Imagine a summer overdose on Disneyland where, say during your hundredth trip when nothing strikes you as fresh, you still get a rise watching the glittering fireworks in the sky at the end of the day. Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s classic, there is no new spin on the tale, with Alice (Kelly O’Leary) following the helter-skelter White Rabbit (Natalie Santoyo) down a rabbit hole. Our bright-eyed heroine then falls into one colorful scene after another where she encounters a curious collection of characters including talking flowers, a bubble-blowing caterpillar (Emily-Grace Murray), a gymnastically inclined Cheshire Cat (Daniel Sykes) and ultimately the feared and furious “Off with your head!” Red Queen (Leslie AnnReneé). The production has spectacular costumes by O’Leary and Tiffany Roberts. And O’Leary has concocted a fanciful set. However, this company’s inexperience with children’s theater (its first outing) shows. The interactive aspects of the production lack ingenuity, and feel more like a sporadic afterthought. Additionally, much of Caroll’s whimsy and poetry are lost in dumbing down the script for the kiddies. Though the childcentric dialogue fails to do justice to the material, Erica Lauer provides fine direction, with steady pacing and constant motion. And the actors’ enthusiasm shimmers, like their costumes. The Women’s Ensemble Theater at THE SHERRY THEATRE, 1052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 12. (310) 821-2137. (Sophia Kercher)

 BOB & ED’S DISCOUNT ENLIGHTENMENT WAREHOUSE Low-balling empowerment guru Tony Robbins, Bob and Ed (co-writers Bill Jenkins and Jim Rasfeld) are a pair of checker-suited con men trafficking in self-help theologies on the cheap — run from your problems, they counsel in their tightly choreographed pitch; run for the rest of your life, it’s easier than confrontation. What you need, they’ll provide — Catholicism made easier, Taoism, Buddhism — it’s all used cars to them. Somehow the devout Catholic Larson family winds its way, one by one, into their doors. Coach Ted Larson (Brian Hamill) just lost his job due to anger and violence issues; he and his housewife, Mrs. Larson (Kathleen Campbell), fret that their estranged son (Lucas Dick) questions the existence of God. The culminating enlightenment showdown between father and son comes out of nowhere and returns there, but the appearance of God (Wade Kelley) in sports shirt and sneakers makes it all worthwhile. The Holy Father is what the English might call gormless. Though intellectually astute, his jaw-dropped reactions are about half a beat behind, not to mention his barely contained fury at people who blame Him that the world’s not perfect or, worse, that He doesn’t exist. As though this is all His fault. Among many moments of delight is His attempted seduction of Mrs. Larson at a local bar. “I worship you, but not that way,” she protests. “I know, I know, you just want to be friends,”He fumes. That the dire state of the world could be explained by the distractions of a sex-addicted God is probably a first, and director Jane Morris has the sketch comedy glee down pat, as do her actors. FANATIC SALON THEATER, 3815 Sawtelle Blvd., Culver City; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 25. (310) 795-7469. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GODISLAV Nancy Beverly’s drama about a documentary film gone awry asks smart questions about how the fear of failure estranges prideful people from their loved ones. Jana (Lily Sauvage), a rootless woman with a well-connected daddy (Tony Cronin), has channeled her life into a documentary film being produced by her boyfriend, Casey (Peter James Smith). The movie concerns a Chechnyan waiter named Vlad Godislav (Ken MacFarlane), who claims that as a surgeon during the war with Russia, he performed 65 amputations in three days and cleaned wounds with sour milk. When Casey goes missing (through most of Act 1), Jana flips through his diary, igniting flashbacks to their latest arguments over his work. In Act 2, Casey returns and the couple get to the meat of Beverly’s sharp insights into exaggeration and fraud. But while the emotions are right, the action is tedious: Both the petulant, taciturn filmmaker and his scarily fixated sweetheart grow wearisome; their world feels like an emo album of Gen X whining, while the more-fascinating Slav recedes into the periphery. Susan Lee directs. Playwrights 6 at the MILES MEMORIAL PLAYHOUSE, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 26. (323) 860-6625. (Amy Nicholson)

{mosimage} HOW THE OTHER HALF LOVES Alan Ayckbourn’s 1969 romantic comedy utilizes an amusing theatrical gimmick — the action takes place in two separate homes, but they’re both laid on top of each other in the same physical space. Characters move around the different-but-same locations in a collision of parallel dimensions. Scuzzy husband Bob (Ron Bottitta) is having an affair with Fiona (Sarah Brooke), the wife of his absent-minded boss, Frank (Greg Mullavey). Bob’s wife, Terry (Tracie Lockwood), knows her louse-of-a-hubby’s up to something — she just can’t figure out what. When Bob tries to use nerdy co-worker William (Scott Roberts) as an alibi, Terry suspiciously invites him and his mousy wife, Mary (Kate Hollingshead), for dinner. Fiona and Frank also invite the same couple to a party. During the two parallel-dimension dinner parties, revelations emerge and complications ensue. In its fashion, Ayckbourn’s comedy is as mannered as a play by Oscar Wilde, with the humor arising from the uptight yet horn-dog characters who will go to any ridiculous length to avoid embarrassment or argument. Although director Barry Phillips’ production elegantly conveys the low farce and heartbreak of Ayckbourn’s bittersweet comic style, the play would benefit from more vigorous pacing. Still, Mullavey’s dithering, dopey Frank is a delight — and so are Brooke’s hypocritical Fiona and Bottitta’s wonderfully boorish Bob. ODYSSEY THEATRE ENSEMBLE, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (310) 477-2055. (Paul Birchall)

THE LARK When Jean Anouilh’s play about Joan of Arc first appeared, in 1953, it seemed like a fresh retelling, lighter and more modern than Bernard Shaw’s impressive but ponderous Saint Joan.The years have not been kind to it, however, and it now seems almost as verbose as Shaw. This production, in the translation by Lillian Hellman, and directed by Robert Craig, is well done. Amanda Karr is an eloquent, spunky Joan, and the clerical forces lined up to destroy her are forcibly presented. Jim Rice as Cauchon, the most compassionate of the clerics, Dan Cole, as the self-righteous but licentious Promoter, and Joshua Hayden as the Englishman Warwick, who just wants to get the whole business over with, despite sympathy for Joan, are all strong and solid, and Anibal Silveyra, as the representative of the Spanish Inquisition, is impressive. Adam Chambers provides a colorful sketch of the craven and frivolous Dauphin, and Renee Guerrero is a loyal, rough-and-ready La Hire. In the end, the play seems a barbarous assault by a horde of self-righteous Catholic misogynists on a naive girl, who would surely have been hailed as a hero if she had been a man. Brian Reindel’s set, Vicki Conrad’s costumes and Mike Mahaffey’s fight choreography are all first rate. KNIGHTSBRIDGE THEATRE, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; indef. (323) 667-0955. (Neal Weaver)

{mosimage} PICK   LIMONADE TOUS LES JOURS Containing little of the complexity displayed in his reconstructions of
Greek dramas, Charles Mee’s romantic confection nonetheless makes for
delectable entertainment. Megan Boone’s Ya Ya, a French nightclub
singer in her early 20s, protests to Andrew (Peter Lewis), the
middle-aged American tourist whom she not-so-subtly hit upon in a Paris
café, that a relationship between them could never work; and he says
the same. Still, they plunge into a passionate May-December romance.
The play shifts from café to bedroom and back, its various scene
changes bridged by video projections of the couple romping in the park
or otherwise companionably engaged. The script’s main tension comes
from the contrast — blueprinted with savvy by Mee and artfully depicted
by both performers under Michael Connors’ direction — between Ya Ya’s
unabashed self-congratulatory youth and Andrew’s restrained, reflective
maturity. Radiating charm, Boone navigates the contradictions between
her character’s worldly experience on the one hand and her profoundly
vernal innocence on the other. Throughout, Lewis stays unfalteringly on
the mark as a sensitive man self-bemusedly succumbing to desire. The
production also features countertenor Ethan Lin, who, in addition to
playing their waiter, treats us at one point to a mesmerizing rendition
of an aria by Handel. I’m
a Parade Productions at 2100 Square Feet, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 26. (323) 960-7785.
(Deborah Klugman)

MARK TWAIN IN THE 21st CENTURY Writer-performer Tennessee Webb portrays Mark Twain in purgatory almost a century after his death in 1910 (Twain arrived and left during appearances by Halley’s Comet, Webb points out, which accounts for the cosmic emphasis of his show.) Twain’s abode is equipped with a cell phone (to receive calls from a fan, Ernest Hemingway) and a Wi-Fi computer (set by Stephen Taylor). A large suspended screen receives projected century-old photographic images of Twain and Ulysses S. Grant that carry a spaceship full of emotion and intrigue. Webb takes a huge risk in putting words in Twain’s mouth about our current political crises, words lacking Twain’s timeless wit. Webb also substitutes folksy charm for confidence in his lines, many of which aren’t really worth remembering anyway (“Why are we cursed by that great human divide? — our differences.”) Bringing the master into our age, Webb shows him more cranky than clever, the difference being in the turns of phrase and Webb’s somewhat doddering stage presence, as Twain rails against obvious affronts to free thinkers: religious fundamentalism, political correctness, opposition to stem-cell research, Bush and his administration’s savaging of the Constitution. I found myself hungering for just one reflection on our age that even approaches the wit of Kurt Vonnegut: “The only difference between Bush and Hitler is that Hitler was elected.” Webb’s best lines quote Twain from his own context rather than ours: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” I left with the impression that Webb and director Bryan Rasmussen are still toying with a show that isn’t yet ready to open. WHITEFIRE THEATRE, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 26. (818) 990-2324. (Steven Leigh Morris)

PARADISE LOST: Shadows and Wings Eric Whitacre and David Noroña’s musical creates a postapocalyptic world in which attractive young angels who sing, dance and practice martial arts live in a kind of Mad Max Thunderdome, where they await the return of the warrior parents who left them there years ago. Ably directed by Michael Michetti, this fantasy incorporates anime, Eastern theater techniques and big-ass Broadway numbers — and electronica! Despite an archly formulaic plot, the show somehow soars above its own romantic bombast. THEATER @ BOSTON COURT, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 2. (626) 683-6883. (Steven Mikulan) See Stage feature next week.

THE TROJAN WOMEN When confronted with the tragedies of the ancient Greeks, is it the DNA of the actors or the “seriousness” of the text that often draws out overwrought performances? This production of Kenneth Cavender’s translation of Euripides’ 415 B.C. anti-war classic is stymied by melodramatic turns worthy of a Telemundo telenovela. Of course, the touchstone of this version is our current debacle in Iraq, with the Greek soldiers sporting U.S. military camouflage and wreaking havoc on Troy and its army, and sexually claiming the multitude of now-widowed and -keening Trojan women. We are treated to Kelvin Han Lee’s hilarious channeling of George W. Bush in his interpretation of Menelaus, replete with Dubya’s standard-issue hand gestures and malapropisms. Another highlight is Patricia Ayame Thomson’s airhead Helen attempting to portray herself to her husband, Menelaus, as a victim, despite the bloodletting that her lust for the Trojan prince Paris has caused. However, under Alberto Isaac’s one-note direction, other cast members, such as Emily Kuroda as Hecuba, whose character is understandably bereft after her husband King Priam’s slaying, eschew any nuance and proffer deliveries that are more histrionic than heroic. Lodestone Theatre Ensemble at GTC BURBANK, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 26. (323) 993-7245. (Martín Hernández)

{mosimage}TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA Sadly surrounded by overwhelming noise from traffic, Frisbee players and pickup basketball, some dozen velour-tights and upholstery-clad actors vainly attempt to share the story of Shakespeare’s very early and arguably weakest comedy. Most famous for a clown character who gets mileage from a live (usually trained) dog, the play of love, betrayal and trouser roles is merely a sketch of what would come later in Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Michael Matthys and Brad Wilcox as the eponymous gentlemen are the most effective — both in vocal power and physical presence; likewise, Julie Alexander as a cross-gendered servant. The rest of the cast get swallowed up by the din, until well into the second half, at which point it is too late to catch up. Director Stuart W. Howard’s intricate program notes describe a fascinating new interpretation, loftily inspired by Peter Brook — but this is nowhere to be found on this stage. Classical Theatre Lab and the City of West Hollywood at WEST HOLLYWOOD PARK, 647 San Vicente Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Sat.-Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Aug. 12. Free. (323) 960-5691. (Tom Provenzano)

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