Yep, it's time for all the holiday play reviews.
Check 'em all the capsule New Theater Reviews after the jump; also, this week's stage features on reactions from the Fountain Theatre family to the conviction of Ben Bradley's killer, and a review of Cockroach, by young British playwright Sam Holcroft, at the Hudson Guild; and a preview of Actors Gang's Atomic Holiday Free-Fall.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication Dec. 8, 2011
BLOOD FRUIT This autobiographical solo show is the coming-of-age story of a young gay man from an Iraqi-Catholic background. Like many other gay individuals, writer-performer Majd Murad anguished over coming out to his family — an intense decision given his parents' religious bent and homophobic mindset. Directed by Bethany Kraemer on a bare proscenium, Murad's narrative begins with his childhood, then goes on to tell of his loneliness, his first crush, his first sexual experience, his contracting HIV from a callous partner and its subsequent successful treatment. Murad projects a likable and unassuming persona, ably depicting multiple characters and injecting enough humor and personal charm into his performance to compensate for the material's familiar theme and its overextended (90 minutes) length. Lounge 2 Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., 3 p.m. (no perfs Dec. 24 & 31, Jan. 7); thru Jan. 28. (323) 469-9988. (Deborah Klugman)
CHRISTMAS THRILL AND HIGH ADVENTURE
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre takes a break from its usual Grand Guignol gore to present Richard Nathan's zany collection of holiday miniplays. Short and sweet, the Christmas-themed sketches feature songs, comedy and scenarios that range from an Elizabethan setting to a frontier tale to futuristic space travel. The late-night show kicks off in style with a racy rendition of “Santa Baby” as a passel of cute, red-cheeked elves sing and strip down to their underwear and beyond, revealing tinsel-encrusted nether regions. In “The Visitor,” deep-space denizens get an unexpected visit from Santa. Denise Devin directs an energetic young cast of 10 who enthusiastically pull out all stops to give every character they quick-change into the maximum intensity and commitment. Kevin Michael Shiley is especially good as a hardboiled P.I., while Shali Mals brings an astounding and hilarious ferocity to her performance as a swashbuckling pirate on the high seas. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. (Pauline Adamek)
CHRISTMASTIME IS QUEER
These five one-act comedies put a gay spin on Christmas. In David Church's “Christ on the Couch,” Jesus (Joe Souza) refutes the book of Leviticus and complains to Dr. Freud (Sean Smith) that homophobic pseudo-Christians are spoiling Christmas. In “Hot Tottie,” by Laura Black, gay Lance (John Michael Beck) and lesbian Carla (Betsy Moore), waking from a drunken evening, are disconcerted to realize that they've had sex. In “Zat You, Santa Clause,” Larry Dean Harris depicts a 12-year-old gay boy (Michael O'Hara) who asks a department store Santa (Charles Sedgwick Hall) to make him straight — but basically he just wants to talk to somebody about his conflicted feelings. The plays are fitfully funny and competently staged, but they're essentially bland, with a formulaic by-the-numbers feel. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 17. (323) 957-1884, celebrationtheatre.com. (Neal Weaver)
THE COLOR OF ROSE Like the ferocious wolf that suckled the legendary Roman heroes Romulus and Remus, the sturdy and steely matriarch Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy did the same in America for the iconic Kennedy boys, John, Bobby and Teddy. Writer-director Kathrine Bates tells Mrs. Kennedy's story — but with a twist, as Rose is essayed by three actresses, each representing a different period in the iconic mama's life. Young Rose (Shelby Kocee), the fashion-loving, innocent, young mother, contrasts with the brittle, often angry, middle-aged Rose (a nicely flinty Lia Sargent), and then with Older Rose (Gloria Strock), who seems inexplicably full of regrets. A drama about Rose may be an appealing idea, but Bates' dreary opus is little more than a Wikipedia-esque listing of facts, interlaced with banalities like “There is a high price to pay for being a Kennedy!” The concept of having the three women on stage at the same time, is intriguing, but Bates' treacly and ploddingly paced piece reveals surprisingly little about the personality of this intrinsically interesting heroine. Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive (on the Beverly Hills High School campus), Beverly Hills; Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m. (added perf Sun., Dec. 11, 2:30 p.m.); thru Dec. 11. (310) 364-3606, theatre40.org. (Paul Birchall)
GAY APPAREL: A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Warning: Anybody expecting director-adaptor Jason Moyer's whimsical, LGBT retrofit of Charles Dickens to be an outrageous romp of Yuletide camp may be sadly disappointed. Or at least they will when the show too quickly exhausts the comic irony of recasting Scrooge (the wonderful Justin Ross) as the miserly gay couturier of the contemporary S&M Fashion House, and Bob Cratchit (Kenneth Sears) as his long-suffering assistant. Fortunately, just before the evening runs out of laughs and slides back into slippery — and all-too-sincere — Dickensian melodrama, the delightful Samara Bay appears as the '70s disco queen of Christmas Past and all but steals the show as she and Scrooge dance the Hustle into yesteryear. After that delirious high point — and in spite of Miguel Montalvo's witty costumes and the efforts of a top-notch ensemble — everything else plays out like lumps of coal in a Christmas stocking. Space 916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 18. (323) 418-2583, jasonmoyerpresents.com. (Bill Raden)
THE MANY MURDERS OF KRISTOPHER K. KRINGLE Was it Santa's personal assistant, with a strand of gold garland? Or was it his mistress, Scarlet, with her stiletto heel? Michael Shane Eastman and Steven Sabel's mystery play is inspired by film noir and the board game Clue, and fueled with spiked eggnog. While not especially inventive in its premise, the writing is often clever. In the hands of the Groundlings or UCB, the script, laden with double entendres, might snap to campy life. Unfortunately, few of the actors have the comedic deftness to pull it off, with their actions explaining jokes instead of trusting the audience to figure them out (after mentioning that he's roasting chestnuts, one character cries, “I have to attend to my nuts!” and grabs his crotch). A notable exception is Davern Wright's smarmy lawyer. Add a dash more risk and allow naughtier elves to have their way with it, and it could be a nice respite from a bazillionth viewing of The Nutcracker. Archway Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. (213) 237-9933. (Rebecca Haithcoat)
NO FAULT: A TALE ABOUT THE BIG D IN THE BIG APPLE Stefany Northcutt convincingly channels a New York City woman in the emotional and psychological throes of an impending divorce after a very brief marriage. Along the path of coping and recovery, “the woman,” as she is known, encounters a variety of situations and amusing people (the garrulous, damaged women of a support group, her overly solicitous parents and a marvelously creepy waiter are especially funny). The upside of this 90-minute one-act is Christine Perfetti's blunt humor, energetic prose, nicely complemented by Stefan Lysenko's good direction. The downside is that it too often, particularly toward play's end, takes on the look and feel of an overcooked, “poor me” pity party without redeeming insight or viable dramatic interest. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Hlwyd.; Thur.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun. 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 18. plays411.com/nofault. (Lovell Estell III)