Busting Out!: Mammary, How I Love Ya How I Love Ya | Public Spectacle | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Busting Out!: Mammary, How I Love Ya How I Love Ya

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Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 8:49 PM
click to enlarge Emma Powell and Bev Killick - COURTESY BUSTING OUT!
  • Courtesy Busting Out!
  • Emma Powell and Bev Killick











Also check out this week's Stage Features on John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown and Catherine Trieschmann's How The World Began; plus all the capsule NEW THEATER REVIEWS and the weekend's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS (after the jump)

Mammary: How I Love Ya, How I Love Ya

BY REBECCA HAITHCOAT

In Busting Out!, creator Emma Powell goes topless. "They're not just sitting there," she says in an interview over the phone. "If they're out, they're bein' used!"

Get your mind off porn and Playboy bunnies -- this musical celebrates the average

click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpg
woman's not-so-buoyant breasts, though, ironically, it begins its North American premiere this week in the City of (Surgically-Enhanced Victoria's Secret) Angels.


"It's not a sexual show," says Powell, a 43-year-old Australian actress. "Put it this way: I've been doing this show for five years and I still haven't gotten a date." It portends well for the show that the single mom peppers her conversation with these deadpan comments. She explains that Busting Out! is a comedy, with a sensibility like fellow Aussie Simon Morley's Puppetry of the Penis: There's a bra fitter, boob manipulation tricks, a shadow puppet sequence and audience participation (again, mind outta the gutter, boys).

Thirteen years ago, the seed for the show was planted when Powell jumped out of the shower to answer a phone call, and heard a clapping sound. She realized it was her breast slapping against her rib cage. "I labeled it 'The Sound of One Tit Clapping.' It was like a trick!"

The musical theater actress who has performed in Mamma Mia! and Les Miserables came to a crossroads when acting work seemed to be petering out a few years ago. She remembered the shower incident, and wondered if she could get away with doing with breasts what Morley was doing with the penis. She gave herself a choice: go back to public relations and enroll in a university, or try doing this show.

Hey, twisting your tits into doughnuts in front of strangers beats pestering them any day.

Busting Out! performs at the Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd; Wed., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs. - Sat., 8:00 p.m.; Sat. - Sun., 2:00 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m. Through November 6. (323) 960-4442 or www.thehayworth.com.

Follow @rhaithcoat and @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for October 14 - 20, 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. The listings are 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

All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken Male and female actors emote Walken. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m., allaboutwalken.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.

All the Great Books (abridged) Courtesy the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m., reducedshakespeare.com. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu.

Annie Sally Struthers stars in Cabrillo Music Theatre's production of the orphan musical, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, book by Thomas Meehan. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.

The Best of IN-Q IN-Q's spoken word/hip-hop/comedy show. Thu., Oct. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 22, 8 p.m., plays411.net/in-q. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-962-0046, www.laplays.com.

Bhutan Daisy Foote's story of a New England family coping with the death of their father. Starting Oct. 16, Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 22. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-930-0747, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

blu The trials and travails of a queer Chicana/o family. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, L.A., 323-489-3703, www.companyofangels.org.

Busting Out! Emma Powell's Australian boob revue. Starting Oct. 16, Sundays, 2 & 6:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, 323-960-4442. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.

The Cask of Amontillado Zombie Joe's take on Edgar Allan Poe, with a live musical score. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 5. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Completeness Mandy Siegfried headlines this reading of Itamar Moses' play, presented by L.A. Theatre Works. Thu., Oct. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 22, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 2 & 7 p.m., 310-827-0889, latw.org. James Bridges Theater, UCLA, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood.

4 Murders SkyPilot Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's dark dramedy. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, 800-838-3006, skypilottheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

Groundlings Science Fair All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Hey, Morgan! Life of a Jewish girl in Brentwood, from 13 to 32, book and lyrics by Matthew Fogel and Isaac Laskin, music by Fogel, Laskin and David Richman. Starting Oct. 15, Sat., Oct. 15, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, (800) 838-3006. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., www.thedahlia.com.

Juan and John The San Francisco Giants' Juan Marichal and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro, that is. Created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith, produced by the Latino Theater Company. Starting Oct. 20, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., 866-811-4111, www.thelatc.org.

Machinal The 1920s as "nightmare nexus of capitalism, sexism and violence," by Sophie Treadwell. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

Match City Players present Steven Belber's play. Fri., Oct. 14, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 15, 9 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 21, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 22, 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 11, 9 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 12, 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 18, 9 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 19, 9 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 2, 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 3, 9 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 9, 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 10, 9 p.m. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.

Moses Supposes Karen Black stars in Ellen Melaver's comedy about a wedding anniversary party gone awry. Starting Oct. 15, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 4, 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/202027. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

Peace in Our Time Antaeus Company's new adaptation of Noel Coward's what-if about Nazi occupation. Starting Oct. 20, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 11, 818-506-1983, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.deafwest.org.

Pulp Shakespeare Her Majesty's Secret Players re-imagine Pulp Fiction via the Bard. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, 323-960-7612, plays411.com/pulp. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.myspace.com/theatreasylum.

The Real Housewives of William Shakespeare Jamie King's trash-TV update of eight of Shakespeare's heroines. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/202561. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., www.theatreasylum-la.com.

The Robber Bridegroom Southern fairy tale about a gentleman bandit, a plantation owner's daughter, and a sex-starved stepmother, book and lyrics by Alfred Uhry, music by Robert Waldman, based on the novella by Eudora Welty. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

Sally Struthers: Off Script ... and Off the Record Conversation with the All in the Family icon and upcoming star of Cabrillo Music Theatre's Annie. Mon., Oct. 17, 7 p.m. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.

the Self Mariel Carranza's collaborative installation performance. Fri., Oct. 14, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, 310-315-1459, www.highwaysperformance.org.

Sin It's God versus Satan in S. Claus' "pop opera." Sun., Oct. 16, 8 p.m. Skinny's Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-6581, www.skinnyslounge.com.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Lee Meriwether stars in this children's musical, book by Scott Martin, lyrics by Rob Meurer, music by Richard Brent. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

The Standard Bearer Stephan Wyatt's monologue about a thespian who takes Shakespeare to Africa. Starting Oct. 19, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12, 323-960-7770, www.plays411.com/standardbearer. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A., www.sfstheatre.com.

The Tale of the Frog Prince Steve and Kathy Hotchner's interactive play for children. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

To Kill a Mockingbird Actors Co-op's adaptation of Harper Lee's 1960 novel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A., 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.

Viva Cristo Rey Cathal Gallagher and Fred Martinez's story of beloved Mexican hero Father Miguel Pro. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, GKCTheatre.org. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-458-8634.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

All the Great Books (abridged) Courtesy the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m., reducedshakespeare.com. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-506-4522, arts.pepperdine.edu.

Annie Sally Struthers stars in Cabrillo Music Theatre's production of the orphan musical, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, book by Thomas Meehan. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.

Ghetto Klown John Leguizamo's one-man Broadway show. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Ricardo Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., L.A., 323-463-0089, www.ricardomontalbantheatre.org. See Stage Feature.

How the World Began World premiere of Catherine Trieschmann's evolutionary debate. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 & 7:45 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org. See Stage Feature.

GO Iris This latest offering from Cirque du Soleil is a dazzling homage to the cinematic arts. It will have a permanent home at the Kodak Theatre, which has undergone an extensive renovation to accommodate the show, directed and choreographed by Phillipe Decoufle with an 18-member creative team. The spectacle is part burlesque, part circus, with two huge faces at both ends of the set, designed by Jean Rabasse. Danny Elfman's orchestral score is as diverse as the world of cinema itself, incorporating jazz, rock and even classical violin and cello, while the variety and design of Philippe Guillotel's costumes is mind-boggling. Like all Cirque shows, this one follows a loose narrative. Here, it's about an aspiring composer in search of his true love, a journey that takes him into a fantastical world. There are plenty of "How did they do that?" moments: aerial flights, acrobatics, movement, music, theatrical hi-jinks and much grand spectacle that's quite, well, Hollywood. What sets Iris apart from the other Cirque shows that have come through town is the variety it offers, as well as the imaginative use of video and special effects to accompany the performers. Highlights include four contortionists whose supernatural dexterity is mystically enhanced in light and shadows on a back wall, a living film strip, a choreographed frame-to-frame "movie" with live performers and a rooftop trampoline act that nods to West Side Story and gangster movies where the tough guys square off (via trampolines) on a hotel roof. (Lovell Estell III). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 31, (877) 943-IRIS, cirquedusoleil.com/iris. Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., www.kodaktheatre.com.

I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY Most of the fun happens in the lobby, where there's chili, slingshot contests and heaps of Western kitsch. With book and lyrics by Kirk Lynn, music and lyrics by Peter Stopschinski, Thomas Graves and Lana Lesley direct this disjointed, ill-conceived send-up of the American West. Presented by the Austin-based Rude Mechs and Center Theatre Group, this mixed-genre musical suffers from a narrative and stylistic identity crisis that leaves it bucking around the stage like a runaway bronco in desperate need of a lasso. The undeniably talented troupe spends much of its energy executing choreographer Dayna Hanson's plot-slaughtering, post-modern dance moves. Annabellee (Meg Sullivan) is shackled by her father, a bullying variety-show host with old-fashioned ideas about unmarried women. Likewise encumbered is Jeremy (E. Jason Liebrecht), a young man whose mother, Julie (Cami Alys), literally ties him to the last mountain lion in Texas when he turns 18, a twofold tactic designed to rid mom's commune of its sole man and to teach him life lessons. When Annabellee and Jeremy meet, love blooms and a theme of personal freedom vs. inevitable human interconnectedness emerges, a struggle that is poignantly summarized in the lovely song "Everything's Tied," arguably the play's finest moment. Two dogs, Sigmunda (Jenny Larson) and Sigfried (Paul Soileau), often take center stage to race, sing and tell jokes, a device that gets old fast. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; through Oct. 23. (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. (Amy Lyons)

The Mystery of Irma Vep Charles Ludlam's gothic horror farce. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.


Noises Off Michael Frayn's thespian farce. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.

Poor Behavior Theresa Rebeck's tale of "lust and deception, marriage and fidelity." Tuesdays-Sundays. Continues through Oct. 16. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., 213-628-2772. See Stage feature.

The Ride Down Mount Morgan Isabell Mejias Fox directs this Arthur Miller play, starring Richard Johnson as Felt. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.

The Robber Bridegroom Southern fairy tale about a gentleman bandit, a plantation owner's daughter, and a sex-starved stepmother, book and lyrics by Alfred Uhry, music by Robert Waldman, based on the novella by Eudora Welty. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

Sally Struthers: Off Script ... and Off the Record Conversation with the All in the Family icon and upcoming star of Cabrillo Music Theatre's Annie. Mon., Oct. 17, 7 p.m. Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza), Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2787, www.civicartsplaza.com.

GO Seascape Retirees Nancy (Arden Teresa Lewis) and Charlie (Alan Schack) have found a quiet beach on which to picnic, paint watercolors and argue over how to play out the rest of their days. She yearns to travel the world; he's determined to take it easy. Just when it appears a stalemate is about to ensue, a pair of giant talking lizards -- Leslie (Paul Gunning) and Sarah (Kristin Wiegard) -- saunter up to make things interesting. Though with Seascape Edward Albee won his second Pulitzer in 1975, few critics would argue this gentler comedy surpasses his blistering Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , which was pointedly snubbed by the award's advisory committee in 1963. Peppered with sharp lines and wisdom about what is both lost and gained in a long-term relationship, Seascape is also full of ideas, many familiar -- life is short, people can be brutes, self-awareness is a burden -- as well as a riff on difference and bigotry that probably felt more illuminating in the mid-'70s than today. Performances here are solid under Charlie Mount's smart direction, which nevertheless doesn't overcome the occasional dissonance. Lewis combines exuberance, humor and serious longing with dexterity, but displays a childlike energy at odds with Nancy's Anatole France references. Schack's Charlie, languid with resignation at the opening, skillfully reveals the fear driving his emotional shutdown, but comes off as subdued when the play begs for a little slapstick. Less encumbered by Albee's intellectualizing, the lizards ultimately get the better deal. Gunning brings a delightful preening self-seriousness to his role, and Wiegand delivers both wonder and grief well. The production values are notably high, with rocky dunes executed impeccably by set designer Jeff G. Rack and thoughtfully lit by Yancey Dunham. Director Mount also created and judiciously doles out a vaguely haunting sound design, and Gunning's reptile costumes bring the right touch of storybook to the absurdism. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Oregon mountain musical, book by Lawrence Kasha and David Landay, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Gene de Paul. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 3 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19. Glendale Center Theater, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale, 818-244-8481.

Shirley Valentine Willy Russell's comedy about a lonely Liverpool housewife who jets off to Greece. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Shrek: The Musical DreamWorks' 2001 animated movie gone Broadway. Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-556-2746, www.scfta.org.

Silent Roar Multimedia theatre piece depicting the story of a family of whales, directed and choreographed by Zina Bethune. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com/contact.html.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Lee Meriwether stars in this children's musical, book by Scott Martin, lyrics by Rob Meurer, music by Richard Brent. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

South Street Every city has a "South Street" story -- tales of once-blighted neighborhoods in which cheap rents and seedy bars nurtured an '80s cultural renaissance whose very success would lead to their slow strangulation by gentrification. And while it's easy to imagine a dramatically rousing and artistically relevant stage musical version (call it Rent), composer-lyricist Richard Addrisi and librettist Craig Carlisle's saccharine spin on South Philadelphia's legendary nightclub district is not it. If there's a protagonist to be found in the show, it might be the firehouse-turned-bar Sammy's Place (handsomely rendered on Andy Walmsley's forced-perspective set). The saloon becomes ground zero for the street's resurgence with the arrival of dancer Cloe (Maria Eberline) who somehow inspires heart-of-gold owner Sammy Silverstein (Tom Shelton) and his stripper wife, Sybil (Valerie Perri), to inaugurate an annual, non-exotic dance contest called the Full Moon Festival. Its success transforms Sammy's -- and the neighborhood -- into a trendy drinking destination but separates Cloe from her true love, musician Johnny (Brent Schindele), who moves to the coast and rock stardom. Unfortunately, Carlisle's decidedly maudlin, feel-good book (which strains the term "Runyonesque" to its breaking point) rarely lends the show's mostly forgettable musical numbers dramatic coherence. And neither Addrisi's stale, adult-contemporary score nor his poetry-challenged lyrics ("When you say cheese, you can turn a frown upside down...") hint at the musical vibrancy of the era they purport to represent. Under such handicaps, it's little wonder that director Roger Castellano and an otherwise capable ensemble muster all the urgency and urban credibility of Sesame Street. (Bill Raden). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

To Kill a Mockingbird Stage play by Christopher Sergel, based on the Harper Lee novel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

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

Addition by Subtraction World premiere of R.J. Colleary's play about "one man's struggle to find his purpose in the world." Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, (323) 960-7788, plays411.com/abs. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..

All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken Male and female actors emote Walken. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m., allaboutwalken.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.

GO  THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE

click to enlarge MICHELLE PEDERSON
  • Michelle Pederson
A pet shop is an odd place for a noir score, and an even odder place for a bed placed just 10 feet away from a fish tank where two piranhas bob, awaiting their next meal. But the sleazy sax and inviting mattress are integral to Charles Ludlam's comic melodrama about animal salesman Chester Nurdiger (Rich Hutchman), his restless redhead wife, Roxanne (Bernadette Sullivan), and the handsome stranger (Michael Loomis) who's charmed his way into a hamster cage-cleaning gig -- and the missus' panties. He can't resist the way Roxanne wiggles her hips when she bends over to get feeder worms from the refrigerator. And he can't resist when she makes noises about killing Chester under the noses of Mama Nurdiger (Michael Halpin) and Officer Frankie (Brad David Reed). The Artificial Jungle is a well-done trifle about the selfishness of human animals, and under Randee Trabitz's direction it's a great showcase for his team. Sullivan plays the cuckolding wife like a cat clawing at the door for freedom. Halpin's big momma isn't a drag pratfall --she's the second coming of Lucille Ball down to the expressive, heavily mascaraed eyes. And Hutchman's doomed oaf is a fool for his wife, yet he's no dummy; Hutchman makes him at once irritating and ingratiating. When Loomis' seducer is struck by his conscience, the play borrows notes from Shakespeare's Macbeth and Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart which here really should have been The Tell-Tale Talking Parrot. The intermission is unnecessary, but that's the only technical quibble when Keith Mitchell's cluttered set of creatures spills into the seats (there was a snake on my chair), Derrick McDaniel's lighting darkens at every dramatically raised eyebrow and prop designers Judy Heneghan and Andrea Hutchman have built rodent puppets that bone in a cage, both to amuse the audience during scene changes and so Mama Nurdiger will have an excuse to intone, "The rats are in heat." Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 6. (323) 960-7863, plays411.com/jungle. (Amy Nicholson)

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, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Fountain Theatre Box Office, 5060 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, 323-661-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

Beat Yale Cabaret Hollywood's radio-style presentation of "conspiratorial lore and poetry from the Beat Generation of the 1950s," by Paavo Hall, Jon Howard and Walt Klappert. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m. Cafe Metropol, 923 E. Third St., L.A., 213-613-1537, www.cafemetropol.com.

Bechnya Saviana Stanescu's war story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 22, (323) 960-7721, plays411.com/bechnya. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

Beirut Alan Bowne's controversial play. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 14. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-850-7827.

Betrayed George Packer's story of three young Iraqis working for American forces in Baghdad. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, (818) 826-3609, whitmoreeclectic.com. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., www.lyrictheatrela.com.

Beverly Winwood Actor's Showcase Acting teacher Beverly Winwood (Susan Yeagley) showcases Hollywood's "rising stars." Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mon., Oct. 24, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Oct. 17. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Bhutan Daisy Foote's story of a New England family coping with the death of their father. Starting Oct. 16, Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 22. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-930-0747, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

blu The trials and travails of a queer Chicana/o family. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, L.A., 323-489-3703, www.companyofangels.org.

Bob Baker's Halloween Hoop-Dee-Do More than 100 Halloween-themed puppets star in a show that first played here in 1963. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

Busting Out! Emma Powell's Australian boob revue. Starting Oct. 16, Sundays, 2 & 6:30 p.m.; Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, 323-960-4442. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., www.thehayworth.com.

Cabaret Idol: Season 3 James Mooney's weekly vocal competition, with winners voted on by the audience. Sundays, 7 p.m., facebook.com/cabaretidol. The Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323-466-9917, www.myspace.com/hollywoodstudiojazz.

Camp Sunday All-new sketch and improv by the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

CarnEvil: A Gothic Horror Rock Musical The more familiar we get with real-life horror stories -- a mother is tried for the first-degree murder of her own child, our country can't wake up from a fiscal nightmare -- the more we prefer our theatrical experiences escapist, preposterous. In Joe Fria and Michael Teoli's "Gothic horror rock musical," Danny (hopefully, James Lynch's melodramatic acting style is intentional) returns to the dying carnival run by his cousin Serena (ditto for Natascha Corrigan) and her brother (a convincing Joey Bybee). Nothing is quite as it seems, and when a creepy dude named Craven (Jeff Sumner) swoops in to save the day, things get even weirder. Despite a few rousing numbers ("Side Show" and "Freak!" in particular), some powerful performances (namely Geoffrey Dwyer) and director Janet Roston's entertaining choreography, Fria and Teoli's obsession with horror films blinds them to the basic premise of the best of 'em -- keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple. Theater can't indulge in the complexities of film: Danny's backstory, represented for a good part of Act 1 by some "thing" in a jar, and then told in nightmares of flashing lights, cutout images projected on a screen and a real-life version of childhood Danny and his parents, is more confusing than terrifying. Although Roston kept the set changes as clean as she could, there are just too many of them, which add length to an already overlong show. Cutting a few extraneous numbers, such as "Pain," would help. Sacred Fools has the template for a scary romp, and when the twist comes, it actually causes a little chill. But to make us duck our heads and squeeze our eyes shut like Freddy Krueger did, they must maximize the medium's strengths. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 27, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

Double Falsehood "A found play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher," adapted by Lewis Theobald. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, coeurage.org. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-882-8043, www.actorscircle.net.

Dreams in Variation Noel Coward observed that a good musical book needs to be strong enough to stand on its own, without the music. Director-writer Kristen Boule seems to have ignored Coward's dictum, and the result is a generic juke-box musical. There's an impressive array of 21 songs, culled from hit shows by Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Elton John, and Steven Schwarz, among others. But Boule seems to think that writing a musical is rather like building a bookcase: so long as you provide an appropriate slot for each song, the job is done. Consequently, her characters are thin, and her plot hit-and-miss. She centers her script on four characters. Joey (Ben Pronsky) is an aspiring film-maker, Kailee (Lena Coleman) wants to sing and act, Rosalie (Kate Bowman) is a widow whose beloved husband left her grief-stricken but very rich and bored. And lost-child Eve (Darby Walker) wants to be a singer, but she's also seeking a place to belong. Some able actors, including Marcia Rodd, Corby Sullivan, Jermanne Perry, Tiffany Roberts, and Emily Amezcua, give it their all, musical director George DeRieux expertly leads the seven-man combo, and choreographers Steven Nielsen and Stephanie Simpson generate some real excitement, but the ultimate result disappoints. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, (323) 960-7740, plays411.com/dreamsinvariation. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.hudsontheatre.com.

Dusk Rings a Bell Teen lovers reunite after 25 years, by Stephen Belber. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, TheBlank.com. The Blank's Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-661-9827, www.theblank.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, losangeles.ucbtheatre.com.

Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over Written and performed by J. Michael Feldman. Thu., Oct. 20, 8:15 p.m., fairytaletheater2011.com. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-525-0202, www.acmecomedy.com.

GO Falsettos It's interesting that composer-lyricist William Finn called Act 1 of his show "March of the Falsettos" when it was first produced in 1981. At the time it was a stand-alone piece, before being combined with what's now Act 2, "Falsettoland," in 1992 to create this Tony Award-winning show. It's interesting because Finn's music is completely the opposite of a march: It bounces, tinkles, overlaps in beautiful polyphony and segues between genres seamlessly. Fortunately, musical director Gregory Nabours and the diligent cast do it justice with crisp diction and brisk pacing. The story is that of Marvin (Jesse Einstein), who tries to be a good father to his son, Jason (Major Curda), while keeping the romance alive with his lover, Whizzer (Richard Hellstern). Complicating his task is his separation from ex-wife Trina (Lani Shipman), who has taken up with their therapist, Mendel (Chip Phillips). This "modern family" and its issues, which were no doubt more edgy and provocative in the '80s and '90s, retain their resonance, even though same-sex couples have become more accepted and the scourge of AIDS has been blunted by better medications and increased awareness. Director Richard Israel sometimes fails to play the material big enough to get the laughs it should, but he really finds its heart in Act 2, and his judicious employment of minimalist set pieces on casters, combined with the pinpoint precision in Lisa D. Katz's lighting, makes for silky smooth transitions. John Todd's choreography, though not completely innovative, is energetic and complements Finn's marvelous music. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (888) 718-4253, showclix.com. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., L.A..

Five Beauties New American Theatre presents five rarely performed one acts by Tennessee Williams. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, 310-701-0788, newamericantheatre.com. McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., L.A., www.mccaddentheatre.com.

Four Clowns Antics of four clown archetypes: the sad clown, the mischievous clown, the angry clown and the nervous clown, conceived and directed by Jeremy Aluma. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28, (562) 508-1788, FourClowns.org. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., www.sacredfools.org.

Garbo's Cuban Lover Odalys Nanin's lesbian love triangle between Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and an MGM contract screenwriter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (323) 960-4429, plays411.com/garbo. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.

Groundlings Science Fair All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

GO Guided Consideration of a Lamentable Deed One man's guilty conscience drives the action of Frank Basloe's outstanding new play. It's the night before college graduation for the handsome Tim (Ben Kurland), but there's something depressing about his post-coital nudity. We quickly learn from an omniscient narrator (the effectively even-handed Mattie Hawkinson) that Tim's sexual encounter took place with an inebriated-to-the-point-of-unconscious girl. The rape kicks off Tim's late-night, campuswide quest for absolution, a sometimes hilariously pseudo-philosophical journey amidst drunken undergrads unready for the real world and childish faculty members modeling bad behavior. The pot-smoking Jewish intellectual clique (led by a hilariously pubescent-minded Edward Kiniry-Ostro) urges Tim to hunt for justification for his foul deed in Genesis 9:20-25, in which the noble Noah drinks too much wine and is, in one interpretation, sodomized by his son. The campus security guard (Ronald Conner) offers no consolation, as he's too busy getting joyless blowjobs from female undergrads to hide his homosexuality. Basloe's cast of intellectually superior characters lacking any signs of emotional depth is at once alarming and hilarious. This failure of academia to supply students with real-world skills is most comically represented in the character of Peter Jennings (J.B. Waterman), who is preparing the next day's commencement address, which promises to be riddled with useless platitudes. Dylan Southard directs with clarity of vision, staging early scenes upstage and pushing the action closer to the audience as intimacy becomes essential. Chris Covics' winning lighting and set design includes six movable pillars of light that create shifting moods throughout. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, (323) 795-2215, needtheater.org. Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., www.faisdodo.com.

Hey, Morgan! Life of a Jewish girl in Brentwood, from 13 to 32, book and lyrics by Matthew Fogel and Isaac Laskin, music by Fogel, Laskin and David Richman. Starting Oct. 15, Sat., Oct. 15, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, (800) 838-3006. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., www.thedahlia.com.

Hyper-Chondriac Brian Frazer's solo comedy, based on his memoir Hyper-Chondriac: One Man's Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, (323) 960-7785, plays411.com/hyperchondriac. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., www.theatreasylum-la.com.

GO I LOVE LUCY: LIVE ON STAGE
click to enlarge ED KRIEGER
  • Ed Krieger
If you're an I Love Lucy fan, this is your moment. The show, based on the TV series that still runs in syndication 60 years after its debut, takes audience members back to Desilu studio during the 1950s, where the audience sits in on a "live" television taping of two episodes, hosted by the affable Murray Jasper (Mark Christopher Tracy). Though there never will be talents quite like Ball, William Frawley, Vivian Vance and Desi Arnaz, director Rick Sparks' terrific cast channel them with charm, intelligence and energy in this fun-filled musical comedy. Sirena Irwin plays the redhead queen of comedy with precision. Bill Mendieta has got Ricky Ricardo down, including the thick Cuban accent, and Bill Chott and Lisa Joffrey do Fred and Ethel Mertz quite well. The two original episodes, "The Benefit" and "Lucy has Her Eyes Examined" (written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.), are a hoot, but so are the hilarious commercial breaks, the Lucy trivia contest and the surprising variety of musical and dance numbers. Pianist and musical director Wayne Moore does a stellar job leading the six-piece band. Aaron Henderson provides meticulously crafted sets, while Shon LeBlanc's period costumes are on the money. (Yes, there are more than a few red-and-white polka dot dresses). Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave.; Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 30. (added perfs. Wed. & Thurs., 8 p.m., from Oct. 26). 800-595-4tix, ilovelucylive.com. (Lovell Estell III)

Juan and John The San Francisco Giants' Juan Marichal and Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro, that is. Created and performed by Roger Guenveur Smith, produced by the Latino Theater Company. Starting Oct. 20, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A., 866-811-4111, www.thelatc.org.

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, www.1739publichouse.com.

Le Misanthrope In the opening moments of this production, director Carolee Shoemaker positions the ensemble onstage; decked out in their period costumes, they silently mingle, feigning the affected mannerisms and forced gaiety of 17th-century French fops and their lady friends. This effective device captures a sense of this comedy's time and place and serves as an appropriate prelude to a play about a blunt man who cannot abide the empty prattle of his peers. Unfortunately, these initial moments are among the few engaging elements in this stagey revival of Moliere's classic. Once the performers begin to speak, the magic evaporates. Pete Caslavka plays the loquacious title character, Alceste, with valorous resolve, but never comes out from under the weight of the language. As Celimene, the flirty femme fatale who drives him to distraction, Leona Britton is miscast. The other supporting players sometimes elicit laughs from Moliere's wit with their simpering poses, but the slapstick element Shoemaker has woven into her staging wears thin with performances that hover close to careless -- as opposed to razor-sharp caricature. Elisa Richardson provides a notable exception with her fastidious portrait of Eliante, Alceste's fluttery, love-smitten cousin. While spare, John DeLeonardis' set design nicely complements designer Vicki Conrad's elaborate costumes, by far this show's star attraction. (Deborah Klugman)(In rep with Six Characters in Search of an Author.). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., 323-667-0955, www.knightsbridgetheatre.com.

GO Love Sick "Hell hath no fury": Most of us are familiar with Congreve's famous (paraphrased) line regarding a woman scorned. In Kristina Poe's savagely funny and astonishingly perceptive play, distraught heroine Emily (Alexandra Hoover) is on a white-hot rampage. Her husband of 20 years, Jeff (Salvator Xuereb), has left her for a much younger woman, Lexi (Kate Huffman). Woe betide anyone who gets in Emily's gun sights, such as the corpse lying on the filthy bathroom floor beside her at the start of the play. Emily is perplexed by her racy mom's (Melanie Jones) new sexual lease, and intrigued by a seductive stranger (Dominic Rains). As Poe charts Emily's cathartic journey, she milks as much venomous humor as she can from the increasingly extreme situations, such as a twisted episode of group therapy. Her heightened dialogue is spiky and the scenarios are recognizable. David Fofi expertly wrangles his large cast of 11. Joel Daavid and Adam Hunter's set design cunningly transforms from an industrial bathroom to an airport bar with the simple adjustment of a triangular piece of truss. Hoover delivers a pithy performance as the scheming psycho, especially in the play's climax where Emily is confronted by a sobering truth. The writing, tech and performances combine into a hugely entertaining event. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, (877) 369-9112, elephanttheatrecompany.com. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.elephanttheatrecompany.com.

Machinal The 1920s as "nightmare nexus of capitalism, sexism and violence," by Sophie Treadwell. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

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.

The Maiden's Prayer Phoenix Rising Theater Company presents Nicky Silver's five-way love story. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, phoenixrisingtheater.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A., 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Match City Players present Steven Belber's play. Fri., Oct. 14, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 15, 9 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 21, 9 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 22, 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 11, 9 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 12, 9 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 18, 9 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 19, 9 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 2, 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 3, 9 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 9, 9 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 10, 9 p.m. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.

THE MISSILE MAN OF PEENEMUNDE and BURLY Q MOON Playwright-director Bill Sterritt's "The Missile Man of Peenemunde" seems to be offering the kind of polemics mastered by Tom Stoppard, but serves up only tedious and unintended humor. From a campy poster image of a gorgeous woman straddling a rocket, and a cabaret opening with a Hogan's Heroes sensibility in which a buxom St. Paulie Girl (yes, like the beer) sings an uncredited rendition of Tom Lehrer's song "Wernher von Braun," one expects to be treated to an unbridled farce. But when the sexy lady (Lillian Solange Beaudoin) does appear on the rocket, it's as a serious delusion in the mind of rocket scientist Von Braun (Gregory G. Giles). He battles wits with the aging Nazi Dr. Bahr (Thomas Ehas), who tries to convince the scientist not to test the missile. Weighing in on this long, dull mass of wordiness is the mysterious and creepy Walter Thiel (Steve Ducey), who speaks of the Fuhrer in metaphorical terms based on Norse mythology. But "Missile Man" is genius next to Amy Tofte's pointlesss "Burly Q Moon," which follows it. It resembles Waiting for Godot cast with women and set in a Weimar-era German cabaret. Several women strip to G-strings and pasties while pontificating on the last days of World War II. The stripping by these reasonably talented young actresses in this small club is quite uncomfortable, compounded by the lack of any reason for it. Theatre Unleashed at Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through Oct. 23. (323) 793-2153. (Tom Provenzano)

Monkey Adored Henry Murray's allegorical performance with actors, puppetry, and projection. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., 323-930-0747, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

Moses Supposes Karen Black stars in Ellen Melaver's comedy about a wedding anniversary party gone awry. Starting Oct. 15, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 4, 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/202027. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

The 1940s Radio Hour A radio studio circa 1943 is the staging for Walton Jones' musical. Outside, World War II and a Christmas blizzard may rage, but inside, where a bottle of Pepsi still costs a nickel, folks groove to crooners and torch singers. Director Nan McNamara's affectionate tribute to the olden days of popular culture is a mock-up of a wartime radio show, complete with musical numbers, fake commercials and attempts to keep the home fires burning for the boys who are off fighting the war across the world. McNamara describes in the program notes how the play is intended to hearken back to an era when the radio provided the only entertainment for much of the American audience. As a result, the historical trappings of the radio production are often as interesting as the show itself; you can almost imagine gathering around your radio set at home to hear Catherine Gray's beautifully brittle rendition of "Old Black Magic" or Kimi Walker's lusciously throaty "I Got It Bad." The radio show ambiance is impeccably crafted, with musical director Linda Kerns' live band creating an enchantingly lively mood and Fritz Davis' sound design (complete with Gus Corrado's radioman performing most of the effects live) being quite evocative. Unfortunately, the show is ultimately hampered by the intentionally threadbare nature of the characters, who dance and sing with engaging gusto but display little personality beyond their chorus gang smiles. Although the first half-hour consists of the performers arriving in the studio and preparing for their show, there's little attempt to define them, apart from a most perfunctory subplot involving crooner Johnny Cantone (a nicely oily Michael Downing) attempting to ditch the show to move to Hollywood. The end result is a perfectly sweet and innocuous impersonation of an historical artifact. The impression fades almost immediately upon leaving the theater. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, (323) 462-8460, Ext. 300, ActorsCo-op.org. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A., www.actorsco-op.org.

Nobody Walks Like My Daddy "A jazz song in syncopated counterpoint," by E.L. James. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/201357. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., www.stellaadler-la.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, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.thedragonfly.com.

Pulp Shakespeare Her Majesty's Secret Players re-imagine Pulp Fiction via the Bard. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 13, 323-960-7612, plays411.com/pulp. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.myspace.com/theatreasylum.

The Real Housewives of William Shakespeare Jamie King's trash-TV update of eight of Shakespeare's heroines. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/202561. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, L.A., www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Roger Wodehouse's Androgymnasium Lost Moon Radio presents Roger Wodehouse as a 1970s glam rock star turned children's show host. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, lostmoonradio.com. Club Fais Do-Do, 5257 W. Adams Blvd., L.A., 323-931-4636, www.faisdodo.com.

Six Characters in Search of an Author Luigi Pirandello's playfully pioneering, 1921 foray into metatheater has rightly earned its permanent place on the syllabus of any comprehensive university survey of modern stage literature. It is arguably the first play expressly and exclusively about the nature of the theatrical, and the intellectual forebear to contemporary deconstructionists the likes of The Wooster Group and Richard Foreman. But does relevance in the classroom automatically make for an engaging and compelling evening of theater? Judging by director Stuart Calof's desultory and indifferent production, the answer would have to be no. Calof begins on a promising note by staging the play's fourth-wall-breaking prologue in the Knightsbridge lobby. Once the house formally opens, however, his invention all but abandons him. That's when Pirandello's titular characters (who include David Stifel, Christina Zamora, Samuel Isaacs & Elizabeth Yocam) burst in on a "rehearsal" of another play (usually by Pirandello but here inexplicably substituted with Hamlet) and demand that the director (Rene Guerrero) bring them to full realization by staging their unwritten drama. Part of the trouble is that while Pirandello's play-within-a-play conceit is modern, its language is steeped in a risibly melodramatic verismo whose glaringly dated artifice is allowed to stand uninterrogated. The rest of the problem is a slapdash production design (John DeLeonardis & Joseph P. Stachura's set; J.C. Gifford's lights), ameliorated only by Kelly Grahm's period costumes. (Bill Raden) (In rep with Le Misanthrope.). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A., 323-667-0955, www.knightsbridgetheatre.com.

The Standard Bearer Stephan Wyatt's monologue about a thespian who takes Shakespeare to Africa. Starting Oct. 19, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Nov. 12, 323-960-7770, www.plays411.com/standardbearer. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A., www.sfstheatre.com.

A Still Small Voice Mitch Hale's play about four lost souls in an addiction recovery program. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, a-still-small-voice.info. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-463-7378, www.sfstheatre.com.

subTEXT MESSAGES Sketch comedy written by Todd Milliner, executive producer of TV Land's Hot in Cleveland. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 22, andthensomecomedy.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

tick, tick ... BOOM! Jonathan Larson's autobiographical tale of a young composer at an emotional crossroads. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/ticktick. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A., www.themettheatre.com.

To Kill a Mockingbird Actors Co-op's adaptation of Harper Lee's 1960 novel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A., 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.

The Tragedy of the Commons Stephen Metcalfe's play starts off like a slow-moving, genteel, domestic comedy, in which Dakin (Brian Kerwin) bickers with his wife Macy (Leslie Hicks) over her vegetarian cooking, and she complains about his spending too much time writing his blog. Nothing much seems to be at stake till their old friend and next door neighbor Carl (Edward Edwards) announces that he's selling his house and moving to Seattle. Dakin is immediately beset with fears that the new owner will rebuild and block his cherished view -- a subject on which he quickly becomes fanatical and obsessive. His pugnacious wrong-headedness becomes so violent that he antagonizes Macy, Carl, his lawyer daughter Ellen (Austin Highsmith), and Dan (Jeffrey Stubblefield), the new owner of the property, who does indeed rebuild, block out the view, and drive Dakin round the bend. A violent ending seems inevitable. Then, only at the end, Metcalfe reveals that he's sounding a "save the planet" alarm, and speaking out against destruction of natural resources. But Dakin has been so irrational and cantankerous that he's hardly qualified to serve as raissoneur. Though the play is intelligently written, and director Dave Florek and his actors, including Lane Compton, give the piece a fine and faithful production, they can't overcome the play's muddled intentions: plot and message stubbornly refuse to mesh. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Dr., L.A., 323-876-5481.

Von Bach Owen Hammer's comedy about a lesser-known movie monster, Baron Von Bach, who resurfaces to wreak havoc on the latest film version of his mad life. Starting Oct. 20, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 4 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 30, 4 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, 323-805-9355, thenextarena.com. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., www.complexhollywood.com.

GO  WAITING FOR LEFTY

click to enlarge COURTESY ART OF ACTING STUDIO
  • Courtesy Art of Acting Studio

Of all the agit-prop plays of the 1930s, only this Clifford Odets work was potent enough to capture mainstream attention, launch Odets' career, validate the efforts of the fledgling Group Theatre and achieve semi-classic status. Dealing as it does with a taxi strike, it put the lives and pungent language of working-class people onstage as never before Ñ and seldom since. Though the play was historic, director Don K. Williams proves it isn't just a historical curiosity. He's assembled 21 fine actors and melded them into a stunning portrait of the times with obvious parallels to our own day. The play deals with the plight of taxi driver Joe (Jesse Steccato), lamed by World War I, who comes home from work to find his furniture repossessed, his children hungry and his wife (Katharine Brandt) in rebellion. Miller (Jeremy Ferdman) loses his job because he refuses to spy on a fellow worker. And Sid (Chase Fein) must break up with the girl he loves (Emily Jackson) because they can't afford to marry. A doctor (David Lengel) is fired by his hospital to make room for an incompetent senator's son. Corrupt union man Harry Fatt (Adam Bitterman) strives mightily to avert a strike, assisted by armed thugs, but the collective anger Ñ and the unmasking of a company spy Ñ defeat him. Union activist Agate (an impassioned Darren Keefe) brings things to a stunning climax with a furious call for action. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Drive; Sat., 8 p.m (added perf Oct. 22, 10:15 p.m.); through Oct. 22. (323) 876-5481, artofactingstudio.com. (Neal Weaver)

What Happened in Mayville? 2 Christina Joy Howard's sequel to her one-act horror play. Saturdays, 9 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, L.A., 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.

GO What's Wrong With Angry? In 1993, when this play was first produced, the British age of consent for same-sex activity was 21 (16 for straight people) and speaking positively about homosexuality in schools was legally proscribed. Playwright Patrick Wilde's drama takes place in an insular suburb of London and revolves around a gay teen named Steven (Daniel Taylor) who confidently embraces his sexuality even as he endures the homophobic barbs and brutal beatings of his classmates. One day, frequenting the public loo, he has a sexual encounter with his school's star jock, John (Miles Heymann), a boy he has long had a crush on. The remainder of the play charts the duo's on-again/off-again relationship, a behind-closed-doors affair based on real affection and caring but circumscribed by John's -- unlike Steven -- to acknowledge his feelings, either publicly or to himself. Director Michael Matthews' cogent staging underscores the strengths of a piece that breaks no new ground but handles familiar themes with sensitivity and skill. Particularly appealing is the group portrait of adolescence that rings true above and beyond any political message. The ensemble does fine work all around, but Heymann is particularly affecting as the troubled John, and Kelly Schumann frequently steals the limelight as Linda, Steven's savvy and stalwart teen confidante. Matthew Henerson also deserves note in his double role of headmaster and Steven's father, both of whom stand in for the forces of intolerance. (Deborah Klugman). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

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. The Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., 323-466-9917, www.myspace.com/hollywoodstudiojazz.

The Women of Juarez Ruben Amavizca's story of murder and corruption. (Perfs alternate in English and Spanish; call for schedule.). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A., 213-382-8133, www.fridakahlotheater.org.

The Woodsman Steven Fechter's lyrical play about a sex offender. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, L.A..



CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

Angel Asylum Lukas Behnken and Scott Haze's story of corruption in a mental institution. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, angelasylum.com. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 302-656-9797, www.sherrystickets.com.

Bayside High School Musical Ren Casey's musical parody of '90s sitcom Saved by the Bell. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26, baysidehighschoolmusical.com. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org. See Stage feature.

The Cask of Amontillado Zombie Joe's take on Edgar Allan Poe, with a live musical score. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 5. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Chekhov UnScripted/Tennessee Williams UnScripted/Twilight Zone UnScripted Impro Theatre presents completely improvised versions of classics of stage and television, performed in rep. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theater.). Saturdays, 2, 8 & 10 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23, ImproTheatre.com. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Dead of Night The Visceral Company presents six short plays based on horror stories by Stephen King: Nona, Strawberry Spring, Harvey's Dream, The Man Who Loved Flowers, Mute and The Ten O'Clock People. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 6, thevisceralcompany.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.

THE DINOSAUR WITHIN Tommy (a show-stealing Ari Skye) is a sweet nerd whose speech to the Junior Paleontology Association serves as the string that ties together three stories of loss. Honey Wells (Mimi Cozzens), a fading actress haunted by her past, repeatedly watches footage of the day she stepped into her square at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. A construction worker drilling on Hollywood Boulevard, who left his aboriginal father in Australia due to an obsession with Honey and his desire to be an actor, meets her daughter, Maria (Shauna Bloom). Maria, who stares at her mother's star looking for a clue to her own history, reads a story her former journalism professor wrote about an aborigine who claims dinosaur tracks were stolen from his people. The journalist is struggling with the loss of his son, an unsolved mystery that tortures him. On paper, the stories are all intriguingly interconnected, but most characters are portrayed as being so self-absorbed and single-mindedly possessed that it's difficult to drum up much sympathy for any of them. Maybe that was director Michael Michetti's point. Thanks to a society that increasingly makes it more convenient to interact with laptops than with flesh and blood, most of us power selfishly through our lives, barely acknowledging the existence of others in the same struggles. As a wooden reconciliation takes place onstage, one has to wonder: Will relationships become extinct next? The Theatre at Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 6. (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.com. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

Do Not Go Gentle: An Evening With Dylan Thomas Mick Thyer is Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, wix.com/mickthyer/donotgogentle. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 302-656-9797, www.sherrystickets.com.

GO Don't Hug Me, I'm Pregnant This latest addition to Phil Olson's goofy Don't Hug Me musicals offers its share of wholesome humor (think Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on steroids). And like all the others, the play is set in Bunyan County, Minnesota, where the proprietors of the local bar, Gunner and Clara (Patrick Foley and Rebekah Dunn), await the arrival of their first child and are throwing a shower of sorts. Clara is about ready to pop, but hubby has his mind on other things, like the opening of duck hunting season, and downing beer with the establishment's resident fool and foil, Kanute (Bert Emmett). They are later joined by friends Aarvid and Bernice (Greg Barnett and Natalie Lander), who have their own romantic thing going. Because of a vicious snowstorm, Clara has to have the kid in the kitchen, an awkwardly protracted finale that takes up most of Act. 2. Not much really goes on here, and there are times when it occasions a lot of gratuitous "filler" nonsense and gags. The comic tinder is largely provided by Phil Olson's outrageously funny song lyrics, Paul Olson's zany musical score, and Stan Mazin's choreography. Ditties like the hip-hop inspired "Bun in the Oven," and "If Men Had Babies, We'd All Be Extinct," make the evening memorable, as does Chris Winfield's attractive bar mock-up. Doug Engalia directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, (323) 822-7898, web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/855905. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, www.secretrose.com.

4 Murders SkyPilot Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of Brett Neveu's dark dramedy. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, 800-838-3006, skypilottheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

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, www.tworoadsgallery.com.

Kowalski Brando auditions for A Streetcar Named Desire, in Gregg Ostrin's play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com. See Stage feature

Kvetch Steven Berkoff's Jewish family comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, seaglasstheatre.org. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

Peace in Our Time Antaeus Company's new adaptation of Noel Coward's what-if about Nazi occupation. Starting Oct. 20, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 11, 818-506-1983, antaeus.org. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.deafwest.org.

Pescador Michael Erger's dark comedy about a female professor desperate for sperm. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Pulling Leather Ted Ryan's world premiere about a pro bronco rider. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (323) 822-7898, web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/869535. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, www.actorsforumtheatre.org.

Salome Oscar Wilde's biblical tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-457-5293, www.lizardtheater.com.

Shooting Star There is perhaps one genuine moment of emotional truth in Steven Dietz's otherwise dubious 2008 comic melodrama. It occurs early in the play, when Dietz's middle-aged, former college lovers, Reed McAllister (Kevin Symons) and Elena Carson (Michelle Duffy), recognize each other across an airport departure lounge (on David Potts' eerily empty air-terminal set) and quickly turn their backs, each rightly dreading even a passing reaquaintance with ghosts from their past. Then Reed inexplicably does an about-face just as a winter blizzard makes the pair captive to a closed airport and 80 of the most improbable minutes in either modern air travel or recent playwriting. For any love story to get off the ground, an audience must fall for the romantic protagonists before even the characters themselves. Symons and Duffy are both perfectly affable and charming performers, and they mine the self-consciously sardonic similes of Dietz's dialogue for all the laughs they're worth. Their characters, however, are such sourly pallid portraits of prodigal refugees from the 1970s that their mild sparring and flirtatious rehash of the past always feels unconvincing and inadvisable, never irresistible or compelling. By the time all their regrets have been uttered and their sad lives thoroughly aired, all that gets revealed is that they are as empty and shallow as 40-something adults as they were in their 20s. Director David Rose and a capable design team (including costumer Dianne K. Graebner's unsettling Stevie Nicks-riffed wardrobe) lavish the production with polish; what they are unable to lend the story is authentic heart. (Bill Raden). Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

Sin It's God versus Satan in S. Claus' "pop opera." Sun., Oct. 16, 8 p.m. Skinny's Lounge, 4923 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-6581, www.skinnyslounge.com.

The Tale of the Frog Prince Steve and Kathy Hotchner's interactive play for children. Starting Oct. 15, Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through Nov. 12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

The Tempest Zombie Joe's takes on the Shakespearean classic. Directed by Denise Devin. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 28. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

That's Amore! An American Italian Songbook Written by Gilmore Rizzo, musical direction by Bryan Miller, directed by Ginny McMath. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Noho Performing Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

To Carry the Child After the first of many long-simmering tensions spills over, Libby (nicely played by Pamela Daly) announces to her two daughters she and their father had stopped the movie Terms of Endearment midway through. "Neither one of us was enjoyin' it. I remember likin' it so much the first time," she says. Playwright Jon Courie uses the reference as both illumination of his influences and casual foreshadowing, and because he smartly places it so near the top of the action, we prepare and forgive him in advance for any sappiness that might follow. Plenty does, but an inexplicably unlikable protagonist and director Steve Jarrad's unfortunate casting mar what is a promising tearjerker. Ashley (Meg Wallace), running from the triple threat of a floundering career, failing relationship with her lesbian lover, and a physical setback, leaves New York City in an attempt to find solace at her family's home on the coast of North Carolina. Once there, however, she seems more intent on counterproductively nursing her still-raw childhood wounds than allowing them to heal. Though she lashes out "mean as a copperhead" at everyone, including her sweetly dim sister Sissy (the charming Christine Haeberman), she reserves her most venomous strikes for her father, the blue collar Bo (Robin Nuyen): He never approved of her being a lesbian, he loved Sissy more, he was always working, he didn't encourage her career. But the complaints begin to fall on deaf ears, as Bo repeatedly attempts to prove his love, however clumsily. As opposed to Wallace's dead-eyed delivery and one-note performance, the excellent Nuyen is so nuanced that he easily becomes the most sympathetic character onstage. You'll use your tissues for him. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16, (323) 860-6569, plays411.com/thechild. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.ravenplayhouse.com.

Total Improv Kids: Boo Us! Halloween-themed improv show featuring kids and young adults ages 8 to 20. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29, (818) 481-8072, totalimprovkids.com. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Weird on Top Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Fri., Oct. 14, 8 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 9, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 28, 8 p.m.; Wed., Jan. 18, 8 p.m.; Thu., Feb. 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 14, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 26, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 16, 8 p.m. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

Xanadu Roller disco musical, based on Olivia Newton-John's cult classic movie. Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 16. Center Stage Theatre, 8463 Sierra Ave., Fontana, 909-429-7469, www.centerstagefontana.com.

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

Completeness Mandy Siegfried headlines this reading of Itamar Moses' play, presented by L.A. Theatre Works. Thu., Oct. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 22, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 23, 2 & 7 p.m., 310-827-0889, latw.org. James Bridges Theater, UCLA, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood.

GO Day Drinkers Set in the kind of downtown L.A. bar (set by Gary Guidinger) that has denizens pounding on the door at 9 a.m. to be let in and start drinking, Justin Tanner's best comedy in years is a deceptively facile look at what draws people to and from each other. Old Mick (Tom Fitzpatrick) is enamored with Val (Danielle Kennedy), cashing out a retirement account to buy her a $7,000 ring, which Val pawns for a pittance and puts up little resistance to the seductions of Mick's son, Bradley (Jonathan Palmer). Meanwhile, barkeep Daniel (Todd Lowe) can't even get wife Jenny (Chloe Taylor) to kiss him anywhere near the lips, because of a recent fling she had with her stud brother-in-law, Caleb (Cody Chappel). Maile Flanagan and Melissa Denton pass through, as a pair of lesbians en route to a family gathering in Lodi -- can their marriage endure the pressures of the trip, or of each other? Beneath what looks like the stuff of almost nothing, couched in marvelous physical humor under Bart DeLorenzo's direction, and a string of very funny one-liners, emerges a clear and larger vision. This is a love story (or stories) in which so many core decisions are made from perceived opportunity and economics. Bradley shows up for the sole purpose of preventing his geezer dad from squandering the potential legacy of his last remaining funds. Despite what looks like a romantic reunion in a troubled marriage, Jenny tells Caleb that if she were 10 years younger, she'd leave her barkeep husband, but now she's put whatever money she had into the bar. Whether their marriage endures or doesn't, that bitter truth will underlie it, meaning her husband is doomed if he harbors any serious hope for reciprocated affections. If you read between the lines and the laughs, there's a fury at work, a rage at cold-hearted self-interest that is, and always was, the driving engine of most societies. The rest is garbage, and few writers can satirize garbage with Tanner's skill. It's hard to tell if the balance between comedy and anger that so delicately keeps insight from teetering into petulance comes as much from the writing as from DeLorenzo's taut staging. As comedy ensembles go, the eight actors are like the well-oiled cylinders in a fine old gas-guzzling Caddie, blowing smoke in our eyes, masking roadkill and other horrors of the highway. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

End Days Verisimilitude, psychological depth and emotional truth aren't necessarily requisites for a winning stage comedy. But they help. So do a measure of genuine wit, a certain subtlety of craft and, well, some occasional belly laughs. Stint on too many of these and the result could easily resemble playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer's seriously unfunny fractured-family fable. Laufer's one-note joke rests on the character of Sylvia Stein (Abigail Revasch), a supremely self-involved and over-controlling Jewish mother whose history of phobic manias have produced a dour, resentful and rebellious outcast of a punk-rock teen daughter, Rachel (Zoe Perry). Worse, Sylvia's recent conversion to Rapture-proselytizing, evangelical Christianity has made Rachel's home life a living hell and sent her father (Loren Lester) into a near-catatonic depression (the less said of his nonsensical brush with 9/11, the better). Sylvia's religious hysteria also has provided her with her own personal savior -- a figment of Jesus (the hilarious Andrew Ableson) that follows her around, vamping poses from kitschy fundamentalist Christ paintings (in the production's sole, genius sight gag). For the rest of the family, the Messiah proves to be Rachel's dweebish, love-struck classmate, Nelson (Charlie Saxton), a fellow outcast in an Elvis jumpsuit whose sympathetic, nonjudgmental guilelessness inexplicably redeems the household. Unfortunately, such feeble whimsies rarely rise above the implausible and are more commonly reduced to shrill caricature by director Lisa James. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's clumsy kitchen-sink set hampers rather than helps either the ensemble or the comedy, while Jeremy Pivnick's lighting runs the gamut of illumination, from off to on. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Oct. 23. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

The God of Isaac James Sherman's comedy about a Jewish-American journalist exploring his ethnicity. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 27, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20, (323) 860-6620, westcoastjewishtheatre.org. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A., www.picoplayhouse.com.

Jane Fonda in the Court of Public Opinion Workshop presentation of Terry Jastrow's play, starring Anne Archer as Jane Fonda. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, (310) 392-7327. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Jimmy and Sam Two old geezers with thick accents, one Jewish, the other Irish, are long time pals who enjoy their morning breakfast ritual on a New York City park bench. When Sam (Howard Storm) confesses to Jimmy (Clement E. Blake) that his retirement fund is all tapped out, Jimmy wastes no time offering him a lifeline and inviting him to move in to his rent-controlled apartment. The octogenarian pair of widowers prove perfect companions, sharing groceries and heading off to dances together. But when Sam meets a bubbly Carol (Kathrine Henryk), the delicate balance of the friendship is slightly upset. Written by Pat Harrington, Howard Storm and the late Michael Rhodes, this is a sweet play about aging and the joys and heartbreaks of enduring friendships. As we listen to them share their oft-told life stories and fond reminiscences about their deceased wives or humorously discuss the concept of reincarnation, the gentle humor evokes cozy 1950s sitcoms. This is the kind of play where you wonder which of the three is going to kick the bucket. But when the inevitable happens, the scenes that follow are touching nonetheless. Under Tim Byron Owen's direction, Storm is good as the likable and easygoing Sam. Henryk is great as the dynamic new flame, and Blake's Jimmy stands out as a sometimes-grouch. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

L.A. Cafe Plays Ruskin Group Theatre concocts five short plays in 10 1/2 hours. Third Sunday of every month, 7:30 & 9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

LOLPERA Ellen Warkentine and Andrew Pedroza's "found-lyrics operatic experiment." Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 29. The Garage Theater, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, 866-811-4111, www.thegaragetheatre.org.

Naked Short Sales Marvin Kruege's contemporary comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 15, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/196481. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.

RED NOSES
click to enlarge DOMINIQUE SERRAND
  • Dominique Serrand
Peter Barnes won the 1985 Olivier Award for this sprawling work set in 14th-century France during the Black Plague. Billed as a black comedy, the spectacle it mirrors is indeed a grim and savage one. Cackling scavengers hover over diseased bodies. Lawless rapists brawl over who gets to rape a captive nun first. A raucous band of flagellants exhort already miserable souls to whip themselves to repent their evil ways. Meanwhile, callous clergy think only of saving their own skins. From this bleak backdrop a compassionate priest emerges. In glowing white, in contrast to the drek around him, Father Flote (Jeremy Loncka) announces he's been called by God to respond to people's suffering by making them laugh. He gathers a motley crew of blind, mute and otherwise physically or emotionally maimed individuals into a troupe of wandering clowns. And thus the play proceeds, a mix of rambunctious bawdiness and sophisticated commentary involving theology and salvation, politics and power. Staged on a high, wide and nearly bare proscenium by director Dominique Serrand, this production features a strong and versatile ensemble, plus singular costumes by designer Rosalida Medina (special kudos to the feathered scavengers) and striking makeup; together, these twin production elements effectively underscore the garish, grating madness that Barnes sought to portray. But despite these assets, the work's excessive length (two and a half hours) drives home the distressing themes with cacophonous stridency, despite some genuinely funny moments. Several performers make their mark above the general din: Jon Kellam as the fanatical leader of the flagellants, Mary Eileen O'Donnell as an insidiously Machiavellian Pope Clement VI and Steve M. Porter, endearingly human as a blind juggler, a greedy money man and various other roles. Actors Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.; through Nov. 19. (310) 838-4264, theactorsgang.com. (Deborah Klugman)
Ripe Wendy Hammers' dramedy about the loss of a friend and her "big, fat, Jewish ass." Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 19, ripetheplay.com/tickets.html. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.

the Self Mariel Carranza's collaborative installation performance. Fri., Oct. 14, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 15, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, 310-315-1459, www.highwaysperformance.org.

Some of My Parts Darith Lallou Mackenzie takes on six roles in one hour in her one-woman show. Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 26, goldstar.com/events/beverly-hills-ca/some-of-my-parts.html. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

Sylvia "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. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 2, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 4, 5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 20. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Twisted, Spooky, Creepy All-new, original short plays with a Halloween theme. Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 29, 11 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 30, 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 20. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.

Viva Cristo Rey Cathal Gallagher and Fred Martinez's story of beloved Mexican hero Father Miguel Pro. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through Oct. 30, GKCTheatre.org. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-458-8634.

PICK OF THE WEEK WAY TO HEAVEN (HIMMELWEG)

click to enlarge ENCI
  • Enci
Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga's powerful psychological horror show takes as its inspiration Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp that was disguised as a charming town to fool visiting Red Cross investigators. The play opens with audience members being allowed to tour an onstage exhibit of actual items from the camp -- a pillar containing old posters advertising fake cabaret shows in the nonexistent night club, forinstance. When the performance itself starts, the actors use the props and items we've just been examining, thus creating an environmental experience that's perfect for director Ron Sossi's evocative staging. A Red Cross worker (Michael McGee) relates his memories of a tour of the fake concentration camp, which appeared to be populated by a genially gentlemanly Prison Commandant (the chillingly perfect Norbert Weisser) and a group of Jewish inmates, happily portraying "villagers." Utilizing a lyrical structure that loops back and forth through time, Mayorga relates the events from several different points of view -- not just the Red Cross worker's, but also that of the deranged, giggly insane commandant. Gentle scenes of children playing onstage, or a young couple on a date, are replayed, each time with increasing terror that suggests a rehearsal process for which the stakes of a bad performance are death. As his tale unfolds, Moyorga's disjointed, nonlinear structure (in David Johnston's taut translation) avoids standard tropes of melodrama as the themes shifts from the historical to a meditation on the nature of lying, and then on to a subtle and rather chilling satire of the deceptive nature of theater itself. Sossi crafts a mood of palpable onstage terror and cracklingly compelling turns are offered by Weisser's terrifying commandant, by Bruce Katzman's broken Jewish camp inmate and by McGee's appalled Red Cross worker.  Odyssey Theater 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (no perfs Oct. 24-30); thru Dec. 18 | (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)

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