GO BAREFOOT BOY WITH SHOES ON Professional window washer Rosario (Ray Oriel) may be naive, violent and uneducated, but he’s not dumb. Just look at his family: Grandpa (Toneey Acevedo), who never learned English, devotes his days to playing the numbers. Pops (Gil Bernardy) just drinks beer, watches porn tapes and expects Rosario to support him. Rosario’s heavily pregnant girlfriend, Vicky (Minerva Vier), claims the baby isn’t his because he beats her when he’s angry. To avoid jail, he must see a therapist he despises (Jerry Oshinsky), and he receives sometimes dubious advice from a gay businessman (Nick Salamone) who cultivates a perversely flirtatious relationship with him. But the key to Rosario’s character is his determination to make a perfect future for his son-to-be. Edwin Sánchez’s finely wrought drama presents a highly loaded situation that can end only in profound moral and personal ambiguity, and the “happy ending” his characters achieve is fraught with danger. Jon Lawrence Rivera directs his top-notch cast with subtle authority, and they deliver finely calibrated performances on John H. Binkley’s elaborate, high-tech set. DIJO Productions at the Underground Theater, 1312 N. Wilton Pl., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 11. (323) 960-7744. (Neal Weaver)

GO THE CATHOLIC GIRL’S GUIDE TO LOSING YOUR VIRGINITY Annie Hendy blames her virginity on the Catholic church. Her determination to shed her virginity — like, yesterday — she blames on her priest, who just got picked up for soliciting prostitutes. Three weeks shy of her 25th birthday and resolved to top her biggest sins to date (chocolate, shoplifting and weed), she flings herself at a chain of erstwhile, irksome suitors (all played with forte by David Zelina). Her devotion to the church comes across as nebulous. (She’s at one moment confessing, the next denying God’s very existence.) And though the show’s glossy first half is too tipsy on chick-lit hijinks, Hendy’s charm and self-deprecating humor make the bubbly stuff easy to swallow. After the midway point, however, Hendy’s story finally turns inward toward material that’s dark, revelatory and truly naked. Richard E. Hess’ comfortable and well-paced direction makes the most of the small, bare stage as his leading lady strips off her inhibitions, fears, past hurts, protective walls and girlish white-horse fantasies. Hudson Guild Theater, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru March 1. (323) 960-7753. (Amy Nicholson)

GO THE GOOD BODY Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues broke ground in 1996 with its focus on women’s relationship to their genitalia. In her latest work, the feminist activist and playwright uses her belly as a launch pad to critique women’s obsession with their appearance. Besides sharing the familial roots of her personal angst about her body (roots including a handsome dad and critical mom), Ensler portrays other driven women, including Helen Gurley Brown, still doing ab crunches at 80; a Latina named Carmen, proud of her butt but ashamed of her “spread”; and a heavyset gal at a fat farm raging at “skinny bitches” who make her look bad. There’s nothing eye-opening about Ensler’s message about the detrimental power of media images, nor are her character renditions especially memorable or outstanding. The large proscenium stage, with its inexplicably drab set, works against her also. But her warmth and wit ultimately compensate for the “haven’t we been this route before?” aspects of the show. When she introduces the African and Indian women she’s met — people who wisely know and love their bodies — her material takes on the empowering universality we’ve been waiting for all along. Peter Askin directs. Richmark Entertainment and Jonathan Reinis Productions at the Wadsworth Theater, Veterans Administration grounds, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Bldg. 226, W.L.A.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 12. (213) 365-3500. (Deborah Klugman)

IF YOU GET TO BETHLEHEM, YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR TV and film performer Mariette Hartley grew up with an alcoholic father and a troubled mother. The family chafed in the shadow of her maternal grandfather, a behavioral psychologist who espoused denying children affection and reward. Her dad’s suicide, coming in her 20s, marked the definitive event in Hartley’s life, whose trauma she unveils in this one-woman show based on her memoir, Breaking the Silence. Directed by Dan Eitner, the more-than-90-minute piece (sans intermission) dramatizes both her family’s dysfunction and Hartley’s own, with the performer assuming all roles, including her abusive husband and her longtime friend Sister Dolores Hart, whom — in a device that frames the narrative — she seeks out for counsel. Hartley’s persona is warm and sympathetic, especially when speaking to the audience directly or playing herself as an emotionally battered child. But her other portrayals, as well as the transitions among them and her narrative structure as a whole, are less crisp. The polished production design — melding Eitner’s set design, designers J. Kent Inasy’s lighting and Marc Perlman’s sound — suggests the dark fairy-tale world of a child’s imagination upon which an ugly reality intrudes. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru April 2 (no perfs March 24-26). (866) 811-4111. (Deborah Klugman)


GO INSIDE THE CREOLE MAFIA It’s Mardi Gras. Mark Broyard and Roger Guenveur Smith return with a “post-Katrina” version of their performance piece that’s been trotted about the country since the early ’90s. It received an L.A. Weekly Theater Award in 1993, and also earned Broyard and Smith the keys to New Orleans. They play on and around Travis Hammer’s cluttered Creole shrine, with fine-tooth combs suspended in the air as an open taunt to anyone with hair too thick to pass through those teeth, which are a stand-in for the gates of Heaven. This is a show ostensibly about being in the “club,” a buoyant standup/sketch-comedy routine in which women are hauled onto the stage to dance to “When the Saints Come Marching In,” with these clowns in white suits and silk shirts, and the audience is grilled on their knowledge of Creole terms. So what is an octoroon? Shame on you for not knowing. Broyard plays straight man to Smith’s vain, grinning neurotic who in a sketch called “Creoles Anonymous” plays the sponsor (God help us). The sponsor undergoes a complete meltdown over obsessions with his hair, the shape of his buttocks, his genitals. In this mocking homage to ethnic pride, the clouds of Hurricane Katrina billow and build on screens behind the vaudeville, threatening to blow away not only a city, but an entire era of identity politics. This show may look and sound like San Francisco Mime Troupe street theater, but the weather, and those photos, have transformed it into a variation on Chekhov. Luna Ray Films and the Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 5. (213) 381-7118. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE ITALIAN IN ME In her one-woman show, pretty blond Italian-Canadian Dina Morrone alternates between good Catholic girl and would-be sexpot. Though she grew up on an Ontario farm with her stern Catholic grandmother, she wanted to be an actress. Finding the idea of New York daunting, she decided to pursue her career in Italy. There, she discovers, “actress” is a synonym for “whore,” and every agent/producer/director she meets is a relentless lecher. Even on a crowded bus to the Vatican to see the Pope, she’s furtively humped from behind by a stranger. “I was the Italian Vanna White,” she says, after describing how she landed a hostess job on an Italian variety show — but Vanna was never so frenetic. In her most solid scene, she plays out a meeting with famed director Federico Fellini, who offered her sage advice and a role in his next film — but he died too soon. Morrone is a skillful, attractive comedian, but her amusing stories skate across her life without probing much. Peter Flood directs. Me & My Big Mouth Productions at the Globe Playhouse, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., thru Feb. 11; then Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru March 5. (323) 960-5521. (Neal Weaver)IT’S TOO BAD STUPIDITY ISN’T PAINFUL Sarah Hyland is too cute to be a comic, she tells the audience in her one-woman show. But rather than a hindrance, her dewy good looks are the backbone of her humor, which consists of her donning fat suits and wigs to become a series of whacked-out, one-dimensional and unattractive characters. There’s little cohesion or purpose as she careens between nut-job monologues: the closeted, corpulent airline stewardess, the egotistical dancer, the unintelligible homeless shlub. Portraying her Southern-belle mama, Hyland seems as though she’s aiming for a bit of depth but can’t wean herself enough off the easy jokes to dig deeper than the tuna-casserole dish she has mother brandishing. It’s a pity. Hyland’s unabashed commitment to her performances could serve her well when she’s not doing something this choppy, aimless and shallow. Electro-droning musical guest Panda Panda opens and underscores the show, curiously singing lyrics that describe Hyland’s thinly sketched characters (each of whom has already been given a synopsis in the program). Masquers Cabaret, 8334 W. Third St., W. Hlywd.; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; thru March 9. (323) 653-4848. (Amy Nicholson)

OTHELLO Director John Farmamesh-Bocca’s ambitious production of Shakespeare’s tragedy showcases some strong performances, but it’s not completely satisfying. Bocca eschews conventional staging and sets the action in a modern, militaristic state, streamlining dialogue and embellishing with operatic choreography, music and sound effects. While these directorial flourishes are at times enticing, they are nonetheless part of a staging that fails to coalesce or illuminate the play’s grander themes. Solid acting in the central roles is the most compelling production element: Clifford Reed, outfitted in khakis (as are all the male actors), is a commanding, stalwart Othello, whose deep, rich voice takes over the stage, helping reflect an impressive range of moods and emotions while he inexorably falls prey to his own demons. Rachel Binder brings a soft, ethereal beauty and disarming naiveté to Desdemona, and shares an unmistakable chemistry with Reed. Vincent Cardinale brings the requisite poisonous malevolence to the role of Iago. Met Theater, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd.; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru March 16. (323) 957-1152. (Lovell Estell III)SQUARE ONE With no director credited and a bare-bones set, a touring theater company named Insight America takes this absurdist comedy by the late Steve Tesich (Division Street, Breaking Away) and transforms what is essentially a critique of Soviet-era bureaucracy and spiritual malaise and applies that critique to contemporary America. “Artist third class” TV host Adam (Alan Bruce Becker) courts Diane (Lisa Cole), who speaks exuberantly about the general qualities of Adam’s show, The Patriotic Variety Hour, but avoids committing to any opinion of him. Diane moves from her claustrophobic hovel to Adam’s spacious “government-subsidized artists cooperative” — one of the perks of his official connections. In this desolate abode with unrepaired fixtures, she bears and loses a child. Adam perseveres with robotic determination, thrilled about his promotion to “artist second class.” Through this, snippets of speeches by George W. make the point that what Tesich was writing about communist Yugoslavia now applies to us. It’s an excellent point, somewhat undermined by the play’s schematic predictability. Absurdism tends to fly or crash on the quality of the performances, and as delightful and skilled as Becker and Cole prove themselves to be, there isn’t the dynamism that prevents this very good concept from wearing out its welcome. Insight America at Company of Angels, 2106 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Feb. 25. (323) 960-7784. (Steven Leigh Morris) STONE COLD DEAD SERIOUS Playwright Adam Rapp has shown a keen ability, in works like Nocturne, to keep his audience off balance with games of moral hide-and-go-seek, while, in Finer Noble Gases, minimal dialogue and a catatonic narrative suggested characters lost in a vast psychological desert. Here, though, he tries his hand at dysfunctional-family-apocalypse (a genre requiring lots of dialogue and emotional pyrotechnics), and the results are wanting. The Ledbetters are an unhappy quartet living outside of Chicago. Cliff (Robert Vertrees) has an injured back and spends his days watching TV and popping painkillers; wife Linda (Kimberly Patterson) thinks re-embracing Catholicism will bring back family spirit, now that high school jock daughter Shaylee (Meredith Hines) has dropped out to turn pro (prostitute, that is, with a drug problem to boot), and son Wynne (Brian Norris) dreams of entering a computer-game competition in New York. This contest, in which geeks will face off with real swordsmen in life-and-death combat, dominates the story. Wynne makes his way East with a mute girlfriend (Carrie Bradac), hoping to lose his virginity to her and to win a million dollars to get his family out of hock. The problem is that Rapp’s characters are too cartoonishly overheated to be interesting or sympathetic, and long stretches of conversation, meant to summon lost innocence, only sound repetitive under Larry Arrick’s direction. Los Angeles Theater Ensemble at the Powerhouse Theater, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 4 (added perfs Feb. 12, 19 & 26, 7 p.m.). (310) 396-3680, Ext. 3. (Steven Mikulan)


GO VAGRANT The Twilight Zone meets the theater of the absurd in playwright-director Guy Zimmerman’s compelling and confounding tale of sin and redemption. Meyer (Christopher Allport) is the middle-aged owner of a rundown electronics shop in South-Central L.A. “I like to pamper my patrons,” Meyer says proudly to Larkin (Patrick Burleigh), a young LAPD beat officer. Yet Meyer displays a malevolent streak as the cop delves into the man’s business, or lack thereof. As with many a noir mystery, however, everybody’s got a secret. Is Larkin there to report on a homeless panhandler arrested for pestering Meyer and his younger wife, Patty (Niamh McCormally), or to return Patty’s child, who has been missing these last five years? Is Patty working as a seamstress or a hooker in the back of Meyer’s disheveled store? Is Meyer Patty’s husband, her father or some other relation that connects all three characters? And just who is the titular vagrant of the play? In Zimmerman’s stylized and dreamlike narrative, each party inhabits several personas — parent, sibling, lover, enemy — and the plot line bobs and weaves like Muhammad Ali, landing powerful emotional punches along the way. Kathi O’Donohue’s atmospheric lighting, Don Preston’s moody music and sound, and the impassioned ensemble complement this mystifying story. Padua Playwrights at the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 4. (310) 823-0710. (Martín Hernández)

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