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A Waiting for Godot "Not to Be Missed"; LAWEES on Monday! Plus All the Latest New Theater Reviews...

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Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 11:06 AM
click to enlarge CRAIG SCHWARTZ
  • Craig Schwartz

Lovell Estell III, a veteran aficionado of Samuel Beckett's works in general, and Waiting for Godot in particular, says

click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpg
that Michael Arabian's staging at the Taper, starring Alan Mandell and Barry McGovern, is about as good as it gets. Click here for all the latest New Theater Reviews, or go to the jump.

Get your togas back from the dry cleaners! The L.A. Weekly Theater Awards, hosted by Lost Moon Radio, are this coming Monday, April 2 to the Avalon in Hollywood. Doors open 6:30 p.m. Nominees: if you haven't RSVP'd to (310) 574-7208, do so by THURSDAY NIGHT, or we can't put you on the comp list and you'll have to plead your case at the door. Guest tickets can be purchased at laweekly.com/theaterawards until midnight Thursday. Tickets also can be purchased at the door before the event. Here is a list of all the 2012 L.A. Weekly Theater Awards nominees; further information on whether you are a nominee can be found here.

Check out this coming week's Stage feature cover package -- here (cover esssay) and here (Troubadour Theatre Company) and here (Poor Dog Group) and here (Theatre Movement Bazaar) on ensemble-created theater  , sometimes called "devised theater" -- why it's a trend (again), and what that all actually means.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication March 29, 2012

THE BOOMERANG EFFECT

click to enlarge ED KRIEGER
  • Ed Krieger

Playwright Matthew Leavitt's series of tangentially connected, one-act vignettes, concerning the exploits of five couples and centering on a bed, suggests a promising writer of dialogue whose talents in creating narrative have not yet quite gelled. Boasting some hilarious one-liners and a smartly ironic pop-cultural sensibility, the show's youthful sensibility is well served by director Damaso Rodriguez's crisp and playful production. That said, many of the vignettes are simply too hard to tell apart and are frustratingly shallow -- the characters all use the same turns of phrase when they talk and are afflicted by the same (increasingly whiny) concerns, whether it's the skit in which a young woman (Kim Hamilton) berates her man-boy boyfriend (Luke McClure) for his immaturity, or the one in which a man (Jonathan Slavin) berates his gay lover (Emerson Collins) for ignoring him for the sake of an online Scrabble game. Most substantial of the lot is "Des Moines," in which a diabolical business executive (a nicely basilisk-like Charles Howerton) brutally manipulates an ambitious underling (Kat Bailess) into his bed, with harrowing results. A guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.: Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 29. (310) 477-2055. (Paul Birchall)

GO JESUS RIDE

click to enlarge MATTHEW MCCRAY
  • Matthew McCray

Writer-performer Mike Schlitt is a master of the purposeful -- and very funny -- digression. His one-man show is nominally about his participation in the making of an awful movie about Jesus Christ for the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is hilarious in itself. But along the way he also includes a capsule history of Hollywood and a survey of 33 films about Jesus, from a 1902 silent to Cecil B. De Mille's King of Kings, and from the remake with Jeffrey Hunter (dubbed by one critic, "I Was a Teenage Jesus") to Mel Gibson's gorefest The Passion of the Christ. There's some savage satire of Hollywood con men, and of Paul and Jan Crouch, the real-life proprietors of TBN. Schlitt fits in his TV writer-father's career (including writing for Matlock) and his death from cancer, not to mention a minibio of Schlitt himself. He also examines the issue of anti-Semitism in Hollywood, and in the Jesus movies in particular. He includes a delicious selection of classic film clips, wrapping it up with the final scene from the movie 42nd Street. Schlitt is a witty writer who, with able direction by Tracy Young, blends diverse elements into a richly satisfying show. Deus ex Machina Productions at Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m;, Sun., 1 p.m.; through April 8. (323) 993-7263, sonofsemele.org. (Neal Weaver)

LIGHTS OFF, EYES CLOSED

click to enlarge COURTESY: SKYPILOT THEATRE COMPANY
  • Courtesy: SkyPilot Theatre Company

Liz Shannon Miller's romantic comedy gets off to a rocky start, with unremarkable acting and staging, but soon finds its rhythm, as the cast of six improves as the story begins to plumb emotional depths. Jane (Joanna Kalafatis) finds herself bereft after her successful romance-novelist mother (Mary Burkin) suddenly drives her Mercedes off a cliff, either intentionally or otherwise. Mom's will bequeaths her fortune to charity, leaving only the outline of her last bodice-ripping novel for Jane to complete. "Lose yourself in the drama and adventure," romantic Mom urges her more prosaic 24-year-old daughter. Problem is, Jane and dating have always been strangers. Jane converses with the ghost of her mother all too easily, yet Miller has a lot of fun dramatizing the ridiculous scenes from the burgeoning novel. So do the two actors, Samantha Carro and Jason Kobielus, who play various roles, including Jane's über-cute roommate Ali, hunky horn-dog Darian and the flamboyant leads in Jane's novel. Skypilot Theatre at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 29. (800) 838-3006, skypilot​theatre.com. (Pauline Adamek)

GO LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

click to enlarge LINDSAY SCHNEBLY
  • Lindsay Schnebly

Last season, director Marianne Savell staged a King Lear for this company edited so severely, it played as a series of excerpts. Here, with Eugene O'Neill's agonizing autobiographical masterwork, she takes the opposite tack, fearlessly rolling out in almost four hours what's probably the first scrutinizing study of chemical addiction. Though it suffers at times from twinges of melodrama in the acting, this very intimate production is as smart as it is scrupulous. The four members of the 1912 Tyrone family slowly disentangle en route to their own private oblivion. The terrific ensemble includes Bruce Ladd as the proud Irish-American "cheapskate" patriarch -- a former stage actor turned land baron -- skimping on the sanitorium for his dying son (Daniel J. Roberts), while the prodigal son (David Scales) surrenders his ambitions to whiskey and hookers, and their mother, Mary Tyrone (Nan McNamara), returns to an old morphine habit. "None of us can help the things life has done to us. They're done before you realize it, and once they're done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you'd like to be, and you've lost your true self forever," says Mary. These are people who love and loathe each other in the same breath, and the manifestation of that contradiction gives this production its veracity and languishing beauty. Actors Co-op, Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (added perf March 29, 7:30 p.m.); through April 29. (323) 462-8460, ext. 300, actorsco-op.org. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE MAGIC BULLET THEORY It is said that when a cultural movement enters its baroque phase of self-parody, it is merely tolling its own death knell. If this is true, writers Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola's outlandish satirical fantasia of JFK assassination-conspiracy theory (staged by JJ Mayes) may represent the final nail in the coffin of speculation over what really went down in Dealey Plaza. Serious buffs will find little new. Tocantins and Zola merely present a paranoid compendium of the more ludicrous claims -- essentially that LBJ (Rick Steadman) is the puppetmaster; Earl Warren (Morry Schorr) and Arlen Specter (Victor Isaac) the conniving co-authors of the cover-up; and Woody Harrelson's father, Charlie (Tocantins), the grassy-knoll gunman. Whether the show is cause for celebration or indignation probably depends on what side of the '60s divide one's birth year falls. Whether you laugh or cry when Tocantins flashes a full-color glossy of Kennedy minus his brainpan will depend on what you smoke before the show. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., April 15, 2 p.m.; Sun., April 22, 2 p.m.; through April 28. (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org. (Bill Raden)

MY BROOKLYN HAMLET

click to enlarge COURTESY: STUDIO C ARTISTS
  • Courtesy: Studio C Artists

Brenda Adelman draws comparisons between her life story and the plot of Hamlet in this heavy-handed, histrionic one-woman show. After years of spousal abuse and adultery, Adelman's father murdered her mother and married her mother's sister, saddling Adelman with more personal demons than the Prince of Denmark. After a lifetime of defending her father, even after the murder, which the father claimed was an accident, Adelman finally decided to face the truth, forgive both parents and put together a functional life for herself. Though it's easy to feel happy for a woman who has faced an abundance of adversity and come out intact, the dramatic appeal of her story is buried under heaps of over-emotive acting and mannered, inauthentic characterizations. Excerpts from Hamlet are delivered with amateurish creakiness, which often is amplified by the piping in of Orff's "Carmina Burana." Studio C Artists at the Complex, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs. & Sat., 8 p.m.; through April 28. (323) 988-1175. (Amy Lyons)


A SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS

click to enlarge COURTESY: STS PRODUCTIONS
  • Courtesy: STS Productions

It's easy to overdo broad comedy, and that's what we get in this tedious production of Carlo Goldoni's classic. Goldoni wrote the play in 1745, utilizing the stock characters of commedia dell'arte but otherwise furnishing his own text and original plot. The story pivots around a hungry servant named Truffaldino (Trevor Wright) who signs on with two different masters; soon his wily machinations trigger confusion in two pairs of already bewildered lovers. Adapter/director Mike Funt emphasizes the clownlike elements in this scenario, paying short shrift to the human kernel at the heart of farce. The production's crispest work comes from Bailee DesRocher as a savvy gal wise to the ways of men. Wright displays some focus and physical skill, but too many of the other performances are pompous or shrill. The period costumes are a plus, but the impoverished set and cramped, cellarlike playing area are major liabilities. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 15. (213) 237-9933, archwayla.com. (Deborah Klugman)

PICK OF THE WEEK: WAITING FOR GODOT

click to enlarge CRAIG SCHWARTZ
  • Craig Schwartz

This stellar revival of Samuel Beckett's absurdist classic Waiting for Godot makes it a fresh, new experience. Director Michael Arabian has shrewdly mined the play's comedic potential without diminishing fidelity to the playwright's bleak, despairing vision. His effort is accentuated by John Iacovelli's circular set that's surrounded by menacing rocks, with the dead scrap of a tree planted off-center, and Brian Gale's eerie lighting and projection design. And who could ask for a finer pairing of Vladimir and Estragon, the woeful tramps doomed to forever await the arrival of the enigmatic Godot, than Beckett aficionados Barry McGovern and Alan Mandell, whose performances are as sophisticated and polished as they are heartbreakingly funny. The emotional chemistry between them is palpable and reverberates through the whole production, creating pathos of its own. The rest of the cast is equally impressive. James Cromwell is equal parts carnie barker and cruel taskmaster as Pozzo, the bullying, pompous tyrant who interrupts the tramps' pointless vigil with his wretched, bent-over slave Lucky (Hugo Armstrong) bound by a long rope and weighed down with luggage. L.J. Benet rounds out the cast as the enigmatic boy messenger. This is a Godot not to be missed. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; thru April 22. (213) 628-2772, CenterTheatreGroup.org/Godot (Lovell Estell III)


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