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Theater Listings

Opening This Week

BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON Broad comedy and painful irony bring to life the tale of the larger-than-life Andrew Jackson. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Opens Jan. 20; perfs Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 17. No perfs Feb. 5-8. (213) 628-2772, www.­centertheatregroup.org.

THE $4 MILLION GIVEAWAY Art Shulman's seven-character murder mystery. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 8. (818) 700-GURU, www.lcgrt.com.

FRANKIE & JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE Diner waitress Frankie and short-order cook Johnny, both middle-aged, question the limits of love. Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Opens Jan. 19; perfs Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. thru March 1. (323) 960-7863, www.plays411.com/frankie.

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH The hit rock musical tells the story of the botched sex change of Hedwig Schmidt. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 11 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 960-1055, www.­plays411.com/hedwig.

THE LAST DAYS OF DESMOND NANI REESE: A STRIPPER'S HISTORY OF THE WORLD A young feminist academic conducts a series of interviews in 2014 in a post-quake, post-drought L.A. with a legendary 108-year-old stripper. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A. Opens Jan. 19; perfs Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 23. (323) 653-6886.

THE LAST DAYS OF JUDITH ISCARIOT A dark and comedic tale examining the limbo between heaven and hell. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 960-7827, www.­plays411.com/lastdays.

MARAT/SADE The persecution and assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as performed by the inmates of the Asylum of Charenton. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 16. (323) 667-0955, www.­knightsbridgetheatre.com.

PROVE IT ON ME New Orleans voodoo and Harlem blues come together with a romance of a white socialite and black blues singer. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. Opens Jan. 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 2. (323) 960-7721, www.­plays411.com/proveit.

RAY BRADBURY'S INVISIBLE BOY An evening of three short plays based on Bradbury's stories. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. Opens Jan. 19; perfs Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 9. (323) 960-4451, www.­plays411.com/raybradbury.

R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: THE HISTORY (AND MYSTERY) OF THE UNIVERSE A portrayal of the groundbreaking inventor, engineer and inventor drawn from his writings and life. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. Opens Jan. 19; perfs Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (805) 667-2900, www.­rubicontheatre.org.

THE ROAD TO RMI The tale of an alcoholic doctor and his troubled teenage son. LIZARD THEATER, 230 W. Main St., Alhambra. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 9. (626) 403-1177, www.­lizardtheater.com.

ROMEO'S GHOST A romantic mystery with an eerie appearance by a supernatural force. Complex Theater, 6470 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd. Opens Jan. 19; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 9. (818) 786-1045, www.­romeosghost.com.

SAY YOU LOVE SATAN A gay occult comedy about the affable Andrew and his boyfriend of the damned. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 525-0600 ext.2, www.­plays441.com/satan.

VINCENT Leonard Nimoy's play delves into the close relationship of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (310) 393-3018, tickets@­theatreforasmallspace.com.

WHITE TRASH CATHOLIC CIRCUS Amy-Louise Sebelius' one-woman show (with six other actors) about Jesus, road trips, grad school and '80s music, naturally. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. Opens Jan. 18; perfs Fri.-Sat., 10 p.m.; thru Feb. 16. (562) 852-6821, www.­tix.com.

Larger Theaters

A CHARLIE JAMES BROWN CHRISTMAS This new holiday effort by the Troubadour Theater Company is a loving poke at Charles Schulz's TV cartoon classic featuring characters from his "Peanuts" strip. Schroeder (Matthew Morgan) tinkles out Vince Guaraldi noodlings on a tiny piano, and soon, the program swings into gear, powered by hits from soul godfather James Brown. The show is funny, but even at under an hour and a half seems 20 minutes too long. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 4 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (818) 955-8101. (SM)

CINDERELLA New take on the classic tale, music and lyrics by Lloyd J. Schwartz. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A., Sat., 1 p.m.; thru March 29. (323) 851-7977.

 

THE COLOR PURPLE Book writer Marsha Norman and composer-lyricists Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray's stage adaptation of Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a surprisingly faithful and melodic compression of Walker's epistolary narrative about a Southern black woman (Jeannette Bayardelle) beaten down almost from birth, but whose resilience allows her to survive. Although Act 2 suffers from an inevitable sugar rush, director Gary Griffin gets great efforts from a huge ensemble. A Center Theatre production. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Sat., 6:30 p.m.; Thurs., March 6, 2 p.m.; thru March 9, no eve perfs Feb. 3 & March 9. (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. (SM)

THE DEADLY GAME James Yaffe's mystery-thriller reflects the bleak view of its source material, Friedrich Dürenmatt's novel Trapps. In a chalet in the Swiss Alps, a group of retirees acts out trials of their own devising — assuming that everyone is guilty of something. Unfortunately the thrills are few, and director Autumn Browne's production often fizzles. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 3. (562) 494-1014. (NW)

A FEMININE ENDING Plays about music are notoriously disappointing, and Sarah Treem's wry meditation on the challenges facing a young "classical" composer about to marry a pop star proves no exception. Treem aims for profundity, but only truisms emerge from her intermittently engaging discourse on talent and compromise. The shortcomings are elemental, for we never learn why Amanda (a perky Brooke Bloom) wants to write symphonies and concertos, or what she hopes to express through music — only that she wants to be famous. And why is Amanda an oboist? Most composers play the piano or a string instrument. Amanda's scrumptious fiancé, Jack (the hunky Peter Katona), exists mostly as eye candy, parading around in black briefs for one, um, arresting scene. His rival, Billy (Jedadiah Schultz in Dennis Miller mode), is little more than a plot device, albeit a welcome funny one. Only the radiant Amy Aquino — as Amanda's mother, Kim — truly enlivens things. Overbearing but loving, Kim tries to get Amanda to chart her own course and not make the same mistakes she did. Director Timothy Douglas moves both actors and props easily about SCR's typically well-appointed stage, but he never makes us believe a thing. SOUTH COAST REPERTORY, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Tues.-Sun., 7:45 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 27. (714) 708-5555. (David Mermelstein).

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ORSON'S SHADOW The tale of two Hollywood giants, Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier, written by Austin Pendleton. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. thru Feb. 17. No perfs Feb. 6 & Feb. 13, 8 p.m.; added perf Feb. 6, 2 p.m. (626) 356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.

TRANCED Playwright Bob Clyman poses the question of what it takes to make Americans care about troubles in remote Africa. Interestingly, in his attempt to meet this challenge, he imagines that over-earnest psychological drama is the answer. After a series of panic attacks, a educated, westernized African woman (Eric Tazel) seeks help from a psychiatrist (Thomas Fiscella) to cope with a heinous atrocity committed by an African president who's an American puppet — or is she lying? Under Jessica Kubzansky's efficient direction, the entire enterprise devolves into a polemic devoid of emotion. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 3. (949) 497-2787. (TP)

GO WICKED In this musical riff on the witches of Oz (by Stephen Schwarz and Winnie Hollzman), Joe Mantello directs a marvelous spectacle that looks like a diversion but is actually quite the opposite. Eden Espinoza as the green-skinned, bespectacled girl-witch Elphaba has a contagiously smart appeal. After recognizing that Elphabas not going to power-play along with the Wizard's (John Rubinstein) Stalinist shenanigans, Mrs. Morrible (the delightful Carol Kane), starts a witch hunt for the girl, and the whole thing starts to resemble some of the tawdrier chapters in American history. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m. (213) 365-3500. (SLM)


Smaller Theaters

Hollywood, West Hollywood, Downtown

ALL THIS, & HEAVEN TOO"I stopped believing in things when Diana Ross started playing rodeos," laments aging queen Terry (Sammy Williams), who along with his band of gay brothers has seen better days. Now all over 40, they've assembled to honor the just-deceased Boomie (James Warnock). Over the course of Dick DeBenedictis' 10 breezy musical numbers, they mourn the end of the disco era and wax nostalgic for the bathhouses of yore. Though its heart is in the right place, Bill Dyer's play seems like a time capsule, a comfort food buffet of soft shoe numbers and references to the Andrews Sisters. Macha Theatre (formerly the Globe Playhouse), 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 27. www.­plays411.com/heaventoo. (323) 960-7829. (AN)

 

ANYTHING In Tim McNeil's comedy, Early Landry (McNeil) is a transplanted Southerner still grieving for his wife, while also tamping down the demons that have caused him to attempt suicide four times. His next-door transvestite prostitute neighbor Freda (Louis Jacobs) has just been dumped by her more-or-less straight boyfriend (Max Williams). The rebounding Early and Freda take a while to reach eye level for the romance that inevitably follows. McNeil and Jacobs are personable actors, but David Fofi's direction doesn't nudge them off their single-note performances. An Elephant Theater Company production. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (323) 960-4410, www.plays411.com/anything. (SM)

GO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN Paul Oakley Stovall's extended one-act looks at an African-American family that's been affected, over time, by its various members' homosexuality, light skin and dubious parenthood. Instead of a potboiler, Stovall delivers a quiet, achingly humorous study. Director Krissy Vanderwalker has assembled a sparkling and self-confident cast. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 27. (323) 957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com. (SM)

GO BIG BABY Joe Keyes' "serio-comedy" unfurls in a cramped Midwestern apartment shared by Kile (Keyes) and his diminutive, gray-haired mother, June (Danielle Kennedy). This is a couple with colossal issues, and they wear them like comfortable old shoes. Mom is a staunch, churchgoing Catholic who endured an abusive marriage, and constantly fawns over and coddles her grown son. Kile is a scary bundle of pent-up energy and frustration who paces like a caged animal, stays medicated on a bevy of drugs, and frequently gets physical or argues vociferously over the merest trifle. And for most of this 90-minute play, the pair's verbal judo is pretty much what transpires, although Keyes makes the familiar Odd Couple domestic scenario work, thanks to witty writing. Kile's state of perpetual loneliness is unexpectedly transformed when, in a fit of rage, he hurls a broom out of the door and accidentally bloodies the nose of his new neighbor, Nancy (Chloe Taylor). As it turns out, she's got her own emotional baggage, but things really turn funny — and kinky — when Kile discovers that she's a hard-working dominatrix. Notwithstanding a touch of sitcom banality, the script offers its share of laughs, and the three actors perform well under Matt Roth's direction. LOUNGE THEATRE, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 9. (323) 960-5563. (Lovell Estell III).

CHICAGO CLUB RUMBOOGIE Jerry Jones' gangster drama. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Feb. 17. (323) 549-9026.

THE COMMON AIR Six characters in search of an airport departure, by Alex Lyras and Robert McCaskill. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 24. (323) 960-4443, www.thecommonair.com.

EDGE Poet Sylvia Plath (Angelica Torn) starts writer-director Paul Alexander's one-woman play at the brink of suicide, before walking us through the 30 years that led up to that moment. Torn seldom changes tone, except at Plath's visit to her father's grave, when the performance moves from bravado to bravura. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 2. (310) 477-2055. (SM)

THE GAY MAFIA: NU-QUEER WINTER In the old Mickey and Judy movie musicals, "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" provided sufficient purpose to get them through the final credits, but in the real world one hopes for something a little more substantial. The cast are bright and energetic, and the material is fairly amusing but so evanescent that two days later I could barely remember it. Going through my mind at the end was a familiar British locution: "What's this in aid of?" Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m. thru Jan. 23. www.thegaymafia.net. (NW)

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HARM'S WAY Shem Bitterman's play is a thoughtful, stateside view of America's actions in Iraq, centered on an Army atrocity that is investigated by a military father (Jack Stehlin) whose daughter (Katie Lowes) falls in love with the case's chief suspect (Ben Bowen). While it doesn't completely fulfill its dramatic potential, the two-hour show, directed by Steve Zuckerman, mostly avoids editorializing, preferring instead to question how good people do terrible things. A Circus Theatricals Studio Theater production. Hayworth Theater, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 9. (323) 960-1054. (SM)

 

GO HARRISON, TEXAS Playwright Horton Foote's serious and unsentimental comedy about small-town living, composed in three one-acts. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Feb. 17. (800) 595-4849, www.­harrisontexas.org See Stage feature.

IL BIDONE Frederico Fellini's drama adapted for the stage. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. Previews Jan. 17 & 18, 8 p.m. (213) 389-3856, www.­rushforthproductions.com.

GO THE LAST SCHWARTZ In her witty, thoughtful play, Deborah Zoe Laufer questions the role of family and religious traditions. As the Schwartz children gather in their now empty childhood Catskills home to honor their father's Yarzheit (the one-year anniversary of his death), an outsider stirs up issues the family prefers left undisturbed. Lee Sankowich's direction is first-rate and designer Giulllio Perrone's set suggests an atmosphere of barrenness, an apt metaphor considering the clan's regretful past and uncertain future. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 852-9111. (MH)

LOVE LOVES A PORNOGRAPHER Jillian Armenante directs a perfectly calibrated send-up of English gothic lit in Jeff Goode's new play. The lord and lady of the manor (William Salyers and Gillian Doyle) invite neighbors Miles and Millicent Monger (Jim Anzide and Johanna McKay) for a friendly game of blackmail. Loveworthy is a novelist; Monger, a cleric and viperous literary critic for The Times. Jokes abound about venomous literary critics when most newspaper's book sections are now being eviscerated; the gender superiority of stupid men, and the moral hypocrisy of the English upper class. Are these tired themes worth all these resources? That said, the acting and set are terrific. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (323) 461-3673. (SLM)

METAMORPHOSES Made up of a dozen or so tales, Mary Zimmerman's alternately funny and sorrowful adaptation of Ovid's classic poem relays centuries-old myths with a whimsical and contemporary twist. Laced with erotica, the action takes place in and around a pool of water in which the performers wade and cavort. The small space is imaginatively compensated for with gauzy fabric, stringed lights, and a few colorful slides and props. An Artbrawl production. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (DK)

THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD Instead of Adam and Eve, we have Adam and Steve. There's also Jane and Mable. The gay duos get kicked out of the Garden of Eden and together discover the unfolding world. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A. Thurs., Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 3. (323) 465-0800.

NAKED YOGA Writer-director Alex Carver's comedy, set in an L.A. apartment, follows a nebbishy 30-year-old writer named Aaron (Boomie Aglietti) through his romance with a 23-year-old yoga practitioner named Suzanne (the feisty Danielle Hartnett). Faster than you can say "manipulation," Suzanne has moved in "just for a week," has transformed his clothing style and plays a coy game of talking forthrightly about sex while keeping the deed in abeyance. The play hangs on the question of Suzanne's motives, but she has no foil in shell-shocked Aaron. UNKNOWN THEATER, 1110 N. Seward St., Hollywood; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24 (9 p.m. on Feb. 3). (323) 960-5770. www.unknowntheater.com. (SLM)

QUEEN CHRISTINA GOES ROMAN QUEEN CHRISTINA GOES ROMAN Howard Casner's drama suffers from so much exposition of offstage events that not even this play's time-traveling gays can resuscitate it. Inspired by her lover, Sister Gizelle (Konima Parkinson-Jones), Queen Christina (Julie Burrise) converts to Catholicism. She summons Pope Julius II (Donaco Smyth), who's accompanied by his lover, Father Sebastian (Levy Baguin), and also by Roy Cohn (Thomas Colby, in a scenery-chewing performance). While eager for her conversion, the hypocritical men want her to keep her lesbian relationship secret, as does Tchaikovsky (Gregory Blair). Enter King Edward II (Mikhail Blokh), wearing black chaps and a matching crown, who's determined to convince Christina that it is her duty to go public. Blokh brings some much-needed energy to the play, and some of his banter with Burrise's starry-eyed queen hints at the play's potential. But too many cell-phone calls to an offstage Oscar Wilde drive the plot. To compound matters, the play is slackly directed by Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings and Thomas Colby. The costumes by Allan Jensen and Azniv Azizyan, however, provide some much-needed eye candy. Halstead Street Productions at THE COMPLEX, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 18. (213) 304-1063 or halsteadstreet@aol.com. (Sandra Ross).

 

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeve's role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. The city's banks are being hit by a gang of robbers known as the Ex Presidents, surfers who always wear the masks of former chief executives while making their withdrawals (in this version Ms. Condi Rice makes an appearance). Utah gets his man, but not before a Grand Guignol scene of blood and guts that's so hideously over the top you can't stop laughing. Charlie O's Lounge, Hotel Alexandria, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (866) 811-4111, www.CharlieOsLounge.com. (LE3)

POST MORTEM Remember when 2008 seemed a million years away? A.R. Gurney's It Happened Here one-act (first produced in 2006) has some fun imagining a religiously authoritarian America of 2015, as well as its antidotal year of 2027. Alice (Anna Nicholas) teaches English at "a faith-based state university in the Midwest," where she fends off the amorous impulses of a graduate student named Dexter (Alan Bruce Becker). Dexter has an ace up his sleeve — he's discovered the last play written by A.R. Gurney, whose name, a mere seven years from today, can be located only in a directory called Minor Figures in American Drama. "You mean there was someone named Gurney who wrote plays?" asks Alice. There are 75 minutes more of this kind of self-referential gag, along with jokes about The New York Times, public television and theater critics. The biggest one involves the recovered Gurney script, titled Post Mortem, which turns out to be an impassioned plea against Bush-era intolerance; thanks to Alice and Dexter, the script eventually single-handedly rolls back the neocon ice age, ushering in a feel-good epoch of political moderation. The "real"Post Mortem is more than just another contemporary burp of liberal indigestion, since Gurney has Alice (now famous and married to Dexter) ask, What will Americans substitute for the Christian right's agenda and how will it keep the latter completely at bay? Unfortunately, Gurney's good at asking the question but not at answering it, except to quote from A Streetcar Named Desire. Worse, having his characters go on prolonged rants against cell phones suggests he's not very good at predicting the future — or estimating the present. The acting, under Jared Barclay's direction, is reminiscent of a long comedy sketch — which is perhaps the best description of this play. Insight America at the LYRIC-HYPERION THEATER CAFE, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 17. (800) 595-4849. (Steven Mikulan).

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GO SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK LIVE! The 19 ditties belted out by Chad Borden, Tameka Dawn, Antoine Reynaldo Diel, Eduardo Enrikez, Elaine Loh and Susan Rudick are one-third of the entire output of the beloved '70s and '80s kids program and, as such, they cover a lot of educational ground. While the lyrics are often so mumbled that the exact definition of a pronoun is indecipherable, the tots in the surprisingly hipster-free matinee audience were downright giddy about multiplying by fives. Director Mark Savage and choreographer Brian Paul Mendoza keep the mood peppy without parody. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sat., 4 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (323) 655-7679. (AN)

SERIAL KILLERS"Five stories. Five cliffhangers. Only three can continue." Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A. Sat., 11 p.m. (310) 281-8337.

GO SHUT UP AND EAT YOUR GROUNDLINGS The Groundlings' pipeline to SNL has much to do with their predilection for skits with supersized characters butting heads with the normals. This latest rapid-fire barrage serves up unhinged ex-football jocks, sashaying "house whisperers," and hopelessly square dads begging their sons to define the etymology of phrases like "That's so Raven!" Under Karen Maruyama's fast-clipping direction, it's almost all amusing, but the best skits shake off the formula and find sublime idiocy, absurdity, and awkwardness. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (323) 934-9700. (AN)

STANDING ON MY KNEES The primal, upsetting forces that lead to art also hold the power to decimate mental stability. Such is the paradox in John Olive's intriguing 1982 study of a published minor poetess, Catherine (Meg Wallace), struggling with prescription Thorazine for schizophrenia. The drug may keep the demons at bay, but it similarly bars the inspiration that gives Catherine's poetry its flight. The play begins in Catherine's "artist garret" bedroom as she's recovering from a breakdown. It then takes us through her plateau of comparative normality — including a desk job offered to Catherine by her pushy publisher, Alice (Rachel Hardy) — and a kind of artistic stagnation that leads to her defying her doctor's (Barbara Keegan) orders by cutting back on the drug, and consequently careening toward another breakdown. Through this, she engages in a doomed romance with a smitten, bewildered stockbroker (Brian Barth) — an affair that more or less defines the play's trajectory. Act 1 is a long setup with scant dramatic action that hangs (barely) on exposition about the big "S" disease, symptoms of which are muted by the Thorazine. In Act 2, hell breaks loose, which justifies the wait. Wallace's quality of demure sweetness yields to bouts of rabid hostility and implosions of confidence, matched by Barth's kindly incomprehension of just about everything that means something to Catherine, from her love of dissonant classical music to the flows of dark energy that drive her poetry. As the publisher, Hardy pushes Alice's pushiness like a broom clearing the path of her ambitions — more plausible than textured. Nice turn by Keegan as the shrink who, under Trace Oakley's direction, gingerly negotiates the transformation from every Lifetime movie shrink into an elfin cartoon from some Christopher Durang farce — a figment of Catherine's tortured imagination. Oakley's basic staging contains no bravura performances, yet it's capable enough to hold its own. Collaborative Artists Ensemble at the GARDNER STAGES, 1501 N. Gardner St., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perfs Sun., Feb. 10 & 17, 8 p.m.); thru Feb. 17. (323) 860-6569. (Steven Leigh Morris).

 

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. STEVE ALLEN THEATER, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

GO THE VAMPIRES Writer-director Chris Berube's play works best as melodrama detailing several love stories. It has a great twist: The audience ends up rooting for the vampires because the drama is largely told through their embattled point of view. With no elaborate scene changes, director Berube keeps the action moving at a galloping pace, although there were some dropped lines and quick recoveries on the night this critic attended. THE NEXT STAGE, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (323) 850-7827. (SR)

The Valleys

ARE YOU DELICIOUS? New comedy by Dynamite Kablammo about Edgar Allan Poe, pirates and underground dwelling creatures, oh my. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues., 8:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. (818) 202-4120, www.Zombiejoes.com.

A DOLL HOUSE Blame Oprah that Henrik Ibsen's melodrama about a sheltered wife who empowers herself by leaving her paternalistic husband has irrevocably lost its shock value. What remains is a fatalistic, long-winded and aging play that needs a fresh approach. Aramazd Stepanian's production, updated to the 1950s, draws the play into the world of an I Love Lucy episode: Georgan George's Nora is a dizzy schemer with flaming red hair and pearls. This approach would be worth exploring more deeply. Instead, this friendly but tepid revival simply can't shake off the dust. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 19. (818) 500-7200. (AN)

GO KERR PACKAGE Kerr Seth Lordygan's four one-acts offer sharp wit and a handful of excellent performances. "Two Jews and a Ham," directed by Joel Rieck, deals with the perplexities of an Orthodox Jewish couple (Jody Fasanella and Marc Segal) when they're given a huge ham by an oblivious neighbor (Aurora Nibley). Kevin Fabian directs "List," in which Rendell (Kevin Blake) and his wife (Kylie Delre) prepare "to do" lists: Each nominates three famous people they'd happily bed if the opportunity arose. Trouble begins when Rendell actually meets rock star Lana (played as an imperious, self-absorbed sex kitten by Rachel Castillo), who's on his list. Blake reappears as retired hit man Stan in "The Hit," directed by Julie Anne Bermel. Stan is disconcerted when a mild-mannered, "nice" but volatile young man (Jason Britt) appears at his door to persuade him to make one last — and highly unorthodox — hit. The horror-fantasy "Deceaseport," directed by Heather Holloway, is the most ambitious but the least satisfying of the plays. In it, a recent rape/murder victim (Delre), assisted by a crew of lost souls, returns from limbo to wreak bloody vengeance on her attackers. In an able cast, the standouts are Blake and Britt, who also mesh beautifully in "The Hit." ECLECTIC COMPANY THEATRE, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., N. Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (818) 508-3003 or www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org. (Neal Weaver).

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GO LEADING LADIES An exceptional performance can transform unexceptional material into a winning show — rarely better illustrated than with R. Christofer Sands' scintillating turn in playwright Ken Ludwig's farce. Sands plays Leo, a desperate down-and-out Shakespearean actor who — along with his reluctant partner, Jack (Tim Coultas) — dons women's clothes in order to masquerade as the female beneficiaries of a dying heiress. The scammers' plan to score bigtime turns tricky after they both fall in love. Leo inconveniently tumbles for the rich woman's niece, Meg (a deliciously calibrated Elaine Capogeannis), who is soon to be married; this compels him to relaunch his male persona in an effort to romance her away from her stuffy fiancé (Frank Dooley). Despite clever moments — a fencing duel played out to scrambled Shakespeare — the humor often lacks a fresh edge, pivoting around the familiar sight gag of a male squirming uncomfortably in female drag. Ludwig even fobs off Some Like It Hot in the power dynamic he sets up between the two tricksters. Sands, however, is so brilliantly manic, he impeccably captures the brash but conflicted con man, so that even blatantly derivative riffs translate into riotous comedy. Capogeannis and Jen Gabbert, as Jack's ebullient love interest, both hit their comic marks. Other performances are progressing at various stages. Directed by Ken Salzman, the production comes appealingly packaged with designer David Calhoun's attractive set and Lois Tedrow's smart and suitable period costumes, which range from faux Elizabethan to the 1950s. SIERRA MADRE PLAYHOUSE, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 23. (626) 256-3809. (Deborah Klugman)

 

GO PAGING DR. CHUTZPAH Inspired by '60s sex farces and ribald vaudeville skits, playwright Mark Troy's comedy is a romp that rolls by on director Lynne Moses and her cast's commitment to the play's zany shenanigans. Dr. Lester Oronofsky (Marq Del Monte) is considered the top psychiatrist in Manhattan. But one wonders how he hasn't gotten slapped with a sexual-harassment lawsuit due to his predilection for seducing his patients. You're in for a wacky night, punctuated by Troy's snappy one-liners, Moses' breezy staging, and Del Monte's lecherous leer and Yiddish kvetching. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (818) 558-5702. (MH)

RUMPLESTILTZKEN Dwarf helps girl spin straw into gold. WHITEFIRE THEATRE, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 10 a.m.; thru Feb. 23. (310) 285-5160, www.bubblegumplayhouse.com.

WIT Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize winner about a cancer patient. CHANDLER STUDIO THEATRE CENTER, 12443 Chandler Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 16. (800) 838-3006 or www.­theprodco.com.

Westside, Beaches

GO ALICE SIT-BY-THE-FIRE J.M. Barrie's 1919 comedy is a far more earthbound affair than his earlier success, Peter Pan, yet it still provides a sweet concoction of precocious observations, misinterpreted dialogue and send-ups of contemporary melodrama. Director Joe Olivieri delivers a production that is neither taxidermied relic nor overly precious giggle-fit, and gets a fine comic performance from Wigell. Barrie's play floats through its three acts — a harmless bubble that perhaps stirred the ribald histrionics of Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw and many another later farce. PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (310) 822-8392. (SM)

@HEART J-Powers' epistolary drama uses e-mail and instant messaging to tell an old-fashioned story of love and war. Following 9/11, idealistic young Harris (Mikey Myers) feels like he must do something, so he enlists in the Army, with the wholehearted support of his doting wife, Jennifer (Jessica McClendon). The moral of J-Powers' drama — caught between a tear-jerker and a polemic — seems to be that warrior adventuring is ultimately vanity, while the brave are often left behind. Director Paul Linke's static production mainly consists of the two performers seated behind a pair of laptops. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 10. (310) 397-3244. (PB)

GO THE BALD SOPRANO Even in Eugene Ionesco's bizarre world, a good laugh is still a good laugh, thanks to director Frederique Michel's assured staging that comes marbled in cool irony. A middle-aged couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Jeff Atik and David E. Frank in drag), relaxes in a suburban living room not far from Paris. Suddenly, the Smiths' friends, Mrs. and Mr. Martin (Cynthia Mance and Bo Roberts), show up on the doorstep — and soon the characters are babbling and ejaculating random bits of nonsense. Michel sets Ionesco's wonderfully random and playful plot with impeccable comic timing. CITY GARAGE, 1340½ Fourth St. (alley), Santa Monica; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 3. (310) 319-9939. (PB)

THE CAVALIER JEW A tale of sibling rivalry written, directed and performed by Jon Ross. Fanatic Salon Theater, 3815 Saw­telle Blvd., Mar Vista; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 16. (800) 838-3006, BrownPaperTickets.com.

 

CHERRY POPPIN' PLAY FESTIVAL A series of one-acts presented by Alive Theatre. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sun., 8-10 p.m.; thru Jan. 25. (562) 433-8337.

THE MANOR Kathrine Bates' gothic romance, loosely based on the tragic history of the Doheny family. Greystone Mansion, 905 Loma Vista Dr., Beverly Hills; Sat.-Sun., 1 p.m.; thru March 2. (No perfs Feb. 16, 17 & 24.) (310) 550-4796.

GO SPLATTER PATTERN (OR, HOW I GOT AWAY WITH IT) Neal Bell's dirge slowly enthralls. It features a time-bending gimmick: A grieving writer named Dunn (Jim Hanna) rewinds his conversations with everyone from his agent (Leslie Gilliam) to his realtor (Jake Elsas). After the death of his partner of 23 years, Dunn can't write a salable script; his career's future hinges on getting under the skin of his tabloid-famous new neighbor, Tate (Donald Robert Stewart), a professor who's been accused of — though not officially charged with — murdering his student (Lindsay Lauren Wray, understated and resonant). Initially, Dunn is drawn to Tate's loneliness and unapologetic emotional outbursts, but as Tate's pain sours from being comforting to repulsive, Bell's artificial world cracks open to reveal two men haunted by the dead, fixated on the morbid and aware that heroes are fading away. Derek Charles Livingston directs capably, but needs a firmer hand on Bell's temporal shiftiness and on the clash between Hanna and Stewart's naturalism and his supporting actors' jarring pertness. The uncredited set design is nicely evocative, with the skeletons of two Manhattan high-rise apartments fringed by black and blood-red paint that looks like it wants to worm its way inside the characters, and possibly the audience. ARK THEATRE COMPANY, 1647 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 23. (323) 969-1707. (Amy Nicholson).

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Special Events

COURAGE: THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER J.M. Morris' eclectic three-part presentation of performance, song and multimedia honoring Martin Luther King. HIGHWAYS PERFORMANCE SPACE, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., Jan. 18-19, 8:30 p.m. (310) 315-1459, www.highwaysperformance.org.

AN INTIMATE PIQUE A star-studded cast including Allison Janey (The West Wing), Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and several others showcases dramatic material by a number of America's leading playwrights. Presented by the Ojai Playwrights Conference. Matilija Junior High School Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Rd., Ojai; Sat., Jan. 19, 5 p.m. (805) 640-0400, www.ojaiplays.com.

THE MUSICAL ADVENTURES OF FLAT STANLEY Stanley Lambchop is your average kid until one day when he wakes up flat. It's not so bad — he can slide under doors and roll up like a mat. Pepperdine University Smothers Theater, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Sat., Jan. 19, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m. (310) 506-4522, www.pepperdine.edu.

MYSTERIES EN BROCHETTE The beachside hotel dishes out dinner and mystery delights in its Saturday shows with four different performances that alternate. Marina Del Rey Hotel, 13534 Bali Way, Marina Del Rey; Sat., 7 p.m.; $75, includes dinner. (310) 301-1000.

SPONTANEOUS FANTASIA J. Walt Adamczyk performs and creates visuals in this collaboration of special-effects art and the artist's original musical compositions. Glendale Community College Planetarium, 1500 N. Verdugo Rd., Glendale; Fri., Jan. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m.; Fri., Feb. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 23, 6:30 p.m. (626) 688-0778, www.spontaneousfantasia.com.

STAGE ODYSSEY A festival of six short plays, ranging from comedy to drama to the bizarre, featuring work from First Stage's writer's workshop. First Stage Theatre, 6817 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., Jan. 18-19, 8 p.m.; $10. (323) 850-6271.

THING TO THING A musical collage and solo show of a woman's attempt to cure her own autistic children. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri., Jan. 18, 8-11 p.m. (323) 960-7612, www.Plays411.com/thingtothing.


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