GO BASH Neil LaBute’s trio of one-acts posits a disturbing truth: The most innocuous people are capable of the vilest acts. Iphigenia in Orem unfolds in a Vegas hotel room where a Man (the riveting Brian Cousins) laments his infant daughter’s “accidental” death to an unseen party. “I hate to waste things,” the chauvinistic Utah businessman intones and proves it by pouncing on an opportunity that saves his cushy corporate job from feminist affirmative action yet costs him his soul and psyche. In A Gaggle of Saints, John (Jon Beavers) and Sue (Mandy Siegfried) are Boston College students merrily relating a weekend jaunt to Manhattan. Despite their upper-class privilege and prejudices, they seem a pleasant couple, until John displays a gruesome malice on a Central Park stroll that belies — or perhaps confirms — his Christian beliefs. Seduced at 14 by her teacher, a Woman (Candace McAdams) is interrogated in a holding cell in Medea Redux, recounting their love affair and his betrayal upon learning she was pregnant. Her revenge 14 years later is shocking and unexpected yet, as in the Greek myths the teacher imparted to the Woman, dictated by fate. Under Dan Bonnell’s exquisite direction, the committed cast has crafted a spine-tingling and thought-provoking event. Illuminate Productions at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru March 12. (310) 477-2055. (Martín Hernández)

BOSTON MARRIAGE See Stage feature.THE CHERRY ORCHARD Some very good actors, and some less so, try to bring the illusion of spontaneity to the inherent musicality of Chekhov’s masterwork (adapted by Martin Sherman) about the end of Russian aristocracy. As Madame Ranyevskaya’s (Annette Bening) provincial estate faces bankruptcy in the infancy of the 20th century, she and her willfully deluded clan avoid the rudely practical solution of axing the estate’s once-prized cherry orchard and subdividing the land into plots for tenant farmers. In this comedy about the end of the world, characters earnestly ruminating about the purpose of life get interrupted by petty diversions and distractions. Alfred Molina plays Lopakhin, a slave’s nouveau riche grandson who winds up with the keys to the place, with nonchalant self-possessed comfort — and a cockney dialect — that lights up the stage. Unfortunately, he appears to be in a slightly different production from the one directed by Sean Mathias, whose actors, with some gorgeous moments, are asked to throw themselves on the floor in paroxysms of joy — in Catherine Zuber’s lush costumes, no less — and then get up and get on, as though such exuberance were perfectly natural, or as though the floors were clean. The consequence is a highly mannered production whose rhythms start to blur quite early into that fatally moody tone known as “Chekhovian.” Alexander Dodge’s spare set design, featuring plank walls that billow and fold like curtains, might have worked were Zuber’s costumes not in the same light earth tones, with the astonishing effect of washing out the actors’ faces. (Maybe that’s why they’re working so hard to be seen.) The acting range of beautiful Bening is, for her, unusually constricted in this role, while the stage goes dead whenever Lothaire Bluteau, as Ranyevskaya’s frequently incomprehensible brother, Gaev, tries to command it. Lovely cameos include Alan Mandell’s Beckettian Firs; Jason Butler Harner’s absurdly idealistic professional student, Trofimov; and Sarah Paulson’s puritanical, romantically tortured Varya. There’s much food for thought here: whether Chekhov can be done in four weeks’ rehearsal by a company that’s not worked together before, and why Chekhov needs stars to draw modern crowds, while Shakespeare doesn’t. See Stage feature in next week’s issue. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 19. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Leigh Morris) COMMON BONDS Playwright Jan Alejandro examines brother-sister relationships in four vaguely related one-acts. Chinese-American siblings Vickie (Trish Ng) and Wayne (Leonard Wu) are at odds over how to persuade their absentee father to pay their mother’s medical bills. Fraternal twins Samantha (Dana Schwartz) and Danny (Brian P. Newkirk) must come to terms with the fact that both have multiple sclerosis. Tim (Ben Blair) worries over whether his deaf sister Allison (Jody Stevenson) can cope with the world on her own. And Bruce (Nic Garcia) is determined to rescue sister Gwen (Elizabeth Ann Harris) from the toils of a crooked, two-timing husband — whether she likes it or not. The themes are interesting, but the stories are more narrative than dramatic, and Alejandro does not serve his material well by constantly cutting back and forth among the four stories, reducing each to a series of short, inconclusive scenes, and requiring many, frequent set changes. None of the stories is ever allowed to gain much traction. Kim Glann directs her top-notch cast with skill, and Paul DeDoes’ all-white set is both handsome and functional. Meghan Cowin serves as American Sign Language interpreter. Fire Rose Productions at Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; call for Thurs. schedule; thru March 12. (866) 811-4111. (Neal Weaver)


GO DON JUAN, THE TRICKSTER OF SEVILLE While you may be familiar with the many incarnations of this age-old tale of a lascivious libertine (the Mozart opera, the Byron epic poem, the Johnny Depp film), Dakin Matthews, in his new rhyming verse translation of Tirso de Molina’s work from its original Spanish text, brings a freshness to the story without feeling the need to modernize it. Dean Cameron’s set, which features convincing trompe l’oeil Mediterranean tile work, is also populated by a guitar-playing troubadour (Carl Smith) who transports us to 17th-century Spain. In this world, we are witness to the escapades of Don Juan Tenorio (Mark Doerr) and his servant Catalinón (Andrew Matthews) as they travel around Europe seducing women and breaking hearts. As the treacheries mount, so does Don Juan’s hubris, until he is finally forced to reckon with the ruined lives he has left in his wake. Anne McNaughton’s direction lends a natural flow to the piece with swift transitions between locales. Cameron’s period costumes are equally effective, compensating for his minimal set. Notable performances include those of Matthews, Dennis Gersten, Richard Miró, Terry Evans and Brian George, whose roles include both the flesh and stone versions of Gonzalo de Ulloa. Andak Stage Company at the NewPlace Theater Center, 4900 Vineland Ave., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (818) 506-8462. (Mayank Keshaviah)

GO DUTCHMAN Immediately striking about this production of Amiri Baraka’s landmark 1964 civil-rights classic is David Ledger’s set design, which seats the audience in the same subway car as the play’s action. Mdla’s sound and Yammy Swoot’s lighting are also noteworthy for the way they immerse us into underground captivity. These elements complement Matthew Anderson’s delicate direction of Kenny McClain, as African-American Clay, and Amy-Louise Sebelius’ lily-white Lula. McClain is at once timid and furious, playing the polarity of Baraka’s protagonist with aplomb. Sebelius too succeeds, but where McClain’s Clay conforms to expectation, Sebelius breaks a mold. Her Lula is bigger, brasher and loaded with heavy cynicism, drawing Clay in with a dynamic personality rather than with the seductive and sultry, white sexuality of the 1967 film version. Sebelius imbues Lula with sassiness, demonstrating that the intellectual African-American isn’t just a sucker for a pretty blond. Here, Clay is indeed lonely in a world he feels has the power to destroy him, and he reaches out to someone else who defies expectation. Garage Theater, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 18. (562) 433-8337. (Luis Reyes)

FISH OUT OF WATER IN SHARK CITY In 2001, Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales wrote an article about well-connected kids caught up in the fast life, entitled “Rich, Jaded, and Lost in L.A.” Answering Sales’ superficiality became the inspiration for Jonathan Caren’s play, which, in Lindsay Allbaugh’s staging, offers laughs and respectable performances, but not much else. On assignment seeking to find out what’s “in the new,” journalist Alison (Mim Drew) hooks up with Jordan (Nicky Marmet), a virgin with a trainload of personal issues; Grant (Sean Michael Bowles), son of a prominent attorney; and his gal-pal Lindsay (Zibby Allen), who has aspirations of being a model. Alison’s L.A. outing takes her to yoga classes, sushi bars, nightclubs, and into a rather unprofessional dalliance with Jordan, where she takes on the role of confessor and therapist — the only relationship among these four characters that resembles anything of substance. The finale involves a nasty incident where all are gathered at Grant’s house and doesn’t spring anything in the way of surprises. The play’s critique of Sales, via Alison, turns out to be as vacuous as the object of the satire, but Caren does demonstrate an ear for crisp, funny dialogue at times. Elephant Theater, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru March 5. (866) 811-4111 (Lovell Estell III)

GO THE GLASS MENAGERIE Within minutes, Lisa Pelikan makes the role of Amanda Wingfield her own, rising to the challenge of creating an identity different from that of the legendary Laurette Taylor’s in the original production of this Tennessee Williams play. Pelikan savors the baroque Southern language and plays out her pretensions as passionately as she does her powerful, smothering love for her children. She receives admirable support from Mandy Freund’s pathologically shy daughter Laura; Louis Lotorto’s Tom, the son who struggles to escape her; and Johnathan McClain’s Gentleman Caller, who arouses so many false hopes. Director Jessica Kubzansky mines the play for all its rich comedy (perhaps at the cost of some of its lyricism) and it’s generally a sound and solid production, though dressing Pelikan in an antebellum hoop skirt for the ill-fated dinner party adds a disconcerting note of camp. Otherwise, Michelle Ney’s set and costumes and Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting are rich and flavorful, and Randall Tico’s incidental music adds a note of contemporary dissonance. Colony Theater Company, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m. (added perfs Sat., Feb. 18 & 25, 3 p.m.; Thurs., March 2 & 9, 8 p.m.); thru March 12. (818) 558-7000, Ext. 15. (Neal Weaver)


GRANDPA’S TRUTH Rendered in broad strokes, Alretha Thomas’ family-friendly melodrama displays the conflicts within a churchgoing African-American family after its patriarch (David Downing) dies and his gentle grandson Frankie (Joseph Andrew) becomes the victim of race-based gang violence. Frankie’s beating provokes his bigoted father (Darron Johnson) to vitriolic extremes, creating a schism with the black couple next door who have adopted two Latino sons. Subplots abound. Directed by Byron Nora, the play’s strengths are its light moments, likable characters and message of trust and tolerance, which help make palatable the schmaltz and obtrusive contrivances. An uneven performance standard extends from the professionally over-the-top through the capable to the inexperienced. Teen performers Andrew and Frank Salinas make promising efforts to flesh out their roles, while Downing eventually transcends caricature to project an appealing grandpa. Whereas the background music underscores the sentimentality, Nora’s set and James W. Jones III’s lighting design establish a comfy, colorful backdrop for the material’s uplifting moral. Inglewood Playhouse, 714 Warren Lane; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru March 18. (866) 468-3399. (Deborah Klugman)

GO HITCHCOCK BLONDE Writer-director Terry Johnson’s 2003 mystery (here in its American premiere) springs from a snippet of British 1919 celluloid — a nude blond woman walking to a dresser and folding up her hair — filmed by Alfred Hitchcock. In Johnson’s play, Hitchcock (Dakin Matthews’ spectacularly grotesque impersonation) appears in the mid-1950s, continuing work on the film in Hollywood with a replacement blond, here named Blonde (Sarah Aldrich), a desperate wannabe who’s routinely beaten by her Husband (Martin Noyes). The perverse relationship of Hitchcock to the Blonde (and of the Blonde to her Husband) embodies the voyeur, hiding behind glass and imploding with any emotional or physical contact with the woman, so utterly objectified and owned. Johnson juxtaposes this severe archetype against a parallel plot showing the more common (and banal) saga of an affair between an aging media professor (Robin Sachs) and his precocious scholarship student (Adriana DeMeo) at a romantic Greek villa as they salvage and preserve Hitchcock’s decades-old celluloid. Even if Hitchcock Blonde succumbs to the very clichés it purports to investigate, it’s nonetheless a fascinating study in the relationships between film and life, and also therefore between cliché and life, i.e., what underlies the folly in the autumn/spring dalliances of so many men with women half their age. Much money was well spent on the production design (set, costumes and video by William Dudley, lights by Chris Parry, sound design by Ian Dickinson), which transforms the stage into a screen and back again. See Stage feature in next week’s issue. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. & Tues., 7:30 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru March 12. (714) 708-5555. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO SWEENEY TODD Stephen Sondheim’s ghoulish jab at Christian piety, through the tale of a vengeful barber whose scruples inspire him to slice up his victims and bake them into pies, here gets an expressionistic, forcefully sung revival. Director Tim Dang favors a near-Kabuki-theater style over substance, presenting, but not slicing open, the worthy intellectual meat in this romp about how a corrupt government and crippling recession can push people to rack up nearly every one of the seven deadly sins. Still, Dang’s strong ensemble — smudged like corpses in gray grease paint — looks and sounds great on John Binkley’s top-notch set. Only Dang’s envisioning of the murderous title character (stentorian bass Ronald M. Banks) feels overly constrained by technique: Withheld, dour and cold, his villain is less charismatic vampire than detached zombie. Standouts Marilyn Tokuda and Kathy Villanueva as, respectively, Todd’s baker woman accomplice and an addled beggar/whore, have such fun with the wickedly humorous material that, accordingly, so do we. East West Players/David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Little Tokyo; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 5. (213) 625-7000, Ext. 20. (Amy Nicholson)

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