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Stage Raw

Stage Raw: Sermon on the Mound

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Fri, May 20, 2011 at 10:49 AM
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click to enlarge Roger Guenveur Smith in Dodgertown - CRAIG SCHWARTZ
  • Craig Schwartz
  • Roger Guenveur Smith in Dodgertown

If you're in the minority of a certain age that grew up in or around L.A., there are certain names, associated with Dodger baseball broadcaster Vin Sculley's voice, that are part of what can only be called a legacy: shortstop Maury Wills, centerfielder Willie Davis, pitchers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and Don Sutton, second baseman Jim Lefebvre, first baseman Wes Parker, catcher Johnny Roseboro. At Chavez Ravine in the mid to late 1970s, whenever San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal took the mound at the top of the first, you could hear the wail of "boos" all the way in Long Beach. That's called institutional memory, of over a decade, for when up at Candlestick Park in 1965, Marichal succumbed to a fit of rage for being dinged on the ear by a return toss from catcher Roseboro to pitcher Koufax. Marichal ripped off Roseboro's mask and plowed into his skull with a baseball bat. Roger Guenveur Smith's solo show, Juan and John, takes that incident, which almost coincided with the Watts Riots and the amping up of the War in Vietnam, for a kind of sermon on the mound, on the essences of friction and mercy. It plays at the Kirk Douglas Theater through May 29. See Theater feature next week.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR May 21-27, 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

AfterMath Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama about a widow trying to cope with her husband's suicide. Starting May 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 26, (800) 595-4849, aftermaththeplay.com. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A..

Becoming Memories Arthur Giron's ode to grandparents, created in collaboration with members of the Illusion Theatre of Minneapolis. Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

Between Us Chickens Two small-town girls Pennsylvania and a native son of L.A. make for a manipulative love triangle, by Sofia Alvarez. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 19. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., (323) 644-1929, AtwaterVillageTheatre.com.

Extraordinary Chambers David Wiener's story of a business trip to Cambodia gone awry. Starting May 24, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 3. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.

Fifth of July Lanford Wilson's comedy-drama set in 1977 about reunited friends who once were antiwar activists in Berkeley. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 25, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

Hamlet, Prince of Darkness Zombie Joe's Underground's Shakespeare-inspired "dark adventure-comedy-thriller," written by Richard Nathan . Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 24. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

iGhost World-premiere musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost, book by Doug Haverty, music by Adryan Russ, lyrics by Russ and Haverty. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., June 12, 7 p.m. Continues through June 18, (626) 695-8283, brownpapertickets.com/event/169940. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., lyrictheatrela.com.

The Indian Wants the Bronx/Tom & Jerry Actors Circle Ensemble presents two one-act plays Israel Horovitz's story of a bewildered East Indian in urban America, and Jim Geoghan's comedy set in a sleazy nightclub run by the mob. May 25-28, 8 p.m., ActorsCircleEnsemble.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City.

Jimmy Tingle for President The Exploratory Show - The Funniest Campaign in History The comedian's satirical 2012 platform for the presidency. May 26-28, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 29, 7 p.m., (323) 960-7745, jimmytingle.com. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., complexhollywood.com.

Killer Queen Peter Griggs' one-man show about a gay boxer who idolizes Freddie Mercury. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through June 5, brownpapertickets.com/event/163688. Empowerment Center Boxing Gym, 8106 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Luv Murray Schisgal's spoof of avant-garde drama. Starting May 21, 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.

The Madness of Hercules Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble presents excerpts from a new play by John Farmanesh-Bocca, based on a text by Seneca the Younger. Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 3 p.m. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.

Nazi Hunter - Simon Wiesenthal Tom Dugan's one-man play honoring the life of the late concentration-camp survivor. (No perfs May 30 & June 5.) Starting May 22, Mondays, Tuesdays, Sundays, 7 30 p.m. Continues through June 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.

100 Saints You Should Know A priest's, a teenage boy's and a young woman's confused destinies collide, by Kate Fodor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 26, (877) 369-9112,. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., elephantstages.com.

Smutopia Highways' 22nd Birthday "Party" To celebrate 22 years, Highways transforms into "an erotic hypnotic hysteric frenetic midway, featuring festival stages, private booths, stag film sets and The Palace of Peep." Fri., May 20, 8 30 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 8 30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

South of Delancey World-premiere play by Karen Sommers, based on the true story of a Jewish arbitration court. Starting May 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 26, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.com.

Sylvia A.R. Gurney's comedy about a man, his wife and his dog. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through July 10. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Three Days of Rain Richard Greenberg's play about two generations of intertwined families. Starting May 21, Sat., May 21, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 30 & 7 30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7 30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 30 & 8 p.m. Continues through June 12. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.

The View From Here Margaret Dulaney's story of anxiety in a small Kentucky town. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 12. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 506-3903.

WordTheatre Lit by Lulu Stories by Charles Baxter, from his new collection Gryphon, performed by Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy), Edith Fields (Next) and others. The author appears in person for a Q&A and book signing. Sun., May 22, 7 30 p.m., (310) 915-5150, WordTheatre.com. Soho House West Hollywood, 9200 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 817, West Hollywood, sohohousewh.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

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 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

GO The Eccentricities of a Nightingale It's New Year's Eve in Tennessee Williams' drama, and Alma Winemiller is enchanted by the crisp snaps of "frosty branches crackin'," but she's so flushed with an inner flame she's shed jacket, scarf and gloves. Deborah Puette's Alma is burning, set alight by a firecracker the recently graduated doctor John Buchanan (Jason Dechert, in a role made for him) casually tosses at her during Glorious Hill, Mississippi's Fourth of July celebration. But Alma isn't like the pretty, simple girls who have surrounded the eligible Buchanan up north. Nearing spinsterhood, she's the town eccentric, who scatters crumbs for birds in the square and is given to heart palpitations that seem a result of the fluttery bird beating about in her own chest. Simultaneously attracted ("The light keeps changin' in [her eyes]") and repelled ("It's not lit," he says in the heartbreaking penultimate scene, crudely referring to his sexual desire), Buchanan engages with Alma as an almost scientific experiment. Yet Williams refuses to allow such cold sterility, and in a scene so charged it leaves you smoldering in your seat, Buchanan examines a frantic Alma, uttering possibly the most erotic three words ever written by a playwright. Director Damaso Rodriguez dances the entire production through the play's musicality on a stage lit beautifully by James P. Taylor in the soft gauziness that Williams' "romantic clichés" demand. In fact, the only slip is that early on, Puette rests on an overactive accent. But by the second act, even that flaw is forgiven, and as Williams' ever-tragic tide begins to come in, the only thing to do is let it wash over you. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Sun., May 22, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thu., May 26, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 27, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 28, 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale, (818) 240-0910, anoisewithin.org.

Extraordinary Chambers David Wiener's story of a business trip to Cambodia gone awry. Starting May 24, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 3. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.

Funky Punks Circus Spectacular Troubadour Theater Company's kid-friendly clown extravaganza. 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. Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 6:30 p.m.; Through May 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.

Just for the Record Paul Rodriguez's solo show on his life in comedy. (In Spanish on Sundays.). 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.

NEW REVIEW GO KISS ME, KATE

click to enlarge ED KRIEGER
  • Ed Krieger
Ed Krieger

Director Michael Michetti has assembled a delightful production for this revival of the classic musical, with its glorious score by Cole Porter. The zanily clever book by Samuel and Bella Spewack introduces us to producer-director Fred Graham (Tom Hewitt), who is starring -- and bickering -- with his ex-wife, Lili Vanessi (Leslie Margherita) in a production of The Taming of the Shrew, but their real life roles keep spilling over into their onstage conflicts. Margherita is a hilariously over-the-top Lili/Katherine, while Hewitt makes for a stalwart Fred/Petruchio. Meg Gillintine sparkles as gold-digging Lois Lane, who's having a fling with Fred while trying to reform her gambler boy-friend Bill (Sean Martin Hingston). Jay Brian Winnick and Herschel Sparber score a comic triumph as the Shakespeare-quoting gangsters who disrupt the action with untimely efforts to collect a gambling debt. Lee Martino's electric, sometimes bawdy choreography lights up the stage, and the dancers led by Hingston, Scott Alan Hislop, and Ray Garcia, galvanize the production. Costume designer Gary Lennon provides the lavish costumes, including form-fitting parti-colored tights, complete with cod-pieces, for the male dancers -- but his military uniforms wouldn't pass inspection. Music director Michael Paternostro leads the orchestra with meticulous verve, and Tom Buderwitz's set -- a huge revolving proscenium arch -- keeps the action fluid. Reprise Theatre Company at UCLA/The Freud Playhouse; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 22. (310) 825-2101. (Neal Weaver)

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. 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.

The Madness of Hercules Not Man Apart Physical Theatre Ensemble presents excerpts from a new play by John Farmanesh-Bocca, based on a text by Seneca the Younger. Fri., May 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 22, 3 p.m. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, (310) 440-7300, getty.edu.

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.

GO Standing on Ceremony The Gay Marriage Plays This highly acclaimed evening of short plays by award-winning playwrights, dealing with the subject of marriage equality, was first presented as a one-time benefit to support gay marriage. Now it's scheduled for a special series of Monday night performances, to benefit the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's efforts to promote marriage equality, with a different celebrity cast each week. All nine plays are winners -- funny, clever, stylish and compassionate -- and none is allowed to devolve into mere propaganda. This Marriage Is Saved, by Joe Keenan, concerns a Christian evangelist, caught in flagrante delicto with a gay hustler, who attempts to salvage his conservative credentials by writing a book called Now I Only Kneel to Pray. In Strange Fruit, writer Neil LaBute looks at a happy gay couple who plan to marry till grim reality intervenes. In On Facebook, Doug Wright adapts a real online exchange in which fur flies as six people, of widely differing views, tangle violently on the subject of gay marriage. Moisés Kaufman sets his moving London Mosquitos at a Jewish funeral, in which a man mourns the loss of his longtime lover to vicious gay-bashers. And Paul Rudnick's The Gay Agenda provides a funny and surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a hysterical member of Focus on the Family, who feels her whole existence is under siege by gays and lesbians. The other plays, by Wendy McLeod, Jenny Lynn Bader, Jordan Harrison and Jose Rivera, are equally sharp. If director Brian Schnipper can assemble celebrity casts as skillful as the one reviewed (Amy Aquino, John Getz, Harriet Harris, Peter Paige, Tom Everett Scott and Cynthia Stevenson), this production is a luxury item. (Neal Weaver). Mon., May 23, 8 p.m.; Mon., June 6, 8 p.m.; Mon., June 20, 8 p.m.; Mon., June 27, 8 p.m., StandingOnCeremony.net. Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.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.

Three Days of Rain Richard Greenberg's play about two generations of intertwined families. Starting May 21, Sat., May 21, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 30 & 7 30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7 30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 30 & 8 p.m. Continues through June 12. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-5555, scr.org.

The Ugly Duckling Interactive kids' musical by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Adryan Russ. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 9, (818) 761-2203. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., theatrewest.org.

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

AfterMath Elliot Shoenman's comedic drama about a widow trying to cope with her husband's suicide. Starting May 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 26, (800) 595-4849, aftermaththeplay.com. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A..

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.

bash latterday plays Coeurage Theatre presents Neil Labute's Mormon tragedies. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 22, coeurage.org. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.

Between Us Chickens Two small-town girls Pennsylvania and a native son of L.A. make for a manipulative love triangle, by Sofia Alvarez. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 19. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., (323) 644-1929, AtwaterVillageTheatre.com.

GO The Birthday Present 2050 Stories about dystopian societies often risk seeming contrived, but playwright Tania Wisbar's beautifully detailed and elegiac tale depicts a world that might believably exist, say, 100 years after a Nazi takeover. In the future, poverty and disease have been eliminated, but the world is instead organized on entirely practical lines, with your right to survive being decided by the number of "points" you earn every year. On the 75th birthday of family matriarch Teresa (Salome Jens), her devoted daughter Marsha (Elyssa Davalos) thinks she has collected enough points from her two sisters and family to allow Teresa to live another year. More than just being the emotional center of her clan, Teresa is one of the last living rebels who recalls life before the odious new order came to pass. Marsha's hopes are threatened when unexpected complications amp up the charge for Teresa's right to life. In director Jonathan Sanger's beautifully melancholy staging, what could be a mechanical exercise in high-concept plotting becomes a wistful tale of how easy it would be to purge memory of the past from the world. Sanger's smoothly executed production boasts many rich details Set designer Kis Knekt's calculatedly sterile living room is replete with decorative video screens that show 1984-esque messages from the genially sinister bureaucrat (Jeffrey Doornbos) who oversees the family's doings. Knekt's set, in conjunction with composer Karen Martin's eerie incidental music, crafts a world that's just plain crazy. The ensemble work is just as assured. Apart from Jens' powerful turn as the ferociously nonconforming grandmother, Davalos' complex performance as Marsha is exceptional Her character is seemingly an upbeat chirper, but her good mood is so clearly artificial, it seems as though she's always about to weep. Also engaging in supporting roles are Katrina Lenk, as Marsha's venomously selfish younger sister, and Demetrius Grosse, as a guilt-haunted security agent. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through 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., (323) 644-1929, AtwaterVillageTheatre.com.

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.

NEW REVIEW DEUX EX MACHINA AND THE HANDS OF THE BEHOLDER

click to enlarge JONATHAN BRETT
  • Jonathan Brett
Jonathan Brett
Minutes into writer-director R.S. Bailey's "dark Vaudevillian farce," one gets a sinking feeling. The play (which really feels like two discreet works), takes place in a semi-apocalyptic setting in which God's wrath is at hand and religious zealots have taken over the world. In the prologue, we meet a character named The Historian (Jezter Detroit), who rambles on about history, politics, cause and effect, great events, historical relativism, and more. Prompted by the wail of police sirens, he quickly exits, after which the "meat" of the play begins. Bailey assumes the role of Old Testament Patriarch -- with a dash of mad scientist and Sorcerer's Apprentice tossed in -- who is searching for God before the Day of Judgment. Assisting him are his wife Majda (Mary Dryden), and son Jesse (Jonathan Brett), who is working on a contraption called a Metatron where God is located, or as it turns out, the dwelling place of his voice. The inspiration for this is purportedly the story of Abraham and Isaac, but if it is, it doesn't come across as such, notwithstanding the bizarre sacrifice near the play's end. Theatre Z Productions at The Complex, Dorie Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlwd.; Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m.; thru June 5. (323) 960-7788. plays411.com (Lovell Estell III)


Don't Believe Me One-man spoken-word/hip-hop/comedy show by the performer known as IN-Q. Fri., May 20, 8 p.m., plays411.com/dontbelieveme. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 655-7679, greenwayarts.org.

Doug Loves Movies Tue., May 24, 7 30 p.m., Free. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., (323) 908-8702.

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.

NEW REVIEW GO FERNANDO RICHARDSON'S TREACHEROUS BRAIN

click to enlarge MONICA TRASANDES
  • Monica Trasandes
Monica Trasandes

In playwright Monica Trasandes' poignant and humorous drama, a man undergoes brain surgery and, in the ensuing confusion, spills some secrets that threaten to shatter his marriage. Uruguayan Fernando (Roberto Montesinos, in an endearing performance) and his American wife Kate (Natalie Sutherland) are warned by his Surgeon that patients can be quite bewildered after a brain operation. But no one is prepared for the jumble of memories that comes tumbling out. At first it all sounds like nonsense, but Fernando's impassioned distress at the possible abduction of a woman named Elisa (a sultry Karla Zamudio), whom he met when visiting Argentina, prompts his best friend Patrick (Mark Slater) to pursue the mystery. But sneaky Patrick may have an ulterior motive for unearthing the truth. Director Andre Barron elicits superb performances from his well-cast ensemble and allows time for tender, non-verbal moments. Trasandes' compassionate and subtle storytelling approach reveals shreds of information while her intimate and warm dialogue illustrates the complexities of various devoted relationships. Above all, her carefully constructed play touches on deeper themes of culture clash and the burden of middle-class guilt and proves the heart is more powerful than the brain. Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; through June 9. (323) 882-6912. openfist.org. (Pauline Adamek)

Fifth of July Lanford Wilson's comedy-drama set in 1977 about reunited friends who once were antiwar activists in Berkeley. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 25, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

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. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 4, (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..

For the Record Baz Luhrmann Show at Barre's tribute to the writer-director's songs and films. Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through June 11, (323) 661-6163 x20, showatbarre.com. Vermont, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

NEW REVIEW GO 4 CLOWNS

click to enlarge 4 CLOWNS - CAMERON MCINTYRE
  • Cameron McIntyre
  • 4 CLOWNS
Cameron McIntyre
4 CLOWNS

Creator-director Jeremy Aluma's performance piece made quite a splash during its run at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival. This latest incarnation, with some noticeable tinkering, is every bit as entertaining. The play blends music, dance, physical comedy and narrative performed by four archetypal clowns cum red noses and painted faces: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein), Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi). Accompanied by the commanding virtuosity of Mario Granville on piano, the clowns tell of the common and uncommon: nasty fights with siblings; a trip to the doctor that resulted in molestation, teenage angst, that special event known as a first date; a mom at home trying to cope with family issues. There is a lot of audience interaction that transpires, which adds to the fun. In one especially poignant moment, Lee opens a steamer chest (which is the only prop used) and finds a Christmas gift. What surprises most about this show is the ease and spontaneity with which the performers interact with one another and their manic energy, which at times seems to take over the stage. There is a fair amount of coarse language and X-rated material (not all of which is funny) so this isn't a show for the kiddies. Sacred Fools Theater Company, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr. L.A., Fri. 11. p.m.; through June 10. (310) 281-8337. (Lovell Estell III) 

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.


NEW REVIEW GO GYPSY
click to enlarge CARLA BARNETT
  • Carla Barnett
Carla Barnett

With its huge cast, multiple settings, book by Arthur Laurents, score by Jules Stein, and catchy lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this show has become a quintessential Broadway musical, making demands that are hard to meet in a 99-seat theatre. Director Richard Israel proves that it can be scaled down without losing its pizzazz. And Jan Sheldrick, as the bullying, possessive Mama Rose, takes a role that has been played by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler, and makes it triumphantly her own, with quiet moments as well as brassy ones. Stephanie Wall provides a fine performance as Rose Louise--the future Gypsy Rose Lee--marred only by the fact that she's not always audible. The large cast, headed by Michael Matthys as Mama Rose's brow-beaten swain, Eric Allen Smith as the young song-and-dance man Tulsa, and Kelly Swanson as Mama Rose's other daughter, Dainty June, provides fine support, along with veteran performers Larry Lederman and Tony Pandolfo. Sara J. Stuckey, Kelly Jean Cuir, and Jessica Schatz score as the three strippers who sing "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Johanna Kent's music direction and John Todd's choreography keep things lively. Theatre of Arts Arena Stage, 1625 North Las Palmas Avenue, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru July 3. Produced by West Coast Ensemble. (323) 655-0108. westcoastensemble.org. (Neal Weaver)

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., AtwaterVillageTheatre.com.

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.

Iceberg Ahead! Jay Parker's backstage farce. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.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.

iGhost World-premiere musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Canterville Ghost, book by Doug Haverty, music by Adryan Russ, lyrics by Russ and Haverty. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 5, 7 p.m.; Sun., June 12, 7 p.m. Continues through June 18, (626) 695-8283, brownpapertickets.com/event/169940. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., lyrictheatrela.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.

In the Ages of the Earth Guy J Jackson's "not for kids" one-man show. Saturdays, 11 30 p.m. Continues through May 28, (310) 651-1859. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., L.A., workingstage.com.

Jimmy Tingle for President The Exploratory Show - The Funniest Campaign in History The comedian's satirical 2012 platform for the presidency. May 26-28, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 29, 7 p.m., (323) 960-7745, jimmytingle.com. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., complexhollywood.com.

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.

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.

Killer Queen Peter Griggs' one-man show about a gay boxer who idolizes Freddie Mercury. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through June 5, brownpapertickets.com/event/163688. Empowerment Center Boxing Gym, 8106 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

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. 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.

GO Mad Women Known for his mastery of the intimate, character-driven performance, John Fleck does not disappoint in this offbeat, yet strangely heartfelt solo show. It consists of dramatic portraits of two women, iconic diva Judy Garland and Fleck's own mother, who died from Alzheimer's-related issues some time ago. At the start of the show, Fleck bursts through a stage door and launches into a lip-synch of portions of one of Judy Garland's final performances -- her famous turn at the Cocoanut Grove, where she interrupted her performance to bawl incoherent, self-hating, drug-laced insanity. From there, the story drifts into Fleck's memories of his own beloved mother, as she slowly lost her mind and entered a world of dreams. At first, it's unclear what the two stories can possibly have to do with each other, but as Fleck's haunting storytelling unfolds, the parallel themes coalesce into a simultaneously funny and melancholy meditation on the nature of insanity, dreams and, incidentally, the creative spirit. At one point, Garland's rambling actually subtly shifts into Fleck's mother's unearthly monologue, and we find ourselves unsure which woman we're actually listening to. In director Ric Montejano's breezy, seemingly simple staging, Fleck almost convinces us that's he's just hanging out with us and telling a story. However, the intimacy is deceptive and the adroit performance gracefully dances through powerful issues with emotional truthfulness. Many performers try to "do" Garland in their show, but Fleck is less interested in impersonating the singer (this isn't a drag show, except arguably for one short sequence toward the end) than he is in trying to touch on her deeper meaning. Eyes a-bugging and tongue a-waggling, Fleck himself mugs joyfully, peppering the show with ad libs and unexpected asides to particular members of the audience, but he's utterly on point when hitting precisely effective, emotionally charged notes. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 29, (702) 582-8587. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

Magic Strings Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a "Day at the Circus," and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2 30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10 30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

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." Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 4, (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/mistakesmadelinemade. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

100 Saints You Should Know A priest's, a teenage boy's and a young woman's confused destinies collide, by Kate Fodor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 26, (877) 369-9112,. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., elephantstages.com.

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.

GO 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. 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.

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.

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..

NEW REVIEW THE TRAVELING LADY Though revised and abbreviated by the playwright and Marion Castleberry in 2005, Horton Foote's 1954 drama still runs the risk of getting bogged down in verbiage, unless deft performances are able to propel it. Accompanied by her young daughter (Michaela Rose Haas), the title character, Georgette (Tara Battani), arrives in a small Texas town to reunite with her husband Henry (J. Scott Shonka), recently released after six years in the penitentiary. Unlike the townsfolk who knew Henry as a boy, Georgette - married after only a few months of a whirlwind romance -- knows little of his inner demons. Apprehensive but hopeful, she secures overnight bed-and-board from a widower named Slim (David Atkinson) and his older sister, Clara (Susan Carol Davis). From the start, it's clear that Georgette's expectations for Henry will not pan out; instead, the story's dynamic turns on the nuanced attraction between her and Slim, held in check by propriety and the awkward circumstances of their meeting. Unfortunately, there's little palpable chemistry between these two pivotal players. Though Atkinson's spare and focused performance is on target as Slim, a good man nursing the secret of his own failed marriage, Battani, while sympathetic, lacks urgency in relaying her character's desperate situation. Haas is commendably professional as the little girl, and Brenda Ballard furnishes skilled comic relief as an elderly neighbor happily relishing her second childhood. Several other supporting performances are either undistinguished or over the top. Under Linda Kerns' direction, the performers sometimes appear stiff and static - as opposed to comfortably at home - on set designer Mark Svastics' cozy period front porch. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St.,Hlywd.; Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 12. (323) 462-8460. actorsco-op.org. (Deborah Klugman)

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. 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.

WordTheatre Lit by Lulu Stories by Charles Baxter, from his new collection Gryphon, performed by Justin Chambers (Grey's Anatomy), Edith Fields (Next) and others. The author appears in person for a Q&A and book signing. Sun., May 22, 7:30 p.m., (310) 915-5150, WordTheatre.com. Soho House West Hollywood, 9200 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 817, West Hollywood, sohohousewh.com.


CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

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'Keeffe, 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. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 22, (541) 517-3320, brownpapertickets.com/event/170468. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, tworoadsgallery.com.

NEW REVIEW ARTIFACTS OF CONSEQUENCE So Minna (LoraBeth Barr) is upset with Dallas (Adam Briggs) because every time he leaves The Facility to check on a shipment or to visit one of the outposts, he fails to return with FRPs or anything useful for survival. Sure he has his Pretty Woman routine with young Ari (Dione Kuraoka), who devours the pop cultural and literary diet Dallas has been feeding her, but he's not helping Minna to keep the facility running. Once Theo (Joel Raffee) enters the picture via the airlock, and becomes pubescent Ari's new best friend and crush, Minna's patience truly wears thin and things begin to fall apart. If you're confused, because I've provided no context for these characters and relationships, then you have a good sense of the play, because neither does playwright Ashlin Halfnight. Yes, we eventually discover that FRPs are Food Replacement Pills, and that The Facility is a giant warehouse where Minna, Dallas and Ari spend their days collecting and cataloging artifacts from an outside world that's submerged underwater. What we never discover is why, nor how this "liquid Los Angeles" came to be. So despite funny, well-crafted banter (rife with '80s and '90s movie quotes) and a few emotionally resonant moments (both primarily courtesy of Ms. Kuraoka, who brings vivacity and spunk to her character), the overarching story and message of the piece are unclear. Director Evan Charest fails to deepen the one-note characters of Minna and Dallas, and his frequent use of blackouts merely adds to the disconnect already present in the piece. Stokastik Theatre Ensemble at The Sherry Theater, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., thru June 5. stokastik.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)

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. 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.

Becoming Memories Arthur Giron's ode to grandparents, created in collaboration with members of the Illusion Theatre of Minneapolis. Fridays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through May 29, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

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, sierramadreplayhouse.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.

NEW REVIEW GO THE EMANCIPATION OF ALABASTER MCGILL After a startling revelation is made in Act II of Jeff Goode's funny new comedy, two dumbstruck boys freeze as one says to the other, "Don't say anything; maybe it'll just disappear." The setting might be Kentucky, 1863, but that good ol' Southern methodology prevailed even in free lovin' California, 2008, when Goode's editorial on Proposition 8 was rejected by a major publication because it wasn't election coverage. That dismissal became the springboard for this world premiere, which uses a 19th century discussion over the imminent Emancipation Proclamation to draw parallels between slavery and homosexuality. Goode's got a knack for clever innuendo: Self-pleasure is as thinly veiled as "whittling," and Jude Evans' Klansman/Deputy has a tiny pocketknife. Director Eric Curtis Johnson has found a cast with impeccable comic timing: In the Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer tradition, Brett Fleisher and Matt Valle puzzle over problematic situations before announcing the most logical solutions. With a static setting and a few too-frequent occasions of the pedantic dialogue, as Deacon Chickory (a scene-stealing Nathaniel Stanton) drums into your head, that "slippery slope" into preachiness, the play should lose a good half hour in order to get deliver its message more strongly. "We ain't got time to debate this or think about what we're doin'!" Frank Ensenberger's grocer Baggot sputters on the eve before the Proclamation takes effect. You might be for or against Prop 8, but kudos to Goode for taking that time. SkyPilot Theater at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 19. (800) 838-3006. skypilottheatre.com (Rebecca Haithcoat)

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.

Hamlet, Prince of Darkness Zombie Joe's Underground's Shakespeare-inspired "dark adventure-comedy-thriller," written by Richard Nathan . Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 24. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

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.

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.

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.

GO The Malcontent Malevole (Bo Foxworth), the scruffy misanthrope at the nub of John Marston's 17th-century satire, is the proud possessor of a scathing tongue. A frequenter of aristocratic circles, he's tolerated by the reigning Duke of Genoa, Pietro (Mark Doerr), for his bawdy wit and for the lacerating barbs that furnish welcome relief from the dull obsequiousness of the court. Not the plebeian jester he strives to appear, Malevole is really a duke -- in fact, he is the Duke of Genoa, Altofronto, the city's legitimate regent before being maneuvered from office by a lecherous rapscallion named Mendoza (Ramón DeOcampo). Labeled a "tragicomedy" by scholars, the play is an outraged ethicist's critique of corruption and deceit (the tragedy lies in the world's moral morass, I guess, since in the story itself no one actually dies or suffers gruesomely). The plot, with its slapdash details, spins out in intricate metaphor-studded syntax whose handling requires enormous skill. Adapted from the original and directed by Elizabeth Swain, this spirited production does not disappoint. While Foxworth's splenetic cynic is all fire and spit, it is DeOcampo as the treacherous toadying villain -- utterly contemporary in his sociopathic me-ism -- who drives the comedy. In addition to Doerr's artfully finessed Pietro, the accomplished ensemble includes Lynn Milgrim as an unprincipled procuress and John Achorn as a clueless courtier prepared to pimp his wife and daughter-in-law. Designer Tom Buderwitz's handsome set replicates the Blackfriars Theater in which the play first premiered, while A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's costumes add dashing flavor to the farce. (Note: The show is double-cast.) (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 19, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 762-2998, deafwest.org.

New Eyes Yafit Josephson gives an accomplished performance in her solo show about a Jewish actress facing down Hollywood's cultural stereotypes. It's marred only by a poorly designed slide show. Josephson slips easily into various personae, combining characters with caricatures to good comedic effect. The opening has her switching from a formidable military officer to her nervous young self on her first day of compulsory military training in the Israeli army. Highlights include a hilarious mime sequence where she uncomprehendingly attempts yoga and another scene where she gives a goofy impression of a macho guy in an Israeli nightclub. Josephson's tall, slender build, piercing eyes and chiseled face lend her a commanding presence, but it's her prominent proboscis that relegates her to the usual gamut of villainous roles, from terrorist to evil witch -- "And no, they didn't have to use a fake nose," she jokes. Her adult journey takes her from the New World back to Israel, where she touches base with her culture, returning to Hollywood with newfound strength of character. Beneath the comedy lies a serious undercurrent stemming from the ongoing war in the Middle East: Land equals identity. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 26, (310) 500-0680, neweyesplay.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

NEW REVIEW NO WORD IN GUYANESE FOR ME

click to enlarge CARLA BARNETT
  • Carla Barnett
Carla Barnett

Is there a word to describe the paradoxical human yearning to belong to the club that won't have you? If you're an Indo-Guyanese immigrant living in Astoria, and you're also an observant Moslem and an out lesbian struggling to retain your Islamic identity, that word might be "conflicted." Or so it might seem in playwright Wendy Graf's somewhat hagiographic, single-character study of a woman torn between Western tolerance and religious orthodoxy. Anna Khaja portrays the orphan Hanna Jokhoe, who is raised by her nurturing Aunty Mommy and cab driver uncle in her family's Moslem faith. With the onset of puberty comes the religious head-covering that also marks her as different from her American classmates. But it is her deeper stirrings, first for a best friend, then later for a sympathetic high school art teacher, that signal a more profound difference. It all comes to a peak when Hanna is married off to her Moslem cousin; betrayed by her visceral repugnance of her husband, she is both outed and made an outcast. Director Anita Khanzadian's intimate staging (nicely accented by Matthew Richter's lights, sound and projections) cleverly choreographs Hanna's transformation with the various scarves of the hajib -- a conceit mirrored in the draperies lining Davis Campbell's set -- which she dons as a girl but strips off as a woman. Khaja skillfully and convincingly navigates the 20-year transit with compelling pathos. And yet, one cannot avoid the suspicion that in her simple, unblemished and almost otherworldly guilelessness, Graf's heroine is less a portrait of a plausibly flawed, complex woman than an airbrushed LGBT poster child for gay pride. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru June 12. (818) 558-5702. brownpapertickets.com. (Bill Raden)

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.

South of Delancey World-premiere play by Karen Sommers, based on the true story of a Jewish arbitration court. Starting May 21, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 26, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.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.

GO Turbo Tartuffe! Director Denise Devin certainly wasn't kidding when she dropped "Turbo" into the title of her adaptation of Molière's timeless attack on moral hypocrisy. Happily, it is the only thing about this rollicking, supercharged commedia staging that isn't played strictly for laughs. In radically boiling down Molière's five-act farce to a head-spinning 55 minutes, Devin has lopped off subsidiary subplots and eliminated enough of the text's footnote-mandatory, 17th-century erudition to give any self-respecting French classicist heart palpitations. For the rest of us, however, she has delivered a concise, inventive and deliriously ribald slapstick worthy of Hal Roach, and one that deftly conjures Molière's anarchic, subversive comic spirit. Roger K. Weiss portrays Orgon as just the kind of befuddled, moralistic dunderhead capable of being gulled out of family and fortune by the transparent posturing at piety practiced by Tartuffe (a lecherous Tegue S. DeLeon). As the hard-pressed object of his lust, Ashley Fuller plays Orgon's voluptuous wife, Elmire, with equal notes of sauciness and cunning. Sofia Ruiz's spoiled princess of a daughter, Mariane, is a burlesque of pampered, tempestuous privilege. Mike Angelo is all heat and little head as the impetuous son Damis, while Jonica Patella (who is quickly emerging as one of this town's most versatile comic talents) is hilarious as the household's exasperated, clear-eyed maid Dorine. Costumer Jeri Batzdorff's elegant collection of silks, velvets, brocades, ruffles and jabots effectively flavors the period setting. And Sean Curran steals every scene he's in, channeling Charley Chase as the powder-wigged brother-in-law Cléante. (Bill Raden). Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through June 24. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 28. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

The View From Here Margaret Dulaney's story of anxiety in a small Kentucky town. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 12. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 506-3903.

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. Through May 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.

The Indian Wants the Bronx/Tom & Jerry Actors Circle Ensemble presents two one-act plays: Israel Horovitz's story of a bewildered East Indian in urban America, and Jim Geoghan's comedy set in a sleazy nightclub run by the mob. May 25-28, 8 p.m., ActorsCircleEnsemble.com. Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City.

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.; 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.

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 21, 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.

Nazi Hunter - Simon Wiesenthal Tom Dugan's one-man play honoring the life of the late concentration-camp survivor. (No perfs May 30 & June 5.) Starting May 22, Mondays, Tuesdays, Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through June 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org.

NEW REVIEW SAND IN THE AIR It's difficult to get a fix on exactly what's at issue in playwright Brian Raine's scattershot stab at a John Grisham-esque legal potboiler. Beset by baffling logical contradictions, plot and character implausibilities and enough red herrings to stock a Scandinavian supermarket, Raine's tale of an earnest young doctor caught up in a small-town sex scandal is a maddening test of patience. The story follows Baltimore doctor Howard Bogatch (Devin Williamson) and wife Lindy (Anya Warburg) as they set up practice in the fictional, West Texas factory town of Yaktaw on the Mexican border. Ostensibly hired by the town's main employer, a shady plastics factory, Howard soon learns that local, good-old-boy lawyer Billy Rafferty (an oily Larry Gesling) is the power behind the kind of corrupt business/political establishment that would make Dick Cheney and Halliburton seem paragons of corporate/civic virtue. When Howard is subsequently prosecuted by bottom-feeding lawyer Nola Montgomery (Diane Alayne Baker) for alleged improprieties with his patients, he retains Rafferty, who seems less interested in proving Howard's innocence than in draining his bank account. If this sounds like the stuff of an engaging comedy of the grotesque, director Terésa Dowell-Vest's creaky staging plays it as more-or-less straight melodrama, which only exacerbates the play's fatal lack of focus. Thomas Brown's banal set and William Wilday's incomprehensible lighting only add malpractice to this dramaturgical mistrial of a production. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., through May 28. (310) 828-7519. morgan-wixson.org. (Bill Raden)

Smutopia Highways' 22nd Birthday "Party": To celebrate 22 years, Highways transforms into "an erotic hypnotic hysteric frenetic midway, featuring festival stages, private booths, stag film sets and The Palace of Peep." Fri., May 20, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., May 21, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

Sylvia A.R. Gurney's comedy about a man, his wife and his dog. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through July 10. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

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.

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