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The Spidey Project, A Low-Rent Musical Parody of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and More New Reviews

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Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 3:08 PM

click to enlarge BARRY WEISS
  • Barry Weiss
Celebration Theatre's intimate-theater rendition of the musical, The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker's novel,

click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpg
is this week's Pick of the Week. Warm reactions also for a revival of Patrick Marber's Closer, presented by Ghost Players at the Avery Shreiber Theatre; for Malibu Stage's rendition of David Lindsay-Abaire's Kimberly Akimbo; and Arthur Miller's After The Fall at the Lillian, in Hollywood. Click here for all the latest New Theater Reviews, or go after the jump.

Check out this week's stage feature on Angelenos for Anton -- three versions of Chekhov on local stages: The Seagull, by The Antaeus Company at Deaf West Theatre; Theatre Movement Bazaar's The Treatment at Pasadena's Theatre @ Boston Court; and Tanya Saracho's El Nogalar at Hollywood's The Fountain Theatre

Here is a list of all the 2012 L.A. Weekly Theater Awards nominees; ceremony on April 2 at the Avalon, hosted by Lost Moon Radio; further information on whether you are a nominee can be found here. Nominees, please RSVP at (310) 574-7208. Tickets for guests and the public can be found at laweekly.com/theaterawards.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication March 15, 2012

GO AFTER THE FALL

click to enlarge SANDRA SAAD
  • Sandra Saad

Arthur Miller summoned demons from every corner of his psyche when he wrote this complex, cerebral, highly personal drama. Rooted in events of the mid-20th century, it transpires in the tormented mind of twice-divorced lawyer Quentin (Brian Robert Harris). Now on the cusp of a promising new romance, Quentin wrestles not merely with the recollections of two tempestuous marriages but with the specter of the HUAC witch hunts, which drove a friend to suicide, and with an even more ghoulish doppelganger, the Nazi Holocaust. He's haunted by his family, ex-wives and betrayed friends, and nagging questions reverberate: Is he capable of love? Of self-sacrifice? Of murder? Difficult and intense, the play's potency leans heavily, albeit not entirely, on the pivotal performer. Harris brings skill to this demanding role, but his relatively youthful appearance and American Midwest demeanor work against him. Mary Carrig is spot on as Quentin's unappeasably resentful first wife, and Jennefer Ludwigsen captures the vulnerable essence of his sex-kittenish, irreparably wounded second (widely perceived to be based on Marilyn Monroe). Patrick Hancock drives home the predicament of his desperate blacklisted friend. Director Rozsa Horvath has mounted a commendably handsome production, commingling music, lighting, sound and video (designers Vinnie Reyes, Michael Gend, Matt Richter and William Barker/Bruce Allen respectively) to create an appropriately baleful ambiance. Especially effective are the close-up videos of various characters, perched high against the folds of set designer Adam Rosen's backdrop, like indelible snapshots in the recesses of Quenntin's memory. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m.; thru April 29. (323) 960-4443, plays411.com/afterthefall.

GO CLOSER

click to enlarge COURTESY: GHOST PLAYERS THEATRE COMPANY
  • Courtesy: Ghost Players Theatre Company

Patrick Marber's play takes a hip, darkly funny view of the transitory nature of love in London in the 1990s. Obituary writer and would-be novelist Daniel (Ko Zushi) rushes to assist a mysterious, flirtatious, accident-prone young woman named Alice (Meagann Pallares) who's been knocked down by a London taxi. It soon emerges that she's a professional stripper -- and, intrigued, he invites her to move in with him. Sometime later, he meets photographer Anna (Jennifer Bronstein) and he's suddenly smitten with her, abandoning Alice. He also perpetrates an Internet prank involving Anna and dermatologist Larry (David Wisehart), but his joke backfires when Larry and Anna meet and fall in love. The play then becomes a cynical dance in which each of the four characters becomes locked in a triangular relationship with all three of the others, ending in multiple infidelities, betrayals, revenge and death. Director Monte Van Vleet has mounted a modest but well-acted production, excellent in the earlier comedy scenes, less successful as the mood darkens. Wisehart etches a formidable portrait of the randy, ultimately brutally vindictive doctor, and Pallares skillfully captures the shifting moods of the passionate, enigmatic Alice. Designer Hugh Fitch provides the simple, minimalist set. Ghost Players at the Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March 17. (310) 709-3008, theghostplayers.net. (Neal Weaver)

PICK OF THE WEEK THE COLOR PURPLE

click to enlarge BARRY WEISS
  • Barry Weiss

This dazzling and buoyant musical (on Broadway from 2005-08), based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning saga, charts an oppressed Southern black woman's struggle for empowerment during the 1930s. The whirlwind pace of the lengthy (two and a half hours) show -- with book by Marsha Norman and songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray -- crams in a lot of story. Director Michael Matthews has assembled a gifted creative team and a blisteringly talented cast of 17, all displaying powerful voices and unlimited enthusiasm while elevating Janet Roston's superb choreography, which is beautifully realized despite tight space constraints. Cesili Williams as central character Celie provides the raw heart of the show; it's gratifying to watch her eventually take charge of her life. Matthews capitalizes on the intimate space, creating elegant staging and encouraging his cast to shatter the fourth wall.The unabashedly sexy show mostly keeps the mood light, glossing over harrowing moments in Walker's story to emphasize the sweeter emotional scenes, and employing a sassy Greek chorus of gossipy church ladies as comic relief. Hidden behind a wooden screen upstage, five musicians play honky-tonk, jazz, blues and African rhythms, as well as backing tender duets featuring heavenly harmonies. Naila Aladin Sanders has created stunning period costumes. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. ; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 26. (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com (Pauline Adamek)

GO KIMBERLY AKIMBO Time is warped for teenage misfit Kimberly Levaco, who suffers from a disease that causes her to age 4.5 times faster than her high school peers. In a zippy production of David Lindsay-Abaire's dysfunctional family comedy at Malibu Stage Company, Katharine Ross (The Graduate) sometimes lacks the physical and vocal mannerisms of a teen trapped inside an older body, but a zany ensemble buoys the play. Kimberly's gruff, drunkard father (Michael Gallagher) and her pregnant, worrywart mother (Kathy Dunn Muzingo) struggle to salvage their marriage, not to mention their relationship with a daughter whose health is rapidly deteriorating. Breck Gallini gives a heartwarming performance as Kimberly's dorky classmate Jeff, whose outsider qualities as a puzzle-loving Dungeons & Dragons gamer make him an endearing misfit match for Kim. Meanwhile, Kimberly's conniving lesbian aunt Debra (the hysterical Tasha Ames) reels her family and friends into screwball moneymaking schemes that finally fling the play into an absurdist adventure. With the exception of a few scene changes, Graeme Clifford's crisp direction clips apace, supported by solid production design. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through March 18. (310) 589-1998, brownpapertickets.com. (Sarah Taylor Ellis)

THE SPIDEY PROJECT: WITH GREAT POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY

click to enlarge COURTESY: THEATRE UNLEASHED
  • Courtesy: Theatre Unleashed

Disclaimer: This show is not affiliated with or in any way connected to Marvel Entertainment or its budget-busting Broadway musical spinoff, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Which means, of course, that creators Justin Moran and Jon Roufaeal's outrageously low-rent 2011 musical parody is aimed directly at the extortionate hearts of all of the above. Director David Chrzanowski's lively staging preserves Moran and Roufaeal's battle-of-the-budgets conceit, which makes Katie Sikkema's bargain-basement costumes and cardboard-cutout set pieces as much the star as Ryan J. Hill's comically conflicted, improbably rawboned teen superhero. The laughs are loudest when Hill finally dons the spidey suit and poses or performs mock combat with a series of ridiculous, domino-masked villains. They evaporate, however, when the suit comes off and the show must get by on its less-than-superpowered book and Adam Podd and Doug Katsaros' uninspired score. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through April 1. (818) 849-4039, theatreunleashed.com. (Bill Raden)

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

click to enlarge TRIS BEEZLEY
  • Tris Beezley

Well, he might not have trained at the Vidal Sassoon Academy, and his salon may stock human-flesh meat pies instead of Paul Mitchell shampoo bottles, but Victorian England's most famous hairdresser has set up shop on the Westside. In director Valerie Rachelle's amiable production of Stephen Sondheim's great dark musical, John McCool Bowers plays vengeance-obsessed Sweeney, resplendent in a pair of bristly, mutton-chop whiskers, possessing a wonderful baritone that often chills -- his rendition of his wrathful "Epiphany" crackles with beautiful insanity. AnnaLisa Erickson offers a fine turn as gleefully wicked pie-shop hostess Mrs. Lovett -- but her singing voice lacks the vigor and emotional range needed. Otherwise the show mostly achieves little more than a workmanlike level of competence, due in part to Rachelle's disappointingly anemic pacing and to Anne Gesling's stodgy choreography. Some of the performers hit the right balance of ghoulishness and gusto, but others demonstrate vocal inexperience and a lack of attention to the layered psychological underpinnings. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 7. (310) 828-7519, morgan-wixson.org. (Paul Birchall)

THE YELLOW HOUSE

click to enlarge ED KRIEGER
  • Ed Krieger

While a powerful solo performance often has deep personal revelation and pain at its center, the mere presence of such source material does not guarantee a moving piece of theater, especially when the revelation is more indulgent than transcendent. The latter, unfortunately, is the case here as veteran television actor Burke Byrnes takes us back to 1950s Long Island to explore a dark family secret. The main issue with the piece is that Byrnes takes far too long to meander toward the revelation of his secret, which has to do with his sister; instead, he spends what seems like the bulk of the 45-minute show describing every corner of the titular homestead in painstaking detail. Director Michael Kearns, whose plodding pacing undercuts any potential tension in the piece, does little to ameliorate Byrnes' bland, halting delivery. The result is a show that's all detail and no drama. Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; Fri., 8 p.m.; through March 23. (702) 582-8587, ktctickets.com. A Katselas Theatre Company Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

WIND CHIMES There is much to like about John Dubiel's drama about a New England family caught up in a quake of precipitous change. When Jake (Tripp Pickell), a novelist, returns home after a decades-long absence, his appearance opens up a cache of unpleasant family secrets and memories, involving the repayment of a loan to his hard-ass father, Max (Fred Ochs); a strained relationship with his brother, James (James Andrew Walsh), and sister, Elise (Anne McCarthy); and a shocking question about the paternity of his nephew, Jason (Daniel Amerman). This family isn't so much dysfunctional as it is comprising people who've willingly accommodated themselves to ugly truths, and Dubiel does an excellent job of sketching his characters. Where the play eventually collapses is in the transparency of the "shattering" revelations toward the finale and the billowy, melodramatic events leading up to them. John Miyasaki directs. Company of Angels at the Alexandria, 501 S. Spring St., 3rd floor, dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 18. (213) 489-3703, companyofangels.org. (Lovell Estell III)

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