An unconfirmed tip reported to the Weekly a couple of weeks ago that Edward L. Rada would be taking over the retiring Charles Dillingham's job as Center Theatre Group's managing director was just confirmed by the CTG press department. Rada is currently president of the Music Center Foundation, and served as CTG's chief financial officer from 1996 to 2008. He starts his new job July 1.
In addition, CTG General Manager Douglas C. Baker has been promoted to the newly created position of Producing Director.
For this week's NEW THEATER REVIEWS, press the More tab at the bottom of this page. Note: These reviews and all theater listings will not appear in the coming print edition, due to the special People Issue. The reviews will appear in print the following week in an enlarged theater section.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication May 26, 2011:
NEW REVIEW ARTIFACTS OF CONSEQUENCE So Minna (LoraBeth Barr) is upset with Dallas (Adam Briggs) because every time he leaves The Facility to check on a shipment or to visit one of the outposts, he fails to return with FRPs or anything useful for survival. Sure he has his Pretty Woman routine with young Ari (Dione Kuraoka), who devours the pop cultural and literary diet Dallas has been feeding her, but he's not helping Minna to keep the facility running. Once Theo (Joel Raffee) enters the picture via the airlock, and becomes pubescent Ari's new best friend and crush, Minna's patience truly wears thin and things begin to fall apart. If you're confused, because I've provided no context for these characters and relationships, then you have a good sense of the play, because neither does playwright Ashlin Halfnight. Yes, we eventually discover that FRPs are Food Replacement Pills, and that The Facility is a giant warehouse where Minna, Dallas and Ari spend their days collecting and cataloging artifacts from an outside world that's submerged underwater. What we never discover is why, nor how this “liquid Los Angeles” came to be. So despite funny, well-crafted banter (rife with '80s and '90s movie quotes) and a few emotionally resonant moments (both primarily courtesy of Ms. Kuraoka, who brings vivacity and spunk to her character), the overarching story and message of the piece are unclear. Director Evan Charest fails to deepen the one-note characters of Minna and Dallas, and his frequent use of blackouts merely adds to the disconnect already present in the piece. Stokastik Theatre Ensemble at The Sherry Theater, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m., thru June 5. stokastik.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
NEW REVIEW DEUX EX MACHINA AND THE HANDS OF THE BEHOLDER
Minutes into writer-director R.S. Bailey's “dark Vaudevillian farce,” one gets a sinking feeling. The play (which really feels like two discreet works), takes place in a semi-apocalyptic setting in which God's wrath is at hand and religious zealots have taken over the world. In the prologue, we meet a character named The Historian (Jezter Detroit), who rambles on about history, politics, cause and effect, great events, historical relativism, and more. Prompted by the wail of police sirens, he quickly exits, after which the “meat” of the play begins. Bailey assumes the role of Old Testament Patriarch — with a dash of mad scientist and Sorcerer's Apprentice tossed in — who is searching for God before the Day of Judgment. Assisting him are his wife Majda (Mary Dryden), and son Jesse (Jonathan Brett), who is working on a contraption called a Metatron where God is located, or as it turns out, the dwelling place of his voice. The inspiration for this is purportedly the story of Abraham and Isaac, but if it is, it doesn't come across as such, notwithstanding the bizarre sacrifice near the play's end. Theatre Z Productions at The Complex, Dorie Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlwd.; Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m.; thru June 5. (323) 960-7788. plays411.com (Lovell Estell III)
NEW REVIEW GO THE EMANCIPATION OF ALABASTER MCGILL After a startling revelation is made in Act II of Jeff Goode's funny new comedy, two dumbstruck boys freeze as one says to the other, “Don't say anything; maybe it'll just disappear.” The setting might be Kentucky, 1863, but that good ol' Southern methodology prevailed even in free lovin' California, 2008, when Goode's editorial on Proposition 8 was rejected by a major publication because it wasn't election coverage. That dismissal became the springboard for this world premiere, which uses a 19th century discussion over the imminent Emancipation Proclamation to draw parallels between slavery and homosexuality. Goode's got a knack for clever innuendo: Self-pleasure is as thinly veiled as “whittling,” and Jude Evans' Klansman/Deputy has a tiny pocketknife. Director Eric Curtis Johnson has found a cast with impeccable comic timing: In the Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer tradition, Brett Fleisher and Matt Valle puzzle over problematic situations before announcing the most logical solutions. With a static setting and a few too-frequent occasions of the pedantic dialogue, as Deacon Chickory (a scene-stealing Nathaniel Stanton) drums into your head, that “slippery slope” into preachiness, the play should lose a good half hour in order to get deliver its message more strongly. “We ain't got time to debate this or think about what we're doin'!” Frank Ensenberger's grocer Baggot sputters on the eve before the Proclamation takes effect. You might be for or against Prop 8, but kudos to Goode for taking that time. SkyPilot Theater at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 19. (800) 838-3006. skypilottheatre.com (Rebecca Haithcoat)
NEW REVIEW GO FERNANDO RICHARDSON'S TREACHEROUS BRAIN
In playwright Monica Trasandes' poignant and humorous drama, a man undergoes brain surgery and, in the ensuing confusion, spills some secrets that threaten to shatter his marriage. Uruguayan Fernando (Roberto Montesinos, in an endearing performance) and his American wife Kate (Natalie Sutherland) are warned by his Surgeon that patients can be quite bewildered after a brain operation. But no one is prepared for the jumble of memories that comes tumbling out. At first it all sounds like nonsense, but Fernando's impassioned distress at the possible abduction of a woman named Elisa (a sultry Karla Zamudio), whom he met when visiting Argentina, prompts his best friend Patrick (Mark Slater) to pursue the mystery. But sneaky Patrick may have an ulterior motive for unearthing the truth. Director Andre Barron elicits superb performances from his well-cast ensemble and allows time for tender, non-verbal moments. Trasandes' compassionate and subtle storytelling approach reveals shreds of information while her intimate and warm dialogue illustrates the complexities of various devoted relationships. Above all, her carefully constructed play touches on deeper themes of culture clash and the burden of middle-class guilt and proves the heart is more powerful than the brain. Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; through June 9. (323) 882-6912. openfist.org. (Pauline Adamek)
NEW REVIEW GO 4 CLOWNS
Creator-director Jeremy Aluma's performance piece made quite a splash during its run at last year's Hollywood Fringe Festival. This latest incarnation, with some noticeable tinkering, is every bit as entertaining. The play blends music, dance, physical comedy and narrative performed by four archetypal clowns cum red noses and painted faces: Sad Clown (Alexis Jones), Mischievous Clown (Kevin Klein), Angry Clown (Raymond Lee) and Nervous Clown (Amir Levi). Accompanied by the commanding virtuosity of Mario Granville on piano, the clowns tell of the common and uncommon: nasty fights with siblings; a trip to the doctor that resulted in molestation, teenage angst, that special event known as a first date; a mom at home trying to cope with family issues. There is a lot of audience interaction that transpires, which adds to the fun. In one especially poignant moment, Lee opens a steamer chest (which is the only prop used) and finds a Christmas gift. What surprises most about this show is the ease and spontaneity with which the performers interact with one another and their manic energy, which at times seems to take over the stage. There is a fair amount of coarse language and X-rated material (not all of which is funny) so this isn't a show for the kiddies. Sacred Fools Theater Company, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr. L.A., Fri. 11. p.m.; through June 10. (310) 281-8337. (Lovell Estell III)
NEW REVIEW GO GYPSY
With its huge cast, multiple settings, book by Arthur Laurents, score by Jules Stein, and catchy lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this show has become a quintessential Broadway musical, making demands that are hard to meet in a 99-seat theatre. Director Richard Israel proves that it can be scaled down without losing its pizzazz. And Jan Sheldrick, as the bullying, possessive Mama Rose, takes a role that has been played by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler, and makes it triumphantly her own, with quiet moments as well as brassy ones. Stephanie Wall provides a fine performance as Rose Louise–the future Gypsy Rose Lee–marred only by the fact that she's not always audible. The large cast, headed by Michael Matthys as Mama Rose's brow-beaten swain, Eric Allen Smith as the young song-and-dance man Tulsa, and Kelly Swanson as Mama Rose's other daughter, Dainty June, provides fine support, along with veteran performers Larry Lederman and Tony Pandolfo. Sara J. Stuckey, Kelly Jean Cuir, and Jessica Schatz score as the three strippers who sing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” Johanna Kent's music direction and John Todd's choreography keep things lively. Theatre of Arts Arena Stage, 1625 North Las Palmas Avenue, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., thru July 3. Produced by West Coast Ensemble. (323) 655-0108. westcoastensemble.org. (Neal Weaver)
NEW REVIEW GO KISS ME, KATE
Director Michael Michetti has assembled a delightful production for this revival of the classic musical, with its glorious score by Cole Porter. The zanily clever book by Samuel and Bella Spewack introduces us to producer-director Fred Graham (Tom Hewitt), who is starring — and bickering — with his ex-wife, Lili Vanessi (Leslie Margherita) in a production of The Taming of the Shrew, but their real life roles keep spilling over into their onstage conflicts. Margherita is a hilariously over-the-top Lili/Katherine, while Hewitt makes for a stalwart Fred/Petruchio. Meg Gillintine sparkles as gold-digging Lois Lane, who's having a fling with Fred while trying to reform her gambler boy-friend Bill (Sean Martin Hingston). Jay Brian Winnick and Herschel Sparber score a comic triumph as the Shakespeare-quoting gangsters who disrupt the action with untimely efforts to collect a gambling debt. Lee Martino's electric, sometimes bawdy choreography lights up the stage, and the dancers led by Hingston, Scott Alan Hislop, and Ray Garcia, galvanize the production. Costume designer Gary Lennon provides the lavish costumes, including form-fitting parti-colored tights, complete with cod-pieces, for the male dancers — but his military uniforms wouldn't pass inspection. Music director Michael Paternostro leads the orchestra with meticulous verve, and Tom Buderwitz's set — a huge revolving proscenium arch — keeps the action fluid. Reprise Theatre Company at UCLA/The Freud Playhouse; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 22. (310) 825-2101. (Neal Weaver)
NEW REVIEW NO WORD IN GUYANESE FOR ME
Is there a word to describe the paradoxical human yearning to belong to the club that won't have you? If you're an Indo-Guyanese immigrant living in Astoria, and you're also an observant Moslem and an out lesbian struggling to retain your Islamic identity, that word might be “conflicted.” Or so it might seem in playwright Wendy Graf's somewhat hagiographic, single-character study of a woman torn between Western tolerance and religious orthodoxy. Anna Khaja portrays the orphan Hanna Jokhoe, who is raised by her nurturing Aunty Mommy and cab driver uncle in her family's Moslem faith. With the onset of puberty comes the religious head-covering that also marks her as different from her American classmates. But it is her deeper stirrings, first for a best friend, then later for a sympathetic high school art teacher, that signal a more profound difference. It all comes to a peak when Hanna is married off to her Moslem cousin; betrayed by her visceral repugnance of her husband, she is both outed and made an outcast. Director Anita Khanzadian's intimate staging (nicely accented by Matthew Richter's lights, sound and projections) cleverly choreographs Hanna's transformation with the various scarves of the hajib — a conceit mirrored in the draperies lining Davis Campbell's set — which she dons as a girl but strips off as a woman. Khaja skillfully and convincingly navigates the 20-year transit with compelling pathos. And yet, one cannot avoid the suspicion that in her simple, unblemished and almost otherworldly guilelessness, Graf's heroine is less a portrait of a plausibly flawed, complex woman than an airbrushed LGBT poster child for gay pride. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru June 12. (818) 558-5702. brownpapertickets.com. (Bill Raden)
NEW REVIEW SAND IN THE AIR It's difficult to get a fix on exactly what's at issue in playwright Brian Raine's scattershot stab at a John Grisham-esque legal potboiler. Beset by baffling logical contradictions, plot and character implausibilities and enough red herrings to stock a Scandinavian supermarket, Raine's tale of an earnest young doctor caught up in a small-town sex scandal is a maddening test of patience. The story follows Baltimore doctor Howard Bogatch (Devin Williamson) and wife Lindy (Anya Warburg) as they set up practice in the fictional, West Texas factory town of Yaktaw on the Mexican border. Ostensibly hired by the town's main employer, a shady plastics factory, Howard soon learns that local, good-old-boy lawyer Billy Rafferty (an oily Larry Gesling) is the power behind the kind of corrupt business/political establishment that would make Dick Cheney and Halliburton seem paragons of corporate/civic virtue. When Howard is subsequently prosecuted by bottom-feeding lawyer Nola Montgomery (Diane Alayne Baker) for alleged improprieties with his patients, he retains Rafferty, who seems less interested in proving Howard's innocence than in draining his bank account. If this sounds like the stuff of an engaging comedy of the grotesque, director Terésa Dowell-Vest's creaky staging plays it as more-or-less straight melodrama, which only exacerbates the play's fatal lack of focus. Thomas Brown's banal set and William Wilday's incomprehensible lighting only add malpractice to this dramaturgical mistrial of a production. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m., through May 28. (310) 828-7519. morgan-wixson.org. (Bill Raden)
NEW REVIEW THE TRAVELING LADY Though revised and abbreviated by the playwright and Marion Castleberry in 2005, Horton Foote's 1954 drama still runs the risk of getting bogged down in verbiage, unless deft performances are able to propel it. Accompanied by her young daughter (Michaela Rose Haas), the title character, Georgette (Tara Battani), arrives in a small Texas town to reunite with her husband Henry (J. Scott Shonka), recently released after six years in the penitentiary. Unlike the townsfolk who knew Henry as a boy, Georgette – married after only a few months of a whirlwind romance — knows little of his inner demons. Apprehensive but hopeful, she secures overnight bed-and-board from a widower named Slim (David Atkinson) and his older sister, Clara (Susan Carol Davis). From the start, it's clear that Georgette's expectations for Henry will not pan out; instead, the story's dynamic turns on the nuanced attraction between her and Slim, held in check by propriety and the awkward circumstances of their meeting. Unfortunately, there's little palpable chemistry between these two pivotal players. Though Atkinson's spare and focused performance is on target as Slim, a good man nursing the secret of his own failed marriage, Battani, while sympathetic, lacks urgency in relaying her character's desperate situation. Haas is commendably professional as the little girl, and Brenda Ballard furnishes skilled comic relief as an elderly neighbor happily relishing her second childhood. Several other supporting performances are either undistinguished or over the top. Under Linda Kerns' direction, the performers sometimes appear stiff and static – as opposed to comfortably at home – on set designer Mark Svastics' cozy period front porch. Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St.,Hlywd.; Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 12. (323) 462-8460. actorsco-op.org. (Deborah Klugman)