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Weekend Theater Reviews

 CORPUS CHRISTI While this revival production hasn’t brought the protests and death threats of the original, nearly a decade ago, Terrence McNally’s controversial play continues to re-examine many of our society’s religious and cultural beliefs. Its retelling of the Jesus story, with Jesus being a gay man in 1950s Corpus Christi, Texas, is especially relevant at a time in which our nation is up in arms about gay marriage. The play adroitly balances education with satire, reminding us of the true message of the Bible while still poking fun at the modern perversions of Christ’s original teachings. It frequently breaks the fourth wall, with actors speaking directly to the audience, changing into costume onstage, and even setting up and taking down the set during the show. The entire cast gives great performances, and its diversity in terms of gender, race and age accentuates the message of inclusiveness in a play that is typically performed by 13 young men. Nic Arnzen’s direction deftly incorporates music and movement into the piece, creating an ending that is almost cinematic in its scope. MCCV AT THE ZEPHYR THEATRE, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 16. (323) 852-9111. (Mayank Keshaviah)

{mosimage} MARAT/SADE “But we decided war must cease/So they gave us 14 months of peace.” When Peter Weiss’ rich and resonantly cynical play about the French Revolution opened on Broadway in 1966, it seemed to refer to the Vietnam War, among other things. Now it suggests even more sharply Mr. Bush’s misguided and inept Iraq adventure, with Napoleon standing in for Dubya. Set in an insane asylum in 1808, the piece depicts a fictional production of a play by the Marquis de Sade (Robert Baker) about the assassination of the French radical Jean-Paul Marat (Simon Russell) by romantic idealist Charlotte Corday (Amy Peterson). The script is so packed with satiric comment, aphorisms, slogans, paradox, historical references and political militancy that it invites psychic overload, and no one production can exhaust its possibilities. And the bizarre setting and episodic structure provide a field day for ambitious directors. Director/set designer Patrick Adams can’t compete with the huge resources and frightening inventiveness of Peter Brook’s original production, but it skillfully carves out its own identity, assisted by a fine, large ensemble. The new score by composer Joshua Charney serves the words less well than Richard Peaslee’s earlier version, but it too has its own validity. THE BLUE HOUSE AT SACRED FOOLS THEATER, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Sept. 17. (866) 219-4944. (Neal Weaver)

SHAKESPEARE’S VENUS AND ADONIS Sitting in Zombie Joe’s North Hollywood storefront theater is like wandering into a diorama made by the happiest kid you know. The walls of Jeri Batzdorff’s set are painted to resemble an enchanted forest, complete with winding vines and tumbling waterfalls. Here, Shakespeare’s epic poem about the goddess of love and her male muse comes to life. In director Zombie Joe’s staging, six women, clothed in black, recite the poem while weaving around the stage in a sensual, interpretive dance. Between the zany lights, innovative musical accompaniment (Christopher Reiner) and striking movements, this production makes Shakespeare feel anything but antiquated. Unfortunately, because the movements are so central here, the poem itself sometimes feels like a mere soundtrack. Still, the production really works; flashy lights aside, the six actors’ devotion makes it soar. None of them display tentativeness, even when the staging calls for them to gyrate in “trembling ecstasy” or “die with beads of hot desire.” They are so invested in the piece that the audience can’t help but get excited too. Sure, there’s a slow patch or two, but this kind of fearless experimentation and devotion to it reminds us why we go to the theater. ZOMBIE JOE’S UNDERGROUND, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 17. (818) 202-4120. (Stephanie Lysaght)


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