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Stage Raw

Theater to See This Week, Including a Riveting Police Story

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Thu, May 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge Andrew Hawkes and Johnny Clark in VS Theater's "Cops and Friends of Cops" - KATE COMPTON
  • Kate Compton
  • Andrew Hawkes and Johnny Clark in VS Theater's "Cops and Friends of Cops"
click to enlarge stage_raw_100x100.jpeg
L.A. Weekly critic Lovell Estell III found a police melodrama Cops and Friends of Cops to be a refreshingly unpredictable new play, and made it this week's Pick. Good reviews also for Peter Pan, presented by the Blank Theatre at Second Stage, and Falling for Make Believe, a play about the theater at the Colony. For the latest new theater reviews and comprehensive region-wide listings, see below.

This week's main review looks at Marco Ramirez's The Royale at the Kirk Douglas and Theatre Movement Bazaar's Tennessee Williams riff, Hot Cat.

NEW THEATER REVIEWS PICK OF THE WEEK: COPS AND FRIENDS OF COPS: The title references the raucous "cops only" night held monthly at the tumbledown St. Louis bar in Ron Klier's suspenseful drama. While Dom (Paul Vincent O'Connor) prepares the bar for the night's guests, he is joined by the shabby-looking Paul (Johnny Clark), who insists on staying, in spite of Dom's repeated warnings that "the place is slammed with cops" and his prediction that things will "turn rowdy." After Emmett (Andrew Hawkes), plus Roosevelt (Rolando Boyce) and his soon-to-be-retired partner Sal (Gareth Williams), clamor in, the mood turns deeply malevolent -- fast. Emmett's inexplicable browbeating of Paul turns increasingly ugly and confrontational, while Sal's seemingly endless assortment of "all in good fun" racist jokes slowly begin to anger his young African-American partner. This initial ratcheting-up of tension, however, is nothing compared with what happens after a gun is suddenly produced and the reason for Paul's visit is revealed. What follows is anything but predictable. Klier's rough-hewn characters are completely convincing, and the script, in addition to forcefully probing issues of morality, bigotry, loss and redemption, takes hold and allows little in the way of relief, as does Klier's highly charged, violent staging. The ensemble work here is first-rate, while Danny Cistone nails his meticulously crafted bar mock-up, complete with pay phone and old-timey jukebox. VS. Theatre Company, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 1. (323) 739-4411, vstheatre.org (Lovell Estell III) GO: FALLING FOR MAKE BELIEVE:The Colony Theatre's latest effort isn't quite there yet: Mark Saltzman's world-premiere musical about the wordsmith half of songwriting duo Rodgers and Hart requires polishing (and a hit would help get the faltering theater back on its feet). But for music lovers and nostalgic theater buffs, this revue directed by Jim Fall offers tender moments, two dozen of the pair's greatest hits and a sobering glimpse at the backstage paradox of Lorenz Hart -- snappy wit and lyric genius but a sodden, tormented closet case. Saltzman hangs the narrative on Fletcher (Tyler Milliron), a Pennsylvania Dutch farm boy who longs to hit it big, or at least find himself a talented boyfriend. After a series of go-nowhere run-ins with Hart (Ben Goldberg), the two finally connect and the play picks up tension and momentum. Their affecting dynamic creates the evening's most potent moments, but both seem slightly miscast: Saltzman's script calls for a hunkier farm boy and a homelier lyricist. Those discrepancies should be addressed, as should an oddly layered set design that leaves intimate scenes swimming in a cavernous space. Rebecca Ann Johnson adds pizzazz as Hart's Broadway muse, along with some dreamy renditions of "Bewitched" and "Blue Moon." Colony Theatre Company, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through May 19. (818) 558-7000, colonytheatre.org. (Jenny Lower) GO:HOT CAT: Exploring the mendacity in family dynamics, unrequited sexual yearnings, and mortality with a synthesis of dance and theater. Directed and choreographed by Tina Kronis. Text by Richard Alger. Also showing as part of the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through June 1, $25; students & seniors $20. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, theatreofnote.com. See this week's theater feature. MISS JULIE What many adapters have done to maintain the potency and relevance of Strindberg's once revolutionary play is to re-contextualize it to allow us to feel even a bit of what audiences experienced in 1888. Recent versions such as Yael Farber's Mies Julie (set in South Africa), Katie Mitchell's Fräulein Julie (told from Kristine's point of view using multimedia), and Ken Roht's Miss Julie(n) (a queer take on the tale) do just that. Neil LaBute, sadly, does not, and his 1929 Long Island setting adds little to the story of dangerous liaisons between upper-class Julie (Lily Rabe) and her father's valet John, (Logan Marshall-Green), who is simultaneously engaged to Kristine (Laura Heisler), the cook. Myung Hee Cho has created a picture-perfect period kitchen, and the amped-up sexuality is affecting at times, but the latter half of the piece, directed by Jo Bonney, becomes too pensive, leaving us more relieved than bowled over at its conclusion. Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through June 2. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO: ONE WHITE CROW: Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos' drama boasts a charged debate about faith versus science that's engagingly even-handed and surprisingly evocative. Renowned TV celebrity psychic Judith Knight (Michelle Danner) offers an exclusive interview to hard-boiled reporter Teresa (Jane Hajduk), who is mystified by the request, given that she is a fierce disbeliever in the occult and is also the daughter of Christopher Hitchens-like religious skeptic Robert. Robert has recently died and Teresa is sure that Judith is scheming some sort of fake séance for PR purposes -- but the real truth turns out to be far more ambiguous and disturbing. Director Deborah LaVine's nicely character-driven staging crafts figures who represent two extreme poles of dogmatic belief -- Teresa and her Richard Dawkins-like boyfriend Alex (a nicely prickly Rob Estes) contrast arrestingly with Danner's Knight, whose inscrutable, Paula Dean-meets-carnival fortune-teller persona is fascinating. Although Stamos' plot runs out of steam at the end, and the dialogue occasionally falters into banality, the premise is enough to make the play intellectually intriguing. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. (no perfs May 10-12); through June 23. (310) 392-7327, edgemarcenter.org. (Paul Birchall)

GO: PETER PAN: THE BOY WHO HATED MOTHERS: Traditional productions of Peter Pan have relied on huge casts, acres of elaborate scenery and complicated flying apparatus, but director Michael Matthews proves that's all unnecessary in this production of Michael Lluberes' revisionist adaptation. For starters, there's a male actor, Daniel Shawn Miller, playing Peter, and a female Captain Hook (Trisha LaFache, who also doubles as Mrs. Darling); a versatile cast of seven plays all the roles. In a conventional production, all of the actors might seem miscast: They're all too big, tall, mature or muscular for their roles. But here imagination, ingenuity, exuberance and the spirit of make-believe transcend literal reality, and the result is sweet, touching and magical. Lluberes' script simplifies the play but preserves most of its values and ideas. The same actors play both the Lost Boys and the Pirates who hunt them. And the flying is handled with endearing simplicity: The flyers are lifted and carried by the ensemble. The adult actors play children with unsentimental zest. Miller's Peter is athletic, swashbuckling, egotistical and cocky, and Liza Burns' Wendy is both motherly and keenly aware of the sexual underpinnings of her interest in Peter. Blank Theatre at 2nd Stage, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 2. (323) 661-9827, TheBlank.com. (Neal Weaver) PROOF Premiering Off-Broadway at Manhattan Theater Club in 2000, David Auburn's inchoate, Pulitzer Prize-winning mix of math and mental illness is the exemplar of that theater's formula for commercial success -- a poetically pedestrian drama teased with just enough undergraduate-level name-dropping to flatter the middle brows of its New York Times-reading patrons. Eugene O'Neill it is not. And while this Whitmore Eclectic revival offers few surprises, director Aliah Whitmore's gothic-tinged staging (on Jacob Whitmore's ramshackle back-porch set) does provide a meaty acting showcase for its able ensemble. James Whitmore Jr. is sweetly cantankerous as the theoretical mathematician whose onetime genius has been claimed by schizophrenia. Daniela Ruah is the tightly coiled borderline-personality-afflicted daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's ability along with his infirmity. Dustin Seavey is the appealingly unassuming young mathematics professor whose intellectual and romantic interest could ironically hold the final proof that will confirm her worst fears. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Westlake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., through May 12. (818) 826-3609, (Bill Raden) GO: THE ROYALE: Set in the boxing world of the early 1900s, Jay "The Sport" Jackson tries to fight for his place in history, despite the racial barriers in his way. Loosely inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, the first African American sports icon. Written by Marco Ramirez. Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through June 2, $20-$50. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. See our theater feature. ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:

American Buffalo: A new stage adaptation of the 1977 Broadway classic by David Mamet, in which out-of-luck and misguided misfits plot the theft of a rare coin collection. See our stage feature. Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $47-$77. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.

The Beaux' Stratagem: Thornton Wilder and Ken Ludwig both contributed to this adaptation of George Farquhar's early-18th-century comedy, which touches on the tribulations of the unhappily married and the moral shortcomings of the privileged classes. The story features two penniless rapscallions, Jack (Blake Ellis) and Tom (Freddy Douglas), who set out to seduce rich ladies in order to gain control of their fortunes. They soon discover a plot to burglarize the home of a wealthy dowager -- a crime they view as more dastardly than their own plan to defraud by deception. Amusing, with a few hilarious moments, the play on the whole doesn't rise to the level of the best and wittiest farce. (Ludwig's second act, written 65 years after Wilder abandoned the project, is funnier and has more shtick.) The ensemble performs respectably well; Ellis in the pivotal role handles the material adeptly but is missing the kind of unique persona that would make his performance memorable. Highest praises go to comic whirlwind Deborah Strang as a mad eccentric who fancies herself a healer but who kills or maims most of her patients. Angela Balogh Calin's costumes and Monica Lisa Sabedra's hair, wigs and makeup add frivolous fun. Julia Rodriguez Elliott directs. (Deborah Klugman). Sun., May 12, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 25, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 26, 2 p.m., $40-$60. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

CAP Presents: Fuente Ovejuna: The Legend of Lauren Lopez: Young performers reinterpret a masterwork from Spain's Golden Age to address the future of Los Angeles' public schools. A production of the CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP) Theater program. Also playing at REDCAT on May 24 and 25. Fri., May 10, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 7:30 p.m., Free. Plaza de la Raza, 3540 N. Mission Road, Los Angeles, 323-223-2475, www.plazadelaraza.org.

Chess: A multicultural cast stars in this production of the 1986 musical, about a love triangle between two top chess players, an American and a Russian, competing in a world chess championship. Original book by Richard Nelson, lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, and composed by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Starting May 15, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles, 213-625-7000, www.eastwestplayers.org.

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

GO
: Eurydice
: 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 naif, 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). (Pauline Adamek). 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.

Experience The Beatles with Rain: The acclaimed Beatles cover group performs live. Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 1 & 6:30 p.m., $25-$105. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.broadwayla.org.

Falling for Make Believe: An intimate look at the life and times of lyrical genius Lorenz Hart, half of the legendary Broadway duo Rodgers and Hart. Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart. Book by Mark Saltzman. Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19, opening night $50; general performances $20-$42. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.

God's Man in Texas: If David Rambo's play were Hamlet, Claudius, rather than killing King Hamlet, would have been appointed co-monarch and merely irritated him for two hours onstage. Such a diluted version of a succession struggle, transposed to a fictional Rock Baptist megachurch, is the driving "conflict" between the elderly Dr. Gottschall (Ted Heyck) and his potential replacement, the younger Dr. Mears (Christian Lebano). Mediating their "struggle" is Hugo Taney (Paul Perri), the church's resident gopher and audio/visual specialist, who's in recovery from the excesses of his youth. He's also the resident scene stealer, as Perri plays Hugo's self-deprecation and obsession with clip-on microphones to the hilt. Lebano, who shined in Opus, has a smooth, preacherly baritone but is a bit lukewarm, while Heyck's one-note bluster and roar becomes tedious. Director Nancy Youngblut's staging employs creative elements, but her frequent blackouts exacerbate the filmic style of a script that equally suffers from characters spending too much time describing offstage events. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 18, $25; seniors $22; youth (13-21) $15; children 12 and under $12. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.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). Sat., May 11, 2 & 8 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

Habitat: In Judith Thompson's NIMBY drama, kindly Lewis Chance (Sal Lopez) opens a group home for homeless youth in a wealthy Toronto enclave, triggering all the predictable squabbles over property values, racism and good intentions. In Canada, Thompson is a major playwright known for works about marginalized figures, and through her lens this familiar outline refracts into a study of family dynamics and the hostile psychological habitats in which we trap ourselves and others. It's an ambitious approach, and the second act labors under the effort, straining too hard to provoke empathy and sacrificing character believability to politically minded artifice. The motif of monologues delivered to the invisible forces that bind, however, nicely showcases the able cast, especially Nina Silver as a woman bewildered by her status as a grown-up child and tormented by her own imperfections. (Mindy Farabee). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 12, $10-$40. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone: August Wilson's historic drama about newly freed slaves in the American North attempting to forge a new life amid emotional and financial obstacles. Directed by Phylicia Rashad. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 9. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772.

Lonesome Traveler: A journey into American folk music from the 1920's to the 1960's, spanning the United States from the hills of Appalachia to the nightclubs of San Francisco. Written and directed by Rubicon's Artistic Director James O'Neil, with musical direction by Trevor Wheetman. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19, $35-$59; students $30. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura, 805-667-2900.

The Royale: Set in the boxing world of the early 1900s, Jay "The Sport" Jackson tries to fight for his place in history, despite the racial barriers in his way. Loosely inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, the first African American sports icon. Written by Marco Ramirez. Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through June 2, $20-$50. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. See Theater Feature

Steel Magnolias: Robert Harling's story about a group of friends who gather each week at a salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana, to comfort, tease, and gossip with each other. Directed by Jenny Sullivan. Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sun., May 12, 7 p.m.; Thu., May 16, 2 p.m.; Thu., May 23, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, $35-$65. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

Three One-Act Plays by Thornton WIlder: Staged readings of The Long Christmas Dinner, The Wreck on the Five-Twenty-Five, and Infancy. Wed., May 15, 7 p.m. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, 626-356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org.

Transfiguration: Two short plays about homosexual identity: On Tidy Endings, a drama by Harvey Fierstein, and TransMe, a comedy by Rod Brumback. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 12, $30; students, seniors, veterans $20; members $15. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, www.thelatc.org.

The Women: This 1936 classic was the first American comedy about women by a woman. Written by Clare Boothe Luce, the story has sex, gossip, and romance, and is set within a world of wealthy and privileged Manhattan women. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:

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 June 5, 800-838-3006, agonyecstasy.brownpapertickets.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Alien Citizen: A funny and poignant one-woman show about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and New England. Written and performed by Elizabeth Liang. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, $20. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

GO
: The Anatomy of Gazellas
: Pregnant, suicidal teenager Alex (Elia Saldana) flees an abusive junkie mother and goes in search of her grandmother, a woman she believes to be a powerful shaman. Along the way Alex is assisted by a pair of funky spirit guides who take the shape of feisty, tough-talking grifters: Hopey (Elizabeth Francis) and Maggie (Bianca Lemaire). Alex also holes up at a halfway house for young, ex-con women, run by evangelical leader Dona Lydia (Cristina Frias), whose preaching and strict rules clash with Alex's more prosaic beliefs. A creative loner, Alex sketches gazellas -- half female, half gazelle creatures -- and wears wire horns to honor her "tribe." Janine Salinas Schoenberg's all-female, one-act drama trains its empathetic focus on the lost young women on the fringes of society, but with one hoof in a fantasy realm and the other planted in a harsh world, the parallel stories never quite jell. The assembled characters -- gang girls, street toughs and psychos -- captivate our attention despite some exaggerated performances. Saldana is good as the autistic-savant protagonist. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera stages the action well, employing surreal touches such as projected animation and water imagery to good effect, while Mylette Nora's costumes perfectly complement the characterizations. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-644-1929, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

Beirut: "Beirut" is the spiteful nickname given to a section of the Lower East Side of New York, where citizens who've been infected with an unnamed disease are tattooed and quarantined. Written by Alan Bowne. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $20. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.

Best of PlayGround-L.A.: This year's Best of PlayGround-L.A. is a distillation of the best short plays selected from more than 100 submissions and 36 works developed as part of the Zephyr Theater's Monday Night PlayGround staged reading series. The six finalists include works of tragedy-made-comedy ("Romeo and Jules" by Ron Burch), gender and identity ("Pinocchia" by Kathleen Cecchin), serial-killer whimsy ("The Kid in the Trunk" by John Corcoran), social anxiety and dial tones ("The Prince and the Closet Castle" by Andrew Crabtree), love and possibly cockroaches ("Waiting for Kafka" by Kevin Crust) and recurring nightmares of air travel ("Flight Time" by Carolina Rojas Moretti). As you may have read in these pages, it's a thankless job being a playwright in Los Angeles, so now's your best opportunity to see these labors of literary love in all their evanescent glory before their authors go back to their day jobs as contract killers or plumbers or something. (David Cotner). Mon., May 13, 7:30 p.m., $50, $100 & $150. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-9111.

GO : Brecht on Brecht: Playwright George Tabori assembled a huge master script -- too massive for inclusion in any one production -- of materials collected from the works of Bertolt Brecht. Directors are urged to make their own selection from the myriad pieces, which include poems, songs, scenes and transcripts of Brecht's wily testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. This production is selected and directed by Alistair Hunter, on the 40th anniversary of his 1973 production of the piece for the Scorpio Rising Theatre, which ran for three years in repertory. It emphasizes Brecht's role as a savage, disenchanted social critic who distrusted governments -- all governments -- and includes songs from The Three-Penny Opera, Mother Courage and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Also in the mix are "The Jewish Wife" episode from Fears and Mysteries of the Third Reich, some clever and bitterly ironic poems and amusing anecdotes, all performed with gusto and finesse by the five-person ensemble of Gil Hagen-Hill, Daniel Houston-Davila, Belinda Howell, Susan Kussman and Gregg Lawrence. While the prose selections remind us of Brecht's quieter, more thoughtful side, it's the bitterly satiric Kurt Weill songs and ensembles that prove to be the highlights. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 2, 2 p.m.; Sun., June 9, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25; students and seniors $18. Atwater Playhouse, 3191 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 323-556-1636, www.atwaterplayhouse.com.

Conversations 'Bout The Girls: Sonia Jackson's provocative exploration into the lives of young girls and women, and the relationships they have with their breasts, also known affectionately as "The Girls." Five dollars from every ticket sold benefits the Los Angeles County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 323-655-7679, www.greenwayarts.org.

Cops and Friends of Cops: A morality play about right vs. wrong, with two cops, a bartender, and a man with a secret. Written and directed by Ron Klier. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, $25. VS. Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.vstheatre.org.

GO
: Do Lord Remember Me
: During the mid 1930s, the Federal Writers' Project, at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt, undertook an extensive gathering of oral histories from former slaves about their lives. It is these voices from an ugly past that are the material for James de Jongh's stirring 1977 docudrama Do Lord Remember Me. Characters from the not-so-gallant South include the pitiless overseer; the emboldened runaway; the "house negro," as compared with the "field negroes" outside; masters, both kind and cruel; and the mother whose embittered tears cannot mask her perverse joy over the death of her baby, who is thus freed from bondage. The play tells of the ignominy of the auction block, the whippings, deprivations and suffering, and the unexpected hope and humor. The cast -- Annzella Victoria, Arthur Richardson, Virginia Watson, Alysia Livingston and Charles Mathers -- help make the evening memorable under Wilson Bell's direction. James Esposito's ramshackle slave cabin -- graced with that beckoning symbol of hearth, home and storytelling, a rocking chair -- adds a vibrant realism to the production, as does the singing of time-honored Negro spirituals and the author's fidelity to the time period's crude dialect. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.

Groundlings Prom After-Party: All-new sketch and improv, directed by Damon Jones. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through July 6. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-934-9700, www.groundlings.com.

Hemophelia's House of Horrors: A horror-themed comedy and variety show featuring seven experienced comedians and their hysterical tales of the macabre, horrifying original songs, and strange puppetry. Conceived and directed by Dan Spurgeon, sketches and songs by Matt DeNoto, puppets by Jana Wimer. Fridays, Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Continues through June 8, $15. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.

Hot Cat: Exploring the mendacity in family dynamics, unrequited sexual yearnings, and mortality with a synthesis of dance and theater. Directed and choreographed by Tina Kronis. Text by Richard Alger. Also showing as part of the 2013 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through June 1, $25; students & seniors $20. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com. See Theater Feature.

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 May 18, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Kill Me: An abstract horror play, written by Scott T. Barsotti, which examines the fuzzy lines between belief and reality. After a horrific car accident, a young woman emerges from a coma convinced that beings from another dimension have made her immortal. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 2, $20. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.

The Matchmaker: Thornton Wilder's all-American farce about love and money. Businessman and penny-pincher Horace Vandergelder searches for a wife and obtains the help of social hurricane and matchmaker extraordinaire, Mrs. Dolly Levi. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., June 15, 2:30 p.m. Continues through June 16. David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.

GO : The Miracle Worker: There's always a danger of toppling into sentimentality when retelling a story as uplifting and inspirational as the saga of blind, deaf and dumb Helen Keller and her tough, determined teacher, Annie Sullivan. Playwright William Gibson avoids that pitfall by emphasizing the humor in the situation, the stubborn cantankerousness of Sullivan (Tara Battani) and the animal desperation of the child Helen (Danielle Soibelman). These actors bring visceral intensity to the battle of wits and will that erupts when Sullivan attempts to civilize the wild child, culminating in the ferocious battle over the breakfast table. Silverware flies and crockery smashes as Sullivan fights to reach the isolated girl with nothing more than physical restraint and the sense of touch. Sullivan's struggle is even harder because she also must fend off interference from an over-indulgent mother (Catherine Gray), a willful, blustering father and a cynical, doubting brother (Tony Christopher). There's occasional awkwardness in the production, due to the difficulty of shoehorning a large, multiscene production onto a small arena stage, but director Thom Babbes elicits fine performances from the five principals. Designer Mark Svastics provides the handsome, flexible sets. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 26, $30; seniors $25; students $20. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.

Neverwhere: After assisting a distraught and injured woman named Door (Paula Rhodes), milquetoast office worker Richard (Bryan Bellomo) embarks on a journey that draws him into a fantastical, subterranean world beneath London. Neil Gaiman's Wizard of Oz-esque story promises a magical subculture of strange characters, terrifying beasts and exciting twists and turns, but director Scott Leggett's disappointing production delivers a meandering fairy tale and a series of quests that lack tension or genuine threat. The danger set up within each exposition-laden scene is resolved too quickly, before we amble on to the next mini-quest. Hot on Door's trail are assassins Mr. Croup (Ezra Buzzington) and Mr. Vandermar (Bryan Krasner) who, despite their dastardly deeds, are played too comedically to pose genuine menace. Several cast members are guilty of overacting, while most seem to be concentrating more on reproducing British accents than on clarity of expression. Michael James Schneider's cunning, stitched-together set feels underutilized. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 11, $25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

The North Plan: It's not so easy to milk laughter from a political nightmare. Or at least that seems to be the lesson offered by director David Fofi's staging of playwright Jason Wells' uneasy 2010 mix of paranoid conspiracy and black comedy. The play imagines the Department of Homeland Security engineering a coup whose success or failure pivots on retrieving an incriminating flash-drive file stolen by a dissenting State Department official (Chris Game). When he winds up in the hands of nefarious DHS agents (Dominic Rains, John Forest) at a podunk Missouri police station (on Joel Daavid's convincing set), the fate of the nation rests on whether he can enlist his thick-headed trailer-trash cellmate (Kerry Carney) to join the resistance. Though the farce fitfully kicks in with Act 2, a tediously expository first act and Carney's sledgehammer performance lends the evening all the comic appeal of Seven Days in May as played by Lucille Ball. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, opening night $35; regular performances $25; pay-what-you-can Thurs. May 2 only. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers: A dark retelling of the J.M. Barrie classic Peter and Wendy that explores the original ideas and inspirations behind the iconic fantasy of Peter Pan. Written by Michael Lluberes. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 2, $30. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

Proof: This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by David Auburn explores madness and familial relationships through troubled heroine Catherine, her estranged relatives, and her deceased father. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Fri., May 10, 8 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25; students and seniors $10. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.

Red Bastard: Audiences should be ready for anything at Eric Davis' interactive show, in which Red Bastard engages his "students" in a master class of raw conversation, provocations, traps, rewards, and catch 22's. Mon., May 13, 8 p.m., $20. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

Scooby Doo Live: Musical Mysteries: A trouble-making ghost is haunting a local theatre and Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Scooby Doo are on their way in the Mystery Machine to crack the case. A fun musical for the entire family. Sun., May 12, 12, 3 & 6:30 p.m. Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-308-6300, www.dolbytheatre.com.

Shut Up and Dance!: A one-woman show written by and starring comedian/actress/dancer Stella Valente, in which she weaves together her love of dance, upbringing in Queens, and adventures in Argentina. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 30. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

The Size of Pike: A sharply comic, coming-of-middle-age story about friendship, identity and bonds among men. Written by Lee Wochner. Directed by Sara Wagner. Recommended for mature audiences. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, $20. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-3259, www.movingarts.org.

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.

Tis Pity She's A Whore: John Ford's classic tale about incestuous lust, forbidden love, and bloody murder is staged in a 1930s mafia setting under the direction of Miranda Stewart. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, $15. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.

GO
: Trainspotting
: Director Roger Mathey and Seat of the Pants Productions return with a solid revival of their 2002 production about four lower-class Edinburgh youths prematurely entombed in a hellish world of sex, heroin addiction and violence. The story is based on the 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh (the source material for Danny Boyle's 1996 film) and adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. Mathey sacrifices nothing in the way of raw, nausea-inducing moments in this outing (shit really does fly, and there is full nudity), and this time he efficiently uses a larger cast, with some actors taking on multiple roles. Justin Zachary returns as narrator-protagonist Mark Renton, who in spite of numerous attempts at rehab can't kick the habit. Also returning are David Agranov as Mark's close friend Tommy, who eventually succumbs to heroin's lethal allure; Matt Tully as Begbie; and Jonathan Roumie as Sick Boy. In spite of the dismal subject matter, Mathey unearths some necessary humor, a lot of it coming from Mark's often ironic, understated commentary. Still, at times the Scottish accents make it near impossible to understand the dialogue (Tully often sounds like he's chewing a mouthful of oatmeal). Jason Rupert's scenic design consisting of a platform that doubles as a home interior, bracketed by two graffiti-pocked walls, is suitably raunchy. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 2, 323-960-7785, plays411.com/trainspotting. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

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.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:

American Misfit: A 1950s sock hop is the unlikely setting for playwright Dan Dietz's formally daring but sometimes bewildering meditation on this country's foundational heart of darkness. Based on the grisly, real-life predations of the Harpe brothers (Daniel MK Cohen, AJ Meijer), who terrorized Tennessee's backwoods in the 1790s, this fanciful ode to both Tocqueville and Sun Records employs a rockabilly-fueled original score (by Dietz and Phillip Owen), irreverent impersonations of famous founding fathers (by Larry Cedar and P.J. Ochlan) and a somewhat politicized reading of the Harpes to argue that, for better or worse, civilization -- and America in particular -- finds its richest expression in its most contrary and disruptive discontents. And if Dietz's nomadic reasoning holds more water as political theory than as engaging stage narrative, the combination of Michael Michetti's fertile direction, Lee Martino's thrilling swing choreography, Ann Closs-Farley's vividly imagined costumes and Omar D. Brancato's four-piece band (fronted by a smoldering Banks Boutté) goes a long way toward shoring up the leaks. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 12, $34. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.

Bullshot Crummond: A parody of a 1930s British sleuth movie, the dashing Captain Hugh "Bullshot" Crummond must save the world from his wartime adversary, while also winning the heart of a jolly nice young lady. Written by Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman, John Neville Andrews, and Derek Cunningham. Presented by Advent Theater. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1:30 p.m. Continues through May 19, $20; students and seniors $15. First Christian Church, 4390 Colfax Ave., Studio City, 818-763-8218, www.fccnh.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 May 12, crowncitytheatre.com. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-605-5685, www.crowncitytheatre.com.

The Crucible: Set in 1692 and written in reaction to the McCarthyism that gripped America in the 1950s, Arthur Miller's parable of mass hysteria offers a frightening depiction of what can happen when fear clouds fact and reason is replaced by blame. Starting May 16, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 6. The Antaeus Company and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

Displacement: A Hothouse series staged reading, written by Shauna Kandilian-Vartanian, about the story of the Russian Armenian displacement in World War II and its lasting effect on the people then, as well as the Armenian community now. Tue., May 14, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 15, 8 p.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

An Evening With Groucho- Benefit Show
: Frank Ferrante stars as Groucho Marx in this fast-paced comedy, packed with songs, stories and inspired audience interaction. Proceeds benefit Ferrante's alma mater La Salle High School and it's Art Programs. Sat., May 11, 7 p.m., groucholshs.brownpapertickets.com/. La Salle High School, 3880 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena, 626-696-4415.

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. 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 Importance of Being Earnest: Oscar WIlde's classic trivial comedy for serious people. Performed in Japanese with English subtitles projected. Starting May 11, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through May 26. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale, 818-500-7200, www.lunaplayhouse.org.

The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later: An examination of Laramie, Wyoming and its changes and adaptations since the murder of Matthew Shepard. Written by Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski, Greg Pierotti, Andy Paris, and Stephen Belber. Also playing is the companion piece, The Laramie Project. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $27-$35. The Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, 714-777-3033, www.chancetheater.com.

Low Tech: Playwright Jeff Folschinsky's confused stab at an artificial-intelligence comedy juggles a number of potentially compelling ideas, any one of which might have powered the thoughtful and penetrating critique of global smartphone dependency to which his too-brittle, overly broad science-fiction satire aspires. The freshest may be the notion of a near-future, Siri-esque "neural operating system" that results in a romance between the technology's spokesmodel (Amanda Smith) and the humanlike cognitive avatar (Fuz Edwards) that exists only in her mind's eye. Unfortunately, rather than following its twisted sociopathology -- imagine Dr. David Bowman and HAL 9000 as lovers rather than deadly antagonists -- Folschinsky squanders the premise on lowbrow sight gags, sitcom one-liners and unearned redemptions. Director Chelsea Sutton only compounds those deficits with a two-note staging (shrill and loud) that abdicates any real wit or intelligence to costumer Ken Patton's canny, retro-future homage to sci-fi films of the 1960s and '70s. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 19, $18. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.

The Owl and the Pussycat: In this comedy, two polar opposites, would-be writer Felix and would-be actress Doris bring mischief and spark into each others lives. Written by Bill Manhoff. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $20. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.

Sculptress of Angel X: This surreal but disappointingly choppy opus from playwright-director Zombie Joe is an attempt to explore that strangely thin boundary separating the creation of art from, well, the act of whoring out oneself along the boulevard. A mysterious, white-haired aesthete (Kelby Cross) spots a sexually voracious prostitute trolling her trade on the street and discovers she's actually the legendary artist Wyler Benoit (Melita Camilo), sculptress of a world renowned image of innocence, Angel X. Through a series of scattershot flashbacks, staged in director Vanessa Cate's awkwardly humorless production, we discover the cataclysmic road of excess -- hooker mom, loving but incestuous artist uncle, drug and sex addictions -- that led Wyler to her simultaneous life as artist and prostitute. Aytpically, Zombie's play is at its most engaging in the early moments, when the text and presentational style are ambiguous and open to interpretation. The underlying theme of gorgeous art arising from the chaos of sexual dysfunction is engaging, but midway through, the work adopts a more conventional narrative that devolves into glum, melodramatic cliché. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through May 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

Shakespeare's Richard III: William Shakespeare's beautiful and bloody journey of one man's rise to power and ultimate descent into madness and terror. Directed by Denise Devin. Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through June 16. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

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 June 30, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me: A story inspired by true events, about the horrors of captivity and unbreakable friendships. Three men are held captive in a 1980's Lebanese prison and are forced to cope with daily challenges, fear and uncertainty. Written by Frank McGuinness. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 2, $22. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.

Stuck In Neutral: The story of Shawn, a teenage boy with cerebral palsy who cannot communicate with anyone except the audience. Adapted for the stage by Allison Cameron Gray and Matt Chorpenning. The show is based on the novel by Terry Trueman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.

Sweet Karma: Henry Ong's drama based on true events about a Khmer Rouge survivor and Oscar winner who was tragically gunned down in the streets of Los Angeles. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 8. Grove Theater Center, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

True West: This 1980 drama puts a spin on sibling rivalry when two adult brothers experience the heavy burden of envy. Written by Sam Shepard. Directed by Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through May 25, $30; seniors and military personnel $27. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.

Urban Death: Zombie Joe's Underground's horror stories. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through June 8. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: A hit musical comedy revival about the intelligence of young people. Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Music and lyrics by William Finn. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25; students and seniors $23. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.

Annapurna: Husband and wife actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman star in this drama by Sharr White, about two old lovers who reunite for the first time in twenty years. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-04-25/stage/a-pair-of-two-person-shows-one-starring-comedy-couple-nick-offerman-and-megan-mullaly-lt-em-gt-annapurna-lt-em-gt-and-lt-em-gt-years-to-the-day-lt-em-gt-reviewed/. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 22, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 29, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Assisted Living: A funny, touching look at interpersonal relationships, written and performed by husband and wife team Paul Dooley and Winnie Holzman. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 13, $45 opening night; $25 Fridays; $30 Saturdays and Sundays. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Blood Knot: Two brothers in South Africa, one black and one who passes for white, try to move out of the ramshackle village in which they reside. Written by Athol Fugard. Directed by Oscar and Golden Globe Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast, Malibu, 310-589-1998, www.malibustagecompany.org.

Delicious Reality: Presented by TeAda Productions, directed by Corky Dominguez, and devised by its ensemble, these tantalizing tales from L.A.'s restaurant scene are the untold experiences that take place in the kitchens and dining rooms of our local restaurants. Starting May 11, Sat., May 11, 2 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 2 p.m. Continues through May 19. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-458-8634, www.milesplayhouse.org.

Embraceable Me: A story of an abiding love that begins as a mutual appreciation between two high school misfits with a common interest. Written by Victor L. Cahn and directed by Ryanne Laratonda. Fri., May 10, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., May 16, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

Glengarry Glen Ross: Joe Mantegna and Richard Dreyfuss star in David Mamet's sharply comedic Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, about small market real estate brokers who vie for big deals at a Chicago firm that sells shoddy properties. Thu., May 16, 8 p.m.; Fri., May 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 18, 6 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., May 19, 4 & 7:30 p.m. James Bridges Theater, 1409 Melnitz Hall, Westwood, 310-206-8365.

GO : Heart of Darkness: In his haunting, solo adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, playwright-actor Brian T. Finney navigates his craft directly through the work's core themes of madness, imperialistic exploitation and, well, the horror. Finney reimagines the story as monologue, artfully orchestrated by director Keythe Farley's psychologically nuanced and ferociously energetic staging. Avoiding the pitfalls of intrusive, radio drama-like narration, Finney and Farley offer a far more immersive experience -- one that is fraught with eerie melancholy. Finney, caparisoned in traditional 19th-century explorer's garb, at first plays the hero as a traditionally plummy, genially affable British sailor. But as his character's voyage up the dark river of the Congo proceeds, and he finds himself desperately interacting with the dangerously insane station chief Kurtz, the performer takes on the lunacy of his characters, creating a harrowing atmosphere with a stylized quality that almost echoes Kabuki theater. Set, sound effects and multimedia visuals are almost characters in their own right: Sibyl Wickersheimer's sole set backdrop, a series of three sails that fold in and out of each other, turning into walls at one moment and screens for contextual slides in others, is brilliantly effective. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through June 1, $35; students/seniors $30. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.

I'm Not Rappaport: A new stage production of the Tony award-winning comedy by Herb Gardner, in which seniors Midge, an African American, and Nat, a Jewish man, meet in Central Park and develop a friendship. Directed by Howard Teichman. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-02/stage/colorblind-im-not-rappaport/full/. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.

One White Crow: An investigative journalist is assigned to profile a renowned television personality and psychic medium intent on proving her powers. Written by Dale Griffiths and directed by Deborah LaVine. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through June 23, $35. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Opening Night: The West coast premiere of Norm Foster's comedy, which makes fun of an opening night at the theater, but nonetheless affirms that wonderful things happen for an audience at a live play. Starting May 16, Thu., May 16, 8 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 16. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

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 26. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Raise Me Up: Playwright Lisa Phillips Visca's elegiac but lightweight story of her parents' lifelong love affair is a warm-hearted romance that will delight fans of genial, sweetly sentimental tales. Those who seek snark and edge must look elsewhere. The play opens with an introduction featuring elderly Louis (Ben Feuer) and wife Daphne (Marla Adams) preparing for a night on the town -- but then the story flashes back to show the pair's courtship, as the younger Louis (an extremely affable Michael Marinaccio) woos the beautiful girl (fiery Serena Dolinsky) who becomes his love. The story is told from the elder couple's point of view, which gives Visca's text an appealing wisdom and gentleness. Although the work may be top-heavy with borderline-hoary stock characterizations -- Lenora May as Louis' ferocious Italian mama and Stuart Pankin as Daphne's stern Greek papa, for instance -- the performers assay the admittedly stereotyped roles with charm. Some pacing problems mar director Chris DeCarlo's staging, and the narrative occasionally drifts from the lack of underlying conflict, but the piece possesses an engagingly old-fashioned mood that feels as timeless as romance itself. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through May 19, $25; students, teachers, seniors, members of the military $22.50; children under twelve $15. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, 310-394-9779, www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.

Rank: In Irish playwright Robert Massey's dramedy, the collection of low-life characters on offer proves that one needn't have an American passport to be a scoundrel and a reprobate -- the same sort of crooked sleazes may be found even on the Emerald Isle. Carl (Kevin Kearns), a sad-sack Dublin taxi driver with a gambling addiction, is in debt to local thug boss Jackie (Ron Bottitta), who has given Carl half a day to come up with the money he owes. When Carl's father-in-law, George (David Schaal), who happens to be Jackie's former underworld ally, teams with Carl to perform a heist, double crosses ensue -- albeit of the most predictable type. Like many plays from Ireland, Massey's piece possesses a distinctive verbal style -- the dialogue is meandering, sometimes lyrical, and full of wit. However, director Wilson Milam's drab production suffers from sluggish pacing, which exacerbates awareness of the narrative's often glaring logical flaws. Performances possess an intriguing intensity suggesting danger, but it's left to Bottitta's leering, blustering, Jack Nicholson-like mob boss to carry the show with his multidimensional personality. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 12. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

What the Butler Saw: A classic British farce about a naughty physician and his secretary. Written by Joe Orton. Directed by Ben Lupejkis. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through May 26, $20; students & seniors $18. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-828-7519, www.morgan-wixson.org.

Years to the Day: A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee after only staying in touch via social media. See Stage feature: http://www.laweekly.com/2013-04-25/stage/a-pair-of-two-person-shows-one-starring-comedy-couple-nick-offerman-and-megan-mullaly-lt-em-gt-annapurna-lt-em-gt-and-lt-em-gt-years-to-the-day-lt-em-gt-reviewed/. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25-$35. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com.

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