Highways Performance Space celebrates it's 22nd birthday May 20-21, 9 p.m. to midnight with a marathon of erotic performance, bordering if not plunging into a pool of sleaziness. The event includes private booths, stag film sets, "The Palace of Peep and more! more! more!"
The event is called SMUTOPIA! for which Philip Litell & Patrick Kennelly have pimped out over 30 "dirtee artists" in continuous late night action: including: Lesley B. Alexander, Miss Barbie-Q (SATURDAY only), Eve Brandstein, John Cantwell, Robert Catalusci, Radick Cembrzynski, Ayana Hampton, Nina Hartley, Maia Danziger, Oriana Ferro, Johnny 2.0, La Fille Damnee, Mark Levine, David LeBarron, Ian MacKinnon, Jonny McGovern aka The Gay Pimp, Marlane Meyer, Miracle Whips (FRIDAY only), Taylor Negron, NinjaMamaLickum and Friends, Leopold Nunan, Sonia Aria Oleniak, Eliezer Ortiz, Jonathan Osborn, Barry Del Sherman, Rick Shapiro, Jean Spinosa, Kristina Wong, Paul Zaloom, John Fleck in the Machine, and more.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR May 14-20, 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
Artifacts of Consequence Stokastik Theatre Ensemble presents Ashlin Halfnight's story of a future world ravaged by climate change and the individuals trying to preserve modern culture. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Thru June 5. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, stokastik.org.
The Au Pair Man Hugh Leonard's comedy about an Irishman in London seeking the position of live-in employee of a mysterious wealthy woman. Starting May 14, Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Thru June 12. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, ravenplayhouse.com, (818) 760-8322.
Bedtime Stories Roadkill Productions presents 10 short plays that all take place in a bed. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A., (310) 535-6007, psychicvisionstheatre.com.
Don't Believe Me One-man spoken-word/hip-hop/comedy show by the performer known as IN-Q. Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 655-7679, plays411.com/dontbelieveme.
Dracula Staged reading of Charles Morey's adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. May 18-20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 30 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 4 p.m. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 440-4500, latw.org.
Eleemosynary Lee Blessing's portrait of a grandmother, mother and daughter. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Thru May 29. Berg Studio Theatre, 3245 Casitas Ave., Ste. 104, Atwater Village, (323) 860-6569.
The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill SkyPilot Theatre Company presents Jeff Goode's gay Civil War comedy. Starting May 14, Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 p.m. Thru June 19. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, skypilottheatre.com.
Evil Women Kinetic Theory Circus Arts explores the nature and perception of the female sex through movement, trapeze, contortion, aerial hoop, dance and acrobatics. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Thru June 4. Kinetic Theory Theatre, 3604 Holdrege Ave., L.A., (310) 606-2617, kinetictheorytheatre.com.
Experience Magic! Ryan Luevano's hybrid of magic show and musical theater. Sun., May 15, 7 30 p.m. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
INAUGURal High School Theatre Festival Eight local high schools each perform a musical selection from their theater program's repertoire. Sat., May 14, 10 a.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Four Clowns Antics of four clown archetypes the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Fri., 11 p.m. Thru June 10. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
Funky Punks Circus Spectacular Troubadour Theater Company's kid-friendly clown extravaganza. Starting May 14, Sat., Sun., 11 a.m. Thru June 5. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com.
Gypsy West Coast Ensemble presents the classic showbiz musical, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. Thru July 3. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A., (323) 595-4849.
ImagoFest 2011 Three one-acts by Mark Donnelly, Tim McNeil and Alex Aves. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Thru June 12. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (323) 465-4446.
Jack and the Beanstalk Storybook Theatre's interactive musical take on the classic fairy tale. Sun., May 15, 1 30 & 3 30 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.
Juan and John Roger Guenveur Smith's memories of his childhood, his parents and a Dodgers brawl. Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 6 30 p.m.; May 24-27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 29, 6 30 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 628-2772.
Julius Caesar Theatre Unleashed's all-female version of the Shakespeare tragedy, set in an American community coping with the domestic effects of World War II. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Thru June 18. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., (323) 463-3900, studio-stage.com.
Just for the Record Paul Rodriguez's solo show on his life in comedy. (In Spanish on Sun.) Starting May 19, Thurs., Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Thru May 29. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com.
Krunk Fu Battle Battle East West Players' world-premiere hip-hop musical, book by Qui Nguyen, lyrics by Beau Sia, vocal music by Marc Macalintal, dance music by Rynan Paguio and Jason Tyler Chong. Starting May 18, Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Thru June 26. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., downtown, (213) 625-7000, eastwestplayers.org.
Lavender Love World-premiere comedy by Odalys Nanin. Starting May 14, Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., June 5, 7 p.m. Thru June 18. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/lavenderlove.
Luv Murray Schisgal's spoof of avant-garde drama. Starting May 18, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Thru June 26. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.
Miss Coco Peru There Comes a Time The latest in song and story by drag diva Miss Coco Peru, written and performed by Clinton Leupp. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Thru May 22. Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org.
The Mistakes Madeline Made Elizabeth Meriwether's comedy about a woman who rejects "all things complacent, pampered and clean -- including showering." Starting May 19, Wed;-Sat., 8 p.m. Thru June 4. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/mistakesmadelinemade.
No Word in Guyanese for Me Hanna Jokhoe's story of a gay, Muslim immigrant who must reconcile her faith with her sexuality. Starting May 14, Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Thru June 12. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank, (818) 558-5702.
Prom Re-Do Relive that awkward high school prom and benefit Elephant Theatre Company in this retro-party fundraiser. Sat., May 14, 7 30 p.m. Elephant Stageworks' Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A., ElephantTheatreCompany.com.
Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind the Sequins Mitzi Gaynor's one-woman show of music and memories. Sat., May 14, 2 & 8 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.
Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m. Thru May 28. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 525-0661, attictheatre.org.
Rumors Neil Simon's farce about an affluent dinner party and a dead body. Fri., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Thru June 12. Covina Center for the Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave., Covina, (626) 331-8133, covinacenter.com.
Tofu Treats and Other Stories Vegetarian tales of "food, love and skillets" by Monica Palacios. Sun., May 15, 2 p.m. One National Gay and Lesbian Archive, 909 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., (213) 741-0094, onearchives.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
The Andrews Brothers Roger Bean's South Pacific USO show, featuring a trio of cross-dressing stage hands belting out wartime hits like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar" and "Mairzy Doats." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 15. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, (310) 544-0403, norristheatre.org.
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. Continues through May 15, (866) 811-4111, boomermaniathemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, elportaltheatre.com.
The Chairs 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. (Pauline Adamek). Fri., May 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.
Circus Vargas See GoLA. Fri., May 13, 7 30 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 1 30, 4 30 & 7 30 p.m.; Sun., May 15, 12 30, 3 30 & 6 30 p.m.; Mon., May 16, 6 30 p.m., $15-$60, (877) 468-3861, circusvargas.com. Under the Big Top, 101 Freeway at Sunset Blvd., L.A..
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). Sat., May 14, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.
First Annual High School Theatre Festival Eight local high schools each perform a musical selection from their school's theater program's repertoire. Sat., May 14, 10 a.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Funky Punks Circus Spectacular Troubadour Theater Company's kid-friendly clown extravaganza. Starting May 14, Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through June 5. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank, (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com.
God of Carnage Yasmina Reza's 2006 play God of Carnage -- translated by Christopher Hampton and reuniting the 2009 Broadway cast (Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini and Marcia Gay Harden) -- swirls around an argument between two children who never appear onstage. One, having been called a "snitch" by the other, answered by smashing his accuser in the face with a stick and knocking out two of his teeth. The play, however, doesn't so much explore the origins of loathing between people as it assumes them as a given and then merely reveals them. There's little paradox, just various forms of decorum that get slowly, systematically yanked away eviscerating its characters through primarily through mockery. It unfolds in the home of the child-victim's parents, Veronica and Michael (Harden and Gandolfini) -- depicted in Daryl A. Stone's set as a contemporary slab of domesticity. A cracked-stone-wall backdrop (all those fissures dividing what appears so solid), juxtaposed against art books stacked on the floor and tucked under coffee tables, signals a landing pad for liberal ideals. Yet that pad stands surrounded by a wash of red -- the raging fire of aggression that's been licking at, if not engulfing, the translucent skin of civilization for millennia. Veronica's husband, Michael, is a self-made wholesaler, a blue-collar fellow pressured by the play's circumstances to pretend he's far more tenderhearted than his temperament allows. After a few drinks, he'll reveal his true colors. Veronica and Michael are visited by the parents of the aggressor-child, Alan and Annette (Daniels and Davis). Alan is a high-powered lawyer who, we discern from his incessant cell phone conversations, represents big pharma. Alan's emotionally precarious wife, Annette, is into "wealth management" -- the wealth of her husband. It all starts out so reasonably. Nobody wants to go legal over a kids' squabble. That thin amiability becomes stretched by the consumption of too much alcohol, until it starts to tear. As the tensions among them rise, the initially agreed-upon premise that a problem child struck an innocent peer gets expanded to the theory that the abuser may have been justified because he'd been insulted. The rhythmic ebbs and flows of Matthew Warchus' direction of his perfect cast keep the play about as taut as can be imagined. But the comic-dramatic tension of who can gore whom is like watching a bullfight. It's sadism mixed with technique, and the bloody outcome isn't really in question. I found myself riveted for an hour or so, until the dramatic formula became formulaic. (Steven Leigh Morris). 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.
The Good Boy Michael Bonnabel shares stories of his life growing up with deaf parents in sign, speech and song. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org.
Juan and John Roger Guenveur Smith's memories of his childhood, his parents and a Dodgers brawl. Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 6 30 p.m.; May 24-27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 29, 6 30 p.m. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 628-2772.
Jack and the Beanstalk Storybook Theatre's interactive musical take on the classic fairy tale. Sun., May 15, 1 30 & 3 30 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.
Just for the Record Paul Rodriguez's solo show on his life in comedy. (In Spanish on Sundays.). Starting May 19, Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 29. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com.
Kiss Me, Kate Reprise Theatre Company presents Cole Porter's play-within-a-play musical. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 22. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood, (310) 825-2101.
Krunk Fu Battle Battle East West Players' world-premiere hip-hop musical, book by Qui Nguyen, lyrics by Beau Sia, vocal music by Marc Macalintal, dance music by Rynan Paguio and Jason Tyler Chong. Starting May 18, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 26. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A., (213) 625-7000, eastwestplayers.org.
GO The Prisoner of Second Avenue In a poignant and peerless performance, Jason Alexander wrests timeless relevance from Neil Simon's 1971 period comedy. Middle-aged Mel (Alexander) and his loving and accommodating wife, Edna (Gina Hecht), live in a Manhattan highrise with paper-thin walls and faulty plumbing. A kvetch without equal, Mel's outrage at noisy neighbors, smelly garbage, a defective air conditioner and various other urban ills reaches full bombast after the couple's apartment is burgled of everything -- even their liquor and their Valium. The situation turns even more dire after Mel confesses to Edna that he's lost his job, and his native excitability gives way to a full-fledged breakdown. Directed by Glenn Casale -- with set, lighting and sound by Stephen Gifford, Jared A. Sayeg and Philip G. Allen respectively -- this is a handsome production of what is neither one of Simon's best nor wittiest scripts. But from the moment the lights come up, Alexander is on, generating laugh after laugh even as he mines the pathos behind his character's ceaseless tirades -- like Jackie Gleason at his best. In Act 2, a family powwow convened between Mel's three flaky sisters (Annie Korzen, Deedee Rescher and Carol Ita White) and his brother, Harry (Ron Orbach), detours the story back into the realm of shtick. While everyone is entertaining, Orbach is excellent; as with Alexander's performance, his blustery blowhard displays that combination of depth and timing that is the mark of consummate skill. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 15. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-4200, elportaltheatre.com.
Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind the Sequins Mitzi Gaynor's one-woman show of music and memories. Sat., May 14, 2 & 8 p.m. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, (562) 944-9801.
The Scene Theresa Rebeck's comedy about a naive newcomer to Manhattan's showbiz scene. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 22, brownpapertickets.com/event/170974. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 589-1998.
Sunset Staged reading of Isaac Babel's play. Sun., May 15, 7 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.
The Taming of the Shrew William Shakespeare's comedy, relocated to the American Wild West. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 28. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.
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.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
bash latterday plays Coeurage Theatre presents Neil Labute's Mormon tragedies. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, coeurage.org. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.
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 May 22, (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.
Cabaret Damn Broadway -- when they get it right, they get it really right. Sam Mendes' 1998 revival of the musical Cabaret, which scooped up a slew of awards for its raunchy reworking, featured Alan Cumming's now-famous hypersexual turn as the M.C. The musical, which is set in Berlin on the brink of the Nazis' rise to power, fixes its dark gaze on the dingy Kit Kat Klub, where young English cabaret performer Sally Bowles meets Cliff Bradshaw, a broke American novelist; the M.C.'s sardonic eye roves over the action as it builds to its inevitable end. While director Marco Gomez smartly tries to avoid com-parisons by reverting to the original version and employing cross-gender casting, Mendes' revival's riskiness still looms large enough to make DOMA Theatre Company's latest production feel underfed. Even so, a competent cast, Michael Mullen's fantastically flashy costumes and the sheer strength of the musical itself make for an agreeable evening. Renee Cohen, shouldering the weight of the M.C., belts and struts with smirking panache; Caitlin Ary (a dead ringer for January Jones), who's a little shallow acting-wise, certainly digs deep enough to sing the role of Sally Bowles. But, from transforming the Klub girls into a flock of iridescent peacocks to outfitting Rory Alexander's Bradshaw in sharp suits that belie his financial straits, Mullen's the big star of the production. And although the young cast has a difficult time maintaining a balance between the Klub's lurid, grinning delusion and the very real clouds quickly rolling into Berlin, it's hard not to catch chills as the M.C. wishes you one final, solemn Auf Wiedersehen. (Rebecca Haithcoat). 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 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 June 26, (800) 595-4849, CaughtThePlay.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..
GO The Chinese Massacre The Chinese Massacre is set in 1891 Los Angeles, 20 years after 18 Chinese men and one boy were shot or lynched in a race riot instigated by vigilantes in the name of protecting local employment opportunities from "foreigners." Even then, in 1871, the Gold Rush was waning, Chinese immigrant labor had all but completed that major east-west railroad arteries that would provide whatever oxygen of commerce could be breathed. And in Tom Jacobson's absorbing play, after the 20-year-interlude, an educated Chinese physician named Lee (West Liang) wanders into the mercantile store of Reverend Crenshaw (Mitchell) in order to purchase a novelty item the severed finger of a Chinese man who was among the victims of the massacre 20-years earlier. This is the kind of artifact that archeologists and paleontologists use to fathom the mysteries of the past, but Lee's purpose is not only historical but religious. The finger is the last remaining fossile of somebody he knew withered flesh and bone deserving of sacred burial, rather than being locked away in some shop-seller's jewelry box. Lee is like Antigone, arguing with her uncle Creon, over an honorable funeral for her brother, whom Creon regards a traitor. And from the minutiae of their barter unfolds in flashback the events leading up to the massacre, told, enacted, corrected and annotated, because a truthful history rarely makes for the best yarn. And it's the myths we recall, the hyper-energized, over-simplified rendition, that gets made into the movie, or published in schoolbooks presuming that history is even in the curriculum. The history that unfolds includes Chinese human traffickers and slave traders, and Caucasians who risked their lives to protect the persecuted. It's the Holocaust in miniature, set in the Wild West. For all its abundant virtues, and a fluid, beautifully performed production directed by Jeff Liu, the play suffers from its flow of historical scenes, like a pageant, that doesn't quite reach the kind of national or even local mythology to which it aspires. Jacobson, closes with tableaus from L.A.'s subsequent race riots, which is telling sort of that we keep learning nothing because we keep erasing history. But that's not really true either, even in L.A., and Jacobson is certainly smart enough to know that. Yet if any playwrights in Los Angeles have the capacity to write a great work, Jacobson stands tall among them. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through May 28, circlextheatre.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., (213) 368-9552.
Curse of the Starving Class Director Scott Paulin poorly serves Sam Shepard's 1978, semi-autobiographical fantasy about a Southern California nuclear family caught up in the throes of spiritual and financial implosion. A certain ungainliness is understandable. Coming just before the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, the play uneasily straddles the dazzling free-form experiments of Shepard's Off Off Broadway work and the mastery of traditional narrative form that would characterize his "mature" period. The titular curse is of the existential kind -- a starvation of the soul afflicting a family all but abandoned by their dissolute, alcoholic rancher/patriarch, Weston (Kevin McCorkle). His flighty wife, Ella (Laura Richardson), plots with a corrupt speculator (John Lacy) to sell the ranch from under him. Their mercurially hormone-addled, pubescent daughter, Emma (Juliette Goglia), merely wants to "get out." It is left to their embittered son, Wesley (Ian Nelson), to save the family farm by literally putting on his father's clothes and trying to piece the shattered household back together. Unfortunately, salvaging the dramatic gold lurking in the text's surreal collision of incompatible styles would take far more than Paulin's careless, clumsily literal staging. Jason Mullen's mundane lights and Victoria Profitt's disappointing, slapdash set illuminate none of the play's allegorical riches. And the ensemble's exasperatingly ham-handed approach to the language only succeeds in suffocating the screwball comedy while shredding the breathtaking lyricism of Shepard's poetry. (Bill Raden). 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.
Defendiendo Al Cavernícola (Defending the Caveman) In Spanish only. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 22. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org.
Deus Ex Machina and the Hands of the Beholder R.S. Bailey's dark Vaudevillian farce based on the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 5, (323) 960-7788, plays411.com/dem. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., complexhollywood.com.
Ding Dong Meow Andrea Rosen's solo show about "saying and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time." Wed., May 18, 8 p.m. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., (323) 908-8702.
Don't Believe Me One-man spoken-word/hip-hop/comedy show by the performer known as IN-Q. Thu., May 19, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 20, 8 p.m., plays411.com/dontbelieveme. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 655-7679, greenwayarts.org.
Drive Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Laura Black's world premiere about the aftermath of a car crash. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 8. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.
Eleemosynary Lee Blessing's portrait of a grandmother, mother and daughter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 860-6569. Berg Studio Theatre, 3245 Casitas Ave., Ste. 104, L.A..
Evil Women Kinetic Theory Circus Arts explores the nature and perception of the female sex through movement, trapeze, contortion, aerial hoop, dance and acrobatics. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 4. Kinetic Theory Theatre, 3604 Holdrege Ave., L.A., (310) 606-2617, kinetictheorytheatre.com.
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.
Fernando Richardon's Treacherous Brain Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company present Monica Trasandes's world premiere about the unexpected effects of a man's brain surgery. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 9. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.NEW REVIEW GO FLOWER TO FLOWER Tom and Anna (Joseph L. Roberts, Marie Lively) are Plano, Texas, newlyweds with plans for a future together. But four months into the marriage, they have yet to consummate their union, and Anna is starting to worry, in addition to becoming exceedingly horny. Youth pastor Tom is all thumbs and has neither confidence nor experience when it comes to sex. He believes the problem can be solved with petitions for help to the Almighty. Anna, however, is far more practical, and thinks the path to orgasms can be found in bed, i.e., making love with another woman. Thus is established the tug of war between Jehovah and Eros that gives this hourlong piece its comic firewood. The idea of a "threesome" repulses Anna's white-bread husband, whose scriptural references about the evils of homosexuality are lucidly rebuffed when she points out that the Good Book says nothing about lesbians or lesbianism. Things really turn humorously erotic when Martha (Amy Harmon) happens along selling Mary Kay products. Notwithstanding an anemic ending, Christina Cigala's script bristles with lively dialogue and whips up its share of laughs. John Ennis directs capably, and the cast, which is rounded out by Ben Fuller in the role of Tom's brother, turn in good performances. Brimmer Street Productions at the El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 4. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org. (Lovell Estell III)
Four Clowns Antics of four clown archetypes the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 10. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
Groundlings State Penitentiary All-new sketch and improv, directed by Jim Rash. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through July 9. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.
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.
Gypsy West Coast Ensemble presents the classic showbiz musical, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 3. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A., (323) 595-4849.
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.
Hidden in This Picture Twenty-three years before Aaron Sorkin won an Oscar, he was a floundering New York actor (read bartender) graced by a career miracle He scratched out a one-act Hollywood satire good enough to get him an agent and the attention of people who would later transplant him to Hollywood, proving that his comedy was hilariously accurate. Hidden in This Picture is a preternatural calling card for a 27-year-old who was still so stuck on acting, he cast himself in the play's first production alongside a young Nathan Lane. On a farm in Schenectady, N.Y., first-time film director Robert (Robert Krisst) is three weeks behind schedule and $6.5 million over budget on his Guam war picture -- a long-winded and overly ambitious wedge of "Yale Drama crap," snipes the producer (Pantelis Kodogiannis). In 1988, Sorkin was already a storyteller obsessed with exactitude Below Robert, we learn, is a 12,000-acre field where 694 extras dressed as Marines in the tropics are marching along a 4,560-foot diagonal for a single-take/11.5-minute closing shot, timed for sunset. And as the cameras roll on this last day of shooting, and Robert blathers on to his writer (Patrick Tiller) and P.A. (Chadbourne Hamblin) about his certain Academy Award, three cows photobomb the frame. "Cows!" shrieks the wanna-be auteur, who spends the rest of the play veering between prayer and panic. The 45-minute short piece is a smart pick for the youthful Renegade Theatre -- it's fleet and funny and perfectly Los Angeles. But director Allen Williams needs to scale back his actors, who shout their lines and stomp on their own jokes. The production starts at a bellow and never allows itself to build, plus the cast can't agree on a consistent comic tone. It's interesting only to see Sorkin at the dawn of his career warning himself that the movie business means soul-crushing concessions -- unless, of course, you grow up to be Aaron Sorkin. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 15, plays411.com/hidden. Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A., (323) 874-1733, www.theactorsplaypen.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.
GO House of the Rising Son Tom Jacobson's comedy riffs in the style of Tennessee Williams, in a story about the initiation of a young Los Angeles man into a secret gay dynasty now situated in New Orleans, but dating back to Ancient Rome. Young folklore collector Felix (Steve Coombs) droolingly observes handsome, older biologist Dr. Trent Varro (Paul Whitten) giving a lecture in Los Angeles about parasites. Within 15 minutes of stage-time, they're graveyard hopping from Hollywood Forever to Forest Lawn, after which Felix finds himself with an invite to visit Trent's "family" in New Orleans for the weekend. Family would be dad (Patrick John Hurley ) and grandad (Rod Menzies). The comedy is a gay version of Meet the Parents, but with an actual idea attached that as parasites serve an ecosystem, gays similarly serve a social system. The play concerns issues of secrecy versus candor, of ghost stories versus empirical research, and the legacy of persecuted subcultures driven underground, who form their own rules to play by. Under Michael Michetti's direction, Menzies is particularly fine as the wry and cantankerous dying patriarch. As his son Hurley contains a genteel and gentle Southern swagger that's as endearing as it is wise. Whitten and Coombs also have a rapport that sparks. The visual delights include Richard Hoover's gothic carpeted set with furniture set at angles askew, like a House of Usher that's tilting from a sinking foundation. Sound designer Bruno Louchouarn floats in chords and brief anthems to accentuate moments of gothic melodrama. Nothing is what it seems. This whole blasted crew may just be swirl of ghosts. Though these characters talk and act as though from a play by Tennessee Williams, if they looked in the mirror, they might see Noel Coward's reflection. Spirits haven't been so blithe in a long time. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A..
GO I Never Sang for My Father If the aim of naturalism in theater is the pitch-perfect rendering of reality, then Cameron Watson's urbane staging of Robert Anderson's 1968 drama scores. It revolves around an aging, ailing and cantankerous egotist named Tom (Philip Baker Hall) and Tom's beleaguered son, Gene (John Sloan). A widowed college professor, the soft-spoken Gene has always sought his father's love but has never received it. With Tom now battling dementia, Gene struggles between a mix of duty and a desperate need to bond, and his equally strong desire to establish a new life for himself in California, 3,000 miles away. Constructed as a memory play, Anderson's highly personal work sometimes teeters on the edge of melodrama but ultimately transcends its suburban WASP milieu and mid-20th century perspective with its themes involving fathers and sons, family and self. Hall, a performer whose intense dynamic can barely be contained within the production's small venue, dominates the stage, barking at those around him; his Tom has become a fierce and wounded human animal. Sloan performs impeccably in the less flashy role of the tongue-biting adult Gene is laboring to be; so does Anne Gee Byrd as Tom's gracious, long-suffering wife. As sister Alice, banished from the family for marrying a Jew, the terrific Dee Ann Newkirk metamorphoses from a tight-lipped secondary character into the plot's fiery catalyst. The various shifts in time and place are effectively accommodated by designer John Iacovelli's spare set, with its transparent scrim elaborated on by projection designer Christopher M. Allison's color-imbued drawings. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 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.
An Ideal Husband Oscar Wilde's take on honor and morality in London politics. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through May 29. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.
ImagoFest 2011 Three one-acts by Mark Donnelly, Tim McNeil and Alex Aves. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 12. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., (323) 465-4446.
Julius Caesar Theatre Unleashed's all-female
version of the Shakespeare tragedy, set in an American community coping
with the domestic effects World War II. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Continues through June 18. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.,
(323) 463-3900, studio-stage.com.
GO Juno and the Paycock In director Allan Miller's emotionally deft production of Sean O'Casey's powerful Irish drama, "The whole world's in a state of total chassis." And whatever you make of such a statement, this staging of O'Casey's play artfully mixes blarney and despair in almost equal measure. Set in a squalid Dublin tenement, circa 1920, O'Casey's play focuses on one of the great tragic figures of the theater amiable, gloating, lying loafer "Captain" Jack Boyle (John Apicella), as lovable as he is overweening. Instead of finding a useful job to please his frustrated wife, Juno (Kitty Swink), Captain Jack boozes it up with his wastrel best pal, "Joxer" Daly (Armin Shimerman). Jack is delighted when he learns he has inherited a small fortune -- but outside their tenement, alarming dangers lurk that destroy his daughter Mary (Jeanne Syquia) and son Johnny (Josh Zuckerman). Miller's staging of this most character-driven of plays commendably showcases personality, and the acting work is both vivid and convincing. In Apicella's blustery turn as "the Paycock," Boyle's not just a lazy, genial sod, he's "King Baby," a strutting alpha male, whose sense of entitlement is noticeably at odds with the squalor of his reality. An equal pleasure is Swink's tightly wound, brittle Juno In this tough, melancholy performance, the long-suffering, hard-bitten wife clearly knows that she has turned into a hag as a result of picking up after her hubby's irresponsible fecklessness. Jack's true mate, of course, is his reprehensible boon companion Joxer Daly, played with irresistible rattiness by Shimerman, whose oily bonhomie is matched only by the character's spite when Boyle's back is turned. The shabby furniture of Chuck Erven's set in Act 1 turns into slightly fancier furniture in Act 2 (when the family's fortunes look to be made). There's even a working stove downstage, where Juno cooks up a delicious-smelling Irish sausage, which (no insult to the cast of this engaging and moving drama) inevitably steals the scene in which it appears. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 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.
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 May 29, (323) 960-4442. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., thehayworth.com.
Slow Children Crossing 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.
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.
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 June 25. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A., (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.org.
Lavender Love World premiere comedy by Odalys Nanin. Starting May 14, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 5, 7 p.m. Continues through June 18, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/lavenderlove. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood.NEW REVIEW GO MAD WOMEN
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. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 15, (323) 369-0571, urbantheatremovement.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..
Miss Coco Peru There Comes a Time The latest in song and story by drag diva Miss Coco Peru, written and performed by Clinton Leupp. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 22. Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org.
The Mistakes Madeline Made Elizabeth Meriwether's comedy about a woman who rejects "all things complacent, pampered and clean -- including showering." Starting May 19, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 4, (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/mistakesmadelinemade. Lounge Theatre, 6201 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.
Prom Re-Do Relive that awkward high school prom and benefit Elephant Theatre Company in this retro-party fund-raiser. Sat., May 14, 7 30 p.m., ElephantTheatreCompany.com. Elephant Stageworks' Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, L.A..
Quickies Floor Seven office-themed 10-minute plays by Paul Forte, Bonnie Hallman, Ron Klier, Jeff Lewis, Ashley Taylor, David Wally and Lyn Woodward. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 15, (818) 62-QUICK. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.complexhollywood.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.; Fridays, 11 59 p.m.; Sundays, 3 30 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800) 595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..
Rent Downtown L.A. Jonathan Larson's rock opera, West Coast style. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 25, rentsecretshow.com. Big Art Labs, 651 Clover St., L.A., (323) 559-3505, bigartlabs.com.
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 May 21, (323) 960-7822, plays411.com/rent. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., hudsontheatre.com.
Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare's romantic tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 28. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 525-0661, attictheatre.org.
Shoe Story After Nike released its Air Jordan basketball shoe in 1985 at the then-astronomical price of $115 a pair, a subsequent spate of violent muggings in which ghetto teens were murdered for their shoes became a rallying cry for those who felt the crimes were emblematic of the Reagan era's runaway materialism. Playwright Ben Snyder revisits those headlines in an "urban fairy tale" that begs the question, Does a news story slant carry the metaphoric weight needed to hold down a full-length stage drama? Based on the evidence of director Maureen Huskey's slick but indecisive staging, the answer appears to be, well, no. The play features Justin Alston as O.G. Mar, self-appointed street mentor to hapless Footlocker clerk PeeWee (Norm Johnson). After PeeWee is dumped by a gold-digging girlfriend (Nikki Brown), O.G. spins him a sad story of a shoe store in the 1980s (Sibyl Wickersheimer's cleverly exploded storefront/NYC bus shelter set) in which a similar clerk's inability to discriminate between matters of the heart and styling kicks for the feet ultimately leads to tragedy. Rather than allowing such slender satire to run its own course, Huskey strains the proceedings with excessively broad physical shtick and superfluous documentary video (by Bryan Maier and Anthony Puente) as if to underscore that the play is meant to be both funny and socially relevant. The gambit backfires when Act 2 takes an abrupt left turn into muddled melodrama and the otherwise rock-solid ensemble is left scrambling to get a foothold on the suddenly much darker register. (Bill Raden). 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.
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, Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Through June 4, 8 p.m. Continues through May 29, (323) 960-4424, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.
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' middling drama assays the familiar terrain of the troubled marriage in need of intensive couch time. Tom (Ross McCall) is a Vietnam vet whose ostensibly happy life is disrupted when he returns to his New York City apartment after watching the 1988 Super Bowl and sees wife Sandra (Alice Fulks) being a mite too cozy with her acting coach, Paul (Wes Chatham). Enraged, Tom breaks Paul's nose, goes on a jealous rant, destroys property, brandishes a gun -- which he always carries and is more than willing to use -- and subsequently throws the lives of all concerned into upheaval. Things don't get any better when he learns that his fiery temper and erratic behavior have led to a lawsuit, and Sandra walks out in a desperate search for answers. Most of what's dramatically appealing here occurs in the early stages of Act 1. For the most part, the characters are well sketched and hold interest, but the sometimes waggish upsurges of Paul's dark side, which include boozing it up, frequent outbursts of coarse language and hitting on his close friend's (Alex Desert) curvaceous wife (Jen Dede), grow wearisome in the absence of a more engrossing narrative and because of the play's tortuous length. There are hints that Paul's tour in Vietnam may be the cause of his irrational conduct, but at play's end, when a much-needed moment of revelation seems afoot, the curtain falls, leaving only questions. In spite of these inadequacies, Jamie Wollrab provides respectable direction and elicits consistently good performances from his cast. (Lovell Estell III). 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.
GO The Temperamentals The term NHI was a code word used by Los Angeles police in their case files in the 1950s. It stood for NO HUMANS INVOLVED, and referred to any cases concerning homosexuals, African-Americans, Latinos or other minorities the cops considered undesirable. In those days of virulent homophobia and institutionalized repression, gay activist Harry Hay (Dennis Christopher), designer and Viennese refugee Rudi Gernreich (Erich Bergen) and their friends, Chuck Rowland (Mark Shunock) and Bob Hull (John Tartaglia), organized the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization in the U.S. They referred to themselves as "Temperamentals" -- a code word for gays. They also embraced the cause of Dale Jennings (Patrick Scott Lewis), the defendant in the first legal case to successfully challenge the LAPD's entrapment policies. They were a colorful crew Hay was married for 11 years, and fathered two children before he came out. As a former communist, he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and in his later years he founded the Radical Faeries. Playwright Jon Marans employs theatrical shorthand and presentational style to tell a wide-ranging, complex tale, and director Michael Matthews gives it a lively staging, assisted by an able and engaging cast. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 5. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 661-9827, theblank.com.
Tiger Tiger Burning Bright If choice of text were the sole determinant of a revival's success, then director Sam Nickens' rediscovery of Peter S. Feibleman's all-but-forgotten curio of a 1962 Southern Gothic might be considered a coup. Written in the quirky key of vintage Inge, Feibleman's tale of a hardscrabble black family in early-1950s New Orleans is a surprisingly fresh and unsentimental treatment of the self-deceiving hypocrisy of respectability. The high-minded, widowed matriarch, Mama Morris (Regina Randolph), is so in thrall to the memory of her criminally inclined eldest son as a WWII battlefield martyr that she has made an altar of the government telegram announcing his death in action. Eight years later, however, the strain of living up to that legacy has produced a household where nothing is what it seems. Son Clarence (Damien Burke) is apparently the home's honest and hard-working breadwinner. Cille (DaShawn Barnes) is the plain, migraine-plagued daughter whose frail health appears to be dooming her to spinsterhood. The emotionally arrested Dan (Richard John Reliford) is seemingly engaged to the ostensibly demure belle Adelaide (Barika A. Croom). But when a Korean War draft notice for Clarence punctures the family's carefully guarded fictions, self-knowledge rushes in to exact a terrible toll. Despite outstanding performances by the women, Nickens' lax and uneven staging (on lighting designer Chris Covics' ramshackle kitchen-sink set) never gets beyond the play's surface melodrama to plumb its far more tantalizing gallery of psychological grotesques. An Upward Bound Production. (Bill Raden). 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..
Tofu Treats and Other Stories Vegetarian tales of "food, love and skillets" by Monica Palacios. Sun., May 15, 2 p.m., onearchives.org. One National Gay and Lesbian Archive, 909 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., (213) 741-0094, onearchives.org.
The Traveling Lady West Coast premiere of the revised version of Horton Foote's small-town story of a woman's reunion with her ex-con husband. (Pre-show lecture by Dr. Marion Castleberry, who assisted the playwright with the revision, Sat., May 14.) Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 30 p.m. Continues through June 12. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A., (323) 462-8460, actorsco-op.org.
The Unrequited (Between Two Worlds) Love (especially the young, wild strain) thwarted by well-meaning parents never ends well. Apparently, fictional characters heed George Santayana's famous saying, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," as well as those in the real world do. In this world premiere, playwright Lynn Manning takes on S. Ansky's 1914 play, The Dybbuk. In Manning's version, Isela (Lisa Jai) and poor, spiritually possessed Cris (Marcenus "MC" Earl) have an otherworldly attraction to each other. But Isela's father, Hector (Juan E. Carrillo), promises her to the man he believes can better provide for the girl, who's been crippled by polio. The racial backdrop Manning has hung (in Depression-era Watts, no less) is especially interesting -- Hector and Isela are Mexican, a Japanese woman runs their household, a black woman is Isela's best friend, but Hector will not abide Cris, a black man, as his daughter's husband, and deeper racism still is revealed when reckoning is rained down on Hector. Spiritual contention is woven throughout the script as Catholicism, born-again Christianity and Hoodoo butt heads, colliding into "The sins of the father will be visited upon the son." The realities of economic strife play out in contrast to snippets of FDR's New Deal speeches. Social prejudice remains despite the Great Depression, as Deacon (George Gant) huffs, "I'd rather be a half-naked jiggaboo in King Kong than a bum on skid row." Yes, chunks of fat need to be trimmed from the script, but obviously, the play inspires contemplation. Nice performances from Carrillo, Earl, Gant and Jai, and special nods to Meghan E. Healey's costumes and Cricket S. Myers' effectively eerie sound design. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 18, 8 p.m. Continues through May 22, (213) 613-1700 x113, CornerstoneTheater.org. Youth Opportunities High School, Mafundi Auditorium, 1827 E. 103rd St., L.A..
Voice Lessons Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart and Maile Flanagan reprise their original roles in Justin Tanner's romantic comedy. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 & 9 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 29. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYSNEW REVIEW GO ANTIMAN In the patois of St. Croix, population 60,000, the insult "antiman" means girly and weak. But if it sounds like it means "against humanity," that's not far off from the brutally bohemian upbringing of Sky Matthew Riel Paley, who as a baby was uprooted from Canada to the Caribbean after his dad died of a drug overdose. Paley's solo show howls with pain as he relives being a 5-year-old boy neglected by his hippie mom, Talia, and her abusive, drug-running boyfriend, Georgia Joe. The island howls, too, at its neglect by the Americans who shunned it after revolutionaries machine-gunned eight tourists on a golf course, and the best advice it can give young Sky is to simply try to stay alive. Director Michele Lonsdale Smith helps Paley shape the piece's passion and poetry, though it's the concrete details that resonate. It's hard to believe the thuggish Joe would name-check Georgia O'Keefe, but when mom screams at Sky for not thinking about her needs, the memory stings like a sore bruise. And when Talia declares she's going to raise Sky homeless so he'll learn to appreciate nature, could he be keeping that next chapter back for a sequel? St. Croix looks like paradise, but Paley argues that its failed economy and burnout culture offer its people -- especially the young -- no safe harbor. What lingers is a childhood and a culture with zero hope. That Paley escaped to the mainland with a sense of perspective and a sliver of humor about his misadventures makes this slender, personal show feel like a triumph. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 22. (541) 517-3320, brownpapertickets.com/event/170468. (Amy Nicholson)
The Au Pair Man Hugh Leonard's comedy about an Irishman in London seeking the position of live-in employee of a mysterious wealthy woman. Starting May 14, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 12, (818) 760-8322. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, ravenplayhouse.com.
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.
Cat's Cradle Leslie Sands' murder mystery set in
the English village of Waverton Magna. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;
Sundays, 2 30 p.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87
W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318,
GO The Crucible 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. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 15, $20, $15 students & seniors. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 846-5323, theatrebanshee.org.
Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz Steve and Kathy Hotchner's interactive kids musical based on the L. Frank Baum story. Presented by June Chandler's Fairy Tale Theatre. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through June 4. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
The Emancipation of Alabaster McGill SkyPilot Theatre Company presents Jeff Goode's gay Civil War comedy. Starting May 14, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 19, skypilottheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.
Experience Magic! Ryan Luevano's hybrid of magic show and musical theater. Sun., May 15, 7 30 p.m. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.
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). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 27, (323) 822-7898, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found There's much to admire in Fin Kennedy's sharp-witted, poetical drama about valid causes of subterranean rage and despondency in our hyper-marketed age. Charlie (Brad Culver) is a London-based marketing exec plunging into madness from a supercharged, jet-propelled pace of living that keeps authentic feelings and reflection at bay. It's the life-defining smartphones and the sales pitches, and people around him starting to move too slowly for his increasingly lunatic comfort zone. Until he, or his soul, starts to unravel through dreams of his own death. With a gentle-natured physician (Carolyn Ratterray) examining his "corpse" -- even while he remains mobile -- Charlie envisions himself not only separated from the culture but floating above himself. These fissures lead him to outcast Mike (Tim Winters), an expert in the minutiae of how the government (and corporations) track our birth and our buying habits in order to keep us on a string. Mike also is expert in how to unplug oneself from the roller-coaster surveillance, how to erase one's former self and start again new birth certificate, new passport, new life. The play is a shriek of despair with our commercial values, like an early poem by Bertolt Brecht via Sarah Kane, sleekly directed by Nancy Keystone on her own stark set wherein an office and a morgue are much the same place. It overstates its case viscerally, fully revealing its philosophy in a mocking scene where Charlie (who has morphed into his new identity as "Adam") rolls his eyes when somebody tries to explain how life's value lies in small, simple pleasures -- which actually happens to be true. The ridicule isn't an argument but an attitude, marking the play as a somewhat juvenile exercise, despite this marvelous production. Even jaded Samuel Beckett, like Brecht before him, found currents of romanticism in his nihilistic vision. Minus this paradox, we're just left with a poetically articulated, teenager's schrei. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 29. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.org.
Ismene Jeremy Menekseoglu's darkly comic take on Antigone's sister, Ismene. Part of a simultaneous worldwide eight-city opening in aid of cancer charities, here benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Through May 14, 8 p.m. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 506-0600, actorsforumtheatre.org.
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 REVIEW GO THE MALCONTENT
No Word in Guyanese for Me Hanna Jokhoe's story of a gay, Muslim immigrant who must reconcile her faith with her sexuality. Starting May 14, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 12. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank, (818) 558-5702.
The Prisoner of Second Avenue Though the material feels a bit dated, Neil Simon's 1971 play about a man whose life nearly crumbles after he loses his lifelong job in the midst of an economic downturn rings a few timely bells about the average American's struggle to survive a recession. Mel (Mark Belnick) lashes out at his wife, Edna (Kimberly Lewis), when he and more than 40 of his co-workers are laid off. Shuffling around his New York City apartment in pajamas while Edna pounds the pavement and gets back to work, Mel lets millions of minute discomforts -- from the smell of trash in the street to the noisy neighbor upstairs -- invade his mind, until nervous breakdown ensues. Lamenting over the crumbling middle class and eventually spiraling into paranoid rage, Mel ends up medicated and mooned over by his meddling siblings until Mel and Edna begin to find their way back to an imperfect but stable life. Belnick gives Mel a rage that's infused with an overabundance of camp, but that's perhaps more a byproduct of Simon's writing than a reflection of Belnick's talent. Lewis is skilled at playing both spirited and dispirited, but she likewise comes off as a Simon relic, unflinchingly willing to sacrifice herself on the altar of her husband's neurosis. (Amy Lyons). 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 29, RoadTheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.
Rumors Neil Simon's farce about an affluent dinner party and a dead body. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 12. Covina Center for the Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave., Covina, (626) 331-8133, covinacenter.com.
Sotto Voce Robert Riemer's thriller about exorcising a young woman's demons. Saturdays, 8 30 p.m. Continues through June 11. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.
Three Sisters or Perestroika Pavel Cerny's adaptation of the 1901 play by Anton Chekhov. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 12, (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.NEW REVIEW GO TURBO TARTUFFE
Veronika Decides to Die Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho has enjoyed inordinate success -- he sold 65 million copies of The Alchemist and set the Guinness World Record for the most-translated book by a living author. But on stage and screen, his stories founder. Both Warner Bros. and Harvey Weinstein have struggled to adapt The Alchemist, while a $9 million version of his 1998 novel Veronika Decides to Die, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, has languished unreleased in America. This is not surprising -- especially after watching Taylor Ashbrook and Beth Ricketson's nearly three-hour attempt to wrangle this book into submission. Ricketson plays the titular Veronika, a pretty Slovenian librarian who swallows a should-be-fatal dose of sleeping pills out of boredom. Every day is the same, she sighs to her two doctors, both so casual and unprofessional that they should be disbarred. When they tell Veronika that her suicide attempt destroyed her heart and left her with just five days to live, she spends days one and two trying to die faster, trolling for more pills when she could just do jumping jacks. Coelho is like Ken Kesey crossed with Deepak Chopra. Every line is a proclamation on sanity and civilization; the adapters have been intimidated into thinking they need a 12-person ensemble and dozens of speeches about clocks and sexual deviants and the Book of Genesis to make a single point Conformity is nuts. When Veronika has an emotional breakthrough, masturbating in front of a hunky schizophrenic (Jonathan Trent), she tells three characters about it in three separate but equally pointless conversations. And at the end, there are flashbacks to lines people said just 15 minutes before. If Ashbrook's cast was stronger, the length would be less arduous, but the on-the-nose performances are exemplified in a scene where Ricketson bangs on a piano and screams, "I couldn't be what you wanted!" (Amy Nicholson). 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.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
Bedtime Stories Roadkill Productions presents 10 short plays that all take place in a bed. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A., (310) 535-6007, psychicvisionstheatre.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.
Dracula Staged reading of Charles Morey's adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. May 18-20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 30 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 4 p.m., latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, (310) 440-4500, skirball.org.
Entropy General Alive Theatre presents Ryan McClary's world-premiere "traumedy." Fri., May 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 14, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 8 p.m., alivetheatre.org. The MADhouse, 624 Pacific Ave., Long Beach.
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.; Sundays, 3 30 p.m. Continues through June 26. The Other Space at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779.
Luv Murray Schisgal's spoof of avant-garde drama.
Starting May 18, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2
p.m. Continues through June 26. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova
Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.
Mr. Marmalade Noah Haidle's story of a 4-year-old with an imaginary friend with a cocaine addiction. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 21. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (866) 811-4111, thegaragetheatre.org.
Mutant Olive Katselas Theater Company presents Mitch Hara's one-man show. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 28. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.
The Pool of Bethesda The proverb from Luke, "Physician, heal thyself," is apt for the situation faced by Dr. Daniel Pearce (John Prosky) in Allan Cubitt's treatise on medicine, religion and art. I say treatise because Cubitt tends merely to splash the surface of the issues he explores. His dialogue, in which Pearce keeps reminding us that he's a doctor (a repetition that just steers clear of Star Trek parody), suffers from bouts of obvious exposition. Further muddying the waters is a first act that plays out largely in Pearce's time-bending hallucinations caused by his brain tumor. He travels from modern-day London to 18th-century England, conversing with artist William Hogarth (Josh Nathan), who is painting the biblically inspired titular work, and observing the treatment of the poor under the healthcare administration at the time. While the period costumes are authentically crafted and the "disease makeup" convincing, the basic story and themes aren't clarified until Act 2, in which we observe Pearce slowly decaying, much to the dismay of his wife, Jane (Anna Steers), his sister Ruth (Sarah Underwood), and his doctor and colleague, Kate (Cecily Overman). Director Joanne Gordon and Prosky deliver some touchingly tender moments between Pearce and the women in his life, as well as some funny ones with Simon (Nathan), a Polish orderly who brings him flavored vodka. In those moments, the themes from Act 1 flicker into fruition, but like Pearce's brain tumor, it's a bit too late. (Mayank Keshaviah). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 14, (562) 985-5526, calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, queenmary.com.
Sand in the Air Brian Raine's story of a doctor in a
remote Texas border town accused of sexual improprieties. Fridays,
Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 28.
Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519,
Thicker Than Water Six Short Plays About Family Barbara Bain and D.B. Sweeney star in Dale Griffiths Stamos's collection of one-acts. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 22, (323) 960-5772, plays411.com/thickerthanwater. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, promenadeplayhouse.com.
GO UnScripted Rep Rampant alcohol abuse, closeted homosexuality and shrill Southern belles nervously walking the line between hysterical rage and catatonic collapse This is Tennesee Williams territory and the folks at Impro Theatre traverse the Southern Gothic terrain with hilarious authenticity. No, it's not The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire, it's a spontaneously authored, full-length play crafted to capture the style, mood and thematic leanings of a given playwright. Last Saturday, that playwright was Williams (in rotating rep, William Shakespeare and Stephen Sondheim also get the improv treatment), and a boozy family saga emerged after audience members agreed upon two simple items to launch the story A family heirloom (a vase with horses on it) and an animal (a Chihuahua). The particulars of the play are not important, because the troupe never replicates the same show. What is notable is their collective knack for creating characters and scenarios we recognize in an instant as quintessentially Williams. The vase is introduced as a wedding gift for an excitable June (Kari Coleman), who initially squeals with joy over the charmingly upbeat journey of the horses. By play's end, however, the horses race in a hopelessly circular trajectory that serves as a metaphor for the futility of marriage. Darnell (Stephen Kearn), June's teen brother, dreams of escaping on horseback from his sexual longings for his art teacher (Brian Lohmann, who also directs with a clear grasp of the requisite atmospheric touches) and his overbearing, hard-drinking father. Lisa Fredrickson's quick-witted portrayal of a matriarch bearing an uncanny resemblance to Amanda Wingfield was a delight. Textual mining and fast thinking marry with ease in the ensemble's hands. (Amy Lyons). 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.