Theater to See in L.A. This Week: Bette Midler Plays a Legendary Hollywood Agent | Page 2 | Public Spectacle | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Theater to See in L.A. This Week: Bette Midler Plays a Legendary Hollywood Agent

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Thu, Dec 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM

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MOM'S GIFT A sentimental family comedy about emotional repression, Mom's Gift mines predictable scenarios -- getting a daughter married off, engineering intergenerational détente -- for a few genuinely snappy quips and some amusing battle lines without adding up to much more. Almost a year after her mother was killed by a drunk driver, tightly wound Kat (Gina Yates) returns home to celebrate her father's birthday. She finds there the usual sorts of guests: her ditzy younger sister, Brittney (Trisha Hershberger); Kevin (Cyrus Alexander), the neighbor she grew up crushing on; and Trish (Lisa McGee-Mann), the amiable home-care nurse who helped out after the accident. There's also one rather surprising visitor -- the ghost of her dead mother, sent back from the beyond with vague orders to right some wrongs and a mandate to rope Kat into her mission. Nice pacing, a soupçon of red herrings and a couple mild plot twists move the production along, but ultimately it lacks both real drama and credible warmth. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Jan. 19. 818-700-4878, thegrouprep.com. (Mindy Farabee)

GO THE MYSTERY PLAYS

click to enlarge Alex Taber (left, on bike) and Devereau Chumrau - JEREMY ANDORFER
  • Jeremy Andorfer
  • Alex Taber (left, on bike) and Devereau Chumrau

Leave it to horror specialists the Visceral Company to concoct the perfect corrective to the season's saccharine tide of Christmas stage fare with director Christopher Basile's deftly mounted, minimalist revival (skillfully accented by Ric Zimmerman's low-key lighting) of playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's arresting duet of haunting -- and haunted -- one-acts. The haunting comes in "The Filmmaker's Mystery" when chance leaves a Lovecraftian movie director (Daniel Jimenez) the sole survivor of a holiday train disaster and he finds himself the object of a spectral stalker's (Michael Mraz) mysterious obsession. The haunted appears in "Ghost Children" in the person of a New York attorney (Devereau Chumrau) who is forced to confront a long-suppressed truth when she flies back to Oregon to assist in the sentence-reduction appeal of her brother (Alex Taber), imprisoned for slaying their abusive parents and an innocent younger sister 15 years before. Aguirre-Sacasa's engaging homage to the Amicus portmanteau horror films of the 1960s is elevated by a supremely accomplished ensemble (including versatile standout Frank Blocker) tackling multiple roles in a wryly poetic, keenly probing and spooky meditation on the unspoken fears ("the world beneath the world," as one character puts it) that power fictional mysteries and spur seemingly senseless, real-world frights. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 29 & Jan. 5, 3 p.m.; through Jan. 5. thevisceralcompany.com. (Bill Raden)

GO: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER

click to enlarge Megan Stern and Joey deBetterncourt - JENNY ANDERSON
  • Jenny Anderson
  • Megan Stern and Joey deBetterncourt

Much like the dastardly pirates terrorizing the high seas in his fun Peter and the Starcatcher, playwright Rick Elice has ransacked the best of British kids lit, giving us plucky, pint-sized sleuths fresh from the Boy's Own adventures and larger-than-life characters straight out of rowdy pantomimes. Based on the 2006 novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, the tale is an imagined prequel to one of England's most beloved plays, Peter Pan, Or, The Boy Who Never Grew Up. A trio of orphans, including a forlorn nameless Boy -- later Peter (Joey deBettencourt) -- are enlisted into service aboard the good ship Neverland, bound for exotic lands and bearing a precious cargo. Boy meets the Captain's daughter, Molly (Megan Stern), and they both escape to a mysterious island when pirates take her father's ship. No wires or stage trickery for this Peter, though. The low-tech staging (by co-directors Roger Rees and Alex Timbers) is fresh and inventive, employing the simplest of devices, such as a rope held aloft to represent the crowded confines of a ship's cabin. The cast of 12 tilts and leans in unison to suggest the passage of the ship over uneven seas, and nimbly skips through a hundred different characters. The show is extra kid-friendly, with vomit, fart and poop jokes abounding, plus schoolboy pranks, silly puns and pratfalls. Two musicians perform gorgeous live music and sound effects from their proscenium perches above the stage. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn. Check website for schedule; through Jan. 12. (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. (Pauline Adamek)

SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER

click to enlarge Ri Versteegh and Lane Compton - AGNES MAGYARI
  • Agnes Magyari
  • Ri Versteegh and Lane Compton

As the saying goes, "Amor vincit omnia" -- love conquers all -- and Cupid does have the last word in Don Nigro's perplexing romantic drama, directed by Matt Doherty. Ben (Lane Compton) is a reclusive writer whose sedate life is disrupted when he rescues a drowning woman and takes her to his ramshackle beach house. In short order, Tracy (fine performance by Ri Versteegh) proves that no good deed goes unpunished, as she starts ordering Ben around as if he were a lowly servant, indulging in cruel mind games, continually hurling invectives at him and even bloodying his nose. He takes all this with the graceful forbearance of Job, and eventually the pair strike up a love relationship, but Tracy's painful past and deep emotional lacerations only worsen the abuse. Even after two months, the seeming pleasant domesticity that opens Act II rapidly implodes. What exactly is the connection between these opposites? It isn't made clear, and that makes Ben's saintly behavior under near constant fire seem all the more bizarre and unpersuasive. Had the playwright added more psychological depth and context to these characters, the story would have greater resonance. The Santa Monica Little Theater, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., Sawtelle District; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through Dec. 15. (310) 622-4482, theblackboxtheater.org. (Lovell Estell III)

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