City Garage, the Santa Monica-based experimental theater troupe now situated in Bergamot Station, is seeking ambitious and dynamic actors for an upcoming project -- a new play Charles Mee has written for the company.The actors are invited to participate in the company's weekend style workshops, at no charge, with the aim of casting the play later in the month. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here for all the latest New Theater Reviews, Also check out stage features on playwright Tanya Saracho, whose Mexican adaptation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard opens this weekend at the Fountain Theatre, and a review of Our Town at the Broad Stage, in Santa Monica.
COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS For January 27 - February 2, 2012
LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
Art By Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, directed by David Lee. Starting Jan. 31, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Boeing-Boeing Marc Camoletti's French farce. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, 310-544-0403, www.norriscenter.com.
Clybourne Park Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. See Stage feature next week.
Early Morning Opera: Abacus Thu., Feb. 2, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 3, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 4, 8:30 p.m. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
GO Our Town Helen Hunt stars in Thornton Wilder's American classic. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 31. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, 310-434-3414, www.thebroadstage.com. See Stage feature.
GO OVO Yes, the vermin have finally arrived in Santa Monica. Now, before you shudder, please be aware we're talking about the charming new Cirque du Soleil show about the world of insects. This latest Cirque show may hew to many of the standard elements of the company's tried formula of whimsy married to traditional circus production numbers, but only an entomophobe would cavil with the lovely (and often multilimbed) costumes, joyful clowning and dazzling acrobatics that make you gape. These are not those bugs that suck blood or burrow into your ears ― they're happy, family-friendly insects that leap about in Spandex, dance from trapezes and ride unicycles on high wires on their chins. Writer-director-choreographer Deborah Colker's production delivers the goods, with the insectoid theme underscoring the idea that the performers appear to be able to accomplish physical feats that they'd have to be at least half grasshopper to do. A group of Chinese acrobats, dressed as red ants, juggle gigantic plastic kiwi fruits (and each other) with only their feet. A pair of gymnasts embody mating butterflies, fluttering up and down a pair of scarves in a manner that doesn't seem human. And a group of acrobats, dressed in golden flea-like carapaces, perform deft feats on a trapeze. A wonderful circus that's ideal for adult and larvae alike. Under the Big Top at the Santa Monica Pier, 1550 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica; through March 20. For performance schedule, see cirquedusoleil.com. (Paul Birchall)
GO A Raisin in the Sun Presented by Ebony Repertory Theatre. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. See Stage feature next week.
Red Hot Patriot Kathleen Turner is "brassy Texan reporter" Molly Ivins. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature
Rinde Eckert: And God Created Great Whales Through Jan. 28, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 29, 3 p.m. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
GO Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs This musical adaptation of the fairy tale classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs offers plenty of opportunity for children's participation -- and that is its strongest appeal. In this amiably revised version, the Queen (Susan Morgenstern) is upset to learn that she's no longer considered the land's fairest -- but her remedy is relatively benign. Instead of plotting to kill Snow White (Caitlin Gallogly), she transports her out of the kingdom. Instead of feeding her a poisoned apple, she laces one with tryptophan. Instead of seven dwarves protecting the heroine, the script features one jolly performer (Anthony Gruppuso) abetted by enthusiastic helpers drafted from the audience. Neither the book (Scott Martin) nor the songs (music by Rob Meury, lyrics by Richard Brent) are especially memorable, but Gallogly is cute and charismatic, and Paul Denniston scores laughs doubling as the wise-cracking magic mirror and the puffed-up prince. For adult spectators, observing the kids' delight is the best entertainment. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
Topdog/Underdog Suzan-Lori Parks' Pulitzer Prize winner about African-American brothers. Tuesdays-Sundays, 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Jan. 29. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonough's story of family struggles in rural Ireland. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Blood Fruit This autobiographical solo show is the coming-of-age story of a young gay man from an Iraqi-Catholic background. Like many other gay individuals, writer-performer Majd Murad anguished over coming out to his family -- an intense decision given his parents' religious bent and homophobic mindset. Directed by Bethany Kraemer on a bare proscenium, Murad's narrative begins with his childhood, then goes on to tell of his loneliness, his first crush, his first sexual experience, his contracting HIV from a callous partner and its subsequent successful treatment. Murad projects a likable and unassuming persona, ably depicting multiple characters and injecting enough humor and personal charm into his performance to compensate for the material's familiar theme and its overextended (90 minutes) length. (Deborah Klugman). Sat., Jan. 28, 3 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/205399. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
GO casebolt and smith's O(h) As casebolt and smith, the L.A.-based duo of Liz Casebolt and Joel Smith follow e.e. cummings' lead eschewing capital letters, but arrive home armed with a fistful of fine reviews from the premiere of O(h) at New York's Joyce Theater to various festivals. In O(h), they segue easily from dance to commentary to song in an hour-long excursion brimming with humor including a send up of Tina Turner's intro to "Proud Mary" and a primer on modern dance gesture that wryly debunks modern dance taking itself too seriously. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, $30, $22 seniors & students. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Los Angeles, 323-960-7863.
GO Days of Wine and Roses J.P. Miller's story of alcoholism. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/wineandroses. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
GO Did You Do Your Homework? In his solo play, Aaron Braxton marshals his skills as writer, actor, singer and director to relate his experience as a substitute teacher in urban schools. Economically Braxton, who is black, is not that different from his students, but his teacher mother taught him solid middle-class virtues, which prove to be both a blessing and a bane. He learned what he needed to teach, but the values and language of inner-city African-American kids were as foreign to him as to any white teacher. Braxton has to overcome the communications gap and challenge the ingrained notion that a black man who learns to speak and write correctly is just "acting white." And he must find a way to check disruptive behavior and impose order without seeming like a wuss. Braxton enlivens his tale with an array of funny and touching characters, acted with exuberant affection and veracity. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 5, (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/210970. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
Expecting to Fly Starting Jan. 28, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 4. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-0046, www.elephanttheatrecompany.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: FAIRY TALE THEATRE, 18 & OVER
J. Michael Feldman defines a whole new type of "triple threat" by writing, puppeteering and acting in Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over, this 90-minute barrel of monkey-filled laughs. But it's not just monkeys who populate this world; it's polar bears, squirrels, spiders, bees and other such mainstays of fairy-tale fare. The adult-themed stories ― like "The Bi-Polar Bear and Co-Dependent Eskimo," "The Monkeys and Their Pet" and "The Cloud Who Was Into Some Weird Shit" ― are filled with a hilariously caustic wit that's often self-referential, but not in an annoyingly hipster-ish way. Even Feldman's preshow announcement gets laughs, demonstrating his clear knack for comedy and setting the tone for the evening. His fellow players ― puppeteers Jess McKay, Matt Cook and Tina Huang, as well as castmates Courtney Pauroso and Eileen Mulanee ― are true chameleons who transform their voices, expressions and body language to endow a litany of animals with human traits. The actors truly throw themselves into the characters, lampooning highly relatable issues in outrageously funny ways. Contributing to their brilliant execution are director Annie McVey's daring choices and Stephen Rowan's colorful menagerie of props and costumes. With a go-for-broke vivacity and edginess reminiscent of Monty Python, Feldman and his crew spin comedic gold Inkwell Theater at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 11. 323-852-1445, inkwelltheater.com (Mayank Keshaviah)
GO Fiesta Xylophone playing, ice skating and traditional Mexican hat dancing are just a few of the talents displayed by Bob Baker's marionettes in this south-of-the-border celebration. A favorite production at Baker's theater since its premiere in 1964, the show shines brightest when the colorful puppets interact with children in the audience, like when two peck-happy ostriches provide particularly hearty giggles by gobbling little heads. The whole show is one big happy dance featuring two-stepping cacti, smiling skeleton showgirls and a chicken/rooster duet that's a scream. The ever-present puppeteers disappear during a black-light segment in which flying puppets provide slightly spooky thrills. A piñata is broken near show's end, but no candy is in sight. This wrong is quickly righted with a post-show ice cream social. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
GO Fruit Fly Written and performed by Leslie Jordan. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Feb. 18. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.
GO God's Ear L.A. premiere of Jenny Schwartz's play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (877) 369-9112, echotheatercompany.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
Groundlings Science Fair This 19-sketch offering from the Groundlings is a hit-and-miss affair, though the signature improv segments that accompany the show are consistently funny and well performed. Director Karen Maruyama frequently amps up the physical comedy, but the payoff isn't impressive, such as the overdone "Pan Am Constellation," in which a pair of mustached pilots struggles with severe turbulence, and "Dating Life," where two ladies feverishly try to stuff their rears into size-small jeans. Lazy writing appears in many of the sketches, such as "Renewing our Vows," where Jill Sachoff and Timothy Brennen entertain guests at a knot-tying ceremony with low-voltage gags and dialogue, and "French Woman Don't Get Fat," which is dull and over-long. Performances also are spotty, the exceptions being Scott Beehner and Michael Naughton. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28, $19. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.
Over the 10 years of its existence, the Independent Shakespeare Company has developed a reliable house style: brisk, athletic, no-nonsense productions, with a contemporary sensibility, a Brechtian objectivity and a talent for unlocking the plays' comic potential. All of these virtues are present in this, its fifth rendering of Hamlet, with David Melville once again putting his stamp on the title role. Melville, like Hamlet himself, has an antic disposition, and an anarchic and subversive wit that prevents his ever sinking into conventionality. (Never have the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern scenes or the advice to the players yielded so many solid laughs.) Director Melissa Chalsma gives us a fine, exciting, fast-moving, no-period production, with a strong supporting cast that delivers the cleverly edited text with energy and clarity. Sean Pritchett is a smoothly confident Claudius and Luis Galindo smartly responds to the challenge of three demanding roles: the Ghost, the Player King and the Gravedigger. Thomas Ehas renders Polonius as a dignified booby, and Mary Guilliams is a spunky Ophelia. Erwin Tuazon shines as an irresistibly comic Rosencrantz and an unexpectedly subtle Osric, while Andre Martin is a stalwart Laertes. Independent Shakespeare Co. Studio at Atwater Crossing, 3191 Casitas Ave., Suite 168, Atwater Village; Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.; through Feb. 19. (no perfs Feb. 4-5) (818) 710-6306, iscla.org. (Neal Weaver)
GO I Love Lucy® Live on Stage 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 channels 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.) (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, $34, (800) 595-4849, ilovelucylive.com. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, www.greenwayarts.org.
Ian MacKinnon's Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 1 & 2 The history of homosexuals by performance artist and activist Ian MacKinnon. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, brownpapertickets.com/event/214106. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-3259, www.movingarts.org.
The Indians Are Coming to Dinner Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
Keep It Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1739, www.1739publichouse.com.
Macbeth Presented by Illyrian Players. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, brownpapertickets.com/event/217438. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.
Macbeth Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.
GO MOON OVER BUFFALO
Ken Ludwig's zany farce centers on an acting couple on tour in Buffalo in 1953 with a repertory of Cyrano de Bergerac and Noël Coward's Private Lives. It's one of those dizzying, door-slamming affairs (James Spencer and Zachary Guiler's handsome set features five of them) with countless entrances and exits, which makes for great fun. David Ross Paterson and Wendy Phillips deliver fine performances as long-married thespians Charlotte and George Hay, whose floundering careers get a boost when happenstance sends the legendary Frank Capra to view their matinee while searching for talent for an upcoming production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Tossed into the comic mix is George's affair with troupe member Eileen (Laetitia Leon), a cantankerous mother-in-law (Norma Campell) who despises George, a rekindled romance between the Hays' daughter Rosalind (Kate Costick) and the troupe's assistant Paul (Benjamin Burdick) and an unlikely case of mistaken identity. Complementing Ludwig's well-written script are excellent performances and savvy direction by Bjorn Johnson. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd.; Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 10. openfist.org. (Lovell Estell III)
Nerve The saying that misery loves company is played out in a NYC dive bar where Elliot (Adam Silver) and Susan (Anna Rubley) meet on their first date in Adam Szymkowicz's play. Each is tentative and awkward in first-date fashion; however, the comedy that typically ensues is diminished by Elliot's forwardness and hyperawareness. Susan also zags darkly when she pulls a Bowie knife from her purse so Elliot can carve their initials into the table. Such surprises and heightened realism create confusion and hinder engagement with the characters, because they seem out of character and don't clearly connect to a deeper subtext. Director Michael Matthews' tight rein on the pacing also stifles the breathing room needed to let the comedic moments land. While the emotions in the piece don't always resonate, Stephen Gifford's set does, with its authentic Wurlitzer jukebox streaming Cricket S. Myers' fittingly hipster-ish '80s soundscape. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Los Angeles.
GO Point Break Live!
NO GOOD DEED
would be tempting to place all the blame on director Dámaso Rodriguez
for the cluttered, overblown and sententious chaos that is playwright
Matt Pelfrey's inchoate meditation on the act of heroism in the age of
mechanical reproduction. But Pelfrey's pedestrian and attenuated tale of
a wimpy, comic book-obsessed high school outcast (Nick Cernoch)
accidentally thrust into self-destructive media celebrity packs neither
the poetic punch of a riveting stage narrative nor the insight needed to
nail down its intended examination of the hero as a social construct.
Instead, the script wildly ricochets from graphic-novel homage
(featuring Ben Matsuya's convincing superhero art) to brittle satire to
after-school melodrama to ponderous, adolescent action-fantasy. Faced
with a hopeless tonal tangle, Rodriguez throws money at the production
but only exacerbates its problems with upstaging video projections
(Jason H. Thompson), actor-drowning sound (Doug Newell) and what is
perhaps the ugliest set in designer John Iacovelli's long and otherwise
distinguished career. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Hlywd.;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;
through Feb. 26. (323) 461-3673, fordtheatres.org. (Bill Raden)
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., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.
Richard III Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thu., Feb. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
The Trojan Women There is an oft-quoted line on acting attributed to Jimmy Cagney that goes something like, "Learn your lines, plant your feet and tell the truth." Director-adaptor Steven Sabel gets it two-thirds right. In tackling Euripides' immortal antiwar drama, his actors know their lines and speak timeless truths, but the unceasing stage wandering that Sabel substitutes for cogently focused blocking in his period-dress (costumes by Sarah Kay Morris) production all too often vitiates the classic's high poetical voltage. Part of the problem is that Sabel's otherwise condensed adaptation also individualizes the chorus (to the point of assigning them each names). While this provides opportunities for some singular supporting performances (the fine Josefine Petersen and Constance Strickland are standouts), at times his intimate staging can feel like the 405 at rush hour. Fortunately, Sabel anchors it all to an unusually powerful and memorable Hecuba; the whiskey-voiced Alla Poberesky's sonorous and silky delivery could melt even the most hardened of Argive hearts. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 4. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
THE WATER'S EDGE
GO Who's Your Daddy? In this stand-up act with heart, writer-performer Johnny O'Callaghan takes us on a harrowing, emotional roller coaster as he relates the story of his efforts to adopt a 3-year-old Tutsi in fractious, civil war-torn Uganda. Humorous (though more smiles than laughs), brutally honest and contemptuous of the blatant avarice and corruption, O'Callaghan tells his often heartbreakingly true tale with vivid intensity, describing the sights, sounds and smells of this exotic land, into which he stumbles when on a suicidal bent. At an orphanage he likens to a "dog pound," he bonds immediately with a little boy and then recalls a spookily prophetic dream. Convinced he is meant to be the toddler's daddy, O'Callaghan moves heaven and earth and greases many palms to make it happen. Although nicely directed by Tom Ormeny, the stakes aren't as high as they should be throughout. Despite the numerous obstacles, the play moves inexorably toward a happy resolution. In his emotional and well-calibrated performance, O'Callaghan doesn't have to dig deep for tears to flow. He frequently breaks through the fourth wall, at times disconcertingly glaring at the audience, but elicits audience adulation by the end of his horrifying yet ultimately uplifting tale. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
WinterFest 2012 Three weeks of staged readings, presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA. Through Jan. 29. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO Absolute Black ZJU Theatre Group's 1940s film-noir-inspired thriller. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 11. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Askance Playwright Kerr Seth Lordygan grapples with some profound subject matter in his drama set in an old people's home. The inhabitants are facing relocation and an uncertain future, so tempers are flaring. Eventually some deep and harrowing memories resurface and unexpected connections are revealed. To his credit, early on Lordygan deftly elicits sympathy for his characters, with the prickly banter between the old couple Milly (Kenlyn Kanouse) and Irving (Joseph Cardinale) cross-cut with their tender courtship decades earlier (young Mille is Beth Ricketson, young Irving an excellent Adam Coggins). RJ Farrington is great as the gruff and sassy nurse, her stern quips masking true affection for her charges, while Taylor Ashbrook delivers her usual grace as the caring nurse. Sabrina Lloyd's sensitive direction maximizes the script's nuances and allows room for meaningful glances. Less successful are the too numerous monologues from old-timer Sylvia, who has dementia, yet Ivy Jones brings some magnificence to her ramblings before the play devolves into histrionics. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13, $20-$25. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Bananas! A Day in the Life of Josephine Baker A show that revolves around a woman who brought her diamond-collared pet cheetah onstage, volunteered to spy for a country she wasn't born in, had a "Rainbow Tribe" of adopted children long before Brangelina and performed dance while practically nude -- in 1925 -- shouldn't be dull. Despite glimpses of writer-star Sloan Robinson's obvious talent, though, the almost-two-hour show drags to the point of being downright boring. Set in Paris, Robinson's one-woman show follows Josephine Baker's life through remembrances. As she tries on sequined gown after feathered dress, Robinson delivers a running monologue directed to a framed photo of her mother. The writing feels too canned to do much in the way of bringing such an exhilarating figure to life, and the extended slideshow prior to the curtain call is painful. Naila Sanders' costumes, which fit the star like second skins, end up sparkling more than Robinson's performance. Directed by Joyce Maddox. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 29, (818) 358-3453, josephinebaker.eventbrite.com. J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thejetstudios.com.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea John Patrick Shanley's two-hander about a pair of lonely, self-loathing bar rats who bond by way of confessions, cursing and beer guzzling gets an inspired staging in the hands of director John McNaughton. Danny (Matthew J. Williamson) meets Roberta (Juliet Landau) after a fistfight in which he thinks he's killed someone. Unfazed by his potential for homicide, Roberta woos Danny and reveals to him her long-kept, shameful secret. A night laced with violence and awkward affection soon evolves into phase one of a plan for healing and redemption. Shanley's script leaves almost no other choice than over-the-top acting near play's end, and Landau goes for a full-tilt brand of mania that almost slips into unintentionally comic territory. Still, both actors bring significant substance to the streetwise characters, and their easy chemistry makes the quick love connection believable. Keiko Moreno's efficient set impresses. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 29. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
Hemingway: American Original Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-457-5293, www.lizardtheater.com.
It's Just Sex Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com.
Macbeth Presented by Illyrian Players. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, brownpapertickets.com/event/217438. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.
Perilous! Serialized mystery-adventure-comedy, written by Taylor Ashbrook, Elizabeth Dement, Jeff Folschinsky and Tyler Tanner. Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Jan. 28. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.The Indians Are Coming to Dinner Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
Plane Talk Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Seatbelts Required In this Rashomon of familial dramas, an evil mother has died and her three estranged daughters by three men reunite at the old homestead to sift through her things and their bad, bad memories -- none of which match up. The bitter eldest (Elizabeth Kimball) claims mom was the devil, the favored youngest (Chelsea Pitillo) argues she was a saint and the neglected middle (Cynthia Manous) just wants to make peace. The first act is spent fighting. So, too, is the second, only now there's a bottle of tequila and Pitillo's vow to "let every fucking cat out of every fucking bag." The play is structured like a roller coaster with a dozen detours, but author Kimberly Demmary (who hints that her story is semi-autobiographical) has a steady hand on the psychological beats. Still, the emotions are too often overplayed -- the cast is capable enough that director John Barker could scale back on the eye rolls. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-506-3903, www.actorsworkout.com.
Solofest 2012 Performers include Michael Bonnabel, Jed Mills, Stogie Kenyatta, Joy Nash, Synthia Hardy, Carla Collins, Brian Stanton, Michael Thyer, Richard Currier, Rachel Kiser, Gerald Rivers, Guy Jackson, Vincent Cook, Jasmynne Shaye, Kapry, Ruthy Otero, and Vincent Mann. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 5, 2 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
THE WATER'S EDGE
CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WEST SIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
Dreams of the Washer King West Coast premiere of Christopher Wall's dark drama. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
Filthy Talk for Troubled Times Director Frederique Michel's intriguing reinvention of this early drama by playwright Neil LaBute is set in a high-end art gallery, where a trio of beautiful women (nude save some cunningly draped hat boxes) are the prime exhibit. Several horny male "art admirers" wander about the exhibits and engage in conversations about "fuckin' those 'bitches' over there," even as chardonnay-wafting cocktail waitresses mull over the men who have boinked and abused them. LaBute's play was originally set in a strip club, and Michel's new setting in an art gallery allows the otherwise unpleasant ramblings to morph into an amusingly ironic commentary about the thin line between aesthetics and sexual desire. Sadly, though, the adaptation adds little luster to the sometimes irritatingly shrill characters, who are acted gamely if stiffly by the cast. LaBute often has been accused of depicting misogynist attitudes in an attempt to critique male behavior, but in this early work, the unpleasant toxicity of his language is so over-the-top and repetitive, it becomes numbing and tedious. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. City Garage, Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-319-9939, citygarage.org.
Hermetically Sealed "Hermetically Sealed" refers to the secret festering at the heart of this layered family drama -- one that isn't uncovered until near the very end. Startling (at least to me!) at its denouement, Katherine Graf's 90-minute one-act pivots around an overworked pastry chef named Tessie (Gigi Bermingham) and her two teenage sons: the recalcitrant Jimmy (understudy Jonathan Griffin Sterling in the performance I saw), and Conor (Nicholas Podany), a smart, likable kid addicted to video gaming but savvy and sensitive enough to respond when his stressed-out mom signals for help. Their household's already precarious equilibrium upends with the meddlesome intrusion of Tessie's loudmouthed, domineering employer, Dale Jr. (Julia Prud'homme), and her sleazeball husband (Brendan Patrick Connor). Despite some rough edges on opening night, director Joel Polis marshals a vital and accomplished ensemble, adding breadth to dialogue spilling over with chatter about lemon bars and mango tarts. Bermingham's harassed but devoted matriarch is the soul of the play while Podany, most impressive given his youth -- he's a local high school sophomore -- delivers a dynamic, in-depth performance. The spot-on Connor plays a creep with humanity. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's splendidly detailed set, replete even with running water, furnishes a faultless framework for this slice of kitchen sink realism. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12, (702) 582-8587, https://katselas.secure.force.com/ticket. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, www.bhplayhouse.com.
HUNGER: IN BED WITH ROY COHN
The eponymous and infamous aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy flails in purgatory in Joan Beber's vaudeville/fantasia. Barry Pearl plays the title role seamlessly as a kind of Costello to Cheryl Davi's Abbott, Dora Cohn, i.e., his mom, to whom he here remains connected at the navel. Amidst the fitfully amusing songs and dance (sleekly choreographed by Kay Cole), historical figures wander through: young Ronald Reagan (a mercilessly gormless impression by David Sessions), Barbara Walters (Liza de Weerd), Cohn's lithe younger self (who slithers in and out of the bed that forms the centerpiece of John Iacovelli's marble-hued set), Cohn's barely secret lover G. David Shine (Tom Galup) and Purgatory's Latina maid, Lizette (the sultry Presciliana Esparolini). Cohn's agony, however, is reserved for the indignantly stoic portrayal of Julius Rosenberg (a striking portrayal of rectitude by Jon Levenson), whom Cohn sent to the electric chair when he was a federal prosecutor. Waiting for judgment, Cohn is a little boy trying to be a big one. That core idea isn't half as interesting as the kaleidoscopic swirl of history, so well performed and cleanly staged by Jules Aaron. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 11. (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com. (Steven Leigh Morris)
Pick of the Vine Nine one-act plays selected from over 480 submissions. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.
What the Butler Saw Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.