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Weekend Theater Reviews

The Children's Hour (Photo by David Elzer)

The Children's Hour (Photo by David Elzer)

{mosimage} THE CHILDREN’S HOUR Lillian Hellman’s 1930s melodrama studies the effects of a lie told by a malevolent schoolgirl, Mary (Stephanie Marquis), about two of the teachers, Karen and Martha (Liz Pellini and Sarah Taylor), at an East Coast boarding school: Mary reported that she heard “strange noises” coming from the women when they were alone — a strategy by the young manipulator to be sent home to her gullible grandmother (Laura Julian). Because of the politically connected grandmother’s half-baked yet furious indignation, the reputations and lives of the teachers are destroyed by the smear of lesbianism. And Hellman sneakily raises the prospect that in the lie is a glimmer of truth. This could have been a great play, were the grandmother not so relentlessly and groundlessly sanctimonious, and were Mary not so unyieldingly diabolical. Instead, Hellman’s indignation has the same self-righteousness she complains about in her characters. Yet if you can’t understand why this gay-themed theater is staging the play, just look at the linguistic hand-hold between “righteous” and “religious right.” Matt Bankston’s staging is quite crisp, though the style waffles between one over-wrought cameo and the underplayed realism of the schoolchildren. As the accused, Taylor is just grand, and Pellini eventually warms up to that standard. As the grandmother and principal child, Julian and Marquis are similarly captivating. There’s also a nice turn by John Mullen as Karen’s long-suffering fiance. Celebration Theater, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 7. (323) 957-1884. (Steven Leigh Morris)


GO EDEN Irish writer Eugene O’Brien sets his play in a small, rural town where the social life occurs mainly during “the holy trinity” — the three weekend nights devoted to drinking, partying and pub-crawling. Billy (Andrew J. Turner) and Breda (Jennifer Pennington) have two small daughters after 11 years of marriage, but for Breda, their life together has become a sexual wasteland. She has at last managed to lose the weight that led her to being dubbed “Pig-Arse,” and hopes her newly svelte figure will rekindle the erotic flames. Billy finds her renewed affection merely threatening since he’s no longer attracted to her, and is hell-bent on bedding beautiful Althea Egan. In the Irish storytelling tradition, O’Brien casts his work as a long double monologue, in which Billy and Breda give disparate versions of a fateful Sunday night that ends in a way that neither anticipated. O’Brien strains the limits of the monologue form to provide a group portrait of the town’s hard-drinking, hard-fighting, sexually competitive citizens, and he introduces a host of characters we hear about but never see. Nevertheless, it’s a rueful, touching comedy of lost hopes, failed expectations, shattered illusions and occasional serendipity. Martha Demson provides sympathetic, perceptive direction, with impeccable performances by Turner and Pennington. Buzzworks Theater Company at Elephant Asylum, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 29. (323) 960-7612. (Neal Weaver)


{mosimage} GO PILGRIM Composer-playwright John Stothers has been crafting this musical spectacle for well over a decade, in search of absolute excess — visually, aurally and dramatically. In a world suggested by the darkly Gothic images of 16th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch, Stothers explores archetypal episodes of power and human cruelty as he pits wealthy guild masters against enslaved crafters. A mostly heavy, angry rock score occasionally gives way to emotional ballads, all sung with remarkable power and energy by the young cast. Director Nick DeGruccio is perfectly in tune with Stothers’ taste for extravagance, using every inch of the large proscenium stage for his huge directorial canvas. This includes highly charged acting and singing plus Cirque du Soleil–inspired dream sequences with aerial artists directed by choreographer Josie Walsh. The entire design team, particularly scenic artist Tom Buderwitz, have concocted a gleeful show that, by design, bursts at the seams. Rustycup Productions at the Ricardo Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine St., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 23. (800) 595-4849. (Tom Provenzano)