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Stage Raw

The Weekend's Stage Listings; Theater Awards Updates

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Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM
click to enlarge Jose Rivera's "Marisol" (Art of Acting Studio) is being reviewed this weekend. Check out all new stage reviews on Tuesday - COURTESY JONATHAN VIGUERS
  • Courtesy Jonathan Viguers
  • Jose Rivera's "Marisol" (Art of Acting Studio) is being reviewed this weekend. Check out all new stage reviews on Tuesday

Thanks for the comments on prior blog. Two actors are now sharing one nomination (Leading Male Performance, Camino Real, Theater @ Boston Court/CalArts School of Theater) in the 33rd annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards.

click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpg
Matthew Goodrich rehearsed and performed the play one night, injuring himself on that opening performance. Understudy Chris Chiquet performed the remainder of the run. Both actors will share the nomination.

Here is a list of all the nominees; further information on whether you are a nominee can be found here. Latest New Reviews here. The weekend's Stage Listings are here, or you can find them after the jump. Check back on Tuesday for the weekend's new reviews.

STAGE LISTINGS for February 17 - 23, 2012

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Bill Raden, and Neal Weaver. The listings are compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following categories: 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

An Alcestis Project Presented by Critical Mass Performance Group. Fri., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 3 p.m. Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, 310-440-7300, www.getty.edu.

ART If you were to order an eighty-dollar entrée at a three-star Michelin restaurant, only to discover that it was under-salted, then you would have a sense of the disappointment that characterizes this star-studded but ultimately unsatisfying production of Yasmina Reza's award-winning play. The story is simple: three Parisian friends, Marc (Bradley Whitford), Serge (Michael O'Keefe), and Yvan (Roger Bart), argue about Serge's decision to spend 200,000 euros on a painting that appears -- to Marc at least -- to be little more than a monochromatic white canvas. While the story, like the painting, appears plain on the surface, the art of it is in Reza's nuanced and hilarious exploration of the human condition through the potential disintegration of a long-standing friendship. The fact that such nuance and hilarity is rarely realized is attributable to both director and cast. O'Keefe's take on Serge's artsy pretension feels cold and distant, while Whitford lacks Marc's requisite biting snark, and neither escalates their outrage to the point where we believe a 15-year friendship is on the rocks. Only Bart's perennially put-upon Yvan feels authentic, so it's not surprising that he garners the most laughs. Director David Lee's decision to have the actors play to the house so frequently, as well as his lethargic pacing and eternal pauses, undercuts the stellar source material. In a play about art, at least the design satisfies, as Tom Buderwitz's set cleverly mirrors the painting in question and Kate Burgh's costumes subtly delineate the personalities of the three friends. The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; thru February 19. (626) 356-7529, www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO 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


GO Elemeno Pea Exposure to excessive wealth warps reality for one member of a sister duo in Molly Smith Metzler's lively play. Hailing from blue-collar Buffalo, 20-something Simone (Melanie Lora) has fled to Martha's Vineyard to play personal assistant to Michaela (Katrina Lenk), an intensely neurotic, love-starved woman-child prone to fits of rage over minutiae. A visit from Simone's sister, Devon (a quick-witted Cassie Beck), a down-to-earth genius working at Olive Garden and living in her parents' basement, turns into a surreal romp through an amoral world in which money is God. As Devon bears baffled witness to her sister's sold soul, she stumbles through countless comic attempts to drag Simone from the increasingly ugly clutches of Michaela's opulent, deceit-filled life, only to find that Simone and her spoiled-brat boyfriend, Ethan (Jamison Jones), are arguably more despicable than Michaela. Metzler has a strong ear for dialogue and she brings a human touch to the sisters, scripting a loving bond balanced with authentic doses of judgment and jealousy. Her peripheral characters sometimes veer into caricature, and the message about money as a sinister force wears thin, but the sisterly love story with all its jagged edges is winning. Ralph Funicello's set nails Martha's Vineyard elite, and Lap Chi Chu's lighting nicely re-creates myriad beachfront hues. (Amy Lyons). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, $20-$68. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

Four Clowns By Jeremy Aluma. Fri., Feb. 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 18, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 2 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

The Jacksonian Written by Beth Henley. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 25. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage Feature next week.

Old Wicked Songs Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 4. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org. See New Reviews next week.

The Past Is a Grotesque Animal (El pasadon es un animal grotesco) Mario Pensotti's "mega-fiction." In Spanish with English subtitles. Thu., Feb. 23, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 24, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 25, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 26, 3 p.m. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.

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

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.

Rock of Ages Feb. 20-24, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 25, 2 & 8 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-365-3500, www.broadwayla.org.

SCRamble By various artists. Sat., Feb. 18, 10 p.m. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, 714-708-5555, www.scr.org.

Seth Rudetsky's Deconstructing Broadway A night of musical theatre stand-up comedy. Thu., Feb. 23, 8 p.m. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan Hall, Westwood, 310-825-2101.

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.

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

All About Walken: The Impersonators of Christopher Walken Mon., Feb. 20, 8 p.m. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.

GO The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonough's story of family struggles in rural Ireland. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.

Brilliant Traces The title refers to the psychic scars borne by the two intensely troubled souls in Cindy Lou Johnson's hyperreal drama. Shivering and distraught, bedraggled bride Rosannah (Tessa Ferrer) bursts into a remote cabin in Alaska, having abandoned her bridegroom at the altar and then arbitrarily driven straight north from Arizona. The stark, snow-enveloped homestead belongs to Henry (Andy Wagner), a haunted young recluse living in self-judgmental exile. Both Rosannah and Henry are desperate, traumatized people; both harbor secrets and are afraid of intimacy, yet they are attracted to each other. Compelling at key junctures, the reiterative script comes packed with long-winded monologues, its fantastical premise posing an especial challenge to performers. Wagner is persuasive as a caring man petrified of contact, but Ferrer can't quite transcend the extraordinarily difficult parameters of her role. Modest production values, including Jeff Polunas' sound design and L. Godley's discriminating lighting, serve the story well. John Hindman directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 11, www.brillianttracesplay.com. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

GO BUDDHA: A FANTASTIC JOURNEY

click to enlarge EVE BRENNER
  • Eve Brenner
here are an estimated 500 million practicing Buddhists in the world today, one of whom is Evan Brenner, the creator and performer of this one-man play about the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. Drawing on material from the Sutras, the sacred Buddhists texts, Brenner weaves a simple yet engaging narrative that tells of the Buddha's early life of luxury and wealth in India; his chance encounter with suffering and subsequent disillusionment with the world; and his fateful decision to renounce his birthright and trod the difficult path of salvation to find a solution to the pain and misery of human existence, which at the age of 35 culminated in his attaining enlightenment, or nirvana. Despite the esoteric subject matter, none of this is difficult to understand. Brenner touches on the faith's basic concepts while sidestepping the dense thicket of theory and philosophy. His conversational style, in concert with an unpretentious script and good direction by John Reilly, makes this an entertaining and, yes, enlightening 90 minutes. Jaeger Smith and Sheela Bringi provide superb musical accompaniment on the tabla and flute. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; also Sun. March 4, 3 p.m.; thru March 4. (800) 838-3006, www.thebuddhaplay.com. (Lovell Estell III)

California Dreamin' Written by Jill Charlotte Thomas, directed by L. Flint Esquerra. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 11. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com. See New Reviews next week.


Candida George Bernard Shaw's comedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 11, (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/candida. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com. See New Reviews next week.

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, www.plays411.com/wineandroses. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard) It's uncanny how uninspired directorial choices, unformed performances and artless production design can throw the unforgiving glare of the spotlight onto a text. For director Laurie Woolery's disappointing staging of playwright Tanya Saracho's Mexican drug war-set adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, the illumination proves brutally unflattering. With the exception of the nouveau riche Lopakhin (here played by Justin Huen as the narcotraficante Lopez), Saracho pares down Chekhov's dramatis personae to the principal women: the nostalgia-trapped matriarch of the impoverished, land-owning Galvan family, MaitŽ (Yetta Gottesman); her severe, romantically unrequited older daughter, Valeria (Isabelle Ortega); young sister Anita (Diana Romo); and the household's uppity chambermaid, Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela). But Saracho's truncation seems a pallid compromise. Crippled by both Frederica Nascimento's drab set and the lack of a Trofimov to articulate the anger underlying the bloody, offstage social upheavals, the play musters precious little of the comic absurdity or pathos implied by the word Chekhovian. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-661-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

Expecting to Fly Michael Hyman's one-act surveys the wreckage of a relationship gone wrong between two gay men. Jared's (Justin Mortelliti) tenuous life of bar cruising, fast sex, booze and prescription drugs is brought into acute relief by the continuous presence of the ghost of his one-time husband, Sean (Casey Kringlen). The scenario engenders heated exchanges, recriminations, a smoldering reservoir of guilt, a litany of recollections about their erstwhile lives together, and the unpleasant incidents and conditions that eventually led to Sean's leap from the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Hyman's decent writing doesn't offset the dense stasis that sets in early on, or a central conceit that wears terribly thin. The convenient Twilight Zone-inspired finale doesn't offer much satisfaction either, but the performances are outstanding. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 25. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-0046, www.elephanttheatrecompany.com.

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.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf Written by Ntozake Shange, directed by J.C. Gafford. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 17, (323) 960-1055, plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, www.lyrictheatrela.com.

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. See Stage feature.

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, www.echotheatercompany.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.

GO Hamlet 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. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Atwater Crossing, 3245 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles.

Home Brewed: Six Original One-Acts "Home Is Where the Hooker Is" by Chris Johnen, "Deep Shit" by Kristin Lerner, "Sherlatch Homes" by Ryan Paul James, "The Recruit" by Mark Wilson, "Lock and Key" by Heidi Rhodes, and "Street Home" by Jim Medeiros. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.

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.

Jimpressions Fridays, Saturdays. Continues through March 24, theactingcenterla.com. The Acting Center, 5514 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-2100.

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.

GO The King of the Desert Bellowing, ranting, wildly gesticulating and posturing, René Rivera gives an athletic, at times manic performance in his autobiographical and bilingual one-man show (written by his wife, Stacey Martino) that examines his upbringing, noble ancestry and career struggles. From playing an avocado as a kiddie in a school pageant to acting studies at Juilliard in New York, where his dreams of inhabiting the great Shakespearean roles are tempered but not quashed, the Mexican-American actor battles disappointment, typecasting and addictive behaviors. Interestingly self-reflexive, at times Rivera examines the dramatic elements of his own story and play as it unfolds and finds it wanting. Vividly describing his childhood in a San Antonio barrio, characterized as "the circle," from which he is falsely warned he will never escape, Rivera invokes his scrappy infancy with childlike wonderment and glee. His hometown is beautifully realized by set designer Danuta Tomzynski, with graffiti and flowers painted across the adobe walls, as well as a forlorn Madonna imprisoned behind metal bars. Jeremy Pivnick's colorful lighting design melds well with Mat Hale's gorgeous video projections. The sound design by Jade Puga and Richard Montes evokes Rivera's most tempestuous experiences. It's a rage-fueled rant of a show, at times exhausting to watch, but nonetheless entertaining throughout. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, www.thekingofthedesert.com. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.

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.

Marisol Jose Rivera's story of a young Puerto Rican copy editor in Manhattan abandoned by her guardian angel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 10, (323) 601-5310, www.brownpapertickets.com. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Drive, Los Angeles. See New Reviews next week.

MINE

click to enlarge CHRIS A. PETERSON
  • Chris A. Peterson

Bekah Brunstetter's play tells the tale of a young poet (who's no longer writing poetry) named Annie (Kieren Van Den Blink), who works in a coffee bar. She's been dating young businessman Doug (Adam Harrington) but she's also involved with young would-be singer Sam (Sam Daly). Solid, successful Doug wants to love and take care of her, while feckless Sam seems a more glamorous figure with whom Annie shares fantasies of traveling to exotic places. Brunstetter's play is curiously nebulous and meandering, as Annie bounces back and forth between the two men. Only Doug seems to really know what he wants, while the other two just drift. The action is frequently halted while Sam performs a song, and most scenes fail to climax or provide clear decisive action. Brunstetter writes interesting dialog, and the actors offer agreeable performances, though Dep Kirkland's direction is vague. It all seems aimless. Little Beast Theatre Company at Elephant Lab Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 11. (323) 960-7788, www.plays411.net/mine. (Neal Weaver)

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. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 10. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.


No Good Deed It 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. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Los Angeles, 323-461-3673, www.fordtheatres.org.

On Holy Ground Written by Stephanie Liss. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 4, (800) 838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com/event/211058. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com. See New Reviews next week.

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., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.

Richard III A minimalist staging of a play by Shakespeare puts the onus of success exclusively on the strength of the performances. So it is with director Ben Rock's production of Richard III, which crashes on the shoals of mediocrity from the start. Gregory Sims' performance in the title role displays flashes of actorly integrity, but for most of this three-hour marathon, he projects the nature of a mischievous, spoiled brat, rather than a vicious, cunning adult set to murder friends, family and even children to ascend to the crown. This absence of menace dilutes the play's dynamics. Rock doesn't manage his sizable cast of 19 members especially well, an absolute necessity when working with limited space. There are some stars in this otherwise subdued constellation: Leon Russom is outstanding as the Duke of Buckingham, as are Cynthia Beckert as the Duchess of York and Kimberly Atkinson as Queen Elizabeth. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 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.

PICK OF THE WEEK: SARAH'S WAR In 2003, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was mowed down by an Israeli bulldozer as she attempted to stop it from demolishing a Palestinian home. Her death stirred international controversy; some critics accused the Israelis of murder while other observers maintained that Corrie's demise was an accident and that she and her compatriots were the instigating dupes of Arab terrorists. The event prompted the 2005 drama My Name Is Rachel Corrie, based on Corrie's diaries and edited by Alan Rickman. Sarah's War, by Valerie Dillman, is somewhat different: Less biographical, it's an attempt to explore how the life and death of such a self-sacrificing individual might affect others. And while it dwells too insistently on the squabbling among Corrie's grieving family members, Dillman's work ultimately succeeds in illuminating the event's human, political and moral particulars. Director Matt McKenzie's discerning eye and ear are evident in both the production's well-calibrated pacing and its solid performances. Abica Dubay's Sarah is a cogent portrait of a vulnerable young woman who pursues her ideals despite her fear and her growing doubts. Offsetting that vulnerability are Marley McClean as her tight-lipped, doctrinaire colleague, Dina Simon as a Palestinian woman furious at Sarah's meddlesome naivete, and Will Rothhaar as the Israeli driver in whose memory she is indelibly embedded. And Adria Tennor Blotta's portrayal of Sarah's conventional sister Liz unexpectedly morphs into one of the evening's performance highlights. Hudson Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd; Thurs.-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun, 3 p.m.; thru March 18. (310) 657.5511,  

click to enlarge LINDSAY SCHNEBLY
  • Lindsay Schnebly

What may be intended as the point of Christy Hall's new epistolary play, in its American premiere, is a snapshot of gender attitudes during the four years of the play's action, 1941-45. But that's old news -- women expected to marry and have kids, discouraged from entering the workplace until they were needed and then kicked out of the munitions plants, depending on whether the men were around. The play actually ensnares something far more interesting: Trenton, N.J., homebodies Isabel and Nick (Heather Chesley, Rick Marcus) get separated by WWII when he's sent off for army training and service overseas, and the play is the saga of that separation, with flickering connections through the letters they write (and here recite, in addition to playing multiple characters). What may be a factor of the writing, but is certainly pronounced in performance under Marianne Savell's staging on Gary Lee Reed's platform set, is the aching gulf of incomprehension as two children evolve into two adults, so that when they reunite, they barely recognize each other. Lovely, spritely performances have two forceful characters dancing their way into ennui. Actors Co-op at the David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 11. (323) 462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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.

SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

11th Annual 50 Hour Drive-by Theatre Festival Sat., Feb. 18, 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 8:30 p.m.; Mon., Feb. 20, 8:30 p.m. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Almost, Maine John Cariani's romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, www.plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=3031. 3Monkeys Theatre Co., 22743 Ventura Blvd., Los Angeles.

Attack of the Rotting Corpses Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, www.zombiejoes.homestead.com.

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.

Blood Water Joe Musso's play offers a skewed update of Oscar Wilde's Salome, set in the sleazy New Orleans underworld during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. Wilde's Herod becomes Rod (Boston Stergis), a bullying fence of stolen goods and proprietor of a down-scale strip club, with a letch for his nubile stepdaughter Celie, i.e. Salome (Lauren A. Nelsen). Herodias becomes Rod's trashy wife, Greta (Denise Devlin), who strips in his club. When a demented street preacher called the Prophet (Philip J. Wheeler) begins denouncing Greta for her iniquity, she develops an intense hatred for him and wants Rod to kill him. During a birthday party for Rod, she persuades Celie to dance for him in her faux tiger-skin bikini, as a ploy to persuade him to off the Prophet. The result is a thundering Grand Guignol melodrama, with plenty of sex and violence to satisfy aficionados of horror-flick blood-and-gore-all-over-the-floor. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Feb. 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Cinderella Book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through March 17. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.

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 Feb. 26. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

Finding Fossils Written by Ty DeMartino, directed by Suzanne Hunt. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 25. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com. See New Reviews next week.

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, 2 p.m., ovationtix.com. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com.

Madam Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan For better and for worse, showman-playwright David Belasco's one-act tearjerker from 1900 has cast a long shadow over the West. It inspired Puccini's sumptuous, sentimental and crowd-pleasing perennial Madama Butterfly, but it also bequeathed to us its selfless geisha heroine, Cho Cho San (Kazumi Zatkin), whose absurdly submissive, compliant and Caucasian-adoring "China doll" stereotype has been the bane of Asian-American women ever since. To his credit, director Aramazd Stepanian cleans up the play's comic-strip pidgin, and his elegant production makes as affecting a frame for Belasco's antique prejudices as one could hope for. Particularly inspired is Stepanian's prologue of backstory tableaux, featuring soprano Mayuko Miyata's haunting rendition of a Puccini aria. But even a mesmerizing performance by Sachiyo K as Cho Cho San's indefatigably loyal maidservant, Suzuki, or the fine Toshi Toda as the marriage broker Nakado can't quite rehabilitate the work from being a slur on the good name of self-sacrificing doormats everywhere. (Bill Raden). Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 24. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale, 818-500-7200, www.lunaplayhouse.org.

Plane Talk Here's a collection of brief, one-act plays set in airports and airplanes, and while some of the mostly comic pieces are first-class in terms of comic sensibility and imagination, others are unevenly paced, narratively slight and turbulently executed. The most amusing of the plays are those that most explicitly make the connection between a stay at an airport terminal and a trip to hell itself. For instance, in Julianne Homokay's delightful "Diane Miller, Please Press '9' on the Red Courtesy Phone," a harassed traveler (a lovely, prissy Chera Holland) discovers the satanic reason for the hellish treatment she's enduring in an airport waiting room. In Mike Rothschild's amusing "Don't Believe the Truth," a paranoid housewife (Jennie Floyd) confronts a spooky airport security guard about X-Files-like rumors of a terrifying conspiracy, which may or may not be true. As a venomous flight attendant who appears in a couple of the vignettes, Mackenzie English perfectly assays the terrifying professional snap-on smile. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.

Private Lives Noël Coward's classic comedy. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 25, (323) 960-7738, plays411.com/privatelives. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, www.gtc.org.

Troilus & Cressida At the outset of this "problem play" -- a difficult Shakespearean text to categorize owing to its historic, tragic and romantic elements -- the Trojan War has been raging for seven years and the battle over Helen (Eliza Kiss) finds the Greeks stuck on Trojan soil sans a winning strategy. As the story builds toward a key standoff between Achilles (an impressively athletic Matt Calloway) and Hector (a likewise battle-ready Napolean Tavale), a love story also blooms between Trojan soldier Troilus (Alex Parker) and the high-born Trojan Cressida (Taylor Fisher, whose ability to hit the requisite beats and follow the emotional transitions of her character is admirable), but Cressida's father has sided with the Greeks, a bad omen for the lovers. Minimalist staging is the right choice for the small space at the Whitmore-Lindley; the absence of scenic design puts the focus on the able ensemble. Charles Pasternak's fight choreography thrills to no end. As director, Pasternak mines the war story skillfully but never finds the sizzle or urgency integral to the central love story. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/216520. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

TWENTIETH CENTURY

click to enlarge LIA PETERSON
  • Lia Peterson

It would take an exceedingly strong cast and director to breathe new life into this old chestnut about a desperate theater producer in frantic search of a hit. Though director Michael Lorre and his solid cast manage more than a few shining moments, the story feels stale and the ham-fisted comedy never hits its requisite screwball stride. Adapted by Ken Ludwig from Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1932 Broadway hit, the play takes place aboard a luxury train running between New York and Chicago in the first half of the 20th century. Producer Oscar Jaffe (Arthur Hanket, the cast's clear comedic standout) needs to square with creditors after a string of flops. Starlet and old flame Lily Garland (Stephanie Erb) might be Jaffe's last chance for a comeback, but she's got another producer on her mind. The zany train ride includes love affairs, an escaped lunatic and an outlandish plan to stage the definitive Passion Play. But the hijinks fall short of frantic here, killing the comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 17. (626) 355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org. (Amy Lyons)

The Water's Edge Even without its awkwardly implanted parallel to the Oresteia, Theresa Rebeck's family drama is a hollow disappointment. It begins when middle-aged narcissist Richard (Albie Selznick) returns to his wife, Helen (Nicole Farmer), after a 17-year absence. Richard aims to reclaim both his children's love and the property they and their mother inhabit. So clueless is this guy that he brings his current girlfriend along, stoking Helen's already flaming resentments. Rebeck's script is mostly dull, bromidic fare, but it does provide opportunities for the actors to create compelling characters. Unfortunately, Selznick's Richard is a drab and enervated villain, and on opening night Farmer's performance remained hemmed in by her dialogue. The best reason to see the show is Patick Rieger's performance as the couple's psychologically damaged son, Nate -- a portrayal that escalates in the problematic second act from uncertain simmer to riveting boil. Sam Anderson directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 24. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com
.

SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

Cracked Open: Let Go and Let Gook Suzanne Whang's solo show. Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-3006, www.beyondbaroque.org. See New Reviews next week.

GO Dreams of the Washer King Dangerous is the play that marries a supernatural bent with a nonlinear narrative: With story lines leaping back and forth in time, adding a spectral element blurs the line of reality even further, and risks confusing an audience whose brains are already working overtime. Although that seemed to be the case on the opening night of Christopher Wall's West Coast premiere, his gamble almost works. Teenage Ryan (Aaron Shand), obsessed with catching a trace of his deceased father on tape, and his emotionally broken bank-teller mother (Ann Hearn) eke out an existence in a tiny Maine town until the unsettling Wade (Dirk Etchison) and his daughter (Jennifer Levinson) move in next door. Wall begins dropping hints as to his master plan in the first scene, tantalizing bits that hook you in and keep you curious through intermission. The problem, however, is the second half shies away from the shocking reveal that closes the first act, and what was an unusual and interesting buildup falls flat in a series of messy scenes that stop and start jerkily. Unfortunately, Wall and director Andre Barron didn't consider the limitations of the theater -- this would play out more gracefully on-screen. Still, there's promise here, especially with a reworking of the second act and a more tightly defined identity. (Rebecca Haithcoat). 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.

THE FALL TO EARTH
click to enlarge DAVID COLCLASURE
  • David Colclasure

What separates a competent stage performance from one that is transcendent and transforming? Call it translucency -- simultaneously conveying a character's outward, public demeanor while hinting at the demons lurking within. The tension between the two sides is the essence of the dramatic. It's also what's missing from JoBeth Williams' perfectly competent turn as playwright Joel Drake Johnson's mild-mannered monster of a mother. To be fair, it's hard to imagine anyone lighting a fire under this exasperating dysfunctional-family tale. The play opens with a 25-minute soft-shoe of issue-avoiding chit-chat between Williams' Fay Schorsch and her estranged daughter, Rachel (Deborah Puette), so maddeningly mundane that by the time any real emotional fireworks do erupt -- and any compelling clue emerges as to why the two women are sharing Tom Buderwitz's photo-realist motel room set -- it proves far too little and way too late for director Robin Larsen's otherwise perfectly competent staging. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 1. (310) 477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com. (Bill Raden)

Family Expressions Stories about family by writers, singers, actors and comedians. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 6, familyexpressionshow.com. The Little Theater L.A., 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-622-4482, www.theblackboxtheater.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.

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. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, 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.

The Indians Are Coming to Dinner In playwright Jennifer W. Rowland's new comedy, it's 1984 and boorish San Francisco cement company CEO Harold Blackburn (Michael Rothhaar), a Reagan-era alpha male if ever there was one, essentially destroys his family to pursue his unrealistic dream of being named the next ambassador to India -- a goal he hopes to achieve by throwing a fancy dinner to woo a well-placed Indian politician. Boasting some winning one-liners and artful emotional interactions, Rowland's play teems with complex themes and ideas centering on Reagan-era entitlement and the despair of upper-middle-class mediocrity. However, the work would benefit from another draft or two to cull some sequences of aimless dialogue and to nuance the sometimes shrill characterizations. Director Julia Fletcher's character-driven production suffers from occasional pacing lapses, but Rothhaar's blustering performance as the family's Jackie Gleason-like King Baby Patriarch is a compelling, tragic turn. (Paul Birchall). 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.

A Jew Grows in Brooklyn Starring Jake Ehrenreich. Mondays-Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 2 & 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25, $43-$75, (866) 811-4111, ajewgrowsinbrooklyn.com. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air, www.uj.edu.

Kimberly Akimbo Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, starring Katharine Ross, directed by Graeme Clifford. Starting Feb. 23, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through March 18, (310) 589-1998, brownpapertickets.com. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu, www.malibustagecompany.org.

GO The Lonesome West Martin McDonagh's comedy is set in a village in western Ireland, which seems to be a hot-bed of murder, suicide and rampaging Irish eccentricity. It centers on two brothers, Valene (Jonathan Bray) and Coleman (Jason Paul Field), who are locked in implacable hostility. Coleman has shot their father in what he claims was an accident. The only witness was Valene. But Valene has refused to testify on Coleman's behalf unless Coleman agrees to give his share of their inheritance to Valene. Consequently, Valene now owns everything and Coleman is left with nothing -- but that doesn't prevent him from storing up resentment and cadging Valene's poteen (Irish moonshine) and Taytos Potato Crisps. Their fraternal warfare has escalated to absurd heights of malice and malevolence. The hard-drinking local priest, Father Welsh (Conor Walshe), appalled by their constant conflicts, tries desperately to make peace between them. But it soon emerges that their forgiveness can be as lethal and competitive as their fights. Bray's Valene is a study in buttoned-up smugness, while Field's Coleman is a disreputable, unregenerate layabout. Director Mike Reilly has assembled an impeccable cast, including Rachel Noll, and directs them with a sharp eye for comic possibilities. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 4. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

NEW JERUSALEM

click to enlarge HOPE BURLEIGH
  • Hope Burleigh

Playwright David Ives' intellectually fierce drama is a play for those of a mind to groove to debates about Baruch Spinoza's dialectic of God as Nature. Though director Elina deSantos' thought-provoking production crackles with philosophical insight, the play is less than affecting on a dramatic level. In 17th-century Amsterdam, the Jewish community is ordered by the Christian civic leaders to excommunicate the young, firebrand theologian Spinoza (Marco Naggar, appealingly intense), whose writings are a threat to religious worshippers of all faiths. The trial, conducted by venerable Rabbi Levi Mortera (Richard Fancy, a perfect mix of wisdom, kindness and anger), gradually proves Spinoza's wisdom but seals his tragic fate. Ives strives to make the theological debate as compelling dramatically as it is intellectually, but the attempt tends to fall flat, the result of overwritten dialogue and characters who represent philosophical points of view rather than people. Still, Fancy's 's towering turn as the rabbi who finds himself challenging his own tightly held beliefs is powerful. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 11. (323) 821-2449, www.wcjt.org. (Paul Birchall)

Pick of the Vine Nine one-act plays selected from over 480 submissions. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.Quills Written by Doug Wright. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; March 6-10, 8 p.m. Continues through March 3, calrep.org. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, 562-435-3511, www.queenmary.com.

What the Butler Saw Director Alan Patrick Kenny's staging of Joe Orton's classic demonstrates how even accomplished American actors can stumble when trying to pull off British farce. The play jump-starts around the efforts of a lecherous psychiatrist (John Walcott) to conceal his attempted seduction of a pretty job applicant (Amanda Troop) from his battle-ax wife (Melinda Parrett). Chaos ensues, aggravated further by the arrival of a loony government official (Geoffrey Wade) bent on uncovering madness and dissipation in every corner. Written in 1967, when homosexuality in Britain was still illegal, the play relentlessly skewers psychiatry, gender roles, inept dysfunctional bureaucrats, prissy good manners and the whole notion of what constitutes sane and insane in a hypocritical society. Time has frayed the edges of Orton's once-insurrectionary lampoon; a bigger problem in this production is the ensemble's failure, despite individually capable performances, to collectively replicate the mindset that spurred Orton's outrage. (Deborah Klugman). 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.

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