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Weekend Theater Reviews

GO DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Norbert Leo Butz reprises his mind-bogglingly over-the-top 2006 Tony Award–winning performance as sad-sack con-artist Freddy, in Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek’s musical adaptation of the 1988 film that starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Tom Hewitt plays Lawrence, Butz’s suave partner-in-crime — a seducer of women for their fortunes on the French Riviera — and the story centers on a bet they make to see who can first fleece a woman they presume to be a dumb cluck from Ohio (Laura Marie Duncan). The lavish production, born in San Diego’s Old Globe Theater and crisply staged by its artistic director, Jack O’Brien, is a nod to vaudeville — from Butz’s tour de force sketch in which he tries in vain to bite off a piece of beef jerkey until he’s writhing in circles on the floor, to Freddy’s rescue of Lawrence from a marital commitment by inventing and then impersonating (for the horrified fiancee’s benefit) Lawrence’s idiot brother, a drooling sloth named Ruprecht who farts into jars and who must live near Lawrence or the marriage is off. To win his bet, Freddy tries to woo the female victim’s sympathies by rolling around in a wheelchair, pretending to have paralyzed legs — until Lawrence shows up straight from the Borscht Belt as Viennese Dr. Shüffhausen, a sadist eager to give his mortified patient a physical to see if any feeling in his legs might have returned. Yazbek’s light ballads and lyrics are filled with a pleasingly skewed romanticism (“I knew a guy who once ate his T-shirt on a dare/Nothing is too wonderful to be true”), Hewitt and Duncan’s voices are glorious, and the ensemble floats in unison to Jerry Mitchell’s choreography. Where Steve Martin’s Freddy was a clown with a sappy heart, Butz plays him as so merciless, even Lawrence is shocked — and that’s a telling improvement. BROADWAY/LA at the PANTAGES THEATER, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 27. (213) 365-3500. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO FOUR MAN PLAN: A Romantic Science At Cindy Lu’s romantic nadir, her fairy godmother gave her a scolding. “You’re Chinese — you’re good at math,” she said, and ordered Lu off to develop the Theory of Lovetivity. Though tighter and funnier than most one-woman shows, what begins as a typical examination of dating, therapy and daddy issues takes a welcome turn when Lu slides into a lab coat, wheels out an A.V. cart and flips on an overhead projector. As she explains the methodology behind “4(m)p = u+1,” the two numbers and three variables that landed her a fiance, the wall dividing art and infomerical threatens to crumble (her manual is for sale in the lobby). If Lu isn’t an advocate of theatrical purity, she’s at least an engaging and bawdy imp. Single ladies will be emboldened by her rational and sound hypothesis on the sexual sciences, though the fun flags when Lu feels obligated to prove it by talking at length about the spiritual connections between her and Earl, the love of her life. Paul Linke directs. RUSKIN GROUP THEATER, 3000 Airport Drive, Santa Monica; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 10 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (310) 397-3244. (Amy Nicholson)

SECOND THOUGHTS Writer-director-composer-performer Tony Tanner’s intimate revue may be the first musical to feature a copy of AARP The Magazine as an important prop. The show, self-described as being “songs and sketches about the fun of being 21 no more,” is the latest in a spate of shows performed by mature actors for the delectation of our growing older audiences. The cast of four (Angela DeCicco, Lloyd Pedersen, Bobbi Stamm and Tanner) displays versatility and verve, with slick and precise piano accompaniment by musical director David E. Cole, assisted by violinist Vera Budinoff. Most, but not all, of the sketches deal with love and romance, both straight and gay, marital and extramarital. “My First Boy” concerns an older woman’s delight at recruiting a young hustler she’s putting through college, “I’m Getting Unmarried in June” dramatizes the joys of divorce, and Tanner provides himself with some clever patter songs, including “The Pumps are by Cardin” and “I Should Have Worn Red.” The wry and rueful production is well designed to amuse its target audience, but it may prove a harder sell for younger crowds. Paula Higgins provides the stylish couture. LONNY CHAPMAN GROUP REPERTORY THEATER, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Sept. 10. (818) 700-4878. (Neal Weaver)


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