Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

On The Subject Was Roses and The Ballad of Emmett Till

Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute



After flying west to Chicago, the NYC-based institute for commercial producers is now coming to Los Angeles "offering our program to the eclectic theatre scene of Los Angeles. Open to anyone interested in producing, co-producing or investing in the commercial theatre - not only in LA but on Broadway, Off Broadway, Touring Broadway, and elsewhere, the program will offer practical information of interest to prospective producers, general managers, and investors based in LA, as well as New York and around the country."

Friday, February 26th - Saturday, February 27th, all day both days, at the Pico Playhouse

10508 West Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90064-2332

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for February 26 - March 4, 2010

Our critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following cagtegories: Opening This Week, 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.


AN ADULT EVENING OF SHEL SILVERSTEIN Shel Silverstein's American vignettes. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; opens Feb. 26; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27. (866) 811-4111.

BLOOD WEDDING Federico Garcia Lorca's 1932 tragedy. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; opens Feb. 26; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru April 11. (323) 225-4044.

BACKWARDS IN HIGH HEELS Musical tribute to dancing dame Ginger Rogers. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; opens Feb. 26; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (562) 436-4610.

BUG Tracy Letts' tale of loss, conspiracy theories and bugs. USVAA Theater, 10858 Culver Blvd., Culver City; opens Feb. 26; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 559-2116.

DON JUAN DISPENSO Tony Tanner's take on the legend of Don Juan. Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; opens Feb. 28; Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 4. (800) 838-3006.

DREAMGIRLS Broadway's girl-group musical, music by Henry Krieger, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.; opens March 2; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru April 4. (213) 628-2772.

ESCANABA IN LOVE Jeff Daniels' sequel to Escanaba in da Moonlight. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; opens Feb. 26; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., March 28, 7 p.m.; Thurs., April 1, 8 p.m.; thru April 3. (310) 512-6030.

THE EVENT/THE INTERVIEW John Clancy's one-person narrative The Event, and Lawrence Bridges' unscripted world premiere The Interview. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; opens March 2; Tues.-Thurs..; thru March 25,

FLESH AND BLOOD X 2 "Porphyrion's Revenge" by Paul Outlaw and "Crucio" by Johnny 2.0, in association with Clive Barker. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Feb. 26-27, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

FORGIVENESS David Schulner's world premiere about a bride-to-be's buried family history. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens Feb. 27; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 28...

A GIANT ARC IN THE SKYSPACE OF DIRECTIONS Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Michael Vukadinovich's post-apocalyptic fairy tale. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens March 4; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 27, (310) 396-3680.

GOUNOD'S FAUST Fully staged opera with orchestra and English supertitles, presented by the Center Stage Opera. Madrid Theater, 21622 Sherman Way, Canoga Park; Sat., Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.. (818) 347-9938.

HOT PANTS, COLD FEET Wedding satire, written and performed by Will Matthews and Cassandra Smith. I.O. WEST, 6366 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens March 2; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 20, (323) 962-7560.

I EAT PEOPLE LIKE YOU FOR BREAKFAST! Steven Alan Green's behind-the-scenes story of working with Jerry Lewis on a charity event. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Feb. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 11 a.m.. (323) 525-0661.

JANE AUSTEN, UNSCRIPTED Impro Theatre improvises a full-length play in the literary style of Jane Austen. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Mon., March 1, 7:30 p.m.. (858) 481-2155.

JESUS HATES ME Chance Theater presents Wayne Lemon's comedy centered on a WalMart Jesus mannequin. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; opens Feb. 26; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 7. (714) 708-5555.

LOVE YOU! Lily Ann's musical spoof of the Hollywood nightclub lifestyle. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Feb. 27; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 28, (323) 284-7982.

MEN OF TORTUGA Jason Wells' comedic thriller about covert governmental and corporate operations. (In the Carrie Hamilton Theatre.). Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; opens Feb. 27; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 356-PLAY.

NOBODY'S PERFECT Family musical based on the children's book by Marlee Matlin and Doug Cooney. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sun., Feb. 28, 1:30 & 3:30 p.m.. (562) 944-9801.

OEDIPUS EL REY Luis Alfaro's gritty re-telling of Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; opens Feb. 27; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (626) 683-6883.

THE PARTY OF THE YEAR: AN OPERETTA REVIEW Scenes from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," "The Mikado" and "Ruddigore," Franz Lehár's "The Merry Widow," Jacques Offenbach's "La Parichole," "The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein," Victor Herbert's "The Enchantress," Sigmund Romberg's "The Student Prince" and Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus.". California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks; March 4-6, 8 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.. (805) 980-0784.

PEL TEDDER PRESENTS: A NAUGHTY NIGHT OF COMEDY Three one-act comedies: "Blood is Slicker Than Water," "Bee Stings & Ding-a-lings" and "Confessions of a Kept Man.". NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 26; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 3 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 761-2166.

RETURNING THE BONES Gin Hammond's one-woman play about her aunt, African-American physician and activist Carolyn Beatrice Montier. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Thurs., March 4, 8 p.m.. (310) 440-4500.

A SINGULAR EVENT/NIGHT Two new works of movement theater, "A Singular Event," by Judy Bauerlein, Marc E. Shaw and Hank Willenbrink, and "Night" by choreographer Rebecca Salzer. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Sun., Feb. 28, 7 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

THE STORY OF MY LIFE Music and lyrics by Neil Bartram, book by Brian Hill. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; opens Feb. 26; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4, (818) 505-1875.

A SUPERCALIFRAGILISTIC EVENING WITH RICHARD M. SHERMAN Selections from the musical Pazzazz!, with Adam Wylie, Christine Capsuto, Joey D'Auria, Amy Gillette, Gilmore Rizzo, Laura Thatcher, and special guest star JoAnne Worley. El Capitan Theater, 6838 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 26, 7 p.m.; Sat., Feb. 27, 2 & 8 p.m.. (818) 845-3110.

THE WRITES OF PASSION OF PHILOMELA NIGHTINGALE: A FAERIE'S TALE Linguist and "naturally ordained WishFaerie" Laurel Airica's one-woman confessional., $15. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sun., Feb. 28, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 394-9779.

(YOU'VE NEVER SEEN) FIGHT CLUB?!? Zombie Joe's Underground presents Amanda Marquardt's re-imagined urban fantasy. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Feb. 26; Fri.-Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (818) 202-4120.


AURELIA'S ORATORIO Created and directed by Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, starring Aurélia Thierrée. La Jolla Playhouse, , 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (858) 550-1010.

CAVE QUEST Les Thomas' story of a video gamer looking for inner peace who tracks down a legendary American Buddhist nun in a Tibetan cave. East West Players, 120 N. Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14. (213) 625-7000.

NEW REVIEW CELADINE With its contrived plot and wan

humor, this piece of trivia by Charles Evered reminded me of the

chick-lit historical romances I devoured when I was 10.  Celadine

(Giselle Wolf) is an exceptional 17th century woman, an acclaimed

playwright who once captured King Charles' affections. Suffering

writer's block, she now runs a coffeehouse with her garrulous friend

Mary (Holly Hawkins), a former prostitute. High-spirited and

unconventional -- but with a dark secret, of course --  Celadine

cavorts with a young mute, Jeffrey (Will Barker); for laughs, they play

horse (Jeffrey) and rider (Celadine), and he mends her pantaloons'

seam  while burrowed beneath her skirt.   The play's real action

jumpstarts around a smooth-talking thespian named Elliot (Michael A.

Newcomber), who wants Celadine to write another play; soon after

there's an unexpected visit from the king (Larry Cedar) who  assigns

her a dangerous espionage mission to help root out Protestant spies.

The comedy might have worked had it been doused in tongue-in-cheek wit.

Though Newcomber charms his way through the vapid script, the miscast

Wolf is too earnest and declamatory. Hawkins and Cedar do their best

but there aren't enough clever farcical elements for them to properly

exercise their talents.  Most annoying is how the abundant skills of

Stephen Gifford, Luke Moyer  and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg - scenic,

lighting  and costume designers respectively  -- are frittered away on

such prosaic material.  Andrew Barnicle directs.  Colony Theatre, 555

N. Third St., Burbank; Sun., 2 & 7p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 &

8 p.m.; thru March 7, (818) 558-7000. 

(Deborah Klugman)

GO THE COLOR PURPLE Patrons standing outside the Pantages for last weekend's performance of The Color Purple were understandably miffed when it was announced that because of illness, American Idol glamgirl Fantasia would not be performing. But, to trot out the cliche, the show must go on: Brandi Chavonne Massey acquitted herself superbly in the Fantasia's role of Celie, the long-suffering abused child who gradually transforms into a paradigm of self-sufficiency and proud womanhood. But Celie's painful journey is also a story about the enduring power of the human spirit, and love in its myriad forms. Massey effortlessly plowed through one song after another, never missing a note, and her acting was every bit as impressive. Marsha Norman's adaptation of Alice Walker's novel (music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray) crackles with energy, notwithstanding some awkward plot twists, and a second act that languishes. This is a show that's hard not to get swept up in. The mix of gospel, blues and jazz is as alluring as Paul Tazewell's colorful array of costumes, and Donald Byrd's choreography. Gary Griffin directs. (Lovell Estell III). Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (213) 365-3500.

GO THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES "The Female of the Species is more deadly than the male," wrote Rudyard Kipling some 100 years ago. That might well be the theme of Australian playwright Joanna Murray-Smith's satire of all things that have fallen into the gender divide over the past 40 years. The comedy is set in the library/living room in the secluded country home of Margot Mason (Annette Bening), a sardonic wit and author of feminist self-help books. (Bening's take is perfectly competent though narrow in range). Margot struggles to meet an impending deadline for a book she's barely started, when an interloper named Molly Rivers (Merritt Wever) wanders in through the French doors (Takeshi Kata designed the detailed, realistic set). Based on a real-life incident involving such an intrusion upon author Germaine Greer, and after offering some fake adoration for the famous author, Molly pulls out a pistol and threatens to kill Margot over her sequence of celebrity-motivated, contradictory exegeses that, Molly believes, were responsible for her mother's suicide. (The despondent woman allegedly clutched a copy of Margot's The Cerebral Vagina before hurling herself under a moving train.) Enter Margot's daughter, Tess (a particularly fine Mireille Enos), traumatized by her mother's decades of neglect and contempt for her daughter's having "settled" into a married life with a nice if dim-witted hedge-fund investor named Bryan (an endearing turn by David Arquette). ("I love you, Tess. You know I've always mounted you on a pedestal.") A hausfrau in crisis somewhere between despair and oblivion, Tess has no complaint over Molly's intention to murder her mother. Add to the mix (yes, it's a very busy day for an author who desires only to be left alone to write) Molly's macho taxi driver, Frank (Josh Stamberg), furious because Molly stiffed him -- because he wouldn't stop talking about how his wife just left him. Margot's publisher, Theo (Julian Sands), also shows up to resolve a lingering question of genealogy. (The farce is not intended to hold a mirror to life's most probable outcomes.) When Frank finally grows a pair and starts ordering Tess around, her eyes light up and her shoulder straps fall. It's a feminist's nightmare, as is the entire play. It's also a comedy of the ilk George Bernard Shaw might have written had he lived another 100 years, though he probably would have left out the gun, which the characters spend most of the play ignoring anyway. Of course, this is a joke about hostage plays; it also reveals how the person holding the gun may not actually possess all the power, especially if there's enough wit from the playwright and the people who don't hold the gun. There are enough funny lines to keep an evening of repartee and satire from imploding, especially under Randall Arney's sure-footed direction, yet the comedy does skewer one of the most pressing social debates of the 1980s, like a vehicle that's been spinning in a swamp for some time. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 208-5454.

HERSHEY FELDER AS MONSIEUR CHOPIN A piano lesson at Frédéric Chopin's salon at 9 Square d'Orléans in Paris, just days after the start of the French Revolution. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (949) 497-2787.

HOT FLASH! Jenifer Lewis' one-woman show, written by Mark Alton Brown and Jenifer Lewis. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 860-7302.

ON CARING FOR THE BEAST The average layperson planning to see director-playwright Shishir Kurup's somewhat bewildering metaphysical fantasy would be well-advised to bring along a beginner's guide to Dharmic religious traditions. For Kurup's heady, 2001 dramatic excavation of the meanings of truth -- the modern corruptions as well as the more ancient, unadulterated permutations -- is awash in the symbology, deities and philosophy of Tantric and Jainist mysticism. The latest entry in Cornerstone Theater's ongoing "Justice Cycle" opens in the subdivided home of landlord/earth mother/amateur trance-channeler Mae (Page Leong), whose domestic tranquillity is quickly turning into a world of hurt. The terminal bone disease her gay tenant, Charlie (Marcenus "MC" Earl), suffers from has just entered its painful, chronic phase, which drives his desperate, university professor lover, Art (Michael Cooke), to undertake a crash course in psychic healing. Neighbor Alissa's (Bahni Turpin) book-project profile of the enigmatic Dr. Narayan (Amro Salama), a repentant, U.S.-trained military torturer, sends her and musician boyfriend Sean (Justin Gordon) into the masochistic deep end in their quest to mentally transcend physical suffering. The lives of all concerned are unexpectedly turned upside down when Mae accidentally channels the mother goddess, Kali, and the house is blasted with a bolt of her creative energy. Though the play's spiritual speculations can plod and even overwhelm, for we cynical, secular humanists, Kurup's elegant staging (featuring designer Tom Ontiveros' lovely lights and video projections) and a world-class ensemble prove the perfect sugar to help the New Age go down. A Cornerstone Theater production (Bill Raden). Inner City Arts, 720 Kohler St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (213) 627-9621.

SOUVENIR The fascinating idea at the heart of Stephen Temperley's bio-comedy is the gaping divide between the music we hear in our hearts, and that same music heard by those around us. In the early 20th century, Florence Foster Jenkins made a career as an opera diva in New York, evidently oblivious to the fact that she couldn't sing. Not only could she not manufacture a note anywhere near what others would call on pitch, she also couldn't hear the mocking laughter of her audiences. According to Temperley's play, she was in love with the music she heard in her head, as well as the fame it brought her via record sales and concert appearances. This is what makes the imperious stridency of Constance Hauman's performance as Jenkins so endearing. Unfortunately, every interesting insight the play offers is overly narrated by her accompanist, Cosmo McMoon (Brent Schindele, who's terrific on the baby grand that anchors Mike Jespersen's set), and the two-character drama hangs on his moral struggle and failure to tell his employer the truth, and thereby cash in on her delusions. Even with its elegant production design, including a NYC skyline that pops up when needed via slide projections, and Nick McCord's delicate lighting design, Gregg W. Brevvort's production is a one-trick pony. In her various songs and arias, rather than pursuing the elusive notes, which would create an excruciating tension from a musical game of cat and mouse, Hauman is (deliberately) seven miles away, and remains so. Meanwhile, Schindele's accompanist too often mugs his expressions of horror, when a more muted, droll response would not only be funnier, but it would underscore his hidden agenda. The result is one very obvious joke about the essences of delusion, which are anything but obvious. (Steven Leigh Morris). Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 955-8101.


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo by Craig Schwartz


SUBJECT WAS ROSES Richly textured performances by Frances Conroy and

Martin Sheen provide the best reason to see Neil Pepe's meticulous

staging of Frank D. Gilroy's 1964 chestnut. The story concerns an only

son (Brian Geraghty), home from the Army after WWII. He's now a little

more grown up and able to recognize the fractures of his parents'

marriage. The play, and the production, are beautifully understated,

and if the climactic scene is less cathartic than it might have been in

1964, that's no reason to stay away.  Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand

Ave., downtown; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1

& 6:30 p.m.; through March 21. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage feature  

TEATRO EN EL BLANCO: DICIEMBRE Chilean writer-director Guillermo Calderon's drama about a future war in Santiago. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; Through Feb. 27, 8:30 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

GO WRECKS The loaded situation in writer-director Neil LaBute's "love story" allows for a kind of velvet glove to reach inside one's heart, and then swirls around the intestines for a while before making its withdrawal. This leaves us, well, touched -- but in a way that's far from sentimental. Ed Harris stars in this monologue, set in a Northern Illinois funeral home. His wife's casket -- her photo perched on its lid -- forms the centerpiece of Sibyl Wickersheimer's set. Cricket S. Meyers' sound design offers the whispers and echoes of voices in an anteroom, where our bereaved widower, Ed Carr (Harris), ostensibly floats -- that would be his public self. But that's not what we're seeing. He refers to himself being "back there" with "them" while he speaks to us through the mirror of his subconscious. What we get is his real eulogy, with the secrets he won't tell them, because he's a private person, he insists. (He won't tell us some secrets, such as his wife's final four words, either.) He has a blazingly clear reason to be so private, which is the melodramatic revelation near play's end, which forces us to confront the definition of love, and how that definition rubs up against social propriety. I didn't buy that revelation, not within the colloquial, ruminative and realistic confines of LaBute's direction. But that's a small matter. The big matter is the gorgeous combination of LaBute's digressive and piercingly insightful love letter with Harris' tender-furious childlike and ultimately profound interpretation. Ed Carr is a bit like a chain-smoking Dostoyevskian narrator, who, while drifting onto free-associated topics and bilious commentary (on anti-smoking campaigns, for example), he is, finally, on message. And his message about the essence of love is upsetting and unimpeachable in the same breath. (Steven Leigh Morris). Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 208-5454.

A WRINKLE IN TIME South Coast Rep's original adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's young adult novel. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Sat., 11 a.m., 2 & 4:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (714) 708-5555.


ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 7 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ACME 2NITE New sketches and old favorites, ACME style. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 9 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations, such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot. (Steven Leigh Morris). Hollywood Blvd., betwn. Highland & Las Palmas aves., L.A.; Fri.-Sat.,


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo by Ed Krieger


Jo Finney stages a vivacious five-person ensemble in Ifa Bayeza's

choreopoem based on the life and death of the 14-year-old black man

from Chicago, brutally murdered during a 1955 working vacation in

Mississippi, for the "crime" of whistling at a white, female

shopkeeper. His funeral, and the open casket demanded by his mother,

became a flashpoint for the nascent Civil Rights movement. Despite the

performances' visceral intensity, its lingering, emotionally exploitive

depiction of the murder helps boils the history down to a black and

white sketch of good versus evil. It provokes righteous

self-satisfaction more than our introspection. Fountain Theatre, 5060

Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles;  Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; sun., 2 p.m.; thru

April 3. (323) 5060. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Theater feature.


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo by Jennifer Blevins


Stern's two-character comedy takes place in the Malibu digs of Jerry

and Molly Schiff (Wilson Green, Mary Beth Evans).The seemingly happily

married couple's placid existence is thrown into disarray when their

ordinarily quiet street is transformed into a media horror show with

the pending nuptials of their neighbor Barbra Streisand. The street is

choked with limos, there are scads of celebrities arriving, and the din

of news copters is continual and deafening, forcing them to take refuge

inside. Jerry's daily jog is interrupted; Molly wants to block the

whole riotous scene out with a specially prepared meal. Before cabin

fever sets in, the forced proximity engenders a verbal altercation

about Jerry's need to hobnob with the stars, his failed acting career,

and even the circumstances of their wedding ceremony. Clocking in at

just over an hour, the script offers some laughs, but not nearly satire

enough to make the show memorable - the ending drift takes on the tone

of a therapy session. Brent Mason's strikingly beautiful two-tiered set

piece with its immaculate kitchen is notable. John Coppola directs.

Second Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7 . (866) 811-4111. A Studio C.

Production (Lovell Estell III)

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER In the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived hurricane, Katrina. Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he watches a lot of TV -- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But Marcus' theories and conclusions have always gotten him, brother Quentin (Tony Williams) and Marcus' girlfriend, Charlie (Candice Afia), in over their heads with one bad hustling scheme after another. Still, Marcus is convinced he's the brains of the group, even if he has to badger Quentin and Charlie until they agree. When Quentin limps in, sopping wet, still wearing his orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet hole in his thigh, the two siblings have a violent score to settle. Terence Anthony's taut one-act drama is effective agony. Two character twists may not add up, but while the audience perches practically in the living room of Jorge I. Velasquez's realistic, dingy set, with the rain hammering down, the tension is as thick as the storm clouds we imagine overhead. Solid performances keep the spell going, particularly by Afia as the strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free of Marcus' emotional abuse. Sara Wagner directs. (Amy Nicholson). Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.

BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's 50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11, (213) 250-9995.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST . Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide-show about the rural Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up, conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s collagist painter-sculptor, Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone. Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence, politics and metaphysics - though there are digressions for a series of chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitmanesque grandeur, delivered by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorak's Symphony from The New World. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673.

ARTEL: KHARMFUL CHARMS OF DANIIL KHARMS With its Victorian-esque subtitle, "A Theatrical Incident with Curious Music, Unfamiliar Singing and Improbable Dancing" the Kharmful Charms of Daniil Kharms returns from last year's successful workshop in an expanded theatrical dance performance., $24-$28. Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 20. (800) 838-3006.

AS THE GLOBE WARMS Heather Woodbury's improv story of small-town America colliding with the World Wide Web. Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (213) 977-1279.

THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Ifa Bayeza's civil rights drama about the 1955 murder of an African-American teen. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru April 3. (323) 663-1525.

BARBRA'S WEDDING Daniel Stern's comedy about Barbra Streisand's Malibu neighbors. Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 2 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.; thru March 7, (866) 811-4111.

GO BLOOD AND THUNDER In the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Marcus (Keith Arthur Bolden) isn't scared of the newly arrived hurricane, Katrina. Marcus is an expert on everything -- at least, he watches a lot of TV -- and vows the water won't rise above 10 feet. But Marcus' theories and conclusions have always gotten him, brother Quentin (Tony Williams) and Marcus' girlfriend, Charlie (Candice Afia), in over their heads with one bad hustling scheme after another. Still, Marcus is convinced he's the brains of the group, even if he has to badger Quentin and Charlie until they agree. When Quentin limps in, sopping wet, still wearing his orange prison jumpsuit with a bullet hole in his thigh, the two siblings have a violent score to settle. Terence Anthony's taut one-act drama is effective agony. Two character twists may not add up, but while the audience perches practically in the living room of Jorge I. Velasquez's realistic, dingy set, with the rain hammering down, the tension is as thick as the storm clouds we imagine overhead. Solid performances keep the spell going, particularly by Afia as the strong-willed girlfriend trying to break free of Marcus' emotional abuse. Sara Wagner directs. (Amy Nicholson). Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 666-3259.

BOB BAKER MARIONETTE THEATER'S FIESTA First of five classic Bob Baker productions in a yearlong celebration of the marionette theater's 50th anniversary. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., 10:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru April 11, (213) 250-9995.

THE BOB BENDICK PODCAST . Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., 5:15 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GO BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA When Bob Rauschenberg's mother (Mari Marks) delivers her tender slide-show about the rural Texas childhood of her artist son, and none of the slides matches the descriptions she's offered, you have to know something's up, conceptually. Whether or not you're familiar with the '50s-'60s collagist painter-sculptor, Charles L. Mee's 2001 extrapolation of what Rauschenberg might have written in order to explain how he assembled junk into evocative reflections on our place in the world stands alone. Marina Mouhibian's set decorates the stage and the proscenium walls with vintage kitsch as the 10-member ensemble plays out a series of somewhat interconnecting sketches about romances gone awry, violence, politics and metaphysics - though there are digressions for a series of chicken jokes. Bart DeLorenzo's staging preserves the tone, inherent the text, that's both wry and frivolous, abstract and pop, with one breakout poetical excursion into Walt Whitmanesque grandeur, delivered by a hobo (Brett Hren) and accompanied by Dvorak's Symphony from The New World. (Steven Leigh Morris). [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 461-3673.

BROAD COMEDY "Six irreverent and hilarious, multi-talented women, known for high-energy musical numbers, left-wing politics, women's issues, and R-rated shenanigans about, well, women's shenanigans." Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 25. (323) 525-0202.


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo by Ivy Augusta


Bill Sterritt centers his play on Rose (Dyan Kane), the reclusive

keeper of a light-house on an island off the coast of Maine. She's

obsessed with Greek mythology and living by the Greek Ideal, and

convinced that the modern world is going to hell. She's visited by

Jason (Chris Pauley), clad in antique Greek armor, but it's not clear

if he is her long lost husband, or the mythological Argonaut Jason. Or

maybe he's a hallucination. Rose's daughter Tina (Ashley Archambeau)

wants to turn the light-house into a tourist attraction. Several ships

have foundered in the vicinity, and it's rumored that the beacon goes

dark in heavy weather. Tina suspects Rose of turning off the light

deliberately and calls in an agent from the Department of

Transportation (Rob Ullett)  to investigate her mother. He's soon

making love to both mother and daughter. Meanwhile long-lost husband

Jason emerges from the sea, tangled in flotsam and jetsam. I found much

of the performance inaudible or incomprehensible, due to the lack of

projection from the actors, loud sound effects, and extensive use of

distracting strobe lights. What I was able to hear sounded precious and

pretentious. Studio/Stage, 520 North Western Avenue, Los Angeles;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. Produced by SPQR Stage

Company.  (323) 463-3900 or (Neal Weaver)

THE COFFEE CLUB World premiere of David R. Zimmerman's drama about clients at a group therapy session. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 28, 5 p.m.; thru March 6. (323) 469-3113.

COMEDY DEATH-RAY $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Tues., 8:30 p.m.. (323) 908-8702.

GO CONFUSIONS Alan Ayckborn's 1974 slate of five one-acts, under John Pleshette's tight direction of an exemplary cast, illustrates the comical consequences when we choose not to listen to each other. In "Mother Figure," a quarreling couple (Steve Wilcox and Abigail Revasch) have to revert to childhood in order to connect with each other during an encounter with a formidably maternal neighbor (Mina Badie). "Drinking Companions" offers us a traveling salesman (Brendan Hunt) in a hotel bar masking his loneliness with pathetic yet hilarious attempts at seducing two increasingly harried young women (Revasch and Phoebe James). What a waiter (Hunt) hears is all that we hear too in "Between Mouthfuls," as dialogue of one dining couple (Adrian Neil and Bridget Ann White) is intercut with that of another (Wilcox and Jones), slyly revealing a salacious secret. "Gosforth's Fete" turns into a debacle as the organizer of a charity event (Neil) learns a secret from a local teacher (Badie) that wreaks havoc for him and the teacher's fiancé (Hunt). And in "A Talk in the Park," a quintet of disparate folks (Hunt, James, Neil, White and Wilcox) finds their desperate attempts to connect with each other sadly falling on deaf ears. (Martín Hernández). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 7, (323) 960-5775.

CONTROL ME/PARENTS WHO LOVE TOO MUCH Two world-premiere comedies by Michael Sargent. Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru March 27. (323) 466-7781.

COOL NEGROES The opening tableau of writer-director Tony Robinson's "dramedy of generational proportion" is a tumbledown city park circa 1972, where a raucous cadre of black militants is protesting segregation. The revolutionary banter and posturing are soon silenced by police gunfire and falling bodies. After this jarring scene, a flash-forward takes us to the present day, when the park is a haunt for a group of regulars: college professor Louis (Sammie Wayne, IV); former flower child Deborah (Teressa Taylor) ; city bureaucrat Joe (Alex Morris); a gay cop named Mod (Mark Jones); the only caucasian in the group, Eric (Tom Hyler); a buppie named Al ( Dane Diamond); and the irrepressible Mother Barnes (the fine Diane Sellers), a blind sage. Not much transpires here; there is a lot of talking, which, thanks to Robinson's wit and ear for dialogue, somewhat allays the play's static structure. But one gets the feeling that these entertaining characters overstay their welcome, thanks to a script that is overwritten and languorous. From the mix, Robinson constructs a flimsy storyline about black advancement, interracial romance, political correctness, spiritual redemption, the burden of guilt, and generational angst and conflict. Unfortunately, these motifs are neither skillfully nor insightfully probed. The acting is mostly passable, but Sellers is outstanding. Rounding out the cast are Prema Rosaura Cruz, Tené Carter Miller and Leslie La'Raine. A Towne Street Theatre production (Lovell Estell III). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 465-4446.

THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON The Berubian Company interprets Pink Floyd. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sun., 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 850-7827.

NEW REVIEW DITCH In every relationship, there are four

people: the lovers themselves and their insecurities. Taylor Coffman's

romantic comedy takes exes Beth (Amber Hamilton) and William (Alex

Klein) and physicalizes their inner fears, casting two tough brutes

(Nina Millin and Todd Veneman, both of whom are strong enough to put

their alter-egos in a headlock) to sabotage the couple's tentative

attempts at reconciliation. When Beth is overcome with anger, Millin

takes charge and berates her ex-boyfriend, who in turn ducks out and

lets Veneman fight back. This play sees love the way the ancient Greeks

did, as a force that operates against common sense. And what works are

the moments when Millin and Veneman shelter and console their charges

by playing on their past hurts, insisting that they're safe only if

they shut out everyone else. Though they act like bullies, in the

closing scenes we're allowed (a little too late) to see their

motivating protectiveness. Still, the peril is that Beth and William

come across as weaklings, and as director Jon Cohn has cast young and

childlike actors as his romantic leads, we're never convinced either

that these two kids could or should work it out. For all its missteps

into sitcom humor, this is a play with a grownup heart, and it would

benefit from a staging with maturity. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28,  (323) 960-7787. (Amy Nicholson)

DOLORES/NORTH OF PROVIDENCE SFS Theatre Company presents Edward Allan Baker's sibling plays. Stephanie Feury Studio Theater, 5636 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 20. (323) 463-7378.

GO EXILES Playwright Carlos Lacamara's drama puts a powerful human face on the Mariel boat lift, Fidel Castro's mean joke of 1980, when Cuban-Americans were invited to come to Cuba to fetch their loved ones, to take them to the Land of Opportunity but were instead subjected to a painful bait and switch. Cuban-American mechanic Rolando (Alex Fernandez) sails his rickety boat to Cuba, believing he's going to be bringing his beloved mother to his American home. Instead, the authorities force him to take Rolando's pompous brother-in-law, Joaquin (Lacamara), Joaquin's sullen daughter, Sadia (Heather Hemmens), and some other extra treats -- a maniac (Khary Payton) and a murderer (Mark Adair-Rios). Midway through the voyage, the boat's motor breaks and tensions flare amongst the passengers. Rolando's teenage son Roli (Ignacio Serricchio) falls for Sadia, while Rolando and his brother-in-law fight over long-ago wrongs. Then the murderer makes his move. In David Fofi's emotionally rich, character-driven production the conflicts brew and simmer, aided by the claustrophobic mood provided by John Iocavelli's beautifully rickety boat set. The show's pacing sags occasionally, particularly toward the end, which feels inordinately drawn out -- and the breakdown of the boat seems like a forced plot development to keep the characters from being able to get anywhere. Yet, the the play's emotions crackle, and the piece brims with real fury and regret, whether it's the anger of Fernandez's excellently rigid Rolando, or the snappishness of Hemmens' snide but vulnerable Sadia, forced to abruptly uproot her life. Payton's haunting turn as the maniac, whose lunacy, we discover, springs from years of torture, also stands out. Hayworth Theater in association with Fixed Mark Productions. (Paul Birchall). Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 960-4442.

FAT, BALD & LOUD Craig Ricci Shaynak and his Giant Wheel of Accents and Dialects. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 960-5773.

GEOGRAPHY OF A HORSE DREAMER Neither a major nor even a very memorable member of the Sam Shepard canon, this 1974 script dates from the London-exile period in which Shepard was still trying to crack the nut of the beginning-middle-end dramatic structure. Which means it belongs to a handful of tween plays that share little of the poetical fireworks of the '60s or the craft and thematic riches of his post-Pulitzer prize work. Nevertheless, Shepard did write Geography of a Horse Dreamer as a comedy, and that's where director Jamie Wollrab and the playwright part company. Kris Lemche is Cody, a Wyoming cowboy whose onetime ability to dream horse-race winners has turned into a losing streak after he's kidnapped and imprisoned by gamblers Beaujo (John Markland) and Santee (the fine Scoot McNairy). When effete mob boss Fingers (an inspired Dov Tiefenbach) demotes the men to the dog tracks, Cody's prognosticative powers are temporarily restored but at the cost of his sanity, which leads Fingers' cadaverous, henchman/quack, the Doctor (Thurn Hoffman), to salvage Cody's valuable "dreaming bone" by cutting it out of the back of his neck. Essentially a seduction-of-the-artist allegory embroidered by a pastiche of plot and character archetypes from vintage Warner Bros. gangster melodramas, Shepard's surrealist aims -- along with their intended laughs -- are all but lost in Wollrab's realistic mise-en-scéne and some wildly uneven performances. (Bill Raden). Moth Theatre, 4359 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, (323) 666-2296.

GROUNDLINGS SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN All-new sketch and improv, directed by Mikey Day. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru April 24. (323) 934-9700.

THE HAPPY HAPPY SHOW April Hava Shenkman hosts this anything-goes comedy cabaret., free. El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.. (323) 668-0318.

JUST A SONG AT TWILIGHT Willard Manus has chosen an interesting subject -- growing up in a Jewish household with a deaf mother in the years of 1928-1942 -- but his autobiographical script seldom gains momentum. Henriette (Lene Pedersen) and her older sister Marion (Janne Halleskov Kindberg) hoped for singing careers, but both lose their hearing in early adulthood. The play centers on the plight of Henriette, her self-proclaimed Bolshevik husband, Izzy (Ilia Volok), and their son, Ben (Michael Hampton), who yearns to try out for the Giants before he's sent off to World War II. Stifling any sense of a dramatic trajectory, every scene introduces new and different thematic materials: a discourse on ear surgery in the 1920s; a debate over the relative merits of lipreading versus sign language; an argument about capitalism versus communism; rivalry between sisters;, father-son conflicts;, a lesson in lipreading taught by an amorous teacher (Darin Dahms); and a wartime romance between Ben and his girlfriend (Julie Bersani). All these elements could be combined in a successful drama, but here they don't mesh. There's good work by the cast, but director John DiFusco isn't able to focus the play's rambling structure. Songs of the times and a historical slide show do provide evocative period flavor. (Neal Weaver). Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Feb. 27. (323) 469-3113.

KEEP IT CLEAN COMEDY Hosted by JC Coccoli., free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave.,

L.A.; Mon., 9:30 p.m.. (323) 663-1739.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop jukebox musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy "Sh Boom" and "Rama Lama Ding Dong" to anthems like "Earth Angel," "Unchained Melody," "The Great Pretender," and "The Glory of Love." In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver). Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 25. (323) 960-4412.

THE LOST TOMB OF KING SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv, directed by Karen Maruyama. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

LOVE BITES - VOL. 9 The Elephant Theatre Company's annual short-play festival, including Reality Romcom: Day 98 With My Attained Pixie Dreamgirl by Kerry Carney; This Little Piggy by Marek Glinski; Empowerment by Dominic Rains; Surprise by Mark Harvey Levine; Most Likely by Gloria Calderon Kellett; Tag by Tony Foster; Rox-N, Miss Thang by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich; Hard by Steven Korbar. Elephant Theatre Lab, 1078 Lilian Way, L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14, (323) 960-4410.

MALINCHE The life and influence of Malintzin Tepenal by Victor Hugo Rascon Banda. (Alternating perfs in English and Spanish; call for schedule.). Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (213) 382-8133.

M.O.I.S.T.! Mariann Aalda and Iona Morris are MILF-y inspirational sexperts, heading (so to speak) the Multiple Orgasm Initiative for Sexual Transformation. Hayworth, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (323) 960-4442.

THE PEACOCK MEN Deconstructing American masculinity can be a sticky thicket even in the best of analyses. Add to the mix issues of race and representation, however, and its order of complexity increases exponentially. So it's no surprise that playwright Ronald McCants' idea-packed, satiric foray into the psychic minefield of black male identity can be as profoundly disorienting as it is provocative. For McCants' hapless cast of circus-performing Peacock Men -- African-Americans who, like their brilliantly plumed namesake, have been domesticated into gender-warped docility -- the ride is also downright deadly. One performer, Robert Mapplethorpe's horse-hung the Man in the Polyester Suit (Hari Williams), has already succumbed after his reduction to an erotically objectified exhibit and his mysterious disappearance by the sadistic, white-faced Ringmaster, Steve (Will Dixon). So when avaricious street rapper Cash (Chris P. Daniels) signs on as a replacement, he finds himself with a job both physically and existentially more perilous than he bargained for. Turns out Steve's circus is more of a torture fun house in which Cash and his cohorts (John J. Jordan & Michael A. Thompson) are subjected to humiliations and acts of violence scripted right out of real-world headlines (Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, etc.). While Ayana Cahrr's staging loses crucial dramatic momentum during some of the play's lengthier, overly didactic passages, McCants' nightmare vaudeville proves a field day for its terrifically talented ensemble. (Bill Raden). Company of Angels, Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 7. (323) 883-1717.

THE PHARMACIST Written and performed by Jane Russell, who plays nine characters in a pharmacy. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (323) 960-5773.

PHIL THE VOID: THE GREAT BRAIN ROBBERY Written by Phil van Hest. Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 4, (323) 962-0046.

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). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS: THE ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN ART OF GENITAL ORIGAMI Extra-bendy male performers twist their private parts into shocking works of art á la balloon animals. Warning: Not for kids, and probably not for most adults., $45-$39. Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7:30 p.m.; thru March 14...

SEASCAPE WITH SHARKS AND DANCER While walking on a Cape Cod beach, writer Ben (Matthew Hannon) spots a naked young woman, Tracy (Christine Weatherup), floundering in the sea. He pulls her ashore and takes her back to his rundown beach house to recuperate -- but she's far from grateful. She wasn't drowning, she claims, but dancing. Despite the fact that she's rude, arrogant, selfish and demanding, he's enchanted, and after some hot chocolate and sparring, they tumble into bed. Dan Nigro's play starts out as a kooky "meet-cute" comedy, then segues into a quietly harrowing portrait of a certain kind of destructive relationship. She's convinced that no one can love her, and therefore he'll inevitably leave her. So she constantly threatens to leave him but never does, and he cares for her enough to endure the pain and uncertainty she inflicts upon him. Weatherup's Tracy is an emotionally volatile woman riddled with conflicts; she is manipulative and pathologically self-destructive, while Hannon's Ben is reduced to pure victim and enabler because of his refusal to fight back. Director Benjamin Haber Kamine elicits persuasive performances from his actors, and keeps the proceedings interesting, though a sharper focus on Ben's character might have made for a better balance. (Neal Weaver). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Thurs., Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 5, (800) 838-3006.

GO SHAKESPEARE UNSCRIPTED The Impro Theatre specializes in improvising full-length plays in the literary style of prominent writers, including Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams and Stephen Sondheim. Here, under the direction of artistic directors Brian Lohman and Dan O'Connor, they're tackling the Bard, taking the most minimal suggestions from the audience and spinning them into dizzily amusing mock-Shakespearean epics. At the performance I attended, they created a comedy that might be called Much Ado About Bluebirds. Miranda (Lisa Frederickson) is the slightly deaf daughter (she seems to hear clearly only the songs of bluebirds) of the Duke of Kent (Lohman). Kent has decided to marry her off to the elderly Duke of York (Floyd Van Buskirk), but she has already developed a fancy for Price (O'Connor), a young man from the village, who loves her, and has learned to tweet like a bluebird to woo her. The course of true love is threatened by a couple of mischievous fairies (Brian Jones and Edi Patterson) and a man-eating bear, until the blissful final scene, which is as sententious as any old Will created. The company (including Michele Spears and Stephen Kearin) is clever, nimble and quick on its feet, and the result is an amiable, crowd-pleasing divertissement. (Neal Weaver). Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 8 p.m.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (323) 401-9793.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Knightsbridge Theatre's "Greek chorus" adaptation of John Guare's drama. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 667-0955.


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo by Barbara Kallir


a lot of anger on stage in poet-playwright Naomi Wallace's 1995

agitprop. Certainly the union meatpackers who work in the play's foul

sausage factory -- Sarah Krainin's viscera-strewn, blood-spattered set

looks like it hasn't been cleaned since the publication of The Jungle

-- are bitter, mainly at the dithering plant manager, Baquin (Bart

Petty), with whom they're deadlocked in stalled contract negotiations.

And black floor supervisor Tuck (Brent Jennings) is no less happy with

the condescending indignities heaped on him by a racist, white

management. Not all the grievances are job-related. Veteran gutter

Roach (Christina Ogunade) has rage and intimacy issues stemming from a

childhood molestation. And her illiterate, would-be suitor, Brandon

(Christopher Emerson), still bears the raw, psychic scars from an

extreme act of employer violence dating from his youth. Throw in

anti-Semitism, homophobia and gender discrimination, add several

musical numbers (courtesy of composer Andrew Ingkavet) and a dose of

comic relief, and you'd have enough plot material for ten such shows.

But Wallace then adds the parallel storyline of the otherworldly,

ambisexual scab, Cod (Noelle Messier), his/her love for Roach's gal pal

Maggot (Sarah Boughton) and hate for the mysterious, Mephistophelian

Sausage Man (Alexander Wells), and the play's message -- along with its

indignation -- all but disappears in the resulting fog of metaphors.

Director Barbara Kallir and a talented ensemble's efforts to bring

clarity to the chaos are only occasionally rewarded. Son of Semele,

3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Mon., 8

p.m.; thru March 15. (Bill Raden)

GO STAGE DOOR In 1936, when Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's comedy and homage to The Theater (that would be Broadway) showed the divide between the legit stage and the vulgar movie biz in Hollywood (an industry where "You only have to learn a line at a time and they just keep taking it until you get it," and "You don't even have to be alive to be in the pictures,"), the authors were playing off an East Coast/West Coast divide. How strangely apt, then, that the play may now speak more to L.A. theater, and its ongoing love-hate relationship with Hollywood, than to the Broadway of yore. If you think this revival is just a valentine to a bygone era, think again. This week, the Pasadena Playhouse is closing its doors. The year after Stage Door premiered on Broadway, the Pasadena Playhouse was named the State Theater of California. It had, in its 12-year existence, produced the entire Shakespearean canon, as well as 500 new plays. In August 1937, Tempe E. Allison described the Playhouse in The New York Times, as "theatrical refreshment in this dust bowl, if not desert, of the legitimate stage, which has been sucked dry by the gigantic growth of its next-door neighbor, Hollywood." Though that kind of mythology has shifted over the decades, and our legitimate stage is anything but a dust bowl, the authors' portrayal of the theater as a somewhat quixotic and poverty-stricken home for actresses placing an odds-defying bet on a rare moment of spiritual fulfillment has a current sting of truth, even after more than 70 years. The home, here, is a boardinghouse for actresses called The Footlights Club. Some like Louis (Katy Tyszkiewicz) are surrendering into marriages they dread while others, like pretty Jean Maitland (Kim Swennen), get swept away by Hollywood and one of its dapper producers, David Kingsley (Arthur Hanket). Problem is, pretty Jean can't really act, even though she's thriving out West as cover-girl material in a land where artists become employees for hire -- and often they're hired to sit around in the sun. This theory is tested when Jean gets shoveled back by the Studio to star on Broadway -- a cynical marketing ploy. Mephistophelean Kingsley, dripping with self-loathing (a nice turn by Hacket), pushes to replace Jean with his own flame, Terry Randall (a smart, sensitive portrayal by Amanda Weier). Terry, who has talent, has no desire for Hollywood and its games. In her deft and stylish staging of a cast that tops two dozen, Barbara Schofield pits the brunette Terry against blond Jean, the talented against the talentless. Terry had been dating a lefty playwright (Matt Roe) who sold out his pedantically stated ideals quicker than it now takes to swipe a credit card. This production comes on the heels of last year's Light Up the Sky, demonstrating that this company's firm grip on smart, sassy period comedies. Detailed set by James Spencer and Shon LeBlanc's textured costumes further feed the ambiance. (Steven Leigh Morris). Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 13, (323) 882-6912.

TITUS ANDRONICUS Heads are chopped off. A woman, after being raped, has her hands severed and tongue ripped away. Babies are impaled on knives. And, at a special feast, a malicious woman is served her sons, baked in a pie. Yes, here is proof (if needed) that Shakespeare could actually be hired today as a staff writer for CSI: New York. Director Thomas Craig Elliott's somber production of Shakespeare's epic of pulp fiction possesses a murky, intimate mood that has you feeling like you're watching atrocities unfolding in an urban back alley. The creepy, almost claustrophobic tone is abetted by designer Erin Brewster's calculatedly grubby set -- brick walls, with shadowy platforms full of mysterious dark pits and doorways. Roman noble Titus Andronicus (Dan Mailley) returns to his home, triumphant after war with the Goths, and helps to install oily politician Saturninus (Brad C. Light) as emperor. Titus' reward for this? Saturninus humiliates him by marrying Tamora (Sarah Lilly), the very same warrior queen whom Andronicus just defeated and enslaved. Tamora's sons then rape and mutilate Titus' daughter Lavinia (Erin Fleming). Titus then invites Tamora and family over for a feast -- at which revenge is served by the piefull. If anything, Elliott's production is slightly too straightforward and contextually threadbare. Although the dialogue is articulately rendered, the stagecraft is prosaic and unambitious -- the violence is strangely reigned in, and the piece's omnipresent gloom and grubbiness are simply not sensational enough to spark the horror the play requires. Admittedly, Elliott commendably emphasizes characterization, and the staging digs into the text to find motivations for the coterie of increasingly heartless characters. Lilly's elegantly wicked Tamara -- shifting easily from graciously sugary to venomously witchy -- is a pleasure to watch, and so is Light's dopey Saturninus, a greasy politician who turns out to be out of his depth in the wickedness with which he's confronted. Mailley's stiff and priggish turn during the play's first half is initially offputting, but his gradual decline into rage and madness becomes compellingly chilling. (Paul Birchall). Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 13. (323) 856-8611.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

TWELFTH NIGHT The idea of traipsing through a dark, damp graveyard on a weekend night to watch a Shakespeare play may be a daunting prospect, but at least audiences who attend director Jerry Ruiz's smooth and energetic production will be assured of seeing an engaging rendition of one of the Bard's jolliest comedies. The show is actually presented inside the picturesque (and grave-free) Masonic Lodge on the cemetery property, which provides a striking, dramatic backdrop for any play. (The auditorium's beautifully constructed, colorfully decorated ceiling beams are worth seeing, even aside from the play.) Viola (Hilary Ward) dresses in drag to serve Count Orsino (Owiso Odera) and falls in love with him, but the woman Orsino has his eye on, beautiful Olivia (Teri Reeves), falls for Viola. Meanwhile, Olivia's drunkard uncle, Sir Toby Belch (Matt Gaydos), and his ne'er-do-well pals play a mean-spirited prank on Olivia's prissy, Puritan steward, Malvolio (Charles Janasz). Ruiz's staging is both intelligently introspective and energetic, even though some of the comic shtick doesn't seem to naturally flow from the text and feels weakly timed. Still, the production possesses a commendable clarity, which itself makes it a fine, competently rendered version of the show. It also boasts some remarkably well-defined character work. Reeves' nicely brittle Olivia warms amusingly to Ward's befuddled Viola, while Guilford Adams' glum fool, Feste, plays nicely off of Gaydos' decadent Sir Toby. However, it's Janasz as the brilliantly uptight Malvolio, and his ghoulishly hilarious attempts to woo Olivia all cross-gartered and leering like a gassy jack-o'-lantern, who truly offers this show's standout performance. Chalk Repertory Company (Paul Birchall). Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (800) 838-3006.

THE UNEXPECTED MAN Yasmina Reza's story of a man and woman on a train ride from Paris to Frankfurt. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 960-7779.

WHO IS CURTIS LEE? The titular question of this work by Ashford J. Thomas (who also plays Curtis Lee) set in 1950s Greensboro, North Carolina, is sparked by the appearance of a young man in a ramshackle tavern, who immediately attracts the attention of regulars Herman (Gerrence George) and Otis (Carl Crudup), as well as owner Joe (Logan Alexander). Despite his shabby appearance, the visitor, Curtis, claims to be a songwriter for radio icon Miss Wanda Denise (Kelley Chatman) and a boxer. Herman and Otis don't buy either story, but Curtis' buying them drinks keeps them mollified. Unfortunately, Curtis has no money, bringing him into conflict with the normally staid Joe, who, after threatening Curtis, takes pity on him and puts him to work. Complicating this situation are Calvin Hunt (Richard Lewis Warren), a greedy white developer trying to force Joe to sell the place; Mitchell (James E. Hurd Jr.), a black gangster to whom Curtis owes money; and Angel (Paris Rumford), Otis' ironically named promiscuous daughter. Director L. Flint Esquerra skillfully mines the text's comedy, and Paul Koslo's weathered set provides an authentic mise-en-scéne. Alexander shines in his gruff, pained portrayal of Joe, Crudup and George have solid comic timing, and Hurd Jr. is menacing in his brief appearance. Thomas delivers the sincerity and hotheaded anger of youth, but his writing, characterized by powerful, resonant themes, doesn't always cohere. (Mayank Keshaviah). MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (323) 957-1152.

GO WHY TORTURE IS WRONG, AND THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE THEM Christopher Durang's Loony Tunes aesthetic -- with the help of Daniel Henning's perfectly modulated direction -- is swashed onto our so-called war on terror. Thank goodness Durang has moved beyond family dysfunction. Still, you'd think that by now our recent history, propelled by some deranged might-makes-right cabal from a powerful coven of loons, has been exhausted by American playwrights. Durang's outrage and piety, however, are channeled into a breath of comedic napalm, something like a cross between The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Dr. Strangelove. Durang has now joined ranks with Dario Fo. Sweet Felicity (stylish Rhea Seehorn, trying to be sensible in a world with no sense) wakes up in bed with a stranger, Zamir (Sunil Malhotra), after a night out at a bar. Turns out, Zamir slipped her a drug, raped and married her -- none of which she remembers. The "priest" was Zamir's friend, porno filmmaker Reverend Mike (Nicholas Brendon, sort of like Owen Wilson with a slow-mo brain). Zamir has anger-management issues and feels badly that most of the women in his family are dead. This is cold comfort for Felicity. Yet she finds herself compelled to defend her "husband" when her Dick Cheney-emulating father, Leonard (Mike Genovese) -- a volunteer in the "shadow government" -- drags Zamir him into the torture chamber he'd been claiming is a private closet for his butterfly collection. Narrator and power drill-wielding torture-room assistant Loony Tunes (Alec Mapa) encourages Leonard to "bweak a finger, bweak a finger" -- all of which is based on a misunderstanding by Leonard's spy, Hildegard (Catherine Hicks, spending a good portion of the play with underwear swishing around her ankles), who overhearing Zamir's conversation about a porno movie believes he's describing a terrorist plot. Durang reruns the ending a couple of times, trying to capture the moment where it all -- "it" being the sad plight of our country -- went so wrong. I particularly enjoyed Christine Estabrook as Leonard's blissed-out, seething wife, Luella, who can't stop talking about the theater, even while torture is being committed upstairs, because theater is what's "real." And what has she seen lately? "Two-hundred fifty plays by Martin McDonagh and David Hare." Britain of course dominates our theater's new plays, obviously because "Americans are stupid." Durang is getting a lot off his chest, and off ours. The laughter he generates is from nonsense about nonsense, unnervingly true and cathartic, and beautifully performed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 14, (323) 661-9827.

WIREHEAD The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of a new play by Matthew Benjamin and Logan Brown. Stage 52 Theatre, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (800) 413-8669.

WISEGUYS Scenes from Casino, Carlito's Way, Bronx Tale, Scarface, Goodfellas, Raging Bull and The Godfather. Hollywood Fight Club Theater, 6767 W. Sunset Blvd., No. 6, L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 3, (323) 465-0800.


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo courtesy of Actors' Co-op


Margaret Edson won the Pulitzer Prize for this intense drama  about an

English poetry professor  who must wrestle with her painful and

imminent death. Directed by Marianne Savell, Nan McNamara delivers a

peerless performance as Vivian Bearing, a 50 year old specialist in the

poetry of John Donne, who unexpectedly finds herself diagnosed with the

fourth and final stage of metastatic ovarian cancer.  Bearing's doctor

(Phil Crowley) and his research assistant (Daniel J. Roberts) are

scientists first, with concern for their patients' comfort being an

afterthought.  So they have no compunction about insisting  that

Bearing undertake a full regimen of powerful chemotherapy in order to

document its physiological effects on the human body.  Edson's

commentary on American medical practice, however salient,  merely lays

the groundwork for the play's most compelling and universal theme: the

human struggle not only with mortality's looming oblivion but with the 

unfamiliar and sometimes humiliating infirmity that precedes it.  That

Bearing's lifelong subject of scholarly study - the poet Donne -- was

himself consumed by this topic adds another involving layer to the

brew.  Tough, unsentimental, yet increasingly vulnerable , McNamara's

understated  duelist-with-death is pitch perfect.  She's supported

across-the-board by a worthy ensemble.  Tawny Mertes is especially

winning as the kind young nurse whose personableness and humanity

impart the play's final message. Actors' Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St.,

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 28. (323)

462-8460. (Deborah Klugman)

WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill bring excellent standups every week -- really, like Blaine Capatch, Patton Oswalt, Matt Besser -- you get the idea., free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.. (323) 466-9917.


BAGELS Art Shulman's senior romance. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21, (877) 620-7673.

BROADS World premiere musical about the ladies of a Florida retirement home, book by Jennie Fahn, music and lyrics by Joe Symon. (In the Forum Theater). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 4. (818) 508-4200.

GO CIRCUS WELT Reminiscent of Kander & Ebb's Cabaret (though sans music), this adaptation by director and producer Pavel Cerny of Leonid Andreyev's 1914 Russian play, He Who Gets Slapped, shifts the setting to Weimar Germany circa 1933. A small traveling circus run by Ludwig Bricke (John Moskal) and his common-law wife/lion-tamer, Maria (Stephanie T. Keefer), serves as a haven for those at the margins of society: Jackson (Jeff Williams), a black American clown in whiteface; Tilly and Polly (Justin Hertner and Lee Biolos), a long-standing gay couple; Bezano (Patrick Koffel), the communist horse trainer; and the newly arrived mysterious clown named He (an impressively nuanced Joshua Grenrock). As the story, which takes place entirely in the circus dressing room, unfolds, multiple love triangles emerge, though the one of greatest consequence involves Bezano, Maria and the bareback rider Consuelo (Tanya Goott), who is engaged by her father Count Mancini (Kurt Hargan) to the wealthy Baron Von Reinhardt (Ed Brigadier), the head of the local SA storm troopers. While the remaining vestiges of the original melodrama detract from what could be an extremely compelling piece of theater, Cerny has done his best to minimize them, and his Brechtian-style entr'acte additions, such as the "news clowns," provide girding for the menacing backdrop of Nazi Germany on the rise. An Orpheum Theater Corporation Production. (Mayank Keshaviah). Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (866) 811-4111.

THE CITY Director Stan Mazin's adaptation and update of Clyde Fitch's 1909 play has a lot going for it. That said, references to Lady Gaga and Desperate Housewives can't disguise the fact that it's an overly talky melodrama. Act 1 takes place in Middlebrook, where wealthy patriarch George Sr. (Klair Bybee) holds forth on the values of small town life. However, his wife Molly (Kady Douglas), daughters Megan (Trisha Hershberger) and Teresa (Jaclyn Marfuggi), and especially his son, George Jr. (Hector Hank), are bucking for the lights and excitement of New York City. Interloper Fred Hannock (Glenn Collins) comes to blackmail George Sr. over financial improprieties, and before his unexpected demise, George Sr. reveals to George Jr. that Hannock is his half-brother. The overly long Act 2 takes place five years later in the family's new abode in New York City, where George Jr. is hoping to secure his party's nomination for senator. Lawyer Burt Vorhees (Bix Barnaba) begins the vetting process, asking George Jr. to pressure Teresa not to divorce her playboy husband (Alexander Leeb). But a bigger problem is how to get rid of the drug addicted Hannock who's been installed as George Jr.'s secretary. Mazin marshals the cast well, but some of the acting is uneven. Trefoni Michael Rizzi's plush scenic design can't be faulted. (Sandra Ross). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (818) 700-4878.

THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Paul Storiale directs an all-new cast in his play about the Columbine high school massacre. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 766-9100.

CONFESSIONS OF A VINTAGE BLACK QUEEN Billie Hall's autobiographical survival story ("child molestation, rape, physical abuse, homophobia, racism, and church abuse"). Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (818) 766-9100.

GO COUSIN BETTE Drawn from Balzac's La Comédie humaine, playwright Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation revolves around a cunning woman's campaign to avenge herself on the rich relatives who have callously dismissed her as shabby and unimportant. Sheltered, and fed with scraps of food off her pretty cousin's plate, poor-relation Bette Fischer (Nike Doukas) grows up nurturing her hate, eventually evolving into a plain-faced spinster who is everybody's confidante but nobody's friend. Brilliantly Machiavellian, Bette's fastidious plot to destroy the family involves arranging a liaison between her attractive neighbor and abused wife, Valerie (Jen Dede), and Hector (John Prosky), the lecherous and profligate husband of her virtuous cousin, Adeline (Emily Chase ). Bette also acquires wealth (and thus power) by promoting the work of a young Polish sculptor, Steinbock (Daniel Bess), with whom she's fallen in love -- unfortunately for her, since he ends up betrothed to Adeline's daughter, Hortense (Kellie Matteson). Directed by Jeanie Hackett, the production purposefully underscores the source material's melodramatic elements -- for example, heightening the narrative's key points with the melancholy refrains of Chopin. At least one key performance is overladen with shtick, and some fine-tuning of others is in order. Still, Doukas is terrific, delivering a consummate performance that arouses, for her long-suffering deceitful character, pity, disdain -- and admiration. Alongside the story's bathos is its salient reminder of what cruelty, indifference and injustice can do to the human spirit. (Deborah Klugman). Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 506-5436.

DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS Interact Theatre Company presents the con-man musical comedy based on the 1988 film. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 21. (818) 508-7101.

HEAD OVER HEELS Eric Czuleger's new play follows the journey of six women. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (800) 838-3006.

INDULGENCES IN THE LOUISVILLE HAREM John Orlock's story of two spinster sisters in 1902 Kentucky. Theatre Unlimited, 10943 Camarillo Ave., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru March 14. (818) 238-0501.

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about "lust and trust.". Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (818) 762-2282.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an outstanding band, under Greg Piper musical direction, is just undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles catalogue followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead, creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off his lofty saint-like perch, but the result of a plodding timeline narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiney, until the music returns him to his proper place. (Tom Provenzano). Platinum Live, 11345 Ventura Blvd., Studio City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

GO THE KINGS OF THE KILBURN HIGH ROAD What is home to the emigrant? Is it, in the lowercase sense, merely the place where one lays ones hat? Or is it a more mythic capital -- an idea of both origin and aspiration in which the psychic distance between the two becomes the self-measure of the man? In Dublin playwright Jimmy Murphy's remorselessly probing elegy, the question is more than academic. For Murphy's six, middle-aged Irish expatriates who, 25 years earlier, left County Mayo to seek their fortunes in London's working-class Kilburn district, home has become a kind of spiritual sickness that, for one of them, has already proved fatal. And as the survivors gather in a local pub to mourn his passing, a potent cocktail of whisky, guilt and recrimination dissolves what's left of their camaraderie and dreams of youth to reveal only the bitter disillusionments and regrets of old men. Under Sean Branney's sure-handed direction, Dan Conroy gives a blistering performance as Jap, the hard-drinking men's bellicose, hair-triggered leader who, with his sidekick and flatmate, Git (the fine Matt Foyer), has the least to show for the lost years while being the most intransigent in his denial. Maurteen (a simmering Dan Harper) and Shay (John Jabaley) occupy a middle-ground of resigned acceptance of their meager circumstances, while Joe (Steve Marvel), as the group's single, successful exception, serves as the truth-seeking provocateur needling the friends to a lacerating self-knowledge. (Bill Raden). The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28, (818) 846-5323.

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's musical take on the 1934 Kaufman and Hart play. Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; thru March 7. (714) 777-3033.

ON THE AIR Golden Age of Radio murder-mystery musical comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6, (323) 960-4420.

GO A PRAYER FOR MY DAUGHTER A sweltering New York City summer; Son of Sam is still at large. A massive citywide blackout is around the corner. The year is 1977, and on the verge of bankruptcy, a city barely keeps it together, not unlike detectives Francis Kelly (Kevin Brief) and Jack Delasante (Matthew J. Williamson), two of NYPD's finest, who have nabbed two of its worst: Jimmy Rosario, a.k.a. Jimmy Rosehips (Matthew Thompson), and Simon Cohn, a.k.a. Sean de Kahn (Gary Lamb). A dry-cleaners is held up. Its owner, Mrs. Linowitz, is shot point-blank. There's hell to pay, especially when the boys in blue have no qualms about beating a confession out of these low-life suspects. Problem is, Jimmy and Simon are no rookies, and their ability to manipulate the demons that plague the seemingly hard-boiled Kelly and Delasante turns up the sweltering July heat inside the police station. First performed at the Public Theater in 1978, this revival of Thomas Babe's gritty interrogation drama is masterfully orchestrated by director Albert Alarr, whose fluid blocking and brutally realistic fight choreography make full use of Sarah Krainin's impeccably authentic set. The entire ensemble shines, showcasing both the humor and suffocating pain of a text that poignantly explores "the light" and "the dark" sides of our natures. (The show does contain full-frontal nudity.) Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., N. Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through March 6. (800) 838-3006, (Mayank Keshaviah). Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (800) 838-3006.

THE PRICE Arthur Miller's 1968 play about estranged brothers disposing of their dead parents' property. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 21. (323) 851-7977.

GOTHE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Geared to the 7-and-under set, this good-natured interactive musical exudes appeal beyond its demographic. Inspired by a German folktale, writers Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber's adaptation features a good fairy named Hyacinth (Mary Garripoli) as the prime mover of events. After she welcomes the audience with a song about the importance of "doin' good," along comes a prince (understudy Iain Gray) who sings about "lookin' good." His attitude so annoys Hyacinth that she turns him into a frog, stipulating that he can only return to his natural form if kissed by a princess. The rest of the story proceeds along more or less traditional lines: The frog recovers the lost ball of a querulous princess (Jenn Wiles) who is reluctant to keep her promise to kiss him until pressured by her father, the king (Anthony Gruppuso). Much of the piece's charm stems from the delight -- and the unintended comedic faux pas -- displayed by the youngsters called up on the stage to participate. The non-patronizing performers seem to be enjoying themselves as well. A song "Croak Croak, Ribbit, Ribbit" involving a couple of frog puppets is contagiously entertaining, whatever one's age. The uncredited costumes are fun too. Barbara Mallory Schwartz directs, with songs by Hope Jube and musical director Laurence Juber. (Deborah Klugman). Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.

QUICKIES TOO! SCENES FROM A BAR Original short plays by seven writers, one director, and 23 actors. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 12. (818) 990-2324.

RAY BRADBURY'S WISDOM 2116 Two by science-fiction author Ray Bradbury: Wisdom (1916), a new play, and 2116, a new musical, book and lyrics by Bradbury, music by John Hoke, developed, directed and choreographed by Steve Josephson. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (323) 960-4451.

THE SENSUOUS SENATOR Michael Parker's 1988 bedroom farce. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27, (626) 256-3809.

GO SIDHE Otherworldly shadows inhabit playwright Ann Noble's intense drama about two fugitives from Ireland and their ravaging effect on others' lives. On the run, smoldering Conall (Patrick Rieger) and his oddly passive companion, Jacquelyn (Jeanne Syquia), rent a dingy room above a Chicago bar from its tight-lipped owner, Louise (Noble). Louise's steadiest customer is her alcoholic brother-in-law, Vernon (the standout Rob Nagle), who remains inconsolable over the shooting death of his philandering wife, Amy, whom he'd worshipped unrequitedly. Bitter and unhappy, both Louise and Vernon are wont to tear at each other fiercely -- but their problems pale next to those of Louise's tenants, whose mysterious past hints at savage violence and unspeakable secrets. Just how terrifically unimaginable the latter prove to be is something we don't learn until well into Act 2. Adding a supernaturalistic element to this already densely miasmic plot is Jacquelyn's proclivity for experiencing strange apparitions: namely, the "Sidhe," a mythic tribe of pre-Gaelic fairies with startling powers to affect human -- in this case Jacquelyn's -- behavior. Full of dark turns, Noble's story is so packed with tension and conflict that at times it's hard to believe only four characters are taking part. Not every twist is credible, even given the play's supernatural standards. And sometimes the heavy Irish brogue makes essential details difficult to grasp. These qualifications notwithstanding, the production is often riveting, under Darin Anthony's direction. (Deborah Klugman) A Road Theatre production. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20, (866) 811-4111.

SIX DEGREES OF FORNICATION World premiere of David Wally's sex comedy. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 4. (866) 811-4111.

TORRID AFFAIRE Theatre Unleashed presents Andrew Moore's sex comedy. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6...

URBAN DEATH: ONCE UPON A NIGHTMARE Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru March 6. (818) 202-4120.


AN ACT OF REPARATION G.K. Chesterton Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Irish playwright Cathal Gallagher's play. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 477-2055.

GO THE BROWNING VERSION Though not as widely known or acclaimed as his contemporary British playwrights, Terence Rattigan was a superb dramatist and chronicler of human emotions. Here, Rattigan's The Browning Version, the gloomy story of an aging schoolteacher crushed by failure and disappointment, receives a stellar mounting by director Marilyn Fox. A well-regarded scholar of the classics, Andrew Crocker-Harris (the superb Bruce French) has spent the last 18 years as an instructor at a public school in England but must leave the position because of failing health to take a less-stressful job elsewhere. Now the object of jokes and ridicule by his students, and denied a pension by the school, he has a bearing that is subdued by sadness, yearning and a palpable "gallows" surrender to circumstance. His wife, Millie (Sally Smythe), has given up on being happy with him and has contented herself with numerous dalliances with his colleagues (which she delights in reminding him of), and cruelly undermining what remains of his sense of manhood. Her current lover, Frank (understudy David Rogge), is torn between a sense of guilt, his admiration for Andrew, and the dying embers of lust for Millie. It is only when the professor is presented with a rare translation of Agamemnon from a student (Justin Preston) that his mask of stoic restraint melts to reveal a desperately fragile inner life. From this sedate tapestry of characters, Rattigan artfully probes marriage, relationship and our perverse capacity to embrace lacerating emotional pain and self-deceit, which all unfolds beautifully on Norman Scott's cleverly designed sitting-room mock-up. Fox directs this piece with masterful subtlety and draws devastatingly convincing performances from her actors.(Lovell Estell III). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 822-8392.

THE COLLECTOR John Fowles' psychological and cunning thriller, adapted by Mark Healy. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 6. (310) 397-3244.

COULD I HAVE THIS DANCE? Doug Havery's story of two daughters and their mother's incurable muscular degeneration. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Feb. 28. (310) 364-0535.

NEW REVIEW DIGGING UP DAD "If your last name ends in a

vowel," explains Cris D'Annunzio in his autobiographical one-man show,

you know somebody who knows somebody who rumor says might be working

for the Mafia. Though he never knew if his estranged father, an

alcoholic second generation immigrant, and his pals down at the Italian

American Progressive Club, were members of The Family, when Pops

mysteriously dies with an opiate overdose in his bloodstream and a

startling $250,000 in the bank, D'Annunzio is the only one brave enough

to take the cash as his inheritance. And when two gat-toting goons show

up and shake him down for $1500 a week, he realizes he's more like dear

old dad then he wants to admit. D'Annunzio has a hell of a hellish life

story, but curiously, he rushes through the riveting details that make

it crackle to life. (After the thugs instruct him on how to make his

weekly tithe, he skips straight to "Months later. . . ") Director Mike

Myers could help the pacing and delivery of the tale, which feel forced

and detached - D'Annunzio is walled off by a brusque sarcasm as though

he's not entirely at ease with his frustrations. With her graveyard set

lush with grass and dirt, Christine Silvoso has given D'Annunzio a

great platform to make what I doubt is his final cross-examination of

his relationship with his abusive father, and his Italian-Jewish roots.

Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 20. (310) 397-3244 (Amy Nicholson)


Stage Raw: Commercial Theater Institute

Photo courtesy of Odyssey Theatre Ensemble


a difference a continent makes. I saw Anna Skubik's "Broken Nails" last

year in Wroclaw, Poland, where a dim suspended lightbulb and a stark

pool of light (lighting by Anna Cecelia Martin) are just part of the

Grotowskian theatrical landscape. Despite the recession, we're a

comparatively buoyant culture, and that stark aesthetic feels exotic on

a Los Angeles stage, where half of our theaters, it seems, are

dedicated to musicals that parody movies. In and around a huge

suitcase, an 80-something Marlene Dietrich (a life-size cloth puppet)

engages with Skubik. In one scene they're attached at the hip. Dietrich

is hammering out the inner meanings of words like "fame," while taking

painful injections to defy her obvious age. With her fiery red hair,

Skubik is her nurse/keeper, and the relationship is as touchy as in

Ronald Harwood's The Dresser. There are moments when

Dietrich/Skubik sings, which is not this production's strength. It

flies, however, on the intricacy of the relationship between the two

women, both quite animated, despite one being inanimate. That single

idea, of what's alive and what isn't, of what an imitation of life, and

what isn't, caught in the frame of an aging diva, is a source of

infinite fascination. And Dietrich's various reactions to Skubik's

proddings hold an almost child-like appeal. In one scene, we hear

extended applause, and Dietrich asks, "How long does a moment last?" 

It's question anyone in the theater should relate to, and probably

anyone beyond the theater, too. Romauld Wicza-Pokojski directs. The

evening's first half is also a solo show (if one doesn't count the

puppet), "Look, What I Don't Understand," written and performed by

Skubik's partner, American actor Anthony Nikolchev, and directed by

Yurly Kordonskiy. Also set around suitcases, but with the compelling

centerpiece of a wire cage, Nikolchev portrays an array of characters

with telling idiosyncrasies in the story of his Bulgarian family's

entrapment by the Soviets, and their eventual exile to an Italian

refugee camp, hoping to enter the Communist-phobic United States. The

study in tyranny and living in margins is harrowing in its

authenticity, ensnared by  the truthfulness of the performance. Odyssey

Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles; Wed.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Sun., Feb. 21, March 14 & 28 at 7 p.m. only);

thru March 28. (310) 477-2055. (Steven Leigh Morris)               

THE EXONERATED Presented by the Long Beach Shakespeare Company. Old Expo Furniture Warehouse, 4321 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; thru March 6...

NEW REVIEW THE FIRST LADY Elevating contemporary

historical figures to the mythic heights of classical opera invariably

risks inviting the mock-heroic. For composer Ken Wells' new chamber

opera, which treats the behind-the-scenes political and emotional

fallout from the death and marital infidelity of FDR (libretto by

Wells, Richard Roudebush, Gayle Patterson & Matt B. Wells), the

dramatic challenge was clearly to bar mockery and its first cousin,

melodrama, from the party. Wells successfully meets that challenge with

dignity . . . perhaps too successfully. Director Courtney Selan's

production is a virtual monument to dignified stateliness. For a

libretto that paints Eleanor Roosevelt (mezzo-soprano Jennifer Wallace)

as cold, emotionally withdrawn and domineering, Selan's declamatory,

presentational staging can feel like a trip to the National Portrait

Gallery. Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd (soprano Hannah Waldman), FDR's

mistress and the object of Eleanor's ire, comes off no less chiseled in

marble, especially following a romantic duet with the President

(baritone Eric Carampatan), when she impassively stands upstage as the

love of her life suffers his fatal stroke. In fact, Wells reserves his

most moving aria for the character that is the piece's true dramatic

heart -- Anna Roosevelt Boettiger (soprano Rebecca Sjowall in an

outstanding performance). Considering that it is Anna who, out of

loyalty to her father, invites Lucy to Warm Springs knowing she is also

betraying Eleanor, and that the bulk of the opera concerns her attempts

to win Eleanor's forgiveness, the work might be more accurately called

The First Daughter. Still, Wells' score (ably conducted by Stephen

Karr), a post-minimalist mix of Romanticism and themes culled from

Broadway show tunes, Episcopalian hymns and negro spirituals, delivers

more than its share of effective moments. Designer Adam Rigg's white,

sun-room set and his beige-and-tan costumes frame the proceedings with

the nostalgic appeal of a black-and-white sepia photo. NPI Auditorium,

UCLA, 720 Westwood Blvd., L.A.; Fri., Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Feb.

27, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., March 3, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., March 7, 2 p.m.. (310)

794-3711. (Bill Raden)

I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE Relevant Stage Theatre Company presents the musical revue, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music by Jimmy Roberts. Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. Sixth St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (800) 838-3006.

GO JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Suffused with a near-Chekhovian mix of the wistful and the melancholy, playwright Henry Jaglom's world premiere comedy is a delight -- an intimate and thoughtful ensemble piece which is as much a paean to the theater as it is a meditation on the perils of living entirely by emotion. In a picturesque but run down country house in upstate New York (realized in Joel Daavid's beautiful detailed set), a theatrical clan spends what is probably for them a typical fall weekend of histrionics and melodrama. These are people who have lived their whole lives for art -- which, one might say, means that dinner is never on time and no one gets up before noon. Elderly thespian George (Jack Heller) and his beloved wife Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger) are in the twilight of their careers, but regret nothing about a life spent on the road performing small plays. Also staying in their home is their beautiful, unstable daughter Pandora (Tanna Frederick), who is taking a "rest" from acting after getting over a recent failed romance. The typically "artsy" family chaos turns even more tumultuous with the arrival of the family's estranged eldest daughter Betsy (Julie Davis), who has grown weary of her eccentric family. When Betsy introduces her lawyer fiance Jimmy (David Garver) to the family, sparks unexpectedly fly -- but the sparks are between Jimmy and free-spirited Pandora. Some overwritten sequences teeter on self indulgence, yet the piece is also wise to the follies of human behavior -- and director Gary Imhoff's subtle staging elegantly juxtaposes the warmth and frustration underscoring the relationships within so many families. The ensemble work is sensitive, yet comically charged, with Frederick's calculatedly daffy turn as the ever-performing Pandora smartly offset by Davis' increasingly angry Betsy. Heller's leonine elderly actor-dad and Salinger's actress mom, tender and sad, wonderfully craft the sense of elders who have never truly grown up, and are amazed by what has happened to their bodies while their minds remain youthful. A Rainbow Theatre Company production. (Paul Birchall). Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru April 25. (310) 399-3666.

LEAVING KIEV West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Theodore Apstein's play about his family's migration during the Russian Revolution. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 28. (323) 506-8024.

LITTLE WOMEN Adapted by Jacqueline Goldfinger from the book by Louisa May Alcott. North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr., Solana Beach; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru March 7, (858) 481-2155.

LOBBY HERO Kenneth Lonergan's murder mystery about a hapless security guard. Pacific Stages, 2041 Rosecrans Avenue #170, El Segundo; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru March 14. (310) 868-2631.

LOVE IN BLOOM By Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (310) 394-9779.

LOYALTIES In Tony Pasqualini's drama, Frank (Michael Rothhaar) and Joy (Robin Becker) have lost

a son, Andy, to the war in Iraq. Now they have become fanatical superpatriots, eager to condemn anyone who questions the war. Their best friends, Mel (Sarah Brooke) and Andrew (Pasqualini), also have an adopted son, Michael (Albert Meijer), an émigré from a Muslim country. Andy and Michael were inseparable friends throughout their childhood, but their paths diverged. While Andy enlisted and went to his death in battle, Michael also enlisted but decided it was a mistake and deserted his post. Though Mel and Andrew are sympathetic to their son, Frank and Joy are determined to force the boy to face his fears and accept his duty, even by reporting his whereabouts to the authorities. This issue becomes a catalyst, leading to disaster for both families. Pasqualini's play is not really a thesis drama, but it often sounds like one, treating its characters as mouthpieces. There are, however, some potent scenes. Though we're clearly intended to sympathize with Michael, he's too whiny and self-centered to take seriously. Director David Gautreaux has able actors but sometimes allows them to succumb to wearisome hysteria and shouting. (Neal Weaver). Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 28, (310) 822-8392.

THE POETRY OF PIZZA California Repertory Company presents Deborah Brevoort's "cheesy" romantic comedy. Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru March 13. (562) 985-5526.

GO A SONG AT TWILIGHT "I've been in America too long. It's so lovely to see a steak that doesn't look like a bedroom slipper! . . . Memory is curiously implacable. It forgets joy, but rarely forgets humiliation." That's probably not the Noel Coward that you've ever heard before, but Noel Coward it is. Given that this 1966 bittersweet comedy was one of Coward's final plays, it's startling to learn that this James Glossman's beautifully mature staging is actually the show's West Coast premiere (a pruned one act version of the play was produced here in 1975 in a nationally touring double-bill called Noel Coward in Two Keys, starring Hume Cronyn.) Is it too late to nominate Coward for some kind of a "best new writer" award? Some have theorized that the show's explicit homosexuality-related themes were Coward's attempt at "coming out" - but even if one doesn't totally agree with the idea, the show still appears to be years ahead of its time - and this partially explains why it's so ripe for rediscovery. Ensconced in his Swiss hotel suite for the season, elderly author-legend Sir Hugo Latymer (Orson Bean) spits venom at his long suffering, astonishingly supportive wife Hilde (Alley Mills), who also serves as his secretary and dogsbody. In fading health, Sir Hugo realizes that his best days are behind him, but an unexpected visit an unexpected visit from from his former mistress, Carlotta (Laurie O-Brien), can still bring out the elderly writer's flamboyant rage. Retired leading lady actress Carlotta wants permission to publish their long ago love letters in her upcoming autobiography, but when Hugo refuses, it turns out the woman has an ace in her sleeve, involving other love letters to someone even further back in Hugo's past, and memory. Glossman's elegantly melancholy staging showcases both Coward's glittering writing and the unexpectedly piquant themes of regret and bitterness. Bean's crusty, curmudgeonly Sir Hugo may miss the smooth, veneer of civility we expect, but he adroitly conveys the sense of a twisted, petulant old tool, who's as dismayed by the loss of his physical faculties as he is regretful of his past mistakes. O'Brien's faded vixen is wonderfully snarky, with a mischievous malice suggesting a hurt creature who is enjoying her spiteful vengeance. Mills' understanding, but coolly clear-eyed wife, turns out to be unexpectedly powerful. (Paul Birchall). Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7, (310) 477-2055.


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