Check back early next week for the weekend's New Theater reviews. Also, stay tuned for next week's announcement of the 2011 L.A. Weekly Theater Awards nominees.
Stage Listings for the remainder of the week are here; also check out last week's New Theater Reviews, plus longer stage features: an interview with William Shatner (with outtakes) taking his new show to Broadway and then to the Pantages; and a review of Oswald: The Actual Interrogation, at Write-Act Fep, about the last 48 hours in the life of JFK's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
LOS ANGELES STAGE LISTINGS, for February 10 - 16, 2012
Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III, Rebecca Haithcoat, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Bill Raden and Neal Weaver. The listings are compiled by Derek Thomas.
Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following categories: Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys, Smaller Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for any play by title, using your computer's search engine.
LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE
Art Written by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, directed by David Lee. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Boeing-Boeing Marc Camoletti's French farce. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Norris Center for the Performing Arts, 27570 Crossfield Drive, Palos Verdes Peninsula, 310-544-0403, www.norriscenter.com.
Clybourne Park Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. centertheatregroup.org See Stage Feature
GO ELEMENO PEA
to excessive wealth warps reality for one member of a sister duo in
Molly Smith Metzler's lively play. Hailing from blue-collar Buffalo,
20-something Simone (Melanie Lora) has fled to Martha's Vineyard to play
personal assistant to Michaela (Katrina Lenk), an intensely neurotic,
love-starved woman-child prone to fits of rage over minutiae. A visit
from Simone's sister, Devon (a quick-witted Cassie Beck), a
down-to-earth genius working at Olive Garden and living in her parents'
basement, turns into a surreal romp through an amoral world in which
money is God. As Devon bears baffled witness to her sister's sold soul,
she stumbles through countless comic attempts to drag Simone from the
increasingly ugly clutches of Michaela's opulent, deceit-filled life,
only to find that Simone and her spoiled-brat boyfriend, Ethan (Jamison
Jones), are arguably more despicable than Michaela. Metzler has a strong
ear for dialogue and she brings a human touch to the sisters, scripting
a loving bond balanced with authentic doses of judgment and jealousy.
Her peripheral characters sometimes veer into caricature, and the
message about money as a sinister force wears thin, but the sisterly
love story with all its jagged edges is winning. Ralph Funicello's set
nails Martha's Vineyard elite, and Lap Chi Chu's lighting nicely
re-creates myriad beachfront hues. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town
Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Tues.-Wed. & Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat.,
8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (714) 708-5555, scr.org.
The Jacksonian Written by Beth Henley. Starting Feb. 15, Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through March 25. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Old Wicked Songs Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 11, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through March 4. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, 818-558-7000, www.colonytheatre.org.
A Raisin in the Sun Presented by Ebony Repertory Theatre. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org. See Stage feature
Red Hot Patriot Kathleen Turner is "brassy Texan reporter" Molly Ivins. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature
GO Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs This musical adaptation of the fairy tale classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs offers plenty of opportunity for children's participation -- and that is its strongest appeal. In this amiably revised version, the Queen (Susan Morgenstern) is upset to learn that she's no longer considered the land's fairest -- but her remedy is relatively benign. Instead of plotting to kill Snow White (Caitlin Gallogly), she transports her out of the kingdom. Instead of feeding her a poisoned apple, she laces one with tryptophan. Instead of seven dwarves protecting the heroine, the script features one jolly performer (Anthony Gruppuso) abetted by enthusiastic helpers drafted from the audience. Neither the book (Scott Martin) nor the songs (music by Rob Meury, lyrics by Richard Brent) are especially memorable, but Gallogly is cute and charismatic, and Paul Denniston scores laughs doubling as the wise-cracking magic mirror and the puffed-up prince. For adult spectators, observing the kids' delight is the best entertainment. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 1 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., Los Angeles, 323-851-7977, www.theatrewest.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
GO The Beauty Queen of Leenane Martin McDonough's story of family struggles in rural Ireland. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
title refers to the psychic scars borne by the two intensely troubled
souls in Cindy Lou Johnson's hyperreal drama. Shivering and distraught,
bedraggled bride Rosannah (Tessa Ferrer) bursts into a remote cabin in
Alaska, having abandoned her bridegroom at the altar and then
arbitrarily driven straight north from Arizona. The stark,
snow-enveloped homestead belongs to Henry (Andy Wagner), a haunted young
recluse living in self-judgmental exile. Both Rosannah and Henry are
desperate, traumatized people; both harbor secrets and are afraid of
intimacy, yet they are attracted to each other. Compelling at key
junctures, the reiterative script comes packed with long-winded
monologues, its fantastical premise posing an especial challenge to
performers. Wagner is persuasive as a caring man petrified of contact,
but Ferrer can't quite transcend the extraordinarily difficult
parameters of her role. Modest production values, including Jeff
Polunas' sound design and L. Godley's discriminating lighting, serve the
story well. John Hindman directs. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica
Blvd., Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 11. (323)
469-9988, brillianttracesplay.com. (Deborah Klugman)
Buddha: Triumph & Tragedy in the Life of the Great Sage (No perf Feb. 24.). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through March 3, (800) 838-3006, thebuddhaplay.com. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, www.bootleg.org
California Dreamin' Written by Jill Charlotte Thomas, directed by L. Flint Esquerra. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 11. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
Candida George Bernard Shaw's comedy. Starting Feb. 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 11, (323) 960-7770, plays411.com/candida. Flight Theater at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com.
GO casebolt and smith's O(h) As casebolt and smith, the L.A.-based duo of Liz Casebolt and Joel Smith follow e.e. cummings' lead eschewing capital letters, but arrive home armed with a fistful of fine reviews from the premiere of O(h) at New York's Joyce Theater to various festivals. In O(h), they segue easily from dance to commentary to song in an hour-long excursion brimming with humor including a send up of Tina Turner's intro to "Proud Mary" and a primer on modern dance gesture that wryly debunks modern dance taking itself too seriously. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, $30, $22 seniors & students. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Los Angeles, 323-960-7863.
GO Days of Wine and Roses J.P. Miller's story of alcoholism. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/wineandroses. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard) It's uncanny how uninspired directorial choices, unformed performances and artless production design can throw the unforgiving glare of the spotlight onto a text. For director Laurie Woolery's disappointing staging of playwright Tanya Saracho's Mexican drug war-set adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, the illumination proves brutally unflattering. With the exception of the nouveau riche Lopakhin (here played by Justin Huen as the narcotraficante Lopez), Saracho pares down Chekhov's dramatis personae to the principal women: the nostalgia-trapped matriarch of the impoverished, land-owning Galvan family, MaitŽ (Yetta Gottesman); her severe, romantically unrequited older daughter, Valeria (Isabelle Ortega); young sister Anita (Diana Romo); and the household's uppity chambermaid, Dunia (Sabina Zuniga Varela). But Saracho's truncation seems a pallid compromise. Crippled by both Frederica Nascimento's drab set and the lack of a Trofimov to articulate the anger underlying the bloody, offstage social upheavals, the play musters precious little of the comic absurdity or pathos implied by the word Chekhovian. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-661-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Expecting to Fly Michael Hyman's one-act surveys the wreckage of a relationship gone wrong between two gay men. Jared's (Justin Mortelliti) tenuous life of bar cruising, fast sex, booze and prescription drugs is brought into acute relief by the continuous presence of the ghost of his one-time husband, Sean (Casey Kringlen). The scenario engenders heated exchanges, recriminations, a smoldering reservoir of guilt, a litany of recollections about their erstwhile lives together, and the unpleasant incidents and conditions that eventually led to Sean's leap from the roof of the Chelsea Hotel. Hyman's decent writing doesn't offset the dense stasis that sets in early on, or a central conceit that wears terribly thin. The convenient Twilight Zone-inspired finale doesn't offer much satisfaction either, but the performances are outstanding. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 4. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-0046, www.elephanttheatrecompany.com.
GO Fairy Tale Theatre 18 & Over J. Michael Feldman defines a whole new type of "triple threat" by writing, puppeteering and acting in Fairy Tale Theatre: 18 & Over, this 90-minute barrel of monkey-filled laughs. But it's not just monkeys who populate this world; it's polar bears, squirrels, spiders, bees and other such mainstays of fairy-tale fare. The adult-themed stories -- like "The Bi-Polar Bear and Co-Dependent Eskimo," "The Monkeys and Their Pet" and "The Cloud Who Was Into Some Weird Shit" -- are filled with a hilariously caustic wit that's often self-referential, but not in an annoyingly hipster-ish way. Even Feldman's preshow announcement gets laughs, demonstrating his clear knack for comedy and setting the tone for the evening. His fellow players -- puppeteers Jess McKay, Matt Cook and Tina Huang, as well as castmates Courtney Pauroso and Eileen Mulanee -- are true chameleons who transform their voices, expressions and body language to endow a litany of animals with human traits. The actors truly throw themselves into the characters, lampooning highly relatable issues in outrageously funny ways. Contributing to their brilliant execution are director Annie McVey's daring choices and Stephen Rowan's colorful menagerie of props and costumes. With a go-for-broke vivacity and edginess reminiscent of Monty Python, Feldman and his crew spin comedic gold. (Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 11, $25. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
GO Fiesta Xylophone playing, ice skating and traditional Mexican hat dancing are just a few of the talents displayed by Bob Baker's marionettes in this south-of-the-border celebration. A favorite production at Baker's theater since its premiere in 1964, the show shines brightest when the colorful puppets interact with children in the audience, like when two peck-happy ostriches provide particularly hearty giggles by gobbling little heads. The whole show is one big happy dance featuring two-stepping cacti, smiling skeleton showgirls and a chicken/rooster duet that's a scream. The ever-present puppeteers disappear during a black-light segment in which flying puppets provide slightly spooky thrills. A piñata is broken near show's end, but no candy is in sight. This wrong is quickly righted with a post-show ice cream social. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf Written by Ntozake Shange, directed by J.C. Gafford. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 17, (323) 960-1055, plays411.com/forcoloredgirls. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, www.lyrictheatrela.com.
Fruit Fly Written and performed by Leslie Jordan. Thursdays-Saturdays. Continues through Feb. 18. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com. See Stage feature
GO God's Ear L.A. premiere of Jenny Schwartz's play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, (877) 369-9112, echotheatercompany.com. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles.
GO Hamlet Over the 10 years of its existence, the Independent Shakespeare Company has developed a reliable house style: brisk, athletic, no-nonsense productions, with a contemporary sensibility, a Brechtian objectivity and a talent for unlocking the plays' comic potential. All of these virtues are present in this, its fifth rendering of Hamlet, with David Melville once again putting his stamp on the title role. Melville, like Hamlet himself, has an antic disposition, and an anarchic and subversive wit that prevents his ever sinking into conventionality. (Never have the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern scenes or the advice to the players yielded so many solid laughs.) Director Melissa Chalsma gives us a fine, exciting, fast-moving, no-period production, with a strong supporting cast that delivers the cleverly edited text with energy and clarity. Sean Pritchett is a smoothly confident Claudius and Luis Galindo smartly responds to the challenge of three demanding roles: the Ghost, the Player King and the Gravedigger. Thomas Ehas renders Polonius as a dignified booby, and Mary Guilliams is a spunky Ophelia. Erwin Tuazon shines as an irresistibly comic Rosencrantz and an unexpectedly subtle Osric, while Andre Martin is a stalwart Laertes. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Atwater Crossing, 3245 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles.
Hermetically Sealed "Hermetically Sealed" refers to the secret festering at the heart of this layered family drama -- one that isn't uncovered until near the very end. Startling (at least to me!) at its denouement, Katherine Graf's 90-minute one-act pivots around an overworked pastry chef named Tessie (Gigi Bermingham) and her two teenage sons: the recalcitrant Jimmy (understudy Jonathan Griffin Sterling in the performance I saw), and Conor (Nicholas Podany), a smart, likable kid addicted to video gaming but savvy and sensitive enough to respond when his stressed-out mom signals for help. Their household's already precarious equilibrium upends with the meddlesome intrusion of Tessie's loudmouthed, domineering employer, Dale Jr. (Julia Prud'homme), and her sleazeball husband (Brendan Patrick Connor). Despite some rough edges on opening night, director Joel Polis marshals a vital and accomplished ensemble, adding breadth to dialogue spilling over with chatter about lemon bars and mango tarts. Bermingham's harassed but devoted matriarch is the soul of the play while Podany, most impressive given his youth -- he's a local high school sophomore -- delivers a dynamic, in-depth performance. The spot-on Connor plays a creep with humanity. Designer Jeff McLaughlin's splendidly detailed set, replete even with running water, furnishes a faultless framework for this slice of kitchen sink realism. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12, (702) 582-8587, https://katselas.secure.force.com/ticket. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, www.bhplayhouse.com.
Home Brewed: Six Original One-Acts "Home Is Where the Hooker Is" by Chris Johnen, "Deep Shit" by Kristin Lerner, "Sherlatch Homes" by Ryan Paul James, "The Recruit" by Mark Wilson, "Lock and Key" by Heidi Rhodes, and "Street Home" by Jim Medeiros. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.
Ian MacKinnon's Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 1 & 2 The history of homosexuals by performance artist and activist Ian MacKinnon. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 24, brownpapertickets.com/event/214106. Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-3259, www.movingarts.org.
GO I Love Lucy® Live on Stage If you're an I Love Lucy fan, this is your moment. The show, based on the TV series that still runs in syndication 60 years after its debut, takes audience members back to Desilu studio during the 1950s, where the audience sits in on a "live" television taping of two episodes, hosted by the affable Murray Jasper (Mark Christopher Tracy). Though there never will be talents quite like Ball, William Frawley, Vivian Vance and Desi Arnaz, director Rick Sparks' terrific cast channels them with charm, intelligence and energy in this fun-filled musical comedy. Sirena Irwin plays the redhead queen of comedy with precision. Bill Mendieta has got Ricky Ricardo down, including the thick Cuban accent, and Bill Chott and Lisa Joffrey do Fred and Ethel Mertz quite well. The two original episodes, "The Benefit" and "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined" (written by Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr.), are a hoot, but so are the hilarious commercial breaks, the Lucy trivia contest and the surprising variety of musical and dance numbers. Pianist and musical director Wayne Moore does a stellar job leading the six-piece band. Aaron Henderson provides meticulously crafted sets, while Shon LeBlanc's period costumes are on the money. (Yes, there are more than a few red-and-white polka dot dresses.) (Lovell Estell III). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, $34, (800) 595-4849, ilovelucylive.com. Greenway Court Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, www.greenwayarts.org.
Keep It Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1739, www.1739publichouse.com.
GO KING OF THE DESERT Bellowing,
wildly gesticulating and posturing, René Rivera gives an athletic, at
times manic performance in his autobiographical and bilingual one-man
show (written by his wife, Stacey Martino) that examines his upbringing,
noble ancestry and career struggles. From playing an avocado as a
kiddie in a school pageant to acting studies at Juilliard in New York,
where his dreams of inhabiting the great Shakespearean roles are
tempered but not quashed, the Mexican-American actor battles
disappointment, typecasting and addictive behaviors. Interestingly
self-reflexive, at times Rivera examines the dramatic elements of his
own story and play as it unfolds and finds it wanting. Vividly
describing his childhood in a San Antonio barrio, characterized as "the
circle," from which he is falsely warned he will never escape, Rivera
invokes his scrappy infancy with childlike wonderment and glee. His
hometown is beautifully realized by set designer Danuta Tomzynski, with
graffiti and flowers painted across the adobe walls, as well as a
forlorn Madonna imprisoned behind metal bars. Jeremy Pivnick's colorful
lighting design melds well with Mat Hale's gorgeous video projections.
The sound design by Jade Puga and Richard Montes evokes Rivera's most
tempestuous experiences. It's a rage-fueled rant of a show, at times
exhausting to watch, but nonetheless entertaining throughout. Casa 0101,
2102 E. First St, Boyle Heights; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru
Feb. 12. (323) 263-7684, casa0101.org (Pauline Adamek)
Macbeth Presented by Illyrian Players. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26, brownpapertickets.com/event/217438. Lyric-Hyperion Theater Cafe, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Los Angeles, 323-906-8904, www.lyrichyperion.com.
Macbeth Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St. No. 105, Los Angeles, 213-680-0392, www.loftensemble.com.
Marisol Jose Rivera's story of a young Puerto Rican copy editor in Manhattan abandoned by her guardian angel. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 10, brownpapertickets.com. Art of Acting Studio, 1017 N. Orange Drive, Los Angeles, 323-601-5310.
Mine Written by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Dep Kirkland. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through March 11, (323) 960-7788, plays411.net/mine. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 N. Lilian Way, Los Angeles.
GO Moon Over Buffalo Ken Ludwig's zany farce centers on an acting couple on tour in Buffalo in 1953 with a repertory of Cyrano de Bergerac and Noël Coward's Private Lives. It's one of those dizzying, door-slamming affairs (James Spencer and Zachary Guiler's handsome set features five of them) with countless entrances and exits, which makes for great fun. David Ross Paterson and Wendy Phillips deliver fine performances as long-married thespians Charlotte and George Hay, whose floundering careers get a boost when happenstance sends the legendary Frank Capra to view their matinee while searching for talent for an upcoming production of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Tossed into the comic mix is George's affair with troupe member Eileen (Laetitia Leon), a cantankerous mother-in-law (Norma Campell) who despises George, a rekindled romance between the Hays' daughter Rosalind (Kate Costick) and the troupe's assistant Paul (Benjamin Burdick) and an unlikely case of mistaken identity. Complementing Ludwig's well-written script are excellent performances and savvy direction by Bjorn Johnson. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 10. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.
No Good Deed It would be tempting to place all the blame on director Dámaso Rodriguez for the cluttered, overblown and sententious chaos that is playwright Matt Pelfrey's inchoate meditation on the act of heroism in the age of mechanical reproduction. But Pelfrey's pedestrian and attenuated tale of a wimpy, comic book-obsessed high school outcast (Nick Cernoch) accidentally thrust into self-destructive media celebrity packs neither the poetic punch of a riveting stage narrative nor the insight needed to nail down its intended examination of the hero as a social construct. Instead, the script wildly ricochets from graphic-novel homage (featuring Ben Matsuya's convincing superhero art) to brittle satire to after-school melodrama to ponderous, adolescent action-fantasy. Faced with a hopeless tonal tangle, Rodriguez throws money at the production but only exacerbates its problems with upstaging video projections (Jason H. Thompson), actor-drowning sound (Doug Newell) and what is perhaps the ugliest set in designer John Iacovelli's long and otherwise distinguished career. (Bill Raden). Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., Los Angeles, 323-461-3673, www.fordtheatres.org.
OSWALD: THE ACTUAL INTERROGATION Dennis Richard's play about the last 48 hours in the life of JFK assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Write-Act Repertory Theatre 6128 Yucca St., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 19. plays411.com/owswald See Stage feature
GO Point Break Live! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.
Richard III A minimalist staging of a play by Shakespeare puts the onus of success exclusively on the strength of the performances. So it is with director Ben Rock's production of Richard III, which crashes on the shoals of mediocrity from the start. Gregory Sims' performance in the title role displays flashes of actorly integrity, but for most of this three-hour marathon, he projects the nature of a mischievous, spoiled brat, rather than a vicious, cunning adult set to murder friends, family and even children to ascend to the crown. This absence of menace dilutes the play's dynamics. Rock doesn't manage his sizable cast of 19 members especially well, an absolute necessity when working with limited space. There are some stars in this otherwise subdued constellation: Leon Russom is outstanding as the Duke of Buckingham, as are Cynthia Beckert as the Duchess of York and Kimberly Atkinson as Queen Elizabeth. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
Sarah's War Written by Valerie Dillman, directed by Matt McKenzie. Starting Feb. 11, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 18, plays411.com/sarahswar. Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-4252, www.hudsontheatre.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: SHORT EYES
Dostoevsky keenly observed, "The degree of civilization in a society
can be judged by entering its prisons." By that measure alone,
playwright Miguel Piñero's Short Eyes, an unflinchingly brutal and
surprisingly poignant scapegoating drama, remains just as relevant and
unflattering to American pretensions of moral leadership today as when
it premiered in 1974. Fortunately, director Julian Acosta's riveting and
muscular revival (which has reopened for a six-week extension) matches
Piñero's indictment of contemporary social savagery blow for blow with
some of the finest ensemble work of recent memory. Set in a day room at
New York's Rikers Island jail (on Geronimo Guzman's institutionally
distressed set), the play examines the racially determined caste system
and rigid "criminal code" that defuses the tripwire violence of prison
life. Its population is divided into three tribes: the Puerto Ricans,
led by both the brooding but upstanding Juan (David Santana) and the
sexually predatory Paco (Jason Olazabal); the blacks, whose elder
statesman is veteran con and unrepentant junkie Ice (Carl Crudup); and
the minority whites, represented by the swaggering and unscrupulous
Longshoe (Mark Rolston). It's a volatile tinderbox just waiting for a
match, which Piñero dutifully strikes in the form of hapless "fresh
fish" and accused child molester Clark (Sean Escalante). Urban Theatre
Movement at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.;
thelatc.org (Bill Raden)
Six Degrees of Separation Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., Los Angeles, 213-237-9933, www.archwayla.com.
Towne Street Theatre's 5th Annual Ten-Minute Play Festival Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, townestreet.org. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.
Unscreened "Four world-premiere short plays by some of Hollywood's fastest-rising writers." Mondays, Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 27, fireflyinc.com. Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-0046, www.laplays.com.
Women Inventing Theatre 3: Connections Mondays, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 21. OWrite Act Repertory Theatre, 6128 Yucca St., Los Angeles, 323-469-3113, www.writeactrep.org.
Yours, Isabel U.S. premiere of a new play by Christy Hall. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 18, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 11. David Schall Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Los Angeles, 323-462-8460, www.actorsco-op.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
GO Absolute Black ZJU Theatre Group's 1940s film-noir-inspired thriller. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 11. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, www.zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Almost, Maine John Cariani's romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, plays411.net/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=3031. 3Monkeys Theatre Co., 22743 Ventura Blvd., Los Angeles.
Askance Playwright Kerr Seth Lordygan grapples with some profound subject matter in his drama set in an old people's home. The inhabitants are facing relocation and an uncertain future, so tempers are flaring. Eventually some deep and harrowing memories resurface and unexpected connections are revealed. To his credit, early on Lordygan deftly elicits sympathy for his characters, with the prickly banter between the old couple Milly (Kenlyn Kanouse) and Irving (Joseph Cardinale) cross-cut with their tender courtship decades earlier (young Mille is Beth Ricketson, young Irving an excellent Adam Coggins). RJ Farrington is great as the gruff and sassy nurse, her stern quips masking true affection for her charges, while Taylor Ashbrook delivers her usual grace as the caring nurse. Sabrina Lloyd's sensitive direction maximizes the script's nuances and allows room for meaningful glances. Less successful are the too numerous monologues from old-timer Sylvia, who has dementia, yet Ivy Jones brings some magnificence to her ramblings before the play devolves into histrionics. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Feb. 13, $20-$25. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Attack of the Rotting Corpses Starting Feb. 11, Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through March 24. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, www.zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Bananas! A Day in the Life of Josephine Baker A show that revolves around a woman who brought her diamond-collared pet cheetah onstage, volunteered to spy for a country she wasn't born in, had a "Rainbow Tribe" of adopted children long before Brangelina and performed dance while practically nude -- in 1925 -- shouldn't be dull. Despite glimpses of writer-star Sloan Robinson's obvious talent, though, the almost-two-hour show drags to the point of being downright boring. Set in Paris, Robinson's one-woman show follows Josephine Baker's life through remembrances. As she tries on sequined gown after feathered dress, Robinson delivers a running monologue directed to a framed photo of her mother. The writing feels too canned to do much in the way of bringing such an exhilarating figure to life, and the extended slideshow prior to the curtain call is painful. Naila Sanders' costumes, which fit the star like second skins, end up sparkling more than Robinson's performance. Directed by Joyce Maddox. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Feb. 29, (818) 358-3453, josephinebaker.eventbrite.com. J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thejetstudios.com.
Musso's play offers a skewed update of Oscar Wilde's Salome, set in the
sleazy New Orleans underworld during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina.
Wilde's Herod becomes Rod (Boston Stergis), a bullying fence of stolen
goods and proprietor of a down-scale strip club, with a letch for his
nubile stepdaughter Celie, i.e. Salome (Lauren A. Nelsen). Herodias
becomes Rod's trashy wife, Greta (Denise Devlin), who strips in his
club. When a demented street preacher called the Prophet (Philip J.
Wheeler) begins denouncing Greta for her iniquity, she develops an
intense hatred for him and wants Rod to kill him. During a birthday
party for Rod, she persuades Celie to dance for him in her faux
tiger-skin bikini, as a ploy to persuade him to off the Prophet. The
result is a thundering Grand Guignol melodrama, with plenty of sex and
violence to satisfy aficionados of horror-flick
blood-and-gore-all-over-the-floor. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim
Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (818) 202-4120,
www.zombiejoes.com. (Neal Weaver)
Cinderella Book by June Chandler, music and lyrics by Jane Fuller. Saturdays, 11 a.m. Continues through March 17. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
Danny and the Deep Blue Sea John Patrick Shanley's two-hander about a pair of lonely, self-loathing bar rats who bond by way of confessions, cursing and beer guzzling gets an inspired staging in the hands of director John McNaughton. Danny (Matthew J. Williamson) meets Roberta (Juliet Landau) after a fistfight in which he thinks he's killed someone. Unfazed by his potential for homicide, Roberta woos Danny and reveals to him her long-kept, shameful secret. A night laced with violence and awkward affection soon evolves into phase one of a plan for healing and redemption. Shanley's script leaves almost no other choice than over-the-top acting near play's end, and Landau goes for a full-tilt brand of mania that almost slips into unintentionally comic territory. Still, both actors bring significant substance to the streetwise characters, and their easy chemistry makes the quick love connection believable. Keiko Moreno's efficient set impresses. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-745-8527, www.crowncitytheatre.com.
Finding Fossils Written by Ty DeMartino, directed by Suzanne Hunt. Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wednesdays, Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 25. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Hemingway: American Original Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Mosaic Lizard Theater, 112 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626-457-5293, www.lizardtheater.com.
It's Just Sex Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m., ovationtix.com. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, 818-762-2272, www.tworoadsgallery.com.
better and for worse, showman-playwright David Belasco's one-act
tearjerker from 1900 has cast a long shadow over the West. It inspired
Puccini's sumptuous, sentimental and crowd-pleasing perennial Madama
Butterfly, but it also bequeathed to us its selfless geisha heroine, Cho
Cho San (Kazumi Zatkin), whose absurdly submissive, compliant and
Caucasian-adoring "China doll" stereotype has been the bane of
Asian-American women ever since. To his credit, director Aramazd
Stepanian cleans up the play's comic-strip pidgin, and his elegant
production makes as affecting a frame for Belasco's antique prejudices
as one could hope for. Particularly inspired is Stepanian's prologue of
backstory tableaux, featuring soprano Mayuko Miyata's haunting rendition
of a Puccini aria. But even a mesmerizing performance by Sachiyo K as
Cho Cho San's indefatigably loyal maidservant, Suzuki, or the fine Toshi
Toda as the marriage broker Nakado can't quite rehabilitate the work
from being a slur on the good name of self-sacrificing doormats
everywhere. Luna Playhouse, 3706 San Fernando Road, Glendale;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 24. (818) 450-4801, itsmyseat.com. (Bill
plays set in airports and airplanes, and while some of the mostly comic
pieces are first-class in terms of comic sensibility and imagination,
others are unevenly paced, narratively slight and turbulently executed.
The most amusing of the plays are those that most explicitly make the
connection between a stay at an airport terminal and a trip to hell
itself. For instance, in Julianne Homokay's delightful "Diane Miller,
Please Press '9' on the Red Courtesy Phone," a harassed traveler (a
lovely, prissy Chera Holland) discovers the satanic reason for the
hellish treatment she's enduring in an airport waiting room. In Mike
Rothschild's amusing "Don't Believe the Truth," a paranoid housewife
(Jennie Floyd) confronts a spooky airport security guard about
X-Files-like rumors of a terrifying conspiracy, which may or may not be
true. As a venomous flight attendant who appears in a couple of the
vignettes, Mackenzie English perfectly assays the terrifying
professional snap-on smile. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N.
Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (800) 838-3006,
skypilottheatre.com. (Paul Birchall)
Private Lives: Noël Coward's classic comedy. Starting Feb. 16, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 25, (323) 960-7738, plays411.com/privatelives. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank, www.gtc.org.
Seatbelts Required In this Rashomon of familial dramas, an evil mother has died and her three estranged daughters by three men reunite at the old homestead to sift through her things and their bad, bad memories -- none of which match up. The bitter eldest (Elizabeth Kimball) claims mom was the devil, the favored youngest (Chelsea Pitillo) argues she was a saint and the neglected middle (Cynthia Manous) just wants to make peace. The first act is spent fighting. So, too, is the second, only now there's a bottle of tequila and Pitillo's vow to "let every fucking cat out of every fucking bag." The play is structured like a roller coaster with a dozen detours, but author Kimberly Demmary (who hints that her story is semi-autobiographical) has a steady hand on the psychological beats. Still, the emotions are too often overplayed -- the cast is capable enough that director John Barker could scale back on the eye rolls. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Actors Workout Studio, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-506-3903, www.actorsworkout.com.
Solofest 2012 Performers include Michael Bonnabel, Jed Mills, Stogie Kenyatta, Joy Nash, Synthia Hardy, Carla Collins, Brian Stanton, Michael Thyer, Richard Currier, Rachel Kiser, Gerald Rivers, Guy Jackson, Vincent Cook, Jasmynne Shaye, Kapry, Ruthy Otero, and Vincent Mann. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 818-990-2324, www.whitefiretheatre.com.
Troilus & Cressida At the outset of this "problem play" -- a difficult Shakespearean text to categorize owing to its historic, tragic and romantic elements -- the Trojan War has been raging for seven years and the battle over Helen (Eliza Kiss) finds the Greeks stuck on Trojan soil sans a winning strategy. As the story builds toward a key standoff between Achilles (an impressively athletic Matt Calloway) and Hector (a likewise battle-ready Napolean Tavale), a love story also blooms between Trojan soldier Troilus (Alex Parker) and the high-born Trojan Cressida (Taylor Fisher, whose ability to hit the requisite beats and follow the emotional transitions of her character is admirable), but Cressida's father has sided with the Greeks, a bad omen for the lovers. Minimalist staging is the right choice for the small space at the Whitmore-Lindley; the absence of scenic design puts the focus on the able ensemble. Charles Pasternak's fight choreography thrills to no end. As director, Pasternak mines the war story skillfully but never finds the sizzle or urgency integral to the central love story. (Amy Lyons). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 19, brownpapertickets.com/event/216520. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.
Twentieth Century Adapted by Ken Ludwig. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through March 17. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, 626-355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
The Water's Edge Even without its awkwardly implanted parallel to the Oresteia, Theresa Rebeck's family drama is a hollow disappointment. It begins when middle-aged narcissist Richard (Albie Selznick) returns to his wife, Helen (Nicole Farmer), after a 17-year absence. Richard aims to reclaim both his children's love and the property they and their mother inhabit. So clueless is this guy that he brings his current girlfriend along, stoking Helen's already flaming resentments. Rebeck's script is mostly dull, bromidic fare, but it does provide opportunities for the actors to create compelling characters. Unfortunately, Selznick's Richard is a drab and enervated villain, and on opening night Farmer's performance remained hemmed in by her dialogue. The best reason to see the show is Patick Rieger's performance as the couple's psychologically damaged son, Nate -- a portrayal that escalates in the problematic second act from uncertain simmer to riveting boil. Sam Anderson directs. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 10. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-752-7568, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Weird on Top Improvisational comedy by Danielle Cintron, Tiffany Cole, Mason Hallberg, Kerr Seth Lordygan, Sarah McCann and Alex Sanborn. Thu., Feb. 16, 8 p.m.; Thu., March 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., April 19, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., June 14, 8 p.m.; Thu., July 5, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 16, 8 p.m. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS
Cracked Open: Let Go and Let Gook Suzanne Whang's solo show. Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-3006, www.beyondbaroque.org.
GO Dreams of the Washer King Dangerous is the play that marries a supernatural bent with a nonlinear narrative: With story lines leaping back and forth in time, adding a spectral element blurs the line of reality even further, and risks confusing an audience whose brains are already working overtime. Although that seemed to be the case on the opening night of Christopher Wall's West Coast premiere, his gamble almost works. Teenage Ryan (Aaron Shand), obsessed with catching a trace of his deceased father on tape, and his emotionally broken bank-teller mother (Ann Hearn) eke out an existence in a tiny Maine town until the unsettling Wade (Dirk Etchison) and his daughter (Jennifer Levinson) move in next door. Wall begins dropping hints as to his master plan in the first scene, tantalizing bits that hook you in and keep you curious through intermission. The problem, however, is the second half shies away from the shocking reveal that closes the first act, and what was an unusual and interesting buildup falls flat in a series of messy scenes that stop and start jerkily. Unfortunately, Wall and director Andre Barron didn't consider the limitations of the theater -- this would play out more gracefully on-screen. Still, there's promise here, especially with a reworking of the second act and a more tightly defined identity. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
The Fall to Earth JoBeth Williams stars in Joel Drake Johnson's drama. Starting Feb. 11, Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 12, 7 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through April 1. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Family Expressions Stories about family by writers, singers, actors and comedians. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 6, familyexpressionshow.com. The Little Theater L.A., 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-622-4482, www.theblackboxtheater.org.
Filthy Talk for Troubled Times Director Frederique Michel's intriguing reinvention of this early drama by playwright Neil LaBute is set in a high-end art gallery, where a trio of beautiful women (nude save some cunningly draped hat boxes) are the prime exhibit. Several horny male "art admirers" wander about the exhibits and engage in conversations about "fuckin' those 'bitches' over there," even as chardonnay-wafting cocktail waitresses mull over the men who have boinked and abused them. LaBute's play was originally set in a strip club, and Michel's new setting in an art gallery allows the otherwise unpleasant ramblings to morph into an amusingly ironic commentary about the thin line between aesthetics and sexual desire. Sadly, though, the adaptation adds little luster to the sometimes irritatingly shrill characters, who are acted gamely if stiffly by the cast. LaBute often has been accused of depicting misogynist attitudes in an attempt to critique male behavior, but in this early work, the unpleasant toxicity of his language is so over-the-top and repetitive, it becomes numbing and tedious. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26. City Garage, Track 16 Gallery, Bergamot Station Arts Complex, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-319-9939, citygarage.org.
Hunger: In Bed With Roy Cohn The eponymous and infamous aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy flails in purgatory in Joan Beber's vaudeville/fantasia. Barry Pearl plays the title role seamlessly as a kind of Costello to Cheryl Davi's Abbott, Dora Cohn, i.e., his mom, to whom he here remains connected at the navel. Amidst the fitfully amusing songs and dance (sleekly choreographed by Kay Cole), historical figures wander through: young Ronald Reagan (a mercilessly gormless impression by David Sessions), Barbara Walters (Liza de Weerd), Cohn's lithe younger self (who slithers in and out of the bed that forms the centerpiece of John Iacovelli's marble-hued set), Cohn's barely secret lover G. David Shine (Tom Galup) and Purgatory's Latina maid, Lizette (the sultry Presciliana Esparolini). Cohn's agony, however, is reserved for the indignantly stoic portrayal of Julius Rosenberg (a striking portrayal of rectitude by Jon Levenson), whom Cohn sent to the electric chair when he was a federal prosecutor. Waiting for judgment, Cohn is a little boy trying to be a big one. That core idea isn't half as interesting as the kaleidoscopic swirl of history, so well performed and cleanly staged by Jules Aaron. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
The Indians Are Coming to Dinner In playwright Jennifer W. Rowland's new comedy, it's 1984 and boorish San Francisco cement company CEO Harold Blackburn (Michael Rothhaar), a Reagan-era alpha male if ever there was one, essentially destroys his family to pursue his unrealistic dream of being named the next ambassador to India -- a goal he hopes to achieve by throwing a fancy dinner to woo a well-placed Indian politician. Boasting some winning one-liners and artful emotional interactions, Rowland's play teems with complex themes and ideas centering on Reagan-era entitlement and the despair of upper-middle-class mediocrity. However, the work would benefit from another draft or two to cull some sequences of aimless dialogue and to nuance the sometimes shrill characterizations. Director Julia Fletcher's character-driven production suffers from occasional pacing lapses, but Rothhaar's blustering performance as the family's Jackie Gleason-like King Baby Patriarch is a compelling, tragic turn. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through March 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.
A Jew Grows in Brooklyn Starring Jake Ehrenreich. Mondays-Thursdays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 19, 2 & 5 p.m. Continues through Feb. 25, $43-$75, (866) 811-4111, ajewgrowsinbrooklyn.com. American Jewish University, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel-Air, www.uj.edu.
GO THE LONESOME WEST
McDonagh's comedy is set in a village in western Ireland, which seems
to be a hot-bed of murder, suicide and rampaging Irish eccentricity. It
centers on two brothers, Valene (Jonathan Bray) and Coleman (Jason Paul
Field), who are locked in implacable hostility. Coleman has shot their
father in what he claims was an accident. The only witness was Valene.
But Valene has refused to testify on Coleman's behalf unless Coleman
agrees to give his share of their inheritance to Valene. Consequently,
Valene now owns everything and Coleman is left with nothing -- but that
doesn't prevent him from storing up resentment and cadging Valene's
poteen (Irish moonshine) and Taytos Potato Crisps. Their fraternal
warfare has escalated to absurd heights of malice and malevolence. The
hard-drinking local priest, Father Welsh (Conor Walshe), appalled by
their constant conflicts, tries desperately to make peace between them.
But it soon emerges that their forgiveness can be as lethal and
competitive as their fights. Bray's Valene is a study in buttoned-up
smugness, while Field's Coleman is a disreputable, unregenerate
layabout. Director Mike Reilly has assembled an impeccable cast,
including Rachel Noll, and directs them with a sharp eye for comic
possibilities. Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 4. (310) 397-3244,
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ruskingrouptheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)
New Jerusalem... Written by David Ives, directed by Elina De Santos. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through April 1, (323) 821-2449, wcjt.org. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, www.picoplayhouse.com.
Pick of the Vine Nine one-act plays selected from over 480 submissions. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 18. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org/wp/.
What the Butler Saw Director Alan Patrick Kenny's staging of Joe Orton's classic demonstrates how even accomplished American actors can stumble when trying to pull off British farce. The play jump-starts around the efforts of a lecherous psychiatrist (John Walcott) to conceal his attempted seduction of a pretty job applicant (Amanda Troop) from his battle-ax wife (Melinda Parrett). Chaos ensues, aggravated further by the arrival of a loony government official (Geoffrey Wade) bent on uncovering madness and dissipation in every corner. Written in 1967, when homosexuality in Britain was still illegal, the play relentlessly skewers psychiatry, gender roles, inept dysfunctional bureaucrats, prissy good manners and the whole notion of what constitutes sane and insane in a hypocritical society. Time has frayed the edges of Orton's once-insurrectionary lampoon; a bigger problem in this production is the ensemble's failure, despite individually capable performances, to collectively replicate the mindset that spurred Orton's outrage. (Deborah Klugman). Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through March 11. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.