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Theater Reviews

GO CHEAP TALE Comedienne, heal thyself, is the connective theme of Jennifer Fitzgerald and Mandy Steckelberg’s pair of quite funny one-woman shows, directed smoothly by Jennifer Carta. In the first, Memoirs of a Flaker, Fitzgerald chronicles two decades of lost battles fought against her psoriasis, a skin malfunction that leaves her itchy, spotted and self-conscious. The scabs aren’t this pert cutie’s only incongruously crusty attribute — there’s also the Staten Island accent that juts out alongside her dark jokes about molestations and racial stereotypes, as well as the host of tortures she underwent in hope of a cure, including hydrotherapy, pummeling, subjecting her skin to flesh-eating fish, and a night of passion with a pharmacist’s hunky son for her pricey lotions. Steckelberg’s Kicked in the Head is more scattershot and happy to please, flickering between her exes, her mother and assorted secrets after she sinks into the recesses of her brain and reclaims the optimistic (if naive) certainty of her self-worth, which had drifted away after a series of traumas that neither E.R. nor piranhas can mend. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Ave., Hlywd.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m. (no perf Thurs., June 1); thru June 7. (323) 969-4973. (Amy Nicholson)

CUBICLES Meant to give workers a sense of personal space, the office cubicle today serves almost like a jail cell for many a company drone. At least that’s the case for the characters in writer-director Hal Cantor’s “tragedy in three walls,” set in the bowels of a major corporation. Pregnant midlevel manager Gail (Royana Black) feels chained to a husband she does not love; vice president Jim (Edmund Lupinski) has realized his years of loyalty may not translate into that corner office; and even golden boy executive Hugh (Carlos Martin) feels trapped in the rising success he may not even want. Newly hired Shana (Bettina Adger), free-spirited and lacking malice, may be just the person to liberate them all, whether they like it or not. Like the characters they portray, most of the cast members lack the energy for their work, arising perhaps from Cantor’s hackneyed script or from miscasting: Thirtyish Gail’s jealousy of the fresh-out-of-college Shana strains credibility since Adger and Black appear of similar age. Martin does acquit himself well as the conflicted Hugh. Alliance Repertory Company, 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; no performances May 25-27; thru June 10. (800) 595-4849. (Martín Hernández)

DOT GONE Writer-director Max Cabot’s satire traces the rise and fall of a search-engine company called Uuum — so named by its crackpot marketing manager (Melody Mooney) because “uuum,” she reasons, is the common utterance preceding so many questions. Woven from ensemble improvisation, the piece targets the hubris of dot-com entrepreneurs who were convinced they had beat the system until it came crashing down around them. The production’s strongest suit is the performers’ creation of their characters; among others, Mooney’s aggravating New Age prattler, Jon-Barrett Ingels’ oily and oozingly confident head honcho, Joni Efflandt’s cheerleading receptionist (whose official title is director of first impressions) and Chris Mock’s debt-ridden Everyman, too desperate to question the spurious pipe dreams bantered about the office. All of the above are fundamentally sketch comedy prototypes, and while they often ring comically true, none are deep enough to sustain a play for nearly two and a half hours. 24th Street Theater, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; call for schedule; thru June 3. (323) 960-1057. (Deborah Klugman)

THE L.A. WEEKLY LOVES US! No, not really. But Sy Rosen’s comedy about local thespians is still very funny in places. In a fit of rage, Bill (Stephen Ferguson), who’s the artistic director of the struggling Valley Actors Workshop, attacks Karen (Simone Sullivan), who reciprocates by stabbing Bill multiple times with a pair of scissors. In a flash, she’s in court, charged with murder, dogged by a determined prosecutor (Bree Pavey) and defended by a slick lawyer (Jason Ryatt Lovett). Here, Rosen’s script gets unwieldy. Shifting among a ponderous medley of scenes from the courtroom, to the theater, its back stage, and a bedroom, Rosen chronicles the inner workings of the troupe and their personal lives. The group’s parody of Oklahoma! is a high point, as is a brainstorming session for production ideas, resulting in a proposal for a musical honoring Condoleezza Rice. Amidst these, and plenty of dull and/or overwrought moments, the performances run hot and cold under David J. Barry’s direction. Whitmore-Lindley Theater, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 17. (818) 685-9939. (Lovell Estell III)

GO 1001 BEDS Tim Miller’s autobiographical tales, tinctured with magical realism, cover the politics and perseverance of being a gay performance artist. This may feel dated if not for the fact that over 20 years of advocacy, gay rights has certainly transformed public attitudes but left nary a dent in our country’s laws. And so it is only appropriate now that Miller looks back to make a reckoning; here he performs excerpts from his new book, an overview of his life as an activist-artist. Conspicuously absent is his notorious bout with the government concerning the retraction of his NEA grant, and the vocal, anti-gay fury he encountered in many cities throughout the nation. This performance focuses on two moments in his life that hold special meaning for Miller: the meeting of his partner, Alistair McCartney, during a performance workshop in London; and a recent protest for gay rights in front of the Federal Building in downtown L.A., at which he was arrested, and through which McCartney worked for his immediate release. Perhaps more tame than one might expect from a Miller piece, it carries quite an impact nonetheless. Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 20. (310) 315-1459. (Luis Reyes)

 

GO ST. ALICE OF CHATAHOOCHEE Though the title implies a personage devoted to generosity, the more persuasive point in Alice Johnson’s solo performance about growing up in rural Georgia is Johnson’s unrelenting pursuit of attention — in a “semiprofessional community theater” where, cast as a child urchin in A Christmas Carol, she connives a way of stealing the show; as well as in local talent contests where she lip-synchs to Christopher Cross. Given her lust for the spotlight, Johnson’s eventual realization about the virtues of giving is a wee bit hard to swallow, even though her self-proclaimed sainthood is meant ironically. Johnson has the ribald appeal of a husky-voiced, loudmouthed imp with twinkling eyes and turn-on-a-dime transitions among 30 characters. Also, a portrait she paints of her involvement as a Catholic camping with born-agains in the Deep South contains equal parts pathos and alarm. Through her boundless perkiness, Johnson rarely stops smiling, and her keenly observant and wry performance is about the horrors that lurk beneath that smile. Fountain City Productions and the Powerhouse Theater Company at the Elephant Theater Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru June 15. (323) 993-7204. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO SHERLOCK HOLMES: The Final Adventure Steven Dietz’s comic adaptation of William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1899 play profits from David Ira Goldstein’s sure-handed direction. When the King of Bohemia (Preston Maybank) receives a blackmail threat from a former lover, he seeks assistance from Sherlock Holmes (Mark Capri) and Doctor Watson (Victor Talmadge). Holmes is reluctant to take the case, but as soon he learns that arch-foe Professor Moriarty (Laurence Ballard) is behind the plot to derail the King’s impending nuptials, the Bloodhound of Baker Street begins sniffing out clues. Disguises, forged letters and fake names figure in, and the pursuit of Moriarty stretches from London to the continent. Over-the-top performances complement the material. Capri makes for a fine square-jawed hero, and Ballard is properly villainous as Moriarty. Kenneth Merckx Jr., Erin Bennett and Roberto Guajardo provide excellent support as Moriarty’s accomplices, and William Forrester’s winsome set design, David K. Mickelsen’s lush costumes and Dennis Parichy’s lights are first-rate. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 5 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (no evening perfs May 24 & 31; ASL perf June 4, 2 p.m.); thru June 11. (626) 356-7529. (Sandra Ross)

GO SOLOMANIA!: ¡Gaytino! Writer-performer Dan Guerrero observes that in NYC he was regarded as a talent agent who happened to be Latino, while in Los Angeles he was a Chicano who happened to be a talent agent. Guerrero’s solo performance (directed by Diane Rodriguez) seems at first to be just another tale of the gay boy who grew up loving musical comedy and wanting to perform. But Guerrero’s story is richer. He grew up in East L.A., his father was an internationally revered writer and singer of Mexican popular music, and his best friend from grade-school days became a prominent Chicano artist before dying of AIDS. When dreams of performing faded, he became an agent representing Sarah Jessica Parker, among others. Following a return to California, with his lover of 26 years, he became a casting director and writer/producer, and gravitated toward Chicano political activism, working with Caesar Chavez, Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits and others. Now, at 65, he’s blessed with charm, stature and at last he’s performing. Musical backup is provided by David De Palo, Joseph Julian Gonzalez and Germaine Franco. Kirk Douglas Theater, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; in rep, call for schedule; thru June 11. (213) 628-2772. (Neal Weaver)

GO SOLOMANIA!: Live From the Front After establishing his leftist credentials with a few terse one-liners, Pacifica Radio journalist Jerry Quickley simply tells us what he saw in Iraq, without preaching to the choir. As the second Gulf War loomed, he chose to go there independently, distrusting the U.S. government more than the Iraqis. (He tells his Queens homeboys that, if they see pictures of him in handcuffs at Guantanamo Bay, that he’s “definitely not a terrorist — just one more nigger without a lawyer.”) Quickley arrived in Baghdad just before the start of the war. After undergoing two nights of heavy bombing, he was suddenly deported by the Iraqi government, via a 600-kilometer highway of death, subject to U.S. bombing and attacks by the Ali Babas — pirate-thieves who prey on travelers. Along the way of the cluster-bomb-scarred landscape, he encountered a burned-out school bus full of fried children, and the carcasses of camels and sheep, with their dying shepherd. Though Quickley survived the trip, his “minders” did not. The storyteller is most convincing when he’s describing, rather than dramatizing, and letting the images speak for themselves. Reg E. Gaines provides straightforward direction. Kirk Douglas Theater, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; in rep, call for schedule; thru June 11. (213) 628-2772. (Neal Weaver)

 

GO THE TEMPEST Geoff Elliott’s staging unfolds on the island fantasy of Darcy Scanlin’s fog-shrouded set and Peter Gottlieb’s lights, a kingdom ruled via magical powers held by marooned Prospero (Robertson Dean), embittered because his dukedom of Milan was usurped by his brother, Antonio (Dwight Bacquie).  The image of newly shipwrecked Ferdinand (Jason Chanos) in costume designer Jennifer Brawn Gittings’ 16th-century attire, strolling the shore alone, bewildered and surrounded by spirits he can’t see, recalls a Spanish conquistador arriving in California. It also shows Shakespeare’s wondrous capacity to veil politics in the blanket of a dream. And you can feel the electric current running through Ferdinand’s romance of Prospero’s ward, Miranda (understudy Dorthea Harahan, who’s just sublime). Much work was invested in Laura Harper’s eerie masks, which reveal faces on two sides, though all that decoration pales beside the simple gestures and sentiments of Prospero forgiving the treason of his enemies and surrendering his own magical powers. With Dean’s Zeus-like bombast throughout, I wasn’t sure where those Christ-like decisions came from, nor was I convinced of slave Caliban’s (Stephen Weingartner) alleged monstrosity. Little matter; Shakespeare’s play is glorious, and Elliott takes pains to tell it clearly. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 21. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO THE WINCHESTER HOUSE Julia Cho’s play may not have much to do, even metaphorically, with the eponymous tourist spot in San Jose, but her story about a young woman investigating the moment at which she was seduced by a family friend has enough innate mystery at its heart to whet and keep our interest. Via (Kimiko Gelman) is an obscure singer who reenacts moments from an Asian-immigrant family life ruled by a distant physicist father (Nelson Mashita), gossipy mother (Dian Kobayashi) and seemingly unhelpful brother (Greg Watanabe). They are all spellbound by John and Helen Bergin (Arye Gross and Laura Wernette), a witty faculty couple whose summer home they constantly visit. Cho nicely thwarts audience expectations regarding Via’s bitter search for truth and makes some telling observations about how unreliable (or hideously reliable) other people’s memories can be. Still, the show screeches to a halt every time Via sings one of her folky “three and a half songs,” and Via, who directly addresses the audience throughout the 90-minute play, schizophrenically switches from spare poetry to an annoyingly literal narrative to describe the people in her life. Director Chay Yew sensitively orchestrates the action across scenic designer Susan Gratch’s spare apron, whose upstage border is formed by the dense clutter of stored furniture and forgotten paintings, while Jose Lopez’s soft lighting plot accents the characters’ vulnerabilities. Theater @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 18. (626) 683-6883. (Steven Mikulan)


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