Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including a Psycho-Sexual Boxing Match | Public Spectacle | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Theater to See in L.A. This Week, Including a Psycho-Sexual Boxing Match

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Thu, Mar 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM


click to enlarge Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton - SIX 01 STUDIO
  • Six 01 Studio
  • Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton

click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpg


Pycho-sexual spectacles got nods from our critics this week, including Illyrian Players' Lord Blackberry's Apocalypse and our Pick of the Week, Tender Napalm. Nice reviews also for Doma Theatre Company's Dreamgirls at the MET, Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice at A Noise Within, Latino Theatre Company's Melacholia at LATC and a bio musical about Janis Joplin, One Night With Janis. For all the latest New Theater Reviews, see below.

This week's Theater Feature looks at the latest work by one of our treasured playwrights --Donald Freed -- that mixes a theatrical dynasty with American politics and Macbeth.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS: scheduled for publication March 20, 2013

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

click to enlarge Stephen Anthony (center) and dancers - BROADWAY L.A.
  • Broadway L.A.
  • Stephen Anthony (center) and dancers

The X-Men-like team of Broadway creatives who conceived the 2002 mega-hit Hairspray -- songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, choreographer Jerry Mitchell and director Jack O'Brien -- are far less successful in their latest time travel mission, an attempt to turn Steven Spielberg's film about nomadic, real-life con artist Frank Abgnale, Jr.'s 1960s adventures into a musical. In this two-year-old Broadway production making a tour stop at the Pantages, what's especially disappointing are the songs, which in Hairspray were a memorable mix of character progression and early rock energy. Here, as soon as a tune begins, you know exactly where it's going. There's the flight song, the baseball song, the hospital song, the Southern song, all stuffed with requisite references to the stated theme. Star book writer Terrence McNally is no help, and while Stephen Anthony is an appealing presence as Abagnale, Merritt David Janes as his Javert, Carl Hanratty, starts out too flustered for us to believe he's a crack FBI agent. Perhaps the show's greatest sin, however, is overindulging Broadway's obsession with mimicking styles of the past, making you feel like pop culture has taken one too many trips back to the Mad Men era. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat. 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.; through March 24. (800) 982-2787, hollywoodpantages.com. (Zachary Pincus-Roth)

GO DREAMGIRLS Director Marco Gomez's mostly straightforward but pleasingly intimate staging of Tom Eyer and Henry Krieger's now classic Motown rock musical engagingly captures the ferocious ambition, passion and inevitable disappointments of the story of the rise of a girl band -- a tale whose incidents eerily echo the narrative of The Supremes. Within the comparatively tiny environs of a 99-seat theater, Gomez's production packs far more glitter than you'd actually expect to get into the space: The gorgeous Dreamgirls, resplendent in Michael Mullen's gorgeous 1970s diva gowns, sashay angelically in front of shimmery tinsel curtains. The show boasts many fierce performances, from Welton Thomas Pitchford's nicely creepy, soulless agent Curtis, to Jennifer Colby Talton as the deliciously icy Deena. As Effie, the sultry-voiced, but un-fan-friendly lead singer ousted from her group, Constance Jewell Lopez possesses a haunting voice and vulnerability, particularly during the production's nicely evocative show-stopper, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Although some performers' voices wear a little ragged by the end -- and Rae Toledo's occasionally clunky choreography is sometimes a little awkward during the larger production numbers -- the pleasures of the show itself, under Chris Raymond's assured musical direction, are strong enough to sustain interest. DOMA Theatre Company at The MET Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m. Through April 14. (323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)

GO EURYDICE

click to enlarge Geoff Elliott, Jules Wilcox and Graham Sibley - CRAIG SCHWARTZ
  • Craig Schwartz
  • Geoff Elliott, Jules Wilcox and Graham Sibley

Playwright Sarah Ruhl's melancholy and slightly surreal drama is a whimsical take on the classic Greek myth of Orpheus, the divinely inspired musician who defied nature and descended into Hades to retrieve his slain wife. This exciting modern interpretation shifts the emphasis throughout the story from Orpheus (an impassioned, romantic Graham Sibley) to Eurydice (a beautiful naïf, Jules Wilcox). Quickly establishing the besotted state of the young betrothed lovers with adoring banter, Ruhl's dialogue is full of wistful and playful exchanges while permitting the occasional poetic flourish. Jeanine A. Ringer's dreamy blue underwater set evokes first a beach and then a drippy and damp underworld, while a wandering minstrel on violin (Endre Balogh) approximates the haunting melodies of Orpheus' lyre that bewitch the denizens of Hades. Performances are mostly good, with Ryan Vincent Anderson charmingly menacing as the predatory and seductive "Nasty Interesting Man" and, later, Lord of the Underworld. Unfortunately, the trio of women playing the stones (famously moved by the exquisitely mournful music of Orpheus) comes across as shrill and lacking in gravitas. Nevertheless, Geoff Elliott's direction adroitly realizes his conceptual vision, right down to the presence of water and rain, both real and projected (projections by Brian Gale). A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Sat., March 16, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m. 626-356-3100, anoisewithin.org. (Pauline Adamek)

GO LORD BLACKBERRY'S APOCALYPSE

click to enlarge Kelsey Ritter (center) "and girls" - ILLYRIAN PLAYERS THEATRE COMPANY
  • Illyrian Players Theatre Company
  • Kelsey Ritter (center) "and girls"

Miniature doppelgangers and counter-gender casting are among the novelties offered in this psychosexual drama written and directed by Caitlin Bower, which begins as a critique of cult religions but evolves into something even darker and more complex. Fraying manager Dan (Thaddeus Shafer) employs a motley crew at his faltering puppet factory, which becomes a bunker when -- assuming the grandiose persona Lord Blackberry -- he declares it the last haven against a forthcoming armageddon. The key to saving humanity, the Lord assures his new acolytes, lies in ritually reenacting his sister's rescue from the predations of a pervert at a long-ago birthday party. The play recovers from a clumsy exposition to inch forward and inward, peeling away layers until we come to the root of Blackberry's pathology. The puppets serve as useful stand-ins for Blackberry's unwillingness to confront his own demons. The show's mood and themes could benefit from ruthless abridgment into a one-act, but the story's depth, led by Shafer's tortured, riveting performance, overcomes the structural problems. Illyrian Players founder Carly D. Weckstein sneaks up on the audience with her delicate portrayal of Nicky, the androgynous object of Dan's desire. As devoted assistant Simor, Kelsey Ritter captures the troubling efficiency of the servant who outstrips his master. The Illyrian Players @ The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through March 24. illyrianplayers.com. (Jenny Lower)

GO MELANCHOLIA

click to enlarge Esperanza America and Ramiro Segovia - CAROL PETERSON
  • Carol Peterson
  • Esperanza America and Ramiro Segovia

This ensemble piece from the Latino Theater Lab serves as a disquieting reminder that the fortunate survivors of war quite often become its most heart-rending victims. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuéla, Melancholia tells the story of Mario, an idealistic young man from East Los Angeles who thought a stint in the Marines would pay his way through college, but who returns from Iraq an emotional and psychological basket case. The story is principally told from the vantage point of Mario's fractured psyche (three actors accent this division: Sam Golzari, Xavi Moreno and Ramiro Segovia) through surrealistic flashbacks alternating between past and present, fantasy and reality -- starting with a homecoming party on New Year's Eve that slowly transforms into a nightmarish recounting of Mario's life before and after his tour of duty. The contrast between the fun-loving, gung-ho youth who enlists hoping for a better life and the tormented, broken man who returns after losing his best friend -- and his own soul -- is striking. Death and mystery haunt the stage in the chilling figures of a veiled female clad in black and two impish characters (Fidel Gomez, Alexis de la Rocha). Valenzuela skillfully blends elements of music and choreography into this timely play, and his sizable ensemble performs efficiently in multiple roles. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St. Dwntwn. Thu.-Sat., 8 pm., Sun. at 3 p.m.; through April 7. Dark on Easter Sunday, March 31. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Lovell Estell III)

MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION

click to enlarge John-David Keller and Ramon de Ocampo - GEOFFREY WADE
  • Geoffrey Wade
  • John-David Keller and Ramon de Ocampo
George Bernard Shaw made his case for women's lib in this 1894 play, involving the contentious struggle between an assertive young feminist and her brothel-managing mom. Educated at Cambridge, Vivie (Rebecca Mozo) exemplifies a new breed of woman who loves her work and is lukewarm to the attentions of various men. Raised at boarding schools and by governesses, she knows little about the background of her mother (Anne Gee Byrd), who eluded poverty by becoming a successful madam. Shaw's insight and ironic wit have survived the decades, but the production is too static, especially in Act I. Directed by Robin Larsen, the performers often struggle to sound authentically British, and their portrayals, while sometimes on target, are uneven. Byrd, an exception, is altogether compelling as a sly woman of the world wounded to the core by her daughter's rebuff. Neither Francois-Pierre Couture's humdrum set nor Jeremy Pivnick's underused lighting add dimension to the story. Antaeus Company at Deaf West Theater, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sat.- Sun. 2:00 p.m.; through Apr. 21; (818) 506-1983; antaeus.org. (Deborah Klugman)

ON THE SPECTRUM

click to enlarge Jeanie Hackett and Dan Shaked - ED KRIEGER
  • Ed Krieger
  • Jeanie Hackett and Dan Shaked
Young Mac (Dan Shaked) is in the process of applying to law school when his mother (Jeannie Hacket) informs him they are about to lose the family home. What for anyone would qualify as a stressful event becomes for Mac both a deeply unsettling confrontation with the idea of change and an opportunity to prove that all those years of intense therapy for his high-functioning Asperger's Syndrome have given him what it takes to cut it in a neurotypical world. Across town, Iris (a wondrous Virginia Newcomb) never leaves her Queens apartment, spending her days fashioning an elaborate website she's dubbed The Other World. Locked into the more extreme end of the autism scale, she has no interest in meeting society on its own terms. When she hires Mac to design her graphics, the two must negotiate not only the strange territory of human attraction, but also the larger question of whether falling "on the spectrum" is an identity or a disability. Ultimately, the play -- by and large witty and poignant -- falls prey to a reductively feel-good ending. What's flawless is the luminous collaboration between scenic designer John Iacovelli and video designer Jeff Teeter, with agile strokes of light and sound by R. Christopher Stokes and Peter Bayne, respectively. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through April 28. 323-663-1525, fountaintheatre.com. (Mindy Farabee)

GO ONE NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN

click to enlarge Mary Bridget Davies - JIM COX
  • Jim Cox
  • Mary Bridget Davies

The seductive appeal of this musical hagiography by writer-director Randy Johnson is no mystery. Nineteen-sixties rock acts have proved effective boomer bait for fundraising PBS stations for years. That the trend should have morphed into the tribute-concert stage musical merely speaks to graying subscriber demographics and the perennial weakness of the elderly for mythologizing their youth. To Johnson's credit, though his Janis portrait is decidedly soft-focused, it is anchored by both a compelling staging concept and the sheer talent of its stars. Gravel-voiced Mary Bridget Davies belts her way through the iconic Joplin catalogue, delivering convincing approximations of the singer's vocal and stage mannerisms along with the world-weary, homespun aphorisms Joplin habitually ad libbed over song breaks. Onto these monologues, Johnson overlays both biographical tidbits and the show's argument that the white middle-class Joplin deserves a place in the blues canon alongside the black women singers that influenced her. The stage incarnation of those legends -- Bessie Smith, Etta James, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin -- are provided by the versatile gospel singer Sabrina Elayne Carten, and are one of the evening's most winning elements. Another is the precision fidelity of music supervisor Ross Seligman and his band. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through April 11. (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org. (Bill Raden)


PICK OF THE WEEK: TENDER NAPALM

click to enlarge Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton - SIX 01 STUDIO
  • Six 01 Studio
  • Jaimi Paige and Graham Hamilton
is hardly the first play to conceptualize the ebbs and flows of romantic love as a martial art. Unlike August Strindberg's Dance of Death or Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (this play's direct ancestors), British playwright Philip Ridley's mesmerizing tour de force of the histrionic imagination pushes stage poetics to an ontological extreme to seal off any but the barest hints of offstage reality for its nameless pair of lover-combatants. Director Edward Edwards' choice of venues -- a converted studio in a deserted warehouse district on the wrong side of the Downtown Arts District -- both sets the scene and lends the evening the shady decorum of an outlaw cockfight. Inside, Graham Hamilton and Jaimi Paige face off on a boxing-ring stage for a non-stop, 100-minute, violently erotic bout of incendiary fabulation. And this match adheres to the rules set down by Albee's George and Martha, which means all blows are strictly below the belt.It's a blood sport of solipsistic one-upmanship where the only way to keep score is by each torturously re-opened wound revealed in the actors' faces. To that end, Hamilton and Paige give as good as they get, both expertly wielding Ridley's rhapsodic, razor-edged monologues and giving profound meaning to the expression "acting is reacting." Six 01 Studio, 601 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through March 31. (323) 960-7776, tendernapalm.com or plays411.com/tendernapalm. (Bill Raden)

GO TOMORROW

click to enlarge Geoffrey Forward, Salome Jens and Jenn Robbins - JOHN FLYNN
  • John Flynn
  • Geoffrey Forward, Salome Jens and Jenn Robbins
Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, and York Theatre Royal present Donald Freed's new play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. See Theater Feature.



ONGOING SHOWS REGION-WIDE

30 Years of Celebration: Benefit for Celebration Theater, honoring actress Sharon Lawrence. Scheduled to perform: Jane Lynch, Sean Hayes, Wendie Malick, Jane Leeves, Valerie Bertinelli, Susan Sullivan, Lainie Kazan, Philip Casnoff, Drew Droege, Sam Pancake, and more. Sun., March 24, 7 p.m., $35-$200. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.


The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: There are several moments late in Alex Lyras' fascinating performance of Mike Daisey's controversial monologue when Lyras drops the mask of his nameless, first-person investigative narrator and directly pleads for the evening's truth claims as Alex Lyras, actor. The asides are as tantalizing as they are telling. Because experiencing Lyras and director Robert McCaskill's staging of Daisey's Michael Moore-esque mix of polemics and sardonic reportage is to feel weirdly double-distanced from the actuality of its subject -- the harshly impoverished working conditions of Apple's Chinese iPhone and iPad plants. Despite Lyras' persuasive delivery, the show never quite shakes the penumbra of question marks raised by Daisey's own admitted fabrications of his reporting trip to China (said material since excised). The force of each incendiary revelation and Tim Arnold's accompanying photojournalistic video projections somehow feels diminished unaccompanied by a fact-checking footnote that goes beyond the piece's now bitterly ironic emotive linchpin, Lyras as Daisey declaring, "Trust me! I was there." (Bill Raden). Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 10, 800-838-3006, agonyecstasy.brownpapertickets.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Alabama Baggage: The unfortunate thread of sitcom humor running through Buddy Farmer's drama about adult survivors of sexual abuse is but one of the shortcomings plaguing Alabama Baggage, a play that doesn't appear terribly troubled by the notion of narrative coherence. Late one night, titular Alabaman Lucas (Ashley McGee) travels up to a Kentucky cemetery to pay his disrespects to Hal, a recently deceased "pillar of the community." The local sheriff, Ben (Will Blagrove, doing a noteworthy job of trying to bring some grounding to a particularly disjointed character), catches him there with his pants down. His first instinct is to arrest Lucas. His second, evidently, is to spend the rest of the night struggling to hold a thin plot together through wildly unmotivated emotional swings. (Mindy Farabee). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14, 323-960-7711, plays411.com/baggage. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Arroz Con Spam y Bento: The Adventures of Bad Sailor Moon, Cat Mom, and Barbie Girl: Writer-performers include Lesley Asistio, Eriko Azuma, and Sofia Barrett-Ibarria. Fri., March 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 24, 2 p.m., 310-998-8765, teada.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, www.attictheatre.org.

Beauty and the Beast: The Broadway musical, based on Disney's animated movie. Starting March 26, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., March 31, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 7. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org.

Belz! The Jewish Vaudeville Musical: An ersatz cross between Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret, writer and director Pavel Cerny's 1979 show enjoyed a successful 1984 run at the now defunct Callboard Theatre. But like the Callboard, the show's best days may be behind it. The story follows aspiring Jewish comedian Hugo Schwartz (Andy Hirsch) from a 1917 shtetl in Galicia (modern Ukraine) to New York. Episodes in Hugo's life are interspersed with cabaret numbers featuring Jewish shtick and songs in Yiddish, Hungarian, Czech and German, accompanied by Ait Fetterolf's live piano. Though the history provides fascinating source material and designer Travis Thi artfully costumes over 50 characters, the timeworn jokes fall flat, the songs are delivered with scant emotion and the ensemble generally lacks the chutzpah necessary to pull off vaudeville material in this jaded age. The frequent blackouts, sudden shifts from humor to pathos and back, and uncomfortably on-the-nose dialogue all limit the effectiveness of both the show's humor and its tender moments. While an older Jewish audience may appreciate the nostalgia the evening conjures, a firmer directorial hand might allow others the same experience. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 5, brownpapertickets.com/event/276015. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

Benched: Richard Broadhurst's play about a depressed elderly man rescued from the brink of suicide by a solicitous angel of death strives to be wise and poignant but comes off as sappy and conventional. Planning to poison himself while sitting on his favorite park bench, Max (Eddie Jones) gets rattled when he finds it occupied by a laid-back guy named Randall (John Towey), who refuses to move. The two cross verbal swords, after which Randall reveals his celestial status and launches a campaign to persuade Max to live out his natural lifespan. The plot meanders through a series of capricious coincidences that undercut the story's internal logic. Meanwhile, details about Max's life and what has driven him to this desperate point are sparse, so the performers must fill in the gaps. Jones is disappointingly one-note in displaying anger and depression, while Towey has yet to develop an interesting persona. Anita Khanzadian directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 24, interactla.org. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-766-9100.

GO: Caged: Not long ago, people regarded as exotic or subhuman were tossed into cages for the viewing pleasure of the American public. Such was the dreadful fate of Congo pygmy Ota Benga, who was displayed with monkeys at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. In Charles Duncombe's world-premiere drama, Caged, Megan Kim and R.J. Jones are naked, snatched-from-the-jungle "noble savages," who, confined in a cage stocked with toys, convincingly channel primitive angst, lethargically striding about, communicating and reacting with grunts and violent upsurges and hitting each other playfully. Extended commentary about the exhibit is provided by a keeper (Katrina Nelson) and an interviewer (Leah Harf), whose theories and statements of facts are a bladed mix of the outrageously comical and idiotic. But it's the cavalcade of spectators and their assorted hang-ups that provide the wallop of humor and irony here: a boy with his parents wanting to see tricks; a man meeting another man for a blowjob; several couples in distress, mirroring the plight of the captives; a lonely woman seeking affection; an elderly woman with a huge ax to grind. The contrasts and the heavy-handed subtext are striking -- and unsettling. Though not overly dramatic, Duncombe's smartly written script is delightfully provocative and insightful. Performances are sharply calibrated under Frederique Michel's direction.(Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through March 24. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.

Catch Me If You Can: Broadway musical based on the 2002 film about infamous con artist Frank W. Abagnale Jr. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through March 24. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, See New Reviews above.

GO: Cavalia's Odysseo: Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 31, $34.50-$149.50. Under the Big Top/Downtown Burbank, 777 N. Front St., Burbank, 866-999-8111, www.cavalia.net.

Chapter Two: Neil Simon's romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 24, 2 p.m.; Thu., April 4, 8 p.m. Continues through April 6. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

The Circus Is Coming to Town: Interactive kids play, presented by Storybook Theatre. Starting March 23, Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through July 6. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

Company: Stephen Sondheim composed the lyrics and score to his innovative "concept musical" in 1970, with book by George Furth. For a comedy musical about love, it proves resolutely unromantic and honest. And, surprisingly, its acerbic wit and laserlike scrutiny of marriage, dating and relationships does not feel at all dated. Director Albert Marr's incorporation of cellphones and Facebook effortlessly adds a contemporary feel. The loose story centers on Robert (a charismatic Ben Rovner), a handsome, single, mid-30s New Yorker surrounded by well-meaning but smug married friends. Their cheerful efforts to push him toward joining their club are undermined by their conjugal lives, which are fundamentally flawed or dysfunctional. The ensemble's vocal skills are good but not stellar, though Julie Black sings brilliantly as funky girlfriend Marta. Also impressive is musical director William A. Reilly's furious piano and synth live accompaniment. Despite some appealing performances, this company's average Company barely matches Sondheim's marvelous material. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 28, crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

GO: Complete: Playwright Andrea Kuchlewska combines unlikely ingredients in her comedy: an est-like training program for self-realization, the art/science of linguistics and a stormy love affair involving a pair of obsessive linguists. Eve (Meredith Bishop) and Micah (Scott Kruse) may be experts in the arts of language, but that doesn't mean they can communicate. He has been trying for ages to tell her that he loves her, but she refuses to acknowledge that anything but love of language unites them -- and she never stops talking. In desperation, he signs up for a course with "take control of your life" guru Jack (Scott Victor Nelson) in the hopes that it will enable him to confess his love. But Eve has an intense love-hate relationship with the program, so it becomes one more obstacle. Also present is a little girl named Evie (Tess Oswalt), who may or may not be a childhood incarnation of Eve. The play is always interesting and fun to watch, and director Jennifer Chambers keeps the comedy in the forefront, but the insistently nonlinear structure sometimes proves distracting. Credibility also is an issue. Eve is such a fanatic, intellectual bully and egocentric blabbermouth that one wonders why Micah bothers. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 23, plays411.com/complete. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.

The Deep Throat Sex Scandal: Writer-producer David Bertolino's satirical look at how 1972 porn flick Deep Throat became the most lucrative blue movie made. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24, 800-838-3006, deepthroattheplay.com/. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. See Theater Feature.

Dirty Filthy Love Story: There are two stars in Rob Mersola's new comedy, Dirty Filthy Love Story. The first is David Mauer and Hazel Kuang's set. In a coup de theatre, the entire back wall of what looks like a cardboard-cutout living room drops forward and slams to the ground, revealing the home to be the garbage-bag, stacked-boxes and strewn-clothes rat's nest of the play's hoarder-protagonist, Ashley (Jennifer Pollono). The other star is Joshua Bitton's understated performance as the mentally challenged garbage man Hal, hired by Ashley's next-door neighbor Benny (Burl Moseley) to clean the trash from her side yard so he can sell his home. The sexually charged romance between Hal and Ashley grows increasingly macabre, homicidal and strained, and the play's main joke really turns on the passionate, nihilistic attraction between them. Pollono and Moseley were too screechy at the performance reviewed, under Elina de Santos' absorbing, sitcom-style direction. And I couldn't understand why, in one scene, Benny would fail to defend himself against the lovers, who have targeted him for death. After all, they've already struck him with a frying pan that's now sitting in front of him on the couch. But when he regains consciousness, rather than pick up the weapon, he merely rants about his plight. Such details can be worked out. This is a world premiere, after all. Mainly, though, the play is about its premise and nothing more. With transitional songs referring to a world under siege by garbage, this is a work that could actually be about something. Either it needs to be as thin as farce, or reconsidered more deeply. (Steven Leigh Morris). Starting March 23, Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24, www.roguemachinetheatre.com/. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202.

Dirty Little Demon: Joseph Le Compte's sex thriller. Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 3. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Divorce Party: The Musical: Mark Schwartz's jukebox musical -- a sort of fun, sometimes embarrassing and frequently excruciating spectacle -- gives new lyrics (by Jay Falzone) to oldie hits. "Gay, oh: He's so gay-oh, your husband's so gay," set to "Day-O" or an exegesis on pubic-hair styles, set to the title song of the musical Hair. Based on Dr. Amy Botwinick's book Congratulations on Your Divorce: The Road to Finding Your Happily Ever After, this is a saucy, phallus-obsessed satire of all things attached to women's single life today, from pubic-hair chic to sex toys to the reframing of divorce from something associated with failure and shame to something associated with freedom and opportunity. Because our 50 percent divorce rate serves up way more failure than any society wishes to embrace, change the meaning of the D-word to something uplifting, as this musical does, and you're doing your part to end human misery -- that's the underlying philosophy here. Divorce Party: The Musical aims to be both a lampoon of social stereotypes and a confessional about getting through. (Steven Leigh Morris). Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 6 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 14, divorcepartythemusical.com. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.

Doctor, Doctor!: Writer-director Randall Gray recklessly defies all the rules of dramaturgy -- and not in a good way. He sets his play in a combined medical practice that features a psychiatrist and former Nazi torturer (Mark Colbenson), his seemingly psychotic secretary (Wendy Rostker), a surgeon who faints at the sight of blood (Rick Lee), a dementedly sadistic dentist (manic Jon Christie) and a song-belting secretary who wins the lottery (Sara Jane Williams). The plot, such as it is, is a series of tenuously related incidents. Gray has turned the piece into a pseudo-musical by inserting, seemingly at random, some current hits and old chestnuts, including "I Will Survive," "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" and "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha, Ha!" The mostly young and dedicated cast give their all to overcome inept script and direction. But ultimately it's just bad community theater. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 1 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 24. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.

GO: Dreamgirls: Presented by Doma Theatre Company. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14, domatheatre.com. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com. See New Reviews above.

End of the Rainbow: Judy Garland (Tracie Bennett) prepares her latest comeback, circa 1968, in Peter Quilter's drama. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 21. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

GO: Eurydice: Written by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Geoff Elliott. Sat., March 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., April 28, 2 p.m.; Thu., May 9, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org. See New Reviews above.

Fragments of Oscar Wilde: Vanessa Cate's adaptations of La Sainte Courtisane, A Florentine Tragedy, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Salome. Starting March 23, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through May 18. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

The Good Thief: Written by Conor McPherson. Starting March 24, Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 29. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

GO: The Grapes of Wrath: There are no weak links in Michael Michetti's staging of The Grapes of Wrath. It is a study of characters adrift, American refugees of the Great Depression, starting with the decision of the Joad family to leave Dust Bowl-cursed Oklahoma for California. On the horizon of the dusty plains is the hope of opportunities afforded by the Golden State, where they imagine they can pluck oranges from the trees and crush grapes with their feet. Matt Gottlieb beautifully portrays an evangelical preacher turned humanist, spending much of the action off by himself pondering where on earth he's going and what on earth he's done. Mostly he's struggling for a definition of what's holy, and it usually settles on something closer to men and women than to God: "When you're working together, harnessed to the whole shebang." The stage is populated by wonderful actors, such as Deborah Strang as Ma Joad, indescribably nuanced in her portrayal of a dignified woman whose strength is cleaved by apprehension; by Lindsey Ginter as her simple husband, perpetually eager to avoid conflict and to accommodate; and by Steve Coombs as their short-tempered, ex-con son, who's quite the opposite of his dad. Amidst the brutality of what would today be called climate change, the play is a battle cry for all of us to treat each other with dignity. Its humane view is almost theological, biblical, in its depiction of one character's sacrifice for his people. (Steven Leigh Morris). Sun., March 24, 2 & 8 p.m.; Thu., April 11, 8 p.m.; Fri., April 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., April 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., April 21, 2 p.m.; Fri., May 3, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

GO: Hattie ... What I Need You to Know: Before there was a Sidney Poitier, a Denzel Washington, a Morgan Freeman or a Halle Berry, there was Hattie McDaniel. In the engaging bio-musical Hattie ... What I Need to Know, Vickilyn Reynolds honors the life of this extraordinary entertainer, who in 1940 became the first African-American to win an Oscar with her performance as Mammy in Gone With the Wind. Fittingly, the show opens with a video of that historic evening, after which Reynolds (who bears a noticeable resemblance to McDaniel) appears onstage and, for two hours, does a beguiling job of bringing McDaniel to life. Reynolds' script covers a lot of ground and could use some tightening, and at times her loose, conversational style distracts and meanders. Still, she and director Byron Nora succeed in making McDaniel's story an entertaining experience, recounting her early days singing in a gospel choir; difficulties with her overprotective parents; a string of unhappy marriages; struggles with racism in and outside of Hollywood; and her slow, determined rise to success, which ultimately placed her in the friendly company of stars like Clark Gable, Mae West, Bing Crosby and Marlene Dietrich. As interesting as this all is, the real payoff is hearing Reynolds sing the selection of jazz, blues and gospel songs with commanding artistry and passion. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14, 323-960-5774. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252, www.hudsontheatre.com.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse: It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment. One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable, Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional, species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 27, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

I Wanna Be Loved: Stories of Dinah Washington, Queen of the Blues: Barbara Morrison is Dinah Washington! Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through March 31. Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, 4305 Degnan Blvd. Ste. 101, Los Angeles, 323-296-2272, www.barbaramorrisonpac.com.

The Importance of Being Earnest: Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.

Jane Austen Unscripted: Presented by Impro Theatre. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April 14. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Keena Unbranded: The Solo Experience: Keena Ferguson's one-woman show. Fri., March 22, 8 p.m., keenaferguson.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.

Ladyhouse Blues: It's 1919. Times are changing. Workers are striking. Women are demanding the vote. Then as now, bigoted fundamentalists like Liz Madden (Kitty Swink), the Ozark-born matriarch in Kevin O'Morrison's flawed melodrama, are digging in their heels. Liz smirks at newfangled inventions like electricity and phones, denounces all things foreign, including the French language, and emphatically favors her son over her four daughters. A character like this can spark juicy drama, but this production, under Anne McNaughton's direction, is disappointingly bloodless, underscoring the contrived aspects of the script. Although the action takes place during a hot spell that people complain about, nobody sweats. The women peel potatoes and stir stuff, but nothing is out of place in the kitchen. The performances are variously off-key: As Liz's eldest daughter, Liza de Weerd displays remarkable vocalizing power for someone with TB. Swink, radiating little maternal warmth, vents Liz's biases in a chilly vacuum. (Deborah Klugman). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, 866-811-4111, Andak.org. New Place Theatre, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Just when you hope that the final nail has been driven into the coffin of the celestial courtroom drama, along comes playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis with a pry bar and this misguided exhumation from 2005. The theological paradoxes at the heart of Guirgis' wide-ranging meditation on pride, divine mercy and the possibility of redemption have all been handled far more adroitly elsewhere (i.e., Michael Tolkin's 1991 film The Rapture). Here, Guirgis employs a Purgatory criminal court (on Caley Bisson's drab set) to debate the fate in the afterlife of the play's titular Christ betrayer (Robert Walters). A prosecutor (Robert Paterno) and defense attorney (Sharon Freedman) grill an assortment of biblical characters and church fathers -- all in archly anachronistic New York City street drag. Apart from a show-stealing cameo by John Gentry as Pontius Pilate, director Patrick Riviere's muddied staging is unable to inject dramatic insight or urgency into Guirgis' tendentious excuse for a Jesuitical catechism class. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through April 6, brownpapertickets.com/event/314649. Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank, 818-841-4404, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

GO: Lord Blackberry's Apocalypse: Caitlin Bower's post-apocalyptic psycho-sexual puppet drama. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, illyrianplayers.com. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5774, www.complexhollywood.com. See New Reviews above.

The Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival (LAWTF): Through March 24, 818-760-0408, lawtf.com. Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden, Los Angeles, www.lagaycenter.org.

Love Me Deadly: Matthew Sklar's ghost play, directed by Sebastian Muñoz. Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Mad Forest: Written by Caryl Churchill, directed by Marya Mazor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 4. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

Master Class: Terrence McNally's story of opera diva Maria Callas. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 14. International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, 562-436-4610, www.ictlongbeach.org.

GO: Melancholia: Written by Latino Theater Lab, directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela. Presented by the Latino Theater Company. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 6. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org. See New Reviews above.

Mind Spin: New York's UglyRhino theater company presents Bryce Norbitz and Nicole Rosner's "immersive social and theatrical event ... for all six senses." Fri., March 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 8 p.m.; Fri., March 29, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 30, 8 p.m., brownpapertickets.com/event/331639. The Red Loft, 605 E. 4th St., Los Angeles.

GO: Mommune: Dorothy Fortenberry's world premiere, Mommune, spirits us to a not-too-distant future where women get national maternity leave and unfit mothers sidestep prison with sentences at minimum-security re-education centers. Chalk Repertory Company's site-specific approach transforms a contemporary kids learning center into one of these cheery gulags and audience members into "pre-parents," shepherded through their government-mandated pre-conception counseling requirements. The failures of these "bad mothers" are real enough; several are ripped-from-the-headlines accounts of poor parenting. The distrustful Charlotte (Hilary Ward) arrives at the "mommune" fresh from her high-stakes lab research, and immediately butts heads with "momtor" Mrs. Jensen (a regal Ursaline Bryant). Her fellow inmates -- a lesbian Christian, a former pageant queen and a voluntary mute -- aim to rack up enough points for "assessment" and eventual reunion with their children, but Charlotte's antagonism and refusal to follow simple rules challenges the intended day-spa atmosphere. The actors mine the satire for laughs, but Larissa Kokernot's deft direction points to the self-punishing tragedy behind the cult of mommydom. The play's steady pacing loses focus toward the end, although Fortenberry's setup doesn't lend itself to easy answers. The cast's engagement with the space is ingenious, but audiences should be prepared to relocate and stand through parts of the show. (Jenny Lower). Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 7, chalkrep.com. Pint Size Kids, 13323 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 310-339-7452, www.pintsizekids.com.

Mrs. Warren's Profession: George Bernard Shaw's 1893 classic. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. See New Reviews above.

The Nether: Jennifer Haley's virtual-reality tale. Starting March 24, Sun., March 24, 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through April 14. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.

Nuttin' but Hutton: Musical tribute to the songs of Betty Hutton. Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 28. NOHO ARTS CENTER - 11136 Magnolia Blvd in North Hollywood. (800) 595-4849, www.nuttinbuthutton.com

Oh, Yes She Did! From Slave-Ship to Space-Ship: Black Women Pioneers of America: Writer-performer Sandy Brown pays passionate homage to eight famous African-American women in an energetic solo performance that would benefit from the input of an experienced director. Carefully researched, and aptly costumed for each period, her dramatic renditions inform us about 18th-century poet Phillis Wheatley, Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, civil rights activist Rosa Parks and acclaimed cabaret entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. Brown sings and dances well and delivers her lines with presence. But the end result can be characterized as detailed impersonations of historical figures rather than emotionally in-depth portrayals with the feel of authenticity. The most successful segment is her depiction of soul singer Billie Holiday, a hard-luck individual who criticized the status quo and was incarcerated for drug use. Brown's focused monologue, and her singing, nab the essence of this woman's torment. With its song-and-dance numbers, her take on Baker also entertains. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 6:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 24. Theatre/Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-422-6361, www.theatretheater.net.

On the Spectrum: Ken LaZebnik's "not your (neuro)typical love story." Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com. See New Reviews above.

GO: One Night With Janis Joplin: Musical tribute to the rock legend, created, written and directed by Randy Johnson. Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m. Continues through April 21. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org. See New Reviews above,

Orange Flower Water: Craig Wright's adultery drama. Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 20. Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre And Acting Conservatory, 5636 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-7378, www.sfstheatre.com.

GO: Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy: Music and book by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner. Directed by Dan Bonnell. See Stage feature. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 30. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com. See Theater Feature.

Play On!: Rick Abbot's comedy about a theater group trying to stage a play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 24, abovethecurvetheatre.com. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-506-3903, www.actorsworkout.com.

GO: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others -- her family and society -- have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots -- the kind of experience where you might say, "Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?" The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 19. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Rank: American premiere of Irish playwright Robert Massey's comedy-drama. Starting March 23, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 24, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., April 3, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., April 17, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 25, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 2, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Remembrance: Written by Graham Reid, directed by Tim Byron Owen. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

Round Rock: Written and directed by Aaron Kozak, produced by Theatre Unleashed. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 27. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.

Sculptress of Angel X: Zombie Joe's "epic drama about a passionate young woman's erotic journey to redemption through her art." Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

See Rock City: Arlene Hutton's study of young married life in 1940s rural Kentucky. Fri., March 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 8 p.m.; Wed., March 27, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 28, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

GO: Sexsting - Based on True Events: Predator or Prey?: Playwright Doris Baizley consulted with defense attorney Anne Raffanti before writing this revealing one-act about a law-enforcement officer who realizes that the man he wants to entrap is not that different from himself. Estranged from his family, stressed-out FBI agent Richard Roe (Gregory Itzin) labors on a sting operation, visiting online chat rooms and posing as a young girl to provoke the interest of possible sex offenders. His latest assignment targets none-too-bright, middle-aged John (JD Cullum), who likes fishing and country music and whose marital sex life has stalled. But while John nurtures baneful fantasies about young teens, he does exercise self-control, trying hard to stay "just friends" with (he believes) the young female person he's met online. At his superior's insistence, however, Richard continues to entice John with revealing photos and pleas for them to meet -- all so the FBI can score an arrest. Baizley's setup is somewhat simplistic, but Itzin is riveting as a scrupulous man forced to act against his conscience. Cullum communicates smarminess and vulnerability, but his demeanor suggests he's talking to someone directly rather than communicating by email -- a fine point but one that nonetheless diminishes his credibility. Jim Holmes directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 14, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

Shades: Written by Paula J. Caplan. Starting March 23, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 24, 3 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 3 p.m.; Sun., April 14, 3 p.m. Continues through April 14. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

GO: Tomorrow: Skylight Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, and York Theatre Royal present Donald Freed's new play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 21, 702-582-8587, ktcla.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. See Theater Feature.

GO: Smoke and Mirrors: If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de force that has more "how did he do that" flashes than can be counted. The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd, and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians, Selznick has highly capable assistants -- Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel -- who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 28, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.

S.O.E.: L.A. premiere of Jami Brandli's three-character play, formerly known as The Sinker. Starting March 23, Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Mondays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 15, soetheplay.com. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical "Day on the Farm." 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.

Songs of Bilitis: French writer Pierre Louys titillated literary circles with erotic lesbian poems that he claimed were the writings of an ancient Greek courtesan. Adapted from Louys' 1891 book, this multimedia piece centers on Pierre (Christopher Rivas), a self-indulgent libertine (Louys' alter-ego?) who guzzles liquor, imbibes drugs and loves to screw his tantalizing Algerian mistress (Estela Garcia). Their sex life decelerates, however, after Pierre begins to obsess over an imaginary woman, Bilitis (Aryiel Hartman), and her carnal journey from innocent to whore. Both Rivas and Garcia are terrific as the hapless debauchee and his earthy seductress, respectively, and so long as the play loiters in Pierre's here and now, it's fun to watch. But each time Katie Polebaum's script ventures into Pierre's imagination, the production loses steam. Director Sean T. Calweti marshals some fanciful stagecraft, but it never quite coheres, nor does it compensate for a sophomoric narrative and innocuous characters. Matt Hill's fantastic videography lights up the stage; it's a feast for the eyes and deserves a better story. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 30. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.

Southern Gothic Novel: The Aberdeen Mississippi Sex-Slave Incident: Carson McCullers wrote that the essence of the Southern Gothic is a "fusion of anguish and farce that acts on the reader with an almost physical force." McCullers, of course, meant "high" Southern Gothic. This 17-character, late-night literary burlesque by solo performer/writer Frank Blocker aims somewhat lower. Any anguish here stems from the risibly purpled prose of the apocryphal potboiler he enacts, a heavy-breathing Dixie whodunit straight off the checkout of a Piggly Wiggly called The Reigns of Aberdeen. Its farcicality has less to do with its hackneyed plot or ludicrous caricature of small-town Mississippi than it does with the sheer physical dexterity of Blocker's quick-change characterizations. And though the satire tends to err on the side of the overly broad, whenever Blocker zeroes in on his target -- such as his "June Bug" chapter's incisively funny, extended parody of Steinbeckian portentousness --- the results are priceless. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 30, thevisceralcompany.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, 323-251-1154, www.undergroundtheater.com.

Spring Awakening: Book and Lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, based on the play by Frank Wedekind. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; March 26-28, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., March 30, 7 & 10:30 p.m. Continues through March 30. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, 562-944-9801, www.lamiradatheatre.com.

Sunday Night Solo Series: February 10: Lee Meriwether in The Women of Spoon River; February 17: Jim Beaver in Sidekick; Kres Mersky in Isadora Duncan: A Unique Recital; Abbott Alexander in The Nameless One; Dina Morrone in The Italian in Me; Anthony Gruppuso in The Face Behind the Face, Behind the Face; April 7: Steve Nevil in As Always, Jimmy Stewart. Sun., March 24, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., April 7, 7:30 p.m. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Tender Napalm: Written by Philip Ridley, directed by Edward Edwards. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 31, tendernapalm.com. Six 01 Studio, 601 S. Anderson St., Los Angeles. See New Reviews above.

Terminator Too Judgment Play: Interactive sci-fi spoof, from the folks who brought you Point Break Live!. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/306759. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-466-6111, www.thedragonfly.com.

Trainspotting: Irvine Welsh's novel, adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through April 13, 323-960-7785, plays411.com/trainspotting. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

GO: Tribes: Nina Raine's story of a deaf boy. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through April 14. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. See Theater Feature.

GO: The Trouble With Words: Composer and musical director Gregory Nabours' 90-minute musical is smart, sexy, funny and heartbreaking, with 18 appealing songs (five of them new for this production). Presented as the opening number, the title tune is catchy enough to hook you in immediately. The attractive and searingly talented cast of six -- Julianne Donelle, Aimee Karlin, Jamie Mills, Chris Roque, Ryan Wagner and Robert Wallace -- sings and dances their way through a thematically connected song cycle. The show dispenses with the typical musical storyline. Rather, it adroitly explores the complexities of communication in a contemporary urban world, examining issues of isolation, romance and sexual attraction. "Gotta Get Laid" is crude and hilariously forthright, while "The Busiest Corner in Town," a song about feeling alone in a bustling city, features Karlin's heart-wrenching solo backed by pretty themes on piano, strings, flute and acoustic guitar. The six equally accomplished musicians (also onstage, and led by Nabours on piano) perform everything from tender, plaintive ballads to rock-infused numbers to jazz and tango-flavored tunes. Janet Roston's choreography is sublime. The theater company does not charge for admission -- you can pay what you wish at the end of the show. And trust me, after you see The Trouble With Words, you'll be happy to open your wallet. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 31, 323-944-2165. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles.

GO: Unscreened: Four writers are represented in this evening of short plays: In Laura & Sebastian, written and directed by Daria Polatin, Sebastian (Joshua Leonard), in an effort to prove he can be spontaneous, takes Laura (Brooke Bloom), whom he has just met, to his family's cabin in the woods -- but his plans go awry when he finds his randy brother (John Forest) shtupping his girlfriend, Bliss (Kelli Garner), on the dining room table. Mallory Westfall's Tree House Apocalypse, directed by Anna Christopher, deals with Alexis (Lindsay Pearce), who, amid apocalyptic events, takes refuge in her childhood tree house, only to find it occupied by a strange young man (Chris Starr). The tense Two Clean Rooms, written and directed by Will Wissler Graham, is set in the Vietnam War era and focuses on a young officer (Robert Baker) who's accused of homosexuality, and is relentlessly hounded by a fanatical, semi-psychotic interrogating officer (Nate Corddry). The funny His Girl, written by Corinne Kingsbury and directed by Colin Campbell, examines the plight of a man (a hilariously flustered Spencer Garrett) with a penchant for S&M, who arranges a tryst with a prostitute (Lindsay Kraft) who proves to be someone he knows all too well. It's hilariously cynical, despite a last-minute turn toward sentimentality. Graham's play seems a bit dated, though it's engrossing enough, while the other plays are amusing but slight. (Neal Weaver). Mondays, Saturdays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, $25, 800-838-3006, unscreenedla.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.

Urban Death: Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through April 27. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Valentine's Triage: Frank Strausser's Valentine's Day play set in an emergency room. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 31, TheBlank.com. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.

Veronica's Room: This 1973 thriller by Ira Levin is less well known than his play Deathtrap, and methinks for good reason. An elderly couple (Karen Kahler, Patrick Skelton) invites a youthful one (Amelia Gotham, Mark Souza) to an old mansion where the former worked as servants for decades. Seeming kindly, they have a strange request: for the girl, Susan, to pose as the much-loved, long-dead sister of their cancer-ridden employer, so the old woman can die happy. Susan naively agrees and soon is propelled into a terrifying nightmare and fears for her life. Camped up, the ludicrous scenario might play well; otherwise, only masterful performances all around could make its silliness palatable. Director Dan Spurgeon deftly coordinates the action within the tiny proscenium, but the ensemble is mired in the melodrama. Production values are appropriate except for Susan's hairdo, which is way too modern for the period. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 30, thevisceralcompany.com. Underground Theatre, 1312-1314 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, 323-251-1154, www.undergroundtheater.com.

GO: Walking the Tightrope: Given that so many examples of children's theater are simply appalling -- the equivalent of Muffin the Puppet singing "Sharing Is Caring and Obey your Parents" or some such rubbish -- what a pleasure it is to see a work, aimed at a young audience, that possesses both intellectual heft and genuinely involving emotion. Playwright Mike Kenny's drama Walking the Tightrope is about grief, but the handling of the subject is deft and nuanced, while also being told from a child's point of view. The play takes place in a British seaside town, circa 1950s, as little girl Esme (a beautifully gamine but not obnoxious Paige Lindsay White) arrives for her annual visit to her grandparents. She discovers that her grandmother is nowhere to be found and her sad grandfather (Mark Bramhall) fibs that she has gone to join the circus, a lie that Esme quickly realizes is meant to keep the old man from accepting the truth himself about his wife's passing. Richly evocative, director Debbie Devine's heartfelt production is touching and truthful without descending into mawkish sentimentality. Bramhall's crusty, grieving granddad and White's thoughtfully perky Esme are great together. Tony Duran also delivers a standout turn, as the ghostly presence of the grandmother's spirit. (Paul Birchall). Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 18. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles, 213-745-6516, www.24thstreet.org.

GO: What May Fall: In Peter Gil-Sheridan's thought-provoking drama What May Fall, a man plummets to his death from a Minnesota skyscraper. It's a terrible event (particularly for the poor fellow), but the random incident becomes the inciting incident for a meditation on how death affects us all. Death, of course, is everywhere and can happen anytime -- but our reaction to it is often unpredictable. For uptight business executive Mack (Nicholas S. Williams), the man's death forces him to confront the desire of his pregnant schoolteacher wife, Jo (Alana Dietze), to abort their possibly disabled child. For Mack's executive assistant, Mercy (a delightfully nebbishy Christopher Neiman), the death provides the impetus to take control over the art he wants to create. And for Arthur (Brad C. Light), a window washer who was the closest witness to the accident, the death throws up a mix of survivor's guilt and terror over the randomness of mortality. Gil-Sheridan's crisp dialogue-driven characters are interconnected in ways that may seem a tad coincidental, but director Mary Jo DuPrey's intimate staging artfully brings to mind the mood of ensemble films by Robert Altman. Performers subtly craft characters grappling with flaws, who change following the death -- and often not in the way one expects. Particularly effective turns are offered by Williams as an engagingly uptight (and somewhat tortured) business executive, by Neiman as a frustrated and bitter assistant and by Dietze as a brittle wife. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 23, $25, brownpapertickets.com/event/328606. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.

Wolves: Steve Yockey's psychological drama. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 5. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

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