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Theater Reviews

The Marvelous Wondrettes

THE COMPLEAT WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (ABRIDGED) This zany concoction, written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, might be called Shakespeare for People Who Hate Shakespeare. The script is essentially a vehicle for three accomplished comedians to mug, overact, cavort, clown and indulge in shameless shtick. (This production is triple-cast, with nine actors performing on a mix-and-match basis, so the performance you see may be very different.) There are extended riffs on Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet (which is played three times — forward, backward and at warp speed). Samples of fractured Shakespeare abound: “A nose by any other name would . . . smell”; a certain Roman play emerges as a cooking show called Titus Androgynous; and the histories are performed as a football game played by an assemblage of English monarchs. Each of the three performers has a distinctly assigned role: Libby Letlow is the resident (pseudo-) intellectual; Chairman Barnes is the stocky ham, in the vein of a Jack Black or John Belushi; and Tricia Pierce is a curious combination of subversive and ditz (she plays Ophelia as a demented Valley Girl) with a fondness for scenes that involve dying or throwing up — preferably on the audience. Director Paul Wagar keeps things fast, furious and funny. ARK THEATER COMPANY, l647 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Jan. 14. (323) 969-1707. (Neal Weaver)

JACKIE LIVE: FOR REAL/SHOVITT This pair of one-person shows are actually takeoffs on the hoary fable of the struggling artist who is trying to make it in the “biz.” Shovitt, written and performed by Josh Covitt, is so excruciatingly bad that it becomes funny after a while. With the help of a film clip, Covitt’s opening bit shows him driving to an audition while ranting to his agent via cell phone. Afterward, he treats the audience to some hokey magic stunts in the persona of Zack the Magician, and manages to be a tad funny as an unnamed, burned-out guitar instructor. It really is nothing more than self-indulgent foolishness. In Jackie Live: For Real, directed by Lisa Jones, writer-performer Jackie Honikman does a little better while taking us on a perfunctory tour of her life as an entertainer. She channels some funny characters, and gets lots of laughs with a musical ditty structured as a duet between hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. If only the first part of her show had been as entertaining and imaginative. WORKING STAGE THEATER, 1516 N. Gardner Ave., Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 27 (added perfs Jan. 19 & 26, 8 p.m.). (310) 929-7090. (Lovell Estell III)

{mosimage}  THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES In their cotton-candy chiffon dresses, songbirds Missy, Suzy, Betty Jean and Cindy Lou (Kim Huber, Bets Malone, Julie Dixon Jackson and Kirsten Chandler) are pleased as punch to entertain their senior-class prom. As it’s 1958, tonight’s track list is pure bubblegum pop, soured up by cat fights over stolen songs and stolen boyfriends. Like all good teenybop groups, the Wonderettes break down into archetypes: awkward, bubbly, tomboy and diva. Playwright-director Roger Bean, however, is only half-successful in manufacturing drama and character development from these personality clashes and a looming prom-queen vote. The real focus here is the songs, and the audience happily mouths along to the crooners, though the energy flags when each of the girls literally announces her romantic plot arc and then illustrates it with three consecutive songs from “Dream Lover” to “That’s When the Tears Start.” Under Bean’s hand, the ladies are fine comedians and even finer singers, and the show gets a punch of energy in Act 2, when the Wonderettes — older, wiser and less innocent — channel their inner Arethas at their 10-year reunion, decked in juicier colors while belting ballads of the late 1960s. Still, although charming and impeccably performed, the nostalgia teeters dangerously close to a sugar overload, right down to the Pixy Stix and Ding Dongs served during intermission. EL PORTAL THEATRE, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 11. (888) 505-7469. (Amy Nicholson)


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