The Antaeus Company reports that, in the aftermath of Jeanie Hackett stepping down as artistic director after eight years, the troupe “will be led by a team of interim co-artistic directors: company members Tony Amendola, Rob Nagle and John Sloan. Kathleen Eads Orbach has been hired as the new Managing Director.  This new team will oversee the company's fall production of Noel Coward's Peace in Our Time

directed by Casey Stangl which is set to open October 20.”

Check out this coming week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, last week's capsule NEW THEATER REVIEWS.


Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,

Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman,

Amy Lyons, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill

Raden, 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


End Days West Coast premiere of Deborah Zoe Laufer's apocalypse comedy. Starting Aug. 20, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 31, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 8, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 14, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 2, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 9, 7 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 25. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055,

Ennio Family-friendly solo spectacle by Ennio Marchetto, “The Living Paper Cartoon.” Aug. 23-25, 7 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 2 p.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

Ian MacKinnon's Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 2: The Search for Gay Love The performance artist's cybersexual time-travel romp. Fri., Aug. 19, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459,

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot Stephen Adly Guirgis' courtroom drama set in purgatory. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-1055, Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.,

Love Letters Bob Hakman and Sandra Hakman star in A.R. Gurney's epistolary play. Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318,

Raised in Captivity Nicky Silver's dark comedy about estranged twin siblings reunited at their mother's funeral. Starting Aug. 20, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-7792, Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.,

Romeo & Juliet Zombie Joe Underground's fast-paced take on Shakespeare's tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120,

Stones in His Pockets Tuta Theatre West presents Marie Jones' story of a bug-budget Hollywood film production taking over an Irish village, with 15 roles performed by two actors. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 17, (323) 960-7822, Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant Elephant Stages and Rocket Propelled Ltd. present Rick Pagano's tale of a death row inmate who thinks he's the famous actor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-7745, Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..

The Yeoman of the Guard Gilbert and Sullivan's operatic comedy. Part of the playhouse's Head Over Heels for Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 24. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318,


Beau Jest Daughter in love brings home fake boyfriend to please her parents, in James Sherman's comedy. Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 21, 3 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 24. Glendale Center Theater, 324 N. Orange St., Glendale, (818) 244-8481.

GO Celebrity Autobiography Comedians read the memoirs of the rich and famous. Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m. Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica, (310) 434-3414,

Ennio Family-friendly solo spectacle by Ennio Marchetto, “The Living Paper Cartoon.” Aug. 23-25, 7 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 2 p.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, (626) 356-PLAY,

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 3. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014,

I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett Created by David Grapes and Todd Olson, arrangements by Vince di Mura. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787,


Credit: Steven Gunther

Credit: Steven Gunther


belting the blues, lambasting American advertising, or re-visiting her

early show business years in Los Angeles via a story about all the

crappy cars she's owned, comedian Sandra Bernard's frank sexiness and

cards-on-the table tough talk command attention. Her latest solo show

succeeds as a searing stand-up act and rock concert, and an uproarious

tell-all, as Bernhard shares stories from her Comedy Store days, her

coming out, and her child-rearing experiences, punctuating memories with

covers of “Across 110th Street,” “Who's That Lady?” and some original

music. No small part of the fun here is the ferocious red-head's

love-hate relationship with Los Angeles, the city where she launched her

career and bought her first home. As she warmed up the crowd on opening

night, Bernhard talked about her surprising lack of pre-show anxiety:

“It's Los Angeles,” she snickered, “the stakes are so low.” But Bernhard

aimed high all night, topping off two hours of jugular vein comedy with

a medley of foot-stomping songs about sisterhood. REDCAT, 631 W. Second

St., dwntwn.; Wed.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 21, 7 p.m.; thru Aug.

21. (213) 237-2800. (Amy Lyons)

GO On Golden Pond Ernest Thompson's original play lacks the high drama of its famous film counterpart, but has all the heart. The tale concerns Norman and Ethel Thayer, an aging couple vacationing on a lake for perhaps their last time, returned to some youthful vigor by the arrival of a 13-year-old step-grandson. While guilty of overt sentimentality, Thompson's script creates expertly drawn characters. The joy of this revival, so ably directed by Cameron Watson, is in its impeccable production values, which begin with the casting of the elderly leads. Watching old pros Hal Linden and Christina Pickles navigate through a constantly changing stream of bickering, loving and alternately fearing or bravely facing death is a mini-course in consummate acting. John Iacovelli's intricately designed country summer home, meticulously dressed by MacAndME, complements this thoroughly satisfying event. Into the mix comes fine teen actor Nicholas Podany, who holds his own with the veterans, finding multiple dimensions of adolescence. Monette Magrath also turns in a fine performance as the Thayer's aggrieved daughter, Chelsea, come to make peace with her father. Only Jonathan Stewart is out of place as Chelsea's nervous fiancé; his stressful performance seems to belong in a French farce. (Tom Provenzano). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank, (818) 558-7000,

GO Rose Cottages With its towering trees, intermittent birdsong and starry ceiling, Theatricum Botanicum's bucolic amphitheater is a wonderfully ironic venue for a play set in a dumpy tourist motel in South Florida. Theatricum's production marks the West Coast premiere of playwright Bill Bozzone's slightly offbeat, somewhat sentimental comedy about the human urge to form replacement families when our families of origin and matrimony disappoint or disappear. Rose (an inspired Earnestine Phillips) fears her dilapidated motel will be shuttered when a health inspector (Maurice Shaw) notes faulty plumbing and other violations. Panicked and pissed off, Rose begins to rebuild hope when Jessie (Ellen Geer), a motel guest abandoned by her New Jersey cop son (Aaron Hendry) and his selfish, tarty wife (Savannah Southern Smith), befriends her. Enter Lydell (Graco Hernandez), a lonely teen with a knack for odd jobs, who completes the reconstructed family unit. Bozzone worked with Theatricum and rewrote the role of Rose as female, a choice that adds a nice layer of complexity to the already plucky script. Though the story veers toward oversimplification of human pain at times, Bozzone smartly redeems sappy situations with left-of-center humor. When Lydell reveals to Rose that his father is a complete zero, for instance, we expect tears and tales of tattered rainbows; instead we get an entirely unexpected story about dad's feigned shooting of Santa Claus, and it's a scream. The cast is solid across the board, with Geer and Phillips winning equal leading-lady kudos for layering their characters. Heidi Helen Davis directs with straightforward simplicity, though the pacing lags near play's end. (Amy Lyons). Sat., Aug. 20, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 21, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 4, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 17, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 1, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 2, 7:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723,

Sleeping Beauty Wakes Sleep-clinic musical romance, book by Rachel Sheinkin, music by Brendan Milburn, lyrics by Valerie Vigoda. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla, (858) 550-1010,

Tartuffe, ou l'Imposteur In a sense, Molière's immortal skewering of religious hypocrisy is the Jaguar XK-E of high-performance stage comedies: Its classic lines and comic engineering are readily apparent even when parked, but it is only when humming in the hands of a skilled driver that its true genius finds full expression. Regrettably, with director-adaptor Ellen Geer behind the wheel, this out-of-tune Tartuffe sputters like it's blown a head gasket. Geer tricks out her period-dress (Val Miller's fine costumes), drawing-room production with a handful of original songs (Geer's music, Peter Alsop's lyrics) and the conceit that it is a command performance for Louis XIV, which cleverly sets up the deus ex machina dénouement. But lackluster laughs suggest the incisive, anarchic soul of Molière has all but eluded her. It's not for want of trying. Her ensemble of eminently capable, veteran classicists huff and puff their way through each slapstick Geer throws at them. Yet somehow, Orgon (Ted Barton) merely blusters, Dorine (Willow Geer) grates and Elmire (Misha Bouvion) fades in the clinches. Happily, Aaron Hendry's brilliantly realized Tartuffe is the show-saving exception. Hendry's expressions of agonized piety as he screws Orgon out of house and home is the evening's crowning and excruciatingly hilarious achievement. Daniel Billet also injects rousing physical comedy into his portrait of the hotheaded son, Damis. Even these performances finally prove powerless against Ellen Geer's penchant for filling every nook and cranny of the Botanicum's awkwardly expansive space with business. Her blocking alone suffocates Moliére's funniest set pieces and produces the most irritatingly drawn-out entrances and exits ever seen on a stage. (Bill Raden). Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 1, 4 p.m. Continues through Sept. 30. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723,

This Melissa James Gibson's play about a widowed young mother and her friends. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 9 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 22, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (213) 628-2772. See stage Feature

The Underpants Steve Martin's take on dropped panties, adapted from Carl Sternheim's 1910 German farce Die Hose. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 10. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 494-1014,

Richard III Following a couple of progressive festivals, RADAR LA and Hollywood Fringe, with a traditional staging of Shakespeare is like following a gastronomically experimental meal with a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream. It's fine, of course, but you really were hoping for the ice cream to taste like foie gras or something equally surprising. Maybe if Melora Marshall had been playing the title role –director Ellen Geer has employed cross-gender casting — on opening night, the production wouldn't have seemed so pedestrian both conceptually and in pace. But the play, second only to Hamlet in length, needs the kind of sprightly staging that a theatre carved into the hills of Topanga Canyon just can't support. Unfortunately, the production seems to offset its innate weaknesses with overacting. From the opening monologue, Chad Jason Scheppner's Richard spends more time mugging for the audience than allowing Shakespeare's already wry verse and textual characterization of Richard as anti-hero do their work naturally — a real shame, considering the glimpses of talent that peek out from beneath this schtick. A couple of actors fare better (notably Earnestine Phillips, whose dagger-throwing delivery works with the vitriol she spits), but none enough to make you glad you stayed for dessert. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fri., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 3:30 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 29, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 4, 3:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 17, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 24, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 2, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, (310) 455-3723,


¡Asiático! Asian-American sketch comedy, courtesy 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4, (818) 900-2194, The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,

awake Joe Hernandez-Kolski's hip-hop/spoken-word/comedy one-man show. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (213) 389-3856, See Stage feature.

The Blue Room David Hare's intimate noir play. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A..

Camp Sunday All-new sketch and improv by the Groundlings Sunday Company. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A., (323) 934-9700,

GO Come Together: A Beatles Cabaret Having seen this show some time ago, it's good to report that a number of rough edges have been smoothened, so that this cabaret-style tribute to the music of the Beatles returns in fine form. This go-round, instead of a bland backdrop, the stage is festooned with a colorful collage of posters from the group's albums and individual concerts. Also, in this version there are four actors (two men, two women) instead of six, which makes for a smoother run and less distraction. Some new songs have been added, but the bulk of the selections are the Beatles' popular love songs, which Marc Ginsburg, Betsy Hammer, Victoria Summer and John Szura sing with nary a missed note under James Carey's direction. What really makes this show is the laid-back, cabaret atmosphere, which was completely absent before. Also added are a few well-timed gags. The instrumental soundtrack has undergone a few tweaks as well — it's a tad more conventional, but it makes for easy listening. Some highlights are “If I Fell,” flawlessly rendered by Ginsburg; “Hello” and “Come Together” performed by the group; and “We Can Work it Out,” sung by Szura. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., (323) 525-0661,

Dancing at Lughnasa Brian Friel's story of five unmarried sisters in an Irish village, circa 1936. Fri., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 25, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 2 p.m., (323) 960-7711, The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,

GO Dysnomia The play's title refers to a Greek goddess associated with disruption, which is just what befalls the family on display in Marja-Lewis Ryan's fine dramedy. Henry and Mary's (Heidi Sulzman and Trevor H. Olsen) longtime marriage has yielded good jobs, a comfortable suburban life and two attractive children. But angst and boredom have taken over Mary's life, and she can't shake the feeling that something is missing, until she has a casual chat with a friend's lesbian daughter (Ryan). It's obvious at this point what the missing “something” is in Mary's life, and she eventually decides to out herself to friends and family, resulting in moments of hilarity and disquieting expressiveness. Henry implodes into rage and steadfast denial; her friend Carol (Jessie Warner) nearly has a panic attack; Mary's troubled teenage son, John (Ryan Stathos), mirroring his father, becomes a cauldron of rage and resentment; precocious daughter Jodi (the outstanding Isabella Palmieri) handles the situation with seasoned, adult aplomb. Ryan's play is all about being true to oneself, and she makes the point without being shallow or preachy with a text that strikes just the right balance between darkness and light and also is refreshingly forthright. Cast performances are equally fine under Anthony Frisina's direction. It all unfurls neatly on Michael Fitzgerald's serviceable, lived-in kitchen set design. Rounding out the cast is Monroe Makowsky as Carol's husband, Scott. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 10, Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 469-9988.

Facebook The weekly show formerly known as MySpace. Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m., $5. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., L.A., (323) 908-8702,

Google My Tweet Second City alumni sketch comedy, directed by Marc Warzecha. Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 2. Second City Studio Theater, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Second Floor, L.A., (323) 464-8542.

The Insidious Impact of Anton David Hilder's not-so-romantic comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A..

Just Imagine Tim Piper's John Lennon impersonation, including performances of Beatles hits and Lennon's solo work. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., (310) 213-6955,

Keep it Clean Comedy Hosted by JC Coccoli. Mondays, 10:30 p.m., Free. 1739 Public House, 1739 N. Vermont Ave., L.A., (323) 663-1739.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot Stephen Adly Guirgis' courtroom drama set in purgatory. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-1055, Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.,

Life in the Middle Ages Writer-standup comic Steve Ochs' megapersonal solo show about the inevitable outcome of aging deploys a faux-medieval fairy tale — projected overhead in Pythonesque mode, drolly narrated by Wendy Cutler — to contextualize his trek through Elizabeth Kübler-Ross' five stages of grief. The amiably irreverent, quip-happy Ochs aims to help viewers follow his lead and make peace with the Grim Reaper. Yet his relentlessly facile text yields few fresh insights that couldn't be found at a new age retreat or Comedy Store benefit night. That said, the attending audience chortled throughout and seemed truly touched by Ochs' beatific guided meditation final. (David Nichols). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 26. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 962-1632.

Life on This Couch Remember the episode of Sex and the City where Carrie was grasping for column ideas and threw out socks missing their mates as a possible analogy? More than a whiff of that reaching clings to Laura Richardson's living room couch-centered new comedy in Open Fist's First Look Festival. The play begins with promise: Desiree (the likable Stephanie Erb) shows up at the apartment of her sister, Cece (Katy Tyszkiewicz), with a big bag and little explanation of how long she plans to stay. The dialogue is humorous, a thinly veiled tiptoeing around the real question you want to ask but can't of family houseguests: “How long are you going to interrupt my present with our past?” Director Benjamin Burdick controls the pace, making a rapid-fire duel over Cece's eating habits much funnier than the subject matter warrants. But while Richardson writes wacky but not unbelievable characters (as Cece's boyfriend, Conor Lane's sweetly goofy Skeez is a stoner Starbucks barista in acupuncture school) and captures their family dynamic, the story gets lost and never finds its way out. Too many storylines — a flighty mother for whom Cece harbors irrational anger, a dying aunt, Cece's serious OCD, Desiree's carload of unresolved problems — clutter up the stage, but the real problem is the lack of any one strong enough to carry the show. An unfunny dream sequence is supposed to absolve Desiree of her past, but the real groan comes after the weak comparison of Cece's couch to people. The sisters manage an unsatisfying resolution that ostensibly explains Cece's outrageous bitchiness, but more than a few quickie clean-ups are needed to salvage this Couch. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Fri., Aug. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 25, 8 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 4, 2 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 7, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 10, 2 p.m. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912,


Credit: Shawn Bishop

Credit: Shawn Bishop


Groundlings stay fully dressed in their latest sketch comedy and improv

show, and thank heaven: In the skit “Breathe Me,” about two fumbling

dancers with an overload of sexual tension, Annie Sertich places her

face so close to Alex Stagg's leotard-clad crotch, it's a wonder she

doesn't suffocate. (Don't worry parents, you can't see anything through

the fringe on his toga.) I'd call that sketch a stand-out, except that

this is the most uniformly solid Groundlings show I've ever seen, thanks

to its emphasis on eclectic ideas threaded by comedy that arrives with

plain-spoken ease. Sometimes it even has a bite, as in “Marco,” when a

posh, bored couple (Michaela Watkins and David Hoffman) lasers in on

charming their shy Latin waiter (Mikey Day). But when he gives in to

their insistence that he have a drink at their table, the wife clutches

at her purse. In “Career Placement,” Day plays a seventh-grader

depressed when a standardized test concludes that he should be a Night

Floor Manager at Michaels. And Sertich has another raw moment as a

struggling actress trying to charm the casting agents (Staggs and David

Hoffman), who want her to fess up to an embarrassing personal story for a

cheese commercial; like many a Hollywood lost soul, she can't gauge the

difference between what's amusing and shockingly personal. Comediennes

Watkins and Sertich own the show, and director Damon Jones makes sure

neither is stuck playing the girlfriend. (He even gives them the first

improv all to themselves.) In every skit, their characters are uniquely

memorable and brazenly funny. Among the strong cast of six, only Day

gives Watkins and Sertich a serious challenge, playing everything from a

Death Star desk jockey kissing up to Darth Vader to a squealing girl at

summer camp in a bit of drag that's strikingly accurate at capturing

the mind of a swoony pre-teen. Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave.,

Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat, 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Oct. 1. (323) 934-9700. (Amy Nicholson)

LoveSick “A love story set a dream-world,” written and directed by Larissa Wise. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Loft Ensemble, 929 E. Second St., No. 105, L.A., (213) 680-0392,

Magic Strings Bob Baker's marionette variety revue, featuring puppet horses on a merry-go-round, an opera diva on roller skates, a “Day at the Circus,” and an all-American grand finale. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., L.A., (213) 250-9995,

GO Moby Dick Rehearsed In 1955, Orson Welles' obsession with the extraordinary resulted in this fascinating play, starring himself as a 19th-century actor-producer who puts aside a production of King Lear to assay his adaptation of Melville's masterwork. Gathering his actors who have learned their parts by rote, he asks them to rehearse by improvising staging, using anything at hand to represent the whale ship Pequod on its dangerous mission to catch the great white whale. Director Aliah Whitmore's vision, beautifully realized by production designer Jacob Whitmore and lighting designer Grant Dunn, creates a vivid visual impression of 1860 artists. A fine cast, most notable James Whitmore Jr. as the pertinacious whale hunter Captain Ahab and Dustin Seavey as the gentle narrator/sailor Ishmael, breathe humanity into Melville's strenuous prose. The otherwise extraordinary production's only flaw is that the performers too easily fulfill the difficult task of physical improvisation, denying the illusion that this is the first time this play is being given life. (Tom Provenzano). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.,

Othello Arguments have raged for centuries over the enigma that is Iago, Shakespeare's most renowned portrait of incarnate evil. Why, exactly, does the villainous ensign turn his considerable creative energies to engineering the fall of his noble general? Director-adaptor Tiger Reel advances a new theory in this provocative modern-dress production: Iago's malevolence is a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a bit of bravura, preshow pantomime, Reel stages an Abu Ghraib-esque army torture scene in which Othello (a sturdy Victor Dickerson) oversees a blasé Iago (the marvelous Jim Hanna) “interrogating” a prisoner on the same platform that later will serve as the fateful marriage bed for Othello and Desdemona (Abbie Cobb). Though the comparison between 16th-century Venice and our more recent military unpleasantness might sound somewhat strained, Reel bolsters his case by pruning back some of Othello's more ennobling early speeches to create one of the bleakest portrayals of the Moor in recent memory. The cuts tend to hamstring Dickerson, who comes off as something of a highly strung U.S. Marine martinet, but they also turn the play over to Iago and hand Hanna the role of a lifetime. The actor imbues the character with an enervated, sociopathic world-weariness that reads as both comic exasperation in his scenes with Roderigo (Sean Spann) and the whiff of a humanizing conscience in his soliloquies. While Reel's argument is finally more facile than convincing, his elegant, futuristic production design and Matt Richter's expressive lights make swallowing it a not-unpalatable experience. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, (800) 838-3006, Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., L.A..

Over There: Comedy Is His Best Weapon 60 Miles North Productions presents P.J. Walsh's solo comedy show. Thu., Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 962-1632.

Passing Proper/Passion Two one-acts by Trick Emerson. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21, Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 960-5068,

The Pitchfork Disney The Smiley Face and the Frown present Philip Ridley's 1991 surrealist play. Saturdays, 9:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., L.A., (323) 850-7827.

GO Point Break Live! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Fridays, 8:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,

Poison Apple Sean Galuszka's low-key suspense drama is set in an apartment in New York City's Hell's Kitchen. There's a violent banging on the door and Paul (Chris Sams) emerges from the bathroom, wearing yellow rubber gloves and carrying a spray bottle. He seems nebbishy, yet there's something sinister about him. He carefully takes his time before answering the door. When he opens it, a hooded man bursts in. Paul sprays him in the eyes. After a brief contretemps, it emerges that the stranger is Jerry (author Galuszka), a friend of Paul's female roommate. Learning she's not at home, Jerry asks if he can wait for her. Paul grudgingly agrees, and proceeds to serve him tea. An increasingly edgy conversation ensues, and the appearance of a lethal-looking butcher knife and a saw hint at violence. Clearly more is going on than meets the eye, including a sexual attraction between the two men. By the end, the play proves to be a love story as well as a tale of homicide. The play is a carefully controlled — perhaps too carefully controlled — exercise in suspense. Director Susan Lambert skillfully charts the gradual emergence of the macabre facts, and the two actors cannily play off one another to keep the tension building. (Neal Weaver). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, SPACE 916, 916 N. Formosa Ave., L.A..

Quake A wife and mother dies on Sept. 11, felled not by bin Laden but by breast cancer. Four years later, this period piece — its setting circa 2005 made obvious by the thick laptops and dumbphones — picks up with her husband, Artie (Ray Abruzzo), and daughter, Robbie (Maxie Solters), still reeling. Partially because of playwright D. Tucker Smith's intriguing premise of sadness overshadowed by national tragedy, but also because of the host of distractions welded onto the drama, the drama's weight drags its momentum to a crawl. Robbie, now 14, is acting out for reasons her dad only thinks he can't understand. (He likens his daughter to a Sunday crossword.) At his workplace, a second-tier department store suffering from the flight of disloyal online shoppers, CEO Artie becomes fascinated by a philosophical Armenian janitor (Stephanie Terronez) who sleeps on the store's patio furniture at night. Meanwhile, two customers, a 23-year-old naif (Alex Pierce) and a cynical vet (Marc Aden Gray), lock horns in a battle for turf. Their skirmishes with each other and with Artie draw blood. But Smith is stuck on creating a Glengarry Glen Grief, and the play's diffuse themes and scattered showers of exposition work against the good ideas buried in the material. As co-directors, Smith and Anjali Bhimani try to add impact with melodramatic movie-of-the-week music, another flourish that should be left behind if this premiere-with-potential retools for a second try. (Amy Nicholson). Sat., Aug. 20, 2 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 8 p.m. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 882-6912, Also, See STAGE FEATURE.

Raised in Captivity Nicky Silver's dark comedy about estranged twin siblings reunited at their mother's funeral. Starting Aug. 20, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-7792, Renegade Theatre (formerly the Actor's Playpen), 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.,

The Roar of the Butterfly Spider Saloff portrays eight different characters in her solo show with original music. Through Aug. 20, 8 p.m., Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., (323) 957-1884,

So Damned Heavenly Bound/You Make Me Physically Ill Two new one-acts: Patty Wonderly's story of three sisters whose father has passed away, and Roger Mathey's tale of a man meeting the nightmarish family of the girl of his dreams. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 10, (323) 960-7770, Elephant Space Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.,

Stones in His Pockets Tuta Theatre West presents Marie Jones' story of a bug-budget Hollywood film production taking over an Irish village, with 15 roles performed by two actors. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 17, (323) 960-7822, Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A..

Sun Sisters Vasanti Saxena's story of a mom with cancer and her lesbian daughter who returns home to take care of her. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, L.A., (323) 489-3703,

Treat Yourself Like Cary Grant Elephant Stages and Rocket Propelled Ltd. present Rick Pagano's tale of a death row inmate who thinks he's the famous actor. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18, (323) 960-7745, Elephant Stages, Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A..


Credit: Laryl Garcia

Credit: Laryl Garcia

Playwright Kyle Jarrow tells the improbable tale of unfaithful husband

Ryan (Michael Trucco), and his serial infidelities. During a night on

the town, he picks up pretty blond Jill (Jen Eldridge) and takes her

back to her apartment for a night of sex. But every time he makes a move

on her, there's a loud clap of thunder, and a cell-phone call from the

police informs him that his wife Karen (Lisa Brenner) was in a serious

automobile accident at the moment of the first thunder-clap. A local

news anchor (Dana Kelly, Jr.) reports a series of world-wide disasters,

convincing him that his misdeeds have the power to trigger cataclysms.

The accident has left Karen paralyzed from the neck down, leaving Ryan

in guilty despair. Devoutly religious hospital attendant Anton (Gugun

Deep Singh) attempts to persuade him of the power of prayer. And what

seemed to be a satirical farce about religious superstition and

delusions of grandeur abruptly turns into a drama about miracles, faith,

and the power of prayer. And with that turn, credibility goes out the

window. Despite herculean efforts by director Damaso Rodriguez and his

cast, the play remains fractured by its disparate elements and

uncertainty of tone. Second Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 17. Produced by Electric

Footlights & TNT Entertainment. (Neal Weaver)

Tweaked This undistinguished melodrama about junkies trying to break their habit gets a boost from several capable performances. Directed by Sean Riley, Paul Shoulberg's script revolves around roommates Charlotte (Isidora Goreshter) and Maddy (Robin Schultz), both addicted to crystal meth. Charlotte, a poet, frequents coffee houses where eventually she meets Lance (Jake Dahm), a good guy who falls for her and manages to overcome her jittery reticence. Maddy has it tougher; she's barred from seeing her young daughter by the child's father, Kyle (James Tyler Johnson), a buttoned-up Jesus fanatic whose air of calm righteousness masks rage and a desire to control. The other two men in their lives are their ultra strung-out pal Grogan (Shawn-Caulin Young) and their supplier Trey (Brent Harvey) a macho lowlife. The play is least interesting at the start, as the performers, not quite convincingly, depict their addiction and the physical changes they undergo struggling through withdrawal. It grows more involving as the story expands and other relationships develop. Both Dahm and Johnson deliver assured performances — Dahm as a straight arrow and Johnson in the more complex role of a twisted puritan who fails to salve his anger with faith. Young also has a good scene as a guilt-ridden meth freak at the end of his rope, and Goreshter, after a shaky start, lands on track. Production resources are unfortunately limited at this workshop venue, making some of the staging less effective than it might have been otherwise. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21, (323) 960-7773, Meta Theater, 7801 Melrose Ave., L.A..

The V Room This variety show is presented on the last Thursday of every month in a cabaret setting. This, its second installment, seemed a bit slapdash and lackadaisical. Two of the acts listed in the program — a band and an experimental dance company — did not appear, and there were many that did appear not listed in the program. An insistently gay emcee, Michael Mullen, spent so much time talking, milking the applause for every performer and hawking their CDs that it sometimes felt like an infomercial. Still, there was some talent. Ninja Betty and the Nunchix offered several numbers, including “You're a Big Star — I'm a Star Fucker.” Monologist Joy Nash delivered a comic excerpt from her Fringe show My Mobster, and Kristin Tower-Rowles (granddaughter of MGM musical star Kathryn Grayson) gave us a slick rendition of “Hollywood Baby” — i.e., “Broadway Baby” with new lyrics. Musical duo Erica Katzin and David Ryan-Speer harmonized on “Loving You Is Easy” and “Mama, Rock Me.” Other performers included wryly comic singer-composer Enrique Acosta, svelte song stylist Alissa Harris and comic Erich Wech. Charlene Modeste put a dark spin on “I Put a Spell on You,” and musical comedy diva Veronica Scheyving performed a stylish rendition of “All the Good Men Are Gay.” (Neal Weaver). Last Thursday of every month, 8 p.m. Continues through Oct. 27. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A., (323) 957-1152,

GO Watson The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes: Jaime Robledo's take on the Victorian crime solver's right-hand man. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A., (310) 281-8337, See Stage feature.

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. Mondays, 8 p.m., Free. Hollywood Studio Bar & Grill, 6122 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., (323) 466-9917.


The Big Woogie: 4 Noir-Acts L.A. is the city of noir. Contrasted with sunshine and palm trees, the shadows seem even darker. Local writer Ray Ramos has penned and co-directed (with Stan Matasavage) these four sordid one-acts, each a tale of murder, betrayal and sometimes romance. In the circus melodrama that opens the show, a sexy palm reader (Cassie Moloney) incites her clown boyfriend (Gordon Alatorre) to violence, screeching, “You crazy, stupid fucking clown!” without a smear of irony. Then the show skips back to a slapstick bit set in the 1920s where actress Louise Brooks (Amanda Jones, cute and perkier than the public perception of the original) tries to cover up the accidental murder of Howard Hawks (Jim Pierce) by a nervous New York writer (David Lengel) channeling Harold Lloyd. The show closer and inspiration for the title is a weary bit of Vegas intrigue with a key prop inspired by Pulp Fiction's golden briefcase — it's salvaged only by the perfect casting of Dina-Nicki Rassias as a dangerous dame. But the best-written piece comes just after inter-mission: a simple, claustrophobic thriller about an isolated invalid (Candice Martin) who turns on her favorite spooky radio program only to hear announcer Orson Welles describe her life right down to her name, handicap, flavor of tea she's sipping … and the intruder who just broke in downstairs. Between skits, Ramos slinks out in a trench coat and fedora to give an epilogue to his own play before introducing the next act, killing time as the stagehands flip and bend Yuki Nakamura's smart but unwieldy set into submission by doing Bogart impressions and recommending the audience rent The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity. Ramos tries to talk with a wiseguy patter, but tellingly gets more laughs when he drops the act and merely sighs about one of his own characters, “What an asshole.” Despite being one man's passion project, the evening seems oddly uncommitted to its theme — the cast takes its curtain bow to Grease's “You're the One That I Want.” (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21, (855) 235-2867, Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

Boomermania Baby Boomer musical lampoon, written and directed by Debbie Kasper and Pat Sierchio. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 27, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 27. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-7101,

ClassicsFest 2011 The Antaeus Company's seventh-annual festival of theater workshops, readings, and special events. Schedule at Wednesdays-Sundays. Continues through Aug. 21, (818) 506-1983, Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

Counter Men Imagine the cast of the sitcom Cheers as mostly ex-Marines. Now fast-forward 20 years, replace the Boston bar with a Glendale restaurant, and you'll have a pretty good feel for this world premiere by Chuck Faerber, whose clever title refers to both the function these men served in the military and the section of Mo-Par's where they park their keisters. Among them are Eddie (Alan Woolf), the elder statesmen who fought in Korea and is obsessed with the lottery; Carl (Bart Braverman), who served in Vietnam and has prostate problems; and Tim (Shelly Kurtz), the perennial jokester who lost his wife to cancer too soon. Doting on this shiftless trio is veteran waitress Joyelle (Marion Ramsey), whose no-nonsense exterior barely hides the paralyzing fear she feels for her son serving in Iraq. To pass the time, the three musketeers fawn over the antics of Mackie (Paul Haitkin), an actor between jobs who is entertaining precisely because he is young, dumb and full of … patriotic bravo. There are a few plot points, such as Mackie's enlisting in the Navy and Joyelle confronting her worst fears, but the play is really a character piece, and a funny one at times. It even features some merry melodies, courtesy of Teo (Michael Uribes), the Filipino musician who sleeps in a booth with his synthesizer. Yet despite director Richard Kuhlman's impressive maneuvering of 14 actors in and out of scenes, the dearth of true drama leaves one wanting. Sure, there are some crackling fireworks along the way — especially in the tense political moments between Braverman and Haitkin. However, the tension is undercut when all the loose ends are neatly tied up at the conclusion, just like in your favorite sitcom. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 27, (323) 960-5521, Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks,

Credit: Jana Wimer

Credit: Jana Wimer



any longtime fan can testify, the Grand Guignol Gothicists of ZJU could

perform the phone book and make it look like a blood-curdling issue of

EC Comics. Fortunately for this short, late-night evening of original

playlets and poetry torn from the sketchbook of Zombie Joe himself, the

featured texts are nothing so prosaic. Rather, the seven pieces (mostly

— and inventively — directed by Jana Wimer) constitute a virtual key

to comprehending the tortured, Catholic-guilt-twisted fatalism that both

informs ZJU's aesthetic and provides their stage-zeit with its

haunting, hallucinatory geist. Thus, in the opener, “Folly of Love

Fulfilled,” Davern Wright, Joanna Bartling and Kyle Clare enact a

parable of love, family and fate, in which redemption is annulled

through the irony of its reverse-sequenced narrative. “Only Ever One”

explores love lost via an idiot-child trance channeler (a mesmerizing

Amy Gotham) exploited for dubious, otherworldly comfort by her

brokenhearted sister (Anne Westcott) and a bereaved pilgrim (Denny

Zartman). “The Sad Soul-Searching Spirit of Sweet Lil' Violet Nantucket”

takes a grotesque look at transgressive desire in its tale of two

inmates from Serenity Farms Asylum (Zartman & Wright) grave-robbing

the skull of a gruesomely abused and murdered former patient (Gotham).

The evening's visual keynote is provided by “Procession of Devils,” in

which director Sebastian Munoz inflects ZJ's wry meditation on the

veniality of his San Fernando Valley youth with Hieronymus Bosch-like

theatrics. Shayne Eastin and Michael Maio illuminate the shorter verse

pieces with their original score and engaging stage presence. Zombie

Joe's Underground, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd; Fri., 11 p.m.; thru

Sept. 2. (818) 202-4120. (Bill Raden)

GO Heavier Than… Spinning together and mixing up myths from Greek mythology, Steven Yockey crafts an enjoyable fable about love, hubris and human folly. The central character here is the Minotaur, Asterius (the sinewy Nick Ballard, sporting a gigantic pair of horns), a creature part bull and part man imprisoned in a mazelike labyrinth who, in this reimagining, is a sensitive beast tormented by dreams of his long-absent mother, Pasiphae (Jill Van Velzer), and a consuming love for his sister, Ariadne (Laura Howard). His isolation is somewhat assuaged by the divinatory powers and presence of the white-clad chorus (Ashanti Brown, Teya Patt, Katie Locke O'Brien), whose constant chatter and antics account for a good share of laughs throughout. More humor comes when the very gay Icarus (Casey Kringlen) drops in — literally — with wings shedding feathers (a portent of things to come), cracking jokes and incessantly hitting on Asterius. Yockey's clever script becomes somewhat puzzling toward show's end, but for most of this 75-minute piece, it is thoroughly engaging. Abigail Deser's fine direction brings out the best in her cast. Kurt Boecher's scenic design team adds a strong element of the rustic with a visually appealing assemblage of towering, crated rocks. Robert Prior's shadow puppets, wings and video design also are impressive, as is his simple mix of costumes. (Lovell Estell III). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, (626) 683-6883,

It's Just Sex Jeff Gould's comedy takes the underpinnings of sexual fantasy, fidelity and money and puts all of those nuances onstage in a contemporary comedy about three married couples. The wife-swapping plot is straight out of Hugh Hefner's pad, circa 1975. That the play resonates today, in the ashes of the sexual revolution, is one indication of how little has changed, despite how much has changed. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City, (818) 762-2272,


Credit: Sherry Netherland

Credit: Sherry Netherland

Five bank tellers and their nurturing manager, all female, are

distraught when they learn of a bank merger bringing potential layoffs.

The delicate balance of their workday relationships is further upset by

the arrival of an ambitious, charming and handsome junior executive

(Chris Wolfe) who, like a cat among the pigeons, shows up to observe for

a week and then advise his superiors who should keep their job.

Playwright Doug Haverty uses the small Santa Monica branch of a bank as

the setting for his examination of the daily routine of these six

vivacious, opinionated and financially-strapped working women (Stephanie

Colet, Kady Douglas, Bianca Gisselle, Trisha Hershberger, Shelby Kocee

and Gina Yates). Scenes that chart their final workweek are intercut by

insightful monologues as each character takes a turn in a spotlight to

share personal confessionals with the audience. Though lazy

theatrically, this device nonetheless permits their individual stories

to sneak into our hearts. Creating a range of multi-cultural characters

seems a good choice, but having three of the five tellers speak in

broken English does not. Haverty's heartfelt comedy skirts its potential

by substituting a feel-good tale of feminine camaraderie for conflict

or a ruthlessness that would be far more reflective of the times. While

the acting is mostly good, this production's pace is infuriatingly

sluggish and protracted, under Richard Alan Woody's direction. The Group

Repertory at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 pm.; thru Sept. 17. 818-700-4878. (Pauline Adamek)

Romeo & Juliet Zombie Joe Underground's fast-paced take on Shakespeare's tragedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Oct. 8. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120,


Credit: Jeanette D. Farr

Credit: Jeanette D. Farr


trophy wife (Niki Nowak) of a prominent televangelist considers

divorcing and/or exposing her husband for his affair with a gay man.A

spoiled matron (Ashley Fuller, alternating with Jennie Floyd) berates

the pretty young housekeeper who has complained of her spouse's sexual

harassment. A woman who has suffered multiple miscarriages (Monica

Lawson) excoriates her mate's new lover and casts a curse on the child

they are expecting. An elderly woman (Rosina Pinchot), happily married

for 57 years, shares the story of her marriage with her

Alzheimer-stricken husband's new companion, a woman he fell in love with

in a nursing home. Directed by Jennifer Farr, playwright Samantha

Macher's script relays the stories of ten betrayed or forsaken women,

each of whom speaks to the paramour who has ensnared her beloved's

affections. To the credit of the playwright and the company, Macher

wrote this play at the request of this company's members to

counterbalance the overwhelmingly male-oriented perspective of their

past productions. Not all the narratives are equally developed – some

trail off without sufficient resolution — and some performances are of a

notably higher standard than others. Still, Macher's writing reflects

the humor and detail of an insightful storyteller. Pinchot captures the

spotlight with a heartrending portrayal of a lost and cherished love.

Also notable are Tifanie McQueen as an abused wife livid enough to

murder her rival, and Shelby Janes as a pregnant gal bidding a welcome

good riddance to her crackhead boyfriend. Skypilot Theatre Company at

T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru Sept. 18. (800) 838-3006. (Deborah Klugman)

Urban Death Horror show by Zombie Joe's Underground. Saturdays, 11 p.m. Continues through Sept. 24. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 202-4120,

GO THE WALWORTH FARCE As the house lights

darken, a lone spotlight lingers on the door of the set. One man, Blake

(Cameron J. Oro), sniffs at a stretchy blouse and sprays it with air

freshener before ironing it. Another, Dinny (Tim Cummings), sits center

stage, slowly polishing his shoes. The last man, Sean (Adam Haas Hunter)

rushes through the door, latches its four locks, races into the

kitchen, and freaks out as he unpacks his purchases. They're all

prepping for an in-house performance, though you don't realize it yet:

Your mind scrambles as the bizarre play-within-a-play unfolds — is this

some kind of crazy game? No, it's Enda Walsh's riveting black comedy.

In a festering hole of a London flat (nicely detailed by Arthur

MacBride), the father, Dinny, stars and directs his sons Blake and Sean

in a staging of a day from their past in Ireland. There's a conspicuous

wackiness in Blake playing the female roles, and of Dinny casting

himself as a brain surgeon. It's a comedy, right? — until the sky

blackens with a sudden, violent outburst from Dinny. By the time an

outsider (Brie Eley as the checkout girl from the grocery shop that Sean

visits every day) enters the fray, you feel the play teetering ever

closer to foreboding territory. In slicing open a deeply disturbed

family, Walsh explores how a parent's fear and best intentions can warp

and cripple the minds of his children. Yet the play also is a study of

how people soothe and stabilize themselves with habit, and families

mentally rewrite history in order to live with their pasts. Director Tim

Byron Owen's excellent ensemble nimbly handles the aerobically taxing

and emotional performance. Like the best of stories, the full impact of

its implications slams you only after you close the book. Theatre

Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru Sept. 4. (818) 846-5323. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

The Yeoman of the Guard Gilbert and Sullivan's operatic comedy. Part of the playhouse's Head Over Heels for Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 24. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318,


Barrie: Back to Back: Two by J.M. Barrie 1912's Rosalind and 1917's The Old Lady Shows Her Medals. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392, See Stage feature.

Bedtime Stories Roadkill Productions presents 10 short plays that all take place in a bed. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A., (310) 535-6007,

Behold!: A Queer Performance Festival Two months of new LGBTQ “performance, dance, spoken word, theater, multimedia, and ritual.” Full schedule at Fridays, Saturdays; Sun., Aug. 28; Mon., Aug. 29. Continues through Aug. 20. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459,

Big Bad Wolf Tales Presented by Children's Popcorn Theatre. Saturdays, Sundays, noon. Continues through Aug. 21. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, 10400 Braddock Drive, Culver City, (310) 712-5482.


Credit: C. More

Credit: C. More

Situated at the midpoint between Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker and Disney's Toy Story 3,

local theater stalwarts Evelyn Rudie and Chris DeCarlo's new musical

explores the secret life of dolls. Yet despite a fascinating premise,

the pairing of a simple love story and commedia dell'arte archetypes

with high-flown wordplay and allusions results in a serio-comic tone

that, rather than working on multiple levels, becomes a bit muddled. A

menagerie of cast-offs, squeezed into a cramped “toy box” decorated in

pink Victoria's Secret stripes, mourns the maturation of their owner and

wonders at the veracity of the legend that dolls in their situation are

given the chance to become real children. As they await the moment when

one of them may be chosen, they reveal their histories, fears, doubts

and longings through song. Initially, the overuse of spotlights and the

static, declamatory style of DeCarlo's blocking suggest a

tongue-in-cheek nod to the Victorian “teapot stance.” When that choice

turns out to be more sincere than spoof, it becomes difficult to take

seriously the more tender and philosophical moments in songs such as

“Leaving” and “What Is A Child?”, two of the most thematically

interesting in the score. Still, the poised ensemble, decked out in

Ashley Hayes' (Rudie's pseudonym) colorful costume designs is a

memorable sight, especially Melissa Gentry, who nimbly executes the

numerous changes required of Fussy Fanny. Nancy Dobbs Owen, as Valentina

Ballerina, impresses with her body control, remaining en pointe or

stone still for long stretches, and Serena Dolinsky, as Marguerite the

Victoriana, has a wonderful expressiveness that highlights her

skillfully crafted “cracked-face” makeup. Actors Repertory Theatre at

the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat.,

7:30 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 25. (310) 394-9779. (Mayank Keshaviah)

End Days West Coast premiere of Deborah Zoe Laufer's apocalypse comedy. Starting Aug. 20, Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 31, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 8, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 14, 8 p.m.; Wed., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 2, 2 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 6, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 9, 7 p.m.; Thu., Oct. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 16, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 25. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A., (310) 477-2055,

GO Entertaining Mr. Sloane Joe

Orton's final plays (before he was bludgeoned to death at 34 by his

professionally jealous lover) were farces that crowned him master of the

form. So much so that his first full-length play, Entertaining Mr.

Sloane (the story of a gorgeous young layabout who sets out to hustle a

frumpy woman and her dapper brother) is often presented in arch farcical

tones, though its dark and violent overtones mirror the playwright's

life and early death. In this very satisfying production, director Stan

Zimmerman underscores Orton's scathing wit by meeting the play's

dramatic potential, by rendering the humor blacker by the moment. Most

remarkable is Olivia D'Abo, who discards her natural beauty in favor of

frowziness as Kath, a 40-ish woman desperate for affection, especially

from 20-year-old Sloane. D'Abo provides the necessary humor but which

comes tightly woven into a fully developed character. Kath's brother Ed

is brought to hilarious yet sad life by Ian Buchanan as a tough-guy

businessman secretly as hot for Sloane as his sister is. Their ancient

Da, in a delightfully tragic performance by Robin Gammell, is the only

one whose lack of libido allows him to see through the boy's tricks. As

the title character, Emrhys Cooper lacks the experience of his veteran

co-stars, but his coy easiness on stage and physical attractiveness

makes him the consummate object of their attention. The look of the

production is perfectly pitched by set dresser Joel Daavid and costume

designer Kevin King, who successfully balance the drabness of Kath's

world with the kind of poshness that Ed and Sloane are also able to

inhabit. The Actors Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 21. (323) 960-7863.

(Tom Provenzano)

Force 12 With some intentionally ambiguous plays, you must never expect all the truth to be revealed. And so it is with poet playwrights Ron Allen and Jo D. Jonz's imaginative, if overly surreal tour de force. Using exchanges written in a heated blank verse that moodily meshes hip-hop with def poetry jam, the work appears to take place within the head of its narrator, a man who might be a poet or might be a madman. The character of Poet (Jonz, who also directs) wanders about on a Siddhartha-like journey, traveling within a metaphorical terrain known as “The Biosphere,” as he finds himself interacting with dueling figures — a motherly preacher (Nancy Solomons), who appears to represent the artistic side of his brain, and a Cruella De Vil-like villainess (Sharon Fane), who rules the more practical, negative side. There's also a sexy nymphet (Tiffany Rebecca Royale, in Foxy Brown wig) who represents his sexual desires and a woman named “Cannabis” (Garz Chan), who, wearing a diaphanous green shmatta, dances around the stage to symbolize the main character's love for the Delicious Herb (which he smokes constantly for medicinal reasons, of course). Although performer-director Jonz's production often demonstrates skillful stagecraft, particularly evident in Darcel Leonard's tight, beautifully dreamlike choreography and Dana Ric's effectively moody video sequences, the disjointed babble of the non sequitur writing inevitably wears thin and, occasionally, the work's earnestness comes across as ridiculous. In one scene, for instance, a woman comes out wearing a sort of silver fig-shaped bedpan and shrieks, “I am the queen of the vaginas!” In the drama's central narrator role, Jonz offers a fierce, energetic turn that is acrobatic, versatile and powerful — even when we're not entirely sure what the heck he's up to. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20, Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice, (310) 306-1854,


Credit: Justin Davanzo

Credit: Justin Davanzo


Sarah Kane's kaleidoscopic drama premiered shortly after her suicide in

2000. At the time, one British theater critic called the work a “70

minute suicide note” – and, of course, even with the best will in the

world, it is almost impossible to separate the intense and ferociously

angry text of the work from the tragic real world story surrounding it.

This is particularly true when you consider that the lyrical writing

overtly deals with issues of depression and mental illness from the

point of view of the sufferer – it may be one of the best plays to

depict suicidal depression from the inside out. Set, as the program

notes, “inside a deranged brain,” the work consists of a series of

fragmented exchanges that often take the form of inchoate expressions of

rage twinned with frustrated awareness of a lack of control. A clearly

unstable young woman (Cynthia Mance) sits center stage, bracketed by two

figures in chairs behind her and another figure, a seemingly severed

head in a bird cage — all of whom mutter abrasive vituperations at the

hapless girl. There is also a pair of other performers who portray the

doctors attempting to treat her – even though they offer only the

coldest comfort to the angst-ridden heroine — offering utterances like

“I know nothing of you, but I like you!” Frederique Michel's harrowing

and edgy production, replete with eerie sound effects and dialogue

interspersed with characters suddenly lurching into rhythmic spasms and

twitching, hauntingly captures the state of mind of someone with

tunnelvision perception in which all thoughts, excuses, and opinions

inevitably lead to one ultimate act self-negation. Designer Charles

Duncombe's sterile hospital room-like set and the eerie, percussive

sound effects suggest the heroine's matter-of-fact view of her own

madness and feelings of emptiness. The production delivers a disturbing

and striking theatrical experience. City Garage at Track 16 Gallery

(Building C) at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Blvd, Santa Monica;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 9. (310) 319-9939. (Paul Birchall)

Genius From a Blue Collar Neighborhood With its reliance on the traditional tropes of the solo show genre, this autobiographical tale of a Midwestern heroine (writer-performer Maria Menozzi) who dreams of moving to the Big Apple and becoming a star runs the risk of being dismissed as somewhat trivial. However, it would be a mistake to do that, for the stock elements of Menozzi's show are unexpectedly leavened by undercurrents of pathos and wise melancholy — a rarity in this kind of one-person effort. As she enters the stage, Menozzi, a clearly warm and laid-back figure, meets the eyes of almost every member of the audience, treating us less as passive viewers than as trusted friends and confidents. Her narrative, which unfolds gently in director Che'Rae Adams' intimate production, recounts memories of a blissfully happy Michigan childhood as the beloved daughter of working-class parents. While punctuating her stories with a series of Bruce Springsteen-like folk song numbers, Menozzi describes her brief sojourn in Manhattan before she returned home to Michigan after an illness and decided to go “straight” into careers in teaching and counseling. An interesting aspect of Menozzi's story is the underlying theme of forgiveness for decisions made and life paths chosen. Yet the details she presents do not necessarily make for compelling stagecraft — it's hard to sustain much excitement during the description of Menozzi's flubbing a word during a spelling bee when she was 13, for instance. Additionally, her commendable message of midlife acceptance would be a lot more engaging if her story were not treated so guardedly — we sense there is a lot of drama near, but the material Menozzi opts to share with us only hints at it. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 2, Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9779,

GO Gospel According to First Squad Our first mistake was profiling the country's founding fathers as demigods in American history textbooks. Generations grew up believing George Washington was the equivalent of Christ himself — neither did anything wrong, according to the bibles of both church and state. Vietnam veterans learned the hard way that life did not imitate the Gospels, but for every Born on the Fourth of July, there was another patriotic rally that elevated service to the country with service to God. Tom Burmester's electrifying, tight world premiere, the third in the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble's War Cycle series (read Steven Leigh Morris' cover story from last August), not only confronts the error and crushing weight of ascribing immortality to mere men, but also examines the Catch-22 of the fraternity of soldiers. Yes, it's another war play, but the first act moves so swiftly and the themes are presented so seamlessly, you find yourself gasping rather than groaning. Burmester's characters could easily slip into caricature: Eric Anderson's redneck PFC Jackson is a Southern Christian's nightmare, quoting scripture and lecturing another soldier about his porn collection moments before he gleefully joins the terrifying, ritualistic chanting of, “Fuck that bitch!” But they all feel so familiar; you begin to realize these soldier stereotypes are, like all stereotypes, true on some level. Director Danika Sudik (aided by Burmester) controls the pace while allowing for necessary outbursts of the tightly coiled emotion and energy inside each solider, all of which are scary in a primal way. Which is, after all, the point. The army, like all fraternities, encourages herd mentality. It doesn't elevate man; it reduces him to his most animalistic instincts — or so the military hopes, because only when men stop reflecting can they do what must be done to win. The entire ensemble is terrific, but special mention goes to Spencer Kramber's calm-before-cracking sergeant. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 27. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica, (310) 396-3680.

Ian MacKinnon's Gay Hist-Orgy! Part 2: The Search for Gay Love The performance artist's cybersexual time-travel romp. Fri., Aug. 19, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica, (310) 315-1459,

It Must Be Him What does a formerly successful TV writer do when he hits his 50s and can't sell a script? He writes a mildly amusing musical play about his woes. Although the medley of original songs (composed by Larry Grossman and Ryan Cunningham) doesn't appear until the last third of this 80-minute play, Kenny Solms' autobiographical comedy is mostly fun and frothy, and populated by just about every gay male stereotype you can name. Louie (David Pevsner) is all washed up. He's middle-aged, with a hot young boyfriend (Nick Cobey) who's leeching off him, a slacker assistant (Andy Fitzgerald), an irate agent (Stephen Marshall), a sassy, uncooperative Latina maid (Veronica Alicino) and an antsy bookie who needs to get paid (Jim Shipley). And if Louie can't sell his screenplay, he's going to lose his $2 million mansion. Problem is, Louie's script is an unconvincing romantic comedy. Pressured by the others, Louis deftly switches a character name and suddenly his show becomes a pornographic gay musical before his agent shuts it down. Solms keeps the mood light by injecting ghostly appearances from Louie's adorable Jewish parents (Michael Edelstein and Beth Lane) and high school girlfriend (Mor-gan Smith Feldman) into his tormented scenes of angst. While the show has an uneven and nightmarish mise en abyme quality (this time a screenplay within a play), there are plenty of sitcom gags, puns, one-liners and spiky banter. Director Brian Drillinger wrestles with a pastiche of styles, emphasizing broad comedy tinged with hysteria, while Stephan Smith Collins gives showstopping turns in various clichéd roles. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666,

L.A. Cafe Plays Ruskin Group Theatre concocts five short plays in 10 1/2 hours. Third Sunday of every month, 7:30 & 9 p.m. Continues through Dec. 18. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica, (310) 397-3244,

Little Women Presented by Culver City Public Theatre. Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, 10400 Braddock Drive, Culver City, (310) 712-5482.

Love Letters Bob Hakman and Sandra Hakman star in A.R. Gurney's epistolary play. Sun., Aug. 21, 7:30 p.m. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre, (626) 355-4318,

Nazi Hunter – Simon Wiesenthal Tom Dugan's one-man tribute to the late concentration-camp survivor. Through Aug. 24, 7:30 p.m. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535,

GO Romeo and Juliet: Monsters in Love This family-friendly spectacle transforms Shakespeare's tragedy about lovers into a musical romp in which slapstick prevails and the doleful denouement turns into a cautionary “this-coulda-happened-but-fortunately-didn't” ending. As is often the case with family entertainment, it's the theatrical embellishments that shine. Adapted and directed by Cynthia Ettinger, the production's premise is that the audience is watching a troupe of Transylvanian monsters perform their interpretation of the play — staged outdoors in a park setting. The Friar (the likable and effective Donna Jo Throndale) narrates with merry panache. Dressed in an embroidered emerald-green robe, she acts as intermediary with the audience as well as perpetrator of the upbeat finale. The rest of the ensemble — company veterans and a few youthful interns — merrily dance and cavort their way through the storyline, to a mix of mostly rap and rock rhythms, in tandem with Will Schuessler's droll sound design. The monster theme doesn't quite play, and I've seen cleverer parodies, even for kids, but the execution is entirely polished and the show is as fun as intended. Designer Lynne Marie Martens' mélange of colorful costumes and the performers' delightfully diverse makeup (as is Christiane Georgi's animated choreography) add considerably to the mirth. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, (310) 836-1040.

Sganarelle, or The Imaginary Cuckold Molière's lusty farce suffers in the hands of an uneven ensemble that can't quite harness the collective high energy upon which the comedy relies. The text, a new version translated and adapted by Frederique Michel and Charles A. Duncombe, includes plenty of deliciously ridiculous material about prideful men and jealous women, but the production misses too many beats to do the material justice. Young Celia (Lena Kouyoumdjian) loves the dashing Lelio (Justin Davanzo) and the pair intend to wed, despite the protestations of Celia's father, Gorgibus (Tim Orona). Sganarelle (Bo Roberts) is happily married to Madeleine (Cynthia Mance). Trouble comes to all four lovers in the form of bad assumptions and faulty conclusions, errors in judgment that threaten to destroy their relationships. Shortsightedness leads to emotional reactiveness, which leads to giant, impassioned displays of terrible, toddler-like behavior. This would all be outlandishly hilarious were the pacing tight and the actors fully committed to their characters' folly. Roberts self-consciously inhabits the cuckolded Sganarelle because he struggles with the lines and with pacing that falls one step behind the rest of the cast. The standout performance comes from Davanzo, whose every appearance onstage infuses the show with the high-octane quick-handedness it requires. The women unspectacularly hold their own. Duncombe's overall production design is solid, but the lighting includes too many faces erroneously cast in shadow. (Amy Lyons). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Sept. 4. City Garage, 1340 1/2 Fourth St., Santa Monica, (310) 319-9939.

Small Engine Repair Laced with casual expletives, John Pollono's one-act play packs a powerful punch. When a trio of longtime mates from Manchester, New Hampshire get together for some heavy drinking in Frank's car mechanic workshop — David Mauer's beautifully realized set — they reminisce about old times and chat about women, the internet and the virtues of social networking. The pals, confident Frank (John Pollono), ladies man Swaino (Jon Bernthal) and nervy guy Packie (Michael Redfield) indulge in trading insults and mocking digs as they chew the fat. Inappropriate comments, harsh words and hasty apologies are exchanged, but nobody's sure why Frank is busting out the good whiskey. A young college kid (Josh Helman) arrives to do a quiet drug deal with Frank and all of a sudden the scene erupts into terrifying violence. Pollono's script is an exquisitely-modulated gem of a play, gripping the viewer with a storyline that is both shocking and sobering in its commentary on modern interactions in the technological age. Director Andrew Block extracts such realistic performances from his cast that we almost forget we are watching a play, as the appalling action unfolds mere inches away. (Pauline Adamek). (No perfs Aug. 5 & 20.) Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 27, Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills.

A Southern Exposure Kelley Kingston-Strayer's story of a Kentucky grandmother and granddaughter. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 28, 7 p.m.; Thu., Sept. 8, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 10. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, (310) 512-6030,

Spider's Web In a heritage museum of the not-too-distant future, one can easily imagine an exhibit — located somewhere between the working blacksmith shop and the demonstration of the manual typewriter — of an antique curio known as the “West End Mystery.” A kindly docent might explain how mystery novelists such as Agatha Christie married the genre's red herrings and drawing-room conventions to a fusty Edwardian dramaturgy in comedy-thriller puzzlers represented by director Bruce Gray's staging of Dame Agatha's Spider's Web — a one-dimensional work of pure surface whose success or failure rides on the ability of an ensemble to misdirect an audience from its creaking plot mechanics through the amusing mannerisms the actors lend its eccentric, English-gentry archetypes. The docent might point out such genre hallmarks as the picture-perfect realism of the country manor set (designer Jeff G. Rack); a murky mix of motives including drug trafficking, hidden treasure and a child-custody dispute; a colorful, subterfuge-prone heroine (Julie Lancaster); her quick-minded guardian (David Hunt Stafford); a doddering family friend (Philip Persons); a keen-eyed detective inspector (Richard Hoyt Miller); and, oh yes, a corpse (Umberto Pecorino). Before shuffling his indifferent charges on to the automatic-record-changer phonograph display, the docent might wryly note how the otherwise workmanlike production only leaps to life whenever Amy Tolsky takes to the stage as meddling gardener Mildred Peake, in a delightfully quirky performance worthy of Elsa Lanchester. (Bill Raden). Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 28. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 364-0535,

Sylvia “Always remember your dog is a dog . . . and woman names make trouble,” a stranger (Tom Ayers) warns Greg (Stephen Howard), an empty nester in the thrall of a Labradoodle named Sylvia (Tanna Frederick). The stray bitch solicited Greg at the park, bounded into his Manhattan apartment and immediately made enemies with his wife (Cathy Arden), a smart careerist blonde just getting settled into having the house – and her husband – to herself. Greg, naturally, struggles to stick to the man's advice. So, too, does the audience, as the dog is played by a redhead in a tutu who references The Odyssey and calls Greg her “knight in shining armor.” What man could resist? Underneath the tutu, Frederick wears kneepads and with good reason for two hours, she crawls, leaps, and tumbles with the humans taking turns dragging her around the stage. It's a showy gig and director Gary Imhoff has Frederick – an actress of boundless energy – frolic as if failure meant the pound. If you find Frederick too manic, as I certainly did, you soon side with the missus in wanting to call the dogcatcher. Playwright A.R. Guerney's decision to make a human play canine sharpens the love triangle between man, woman and beast. When Frederick sprawls spread-eagled on the ottoman, what wife wouldn't glare? But Gurney's smart observations about the cross-species bond clash with his sell-out, feel-good ending (was he afraid dog lovers would torch the building?), a flaw further thrown out of whack by Imhoff's need to earn laughs by any means necessary, even updating the 1995 script with Sarah Palin jokes and a dance break to Lady Gaga. By the time the cast takes their final bow to “Who Let the Dogs Out?” all but the most dog-obsessed are eager to vow their allegiance to Team Cat. (Amy Nicholson). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 18. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, (310) 399-3666,

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