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Theater Reviews: One Fell Swoop, Eddie Kill the President, Pterodactyls

(Photo by Mark Adair-Rios)

PICK NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL 2007 Already in its fourth year, REDCAT’s New Original Works (NOW) series has become one of the city’s more eclectic and vital performance festivals, drawing a blend of international and local artists. This coming week’s bill presents hip-hopper/dancer/humorist Rodney Mason’s My Mother’s Son , in which Mason looks back at his life in South Philadelphia’s projects, his experiences in Hollywood, and his struggles with a family curse. Elke Luyten and Kira Alker, with help from artistic adviser Thomas Leabhart, put contemporary dance on a hot plate with A Little of More , which interweaves “story, hymn and the deeply embodied movement theater traditions of Étienne Decroix.” Rounding out the first bill is Lux Boreal Danza Contemporánia, known for its creative “force and determination.” The Tijuana-based troupe, led by Angel Arambula and Henry Torres, features a new project developed with composer Pedro Gabriel Beas (of Nortec Collective). The following weekend features Collage Dance Theatre and Early Morning Opera. The third (closing) week includes Hans Fjellestad, Shinichi Iova-Koga, and Kelly Marie Martin and David Jones. REDCAT, W. Second and Hope sts., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 4; $18, $14 students. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org.  (Steven Leigh Morris)

ANGEL FEATHERS At the start of Greg Suddeth’s world-premiere production, the set makes you feel as if you’ve mistakenly walked into someone’s living room. After an eerie opening tableau, the scene segues into sarcastic, snippy banter between Roy Rogers (Suddeth), his “clutter bug” wife, Mona (Wendy Phillips), and their Jewish neighbor, Sara Rosten (Jane George). The topic is cancer, and we quickly learn that Mona and Sara have survived it, while Roy continues to battle with it and refuses treatment. In this household, even the dog has cancer, so Roy puts into motion a plan to kill himself and his pet because it’s “their time” and the “angels are calling.” The rest of the play revisits this scenario in different ways, using Roy’s conversations with Mona, Sara, Sara’s husband, Alvin (Barry Livingston), and their daughter, Mishy (Jenny Dare Paulin), to try to convince Roy that his life is worth something. The emotional territory explored is interesting, but the dramatic fireworks come early, so most of the play gets smothered in the after-smoke. Cinda Jackson and Mark Adair-Rios direct. Ventoux Productions at THE LOST STUDIO, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 5. (323) 651-5632. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO EDDIE, KILL THE PRESIDENT There’s no crime in a new play being derivative; still, the resemblance in tone and amoral wit of Alan Watt’s comitragedy (his first play) to that of Neil LaBute brings it down a notch, if only because of the current saturation level of LaBute’s work. Stephanie Feury directs an excellent ensemble in such a cinematic, realistic style, she and they look like they’d rather be doing the movie. Yet the work is a solid, well-crafted etude on various agonies of life and loneliness. Artist Eddie (the hangdog Jonathon Quint), recovering from sundry addictions, suffers from a tattered relationship with Esther (Pamela Garcia Rooney, pretty, sweet and smart). She’s pregnant, probably by Eddie; the father’s identity is not entirely certain. And since she caught Eddie in the middle of phone sex, she refuses to have conjugal relations with him, but insists that he marry her. While alone in his hovel, sometimes aiming a gun at his head for lack of anything better to do, Eddie’s visited by his drug-dealing, confidence-killing pal in a suit, Conrad (Robert Reinis, like a cross between used-car salesman and a rottweiler), who’s on the fritz with Esther’s friend, Charlotte (Courtney Rackley). A comedy of gender chasms and infidelity, the play flips back and forth from scenes between the men to scenes between the women, until the arrival of an effeminate 40-year-old pizza delivery “boy” (Paul Tigue, in a performance horrifying well observed), who’s addicted to some self-empowerment gospel. He makes you wish that gun would go off, and it does. Watts’ gifts of structure, economy, characterization and humor are beyond reproach, and Feury directs a snappy production that sustains rapt attention. Crackart Productions and STEPHANIE FEURY STUDIO THEATRE, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed. & Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 18. (310) 358-9901. (Steven Leigh Morris)

L.A. WOMEN Before entering the theater, audience members are invited to sit in a cool, calm lobby, lined with dark red walls — giving the feeling of being in a womb — apt for writer-performers Sabrina Hill and Jessica Tracy’s femme-themed show that is not particularly original but cashes in on its good cheer. The multimedia, two-woman comedy begins with a flat-footed short film of women discussing their roles in L.A. Finally comes the live action, Hill and Tracy on stage dancing, dancing, dancing. And dancing some more. Although the robot and Broadway moves are giggle-worthy, the sequence goes on too long. It’s like trying to start a cold engine — eventually it turns over and warms the crowd. Hill and Tracy delve into nine different characters: from existential-minded strippers to competing aerobic students to a mom trying to cut down on Zoloft, and her happy-go-lucky cleaning lady. Director Ezra Weisz, a master of improv, fine-tunes the actors’ smart comedic and hilarious movement, and though the play is womancentric, the men in the audience appeared to be having a good time as well. BANG COMEDY THEATER, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., W. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 21. (323) 653-6886. (Sophia Kercher)

 

GO ONE FELL SWOOP Playwright Robert J. Litz does to politics what Joe Orton did to morality. His satire floats on cynicism and offers both solace and humor for those, armed with spit wads, who have given up on our national political system. With a Dem pres now in charge, Judge Richard Barron (Gregory Mortensen) — an advocate of privacy rights — is about to be nominated to the Supreme Court. The machine that kicks into play, as depicted by Litz, is such a parade of duplicitous Beltway gamers, vapid TV pundits (Alexandra Hoover has Ann Coulter’s aggressive mediocrity down to the last wince); a stand-in for Lindsey Graham (Robert John Brewer), whose folksy charm covers his thuggery; more operatives than stars in the sky — all of whose cumulative aim is to circumvent the truth with the kind of white noise that makes CNN — to use a comparatively moderate example — so unbearable. In the eye of the storm floats Caitlin Reese (Megan Dolan), a quasi-ambitious professor of constitutional law, who once had an affair with the judge when she was his student. This is one of those rare plays where the plot is almost beside the point. Its heart lies in the hyperactive savvy yet witheringly jaded attitudes of almost all the players who love this game, though it serves nobody but themselves. Director Christopher Game’s staging unfolds in corners and cubby holes, including a number of video screens. The production occasionally trips over itself, but this marks a high point for new political dramas. See Stage feature next week. ELEPHANT THEATRE COMPANY, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 18. (323) 960-4410. (Steven Leigh Morris)

PTERODACTYLS Nicky Silver’s undeniably clever play might be described as apocalyptic farce, or smarty-pants nihilism, positing the notion that we, like the dinosaurs, are heading toward extinction, thanks to our denial of basic realities. Young Todd (Todd Kubrak) left home five years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. Now he has returned, after a life of determined depravity and risk, to announce that he has AIDS. His sister, Emma (Veronique Ory), who has memory problems, denies that she ever had a brother. His frivolous, alcoholic mother (Gillian Doyle) refuses to acknowledge his illness and retreats into meaningless chatter, despite an incestuous attraction to Todd. Meanwhile, Dad (Christopher Bradley), leches after Emma and cherishes the wildly mistaken illusion that his children adore him. Emma has just become engaged to a waiter named Tommy (Ryan Baylor), but Mom insists that he become their servant and wear a brief French maid’s costume that suggests 1930s pornography. Director Patrick Varon provides a slick and brisk production on Stefan Depner’s elegantly sterile set, and the cast, if not quite brilliant, is accomplished and able. Athena Theatre at THE STELLA ADLER THEATRE, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.; thru July 29. (818) 754-1423. (Neal Weaver)

UBU THE SHIT! The character of Pa Ubu, playwright Alfred Jarry’s iconic paragon of greed, rage and childlike appetite, is one of the great grotesque figures of modern theater — and director Jeremy Aluma’s energetic, broad production crackles with stylized movement that deftly illustrates the play’s twin tones of undignified farce and human tragedy. Jarry’s comedy is essentially a spoof of Macbeth with hag Ma Ubu prodding Pa Ubu into overthrowing the King of Poland and taking over his royal throne, a gold-plated toilet. Ubu quickly becomes a monstrous tyrant, and is forced out of office, hiding out in a cave where he battles both a gigantic bear and his treacherous wife. During various scenes, each member of the nine-person ensemble gets a whack at playing Ubu, donning a fat suit, a gigantic green penis, and a ghoulish, leering face mask. The production possesses a wonderfully youthful energy — and it’s obvious that the actors are having the time of their lives. Yet the text is sabotaged to some extent, when the performers squeak, shriek, bawl or grunt their dialogue. Though the masks are lovely to look at, they muffle almost all of Pa and Ma’s lines, while the show’s blocking is messy and unfocused. We often don’t know at what place on the stage we’re supposed to be looking. THE COMPLEX, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 & 10; thru Aug 4. (323) 960-4484. (Paul Birchall)IN MEMORIUM Artist-activist Joel Bloom died Friday, July 13, of cancer at age 59. Cantankerous and generous, Bloom was instrumental through the ’80s in helping transform the Downtown Arts District into a hub of creative activity. In the ’90s, he ran a tiny general store in that district that also served as a community center. Bloom advocated not only for the city to pay attention to downtown-east but also against abuses by film companies using the area for its scenically vivid ambience. He also successfully opposed LAUSD’s attempt to place its distribution warehouse in the area. Last month, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution dedicating Joel Bloom Square. A sign has been posted at the triangular intersection of East Third Street and Traction Avenue. If the tawdry, fenced-in site is revitalized with the same conviction and energy that Bloom dedicated to the area, that would be the most fitting tribute. (Steven Leigh Morris)


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