Our critics were in a upbeat mood this week, serving up a Pick of the Week to Jackie Hoffman's Jackie Five-Oh!” at the Gay and Lesbian Center

, with recommendations for the Actor's Company's O(h), the production company's The Beauty Queen of Lenane (at the Lex) Days of Wine and Roses at the Lounge, and more. Click here for all New Stage Review, or after the jump 

Also, check out an interview Cirque du Soleil costumer Liz Vandal, and a feature on Kathleen Turner portraying muckraking journalist Molly Ivins, at the Geffen Playhouse

NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication January 19, 2012


Credit: Vanessa Cate

Credit: Vanessa Cate

In 1940s Hollywood, aspiring starlet Minnie Walters (Carolyn Hayver) seems to have it all — a devoted fiancé, Frank (Kelby Cross); a supportive BFF, Mabel (Melissa Gentry); and a major, star-making feature film in the can. When Frank is found standing over her bloody corpse holding the murder weapon on the evening of the big premiere, however, it's up to an intrepid, albeit nameless Private Eye (Willy Romano-Pugh)

to dig beneath the obvious to uncover the sordid truth. On some level, playwright-director Vanessa Cate's playfully tongue-in-cheek homage to film noir is about the universally corrupting ambition behind the image of movie-star glamour. But don't look for nuanced psychology or deep characterization in Cate's collection of familiar genre archetypes; her

play is strictly an affectionate love letter to noir style. And while as a writer Cate is less assured of the B movie crime thriller's hardboiled patois (Raymond Chandler fans be warned), as a director she proves herself a deftly inventive and witty satirist of noir's narrative and visual tropes. Supported by Natalie Hyde's period-perfect costumes and makeup, Cate's exaggerated melodrama and broadly expressionistic mise-en-scene moves beyond simple burlesque to approach the transcendent threshold of Charles Ludlam ridiculousness. Zombie Joe's Underground  Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.- Sat., 8:30 p.m.;

through Feb. 11; (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. (Bill Raden)

BANANAS! A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOSEPHINE BAKER A show that revolves around a woman who brought her diamond-collared pet cheetah onstage, volunteered to spy for a country she wasn't born in, had a “Rainbow Tribe” of adopted children long before Brangelina and performed dance while practically nude — in 1925 — shouldn't be dull. Despite glimpses of writer-star Sloan Robinson's obvious talent, though, the almost-two-hour show drags to the point of being downright boring. Set in Paris, Robinson's one-woman show follows Josephine

Baker's life through remembrances. As she tries on sequined gown after feathered dress, Robinson delivers a running monologue directed to a framed photo of her mother. The writing feels too canned to do much in the way of bringing such an exhilarating figure to life, and the

extended slideshow prior to the curtain call is painful. Naila Sanders' costumes, which fit the star like second skins, end up sparkling more than Robinson's performance. Directed by Joyce Maddox. J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 26. (818) 358-3453. (Rebecca Haithcoat)

 GO  THE BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE Playing a 40-year-old virgin whose spinsterhood is made certain by her energy-draining mother's omnipresence, Ferrell Marshall boils with a

brilliant bitterness portending serious danger in Martin McDonagh's ode to the miseries of parental caretaking. Maureen (Marshall) has been holed up in the small Irish village of Leenane most of her life. When Leenane native Pato (an entirely endearing Alex Egan) visits home, it's Maureen's last shot at love. But Maureen's ever-complaining mother, Mag

(a rather mannered Judy Nazemetz) is hell-bent on thwarting the love connection. As Maureen's hopes rise, cracks in her mental wellness begin to deepen, and her mother's meddling pushes her over the edge. August Viverito directs the tragicomic battle with an even hand and designs the depressing cottage kitchen to soul-killing effect. But Marshall, whose

smile is as expressive as her sneer, merits the most kudos. The Production Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Feb. 18. (323) 871-1150, theprodco.com. (Amy Lyons)


Credit: Greg Bell

Credit: Greg Bell

J.P. Miller's 1958 teleplay (later a play and then a feature film) was groundbreaking in its dramatization of the problems of alcoholism. It was the first time many got to see what goes on inside those mysterious Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Since it hasn't been staged locally for about 20 years, it also may be the first time many L.A. audiences will see this heartbreaking tale. The story and dialogue seem as fresh as

ever, with only the retro costuming of Rebecca Hayes' pared-down production indicating its 1960s setting. Framed by our main protagonist Joe Clay's (Nathan Bell) first speech at an AA meeting, we flash back to the intoxicated night he met his tipsy wife, Kirsten (Tara Battani),

and trace their marriage as it implodes from drunken binges. The cast of five elevate the emotional material with their raw, honest performances. Zoe Rae Calamar is especially devastating as the central couple's sweet little girl, unable to comprehend the drama swirling

around her. The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through Feb. 19. (323) 960-7862, plays411.com/wineandroses. (Pauline Adamek)


Credit: Megan J. Carroll

Credit: Megan J. Carroll

“He's in a coma, hooked to a respirator.” With these simple words, Mel

(Amanda Saunders) informs her husband, Ted (Paul Caramagno), via telephone, about their brain-dead son, a victim of an accidental drowning. It is one of the rare instances in Jenny Schwartz's eccentric drama where words and meaning coalesce into sensibility. For the

remainder of the play, Mel and Ted become immersed in the seductive discord of a surreal world where language is increasingly divorced from context and reality, time and place contract, and the weight of loss is, literally, spoken out of existence. It's a bizarre mise-en-scene, compounded by the appearance of a tooth fairy (Tara Karsian), a transvestite flight attendant (Jeremy Shranko) and a curvaceous b-girl (Andrea Grano). With a nod to the absurdist canon, and perhaps Lewis Carroll, Schwartz's use of clichés, idiom and chatter is at times brilliant and funny, though the verbal effusion obscures the searing emotional and psychological pain at the heart of the piece. There is an appropriately other-worldly resonance about director Rory Kozoll's staging, nicely accented by Kristie Roldan's lighting. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., through Feb.

19. (323) 653-4667. (Lovell Estell III)

PICK OF THE WEEK: JACKIE FIVE-OH! In this obstreperous solo show, comedian Jackie Hoffman celebrates her 50th birthday with her familiar blend of jaundiced humor,

self-deprecation and spleen. She regales us with tales about what it's like to be in The Addams Family, the Broadway musical that ran more than a year and a half despite being enthusiastically hated by the New York critics. She kvetches about the fact that, as Grandma, she was the only character in the show who didn't have a song — and she had to play

straight man for Pugsley. And, adding insult to injury, she was described in Newsday as “downright annoying.” (She also refers to this newspaper as “The Kiss-Ass Weekly.”) She asserts her resentment of Queen Latifah (“She's in everything!”), who replaced her in a major movie, causing Hoffman to lose her Screen Actors Guild health insurance.  And

she proves that irreverence, surliness and negativity can be both hilarious and downright liberating when they're expressed with unabashed exuberance. She's expertly assisted by her longtime director, Michael Schiaralli, and her clever musical director/accompanist Bobby Peaco. The Renberg Theatre at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden

Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 22. (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org/boxoffice (Neal Weaver)

GO O(h) The art of dance meets the spoken word in this droll and innovative spectacle by dance troupe duet Liz Casebolt and Joel Smith. Framed by architects Predock and Frane's construct of illuminated wires (shades of Tron), the pair offer up a potpourri of witty dance pieces, each accompanied by a wry narrative to help explicate their meaning. Gender

politics, the elliptical significance of the word “contemporary” and the serpentine link between a 1960s pop single and today's hip-hop music are among the topics urbanely and cleverly deconstructed. In one sequence Smith, a gay man, leaps about in the teensiest superhero

bikini, then later drapes himself, hilariously, in a housewifely apron. In another the two dancers riff on the possible interpretation of a single dance move, poking obvious fun at hyperbole-minded critics. In a third, both choreography and words communicate the delicately nuanced

friendship between the gay Smith and the straight Casebolt. Smith's elegant and supple movements are especially wonderful to observe, and while the show's pace is uneven, even its slower sequences are interesting in their exploration of the creative process. The Actors

Company, 916-A N. Formosa Ave., Hlywd.; Fri-Sat, 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through Feb. 19. (323) 960-7863. (Deborah Klugman)

RED HOT PATRIOT: THE KICK-ASS WIT OF MOLLY IVINS Written by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel, performer Kathleen Turner spins the muckraking journalist into a woman who delivers haltingly anecdotes, a posturing rebel with wit that comes in fits and starts. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles | Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Feb. 12, 310-208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com. See stage feature on Wednesday.

LA Weekly