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Stage Raw: Show Ho

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Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 12:26 PM

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click to enlarge Show Ho - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • Show Ho
Coming July 15, 8:30 p.m. at Highways Performance Space: San Francisco-based artist Sara Moore's SHOW HO.

"The story of Rhonda Hammerstein, the Hell's Kitchen Retard . . . follows Rhonda's travels in a low-rent circus. . . Rhonda discovers the real island of misfit toys in the backstage world of the circus and faces the two great dramas of life - love and death."

Moore is currently Artistic Director of Barbary Coast Amusements, a San Francisco-based amusement-entertainment company specializing in "thrill ride theater" for the adventurous audience.


Highways Performance Space is located at 1651 18th Street, in Santa Monica, CA, ½ block north of Olympic Blvd. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for members/students/seniors. Tickets here  or call 310-315-1459.

For this week's COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS FOR July 7-13, 2011

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, 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

As You Like It: The Musical Shakespeare's comedy, adapted and directed by Tony Tanner. Starting July 9, Saturdays, Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through July 31, (323) 960-5691, classicaltheatrelab@gmail.com. Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Behold!: A Queer Performance Festival Two months of new LGBTQ "performance, dance, spoken word, theater, multimedia, and ritual." Full schedule at highwaysperformance.org. Fridays, Saturdays; Mon., July 25; Sun., Aug. 28; Mon., Aug. 29. Continues through Aug. 20. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

ClassicsFest 2011 The Antaeus Company's seventh-annual festival of theater workshops, readings, and special events. Schedule at antaeus.org. Starting July 13, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 21, (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, deafwest.org.

Fiction Steven Dietz's story of a married couple's memories of their separate times at a writers colony. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

Google My Tweet Second City alumni sketch comedy, directed by Marc Warzecha. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 26. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

In Bed With Tenn Six short plays by Tennessee Williams: Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Hello From Bertha, The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, Green Eyes, The Big Game and The Pronoun "I.". Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, plays411.com/bedwithtenn. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 656-8070, promenadeplayhouse.com.

It's Good to Be Crazy World premier of Joanclair Richter's slice-of-life dramatic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 14, (323) -960-5774, plays411.com/goodcrazy. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

The Merry Wives of Windsor ISC's outdoor staging of

Shakespeare's comedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through July

31, (818) 710-6306, iscla.org. Griffith Park, 4730 Crystal Springs Dr.,

L.A., laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithPK.

New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 Hector Elizondo, Andrea Gabriel, Arye Gross, Amy Pietz and Richard Easton star in a reading of David Ives' "drama of ideas," to be recorded for L.A. Theatre Works' syndicated radio show. Wed., July 13, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 14, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Fri., July 15, 2:30 & 8 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.

Of Mice and Men Come See the Play presents John Steinbeck's Depression-era tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 10, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 8, comeseetheplay.com. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 563-1100, themissingpiecetheatre.com.

Pinkalicious The Musical Family musical about a girl's obsession with the color pink, book by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, music by John Gregor, lyrics by John Gregor, Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, based on the children's book by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. Starting July 9, Saturdays, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 24, YESplays.org. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

Revisiting Wildfire Denise Crosby and Jamie Rose star in Kari Floren's world-premiere play about two female friends, once college roommates, now in their 50s. Starting July 9, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 31, RevisitingWildfire.com. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

Shrek the Musical DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions Ltd.'s musical adaptation of the Disney animated movie, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m.; Wed., July 13, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through July 31, (800) 982-ARTS. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., broadwayla.org.

Summer Playwright's Festival The Road Theatre Company's second-annual summer festival of new works by playwrights from around the world. July 11-15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2, 5 & 8 p.m., roadtheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.

Super Sidekick Theatre Unleashed's superhero musical for kids, written by Gregory Crafts with music by Michael Gordon Shapiro. Starting July 10, Sundays, 1 & 4 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

30 Minute Musicals: Showgirls Musical thrill-ride version of the cult film, with original numbers by Brooke Seguin and Rich Ramberg, including "Put the Ice on Your Nipples" and "Problem With Pussy." Fri., July 8, 8 & 10 p.m.; Sat., July 9, 8 & 10 p.m. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.

The Wedding Singer Musical Theatre West presents the Broadway version of the 1998 romantic-comedy about a singer and a waitress engaged to the wrong people, music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. Starting July 9, Sat., July 9; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, (562) 856-1999, musical.org. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, www.carpenterarts.org.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

ClassicsFest 2011 The Antaeus Company's seventh-annual festival of theater workshops, readings, and special events. Schedule at antaeus.org. Starting July 13, Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 21, (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, deafwest.org.

I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, arrangements by Vince di Mura. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787, lagunaplayhouse.com.

NEW REVIEW GO LES MISÉRABLES Cameron

Mackintosh's 25th Anniversary tour of the international phenomenon

arouses its crowds like a rock concert. The Victor Hugo novel of 19th

century France's struggles with poverty and power (turned melodramatic

operetta by Claud-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil) has never been out

of theaters. This inspired new production is commercial theater at its

finest. Of course singing prowess is the first responsibility of such an

endeavor, and the astounding cast shows spellbinding assurance,

particularly headliners J. Mark McVey as Valjean, Andrew Varela as

Javert , Justin Scott Brown as Marius and Chasten Harmon as Éponine.

Directors Laurence Connor and James Powell beautifully adapt Trevor

Nunn's original staging to a stunning new mis-en-scene, utilizing the

newest theatrical arts and technologies in lights (Paul Constable),

sound (Mick Potter), costumes (Andreane Neofitou) and sets (Matt Kinley)

-- all integrated with emotionally stirring, animated rear projections.

Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.;

Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thry July 31. (213)

628-2772. centertheatregroup.org.


Master Harold and the Boys Athol Fugard's South Africa story about a white teenager and his black servants. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

Moose on the Loose Back in the 1950s, the Tappino family left their home in Calabria, southern Italy, to search for work. They settled in Thunder Bay, in chilly northern Ontario, Canada, where the temperature often drops to minus-40 degrees. By 2001, they have become a large and obstreperous clan, headed by irascible paterfamilias Giuseppe (John Cygan) and his wife, Maria (Connie Mellors). Their children include studious Joseph (Nick McDow); couch potato Bruno and his Native American fiancée, Honabiji (Jemma Bosch); touchy Carmela (Corinne Shor), her husband, Darryl (Michael Lorre), and their young son Timothy (Grant Venable); and Giuseppe's other daughter, Gina (playwright Dina Morrone). Also present are Maria's parents, garrulous Rodolfo (Jack Kutcher) and acerbic Pina (Laura James), whose acid comments provide much of the comedy. Morrone's play is clearly semi-autobiographical, inspired by her family, and the day a moose wandered out of the bush and into a neighbor's backyard. Short on plot, the play centers on a big family dinner and Giuseppe's ill-starred attempt to shoot the moose. It's a pleasantly old-fashioned family comedy, affectionately but keenly observed, and deftly directed by Peter Flood. Tom Badal plays both the talkative moose and the local chief of police. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 24. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., (323) 851-7977, theatrewest.org.

New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656 Hector Elizondo, Andrea Gabriel, Arye Gross, Amy Pietz and Richard Easton star in a reading of David Ives' "drama of ideas," to be recorded for L.A. Theatre Works' syndicated radio show. Wed., July 13, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 14, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Fri., July 15, 2:30 & 8 p.m., (310) 827-0889, latw.org. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood, skirball.org.

Night Must Fall Emlyn Williams' thriller about a charming psycho killer, an aging invalid and her beautiful daughter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 16. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014, lbph.com.

Peer Gynt Henrik Ibsen's classic drama, adapted and directed by David Schweizer. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 24. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla, (858) 550-1010, lajollaplayhouse.org.

1776 Founding Fathers musical, book by Peter Stone, music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 10, 3 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 13. Glendale Center Theater, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale, (818) 244-8481.

Shrek the Musical DreamWorks Theatricals and Neal Street Productions Ltd.'s musical adaptation of the Disney animated movie, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and music by Jeanine Tesori. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m.; Wed., July 13, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through July 31, (800) 982-ARTS. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., broadwayla.org.

Superior Donuts Tracy Letts' drama set in a doughnut shop run by a former hippie radical and his African-American assistant. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through July 10. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood, (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.

Tartuffe, ou l'Imposteur New adaptation of Molière's comedy, with songs by Ellen Geer and Peter Alsop. Saturdays, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 1, 4 p.m. Continues through Sept. 30. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com.

NEW REVIEW GO TWIST

click to enlarge CRAIG SCHWARTZ
  • Craig Schwartz

This

big, splashy musical, with book by William F. Brown and Tina Tippit,

lyrics by Tena Clark, and music by Clark and Gary Prim, is loosely

adapted from Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, reset in New

Orleans and given a bi-racial spin: Twist is a mulatto, son of a white

mother, Angela (Ava Gaudet), and a black father (Jared Grimes). They are

attacked by the local Ku Klux Klan, including Angela's arrogant and

unscrupulous brother Lucius (Pat McRoberts), and the infant Twist is

left in an orphanage. Jump to 1928: Twist (Alaman Diadhiou) is now 10

years old, ignorant of his parentage, and still in the orphanage. But

greedy Uncle Lucius, having learned that the family fortune has been

left to Twist, seeks to grab him as a key to the money. Dickens' Nancy

becomes the good-hearted prostitute Della (Tamyra Gray) who befriends

the boy. Fagin and Bill Sykes are combined in the role of Boston

(Matthew Johnson), the local vice-king, bootlegger and Della's pimp. The

score is seldom memorable, but it gives the huge, terrific cast a

chance to shine on Todd Rosenthal's lavish, fast-moving, New

Orleans-flavored sets. Director-choreographer Debbie Allen leads the

athletic dance-ensemble in several dynamic musical numbers, including a

Mardi Gras parade, complete with floats, stilt walker, "native" dancers,

and yards of Mardi Gras beads. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molina

Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7

p.m. (added mats July 6 & 13, 2 p.m.); thru July 17. (626) 356-PLAY

or pasadenaplayhouse.org. (Neal Weaver)

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

The Wedding Singer Musical Theatre West presents the Broadway version of the 1998 romantic-comedy about a singer and a waitress engaged to the wrong people, music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, book by Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. Starting July 9, Sat., July 9; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 7 p.m. Continues through July 24, (562) 856-1999, musical.org. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, www.carpenterarts.org.

NEW REVIEW RICHARD III

click to enlarge IAN FLANDERS
  • Ian Flanders

Following

a couple of progressive festivals, RADAR LA and Hollywood Fringe, with a

traditional staging of Shakespeare is like following a gastronomically

experimental meal with a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream. It's fine, of

course, but you really were hoping for the ice cream to taste like foie

gras or something equally surprising. Maybe if Melora Marshall had been

playing the title role --director Ellen Geer has employed cross-gender

casting -- on opening night, the production wouldn't have seemed so

pedestrian both conceptually and in pace. But the play, second only to Hamlet

in length, needs the kind of sprightly staging that a theatre carved

into the hills of Topanga Canyon just can't support. Unfortunately, the

production seems to offset its innate weaknesses with overacting. From

the opening monologue, Chad Jason Scheppner's Richard spends more time

mugging for the audience than allowing Shakespeare's already wry verse

and textual characterization of Richard as anti-hero do their work

naturally -- a real shame, considering the glimpses of talent that peek

out from beneath this schtick. A couple of actors fare better (notably

Earnestine Phillips, whose dagger-throwing delivery works with the

vitriol she spits), but none enough to make you glad you stayed for

dessert. The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon

Blvd., Topanga Canyon; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 2. (310) 455-3723.

(Rebecca Haithcoat)

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

As You Like It: The Musical Shakespeare's comedy, adapted and directed by Tony Tanner. Starting July 9, Saturdays, Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through July 31, (323) 960-5691, classicaltheatrelab@gmail.com. Plummer Park, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., 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.

GO Bakersfield Mist Jackson Pollock's most famous paintings have polarized critics since the artist first attacked a horizontal canvas. That polarization feeds writer-director Stephen Sachs' new play, which uses a Pollock painting as the central symbol of class war. Mouthy Maude (Jenny O'Hara) spends her days lapping up Jack Daniels and watching police procedurals in her kitsch-filled Bakersfield trailer, until a painting she buys at a yard sale steals her focus from the idiot box. Convinced the cheap buy is a bona fide Pollock, Maude summons erudite art expert Lionel (Nick Ullett) to assess the painting's authenticity and value. Immediately disgusted with the crass, tasteless Maude, Lionel aims to quickly view the so-called Pollock and flee the mobile-home scene. But Maude's initially undetectable cleverness sparks a game of one-upmanship. Sachs directs the two-hander with an abundance of spirit, smartly letting the outstanding actors brawl and emote with delightful abandon. O'Hara brings a gleeful raunchiness to Maude throughout, but forces her character out of hiding to confront the quiet sadness shrouded by all that brass. Ullett's finest moment comes in a frenzied monologue that mirrors Pollock's creative process. While Lionel tells Maude he is there to evaluate the painting, not her, the play winningly sets out to disprove this lie at every turn. Jeff McLaughlin's set makes trailer-park life seem at once enviously cozy and exhaustingly humiliating. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 31. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1525, fountaintheatre.com.

GO Bash'd! A Gay Rap Opera Since this musical, created by Canadian writers Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow and composer Aaron Macri, was inspired by the spike in hate crimes in Alberta, Canada, during the national debate on equal marriage for gays and lesbians, it's particularly appropriate that it was announced, just before curtain, that New York had just legalized gay marriage. This production, skillfully directed and choreographed by Ameenah Kaplan, moves at lightning speed. Two militant gay rappers, Feminem (Sean Bradford) and T-bag (Chris Ferro), come tearing onstage, spitting clever, rousing and defiant lyrics, with pounding hip-hop moves. After hilariously skewering various straight and gay targets, they set out to tell the tale of urban Jack (Bradford) and suburban Dillon (Ferro). When naïve Dillon arrives in the city, Jack becomes his mentor, and their relationship develops into love and marriage. But their happiness is marred when Jack is attacked and seriously injured by gay bashers, provoking Dillon to becoming a vigilante straight-basher, with disastrous consequences. The two actors, moving at driving speed, portray a kaleidoscopic array of characters, including fag hags, right-wing zealots and anxious or disapproving parents. DJ Jedi provides flawless musical direction from behind the turntables on Evan Bartoletti's evocative abstract set. (Neal Weaver). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com.

GO Blackbird Privacy glass surrounds the break room of a pharmaceutical plant. The people inside need the protection. A young woman (Corryn Cummins) has arrived to confront the 55-year-old man (Sam Anderson) who slept with her when she was 12. A decade and a half later, he's moved on: After he was released from prison, he changed his name and settled into a stable life in middle management. She can't. But David Harrower's shifty drama goes bolder than the expected revenge arc as the pair recognize they still think of themselves not as victim and perp but as ex-girlfriend and ex-boyfriend. The lean, mean intermissionless production is built of clipped, overlapping dialogue, and director Robin Larsen is still helping the cast find their rhythm in the intense real-time conversation. Compact yet dense, Harrower's script is layered with questions about attraction, second chances and life-altering actions. It's tricky and daring and in peril of incensing those upset by the man's claim that the girl pursued him -- and that he was no "sick bastard," but a 40-year-old man in love. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz's miserablist set captures the paranoid mood, as do the unnamed actors pacing the halls outside the room to make the couple increasingly jumpy, these bright blobs circling the showdown like sharks who smell blood. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 5 p.m.; Mon., July 11, 5 p.m.; Mon., July 18, 5 p.m. Continues through July 25, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., (323) 422-6361, theatretheater.net.

GO Broadsword The play's title refers to a middling heavy metal band from Rahway, N.J., whose members have gathered in the basement of the home of a colleague after attending a memorial service for him. Sixteen years after their last gig, Vick (Blake Robbins), Nicky (Kenneth Allan Williams) and Tony (Tim Venable), along with Becca (Heather Sher), a metal groupie, have no clue what happened to fellow band member Ritchie, who simply vanished one day and is presumed dead. The recriminations, rage, guilt and jealousy that gradually surface during this "after party" paint an edgy portrait of terribly unhappy people, and of once lofty aspirations that were stifled by mediocrity. The mood turns even darker with the entrance of an eccentric musicologist (Morlan Higgins), who developed a long-standing association with Ritchie -- the only member of the band with real talent -- and tells the incredulous group that his disappearance is the result of occult forces. The introduction of this supernatural conceit and its consequences comes across as a tad corny but doesn't appreciably detract from Marco Ramirez's otherwise excellently written script. Kurt Boecher's junked-up, derelict basement mock-up perfectly captures the play's distinct aura of menace, made all the more so by Leigh Allen's eerie lighting schema. Mark St. Amant has drawn strong performances from this cast, which includes a chilling turn by Armin Shimerman as the enigmatic Man in White. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 31, (800) 838-3006. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., www.thedahlia.com.

NEW REVIEW GO THE BURNING OPERA: HOW TO SURVIVE AN APOCALYPSE

click to enlarge The Burning Opera - CURIOUSJOSH.COM
  • Curiousjosh.com
  • The Burning Opera
Curiousjosh.com
The Burning Opera

If

art, as Josef Albers insisted, is concerned with the how, not the what,

then Ghostlight Gypsies' musical art carnival ranks as an unqualified

coup de theater. The "what" in this case is the sprawling, 25-year

history of "radical self-expression" in the Nevada desert known as

Burning Man, at least as reimagined by composer Mark Nichols and

lyricist Erik Davis in their rousing, mythic rock pageant. The "how" is

the inspired decision by Nichols and fellow directors Stephen Hues and

Julie Lewis to forgo the formality of a traditional theater or mise en

scene for the intimacy of a downtown artist's loft and an environmental

staging (designed by Daphne Vega and Yoni Koenig) that mixes live actors

(in Wendy Doyle's eye-popping fetish costumes) and shadow puppetry with

deejays, art installations, roving belly dancers, and food and craft

booths. The result is part rock opera and part art party that -- for

those old enough to remember -- evokes the anarchic spirit of L.A.'s

underground Theoretical punk-rock performance art events of the

late-'80s. Two large shadow screens flank a live band (Nichols sits in

as musical director) as the show sets the misadventures of a pair of

archetypal "newbies" (Nichols & Lewis) against the larger tale of

the desert festival itself and the eventual falling-out of its founders

(Nichols & Troy Guthrie) over the conflict between Burning Man's

phenomenal commercial success and its nonconformist ethos. Nichols'

winning score works a Hair-era musical vocabulary of R&B and acid

rock by way of Kurt Weill, while Davis delivers sardonic counterpoint in

the role of the wisecracking narrator, The Bunny. The evening's stars

are the polished, 15-member musical ensemble, which collectively boasts

one of the best sets of pipes heard on any stage in L.A. this year. The

magic comes courtesy of the inventive wit of puppeteers Nathan

Fairhurst, James Murray and Vega. Syrup Loft, downtown (address and

directions will be emailed to ticket purchasers); Fri.-Sun., 8:30 p.m.;

thru Aug. 6. Ghostlightgypsies.com. (Bill Raden)

Cinco Soles Multimedia tour of Mexican history, with traditional dances and costumes, poetry, photography and video. In Spanish only. Sat., July 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 10, 6 p.m. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., (213) 382-8133, fridakahlotheater.org.

D Is for Dog All isn't as ideal as it seems for 1950s family Mr. and Mrs. Rogers and their children, Dick and Jane, in Rogue Artist Ensemble's production "mixing puppetry, live actors, original music and video projection." Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A., (323) 463-3900, studio-stage.com.

A Death in Colombia Shem Bitterman has always seemed something of a conundrum -- a prolific playwright whose considerable output is perched precariously between the personal and the political. Invariably, Bitterman uses the latter like a blowtorch to burn through the complacency of characters willfully blinded to their complicity in whatever headline happens to occupy center stage. His latest offering is no exception. A plot-twisted political thriller in the mold of Costa-Gavras' 1982 muckraker Missing, the play marries an improbable woman-in-peril storyline to an even more outlandish melodramatic conceit lifted from one of the lesser Robert Ludlum novels. It proves to be a shotgun wedding. Elaborating further would spoil the intricately constructed suspense that Bitterman and director Steve Zuckerman have taken such pains to set up. Suffice it to say that when the radical-activist husband of American expat Lisa (Roxanne Hart) disappears somewhere deep in Colombia's drug-war-conflagrated interior, a proverbial mysterious stranger (Joe Regalbuto) forces his way into her Bogotá apartment (designer Jeff McLaughlin's uninspired living-room set) and violently strips away her illusions along with her apolitical naiveté. Hart is terrific as a woman rudely awakened to the fact that she is sinking in a moral quicksand of her own making, Regalbuto less so in the thankless role of a psychotic cipher ungrounded to any recognizable emotional center. Ultimately, however, the play feels irreconcilably split between the awkwardness of its genre demands and the more thoughtful exposé of a woman on the verge of self-knowledge that it aspires to be. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (702) 582-8587), ktctickets.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A..

Donna/Madonna Rizzo 39 Productions presents John Paul Karliak's solo show. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 1, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10, (323) 960-4420, plays411.com/donnamadonna. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Entertaining Mr Sloane Joe Orton's dark comedy about a brother, a sister, and a sexy drifter. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6:30 p.m. Continues through July 24, plays411.com. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., L.A., (323) 960-7863.

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.

Fiction Steven Dietz's story of a married couple's memories of their separate times at a writers colony. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

Google My Tweet Second City alumni sketch comedy, directed by Marc Warzecha. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 26. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

NEW REVIEW GROUNDLINGS STATE

PENITENTIARY This latest show by local sketch-comedy troupe The

Groundlings hews overmuch to many of the now-traditional elements of the

company's comedy style. A majority of the Jim Rash-directed skits are

unexceptional examples of what we would call "what ifs". What if, for

example, several clueless, dorky middle-aged goofs (Ryan Gaul, Jillian

Bell, and Charlotte Newhouse) were hired as a focus group for a trendy

toy? What if three friends were taken on a camping trip by a guy (Laird

Macintosh, amusingly creepy), who just happened to be the lover of well

hung, hirsute, backwoods monster Bigfoot? And, as in many Groundlings

shows, a single performer inevitably manages to steal much of the

audience's attention - this time it's the versatile Jeremy Rowley, who

is hilarious as a disturbingly passive-aggressive Asian game show

contestant and demonstrates artful comic timing as a panicky guy on a

date with a sexually predatory beauty (Newhouse again). That said, this

is not the most comically successful Groundlings show, marred as the

work is by many sketches which feel threadbare in premise or which are

sabotaged by unexpectedly awkward timing. In a series of vignettes that

are frequently about extremes, the farce rarely reaches high enough

levels of freshness or intensity, while the structure is sometimes

clumsy. As usual, on the night attended, the least successful moments

occurred during the uncomfortable audience-suggested improv sketches -

although one improv, in which an audience suggestion called for the

crack Groundlings house band (led by music director Willie Etra) to

perform a Muzak medley, was surprisingly droll. Groundlings Theatre,

7307 Melrose Ave, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat, 10 p.m.; thru July 9.

(323) 934-4747, Ext. 37. (Paul Birchall)


GO Gypsy 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 theater. Director Richard Israel proves 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 the likes of 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 browbeaten 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 strippers who sing "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Johanna Kent's music direction and John Todd's choreography keep things lively. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 31. Arena Stage at Theater of Arts (formerly the Egyptian Arena Theater), 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A., (323) 595-4849.

The Interlopers Gary Lennon's transgendered love story. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 23. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (213) 389-3856, bootlegtheater.com.

It's Good to Be Crazy World premier of Joanclair Richter's slice-of-life dramatic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 14, (323) -960-5774, plays411.com/goodcrazy. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Keep it Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

GO Lights Up on the Fade Out Padraic Lillis' debuting drama offers an incisive portrait of middle-aged film director Steve (Tom Hildreth), who wins his first big career break while his personal life remains severely out of focus. As he deals with complications surrounding a whirlwind romance with his former high school crush (Alina Phelan), who has just ditched her fiancé at the altar, Steve simultaneously must come to terms with the worsening condition of his long-neglected father (Mark Bramhall), who suffers from dementia. In the hands of director Ron Canada and the fine ensemble, including James Parks as Steve's fed-up brother, this is a moving and thought-provoking offering. (Les Spindle). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 10, (323) 331-5123. Elephant Stages' Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, 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.

Meet Me @ Metro II Watts Village Theater Company presents site-specific performances along L.A.'s Metrorail. Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 10, wattsvillagetheatercompany.org. Watts Towers Art Center, 1727 E. 107th St., L.A., (213) 847-4646.

A Midsummer Night's Dream Shakespeare's comedy, presented by Ark Theatre Company. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 17, (323) 969-1707, arktheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., attictheatre.org.

GO 100 Saints You Should Know All the characters in Kate Fodor's play, now receiving its West Coast premiere, are searching for some sort of validation, though they seek it in counterproductive ways. Single mom Theresa (Cheryl Huggins) cleans houses to support her randy teenage daughter, Abby (Kate Huffman). When she takes a job at the local Catholic church, her rudimentary faith is revived and she becomes convinced that the priest, Father Matthew (Brendan Farrell), can provide some answers. But Matthew has problems too: He's finding it impossible to pray, and he's been suspended from his parish because of some George Platt-Lynes photos of male nudes found in his room. He takes refuge in the home of his mother, Colleen (Pamela Roylance), a conventionally devout Irish Catholic. There he encounters Garrett (Marco Naggar), the touchingly naive young man who delivers Colleen's groceries. Garrett fears he might be gay, and seeks out Matthew because his dad said Matthew's a fag. When skeptical Abby (she equates Bible stories with Babar the Elephant,) meets up with Garrett and a bottle of hooch, the stage is set for disaster. Director Lindsay Allbaugh deftly mines the rich comedy provided by Fodor's quirky characters and elicits lovely performances from all her actors. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through July 16, (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 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, 3:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 14, (800) 595-4849. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A..

GO Streep Tease If you're a fan of Meryl Streep you'll like director Ezra Weisz's campy homage to the academy award winning actress. The show debuted two years ago and is the brainchild of stand-up comedian Roy Cruz, who has added a few tweaks without altering any of its ticklish appeal. The show uses seven male actors who perform monologues from a sampling of Streep's oeuvre.. This reviewer is a big fan and has seen all of the movies selected (which helps in appreciating the saucy humor on display), although even if you're not familiar with Streep's work, Streep Tease offers lot of fun and laughs. In addition to the performances, Cruz picks audience members to participate in a contest to test their "Streep Wise," worthiness, with a gift going to the winner. Matthew Nouriel, does a riotously funny take on Sara Woodruff, from the French Lieutenant's Woman (complete with the foggy backdrop), and then does an even funnier version set in a Muslim country with all the customary restraints. Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada is brought to life by Cruz, who does a wickedly bitchy turn salted with just the right tinge of icy detachment. And who could forget the nun from hell, the bossy, fussy bullying Sister Aloysius Beauvier from Doubt, here fully realized with knuckle-busting ruler, two rosaries and bonnet, by Bryan T. Donovan. (Lovell Estell III). Saturdays, 8 p.m. Bang, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 653-6886, bangstudio.com.

Super Sidekick Theatre Unleashed's superhero musical for kids, written by Gregory Crafts with music by Michael Gordon Shapiro. Starting July 10, Sundays, 1 & 4 p.m. Continues through July 31, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..

30 Minute Musicals: Showgirls Musical thrill-ride version of the cult film, with original numbers by Brooke Seguin and Rich Ramberg, including "Put the Ice on Your Nipples" and "Problem With Pussy." Fri., July 8, 8 & 10 p.m.; Sat., July 9, 8 & 10 p.m. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., (323) 667-0955, knightsbridgetheatre.com.

The Trouble With Words Gregory Nabours' musical revue has six singers, six musicians and 19 songs, all searching for a point. The theme, loosely, is miscommunication, and from that broad platform spring numbers about fatherhood, seduction, sloganeering and Christmas. If he trims the Disney ballad filler, Nabours has a full act of songs that deserve attention: Chris Roque's radio-friendly "Listen," Aimee Karlin's heated "Fool's Gold," Josh Eddy's slippery "Kid With a Heart on" and Ryan Wagner's "Tongue Tied" (the second-act opener that rewards those who stay past intermission). Packed onto the stage are a piano, xylophone, violin, guitar, cello, saxophone and full set of drums, together loud enough to drown out the lyrics. Joked the couple behind me, "I guess The Trouble With Words is that you can't hear them." Patrick Pearson directs. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 16. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-8043, actorscircle.net.

What's Up, Tiger Lily? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea. Mondays, 8 p.m., Free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 466-9917.

GO The Word Begins A theatrical machine gun might be an apt description of this two-man show written and performed by Steve Connell and Sekou Andrews: rapid-fire, dangerous, powerful, and unpredictable. Though a West Coast premiere, the piece was originally developed at the Ojai Playwright's Conference, so it might be just as accurate to say "the word returns." What that "word" is, however, varies over the course of a compact but energetic 75 minutes that touch on politics, race, religion, love, and hope. Ensconced in Sarah Ryung Clement's wide-open "graffiti-scape" with minimal set pieces and props, the duo launches on a mission to "take back the word." Beginning with childhood dreams and notions of heroism, Connell and Andrews seamlessly pick up each other's poetic threads as they segue into various dialectics about what's going on, Marvin Gaye style. Yet they're just as much Barry White (albeit a raunchier version of him) in riffing on Hallmark cards and relationships, or suggesting that the solution to racism is to "fuck until everyone is beige." Interspersed in their mash up of theatre, spoken-word, and stand-up comedy are Corwin Evans' video montages that succinctly showcase iconic images to powerfully bring home the duo's message. At times, like a machine gun, the piece sends its ammunition in all directions, losing focus and landing astray of the mark. However Connell and Andrews' palpable energy overcomes the occasional meandering, keeping the audience engaged throughout. Director Robert Egan's taut pacing and full use of the stage likewise contributes to the dynamism of a piece that reminds us, "Until you imagine a better world, you cannot have it." A Rogue Machine, Hip-Hop Theater Festival, and Prana Theatre Group Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Mondays, Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 24, (855) 585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.com. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., theatretheater.net.

Working: The Musical A relentlessly patronizing tone nearly ruins all the fun in this musical about average Joes and Janes on the job, written by a team of writers that includes Stephen Schwartz, though some authentic moments of human experience manage to slip through the condescending cracks. The cast, however, isn't always up for the challenging task of taking the sentimental songs and monologues to humanizing heights. As a whole, the ensemble has too many ham-fisted moments to usher the stereotypical characters -- a boorish ironworker (Tim Borquez) with a supposedly ironic love of books; a self-loathing housewife (Judi Stewart) chained to her laundry basket; a valet (Tyrone Washington) who, by golly, refuses to let car parking rob him of his plainspoken pluck -- to more meaningful ground. But a few standout performers spin their snatches of sloppily stitched material into meaningful musings on time-clock punching. Jill Kocalis Scott, for instance, successfully seeks out the joyful motivation of a sophisticated waitress in "It's an Art." Amanda Celine Miller goes from hooker to receptionist to cleaning lady with ease, crafting flesh-and-blood characters defined by toil. There's an undeniable pleasure in seeing everyday people take center stage, but the real blue-collar trenches are certainly filled with more interesting men and women. (Amy Lyons). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 10, thetribeproductions.org. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 960-5774, complexhollywood.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

A Book by Its Cover Damon Chua's story of the shifting fortunes of America and China, as seen by a Chinese-American. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 23. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, (818) 528-6622, gtc.org.

Cinderella Interactive musical for kids, book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 30. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

GO Closet Land Indian-born, American-educated filmmaker Radha Bharadwaj's film about psychological and physical torture translates frighteningly to the small theater setting, where the starkness of limited production values forces focus on the two actors who portray an hour of cruelty and agony. Wayne Stribling Jr and Victoria Rabitcheff navigate the treacherous torrents of physical and emotional pain in the characters of ruthless inquisitor and bewildered suspect in a series of scenes following the violent arrest of a kiddy-book author, accused of trying to indoctrinate children against the never identified state. The title, representing childhood horror deep within the psyche of the accused, continually grows in meaning, metaphorically and literally, as the interrogation intensifies. Director John McCormick skillfully keeps the tension rising relentlessly for the full hour of this one-act, with breaks of gentleness only long enough to make the next twist of ugliness more intense. The director's sound design in perfect sync with this emotional odyssey. Dave Sousa's ability to create mood and areas with lighting are extraordinary -- especially given the limited equipment and space available. (Tom Provenzano). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, thevisceralcompany.com. NoHo Stages, 4934 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, noho-stages.us.

Departures Travelers share stories, by Michael Catlin, Effie Hortis, Jim Lunsford, James J. Mellon, Duane Poole, Penelope Richards, Jed Schlanger and Mark Wyrick. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101, thenohoartscenter.com.

Firehouse Pedro Antonio Garcia's drama about a rookie fireman. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 8. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 990-2324.

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 July 29. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

GO Iceberg Ahead! While the story deals with a seafaring issue, don't expect things to get too deep in actor/writer/set designer/director Jay Parker's side-splitting farce. Bawdy jokes, exaggerated performances and a plot rife with mistaken identities, double entendres and slapstick buffoonery make for a show that is just plain silly and damn proud of it. After the Montroses, wealthy Manhattan theater patrons, go down with the Titanic, Broadway impresario David Rickman (Jose Garcia) desperately needs a new meal ticket to keep his theater afloat. Aided by his haughty leading lady, Lydia Felby (Lindsey Warm) -- and a vintage red wine -- Rickman manipulates the Montroses' daughter, Emily (Bryana Pickford), a novice dipsomaniac, into backing a show on her parents' tragic fate. Soon Emily and her maid, Conception (Maia Villa), get confused with Irish actor Billy O'Sullivan (Parker) and his son, Danny (Cameron Parker) -- don't ask why -- while Lydia tries to get Rickman's psycho sister, Agnes (Victoria June), to an asylum run by the aptly named Dr. Twist (Ruben Aguilar). Parker serves as straight man to these loonies with a deadpan delivery that complements his impudent text. June's Agnes, who talks to Shakespeare and vice versa, and Parker's Danny, with a novel way of keeping his dad off the booze, bring a bit of sympathy amidst the madness. (Note: some roles double-cast.) (Martín Hernández). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 457-5293, lizardtheater.com.

I'm Just Wild About Harry Gary Lamb and William A. Reilly's musical adaptation of Brandon Thomas' Charlie's Aunt. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 17. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, (818) 745-8527, nohoartsdistrict.com/theatreweb/crowncity.htm.

It's Just Sex Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272, tworoadsgallery.com.

NEW REVIEW THE INTERLOPERS

click to enlarge ASHLEY WEST LEONARD
  • Ashley West Leonard

In

a doctor's waiting room two unconventional people meet: Michelle

(Trevor Peterson), a shy pre-op transsexual transitioning from male to

female, and Lou (Diarra Kilpatrick), her gregarious polar opposite,

also transsexual, but looking to transition from female to male. Lou is

immediately smitten; Michelle, reluctant to engage, is eventually won

over by Lou's flattering professions of devotion. From there, the drama

expands to examine the dangerous discord within their families:

Michelle's unhappy overweight mom (Tara Karsian ) supports her child's

choice, but her splenetic dad (RD Call ) insists that his son "Michael"

is, and always will remain, a male. Lou's widowed father (Leandro

Cano), a blue collar Hispanic, likewise cannot accept that his little

girl "Louisa" wants to be a man. Written by Gary Lennon, the script

features engaging moments of humor and a compelling message about

identity and tolerance, but it lays out its story with the overly broad

strokes of an "issue' play, leaving depth and nuance to the disposition

of the (fortunately) adept ensemble. The plot also relies on a couple

of iffy contrivances - including a not entirely plausible catharsis - to

power its dynamic. Director Jim Fall opts for video images to depict

locales - the Hollywood Hills or a street of shops -as well as to flash

back to the past with family snapshots; these latter photos - in tandem

with Mervyn Warren's score - add a soapy veneer to the drama.

Anchoring the production, Peterson transcends the bathos in an

eloquently subdued performance. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd.,

L.A., Fri-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m.; thru July 17. (213) 389-3856. bootlegtheater.com. (Deborah Klugman)

La Canada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival Vanguard Repertory Company's summer celebration of the Bard. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 31, vanguardrep.com. Byrnes Amphitheater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 St. Katherine Dr., La Canada Flintridge, (818) 745-3327.

Of Mice and Men Come See the Play presents John Steinbeck's Depression-era tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 10, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 8, comeseetheplay.com. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, (818) 563-1100, themissingpiecetheatre.com.

Oscar Wilde's Salome The biblical tragedy, as presented by Zombie Joe's Underground and Fabulous Monsters Performance Group. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 17. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

The Poor of New York Dion Boucicault's classic 19th-century melodrama follows the travails of the Fairweather family, whose sea-captain patriarch is robbed of $100,000 and then his life by the dastardly banker Gideon Bloodgood. Twenty years later, Bloodgood's crime is about to catch up to him. In program notes, director Larry Eisenberg explains his choice to avoid the contemporary mocking tone with which melodramas so often are treated, in favor of an honest re-enactment of the emotion and sentiment -- borrowing from the style of early silent-film tearjerkers. Unfortunately this style, a pastiche of 19th-century text, early-20th-century sentimentality and 21st-century acting styles all keep clashing as the performance rolls by. A few of the actors take the plunge into deep pathos, notably Kate O'Toole and Juliana Olinka as mother and daughter Fairweather, and Van Boudreaux, who nearly channels Edward G. Robinson in a role both comic and heroic. Others, such as Max Bunzel as Alex Parker, try to mold themselves into similarly noble figures, but can't escape their Young Hollywood hunkiness, which exposes a certain artifice. So the style keeps shifting away from any kind of unifying propulsion. Interesting projections mimicking '20s silent films keep the story grounded in a black-and-white past, but the accompanying old-time movie theater music (sound design by Steve Shaw) that underscores the entire production seems haphazard and distracting rather than providing period and emotional cues. Of the designs, only Liz Nankin's costumes actually help the production. (Tom Provenzano). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 10. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 700-4878, thegrouprep.com.

Sex and Education Lissa Levin's West Coast premiere about a high school English teacher versus a jock. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, (818) 841-5421, thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

The Solid Gold Cadillac George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann's 1953 satire about a corrupt corporation. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through July 30. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

South of Delancey Forty years before The People's Court first packaged binding arbitration proceedings for daytime reality TV, the Jewish-American Board of Peace and Justice was adjudicating the domestic disputes of New York City's Lower East Side faithful over the airwaves of Yiddish radio. Director-creator Karen Sommers has sifted through the original acetate recordings and selected three woefully irreconcilable couples from the rabbinical court's cases, interweaving their stories -- and her invented backstories -- into a persuasive evening of re-enactment and speculative docudrama. Abigail Marks and Michael Rubenstone are Faye and Marty, a war bride and her combat-scarred husband, who are unable to negotiate a postwar peace for their rash and precipitous marriage. Jordana Oberman and Kal Bennett play Helen and Lenore, roommate sisters whose blood ties can no longer take the strain of personalities divided by dysfunction and temperament. Barry Alan Levine and Jodi Fleisher provide comic relief with mismatches Herman and Lilly, whose marital mix of business and pleasure behind a dry-goods counter proves an unmitigated disaster. The show's most fascinating moments occur when Sommers incorporates the original recordings and the Yiddish-speaking judge can be heard feebly throwing rabbinical bromides and blandishments at cases of such hopelessly intractable incompatibility. Sommers' tight staging (with Carol Doehring's crisp lights and period-perfect costumes by Lois Tedrow) and a powerful ensemble lend the proceedings considerable polish, with the exception of Dove Huntley's sprawling apartment set, which has more in common with a Van Nuys split-level than any tenement north or south of Delancey. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 31, (866) 811-4111. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena, fremontcentretheatre.com.

Summer Playwright's Festival The Road Theatre Company's second-annual summer festival of new works by playwrights from around the world. July 11-15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 2, 5 & 8 p.m., roadtheatre.org. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 752-7568.

The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare's comedy, presented as part of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival in Kingsmen Park. Fri., July 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 10, 8 p.m.; Fri., July 15, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 17, 8 p.m., (805) 493-3455, kingsmenshakespeare.org. California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks.

The Tunnel of Love Lani Ridley Pedrini's jukebox musical, with songs from the 1920s to the '80s. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through July 24. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Aug. 13. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES SITUATED IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

Barrie: Back to Back: Two by J.M. Barrie 1912's Rosalind and 1917's The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 7. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, pacificresidenttheatre.com.

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/.

Behold!: A Queer Performance Festival Two months of new LGBTQ "performance, dance, spoken word, theater, multimedia, and ritual." Full schedule at highwaysperformance.org. Fridays, Saturdays; Mon., July 25; Sun., Aug. 28; Mon., Aug. 29. Continues through Aug. 20. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459, highwaysperformance.org.

GO Blood Wedding In Federico Garcia Lorca's classic tragedy of passion, love brings anything but joy -- it's a source of rage, insanity and violence. A handsome young Bridegroom (Willie Fortes) seeks to marry a beautiful Bride (Nikki McKenzie) over the mild objections of his Mother (Sharon Omi), who recalls that the Bride once dated a man whose family is her family's enemy. The Bride is more than happy to marry the Bridegroom -- but her unresolved past with her ex-lover, the hot, manly Leonardo (Joshua Zar), ultimately brings sorrow to everyone at the wedding. Making good use of the subtext lurking within Tanya Ronder's febrile and intense translation, director Jon Lawrence Rivera's exceptional production of Lorca's drama crackles with emotional tension and undercurrents of unease. Rivera casts the production with mostly actors from the Asian-American community, giving the piece a folkloric mood -- a feeling that's enhanced by his ritualized choreographic blocking and by John H. Binkley's beautifully rendered, moon-shaped platform set design. The performances swing powerfully between emotional extremes, frequently achieving near-operatic heights of intense feeling. McKenzie's desperate, miserable turn as the Bride -- driven by lustful forces beyond her control and horrified by it -- frequently astonishes, as does Omi's brutal shift from prissy mom to flinty, embittered monster. Also engaging is Zar's James Dean-like turn as the virile Leonardo, which is counterbalanced by Fortes' sweeter but intentionally more boyish turn as the Bridegroom. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., July 14, 8 p.m.; Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 11, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 3. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

Chicago The Kander and Ebb Prohibition-era musical. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum The Ancient Rome comedy, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 10. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, (310) 454-1970.

In Bed With Tenn: Six short plays by Tennessee Williams Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Hello From Bertha, The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, Green Eyes, The Big Game and The Pronoun "I.". Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 23, plays411.com/bedwithtenn. Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, (310) 656-8070, promenadeplayhouse.com.

NEW REVIEW GO MARGO VEIL

click to enlarge ENCI
  • Enci

Moody,

mysterious and comedic - Len Jenkin's noir fantasy takes us on a

surreal trip as its central character, third-rate actress Margo Veil

(Dorie Barton), endures some bizarre shape-shifting adventures guided by

an ancient Lithuanian spirit statue. Similar to Alice's journey down

the rabbit hole (Lewis Carroll's classic is overtly referenced), our

plucky heroine accepts a questionable assignment from her talent agent;

assuming the identity of a mourner to accompany a corpse on the train.

Instead of gaining a paid passage back to her home country town, Margo

is somehow abducted into an underworld where her body is used as a shell

for other persons to inhabit. Dream-like logic ensures delightful

unpredictability while the cyclical nature of the story provides a neat

ending. Contemporary pop-culture references clash with the retro-noir

flavor and costuming (elegantly realized by Ann Closs-Farley).

Self-conscious narration hands off from character to character and the

tone swings wildly from broad comedy strokes and exaggerated acting to a

more serious second half (85 mins, no intermission). Much of the humor

comes from live sound effects provided by cast members in addition to

John Zalewski's expert sound design. While enjoyable, one is left with

the impression that had director Bart DeLorenzo the courage to take this

material into darker, more sinister Lynchian territory, we'd have an

edgier result. Colleen Kane stands out in numerous roles while Jeremy

Shranko plays a mean air guitar, redneck-style. Evidence Room and

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 2

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 477-2055. odysseytheatre.com (Pauline Adamek)


A Memory of Two Mondays Arthur Miller's autobiographical play set during the Great Depression. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 30, plays411.com. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica, (310) 397-3244, ruskingrouptheatre.com.

Pinkalicious The Musical Family musical about a girl's obsession with the color pink, book by Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, music by John Gregor, lyrics by John Gregor, Elizabeth Kann and Victoria Kann, based on the children's book by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann. Starting July 9, Saturdays, 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through July 24, YESplays.org. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org.

Revisiting Wildfire Denise Crosby and Jamie Rose star in Kari Floren's world-premiere play about two female friends, once college roommates, now in their 50s. Starting July 9, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 31, RevisitingWildfire.com. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.

NEW REVIEW SYLVIA

click to enlarge JOHN HELLER
  • John Heller

"Always

remember your dog is a dog . . . and woman names make trouble," a

stranger (Tom Ayers) warns Greg (Stephen Howard), an empty nester in the

thrall of a Labradoodle named Sylvia (Tanna Frederick). The stray bitch

solicited Greg at the park, bounded into his Manhattan apartment and

immediately made enemies with his wife (Cathy Arden), a smart careerist

blonde just getting settled into having the house -- and her husband --

to herself. Greg, naturally, struggles to stick to the man's advice. So,

too, does the audience, as the dog is played by a redhead in a tutu who

references The Odyssey and calls Greg her "knight in shining armor."

What man could resist? Underneath the tutu, Frederick wears kneepads and

with good reason: for two hours, she crawls, leaps, and tumbles with

the humans taking turns dragging her around the stage. It's a showy gig

and director Gary Imhoff has Frederick -- an actress of boundless energy

-- frolic as if failure meant the pound. If you find Frederick too

manic, as I certainly did, you soon side with the missus in wanting to

call the dogcatcher. Playwright A.R. Guerney's decision to make a human

play canine sharpens the love triangle between man, woman and beast.

When Frederick sprawls spread-eagled on the ottoman, what wife wouldn't

glare? But Gurney's smart observations about the cross-species bond

clash with his sell-out, feel-good ending (was he afraid dog lovers

would torch the building?), a flaw further thrown out of whack by

Imhoff's need to earn laughs by any means necessary, even updating the

1995 script with Sarah Palin jokes and a dance break to Lady Gaga. By

the time the cast takes their final bow to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" all

but the most dog-obsessed are eager to vow their allegiance to Team Cat.

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat.,

7:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Aug. 14. (310) 399-3666. edgemarcenter.org (Amy Nicholson)


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