's loft after an all-nighter,

Adam Rothenberg's Pale is the hot, pounding heart of this production: As

the radiator hisses on, he tells Anna, "I deliver water. I put out

fires... but sometimes you just let it burn." Clutching at his heart,

which is "fucking killing" him, and continuing on a coke-fueled rant

that ranges from trash-talking the neighborhood to shedding tears over

his brother's death, Pale finishes his first scene with a seduction so

sexy that he's clearly throwing wood, not water, on this fire. Brooks

Ashmanskas, as Anna's gay roommate Larry, is flamboyantly funny but

still fleshes the character beyond campiness. Ken Barnett's Burton is

purposefully boring. Zabryna Guevara's Anna, with her canned vocal

inflections and forced emotion, is the stiffest of the cast. A special

nod to Ralph Funicello's set, whose vast, underused space perfectly

suits the characters' stunted lives. Coursing with adrenaline, Burn This

spurs you as if a firecracker nearly went off in your hand. Live,

Wilson shouts, NOW. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sundays, 7 p.m.;

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May

1. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772.

NEW REVIEW THE CHAIRS

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Photo by Craig Schwartz

Eugene

Ionesco's slice of absurdity and futility receives a faithful staging

at A Noise Within. Over the course of this 80-minute, one-act play, an

aging couple drags out dozens of decrepit chairs to accommodate a crowd

of distinguished guests -- who prove imaginary. Old regrets surface from

the depths of their memories, and the Old Man lapses into melancholy

and grief when recalling the loss of his mother. Company members Deborah

Strang and Geoff Elliott (directed by ANW Artistic Director Julia

Rodriguez-Elliott) seldom evoke amusement, even when lewdly flirting

with their invisible visitors. A gloomy mist pervades a set of dingy,

peeling gray walls. Stephen W. Gifford's set and prop design and Ken

Booth's lighting suggest a postapocalyptic setting (supported by a

single line in the play) and the sense they are isolated in a circular

building surrounded by water. Costume designer Angela Balogh Calin

clothes the two leads in layers of rags and ratty furs, once sumptuous,

now shabby. Ionesco's fixation with solitude, nothingness and the

insignificance of human existence results in a stark experience. I

prefer theater -- even absurdist comedies about the end of the world --

to come with at least some levity and relief from the obvious. A Noise

Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in rep, call for schedule, thru

May 21. (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org. (Pauline Adamek)

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY Richard R. George's children's

play, adapted from the fantasy by Roald Dahl, performed by SCR's Junior

Players. Sat., April 16, 1 & 4 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 1 & 4 p.m.

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555,

scr.org.

THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE Among the hazards of dramatizing hot topics,

shelf life can be the most bedeviling. The time it takes to get a

scalding current event from headline to script to stage virtually

assures that the initiating, blood-boiling public outrage will have

long-chilled into yawning audience indifference. Such is sadly the case

with playwright Donald Freed's stale speculative tale about Panamanian

General Manuel Noriega (Robert Beltran) and his infamous attempt to seek

sanctuary with Archbishop Jose Sebastian Laboa (Tom Fitzpatrick) in the

Papal consulate during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. As the

ailing archbishop prostrates himself in evening prayers, the sounds of

gunfire and circling U.S. military helicopters (effectively piped by

sound designer John Zalewski) announce both the expected, albeit dreaded

arrival of the freshly ousted dictator and besieging U.S. marines. The

exasperated prelate would like nothing better than to turn over his

volatile guest to the invaders. The general eventually agrees to leave,

but only if the Vatican's former grand inquisitor first hears his side

of the story and adjudges the general to be as diabolical as charged.

During the ensuing confession, Freed spins a historical web of colonial

collusion between church and state ranging from Columbus and Balboa to

Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Director Jose Luis Valenzuela pulls

out all the production stops ― including Francois-Pierre Couture's

decrepit, blood-splashed set ― but not even veteran talents like Beltran

and Fitzpatrick can compensate for the urgency or allegorical lift that

Freed's excursive text so sorely lacks. (Bill Raden).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 24,

(213) 489-0994. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.,

thelatc.org.

GO THE COMEDY OF ERRORS A strongman, a

ventriloquist, three showgirls and a mimic with 1,000 voices make up

just half of the Burlesque on Brand troupe, which enters, grandstands

and immediately plunges into Shakespeare's shortest and most slapstick

comedy about two pairs of long-lost twins crisscrossing in Ephesus.

Here, servant Dromio (Jerry Kernion) wears a plaid toga, argyle socks

and saddle shoes. (The four credited costumers have done fantastic

work.) When Dromio vents to hero Antipholous (Bruce Turk) that the

chubby kitchen wench (Gibby Brand) who claims she's his betrothed "is

spherical, like a globe -- I could find out countries in her," their

banter smacks of Abbott and Costello. Director Michael Michetti's

dynamite ensemble is held together by Turk's leading man, who, like his

Errol Flynn mustache and the production itself, is playful and

self-mocking, but never ironic. Michetti inventively turns bereft father

Egeon's (Michael Stone Forrest) tale of how he lost his four sons -- the

longest speech in Shakespeare's canon -- into a silent black-and-white

film, but the director's not above showing a pie in the face. And he

even gets laughs for Adriana (Abby Craden) and Luciana (Annie Abrams) in

their usually thankless roles. In the first few scenes, the play

threatens to become a musical, but once past the momentary misstep of

two musical numbers, the production settles into the most droll and deft

staging of The Comedy of Errors I've seen in a decade. (Amy Nicholson).

Fri., April 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 24,

2 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 5, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 6, 8

p.m.; Sat., May 14, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd.,

Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

NEW REVIEW GO THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN

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Photo by Craig Schwartz

If

you think Los Angeles is an unkind city, you should try Inishmaan, the

seemingly quaint and picturesque Irish village setting of Martin

McDonagh's compelling drama. There, the villagers' otherwise adorable

eccentricities have abraded on each other to the point of sparking

near-psychotic frustration. By rights, the play should be a sentimental

tale, but McDonagh's ferocious writing artfully skewers expectations of

stereotypes, instead crafting a character-driven toxic dance of hope and

despair. In this tiny island town, circa 1934, young orphan Crippled

Billy (Tadhg Murphy) has been raised by two spinster "aunties" (Dearbhla

Molloy and Ingrid Craigie), following his parents' tragic death at sea

years ago. Within his claustrophobic and incredibly impoverished

community, Crippled Billy's dreams have not gone much further than the

hope of a kiss from bad-tempered (and possibly psychotic) town floozy

Slippy Helen (Clare Dunne), the Egg Man's assistant. However, when

Hollywood moviemakers arrive on a nearby island to make a film about the

"real" Ireland, Crippled Billy pulls out the stops to become a star --

though the results of his scheme take an unexpectedly tragic turn.

McDonagh's gorgeously lyrical dialogue is full of one-liners, quirky wit

and biting irony, while also capturing the understated sorrow of people

who believe life is nothing but suffering punctuated by loss. Like the

writing, director Garry Hynes' taut, often explosive yet intimate

staging boasts both impeccable comic timing and heartrending pathos --

often within a few seconds of each other. Galway's Druid Theatre Company

cast is extraordinary, crafting an ensemble of small-village archetypes

who appear lovable at first but whose seething undercurrents of spite

and malice become all too evident. Murphy offers a sweet and idealistic

turn as Crippled Billy, but the supporting figures are startlingly

multidimensional as well, from Craigie's tough Aunt Kate to Dunne's

abjectly terrifying Helen, and including Dermot Crowley in a hilarious,

towering turn as the town's reprehensible gossip. A Druid Theatre

Company and Center Theatre Group presentation. Kirk Douglas Theatre,

9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8

p.m., Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m., thru May 1. (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. (Paul Birchall)


CYCLOPS: A ROCK OPERA Ancient Greek satyr play turned rock opera,

presented by Psittacus Productions. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theatre.).

Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Thursdays, Sundays, 9 p.m. Continues through May 8.

Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

pasadenaplayhouse.org.

THE DOUBLE DOUBLE SONNET PROJECT The Global Theatre Project invites

L.A. residents to participate in a group theatrical presentation,

combining Macbeth's witches scene with Sonnet 116 in English and other

languages, in conjunction with the Stratford-Upon-Avon Shakespeare

Birthday Festival. Sat., April 16, 9 a.m.-noon,

theglobaltheatreproject.org. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring

St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

GO THE ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE It's New

Year's Eve in Tennessee Williams' drama, and Alma Winemiller is

enchanted by the crisp snaps of "frosty branches crackin'," but she's so

flushed with an inner flame she's shed jacket, scarf and gloves.

Deborah Puette's Alma is burning, set alight by a firecracker the

recently graduated doctor John Buchanan (Jason Dechert, in a role made

for him) casually tosses at her during Glorious Hill, Mississippi's

Fourth of July celebration. But Alma isn't like the pretty, simple girls

who have surrounded the eligible Buchanan up north. Nearing

spinsterhood, she's the town eccentric, who scatters crumbs for birds in

the square and is given to heart palpitations that seem a result of the

fluttery bird beating about in her own chest. Simultaneously attracted

("The light keeps changin' in [her eyes]") and repelled ("It's not lit,"

he says in the heartbreaking penultimate scene, crudely referring to

his sexual desire), Buchanan engages with Alma as an almost scientific

experiment. Yet Williams refuses to allow such cold sterility, and in a

scene so charged it leaves you smoldering in your seat, Buchanan

examines a frantic Alma, uttering possibly the most erotic three words

ever written by a playwright. Director Damaso Rodriguez dances the

entire production through the play's musicality on a stage lit

beautifully by James P. Taylor in the soft gauziness that Williams'

"romantic clichés" demand. In fact, the only slip is that early on,

Puette rests on an overactive accent. But by the second act, even that

flaw is forgiven, and as Williams' ever-tragic tide begins to come in,

the only thing to do is let it wash over you. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sat.,

April 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 2 p.m.; Wed., April 20, 8 p.m.; Thu.,

April 21, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 7, 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 8, 2 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 26, 8 p.m.;

Fri., May 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand

Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

THE ESCORT Jane Anderson's new play about a high-class call girl.

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.

Continues through May 8. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave.,

Westwood, (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature.

GEORGE GERSCHWIN, ALONE Gershwin's life and legendary songbook,

starring Hershey Felder. Starting April 19, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May

9. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

pasadenaplayhouse.org.

GOD OF CARNAGE Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia

Gay Harden, the original Broadway cast, reunite for the Los Angeles run

of Yasmina Reza's comedy of manners. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through

May 29. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772,

centertheatregroup.org.

NEW REVIEW GO GOODBYE, LOUIE ... HELLO

click to enlarge rsz_goodbyelouis.jpg

Photo by Thomas Mikusz

The

late playwright Allan Manings was blacklisted and forced to move to

Canada. There, he worked on a horse farm till 1961, when he was able to

return to Hollywood and forge a successful career in television. So it's

not surprising that he should focus on the doings of the House

Un-American Activities Committee in this, his final play. Actor-comedian

Louis Berns, née Bernstein (Alan Freeman), has reached retirement

years, and spends his days with his children, son Scott (Paul Denniston)

and bossy but loving daughter, Aimee (Maria Kress), and his lifelong

friend and fellow comic, Benjy Gordon (Steve Franken), with whom he

plays a daily gin rummy game. For much of Act 1, the play seems to be a

gentle, funny Jewish character comedy. But when Scott's journalist

friend David (Roy Vongtama) sets out to write a profile of Louie, his

research reveals that Louie was called to testify before HUAC in 1951,

and named his old friend Benjy, resulting in Benjy's being blacklisted

and the destruction of his career. When this information is revealed,

catastrophe results. John Gallogly directs a fine cast in a richly

nuanced production, with wonderful performances by Freeman and Franken

as the two old actors. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Boulevard West,

Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 8. (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org. (Neal Weaver)


GO JAMAICA, FAREWELL For some people, the American

promise lives on. Jamaican-born Debra Ehrhardt always dreamed of coming

to the United States, and in 85 animated minutes she relates how a

combination of luck and pluck enabled her to do just that. Constructed

around this single burning desire, the first part of her

autobiographical solo show tells of her formative years in Kingston as

the church-going daughter of a gentle religious mom and a Dad whose

drinking and gambling escapades frequently left his family without

furniture (his forfeited collateral) or food. In her teens, and

frustrated by bureaucratic barriers to obtaining a visa, Ehrhardt began

to look around for that magical panacea -- an American male to marry her

and carry her off to America. While all these coming-of-age anecdotes

are engaging, it is really the second half of her story that intrigues,

as it spins into a harrowing adventure filled with brothels, a

near-rape, smuggling and the CIA. Throughout, Ehrhardt assumes multiple

roles, ably shifting between characters, notwithstanding her sometimes

rapid-fire delivery, under Joel Zwick's direction. Unfortunately the

wide proscenium at this particular venue fails to foster the intimacy

that would serve this story best. (I was sitting towards the back). With

their tropical flavor Francois-Pierre Couture's set design and J. Kent

Inasy's lighting are attractive to view, but Couture's backdrop of

horizontal slats ultimately distracts our focus from the performer,

whereas Inasy's timid lighting changes don't adequately dramatize the

many transitions in her performance. (Deborah Klugman).

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April

17. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, (818) 955-8101,

falcontheatre.com.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS Man-eating-plant musical, book and lyrics by

Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken. Starting April 16, Sat., April 16, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8

p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 1. La Mirada

Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562)

944-9801.

LONESOME TRAVELER World premiere of James O'Neil's musical tour, from

the backwoods of Appalachia to the nightclubs of New York, the 1920s to

the '60s. Starting April 16, Sat., April 16, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.;

Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2

& 8 p.m. Continues through May 8. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St.,

Ventura, (805) 667-2900.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE F. Murray Abraham stars as Shylock in this

updating of Shakespeare's play, directed by Darko Tresnjak. Fri., April

15, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., April 16, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 2

p.m.; Tue., April 19, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., April 20, 2 p.m.; Thu., April 21,

7:30 p.m.; Fri., April 22, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 2 &

7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 24, 2 p.m. Santa Monica College Performing Arts

Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, (310) 434-3414,

thebroadstage.com.

[#] N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK In 2002, three UCLA students collaborate on a

racial stereotype-inspired performance piece that blends theater,

stand-up comedy, poetry and hip-hop. A scant two years later their show

has transferred to the Los Angeles Theatre Center and garners rave

reviews. Before long the trio is touring 32 states, selling out venues,

and a grassroots phenomenon is born. As part of that tour, the show with

the name people are still uncomfortable to say aloud returns to Los

Angeles for a third time since its inception. The brainchild of Rafael

Agustin, Allan Axibal and Miles Gregley, as well as their former mentors

Liesel Reinhart and Steven T. Seagle (who both direct), the show

features new additions Dionysio Basco and Jackson McQueen who, along

with Agustin, keep audiences rolling with laughter. Since the show first

opened, we have seen the rise of Obama and Sotomayor, yet we've also

seen open racial slurs from elements within the Tea Party and the

passage of SB 1070, Arizona's strict immigration law. Two steps forward,

one step back. So more than ever, we need a show that embraces,

dismantles and remixes the racial stereotypes that simmer beneath the

surface. The three actors do a fabulous job of squeezing in sentimental

moments of poignancy, but revert back to comedy before they become trite

or preachy. Reinhart and Seagle's direction keeps the actors

efficiently darting in and out of the Mondrian curtain of colored

squares that serves as backdrop, and Kristie Roldan's nimble lighting

keeps pace, even if the actors sometimes don't quite find their marks.

N.W.C. is most definitely in the house, and you'd be wise to catch them

before they're Audi once more. A Speak Theater Arts Production. (Mayank

Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 23, (818)

495-4925, nwclive.com. Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

THE PRODUCERS Mel Brookes' Tony-award-winning backstage comedy.

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through April 17. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd.

(Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, (805) 449-2787.

QUIDAM Return of Cirque du Soleil's 1996 acrobatic spectacle. (Also

at April the Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, April 27-May 1.).

Wed., April 20, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., April 21, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., April 22,

3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sat., April 23, 3:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April

24, 1 & 5 p.m. Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 300

E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 436-3636.

RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES Epic tribute to the Fab Four, direct

from Broadway. Through April 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 16, 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., April 17, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A., (213) 365-3500, broadwayla.org.

GO A RAISIN IN THE SUN When it premiered on

Broadway in 1959, Lorraine Hansberry's moral fable about class, racial

identity and black aspiration was a play perfectly pitched to the

political spirit of its time. In her depiction of South Chicago's

Younger family, and through the device of a divisive financial legacy,

Hansberry neatly collapses five generations of African-American struggle

into a stirring stage anthem potently attuned for a Civil Rights

movement then entering the climactic decade of its fight for social and

economic justice. Director Phylicia Rashad's powerful and poignant

revival makes a convincing case that, 52 years later, Hansberry's play

has lost none of its melodramatically charged punch. As the family

matriarch, Lena, L. Scott Caldwell's performance is a sterling study in

faith and fortitude, a woman bowed but unbroken by a lifetime of

selfless toil in pursuit of an elusive dream of a better life for the

extended family sharing her cramped apartment. That dream finally seems

within her grasp thanks to a ten-thousand-dollar settlement of her late

husband's life insurance policy. Instead, the windfall only aggravates

the generational divide between Lena and her bitter firebrand of a

self-absorbed son, Walter Lee (a forceful Kevin Carroll), who has his

own ideas of how to use the money to better the lot of his pregnant

wife, Ruth (Deidrie Henry) and 10-year-old son, Travis (Brandon David

Brown). The stellar ensemble shines in a production enriched by lighting

designer Elizabeth Harper and scenic designer Michael Ganio, whose

hauntingly lit tenement towers loom over the Younger household like the

crushing weight of history itself. An Ebony Repertory Theatre

production. (Bill Raden). Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through April 17, ebonyrep.org. Nate Holden Performing Arts

Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 964-9768.

NEW REVIEW SILENT SKY One of the cardinal sins in

playwriting is allowing the audience to get too far ahead of the story.

Any but the tautest of grips on the narrative leash will exact its toll

in attenuated tension and let loose the dogs of boredom. So it is with

playwright Lauren Gunderson's feminist-flavored rehabilitation of

pre-World War I Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt (Monette Magrath)

in this harmless and anodyne commission by South Coast Rep, now playing

on its main stage. In real life, Leavitt was one of Harvard astronomer

Edward Charles Pickering's all-women "human computers" engaged in

number-crunching drudgery while actual telescope time was reserved as a

bastion of male privilege. The play presents her as a poet and

frustrated dreamer whose determination to circumvent the unseen

Pickering during her off-hours condemns her to spinsterhood but results

in "Leavitt's Law," the critical astronomical yardstick that would

enable later scientists to fix our place in the limitless expanse of the

cosmos. Colette Kilroy and Amelia White lend fine support as the

heroine's closet-suffragette computer cohorts, and Nick Toren is

suitably spineless as the romantic interest who is both smitten by

Henrietta's rebellious wit and threatened by her superior intellectual

ability. Costumer David Kay Mickelsen contributes meticulous period

detail to director Anne Justine D'Zmura's sleek production, while York

Kennedy's lights and John Crawford's projections animate the evening

firmament spinning above John Iacovelli's spare, rotating turntable set.

All that moving spectacle can do little, however, to help the overly

familiar text catch up to an audience left waiting at the final blackout

for the work to add up to something greater than the sum of its wiki

facts. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Tues., Wed. & Sun., 7:30 p.m., Sat. & Sun.,

2:30 p.m., thru May 1. (714) 708-5555, scr.org. (Bill Raden)

SLOW CHILDREN CROSING Six weeks of "inappropriate humor," courtesy

the sketch-comedy troupe. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15. King

King, 6555 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (323) 960-9234,

kingkinghollywood.com.

THE SUNSHINE BOYS Dick Van Dyke stars with his brother Jerry in Neil

Simon's vaudeville comedy. Through April 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 16, 6

p.m.; Sun., April 17, 5 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/164876. Malibu

Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 589-1998.

SWIMMY, FREDERICK, AND INCH BY INCH Puppet show based on the stories

of Leo Lionni, presented by Nova Scotia's Mermaid Theatre. Sat., April

16, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255

Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu.

THE THREE SISTERS Staged reading of Chekhov's family drama, to be

recorded for L.A. Theatre Works' radio series. Through April 15, 8 p.m.;

Sat., April 16, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889,

latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood,

skirball.org.

THE UGLY DUCKLING Interactive kids' musical by Lloyd J. Schwartz and

Adryan Russ. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 9, (818) 761-2203.

Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., theatrewest.org.

THE VISIT Staged reading of Friedrich Durenmatt's 1956 play on

justice and morality. Sun., April 17, 7 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga

Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.

WAITING FOR GODOT Samuel Beckett's existentialist classic.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1.

Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014,

lbph.com.

GO A WEEKEND WITH PABLO PICASSO Sitting half-naked

in a cardboard box painted to resemble a bathtub, Herbert Siguenza

launches into an imagined weekend in the life of Pablo Picasso in a

manner that seems entirely fitting: balls out. Siguenza ― a painter and

impassioned fan of Picasso who's known for his work in the performance

group Culture Clash ― bases his solo show on a collection of utterances

by the mercurial, prolific co-founder of the Cubist movement, setting it

in the artist's studio on the coast of France in 1957. Tasked with

creating six paintings and three vases in less than three days, Picasso,

at the age of 76, becomes a whirling dervish of work and wild

philosophizing. Though the countless famous quotes (including many

heavy-handed statements about love, war and politics) and the

protagonist's streak of two dozen Eureka moments in 90 minutes sometimes

lends an air of staginess to the work, getting to watch Siguenza paint,

prowl the stage and lovingly channel the spirit of an eccentric icon

more than makes up for the moments of inauthenticity. Scenic designer

Giulio Cesare Perrone creates an art studio fit for a legend and

Victoria Petrovich's projection design synchs perfectly with the

boldness of Siguenza's performance. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1. Los Angeles Theater

Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

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

ATTACK OF THE 50 FT. SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings

Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose

Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.

GO THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT 2050 Stories about

dystopian societies often risk seeming contrived, but playwright Tania

Wisbar's beautifully detailed and elegiac tale depicts a world that

might believably exist, say, 100 years after a Nazi takeover. In the

future, poverty and disease have been eliminated, but the world is

instead organized on entirely practical lines, with your right to

survive being decided by the number of "points" you earn every year. On

the 75th birthday of family matriarch Teresa (Salome Jens), her devoted

daughter Marsha (Elyssa Davalos) thinks she has collected enough points

from her two sisters and family to allow Teresa to live another year.

More than just being the emotional center of her clan, Teresa is one of

the last living rebels who recalls life before the odious new order came

to pass. Marsha's hopes are threatened when unexpected complications

amp up the charge for Teresa's right to life. In director Jonathan

Sanger's beautifully melancholy staging, what could be a mechanical

exercise in high-concept plotting becomes a wistful tale of how easy it

would be to purge memory of the past from the world. Sanger's smoothly

executed production boasts many rich details: Set designer Kis Knekt's

calculatedly sterile living room is replete with decorative video

screens that show 1984-esque messages from the genially sinister

bureaucrat (Jeffrey Doornbos) who oversees the family's doings. Knekt's

set, in conjunction with composer Karen Martin's eerie incidental music,

crafts a world that's just plain crazy. The ensemble work is just as

assured. Apart from Jens' powerful turn as the ferociously nonconforming

grandmother, Davalos' complex performance as Marsha is exceptional: Her

character is seemingly an upbeat chirper, but her good mood is so

clearly artificial, it seems as though she's always about to weep. Also

engaging in supporting roles are Katrina Lenk, as Marsha's venomously

selfish younger sister, and Demetrius Grosse, as a guilt-haunted

security agent. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7

p.m. Continues through April 17, (323) 960-7733, plays411.com. Skylight

Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

BLINK & YOU MIGHT MISS ME You've seen Larry Blum before ― in

fact, I'd bet $20 bucks you've seen Blum on TV a dozen times. But unless

you know who you're looking for, you might not have noticed him. When

his one-man show about his career opens with footage of Meryl Streep's

2010 Golden Globes win and Blum struts out and asks, "Did you notice who

took Meryl to the stage?" the audience does a double take. Blum is an

on-camera talent escort, a hired gun who makes sure no star snaps a

stiletto on her way to accept an award. Before that, he was a dancer,

and earlier still he was a celebrity-obsessed gay Jewish teen in late

'60s New York who lost his virginity to a sailor in an alley behind a

Nestle truck. ("Every time I have a cup of cocoa, I still get hard," he

reminisces.) Blum's good-humored, self-deprecating show has the patter

of a dinner party guest who's told his stories a few too many times, and

director Stan Zimmerman could get Blum's one-liners to sound more

off-the-cuff. Still, Blum's got bite and it's lucky for him that among

the many, many stars he dishes dirt about, at least half are dead or too

old to bother calling a lawyer (Roseanne Barr, Raquel Welch and Dionne

Warwick should stay away). Though in his youth he hoped to become

famous, Blum doesn't paint himself as a has-been, never-was or will-be.

He's proud to pay his rent by pursuing his dream ― and by being a

shameless residual check hound who even joined Susan Lucci's fan club to

make sure he made every nickel from taking Lucci's arm during her big

Emmy win. (He elbowed her husband out of the way for the honor.) Blum's

cascade of quick clips keeps multimedia operator Matthew Quinn busy as

they stack up to build a scrapbook of the busiest actor you'd never

recognize. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27,

(323) 960-7612, plays411.com/blink. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A.,

theatreasylum-la.com.

"bonded" Bolstered by director Jon Lawrence Rivera's unadorned, precise

vision, Act 1 of Donald Jolly's homoerotic slave narrative set on a

Virginia plantation in 1820 is a piece of earnest, thought-provoking

theater. Jolly's frank but lovely storytelling graces the genre with

fresh insights about the lives of slaves, traveling beyond the

dehumanizing stories of sexual abuse and unspeakable human violence

penned so powerfully in the firsthand accounts of Frederick Douglass and

Harriet Jacobs, taking us instead to a slightly reimagined slice of the

old South, where sexual freedom becomes nearly as urgent as freedom

from human ownership. Sonny (Terrence Colby Clemons), Lily (Toyin Moses)

and Jack (Carl Crudup) are the last remaining slaves on a rapidly

crumbling Virginia plantation. Enter Asa (Eric B. Anthony), a New York

"house boy," whom the three plantation slaves quickly dub "new nigger."

Accustomed to fetching cocktails and completing other indoor chores, Asa

melts down after being shackled and scrubbed, whipped by Jack (a

70-something, self-proclaimed "true African" who wants to keep the

uppity Northerner in his place) and forced to keep impossibly long hours

plowing fields. When Sonny and Asa begin to bond emotionally, sexual

tensions arise and eventually explode. Sadly, Act 2 is a bundle of

redundancies, a drawn-out series of melodramatic manipulations that

don't do justice to the first act's promise. Bob Blackburn's sound

design, Adam Blumenthal's lighting and John H. Binkley's set serve the

story well. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 3

p.m. Continues through April 17, playwrightsarena.org. Los Angeles

Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.

Cabaret: DOMA Theatre Co.'s sexed-up take on the Kander-Ebb musical.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 22,

(323) 960-5773, plays411.com/cabaret. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave.,

L.A., theMETtheatre.com.

GO CABARET IDOL "There's nothing better to watch

than a performer who loves to perform, except two good-looking people

having sex," says host Scot Young. And in week four of season two of

this live competition, Young and the packed crowd of fans, friends and

family watched 14 performers anxiously take the stage and sing a number

for the judges. At the end of the evening there were 12 survivors,

another cull in the quest for the grand prize: new head shots, a

management contract and a two-night solo show. The performance's theme

was, perversely, "No Show Tunes," which had the contestants in

paroxysms. Said one without a hint of sarcasm, "There really aren't that

many songs that aren't show tunes!" But try they did, belting out

Broadway-esque versions of Journey and Whitesnake and Cyndi Lauper

before a scoring panel that didn't let them off the hook. "I want you to

do a damn country song," grumbled a judge in mock exasperation. There

were some good voices -- and a few great ones -- but the audience was

there to tap their toes, vote for their favorites and maybe even grab

some dinner or a stiff drink if they could flag down one of the waiters

zipping around in the standing-room-only dark. (Amy Nicholson). Sundays,

7 p.m. Continues through April 24. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill,

6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 466-9917.

GO CAUGHT In the aftermath of Proposition 8

passing in November 2008, one of the regrets of those who fought

valiantly for gay marriage and against the proposition was that enough

wasn't done to "normalize" gay couples. And while the events in David L.

Ray's world-premiere play take place in July 2008, Caught furthers the

cause by dramatizing one of those healthy relationships. In it,

Angelenos Kenneth (Corey Brill) and Troy (Will Beinbrink) are on the eve

of their nuptials, a ceremony that will be officiated by their friend

Splenda (Micah McCain), who is ordained via the Internet. This blissful

scene is interrupted by a visit from Kenneth's estranged sister, Darlene

(Deborah Puette), who is very Southern and very Christian, as well as

her daughter, Krystal (Amanda Kaschak). In the interludes between

scenes, we also see Darlene's husband, T.J. (Richard Jenik), preaching

to his conservative congregation in Georgia. Secrets, lies and

surprising revelations fuel the drama. Director Nick DeGruccio deftly

takes Ray's strong and likable characters from page to stage, sparingly

playing up stereotypes for comedy without ever reducing the characters

to them. Adding to the authenticity are Adam Flemming's delightfully

detailed set and Katherine Hampton Noland's colorful couture. Adding to

the emotional investment in the story is a talented cast; standouts

include Puette, for her rich and intense portrayal of Darlene; McCain,

for balancing divalike comedy with deep sincerity; and Kaschak, for

combining fresh-faced innocence and a willfulness to create a very

believable teenager. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, (800) 595-4849,

CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

COPENHAGEN Black Cat Productions presents Michael Frayn's

"exploration of history, science and the human spirit." Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 23, (323)

960-4420, plays411.com/copenhagen. The Attic Theatre and Film Center,

5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., attictheatre.org/tickets.

CURSE OF THE STARVING CLASS Newly revised version of Sam Shepard's

surreal comic melodrama about the end of the American Dream. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 4. Open Fist

Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

DOUG LOVES MOVIES Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., (323) 908-8702.

THE ELEPHANT MAN Just minutes into director John Drouillard's

revival of Bernard Pomernace's 1979 drama, a man in a worn hospital gown

whose face is fixed in an expressionless stare is introduced as John

Merrick and then shuffled off the stage. Not long afterwards, Mr.

Merrick (John Hoagland) is on display, with his grotesque deformities

itemized in a frosty, clinical manner to an audience of gawkers after

undergoing a breathtaking transformation into the "Elephant Man." The

contrast is a nice turn by Drouillard; the fact that it's also an

intensely unsettling moment is a tribute to the genius and artistry of

the play's make up designer, Barney Burman. The play chronicles the

final stages of Merrick's life after he is given permanent shelter at

the London Hospital Medical College and placed under the care of Dr.

Frederick Treves (Alex Monti Fox). The play isn't so much about

Merrick's condition and dehumanizing "thingification" as much as it is

about the transformative effect he had on those closest to him and our

often cynical sense of morality. Though neatly-packaged, Drouillard's

production lacks the requisite emotional resonance; too often it feels

as if we too are dispassionate examiners of Merrick's plight instead of

being emotionally drawn into it. On balance, cast performances are quite

good. Sean Hoagland is impressive as Merrick, and Hillary Herbert does a

wonderful turn as Mrs. Kendall, the actress and caretaker who provides

Merrick with genuine tenderness. The complex relationship between

Merrick and Treves is the soul of this play, but Fox is convincing only

in patches, and seems completely out of his depth for this enormously

critical role. Vali Tirsoaga has fashioned a simple yet effective set

design, and Pheobe H. Boynton's costumes are equally well-crafted.

(Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7

p.m. Continues through April 24, theelephantmanplay.com. El Centro

Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..

GO ENDGAME A successful staging of Samuel

Beckett's absurdist classic requires a director who can mine the play's

comic and lyrical elements, and effectively meld them with the author's

relentlessly harsh vision. Here, director Paul Plunkett does just that,

aided by an excellent cast which maintains that crucial balance

throughout. Endgame is about four pitiful characters trapped in a dismal

room as the outside world collapses in decay and sterility. Unlike the

forlorn tramps in Waiting for Godot, there is no expectation of relief

or purpose, just the slow passage of time ending in an inevitable,

painful demise. Confined in a pair of battered, industrial containers,

the ghoulish-looking Nagg and Nell (Barry Ford and the striking Kathy

Bell Denton) emerge sporadically to break the tedium of the central

"action," which unfolds on a rickety caricature of a throne. There, the

blind, crippled Hamm (Leon Russom) is unable to move and has his needs

tended to by the perpetually besieged Clov (David Fraioli), in a

bizarre, ongoing ritual of servitude. When, toward the end, Hamm asks

about his painkiller, and is told by Clov that there isn't any more, we

know that, for this outing anyway, the laughs are balm enough. As

effective as Plunkett's direction is, this fine revival really soars on

the wings of the cast's terrific performances. (Lovell Estell III).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m. Continues through

April 23. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310)

281-8337, sacredfools.org.

FACEBOOK The weekly show formerly known as MySpace. Wednesdays, 9:30

p.m., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.,

(323) 908-8702.

FIVE BY TENN One-Act Festival: Five short plays by Tennessee

Williams. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through

May 1. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 467-6688,

theatre68.com.

GO GIRLS TALK Roger Kumble's new seriocomedy sets

out to debunk that famous feminist promise that women can have it all --

the career, the family and their sanity. As lights go up on a beached

Brooke Shields, a milk pump attached to each breast, Kumble softens up

his audience with broad comic strokes and entertainment industry

in-jokes. He even pokes fun at racism before settling in to a serious

examination of four power moms in Brentwood, and the dilemmas they face.

As mother of three Lori, Shields shows up in a pink hoodie and Uggs,

but pretty soon sky-high wedge heels and hefty designer handbags take

over the stage (costumes by Ann Closs-Farley). She slobs about the

solid, trilevel set (design by Tom Buderwitz) as the other, more

pretentious moms arrive. Meanwhile Lori's former writing partner, Claire

(Constance Zimmer), wants to lure her back to the cutthroat world of TV

with an irresistible opportunity -- a meeting with Oprah herself. But

what about Lori's commitments to her eldest kid's preschool fundraiser?

Eileen Galindo is underused as Lori's uncomprehending temp nanny. Andrea

Bendewald is magnificent as alpha mom Jane, especially when she

unleashes her vicious tongue, completely annihilating Scarlett (Nicole

Paggi), the needy Southern mom who is trying so hard to be Jewish

("Holla for challa!"). But Jane gets her comeuppance, courtesy of

Claire, a fearless non-mom. This play is full of squabbly little

victories, some distasteful, some victorious. It concludes abruptly on a

cliffhanger, but by then Kumble has well and truly made his point.

(Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues

through May 7, (800) 595-4849, tix.com. Lee Strasberg Institute,

Marilyn Monroe Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

GO GLORY DAYS The thing about the Golden Age of

one's life is that when it's happening you think it will never change --

but somehow it always does, and rarely for the better. Composer Nick

Blaemire and writer John Gardiner's unusually wise and energetic musical

is all about the inevitability of growing up and how we frequently

outgrow even our most valued friends. A year after high school

graduation, four small town pals reunite on the local football field,

intending to perform a silly prank at the next day's varsity game. Group

ringleader Will (Derek Klena) is deeply nostalgic about his friendship

with his old pals, all of whom remember him fondly but have moved on:

Wisecracking cynic Skip (Alex Robert Holmes) is attending an Ivy League

college, while strong, silent Jack (Ian Littleworth) appears to have

lost his zest for the old pals. Only red-haired frat boy Andy (Matthew

Koehler) seems to be interested in keeping the friendship going, and

he's turning into a bit of a thug. Things take a turn when one of the

pals makes an unexpected revelation that pretty much reduces the

friendship to post-it-in-the-memory album status. Director Calvin

Remsberg's brisk, vivid staging beautifully conveys the passion and

vigor of youth -- and musical director James May's lively interpretation

of Blaemire's sometimes haunting, sometimes ferocious rock musical

score, artfully captures that moment when silly teenagers suddenly

realize they're becoming somebody else. This is indeed the sort of show

in which the four characters, archetype man-boys all, could easily have

strayed into sentimental cliché, but the ensemble limn the sort of

tautly defined, personality-rich figures whom you will swear you recall

from your own high school days. Klena, a likable young actor, possesses a

powerhouse voice and his belts, particularly in the opening and closing

numbers, show great range and harmony. Nicely sensitive turns are also

offered by Holmes's sardonic, but warm Skip (a Jughead surrogate if ever

there was one), and by Littleworth, whose rendition of "Open Road," a

song about a year spent wandering the country, is the show's evocative

highlight. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through April 24, (323) 960-7792, plays411.com/glorydays.

Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A..

GO GROUNDLINGS SINGLES CRUISE Sketches by the

Groundlings' "A" cast of master improv artists reliably fall into three

categories: "inspired" -- in which all the right notes of exaggeration,

situation and universal recognition ignite an uncontrolled chain

reaction of belly laughs; "merely great" -- in which an incisive

caricature carries the potential for critical comedy frisson but melts

down before the finish; and "back to the workshop" -- or not recommended

for public viewing at this time. Fortunately, this edition racks up

enough of the first and so few of the last that it warrants a medical

warning for laugh-induced abdominal cramps. At the top of the heap are

the pieces that bear the writing credits of Andrew Friedman, Michael

Naughton or Mitch Silpa. In "Honeymoon," Friedman and Silpa's irritating

preteen ghost twins, Kevin and Kyle, hilariously connect the horrors of

The Shining to the hauntings of Eros-deflating parenting. With

"Q&A," Naughton and Friedman expertly excoriate the absurd

insipidity of play readings and those who attend them. "The Terrys"

features Jillian Bell and Silpa striking satiric pay dirt in the surreal

fashion faux pas and entertainment non sequiturs perpetrated by TV

comedy variety shows of the early '70s. Charlotte Newhouse, Lisa

Schurga, Jill Matson-Sachoff and Edi Patterson all shine in respective

leaps into the perverse depths of depraved feminine grotesquerie. And

director Mikey Day keeps it all moving at a comedy-conducive clip ...

not counting the tediously long scene blackouts, when audiences must

bide their time with the tasty licks of musical director Willie Etra and

his jam-seasoned band. (Bill Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8

& 10 p.m. Continues through April 23. Groundling Theater, 7307

Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.

HAMLET Shakespeare's tragedy set in modern times, presented by Player

King Productions. Starting April 18, Mondays, Tuesdays, Sundays, 7:30

p.m. Continues through May 10, (310) 909-8629,

brownpapertickets.com/event/166103. Belle Varado Studios/Stage 22, 2107

Bellevue Ave., L.A..

HELL MONEY To attend Ruth McKee's comedy of young, unglamorous

poverty, you take an elevator up six floors to a small, one-room loft

that places you squarely in the apartment of Katie (Elia Saldana) and

Julie (Jennifer Chang). Well, sort of small ― it's the "Friends-style

version that's more than the ten by ten they could afford," cautions the

company's rep during a pre-show announcement. The girls, 19 and freshly

out of the foster care system, are so broke they live on ketchup and

ramen, but they've got big dreams ― at least Julie does ― of graduating

college and defying their low expectations. McKee flirts with deeper

emotions, like Julie's fear of abandonment and distrust of men ― when

she pulls a knife on their neighbor Norman (Ewan Chung) and warns the

beautiful, brainless Katie against dating, we sense the pain in her

past. But the comedy, directed by Jen Bloom, is all shriek and little

substance, a loud melodrama, with an edge of menace from Burt Mosely's

turn as a Nigerian drug dealer who put Katie through basic training as a

hospital orderly so she could steal him pills. There's a sneaking

suspicion that Saldana is a deft comedian, but there's so much shouting

that it's hard to tell. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 24, chalkrep.com. Agenda Loft,

400 South Main Street, Studio 601, L.A., (213) 626-0071, agendaloft.com.

Hitchcocked: Improv inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, directed

by Patrick Bristow. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 7, (323)

960-7612, plays411.com/hitchcocked. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A.,

theatreasylum-la.com.

A HOUSE NOT MEANT TO STAND Empty butterscotch wrappers scattered on a

cheap coffee table, an afghan in shades of brown clutching a grubby

couch, an old Christmas-themed popcorn tin catching one of the ceiling's

countless leaks -- Misty Carlisle's prop design is so on-target, if she

isn't from the South, she must have spent summers there. Yet her

efforts, and Jeff McLaughlin's picture-perfect set, can't save the soul

of this production of Tennessee Williams' tragicomedy. The premise is

dyed-in-the-wool Williams: Hard-driving father Cornelius (Alan

Blumenfeld) and his regressed-from-depression wife, Bella (Sandy

Martin), arrive home from burying their gay son in Memphis. ("You

encouraged him to design clothes [and] try 'em on," Cornelius berates

his wife.) Their youngest, kinda sneaky, kinda sweet son (Daniel Billet)

is home (after losing another job) with a similarly out-of-work

girlfriend (Virginia Newcomb). The play, Williams' last, isn't his best;

soliloquies directed at the audience weaken the action and disrupt the

script's flow. But in not clearly revealing the kind of seminal

Williams-esque conflict between a deep well of despair and the

near-instinctual impulse to hide anything unpleasant, director Simon

Levy has ignored the desperate sadness here, turning the play into a

carnival of caricatures. Fortunately, Lisa Richards, a cougar before the

term even existed, soft-pedals her approach as a nosy neighbor, and her

scene near the end with Bella is the first in the production that

intrigues. The real shame, in fact, is that Martin's performance as the

mentally clouded yet still feisty Bella is stranded in this production.

Tennessee Williams always saved his best for his women, and Martin more

than does him justice. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22, $25-$35; $18 students.

Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525,

fountaintheatre.com.

NEW REVIEW THE HUMAN VOICE (LA VOX HUMAINE)

click to enlarge rsz_humanvoice.jpg

Photo by Ed Krieger

The

old Tin Pan Alley tune "Hello! Ma Baby" (more recently popularized by

the singing frog in the Warner Bros. cartoons) might be an appropriate

score for this 1930 Jean Cocteau play in which an unnamed Woman feels

trapped in a room with a telephone that is a lifeline to her physically

and emotionally distant lover. Adding to the Woman's slow devolution is a

shoddy connection that both drops her call multiple times and crosses

wires with other conversations. Lady Gaga, she is not. She wants her

lover on that telephone. She needs him on that telephone. Badly. Yet

what Cocteau wrote as an exploration of the human voice (as well as a

showcase for the divas of his day) here at times sounds more like an

extended Verizon commercial. "Can you hear me now?" Yes, but what are

you saying and why should we be invested in it? Speaking in a typewriter

staccato and landing on her words with labored deliberateness, actress

Ho-Jung has a hard time consistently demonstrating the heightened

emotion necessary to bring the piece to life. Director Dan Bonnell

perhaps errs too far on the side of subtlety, failing to elicit that

desperation from her. At the same time, Anthony Wood's translation may

be partially responsible for trite expressions of love torn asunder,

which undermine the depths of sorrow in Cocteau's original. At least set

designer Melissa Ficociello's room nearly collapsing on itself -- with

its sea-foam-blue walls, which resemble dirty clouds -- is a clever nod

to both period hues and the Woman's situation. A Bunch of Artists

Production. Elephant Space Theater, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru April 24. (323) 960-7863, Plays411.com/humanvoice. (Mayank Keshaviah)

I GET KNOCKED DOWN . . . When writer-performer Evan McNamara first

appears in this one-man show, he's wearing a T-shirt that reads "ARISE"

and pointy elf ears. He is, he tells us, a member of an elf clan, and

his sister, Raven, is a vampire who for years drained him of vitality.

He then assumes the role of a Guardian Angel who revels in his own

self-esteem. "God loves me," he claims, "because I make heaven look so

cool." The elf tells about the woman he loved, hard-hearted Hannah, who

married him and bore him two children, but then announced she'd been

unfaithful from the start. We then meet Evan's other suffering alter

egos: a prisoner shackled till he frees himself through an act of will, a

martyr who embraces his pain, a scholar who alternates between raging

against his fate and philosophic acceptance, a clown who wraps himself

in a cloak of protective humor, and a hipster in stylish shades who

doesn't contribute much to the story. McNamara is an appealing and

energetic actor, but his bromidic ending is announced (self-knowledge is

the key) rather than dramatized, so the show, though pleasant, seems

both short (40 minutes) and slight. Director John Coppola might have

been wise to insist on more substance. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24,

igetknockeddown.eventbrite.com. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A., (323) 988-1175.

I NEVER SANG FOR MY FATHER The New American Theatre (formerly Circus

Theatricals) presents Robert Anderson's 1968 family drama. Starting

April 16, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 3 p.m.; Sun., May

22, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (310) 701-0788,

NewAmericanTheatre.com. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl.,

L.A., mccaddentheatre.com.

IN THE AGES OF THE EARTH A new performance by Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Fridays, 11:30 p.m. Continues through April 30. Working Stage Theater,

1516 N. Gardner St., L.A., (323) 851-2603, workingstage.com.

JUST IMAGINE Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including

performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays,

8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 24, (323) 960-4442.

Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free.

1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

L.A. VIEWS IV SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 1. Company of Angels Theater, 501

S. Spring St., L.A., (323) 883-1717.

GO LA RAZON BLINDADA (THE ARMORED REASON) How does

a prisoner survive without hope? Writer/director Aristides Vargas drew

inspiration for this poignantly horrific black comedy from the

experience of his brother, a political prisoner in Argentina during that

country's military dictatorship. Confined in solitary, prisoners were

permitted a brief respite on Sunday, when they could meet and talk,

albeit while remaining seated and with their hands on the table. That

setup provides the physical framework for this luminously surreal

80-minute one-act in which two incarcerated men come together to

role-play -- one calling himself De La Mancha (Jesus Castanos Chima), the

other Panza (Arturo Diaz de Sandy). The actors remain seated

throughout, navigating across the stage on wooden chairs with wheels.

Within these loosely assumed personae, the pair frolic through a

hallucinatory landscape, clowning their way through speculations about

madness, sanity, heroism and human bonding, and conjuring an elaborate

fantasy of regency over an island that brilliantly mocks the nature of

power. In the end, the aim of the game is survival -- not as rational

beings, because reality would be too painful, but as madmen whose lunacy

frees them from the shame of powerlessness. The performances are

consummate and the staging, as eloquent as the text, features a

videographed landscape over which their sunken shadows pass, and Faure's

Elegie for Violoncello and Orchestra to underscore the pathos. (Deborah

Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30. 24th Street

Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A., (800) 838-3006,

www.brownpapertickets.org.

LUST 'N RUST The Trailer Park Musical: A new musical by Frank Haney,

Carol Kimball & Dave Stratton about relationships and our troubled

economy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m.; Sun., April

24, 7 p.m. Continues through April 30. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea

Ave., L.A., lyrictheatrela.com.

MAGIC STRINGS Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet

horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at

the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30

p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W.

First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

NEW REVIEW MASSACRE (SING TO YOUR CHILDREN) At the

start of Jose Rivera's mystical melodrama, the room goes black for 60

seconds of offstage screaming. Like the play that follows, it's a bold

idea that can't resist going deadeningly over the top. Seven murderers

-- four men, three women -- tumble into the room, covered in blood,

clutching machetes and crowbars and pipes and knives, and vibrating with

the rush of killing Joe, the tyrant who has spent five years

terrorizing their small American town. But their chest bumps and

self-congratulations quickly fade into the quiet fear of realizing that,

sans scapegoat, they now have to think for themselves -- and worse,

take ownership over whatever miseries befall them. (Surely they can't be

any worse than Joe, who has raped the women, killed the children and

slashed the population by a third.) This is a heightened world staged

too casually by Richard Martinez, who plunks this gory metaphor in a

suburban rec room and encourages his cast to pivot from slang to grand

speechifying. It's as though the play and this production are so

concerned with the big strokes that all the details are scrambled: The

characters are inconsistent and their relationships murky. Minutes after

one growls to another that they don't know each other and should keep

it that way, a cheery five-year flashback to before the Reign of Joe

makes the gang look as tight as the cast of Friends. And it's worth

noting that only the men get the good speeches -- while they recant

their painful stories, the ladies just give them massages. Underlying it

all is: How culpable are we in our own captivity? Rivera burns with the

need to demand an answer but douses his own flames. An Urban Theatre

Movement production. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place,

Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru May 15. (323) 369-0571, urbantheatremovement.com. (Amy Nicholson)

MAXWELL STREET Cake Theatre Center presents Willard Manus' story of a

venerable Chicago bluesman and the white kid who idolizes him. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, noon. Continues through May 1. Barbara

Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan Blvd., Ste. 101, L.A.,

(310) 330-0178.

THE MERCY SEAT Neil LaBute, a writer renowned for his lacerating

portraits of narcissistic cads and the arrested adolescent within,

doesn't exactly spring to mind when one speaks of a "9/11 play." So it

comes as something of a relief that this 2002 drama set in lower

Manhattan on the day after the terrorist attacks is less concerned with

collapsing office towers than it is with the imploding illusions of its

feuding pair of illicit lovers. In fact, the only disaster in sight

turns out to be of the emotional kind. The curtain opens on Ben (Johnny

Clark), a husband and father so paralyzed by callow self-pity and

passive-aggressive guilt that he is unable to answer his incessantly

ringing cell phone or move from his armchair for nearly the entire play.

Turns out that he was only spared from dying in the conflagration

because he skipped a meeting at Ground Zero for an early-morning

assignation with his boss and mistress, Abby (Michelle Clunie), at her

luxury loft. When Ben compounds his callous indifference to the loss of

life outside by cynically seizing on his own presumed death in a scheme

to abandon his family and run off with her, Abby is finally jolted into a

belated reappraisal of their three-year affair. Clunie all but steals

the show with an artfully nuanced performance that galvanizes Abby's

tough exterior with affecting currents of wounded vulnerability and

frustrated yearning. Unfortunately, with the exception of exhilarating

flourishes provided by Derrick McDaniel's poetic lights, director Ron

Klier's staging is so weighted down by Danny Cistone's distractingly

overelaborate and hyperrealistic set that the production rarely achieves

LaBute's intended metaphoric lift. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 24. [Inside] the Ford,

2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A., (323) 461-3673, fordtheatres.org.

THE MOTOR TRADE Alex Morris and Dan Martin star in Norm Foster's

"black comedy." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues

through April 24. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323)

422-6361, theatretheater.net.

GO THE NEXT FAIRY TALE Writer-composer Brian

Pugach uses a fractured fairy tale to deliver a message of tolerance and

acceptance. Four Fairy Godmothers assemble, under the direction of

their den mother/director Minerva (a formidable Gina Torrecilla), to

create a new fairy tale. The Magic Mirror (campy and flouncy Charls

Sedgwick Hall) announces that the hero of the new tale is to be Prince

Copernicus (sweetly sappy Christopher Maikish), who doesn't believe in

fighting: His weapons are smiles and hugs. When homophobic Minerva

learns that Copernicus' true love is another male, Prince Helio (Patrick

Gomez), she's appalled and determined to foil their match, lest the

world's children be corrupted by a gay fairy tale. She assigns him Hazel

(Rachel Genevieve), the most incompetent of the fairy godmothers, to

ensure his failure and employs magic spells (including a poisoned apple)

to stop him. Director Michael A. Shepperd stages Pugach's goofy musical

with an engaging faux naivete, ably assisted by a lively ensemble and

richly enhanced by Raffel Sarabia's whimsical fairy-tale costumes. (Neal

Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through

May 8. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323)

957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

ORINOCO: Bilingual Actors Repertory Theater Company presents Emilio

Carballido's comedy. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30,

(323) 401-5139 or (323) 462-6203, bartcousa.com. Stages Theatre Center,

1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A..

PLAY DATES Sam Wolfson's offbeat love story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 1, (323) 960-7784,

plays411.com/playdates. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

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). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866)

811-4111, www.theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A., thedragonfly.com.

POSTMODERN FAMILY Sketch comedy by Rob Belushi, Andy Cobb, Celeste

Pechous, David Pompeii and Katie Neff. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through

June 24. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second

Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

QUICK AND IN MY ARMS/ENDLESS NIGHT Two plays by Peter Roth, presented

by Fresh Baked Theatre Company. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues

through April 30, brownpapertickets.com. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford

Ave., L.A., (323) 957-1152, theMETtheatre.com.

GO RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL Re-Animator: The

Musical is based on Stuart Gordon's 1985 film, and Gordon is on hand to

direct the new musical. The centerpiece is a love story (of course)

that's a joke on every love story ever written. Idealistic young

hospital intern Dan Cain (Chris L. McKenna) has a poor time accepting

the death of patients. Standing by a gurney, over the body of a woman

who has flatlined, Dan administers CPR in vain, prodding her with

electro pads, until the chorus of medics has to sing, "She's dead,

Dan/Get it through your head, Dan." His distress over the cessation of

life becomes an obsession that threatens his impending marriage to

beautiful Meg Halsey (Rachel Avery), daughter of the local university's

dean (George Wendt). Big Dean Halsey is an amiable, conservative fellow

who's accepting of Dan as a potential son-in-law, despite his lack of

old-money social credentials. Well, amiable until he's accidentally

murdered, as he later interrupts a gooey romantic interlude between Meg

and Dan by crashing through the door as a psychotic zombie. The romance

is wrapped around a conflict between dueling scientists: self-proclaimed

plagiarist Dr. Hill (Jesse Merlin, in a mop wig, whose pinched facial

expressions would creep out the most openhearted social worker) and a

newcomer to Hill's lab, Herbert West (Graham Skipper, possessing the

salty charm -- and costume -- of an embittered undertaker). While Hill

drools over Meg, West rents a room from Dan (since Meg won't move in

until they're wed). When the romantic couple's pet cat disappears, then

ghoulishly reappears post-mortem via West's experiments (props by Jeff

Rack), Dan enters a Faust-like partnership with West, seeing the

potential fulfillment of his God-defying desire to harness the science

of immortality. Mark Nutter's music and very witty lyrics (recalling

songs by Tom Lehrer) careen from modern opera to light opera, from

melodramatic wailing to -- when the story gets really gruesome -- Gilbert

and Sullivanstyle patter songs. The special effects (by Tony Doublin,

John Naulin, John Buechler, Tom Devlin and Greg McDougall), such as a

body decapitated with a shovel and intestines unstrung from a corpse,

are about as good as it gets -- gory without being so naturalistic as to

bypass parody. The keys to this kingdom, however, are the combination of

the brilliant comic ensemble and Gordon's pristine craftsmanship as a

director, supplemented by Jeff Ravitz's lighting and musical

director/arranger Peter Adams' building of suspense. Adams performs the

score on a synthesizer tucked into the side of the hall, creating the

slightly cheesy ambiance that's the life force of Grand Guignol. (Steven

Leigh Morris). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800)

595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773

Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

RENT Jonathan Larson's Tony Award-winner about the lives of

idealistic starving artists, living in the squalor of Manhattan's Hell's

Kitchen, is much better suited for presentation in a small theater than

one of those cavernous Broadway houses. A more intimate venue, like the

comparatively modest Hudson Backstage theater that director Jerianne

Banson uses in her otherwise uneven production, allows the audience to

better connect with the characters and the music. Banson's

intermittently chaotic staging crackles with the very, vital passion of

youth. Some of the show, however, is an exercise in what happens when a

great deal of enthusiasm collides with a lack of leavening experience.

Larson's musical concerns a group of Hell's Kitchen bohemians, residing

either on the means streets or in a filthy cold loft, who try to make

ends meet while staying faithful to their beloved art. Young filmmaker

Mark (Anthony Michael Knott) finds himself in a bizarre love triangle

when his girlfriend leaves him for another woman - while Mark's aspiring

songwriter roommate Roger (Matt Pick) falls for beautiful, but unwell

stripper Mimi (Dominique Cox). Apart from the show's most obvious

question -- how do these kids afford wraparound head microphones, but not

hot water -- the strength of director Banson's production is totally

connected to the vivacity of her youthful cast and their unabashed love

for the material. On the other hand, Shoshona Zisk's musical direction

frequently falters: Although some of the songs are powerful --

particularly Pick and Cox's meet-cute number "Light My Candle," many of

the other numbers suffer from maladroit execution and weak harmonics.

Notwithstanding the performers' omnipresent mics, the band frequently

upstages the singing, drowning out the performers, who are forced to

sing-holler louder to compensate. The show is double cast. (Paul

Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through

April 23, (323) 960-7822, plays411.com/rent. Hudson Backstage Theatre,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., hudsontheatre.com.

THE REVEREND'S GOOD WIFE Towne Street Theatre presents a reading of

Felton Perry's comedy. Tue., April 19, 7:30 p.m., (213) 624-4796, RSVP

to info@townestreet.org. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

L.A..

RIDING THE MIDNIGHT EXPRESS WITH BILLY HAYES The author of Midnight

Express, who was held captive in a Turkish prison for five years,

retells the story in own words. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May

12, (323) 960-4442, plays411.com. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.,

thehayworth.com.

SERIAL KILLERS Late-night serialized stories, voted on by the

audience to determine which ones continue. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues

through April 23. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.,

(310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.

SEX, RELATIONSHIPS AND SOMETIMES . . . LOVE Monologues on all of the

above, by Joelle Arqueros. Thursdays, 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Continues

through May 12, (323) 769-5566. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A., www.complexhollywood.com.

SHOE STORY Ben Snyder's look at the dark side of New York shoe

culture in the 1980s, where a new pair of sneakers could cost you your

life. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May

22. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A., (323) 856-8611,

theatreofnote.com.

SIGNS OF LIFE The Little Theater L.A. presents Deborah Brevoort's

"comic meditation on faith, doubt and spirituality." Fridays, Saturdays,

8 p.m. Continues through April 16. The Black Box Theater, 12420 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A..

GO SMALL ENGINE REPAIR Laced with casual

expletives, John Pollono's one-act play packs a powerful punch. When a

trio of longtime mates from Manchester, New Hampshire get together for

some heavy drinking in Frank's car mechanic workshop ― David Mauer's

beautifully realized set ― they reminisce about old times and chat about

women, the internet and the virtues of social networking. The pals,

confident Frank (John Pollono), ladies man Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and

nervy guy Packie (Michael Redfield) indulge in trading insults and

mocking digs as they chew the fat. Inappropriate comments, harsh words

and hasty apologies are exchanged, but nobody's sure why Frank is

busting out the good whiskey. A young college kid (Josh Helman) arrives

to do a quiet drug deal with Frank and all of a sudden the scene erupts

into terrifying violence. Pollono's script is an exquisitely-modulated

gem of a play, gripping the viewer with a storyline that is both

shocking and sobering in its commentary on modern interactions in the

technological age. Director Andrew Block extracts such realistic

performances from his cast that we almost forget we are watching a play,

as the appalling action unfolds mere inches away. (Pauline Adamek).

Mondays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Continues through April 30, (323) 960-4424, roguemachinetheatre.com.

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.

SOME SWEET DAY Billed as "a love triangle between two people," Flip

Kobler and Cindy Marcus' romantic comedy Some Sweet Day is actually a

tale about a middle-aged guy who goes back in time. Ken (Flip Kobler)

still holds a torch for his childhood sweetheart Jenny (Kate McCoy), who

suffered an untimely death. Having spent twenty years perfecting a

portable time machine, Ken gets struck by lightning and catapulted back

to his past. Once there he tries to convince Casey (Nicaolas Smith), the

younger version of himself, not to let the girl of his dreams get away.

The premise is good and co-writer Marcus, who also directs, does well

with the casting, as the two actors playing Ken/Casey are dead ringers.

But Marcus stumbles with the tone of the play, which strives for

farcical heights but instead suffers from wildly broad acting and

shouting delivery. The rapid-fire repartee feels contrived and the jokes

are pedestrian, with exchanges such as "Mom, you are not psychic!" "I

knew you were going to say that." Even the sight gags are leaden. McCoy,

however, shines as the sexy and vivacious Jenny, who's certainly

deserving of a trip back to yesteryear. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through April 24.

Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955,

knightsbridgetheatre.com.

THE SONNETEER Nick Salamone's play examines the ways in which

homophobia, guilt, self-delusion and hypocrisy cause the gradual

disintegration of the Cardamones, a first-generation Italian-American

family. Louie Cordero (Paul Haitkin), his younger brother, Michael (Ray

Oriel), and their friend Joey (Ed Martin) go off to serve in World War

II. Michael and Joey, serving in France, secretly become lovers. After

the war, Louie marries his sweetheart, Livvy (Sandra Purpuro), but he

also discovers the relationship between Michael and Joey, and his

virulent homophobia is aroused. Pressured by salty, bossy older sister

Vita (Cynthia Gravinese), who wants to save him for middle-class

respectability, Michael marries a sweetly naïve hospital nurse, Ella

(Victoria Hoffman), whom he'd like to love, but doesn't. Meanwhile,

Livvy, desolate over Louie's death, writes sonnets to relieve her pain.

Director Jon Lawrence Rivera sensitively explores the rich characters

and understated subtleties of Salamone's play, with fine assistance from

his able and faithful cast. Haitkin, in particular, scores as both

homophobic Louie and his scholarly pro-gay son. (Neal Weaver). Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17. Davidson

Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300,

www.lagaycenter.org.

SPECTACULAR SUPERHERO VARIETY HOUR Captured Aural Phantasy Theater

presents dramatic readings of vintage comic book stories, with live

sound effects, music and projected art. Fri., April 15, 7:30 p.m.; Fri.,

April 22, 7:30 p.m., capturedauralphantasy.com. Bootleg Theater, 2220

Beverly Blvd., L.A., (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.com.

GO STREEP TEASE If you're a fan of Meryl Streep

you'll like director Ezra Weisz's campy homage to the academy award

winning actress. The show debuted two years ago and is the brainchild of

stand-up comedian Roy Cruz, who has added a few tweaks without altering

any of its ticklish appeal. The show uses seven male actors who perform

monologues from a sampling of Streep's oeuvre.. This reviewer is a big

fan and has seen all of the movies selected (which helps in appreciating

the saucy humor on display), although even if you're not familiar with

Streep's work, Streep Tease offers lot of fun and laughs. In addition to

the performances, Cruz picks audience members to participate in a

contest to test their "Streep Wise," worthiness, with a gift going to

the winner. Matthew Nouriel, does a riotously funny take on Sara

Woodruff, from the French Lieutenant's Woman (complete with the foggy

backdrop), and then does an even funnier version set in a Muslim country

with all the customary restraints. Miranda Priestly from The Devil

Wears Prada is brought to life by Cruz, who does a wickedly bitchy turn

salted with just the right tinge of icy detachment. And who could forget

the nun from hell, the bossy, fussy bullying Sister Aloysius Beauvier

from Doubt, here fully realized with knuckle-busting ruler, two rosaries

and bonnet, by Bryan T. Donovan. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 653-6886, bangstudio.com.

SUPER SUNDAY Stephen Collins' comedy about a Vietnam vet turned ad

executive whose wife takes an interest in a younger man. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 15. Moth

Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 666-6684, moththeatre.com.

THE TEMPERAMENTALS West Coast premiere of Jon Maran's play about

homosexuality in the 1950s, based on the relationship of Harry Hay and

Rudi Gernreich. Starting April 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

2 p.m. Continues through May 22. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500

Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 661-9827, theblank.com.

TIGER TIGER BURNING BRIGHT Peter S. Feibleman's play set in

midcentury New Orleans. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through May 22, (323) 960-7740, plays411.com/tiger. Stella

Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

TREASURE ISLAND June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre presents Steve and

Kathy Hotchner's audience-participatory pirate tale. Saturdays, 11 a.m.

Continues through April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre

Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

NEW REVIEW WALLOWA: THE VANISHING OF MAUDE LERAY

click to enlarge rsz_wallowa.jpg

Photo courtesy of Son of Semele Ensemble

An

artist obsessed with chasing a story typically results in one of two

outcomes: The director emerges from the dark forest of creation on top

of the mountain (see Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan), or the artist

delves so deep within so as not even to recognize being lost.

Unfortunately, Son of Semele Ensemble's latest world premiere, a

collaboration with playwright Oliver Mayer, falls into the second

category. Director Don Boughton conceived the play after reading an

article about a 76-year-old woman who disappeared in Oregon's Wallowa

Mountains, home to Chief Joseph's Nez Perce Tribe. Even after an

extensive search, no trace was found of the missing woman. Conducting

interviews with locals and interweaving those with the myths of the

region, Boughton and SOSE built a story around "Maude LeRay's"

mysterious vanishing. The staging is a blend of those two elements: the

factual -- rescue teams gathering, her husband, Howard (Alexander

Wright), being questioned; and the mystical -- cast members double as

animals that talk to and spirit Maude (Dee Amerio Sudik) to and from the

mountain's nooks and crannies. The material doesn't stretch far enough

to fill a 90-minute play, but the bigger problem is the subject matter

itself. Though something like a theme surfaces three-quarters of the way

through (after Maude tells the animals she wants to go home to "WalMart

runs" and other mundane tasks, one asks, "You sure you want this?"),

it's one Thornton Wilder did too famously in Our Town to recycle.

Whether the theme is supposed to be more or less important than the

story, the company must give the audience a reason to care as much as

the creators do. Son of Semele Ensemble, 3301 Beverly Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., thru May 8. sonofsemele.org. (Rebecca Haithcoat)


WISH I HAD A SYLVIA PLATH Rogue Machine presents Edward Anthony's

comedy about tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Continues through April 17, (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com.

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

WOMEN ARE CRAZY BECAUSE MEN ARE ASSHOLES World premiere of Brad T.

Gottfred's study of the sexes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5

p.m. Continues through April 30, (323) 244-2987, cyur.com. Imagined

Life, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.

GO THE YOUNG MAN FROM ATLANTA Hollywood has

trained us well: Midway through Horton Foote's Pulitzer Prize-winning

play, your mind is racing ahead, tugging at a loose thread in the

plotline, guessing what twist lies underneath. But Foote's storytelling

style is like a lazy Southern Sunday afternoon spent on the front porch:

He lays the play's cards on the table right from the start, then sits

back and lets its stories draw you in like the mesmerizing

back-and-forth of a rocking chair. Will Kidder (Dick DeCoit) and his

wife, Lily Dale (Eileen Barnett), have just settled into a grand new

house in Houston, mostly in an effort to avoid painful reminders of

their only son, who recently drowned. The title character, their son's

roommate who's never seen in the play, is a boogeyman. Though a comfort

to Lily Dale, Will squeezes his eyes tight against his existence, hoping

he'll just go away. The play's themes are proposed so subtly -- aging

("Thirty-eight years ... where'd they go?" Will asks), race relations (one

of Lily Dale's old maids, played by Cyndi Martino, smiles warmly, "You

haven't changed a bit! And look at me, wore out from cookin' in others'

kitchens"), religion, homosexuality, generational conflict, gender roles

-- that you only feel their full impact upon later reflection. Director

August Viverito wisely allows the play's inaction to stand, but his

finest decision was casting DeCoit to lead the cast. In less capable

hands, Foote's chunks of text easily could bore an audience; but as

DeCoit navigates them, verve giving way to slumped shoulders, the

crumbling descent of Will's life is just as riveting as it is

heartbreaking. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

3 p.m. Continues through April 17, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex

Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

ALL IN THE TIMING A collection of comic one acts by David Ives.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 1, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1.

Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, (818)

745-8527, nohoartsdistrict.com/theatreweb/crowncity.htm.

BAR TALK Jay Parker's comedy set in a local bar. Fridays, 8 p.m.;

Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., lizardtheater.com. Lizard

Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.

GO THE BIRTHDAY BOYS Stop me if you've heard this

one: Three U.S. Marines walk into an Iraqi storage room. OK, they don't

walk. They get dragged into it. Point being, there are three of them,

and they're together in this room. "Seems a bit dark and serious a

scenario for a punch line," you think to yourself, but you would be

wrong, because Aaron Kozak, who won the "Fringe First" award at last

year's Hollywood Fringe Festival for this play, makes it much funnier

than you would expect. Without being disrespectful to the gravity of

military service or the war in Iraq, Kozak finds dark humor in the

humanity of three Marines --privates Chester Gullette (Gregory Crafts),

Lance Tyler (Sean Fitzgerald) and Colin Carney (Jim Martyka) -- who have

been captured from Al Asad air base by members of the Mahdi Militia. All

three are bound hand and foot with duct tape and blindfolded, which

limits their interactions but generates some solid physical comedy, such

as when Lance tries to fight Colin and they end up writhing around like

angry inchworms. Director Jacob Smith's spot-on timing effectively

modulates transitions from lighter discussions of women and home lives

to darker topics such as war and impending doom. Fitzgerald, as the most

intense and combative of the three, genuinely makes us dislike him at

times; Martyka, though quiet for long spells, believably exudes shame

for attempting to abandon his brothers; Crafts, as the most mature and

levelheaded of the men, pleasantly subverts the stereotypical Marine.

And to top it all off, there's an unexpected twist that takes the comedy

to a whole new level. A Theatre Unleashed production. (Mayank

Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30, (818)

849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.

BLIND SPOTS Sibling rivalry and one-upmanship reach sinister heights

when two sisters with diametrically opposed beliefs clash in Colette

Freedman's patchy black comedy. The setting is a small, East Coast

university town. Gretchen (Vanessa Waters), a gay journalist, becomes

incensed and decides to publish an editorial damning the anti-gay

decrees from the liberal-arts college president. Problem is, this

president is her abusive, homophobic older sister Kate (director Elise

Robertson). Gretchen's act of public humiliation ignites an all-out war

between the sisters as the pair dredge up recriminations, accusations

and even threaten blackmail. Meanwhile Gretchen's cute and sporty young

lover Janna (Jade Sealey) is unaware she might get hit by some shrapnel.

Playwright Freedman co-stars as Gretchen's BFF Frieda, giving us a

hilarious drunk act and some deliciously bitchy put-downs. Freedman

punctuates the often inane banter and heated arguments with plaintive

1960s folk tunes by Cat Stevens and Jesse Colin Young, performed live by

Logan Lozier (doubling as the sisters' tragically departed brother).

Placing Lozier upstage center, on a raised platform, lends him an

angelic presence. Freedman's play features powerful themes and quirky

characters (notably the Afro-centric wacky mom Birdy, played by Helen

Mary Wilson), but the writing isn't nearly as strong as her ideas.

(Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues

through April 24, (818) 381-3024, blindspotsplay.com. Sherry Theatre,

11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

NEW REVIEW GO THE CRUCIBLE

click to enlarge rsz_crucible.jpg

Photo by Byron Turk

Director

Sean Branney grabs hold of Arthur Miller's red-scare allegory, wringing

emotionally charged, angst-ridden performances from the talented cast.

Young Abigail Williams (a brilliantly conniving Sarah van der Pol) and

her gaggle of naive girlfriends extricate themselves from an oceanic

amount of hot water by explaining their late-night woodsy romp with

Barbadian servant Tituba (Hollie Hunt) as a ritual in which Tituba

conjured the devil, whom they claim walked side by side with scores of

local women. A witch hunt ensues and the girls point their adolescent

fingers at any woman they want hanged. John Proctor (Shawn Savage),

whose love affair with the conniving Abigail comes back to bite him,

sets out to debunk the witchcraft accusations when his wife, Elizabeth

(a steadfastly stony Karen Zumsteg), becomes Abigail's target. Branney

masterfully creates chaos, pitting neighbor against neighbor, husband

against wife and holy man against lawman in what amounts to a town

battle of holy-war proportions. Van der Pol's Abigail is so full of

vicious vengeance that she practically hisses her misguided intentions

to win the affections of Savage's skillfully choked-up Proctor. Fear

drives the outrageous events of the play, and Branney relentlessly

shines light on the fatal foolishness of a fear-driven society. The

Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., thru May 15. (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org. (Amy Lyons)

DOG SEES GOD: CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE BLOCKHEAD Bert V. Royal's

unauthorized parody of the "Peanuts" comic strip. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 17. Avery Schreiber

Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 766-9100.

ELIZABETH BATHORY: THE BLOOD COUNTESS Writer/director Bea Egeto's

hourlong historical account of the 16th-century serial killer Elizabeth

Bathory takes the audience through a fun chronology of blood, lust and

justice, but falls short of capturing the complexity of the subject. The

Countess Bathory had an obsession with staying young, convincing

herself that the blood of young maidens could sustain her youth. She and

her small circle of cohorts began kidnapping girls and covering up

their disappearances. Eventually enough people suspected her of

wrongdoing that she was locked away, claiming her innocence right up

until she died in prison, without trial. A large, fantastic cast and

razor sharp staging keeps the pace moving, and both Charlotte Bjornbak's

young Bathory and Leaha Boschen's storytelling-prisoner Bathory, tap

into the historical countess' dangerous psychosis with aplomb. However,

at the top of the play when Bathory, rotting in prison, implores us to

listen to her side of the story, what follows is such a straightforward

interpretation of events, when she finally asks us to judge her, we

never really get a sense of why she feels so steadfastly innocent. (Luis

Reyes). Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through April 30. ZJU Theater

Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120,

zombiejoes.com.

FETISH An evening of new plays about unusual, consensual sex. 18+

only. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 30. Whitefire Theater,

13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-2324. See Stage feature

FIREHOUSE Unlike police officers, who are so often feared or

mistrusted, firefighters almost always engage the appreciation and

respect of the people they serve. Playwright Pedro Antonio Garcia's

message-minded melodrama jump-starts around the community's perceived

betrayal of that covenant, and the pressure brought to bear upon 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. (Deborah

Klugman). theatermania.com Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27,

(323) 822-7898, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

HAVING IT ALL At Gate B26 in an airport convincingly designed by

Stephen Gifford, five women sit judging each other's clothing. The lady

in Prada pumps (Jennifer Leigh Warren) assumes the woman in sneakers

(Shannon Warne) must be an immature free spirit; the woman in sneakers

is convinced that Prada pumps is a rotten mother. The entrance of a

country girl in awkward heels (Kim Huber) provokes condescension; a

hipster with crutches (Lindsey Alley) moves Warren to sneer she's a

"30-year-old yenta dressed up like the cast of Rent." And when a dizzy

hippie (the very funny Alet Taylor) bops in with her yoga mat, the

ladies are aghast that she's barefoot. Still, between snipes, each looks

at the others and sighs, "How I'd love to be in her shoes." The

metaphor of footwear for femmepowerment is staler than the olives at

Carrie Bradshaw's fave martini bar, but at least David Goldsmith and

Wendy Perelman's well-intentioned musical about the hair-pulling

pressure to "have it all" is blessed with a gifted cast, which Richard

Israel directs with energy and bite. The ensemble sings numbers about

motherhood, marriage, J-Date and downward-facing dog. It's all pleasant,

but the show is held back by the homogeneity of the songs, in both John

Kavanaugh's music and Gregory Nabours' musical direction, which takes

five strong voices and molds them all to the same Broadway bombast. The

audience for the musical already knows everything it aims to say; it's

simply an excuse to rally a gang of girlfriends for a night at the

theater, which seems to suit this production just fine. (Amy Nicholson).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 29.

NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101,

thenohoartscenter.com.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual

fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a

contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot

is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play

resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one

indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed.

(Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m.

Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272,

tworoadsgallery.com.

NEW EYES Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her

solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural

stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slide show. Josephson

slips easily into various personae, combining characters with

caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a

formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day

of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a

hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and

another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an

Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and

chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent

proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles,

from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake

nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to

Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood

with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious

undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land

equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 26, (310) 500-0680,

neweyesplay.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

OH, MOMMA! & OBAMA Penned by Derek Reid, Nicholas Zill and

Kenneth McLeod, this send-up of Barack Obama's female-infested household

is fraught with familiar grievances and worn-out jokes, stumbling

blocks that prevent the material from growing a serious pair of

satirical legs. Barack Obama's (Derek Jeremiah Reid) mother-in-law,

Marian Robinson (Lakendra Tookes), meddles in matters of state and

thinks she knows best when it comes to her granddaughters, Malia (Alexis

Matthews) and Sasha (Nay Nay Kirby). Her daughter, Michelle (Constance

Reese), tries and fails to keep the peace between hubby and mom. When

Marian gets busted snooping through classified documents, the commander

in chief decides enough is enough and sends her to Guantanamo Bay.

Meanwhile, Malia and Sasha are up to no good. Reid's Obama parody is the

best thing about the production -- he's spot-on vocally and physically.

Tookes comes out of the gate with an over-the-top shrillness that never

ceases and quickly grows tiresome. A standout of the supporting cast is

Natascha Corrigan as Sarah Palin, but the material's trite ring (Sarah

Palin is stupid! Sarah Palin talks funny! Sarah Palin is not to be taken

seriously!) hinders her. Bill O'Reilly (Robb Wolford), Bill Clinton

(Phillip Wilburn) and George W. Bush (Wolford) all appear, but nothing

new or striking is revealed about any of them. Piped in music by Howard

Bennett and the Rock 'n' Ridicule Band feels canned and flat; Laura

Pinho's choreography is clumsy. A TV intermittently broadcasts the

real-life people being impersonated onstage, a puzzling device that

smacks of mistrust of the audience. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 1, (866) 811-4111. Fremont

Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena,

fremontcentretheatre.com.

OUR TOWNThornton Wilder's chronicle of life in Grover's Corners, New

Hampshire, 1901 to 1913. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through

April 16. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra

Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

THE PRISONER OF SECOND AVENUE Neil Simon's rat race comedy. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323)

960-7862, plays411.com/prisoner. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave.,

Burbank, gtc.org.

GO PURSUED BY HAPPINESS Sensible shoes and

charmingly dorky delivery aside, Frank Orlis (Mark St. Amant) cuts a

dashing figure during the courtship dance. "I have zero recollection of

any day but the day at hand," he tells the object of his single-minded

pursuit, fellow biochemist Julie Moore (Avery Clyde), while

simultaneously informing her he's been watching her. The layup works,

even if Frank couldn't be less of a Romeo; women, even stoic, serious

ones like Julie, respond to feeling like they alone are worth

remembering. Keith Huff's new play wriggles in these insights

unobtrusively, even if the big-picture ideas ("We're not pursuing

happiness as much as happiness is biologically pursuing us") are a

little too obvious. But the play is a nice change of scenery from

traditional rom-coms: The whirlwind romance is actually a practical

plot, and the measured Frank and Julie don't ride off into a fairy-tale

sunset. Family visits give the design team a chance to show off (Craig

Siebels' set, Adam Flemming's projection, and Jocelyn Hublau's costumes)

are so evocatively detailed, but they do feel a little device-y, and

leave too many unanswered questions, including one that leaves the

audience squirming as well. Still, agile in their double duty as both

sets of parents, Elizabeth Herron and Tom Knickerbocker easily could've

been Huff's sole motivation for writing the ultimately unsatisfying

scenes. Robin Larsen directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 14, RoadTheatre.org.

Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818)

752-7568.

GO ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES 3 This is the third in a

series of musical revues designed to give older performers a chance to

prove they can still kick up their heels and shine: All (except the

instrumental combo) are over sixty years of age, but they are all solid

pros, with impressive resumes and a treasure trove of skills. The book,

by director Bill Reid and musical director Mark Rodriguez, is totally

predictable, but it's enlivened by the large ensemble's terrific

performances, and by a wonderful array of golden oldies from the 1960s

and 70s, including "My Guy," "Hit the Road, Jack," "Stop in the Name of

Love," "I'll Be There," "Like a Rolling Stone," and "It's My Party, and

I'll Cry if I Want To." The show's first two editions tended to be a bit

old-fashioned and tinged with amateurism, but this time around, it's

slicker, faster, and more consistently entertaining, and audiences

respond with fervor and enthusiasm. Raquel Brussolo supplies the crisp

choreography, and instrumental accompaniment is provided an energetic

combo headed by Mark Rodriguez on keyboards, Ma'Ryia Mahome on bass,

James Munoz on guitar, Leslie Pereira on drums, and Rene Van der Tas,

second guitar. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 1, (818) 606-6679. Victory

Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank,

thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

GO SCHMUTZIGEN DUTSCHE KABARETT This latest,

late-night creation from sardonic, surrealist director-choreographer

Amanda Marquardt is so straightforward and simple in its concept and

execution that it's a wonder no one thought of it before. Take the

Kander & Ebb musical classic Cabaret, jettison the treacly and

preachy Joe Masteroff book, and stage the results as a brisk and breezy,

melodrama-free evening of simulated Weimar nightclub entertainment. The

schmutzigen is provided by the indecently flamboyant Luke Wright, who,

from opener "Willkommen" through his solo on "I Don't Care Much" to the

show's finale, vamps his way through an endless string of double

entendres to stake a creditable claim to the role of MC that made

Broadway stars of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming. Marquardt herself appears

as Sally Bowles (replete with Liza-like false eyelashes), displaying an

appealing set of pipes on such signature numbers as "Don't Tell Mama,"

"Cabaret" and "Mein Herr." Wright returns (wearing little more than an

uncredited but campy pair of tuxedo briefs) with chorines Skye Noel

(also credited as dance captain and co-choreographer) and Eva Ganelis,

as the trio strut their comic stuff in "Two Ladies." But, you might ask,

if there's no book, what about the musical's politics -- and what does

that have to do with us? Relax. Marquardt gets in her licks, and puts

the Deutsche Kabarett, political-satire bite back into Cabaret with

"High Chancellor," a hilarious, show-stealing strip number, with Jonica

Patella in Hitler drag, bumping, grinding and goose-stepping to the Nazi

march "Erika." (Bill Raden). Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through April

22. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818)

202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD The RED Stamp presents Jason Robert Brown's

musical journey, "from the deck of a 1492 Spanish sailing ship to a

ledge 57 stories above Fifth Avenue." Sat., April 16, 8 p.m., (626)

344-7330. Travis Auditorium, 180 N. Oakland Ave., Pasadena.

URBAN DEATH Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11

p.m. Continues through May 28. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES Eve Ensler's pussy play, benefiting the East

Los Angeles Women's Center and the Spotlight Campaign: Women & Girls

of Haiti. (In English, Thurs.; in Spanish, Fri.). Fri., April 15, 8

p.m. East L.A. College Edison Performing Arts Center, 1301 Avenida Cesar

Chavez,, Monterey Park, elawc.org.

VERONIKA DECIDES TO DIE Post-suicide-attempt life in an insane

asylum, based on the book by Paulo Coelho, adapted for the stage by

Taylor Ashbrook and Beth Ricketson. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

7 p.m. Continues through May 15. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel

Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003,

eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

WAIT UNTIL DARK Frederick Knott's mystery about con-men trying to trick a

blind woman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through May 8. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank

Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 700-4878, thegrouprep.com.

WEIRD ON TOP Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany

Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn.

Thu., April 21, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 9, 8 p.m.;

Sun., July 17, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 18, 8 p.m. Eclectic Company Theatre,

5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, (818) 508-3003,

eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

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

THE BOYS NEXT DOOR Art Attack Foundation presents Tom Griffin's

tragicomedy about four mentally disabled men living in a group home.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 17,

artattackfoundation.org. Redondo Beach Playhouse, 750 Inglewood Ave.,

Redondo Beach, (310) 937 -6606, redondo.org.

GO BROKEN GLASS Arthur Miller's searing 1995 drama

ostensibly deals with the theme of Jewish assimilation and the price of

ignoring evil in the rest of the world. In the end, though, the issue

is a metaphor for the moral rot fragmenting a loveless marriage. In

1938, American Jewish housewife Sylvia (Susan Angelo) reads in the

papers of the atrocities taking place in Germany and develops what

appears to be a hysterical, psychosomatic paralysis. Sylvia's husband,

uptight mortgage broker Phillip (Michael Bofshever), is justifiably

alarmed, but as he seeks help from kindly Dr. Hyman (Stephen Burleigh),

the real problems underlying his wife's condition begin to emerge. For

his part, Phillip is contemptuous of his own Jewish heritage and is so

self-hating he pretends to be Finnish, rather than Polish, even as he's

forced to suck up the subtle anti-Semitism at his workplace. In director

Elina de Santos' beautifully empathetic staging, the pacing is

unhurried, but the emotions rise in tension and pitch until, finally,

they reach Shakespearean heights of tragedy. There's so much simmering

below the surface here -- especially the notion of how, under certain

circumstances, self-loathing and guilt can actually be physically

manifested. The acting work crackles with subtext and organic emotion.

At first the prickly, unforgiving Phillip seems monstrously dismissive --

but in Bofshever's increasingly subtle, pragmatic turn, we gradually

start to realize the insecurities underlying his self-loathing. The

show's engrossing moral center, however, is Angelo's wonderfully

vulnerable performance as Sylvia, who is played as part giggling ingénue

and part world-weary social activist trapped in a life that, for the

most part, she cannot control. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 18, (323) 821-2449. Pico

Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., picoplayhouse.com.

DADDYO DIES WELL Murray Mednick's poetic, philosophical comedy, the

fifth in his series of eight Gary Plays, seems to take place in several

spheres at once, ranging from the Amazonian jungle, to the Andes, to

Santa Monica to the afterlife. Salty, aging hipster DaddyO (Hugh Dane)

has been run down by a hit-and-run driver, and now he's dying. He

summons his actor step-son Gary (Casey Sullivan) to participate in an

Indian soul-cleansing ritual involving the hallucinogenic,

vomit-inducing drug Ayahuasca. Also somehow present, physically or

spiritually, are DaddyO's deceased wife, the ruefully benevolent Mama

Bean (Strawn Bovee), his kindly-but-misanthropic shrink (Jack Kehler),

and Gary's two ex-wives, Gloria (Elizabeth Greer), who is on a vision

quest in the Andes, and the forbidding and judgmental Marcia (Melissa

Paladino). Presiding over all is the angel of death, Antonio (Peggy Ann

Blow), who appears as an ice-cream vendor in a red jump-suit, and as a

masked Indian shaman. Mednick's play is always interesting as it

circles, playfully and endlessly, around various life-and-death issues,

but it's sometimes so personal as to be hermetic. Dane is engaging and

funny as the play's most fully-developed character, and the cast

skillfully fleshes out the other inhabitants of his drama. (Neal

Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through

May 22, (323) 960-7724, plays411.com/DaddyO. Electric Lodge, 1416

Electric Ave., Venice, electriclodge.org.

GO HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE

GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK The big-band show in this musical (book by Luca

Ellis, Paul Litteral and Jeremy Aldridge) is staged as a

behind-the-scenes live taping of a late-1960s television special with a

star identified in the program only as "The Crooner." James Thompson's

authentic set comes with sound booth, TV cameras, microphones, lighting,

a spacious bandstand and stage, overhead video screens and neon

applause signs. Adding to the realism is lots of backstage banter,

numerous gaffes, miscues and retakes, and some well-placed comedy and

drama played out between director Dwight (Al Bernstein) and his

overworked and underappreciated assistant Andy (Pat Towne). There are

also cheeky commercial breaks for Shmimex watches and the all-new Ford

Mustang. Musical director Litteral and his nattily dressed 12-member

band (Jessica Olson's costumes are entirely on cue) combine into a

flawless, robust performance redolent of the best of Ellington or Basie.

Luca Ellis is a knockout from start to finish as the Crooner. How good

is he? If you close your eyes while he sings familiar tunes such as

"That's Life," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon," you'd

swear the Chairman himself had come back for one last encore. As

masterfully woven together by director Aldridge, the material is so good

that the applause signs aren't really needed. (Lovell Estell III).

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.

Continues through April 23. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St.,

Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK Sean O'Casey's tragicomedy about a working class

Dublin family during the 1920s Irish Civil War. Starting April 16,

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 17, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.;

Wed., May 4, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 7 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 25, 8 p.m. Continues through June 5. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055,

odysseytheatre.com.

L.A. CAFE PLAYS Ruskin Group Theatre concocts five short plays in 10

1/2 hours. Third Sunday of every month, 7:30 & 9 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 18. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica,

(310) 397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com.

GO LOCKED AND LOADED Ever hear the joke about the

two guys with terminal brain tumors who decide to beat death to the

punch? A Jew and a WASP dress up in tuxes, rent a presidential suite

stocked with their favorite booze and call some hookers to help them go

orgasmic into that good night. OK, so the subject matter and setup of,

and even the quietly heartbreaking backstories in, actor-playwright Todd

Susman's play are a little derivative -- Leaving Las Vegas and Marsha

Norman's play 'Night, Mother spring to mind -- but some very clever

writing and smart performances make this West Coast premiere much

funnier and more mystical than the approach its predecessors took.

Particularly interesting is Susman's deliberate trafficking in

stereotypes. Old-monied Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks) is haughty as he

hurls three strikes in quick succession at an African-American hooker,

sniffing, "Do you know who I am?" and referring to her "Aunt Jemima"

style of speaking. Sad-clown sitcom writer Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke)

turns his poison pen on himself and his Jewish heritage, and Catorce

Martinez's (Terasa Sciortino) inability to understand English subtleties

is the source of many jokes. But in electing Princess Lay-Ya (a very

sharp Sandra Thigpen) queen pin, Susman gives the underdog the upper

hand, which Lay-Ya uses to force the superficialities aside to reveal

the very real, raw pain coursing beneath. After such deep diving, the

resurface at play's end is a little easy; nevertheless, the whole

shebang is a much more entertaining evening than the premise portends.

Chris DeCarlo directs. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through April 16. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse,

1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779.

MUTANT OLIVE Katselas Theater Company presents Mitch Hara's one-man

show. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 7. Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.

ORIXAS: GODS OF CANDOBLE Leopold Nunan explores the Afro-Brazilian

mythology and religious folklore of Rio de Janeiro. Fri., April 15, 8:30

p.m.; Sat., April 16, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th

St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

OTHELLO William Shakespeare's tragedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.

Continues through April 16, latensemble.com. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116

Second St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-3680.

RETURN FROM THE ASHES Brad Geagley's adaptation of Hubert

Monteilhet's novel about a woman impersonating a woman impersonating

herself. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through

April 24. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr.,

Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.

RUMORS Neil Simon's comedy about a suburban dinner and a dead body.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 8.

Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific

Palisades, (310) 454-1970.

SUMMER OF LOVE Roger Bean's take-a-decade-and-run-with-it-musical

about the '60s. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays,

2 p.m. Continues through April 17. Musical Theatre West, 4350 E.

Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 856-1999, musical.org.

NEW REVIEW TARTUFFE A few minutes into Jon Kellam's

rendering of Molière's classic farce, you know you're not in for a

routine production. There's the flowery, drawn-out introduction by

Steven Porter, spoken in French with audio translation; the colorful

mass of balloons heaped at center stage; and sound effects from the

"noisy corner," courtesy of Jef Bek, who plays various percussion

instruments and keyboard organ. All nice touches in this tale about a

hypocritical scoundrel who by dint of pious pretense and subterfuge

wreaks havoc on a respectable Frenchman and his family. However, Kellam

has his sights on underscoring the work's timelessness via David Ball's

breezy adaptation, which bestrides the author's 17th century, our own

era and various points between. The effect is more of an imposition than

an illumination. It's also interlarded with much that is digressive and

not at all funny. The physical comedy is effectual -- to a point -- but

it starts to wear especially thin in the languorous Act 2, along with

Bek's seemingly endless potpourri of sound effects. Cast performances

are lively and engaging, the one exception being a flat Pierre Adeli

(who in all fairness was brought in a week earlier in place of the

ailing Scott Harris), in the critical role of Tartuffe. Fully memorable

are Ben Kahookele's gorgeous costumes, and Mary Eileen O'Donnell's

smattering of props, which are cleverly designed and used. The Actors'

Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.,

thru April 30. (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. (Lovell Estell III)

UNSCRIPTED REP Impro Theatre's improvised, full-length plays in the

styles of William Shakespeare, Tennesee Williams, and Stephen Sondheim.

Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through May 29. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.,

L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

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