NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication August 15, 2012:
ALL THE KING'S MEN
Based on Robert Penn Warren's classic novel about corruption, politics and power, this stage adaptation by Adrian Hall doesn't quite do justiceto the author's visionary
storytelling. The play follows the unscrupulous rise and fall of "Boss" Willie Stark (Thomas Evans), from his early days as a small-town treasurer to the office of governor of Louisiana, as witnessed by a cynical journalist, Jack Burden (Gordon Carmadelle). Burden becomes a political operative for Stark and gradually gets caught up in the tentacles of corruption and blackmail. The script spans a period of 15 years, from 1922 to 1937, but its nonlinear structure and frequent back-and-forth shifts in time make the narrative difficult to follow. The problem is compounded by director David Chrzanowski's wildly uneven pacing, which turns this nearly three-hour production into something of an ordeal. Cast performances, on balance, are good. Presented by Nola Productions at El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Sept. 15. (888) 811-4111, web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/914711. (Lovell Estell III)
PICK OF THE WEEK BLAME IT ON BECKETT
There is no way John Morogiello's comedy about the internal drama at a nonprofit theater's literary office should be interesting. After his bushy-tailed new intern insists a script cut he made actually does work, burned-out dramaturge Jim (well-played by Louis Lotorto) bellows, "That is in here!" before motioning to their hole of an office. "No one in their right mind would put this onstage!" But thanks to self-deprecating winks like that, polished performances and the swift click of director Andrew Barnicle's pacing, the show is engaging and funny -- even if it does cater primarily to longtime theatergoers, who will catch the references and jokes. (One of the most touché takedowns is Jim's monologue on the mentality behind plotting regional theaters' season lineups.) Yes, initially the first act drags. But Morogiello's focus on the relationships lifts the play beyond the sort of insider-y piece theater professionals pass around among themselves. "Issues are a trap," a character says. "[Audiences] want relationships." Given the inevitability of the blow to the head Jim receives in the second act, the heart-wrenching intensity of his response is surprising -- and a reminder that Morogiello is right. There also are nice, non-showy turns by Peggy Goss as the coddled playwright and Brian Ibsen as an ambitious general manager. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Sept. 2 (818) 558-7000,colonytheatre.org
CONFESSIONS OF A CAT LADY (With a Side of Crazy)
Tiffany Anne Price has tremendous energy and a powerful urge to perform. She has channeled both traits into an obstreperous personal narrative that covers childhood rivalries, adolescent pranks (stealing a McDonald's sign) and her passion for cats; there are also assorted "confessions" ranging from why she finds Jesus hot to a lengthy anecdote about getting to the toilet in time. Other one-person shows strive to explore or enlighten; the best often incorporate the performers' rendering of people or characters outside themselves. Not so here. These recollections reveal no social awareness, no hidden essences, no cognizance of other people's
feelings or inner lives. The narcissism is strident and relentless. To
be fair, the show might be more palatable (though possibly still
abrasive) as a comedy club stand-up act. For now, Price would do best honing her dramatic puissance and intensity on other people's material. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., Aug. 25, 5:30 p.m. (323) 962-1632, theatreasylum-la.com. (Deborah Klugman)
DISASTEROID! This modest little opus, written by Zachary Bernstein, with music and lyrics by The Bicycats, directed by Jim Pierce, defies the rules for creating a musical. Instead of the expected lyricism, we get determinedly matter-of-fact songs like "You Have a Nice Backyard." And the un-heroic hero, Edgley (Will McMichael), sings about his "Low Expectations." Edgley is a tax auditor and amateur astronomer who surveys the heavens on his backyard telescope. When he discovers what hethinks is an asteroid plummeting toward earth, he notifies the local observatory. But Observatory Guy (writer Bernstein), tired of being bugged by Edgley, decides to play a joke on him, pretending that the asteroid will destroy the Earth in a month. Edgley, determined to cram alifetime of living into that month, persuades wealthy philanthropist Mabel Bellcoat (Natalie Rose) to join him on a tour around the world. It's a mild but pleasant diversion. Bicucats/Hat & Suitcase at the Underground, 1314 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 11 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., through Aug. 19. (800) 838-3006, disasteroidthemusical.com. (Neal Weaver)
In Kwame Kwei-Armah's drama about three generations of West Indian males,
set in a rough London neighborhood, central character Deli (Terrell
Tilford) stumbles around like the washed-up former boxer/ex-con that
he's become. Bringing a leaden world-weariness to his performance,
Tilford plays a man dogged by misfortune, beaten down at every turn. As
Deli waits for his brother to be discharged from prison, he strives to guide his cocky son away from an alluring life of crime. Eternally pessimistic, Deli is incapable of responding to sexual overtures from Anastasia (Tracey A. Leigh), a feisty woman who cruises into his cafe bar looking for a job, armed with schemes to revitalize his business. Meanwhile the caf's only customer, local thug and "wide boy" Digger (Noel Arthur), brings trouble to his door. Kwei-Armah crams his play with colorful, sometimes amusing supporting characters, but his scattered tale lacks drive and originality, meandering along an all-too-predictable trajectory. Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble at Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through Sept. 9. (323) 933-6944; lastagealliance.com/elminaskitchen. (Pauline Adamek)
John Logan's biographical fiction based on the a series of murals being created by Mark Rothko. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn, Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through September 9. (213) 628-2772, TDD: (213) 680-4017, centertheatregroup.org. See Stage feature.
THE RETURN TO MORALITY Jamie Pachino's satire of our highly charged, reactive political culture, based on profound misunderstanding by the press of one author's political treatise. The Production Company at the LEX, 6760 Lexington Avenue, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Sept., 8. (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com See Stage feature.
SISTER CITIES Four sisters -- Austin (Barika A. Croom), Baltimore (Christine Marie Quigless), Carolina (Nina Womack) and Dallas (Raquel Rosser) -- re-unite to deal with their freshly dead mother, whose corpse is soaking in the bathtub as the sibs alternately bicker, bond, spill secrets and grieve. Colette Freedman's play succeeds as neither a comedy nor a tragedy; it's a series of lukewarm feuds between one-dimensional characters, none of whom feel authentically human. The body-in-the-next-room scenario should be a scream, but the dialogue meanders, forgoing countless opportunities to reference the darkly comicsituation and instead traversing the rather dull territory of the women's day-to-day successes and failures. Tales of divorce, stalled careers and identity crises add up to what ultimately feels like four wandering character studies (five, if you count the flashback to Mom's final days) rather than a cohesive family drama. Womack is the standout actor in the ensemble, while Croom's excessive mugging is downright distracting. Towne Street Theatre at Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Sept. 2. townestreet.org. (Amy Lyons)
You may not need an
advanced degree in performance theory to decode playwright Samantha
Macher's raucously savage, if somewhat brittle, black comedy about power
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and the coercive aspects of gender, but it couldn't hurt. Macher's play
reimagines late-1940s Merced as ground zero for the malignant heart of
darkness that spawned both the Japanese-American internment and the postwar culture of racial hatred. So Catherine (the fine Julia Sanford) is understandably horrified when her Cyclopean monster of a returning GI son (Brett Fleisher) shows up at her doorstep with the enemy -- his non-English-speaking Japanese war bride Yumi (Sachiyo K). As Catherine slowly manages to surmount her prejudices and Yumi's language barrier to uncover the appalling secret binding the girl to the sadistic son, Macher and director Nancy Dobbs Owen have a field day skewering a gamut of melodramatic tropes by slathering them with a rich sauce of Sirkian irony and J-Horror visions. Skypilot Theatre Company at T.U.Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 16. (800) 838-3006, skypilottheatre.com. (Bill Raden)