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Theater Reviews: References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, Yes Is a Long Time

Emergency
Michael Lamont

COMPLEAT FEMALE STAGE BEAUTY Jeffrey Hatcher’s contemporary tale, in a Restoration-period style, chronicles a stage in the life of Edward Kynaston, a devilishly handsome actor of that era who gained favor and notoriety portraying some of the Bard’s most famous female characters. The action takes place in London in early 1661 — just before King Charles II’s edict prohibiting men from playing any roles for females. Kynaston (a fine performance by Michael Traynor) is first seen rehearsing the death scene from Othello, and shortly after, as quite the toast of the town, basking in the admiration of ladies of the upper crust and of the dandy Sir Charles Sedley (Cameron Jappe). But just when life seems grand, things start to fall apart, as his formidable talents as an actor place him at odds with the theater manager (Rick Wasserman) and a pair of the King’s favored ladies, who want to grace the stage. Kynaston’s story is a compelling take on the issues of sexual identity and artistic freedom now entrenched in our own culture. Hatcher’s script is artfully conceived but glosses over its more substantive concerns. The larger problem is the absence of vigor and precision in John Perrin Flynn’s ponderous direction. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 1. (323) 954-9795. A Rogue Machine production (Lovell Estell III)

Michael Lamont

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Emergency

John Flynn

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Compleat Female Stage Beauty

Michael Lamont

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Pest Control: The Musical

 GO  EMERGENCY Near Liberty Island, a slave ship named Remembrance materializes from the murky depths of the Hudson River. The nation is electrified. Crowds of African-American onlookers gather, as do a pair of middle-school kids, a stuffed-shirt businessman, a strident lady professor, a vagrant. The media story grows more sensational after a middle-aged man named Reginald swims the river and boards the ship, then communes with the 400-year-old spirit of an African chief. Meanwhile, some of the crowd — dancing and singing in African tongues — become possessed. An award-winning poet with a remarkable gift for mimicry, loads of passion and a beautiful voice, writer-performer Daniel Beaty delivers the full, fantastical spectrum of his solo piece with dazzling artistry. Unencumbered by props or costume changes, Beaty convincingly portrays 40 male, female and transsexual characters. The pivotal figure is a young poet named Rodney; he and his gay brother, Freddy, are the sons of the river-fording Reginald, a Shakespearean scholar who “lost it” after his wife was murdered. Many of the play’s most memorable passages are hip-hop poems delivered by Rodney and his competitors in a nationally televised poetry slam. While the play’s main thrust — a “lest we forget” tribute to the African-American struggle — may be familiar, the execution is extraordinary. Directed by Charles Randolph Wright, the play has a universal theme that is underscored by Alexander V. Nichols’ mesmerizing videography and designer Michael Gilliam’s lights. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; thru May 25. (310) 208-5454. (Deborah Klugman)

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Oscar Wilde’s frivolous comedy gets a thoroughly inessential staging. Two sets of anthroponymically crossed lovers — Algernon and Cecily (John Sperry Sisk and Katie Kevorikan), and Jack and Gwendolen (Tim Heinrich and Jessica Hardin) — bicker and kiss, but under Julie Sanchez’s direction, the lines are so rushed and the mugging so overbearing that the production succeeds only as a perfunctory recitation of Wilde’s greatest quips. There’s no teasing tension when the lasses nearly kiss their fellows, just a pose, a giggle and a flounce away. Vicki Conrad and Dan Cole’s costumes nicely capture each character’s indulgences (Marti Hale as Lady Bracknell is a velvet juggernaut), and while Sanchez and Joseph Stachura’s bright-hued minimalist set is pretty on its own, it has the odd effect of making Jack and Gwendolen’s cool bon mots appear to be taking place next to Rhett and Scarlett boiling over the fall of Atlanta. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., Silver Lake; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 25. (323) 667-0955. (Amy Nicholson)

GO  THE MISSION (ACCOMPLISHED) See Stage feature. City Garage, 134O½ Fourth Street (west alley), Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; thru June 1. (310) 319-9939.

 GO  PEST CONTROL: THE MUSICAL Based on Bill Fitzhugh’s whacky novel about a bug exterminator mistaken for the world’s finest hit man, the show (with a book by John Jay Moore’s Jr.) explodes in an array of styles — literary, visual and aural. Under James J. Mellon’s direction, lyricist-music arranger Scott DeTurk has adapted some intense melodies from Russia’s great 20th century composer Vladimir Shainskiy into a score that bounces with remarkable ease between Kurt Weill starkness, middlebrow pop and hip-hop. Creative director Eugene Caine-Epstein’s multilevel set, with many inventive elements, is perfectly paired with Scott A. Lane’s audacious costuming — particularly in several fantasy sequences of infestation by 6-foot-tall cockroaches. All the technical elements are superb and scream to be moved into a large theater. Darren Ritchie, as the dorky exterminator, gives a brilliant performance, with a vocal range that meets demands, from Broadway belting to rapping. His character’s love interest, played by Beth Malone, is also a powerhouse singer, and the two have great chemistry. This is essentially a high-priced workshop of a show gunning for New York, so some of its excesses may well be cut back. The only aspect that could land the producers in trouble is a group of Borat-style characters representing Latin American drug lords. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 8. (818) 508-7101. An Over the Top production. (Tom Provenzano)

 

 A PIECE OF TIN Queen Victoria (Dorrie Braun) gave her name to an era that was prim, proper and stultifying in manners and morals, though her own life was passionate and touched by scandal. In writer-composer Rhett Judice’s new musical, she adores her husband, Prince Albert (Kelby Thwaits), and mourns him ardently after his early death. Only her Scottish gamekeeper, John Brown (Thwaits), can penetrate her emotional isolation and engage her affections. Their intimacy inspires scandal, to the horror of her son, the Prince of Wales (Derek Long). The “piece of tin” refers to a locket in which the queen preserved a strand of Brown’s hair, and the play’s central conflict is between Victoria’s servant Mary Tuck (Mary Sutherland), who wants to honor the queen’s desire that the locket be buried with her, and the prince, who wants to obliterate Brown entirely. By splitting focus between Tuck and the queen, Judice dilutes both tales, which are only sketchily rendered, and his score fails to soar. Braun and Sutherland provide ample emotional conviction, director Douglas R. Clayton mounts a smooth production, Dan Jenkins’ provides a handsome set and Clifford L. Chally’s period costumes are lavish. But the piece is too genteel and restrained to reach much emotional velocity. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 25. (323) 939-9220 or www.LyricTheatreLA.com. (Neal Weaver)

 GO  REFERENCES TO SALVADOR DALI MAKE ME HOT Now stuck out in Barstow, Gabriela (Carolina Phipps) has nine years of solitude to go before her GI husband, Benito (Ruben Ortiz), returns stateside for good, and they might rekindle some of the swirling passion that led to their marriage. Gabriela’s fixed house cat (Elysa Gomez) can’t decide whether it’s too dangerous to take a romantic risk on the Coyote (Sam Sagheb) who’s been courting her, while the stylish man in the moon (Koco Limbevski) competes with the horny, teenage next-door neighbor (Julian Works) for Gabriela’s affections. Obviously employing a fair degree of fantasia, José Rivera’s oft-produced play is mainly a study in Gabriela’s slowly growing up and trying to expand her intellectual horizons, while Benito remains cloistered in recollections of the first Gulf War, using Gabriela as a sex toy to escape those hellish memories. Life is a dream. Will Pellegrini’s production hangs on the forceful intelligence and sweet sensuality of Phipps’ Puerto Rican Gabriela, and her growing gulf of incomprehension for her husband. Ortiz plays that role with an appealing and persuasive mix of practicality, sensitivity and hard-headedness. It’s that difficult paradox of modern marriage that grounds this production and lends it such appeal. Resa Deverich’s conceptual set of carrier platforms provides an openness in which Rivera’s surrealism, and our imagination, can tumble unencumbered by the detritus of TV sets and couches. Art/Works Theater, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 2. (323) 960-5773. Pet Mercury Productions. (Steven Leigh Morris)

Nick Gill

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References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot

Ed Krieger

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Testosterone: How Prostate Cancer Made a Man of Me

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A Piece of Tin

 

TESTOSTERONE: HOW PROSTATE CANCER MADE A MAN OF ME Writer-performer Hal Ackerman’s drama about his successful battle with prostate cancer is a deeply personal tale that’s as much cathartic therapy for the performer as it is involving for the audience. The drama of illness can often be compelling on stage, as in Julia Sweeney’s God Said, Ha!. Yet, Ackerman’s worthy but workmanlike description of the events surrounding his diagnosis of cancer, his exhaustive treatments for the disease and the unexpectedly troubled aftermath is essentially a by-the-numbers chronology of doctor visits, strained interactions with loved ones and straightforward philosophical deductions. When he’s diagnosed with the disease, Ackerman struggles to keep together his mostly sex-based relationship with his prickly girlfriend — and he also tries to console his troubled daughter (all the show’s female roles are personably played by Lisa Robins, showing remarkable versatility). In Michael Arabian’s intimate but haltingly paced production, Ackerman’s acting chops are sometimes a bit shaky, with awkward line readings and clunky comic timing (during the show’s few lighter moments). The performer’s shortcomings are somewhat compensated for by the immediacy of his own viscerally harrowing story — one that no one could do better. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru May 10. (310) 396-3680. (Paul Birchall)

 GO  YES IS A LONG TIME A man (Antonio Anagaran Jr.) in suburban New Jersey retreats for privacy into his home’s guest bathroom, leaving his wife (director-performer Mira Kingsley) slightly perplexed by what he might be doing in there — whether simply staring at new lines time has carved into his face, or something more lurid. Suddenly a small rock — could be a meteorite — crashes into that bathroom. Sibyl O’Malley’s enchanting play, based on Kingsley’s “big idea” and a 2007 news item that the affected family tried to keep out of the media, studies the essences of destiny and curiosity. Should they allow “rock star scientists” (same actors, along with Gaisha Paggett) to cut into the stone that traveled so far, and for so long, to greet them — just to determine with certainly what it is and where it came from? (The scene depicting the arrival of the scientists is a smoke-filled parody of a Rolling Stones concert.) How compelling is the need to know, if the knowing destroys the object to be known? On a Janne Zirkle Larson’s bare stage on which a taped perimeter delineates New Jersey from this L.A. theater, Kingsley accompanies the fable with Colbert S. Davis IV’s perfect sound design and the ensemble’s taut, jerky choreography, resulting in a good-humored charm fest that also straddles the border between perky, optimistic preciousness and the kind of disappointments that generally accompany life. Bootleg, 2220 Beverly Boulevard, L.A.; closed. (Steven Leigh Morris)

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