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Theater Reviews

(Photo courtesy of Theatre East)

CAN-CAN Joel Fields and David Lee’s reworking of Cole Porter and Abe Burrows’ immorality play, set in turn-of-the-century Paris, is a lovely mess, with a cast of thousands, Roy Christopher’s art nouveau–ish sets, frothy glitz poured on thick enough to mask a pair of love triangles that make dubious emotional sense. The show’s strength, under Lee’s infectiously sassy direction, remains its concert of Porter’s terrific songs, strung together by the frayed threads of a plot about a moralizing judge (Kevin Early), smitten with the proprietress (Michelle Duffy) of a burlesque hall that he’s appointed himself to shut down. (There’s something vaguely Brechtian about Burrows’ theme of duty versus desire that also shows up in his book for Guys and Dolls.)But a sanctimonious judge isn’t the worst of all characters. Lurking in the sewer below him is, of course, the Critic (David Engel), who emerges from the lower depths of Grand Guignol to blackmail the judge and, with a splash of charm and a twirl of his mustache, steal the meek girlfriend (Yvette Tucker) of a sad-sack Bulgarian sculptor (Amir Talai). The singing ain’t subtle, but nor is the plot. Duffy and Early know how to belt, Patti Colombo’s choreography is awash in dazzling silliness, all sending out a message through an old bullhorn that summer is here, the time to relax and forgive. PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 5. (626) 356-PLAY. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE CAR PLAYS Given that this is a city whose inhabitants live and die by their cars, this unique melding of site-specific theater and freeway crawl should be hailed as a local treasure. The production consists of 15 one-act plays, performed in 15 different cars in the theater parking lot. When you arrive, a “carhop” escorts you to one of three rows of parked cars, seating you in one of the back seats. Before long, the actors perform their play — usually in the car’s front seat. Ten minutes later, the carhop moves you onto the next car and the next play. It’s quite amazing how many stories can be told in the front seat of a car, and the production’s voyeuristic appeal is undeniable: As you promenade from car to car, you literally feel like a ghost, popping in and out of the characters’ lives. The plays themselves are brief and quite charming — on the night reviewed, particularly enjoyable was “The Cooler”, a taut Pulp Fiction–esquesketch in which two thugs argue over who is going to perform a murderous crime after they park their car, and the hilariously dark “Hollywood Hills,” in which a pair of coked-up bimbos on their way to a Hollywood Hills party accidentally run over and kill a pedestrian. With each actor performing his or her sketch 15 times each day, the performances are unusually tight and are crisply timed to the second, to allow for the audience’s simultaneous “commute” from car to car. Moving Arts and the Steve Allen Theater in the parking lot of the CENTER FOR INQUIRY–WEST, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; call theater for schedule; thru Oct. 7. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

  WHAT’S AN INDIAN WOMAN TO DO? Inspired by Marcie Rendon’s poem, Mark Anthony Rolo’s engaging one-woman play offers a stunning portrayal of the divisions between cultural ties and modernity. A half-white, half-Ojibwe young woman, Belle (DeLanna Studi) struggles with her native identity and a toxic friendship. In high school, Belle is crossed by blond Katrina, who steals her first love. Later, Belle runs into Katrina, who has reinvented herself into an expert on Native Americans, one of whom she’s planning to marry. Vengeful, Belle seduces Katrina’s hunky fiancé. Meanwhile, Belle is haunted by memories of trying to please her Ojibwe auntie, whose words finally quell Belle’s furies. The play has a nonlinear structure, but with Kenneth Martines’ quick, crisp direction, the audience is able to keep up. Studi’s performance sparkles. The Cherokee actor convincingly portrays 10 characters: from Katrina, to Belle’s Midwestern mother, to teenage boyfriend Kyle. Studi tirelessly draws in the audience through her immense energy and strong stage gestures, choreographed by acclaimed Ojibwe traditional dancer Thirza Defoe. Hoop Theatricals and LOS ANGELES THEATRE CENTER, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru July 14. (213) 489-3281. (Sophia Kercher)

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