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A Preview of Weekend Reviews

Photo by Rogert Douglas

 GO BARNUM “Barnum’s my name and miracles are my game,” announces James J. Mellon as he embarks upon his portrayal of the showman in this revival of the 1980 Broadway hit musical. Mellon’s statement is not inaccurate as he and the company dazzle the audience with juggling, acrobatics, illusion and balancing acts, all while singing their hearts out. Through Cy Coleman’s music and Michael Stewart’s lyrics, we are presented with Phineas Taylor Barnum’s life from his first sideshows in the 1830s to his partnership with competitor James A. Bailey that created the world’s most famous circus. Mellon gives a performance that is reminiscent of the cheeky, childlike enthusiasm of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, with a wardrobe to match. Director-choreographer Josh Prince creates theatrical magic on Craig Siebels’ set of boisterous primary colors by employing many circusy devices and techniques. Emily Kosloski demonstrates her considerable acting and singing talents as Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, while Yvette Lawrence as Barnum’s wife, Chairy, and the versatile Robert Mammana, portraying at least seven different characters, give notable performances as well. Open At The Top at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 26. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 5. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO STONE HEART Lewis and Clark are back in Diane Glancy’s play, both portrayed by Tim Glenn. Joining them, or him, are Clark’s slave York (Jed Reynolds) and their Shoshone translator, Sacajawea (Thirza Defoe). Sacajawea was kidnapped as a child by a hostile tribe, and there’s a certain majesty to the idea of this lone teenage woman (in a traveling band of some 30 offstage men) returning to her long lost home early in the journey. She’ll be back — again — after she’s seen the Pacific and translated for the Americans en route, infant in tow. So while Sacajawea’s on an extended and arduous journey home, the benign and charming Americans pave a road of genocidal conquest. The play is an epic poem, almost entirely narrated (to the accompaniment of three musicians) in quite wonderful performances, under Randy Reinholtz’s direction. Glancy’s play is a conjuring of voices, smart and sensitive, but the presence of three actors cries for some dialogue and the enactment of conflict, rather than the mere telling of it. Also conspicuously missing is any mention of sex or sexual protocol, which played a huge role in cross-cultural understandings and misunderstandings. Still, this work-in-progress commands respect for bringing history to life in a tone that’s neither glib nor overly earnest. Native Voices at the Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 12. (323) 667-2000, Ext. 354. (Steven Leigh Morris)

A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE Oscar Wilde’s first commercial and critical success is as politically charged as it is packed with the author’s trademark razor wit. And in light of the sheer frivolity of The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s attacks on English social decorum and stuffy, old-school rhetoric here feel far more satisfying in the present day than the conniving, ironic shenanigans of his better-known works. Director John Alan Simon gives us a straightforward, compelling production that hits all of Wilde’s big points well. However, the subtle thematic undercurrents and truly hilarious punchlines are often lost to bland blocking and a general lack of cast cohesion. Strongest is Colin Evans as the young, idealistic Gerald Arbuthnot, who is provided a fantastic career opportunity only to find that it lands him in a unique moral predicament. Also noteworthy are Denise Tarr as a sinfully progressive wife and Alexander Wells as an oily aristocrat with a secret. Classical Theater Lab, 1200 N. Vista St., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 5. (323) 960-5691. (Luis Reyes)

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