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COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS
LATEST THEATER REVIEWS

SoulArt Productions presentation of Alex Lyras' The Common Air – a nominee in last year's L.A. Weekly Theatre Awards solo performance award for its 2008 run at the Asylum Theatre – is opening at the Bleeker Street Theater, 45 Bleeker Street, New York, NY 10012 More info here and here

Also, director Stephan Wolfert says that last year's production of Fit For Society (currently playing Monday nights, 8 p.m. at the Veterans' Center for the Performing Arts, 446 S. La Brea Ave; alley entrance at Mortise & Tenon), is slated for three nights in Brooklyn in November. More info to come.

This year's Ovation Awards nominees have been announced. More info here

For COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for Oct. 23-29, 2009

(The weekend's NEW REVIEWS are embedded in “Continuing Performances” below.

You may also be able to search for them by title using your computer's

search program.)

Our

critics are Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,Martin Hernandez, Mayank

Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman, Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom

Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These

listings were compiled by Derek Thomas

OPENING THIS WEEK

BETTER ANGELS Wayne Peter Liebman's story of Abraham Lincoln and a Civil War widow's petition for a military hospital. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; opens Oct. 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (818) 558-7000.

BOB Staged reading of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's play. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Mon., Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m.. (714) 708-5555.

BROADWAY WISHES Eden Espinosa, Megan Hilty and other stars of Broadway sing together onstage in a benefit for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. OC Pavilion, 801 N. Main St., Santa Ana; Sat., Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., www.wishocie.org. (714) 550-0880.

DE LA LOCURA A LA ESPERANZA: FROM MADNESS TO HOPE Theater-dance-music performance about the 1980-92 Salvadoran civil war, conceived by William Fores, choreography by Saul Mendez. In Spanish with English supertitles. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; opens Oct. 23; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (213) 489-0994.

EXIT STRATEGY Bill Semans and Roy M. Close's story of an elderly couple and a risky proposition. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; opens Oct. 23; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (818) 955-8101.

LAURA INGALLS WILDER Gregg Gunning and Richard DeRosa's musical based one the childhood of the Little House on the Prairie author. Ages 5 and up. Pepperdine University, Smothers Theatre, 24255 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; Sat., Oct. 24, 11 a.m. & 1 p.m.. (800) 982-2787.

BEAU FIB Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble presents Myles Nye's musical tale of “highballs and oddballs, hobgoblins and hemoglobin.”. Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica; opens Oct. 29; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.latensemble.com. (310) 396-3680.

CAPTURED AURAL PHANTASY THEATER: HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR! Readings of vintage comic books, old-time radio show style. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A.; Oct. 23-24, 8 p.m., www.capturedauralphantasytheater.com. (866) 811-4111.

THE CONQUEST OF THE SOUTH POLE Manfred Karge's dark comedy about four slackers who re-create the 1912 South Pole expedition. Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 24; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.plays411.com/conquest. (323) 960-4429.

GET LIT! WTF?! Festival continues with teen poetry troupe the Get Lit! Players. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., Oct. 29, 8 p.m., www.wtffestival.com. (310) 838-4264.

HOLD ME CLOSER, TINY GROUNDLING All-new sketch and improv, directed by Jim Cashman. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 23; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; thru Jan. 30. (323) 934-9700.

HOUSE RULES Peppur Chambers' play about “love, respect, and Billie Holiday.”. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Oct. 29-31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 1, 4 p.m.. (323) 469-9988.

IMAGOFEST 2009 Three one-acts: E.M. Lewis' Sing Me That Leonard Cohen Song Again, Tim McNeil's Purplish, Alex Aves' The Goldilocks Effect. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 23; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (323) 465-4446.

ITALIAN AMERICAN RECONCILIATION John Patrick Shanley's comedy about two lifelong friends. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; opens Oct. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 6, (No perfs Nov. 27-29.). (310) 397-3244.

LANDSCAPING THE DEN OF SAINTS Theatre Unleashed presents Jacob Smith's dark comedy about a Hollywood writer and an eccentric millionaire. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 24; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (818) 849-4039.

OCTOMOM: THE MUSICAL Chicago has gritty realism. New York has Broadway musicals. So what's the L.A. aesthetic? I've heard complaints – I think they were sneers – that L.A. has no unifying theater style, just like it has no unifying geography. Not true: camp. You see more parody of stupid movies, stupid TV shows and stupid people on the stages of L.A. than any other genre – even more than one-person showcases for TV. The latest example is this quite charming, clever-in-parts (the eight kids are sock puppets) and terribly over-hyped (preview coverage on Fox TV and in People Magazine) cabaret about thoughtless and relentless greed, which is probably to our era what religious hypocrisy was to Moliere's. Writer-director Chris Voltaire's theatrical comic book, with witty, light music by Rachel Lawrence, interlinks the voracious appetites of Nadya Suleman (the excellent Molly McCook) and Bernie Madoff (John Combs, also fine). It suffers somewhat from the plight of trying to be on top of the news with topics that were in the news cycle a few months ago. But the underlying source of the satire that Voltaire is gunning for certainly hasn't gone anywhere. The insights are broad as a barn. Madoff meets that schemer Ponzi (Blake Hogue, with a keen expression of derangement that works for number of cameos) in a sweet soft-shoe number. It could be in the style of Tom Lehrer, but this is more obvious and less sly. The production's strength lies in Dean McFlicker's musical staging, and the actors' terrific movement skills – particularly that of Dinora Walcott, the crooning emcee. Oh, but the thin voices bring it down. As though this stuff is easy, as though a musical can be without the triple threat of acting, dancing and singing. With the threadbare canned accompaniment, we're missing about a third of the musical-comedy trinity in those whispy voices, sometimes out of key. Not so for McCook's Octomom, beautifully peevish, whining and with a sense of entitlement as bloated as her belly. She carries the show, in tune and on step, like a latter-day Mother Courage. (SLM) The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., #222, Universal City; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m., www.octotix.com. (323) 856-1168.

100% HAPPY 88% OF THE TIME Beth Lapides' “mind-expanding” solo show. Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; Sun., Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m., www.bethlapides.com/node/15. (323) 993-3305.

SCARCITY Lucy Thurber's story of a poor Massachusetts family. Imagined Life Theater, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., L.A.; opens Oct. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.needtheater.org. (800) 838-3006.

SUGAR & VICE “Halloween undead glitter rock musical extravaganza,” courtesy Ian Mackinnon's Discount Cruise to Hell. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Oct. 23-24, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

TALES OF AN UNSETTLED CITY: EXODUS Fourth chapter of Theatre Unleashed's collection of late-night vignettes. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Oct. 23; Fri., 10:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 20, www.theatreunleashed.com. (818) 849-4039.

THROUGH A CAFFEINE HAZE Theatre Unleashed's coffee shop series. Sherry Theatre, 11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Wed., Oct. 28. (818) 849-4039.

VINNIE: THE DEATH & AFTERLIFE OF VINCENT VAN GOGH Peter Abbay's portrait of the artist as a dead man. (No perf Oct. 31.). Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens Oct. 23; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 7…

WICKED LITERATURE HALLOWEEN THEATRE FESTIVAL Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, adapted by Paul Millet; Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted by Jonathan Josephson; Robert E. Howard's Pigeons From Hell, adapted by Jeff G. Rack. Greystone Mansion, 905 Loma Vista Dr., Beverly Hills; Oct. 27-31. (818) 242-7910.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

NEW REVIEW GO KOOZA It's been about a decade since

the blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau (big top) was seen at the Santa

Monica Pier. This touring production marks the 25th anniversary of

Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil, and also heralds a return to the

simpler, less high-tech formats that informed earlier productions like

Quidam and Allegria — the emphasis here being on the old circus

traditions of clowning and acrobatics. But that's not to say that there

is something missing here. On the contrary, creator-director David

Shiner who made quite a name for himself as a clown in outings like

Fool Moon, has packed this show with drama, comedy, whimsy, music,

exotica, slick choreography, and plenty of how-do-they-do-that?

moments. The show starts with an Innocent (Stephan Landry) opening a

box containing a trickster (Mike Tyus), who reveals the magical world

of the circus. And what a world it is! The clowns pull off some

dazzling and funny routines, and interact throughout with the audience.

Contortionists Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson, Dasha Sovik twist their

tiny bodies into letters of the alphabet, among other things. Lee

Thompson amazes with a pickpocket routine at the expense of an

unsuspecting attendee. And Jimmy Ibarra and Angelo Lyerzkysky garnered

a standing ovation for their superhuman feats on the Wheel of Death —

a daunting contraption that resembles two interconnected hamster

wheels. Marie-Chantale Valliancourt's collage of costumes are stunning.

Under the Grand Chapiteau at the Santa Monica Pier. Tues.-Thurs, 8 p.m,

Fri-Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 5 p.m.; thru Dec. 20.  https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza or 1-800 450-1480. (Lovell Estell III)

CREDITORS August Strindberg's psychological thriller, adapted by Doug Wright. La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (858) 550-1010.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT Dostoyevsky's classic, adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sun., Oct. 25, 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed., Oct. 28, 8 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 20, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 5, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 13, 2 & 7 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Dec. 17, 8 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

DADDY LONG LEGS John Caird's musical about an orphan and her mysterious benefactor. Rubicon Theater, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura; Wed., 2 & 7 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (805) 667-2900.

GUYS AND DOLLS Luck be a lady in this Frank Loesser musical. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theater, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (805) 449-2787.

LOUIS & KEELY: LIVE AT THE SAHARA I haven't seen this musical study of '50s lounge-act crooners Louis Prima and Keely Smith since its transcendent premiere at Sacred Fools Theatre last year, and oh, is it different. Documentary and Oscar-nominated film maker Taylor Hackford has been busy misguiding writer-performers Jake Broder and Vanessa Claire Smith's musical. Taylor took over from director Jeremy Aldridge, who brought it to life in east Hollywood. Smith and Broder have drafted an entirely new book, added onstage characters – including Frank Sinatra (Nick Cagle) who, along with Broder and Smith, croons a ditty. (As though Cagle can compete with Sinatra's voice, so embedded into the pop culture.) They've also added Prima's mother (Erin Matthews) and other people who populated the lives of the pair. The result is just a little heartbreaking: The essence of what made it so rare at Sacred Fools has been re-vamped and muddied into a comparatively generic bio musical, like Stormy Weather (about Lena Horne) or Ella (about Ella Fitzgerald). The good news is the terrific musicianship, the musical direction originally by Dennis Kaye and now shared by Broder and Paul Litteral, remains as sharp as ever, as are the title performances. Broder's lunatic edge and Bobby Darin singing style has huge appeal, while Vanessa Claire Smith has grown ever more comfortable in the guise and vocal stylings of Keely Smith. It was the music that originally sold this show, and should continue to do so. With luck, perhaps Broder and Smith haven't thrown out their original script. (SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 3:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (310) 208-54545.

MEETING OF MINDS If you don't remember who Steve Allen was, here's a primer: The bespectacled writer, radio personality, TV talk and game show host (he was the first Tonight Show host), musician and composer (“This Could Be the Start of Something Big”) was ahead of his time — Bill Maher, David Letterman, Johnny Carson and David Frost rolled into one. He asked guests hard questions, was book-smart, inimitably witty and took chances. One chance that paid off and set a precedent for intelligent TV (now there's an oxymoron) was his PBS show, Meeting of Minds, which consisted of teleplays featuring roundtable “interviews” with historical figures such as Cleopatra, Teddy Roosevelt, Attila the Hun and Plato. The show ran from 1977 to 1981, and became hugely popular as an entertaining and riveting way to learn about history. Now, you can witness live performances of Allen's actual scripts in a revival of the original shows. (Libby Molyneaux) Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.. (323) 666-4268.

MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS Ron Hutchinson's story of David O. Selznick, Ben Hecht and Victor Fleming's re-writing of Gone With the Wind. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (949) 497-2787.

GO NEVERMORE Poor Edgar. In Dennis Paoli's one-man play, beautifully directed by Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs portrays the bedraggled Southern poet, Poe, in a staged reading. He's a bundle of idiosyncrasies — tremors and a hesitation to complete sentences. The man is ill with fevers and despondent over the recent death of his wife, yet from the twinkle in Combs' eye, it's clear he rather enjoys the attention of strangers, and is deeply proud of his masterwork, “The Raven,” which he'll recite when he gets around to it. His concentration, and his ability to perform, are steadily more impeded by the after effects of a bottle of whiskey, which he clutches at the inside of his suit. Fortunately, he recites “The Tell-Tale Heart” while still lucid, and what an absurd, showoff-y, macabre display it is — pure Victorian melodrama, in the style of Chekhov's one-act, one-man show: “On the Harmfulness of Tobacco,” also about man making a presentation ostensibly for one purpose, while undone by another. Chekhov's character is persecuted by his wife, or by his imaginings of her. Edgar is torn by the presence of his fiancée, who is assessing whether her groom-to-be can stay on the wagon. The harrowing answer becomes self-evident as, in one scene, he goes off on a spontaneous rant against Longfellow; and in another, as he's leaping around to a poem about bells, he abruptly falls off the stage into the orchestra pit. It's an almost unbelievably hammy turn, as mannered as the style of the era he's depciting, a gorgeous rendition of a tragic clown whose heart has been cleaved open by loss and regret. His rendition of “The Raven” is clearly an homage to his late wife, and how any hope of her return is forbidden by the reprise of this show's title. (SLM) Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 31. (323) 666-4268.

PARADE NEW REVIEWPARADE Alfred Uhry, Jason Robert Brown and Harold Prince's musical is based on a miscarriage of justice against Leo Frank (T.R. Knight), a Jewish man in 1913 Atlanta wrongly accused of murdering a 13-year old Mary Phalen (Rose Sezniak) in the pencil factory where she worked, and where Frank was superintendent. Rob Ashford's sumptuous staging, and Brown's caressing ragtime/pop score, are in the service of what's aiming to be tragedy of mythic proportions. Uhry's predictable storytelling, however, invites us to react to the obvious rather than reflect on the mysterious, turning the entire event into child's play. Christopher Oram's set, featuring a shape-shifting Confederate mural, under Neil Austin's lighting, is gorgeous to look at. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.; through Nov. 15. (213) 628-2772. A Donmar Warehouse Production. (Steven Leigh Morris)

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG Children's musical, book by Lloyd J. Schwartz and Hope Juber, lyrics and music by Hope and Lawrence Juber. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Sat., 1 p.m.; thru Feb. 27. (323) 851-7977.PUPPET UP! UNCENSORED Naughty improv by Henson Alternative puppeteers. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., Oct. 24, 8 p.m.. (323) 462-8900.

SALLY SPECTRE THE MUSICAL: A CHILDREN'S HORROR STORY FOR ADULTS Book, music and lyrics by David P. Johnson. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 29. (323) 851-7977.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD Jason Robert Brown's musical collection of “transformation stories.”. Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Center Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (562) 432-5934.

THE TOMORROW SHOW Late-night variety show created by Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small. Steve Allen Theater, at the Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., midnight. (323) 960-7785.

THE TRAGEDY OF RICHARD III Director Geoff Elliott gives us a traditional production of Shakespeare's most emphatically rhetorical tragedy, setting it in its proper historical period, the 1480s. Steve Weingartner's feisty, shaven-headed Richard is zestily malevolent, alternating sly, saturnine humor and self-satisfaction with unbridled savagery. Deborah Strang plays the vengeful Queen Margaret as a raddled, ragged, witchlike creature, and Lenne Klingaman is a spunky Lady Anne. Freddy Douglas is stalwartly noble as Richard's nemesis, the Earl of Richmond; Apollo Dukakis is a venerable King Edward; and Susan Angelo plays his embattled queen with aplomb. So it remains a mystery why this staging feels so inert. Perhaps it's because of some curious choices by Elliott: Decking the ghosts who haunt Richard with Christmas lights is more gimmicky than haunting. Designer Darcy Scanlin provides the moody and somberly beautiful multileveled set, and Ken Merckx Jr. and Spike Steingasser provide dynamic fight choreography, though something seemed amiss in the climactic combat between Richard and Richmond. Sound designer Patricia Hotchkiss uses the neighing of terrified horses to startling effect, but the near-constant soundtrack of cawing crows, bird song and dripping water is often distracting. It's a fitfully impressive production, if not always a satisfying one. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating repertory; call theatre for schedule; through Dec. 12. (818) 240-0910, Ext. 1. www.anoisewithin.org. (Neal Weaver)

THE VILLAGE VARIETY PACK The Village at The Gay & Lesbian Center, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Mon., Oct. 26, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 9, 8 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 23, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.. (323) 860-7302.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

ACME SATURDAY NIGHT ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest hosts each week., $15. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

NEW REVIEW AMERICAN GRIND

Photo courtesy From the Ground Up Theatre Company

An

amalgam of the work of 4 writers and 2 directors, this hybrid piece

falls somewhere between sketch comedy and a full-fledged play.  Set in

a coffee house, it features five or six overlapping scenarios.  Kevyn

(Michael Ponte) is a self-styled self-help guru who is using the venue

to recruit clientele.  Tudi (writer Cheri Anne Johnson), the white half

of an interracial couple, is convinced she's a black woman born into a

white body (in the same way some transsexuals believe that in them,

nature's gone awry). Tudi's now looking to create a rapport between her

uptight suburban parents (Charles Marti and Christina L. Mason) and her

lover (Daniel Valery), a condescending hipster —  while coping with

the painful reality of his other women.  Betty (writer Tracy Lane) and

Nick (writer Andrew Hamrick) are a librarian and high school teacher

respectively — both looking for love and too petrified to acknowledge

they may have found it in each other.  Rose (Lauren Benge) a

father-less teen distraught over her pregnancy, gets help from Joe

(Cooper Anderson), who once abandoned his family. Co-directed by P.J.

Marshall and Jennifer Cetrone, the production aims to meld its various

plots into a cohesive whole, but the end result is closer to a 

choppily aligned jigsaw.  Most of the performances are capable or

better, but stronger direction would improve them.  The writing is also

strong in some places, in need of sharpening in others. E. Yarber is

also one of the four writers. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion

Ave., Silver Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21,.   https://www.fromthegrounduptheatre.org A From the Ground Up Theater Company production. (Deborah Klugman).

GO ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS The title of Brian Christopher Williams play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it is–but it is much more than that, something far richer. Growing up during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old gay boy Horace (a terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on his hunky gym teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the Vietnam War, and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to escape the draft. In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo) has economic reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when Anita Bryant (Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign against gay rights, Horace learns that there are people who will hate him for who he is. He must come out to his loving but irascible parents, and he's overcome by jealousy when he realizes his adored teacher is having an affair with a neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He retaliates by betraying the teacher, in a way he knows is shameful. Williams' play becomes a funny and touching family saga as well as the tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow up. Richard Israel provides wonderfully nuanced direction, and the entire cast is splendid. (Neal Weaver)El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through Nov. 1. (323) 460-4443 or tix.com. A West Coast Ensemble production.

BACKSTAGE GREASE Behind the scenes at a production of Grease, by Kristian Steel. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.. (323) 850-7827.

BIG RIVER: THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN Actors Co-op presents Mark Twain's classic, music and lyrics by Roger Miller, book by William Hauptman. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 462-8460.

GO BOBBY BENDON GETS BY In an unnamed town in the Inland Empire, somewhere between the releases of Van Halen's “1984” and “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,” young married couple Glen (Nicholas D. Clark) and Trish (Audrey Malone) dream of Los Angeles — or specifically, the oasis of Reseda, where before the baby arrives they want to buy a three-bedroom house and run into Goldie Hawn at the grocery store. The first step is getting Glen's metal band, Torch, signed at next week's Battle of the Bands. But guitarist Bobby (Liam Springthorpe), Glen and Trish's high school best friend, is having a near meltdown over the public access seductress Mamazon (Erin Anderson), who he fancies is his girlfriend, even though she hangs up whenever he calls in, looking for a date. Brian Soika's dramedy is heavy on spandex and wigs and light on dramatic thrust, though it works well as an honest, slim story about the need to be better than average at something, be it love or music. Marah Morris directs a strong ensemble who looks resplendently retro in costume designer Ayesha Mesinger's Scrunchies, tube socks and torn jeans. With musicians Andy Creighton, Jonathan Hylander and Sean Johnson rocking out stage right on Torch hits like “Stilettos” (a CD comes in the program). Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; through October 25. bluehousereservations@gmail.com. (323) 320-0127. (Amy Nicholson)

CARNIVAL KNOWLEDGE: LOVE, LUST AND OTHER HUMAN ODDDITIES Naomi Grossman's solo comedy. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.plays411.com/carnivalknowledge. (323) 930-1804.

THE CHANGELING Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's Renaissance classic. Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 710-6306.

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (866) 811-4111.

DESIRE/EL DESEO Written by Victor Hugo Rascón Banda. Note: Adults only. Sexual Content. Full-frontal male nudity. Frida Kahlo Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru Nov. 6. (213) 382-8133.

DOES THIS PLAY MAKE ME LOOK FAT? Jackie Singer asks the question. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat..; thru Oct. 24, www.jackiesinger.com. (323) 465-0383.

DON JUAN TENORIO By Jose Zorrilla. Bilingual Foundation of Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (323) 225-4044.

FAKE RADIO Old-time radio dramas performed live: Meet Me in St. Louis (Thursdays), The Lone Ranger (Fridays), The Philadelphia Story (Saturdays). Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24, www.fakeradio.net. (877) 460-9774.

GO F*CKING MEN Ah, the late 1980s, the halcyon days of male nudity, where the promise of on stage gay promiscuity and frontal views were surefire ticket sellers throughout the world of waiver – well those days are back in Joe DiPietro's all-male rendition of Arthur Schnitzler's classic 1900 play of sexual mores, La Ronde. Ten scenes pair two strangers becoming intimate, with one of the duo moving on to the next scene until the circle is completed. DiPietro keeps to his generally middle-of-the-road style of dialogue (well known from oft produced Over the River and Through the Woods and I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change) which actually brings a subtle reality to the more sordid moments of gay indiscretions. Director Calvin Remsberg has gathered a fine ensemble, mostly perfectly cast from the nearly infantile, stoned sexiness of college boy Kyle (Michael Rachlis) to the nervous, violent energy of GI Steve (Johnny Kostrey). Only the fine Chad Borden is miscast as a closeted action movie-star – his characterization is just so obviously gay. Tom Buderwitz's scene design concept with moving screens and furniture pieces is initially fascinating, but becomes quite clumsy and distracting. However sound by Lindsay Jones, lighting by Jeremy Pivnick and costumes by Daavid Hawkins are all sharp and collaborative. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (323) 957-1884. (Tom Provenzano)

FIT FOR SOCIETY is a pastiche of war veterans' stories, written by Brian Monahan (who is from a military family) and Stephen Wolfert (a veteran of the U.S. Army). Some are direct, personal accounts, some are first-person dramatic monologues delivered straight to the audience, and some are monologues to an invisible character. While the work is earnest and, at times, powerful, the stylistic disunity weakens the overriding idea. And because the evening runs scattershot over a wide range of veteran themes — most of which have been introduced to us in media coverage of the last 40 years of war — we aren't challenged by the kind of specificity that opens up new ways of understanding the futility, waste and tragedy of war. Director Stephan Wolfert, however, shapes the performances of his excellent cast well, inspiring an authentic, gripping tone throughout. Standouts include Ian Casselberry's infantryman divested of his humanity and Arnell Powell's brusque drill sergeant. And Randy Brumbaugh's lights are particularly effective on the small, open stage. But what we ultimately see is a truly inspired series of previews for several potentially stirring plays. (Luis Reyes). Veterans Center for the Performing Arts, 446 S. La Brea Ave. (alley entrance at Mortise & Tenon), L.A.; Mon., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 9.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE That's weekly sketch comedy done by some of the best in the sketch biz. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

THE GAY MAFIA Queer sketch and improv comedy. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Wed., Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m., www.plays411.com. www.plays411.com.

THE GLORY OF LIVING Rebecca Gilman's story of a 15-year-old runaway and her car-thief boyfriend. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.elcentrotheatre.com. (323) 230-7261.

GOGOL PROJECT Director Sean T. Cawalti's production of playwright Kitty Felde's adaptation of three short stories by Russian Absurdist Nikolai Gogol is a whirligig of ferocious creativity. In “The Nose,” a pompous small-town politician (Tom Ashworth) wakes up to discover that his nose has decided to go AWOL, and he's frustrated when the wandering member transforms into an enormous schnoz capable of rescuing dogs from wells and romancing local lovelies. “Diary of a Madman” shows a low-level drone of a civil servant (Ben Messmer, wonderfully bug-eyed) spurned in love and going insane, imagining he hears local dogs sending each other love letters. In “The Overcoat,” a mild-mannered postal clerk (Kristopher Lee Bicknell, sweetly channeling Charlie Chaplin) buys a new overcoat, which ultimately brings him nothing but tragedy. Performers caparisoned in Pat Rubio's stunning Commedia-style masks interact with the dazzling puppets designed by the production's six-person mask crew in a manner that often suggests a spooky Russian tragic version of Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The astonishing, Big Bird-sized nose puppet, snorting up Danishes provided by the town baker, is a particular delight. Elsewhere, the show's imagination is best showcased in details, from the sequence in which a murderous barber's fantasies of killing his client are projected in shadow puppet form on the wall behind him, to the scenes involving the talking dogs, whose beautiful puppet forms are manipulated Bunraku-style with masked puppeteers. Ultimately, though, Felde's workmanlike script is so broad and perfunctory, we feel little emotional connection to the characters or the situations, and the production's admittedly gorgeous artifice essentially upstages the storytelling. The end result is an experience that is undeniably provocative but also assaultive and occasionally hyperactive. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 3 p.m. Call theater for additional performances; through November 8. (800) 838-3006 or rogueartists.org. A Rogue Artists Ensemble Production. (Paul Birchall)

GROWING UP WITH UNCLE MILTIE Patt Benson's one-woman show about her decadeslong friendship with Milton Berle. Improv Comedy Lab, 8162 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (323) 651-2583.

HEYDRICH/HITLER/HOLOCAUST An apostle of the Holocaust and, with Himmler, a chief engineer of the Final Solution, Reinhard Heydrich has been depicted in numerous books and films. Assassinated in 1942, this ambitious villain kept files on fellow Nazis as well as on suspected enemies of the Reich – one reason, perhaps, for the persistent rumors about his “Jewish blood.” Playwright Cornelius Schnauber has seized upon this aspect of his biography to construct a muddled and implausible play in which Heydrich (Oliver Finn) is portrayed politicking around these insinuations. Another element in the fantastical plot is this virulent anti-Semite's confrontational dialectic with a Jewish maid named Anna (Jessica Sherman), who has somehow maintained gainful employment at Nazi headquarters. Spokesperson for humanity, Anna implores Heydrich to recognize that Jews are human beings, promising to save his life if he helps rescue some of them. (Heydrich's real-life brother actually did abandon Nazism to help save some Jews, before committing suicide.) Later, Anna is brought before Hitler (Don Paul, whose Fuehrer struck me as a deluded insane asylum inmate) – whom she challenges with bravado, yet survives. Stilted and declaimed with dreadful German accents, the play rolls out like a cartoonish nightmare, with much dialogue devoted to airing Nazi ideas, as if we didn't understand these already. Under L. Flint Esquerra's direction, little attempt is made to get beyond posturing — except for Sherman who, against tremendous odds, manages a credible performance. (Deborah Klugman) MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 25; (323) 957-1152.

HIGH CEILINGS It's not clear whether writer-performer Jillian Crane was attempting to write a wacky sitcom, an Absurdist farce, or an old-fashioned madcap comedy, but the outcome is way more inane than amusing. Crane's heroine, Lily — a role she also plays — is apparently intended to be a charming kook, but she emerges as a pushy, bullying, insensitive and inconsiderate nut who, on the eve of her nuptials, carries on with the florist (Lauchlin MacDonald), mistreats and ignores her husband-to-be (Chris Smith), and creates a scandal at the wedding rehearsal by attempting to marry her depressive, heavily medicated and usually comatose father (Patrick Pankhurst). Her prospective bridegroom immediately dumps her — the play's only sensible act. There's little rhyme, reason, logic, psychology or credibility to the proceedings. There's not much director Valerie Landsburg and her talented cast can do with such material. I don't have a clue as to what the title means, or why anybody chose to produce this farrago. The Hayworth Theatre, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. (800) 838-3006 or www.thehayworth.com. Produced by Storey Productions. (Neal Weaver)

GO HOW KATRINA PLAYS The late Judi Ann Mason's character study swirling around the tempests of hurricane Katrina is partly an act of devotion to her brother, journalist BJ Mason (Christopher Carrington), who died at his computer while reporting on the effects and aftereffects of the disaster. The play is a poetical docudrama, accompanied (too sparingly) by the fine Bourbon Street Band. A montage of scenes intersect. Drag queen Bella Sera (Wil Bowers) emcees a traditional hurricane party, with the vivacious ensemble, but in this story, it's the hurricane and not the party that gets out of hand. Director Tchia Casselle guides a series of monologues and scenes that depict an elderly woman (Elisabeth Noone) abandoned and trapped in a nursing home as the waters rise; a mother (Kvon Harris) and her 10-year-old son (Justin Galluccio) separated by the flood, and who then spend the play seeking each other, sometimes in different cities; a mixed-race couple (Barika A. Croom and Jacob White) on their honeymoon hold each other in an attic, as the floodwaters rise. And Kimberly Niccole turns in a tender, harrowing performance as a young woman seething with racism. Beamed, still images from the disaster accompany the narrative, which, via words and the performances, provides a visceral sense of what it must have been like in the filthy holding pen of the Houston Astrodome. The performance is a memorial filled with a grim, grimy and a sometimes animated testament to who we are, and what we become, in the wake of disaster. Write Act Repertory Theater, 6128 Yucca Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through October 24. (323) 469-3113. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO THE ILLUSION Translator Ranjit Bolt's adaptation of Corneille's 17th-century classic starts out stodgily but soon swerves merrily into comic gear. A remorseful father (Kevin McCorkle) seeks the help of a magician (Alexander Wright) in tracking down his estranged son. It turns out the young man, Clindor (Benny Wills) — attached to a fatuous nobleman named Matamore (Jon Monastero) — has been acting as emissary for this overblown buffoon to a lady named Isabelle (Nicole Disson). Something of a Don Juan, Clindor has clandestinely wooed both Isabelle and her maid, Lyse (Kendra Chell), who now smolders with jealousy, aware that her opportunistic paramour has upped his sights on the social ladder. Directed by David Bridel, the production gets laughs from Monastero's lisping braggart-nobleman, whose grandiose claims to be a mighty warrior and lover evaporate at the mere whiff of a challenge. As the maid, Chell airs much of the script's wit and wisdom in a smart, snappy performance. Disson and other supporting players also deliver the goods. Wills is fine as the dashing hero, but the production might have been more interesting if he'd played it less upright and instead exploited the character's deviousness a little more. Eventually the play's humor deflates, as the magician's tale mutates into a portrait of adultery and of the marriage between Isabelle and Clindor gone awry. Christina Wright's costumes add color and charm. Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 21. (323) 882-6912. (Deborah Klugman)

LA RONDE DE LUNCH Peter Lefcourt's “Tinseltown tour de farce” set in a pretentious Hollywood restaurant. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (310) 358-9936.

GO LIFE COULD BE A DREAM This affectionate doo-wop juke-box musical by writer-director Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes), with clever choreography by Lee Martino, handsome set by Tom Buderwitz, and spectacular lighting by Luke Moyer, is designed to incorporate hit songs of the 1960s, ranging from the goofy “Sh Boom” and “Rama Lama Ding Dong” to anthems like “Earth Angel,” “Unchained Melody,” “The Great Pretender,” and “The Glory of Love.” In small-town Springfield, the local radio station is sponsoring a rock-and-roll contest, and go-getter Denny (Daniel Tatar) is convinced he can win and become a star. He enlists his klutzy, nerdish, endearing friend Eugene (Jim Holdridge) and church-choir singer Wally (Ryan Castellino) to join him. Needing a sponsor to provide the $50 entrance fee for the contest, they apply to the proprietor of the local auto chain. He sends his top mechanic, handsome, hunky Skip (Doug Carpenter), and his pretty daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn), to audition the guys, and by the end they're incorporated in the new group, Denny and the Dreamers. This is pure fluff, and the terrific ensemble makes every note count in this rousing good-time musical. (Neal Weaver) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., and Sun., 3 p.m.; through Nov. 29. (323) 960-4412.

LOVE SCENES Moe Bertran stars in David Pumo's study of gay New Yorkers. Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25, www.plays411.com/lovescenes. (323) 969-2530.

MOVING ARTS' 15TH ANNUAL PREMIERE ONE-ACT FESTIVAL For full schedule, go to www.movingarts.org. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 30. (323) 666-3259.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NUTHIN Shakespeare's comedy, transported to 1940s Tennessee. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 21, www.arktheatre.org. (323) 969-1707.

GO NAKED BOYS SINGING When this musical, written and directed by Robert Schrock, debuted at the Celebration Theatre in 1998, it was the first show to acknowledge candidly that it featured nudity for its own sake, without explanation, justification or apologies. (The opening number was, and is, called “Gratuitous Nudity.”) Some audiences were astonished to discover that, when the actors are relaxed, uninhibited and enjoying the situation, nudity is remarkably unshocking. The show has achieved enduring worldwide success, though a brief L.A. revival a couple of years ago was decidedly lackluster. One wondered if the show would hold up, now that the novelty is gone. Not to worry. This new production, featuring eight talented and very naked men (Eric B. Anthony, Jeffrey A. Johns, Jack Harding, Timothy Hearl, Marco Infante, Tony Melson, Daniel Rivera, and Victor Tang), proves that when performed with wit, insouciance and skill, the show still has the capacity to charm. It's exuberant, and full of joie de vivre, and when the actors are having fun, the audience has fun. Though not all the voices are strong, the cast are all engaging, Schrock's direction is crisp and fast-paced, and the songs offer ample wit and humor. Gerald Sternbach provides excellent musical direction. Macha Theatre, 1107 Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through November 22. (323) 960-4424. (Neal Weaver)

GO NEVER LAND Phyllis Nagy is a New Yorker who has spent the larger part of her playwriting career in Britain, and is now a naturalized citizen of the U.K. (Her poetical and unflinchingly brutal works were embraced by Stephen Daldry's Royal Court Theatre, and she currently has commissions with both the National Theatre of Great Britain and the Royal Shakespeare Company.) She's here to direct the U.S. premiere of her play, Never Land, a comedy of sorts that grapples firmly and unsentimentally with many facets of exile. In the rain-soaked south of France, a native, Henri Joubert (Bradley Fisher), his wife, Anne (Lisa Pelikan), and their beautiful, aging daughter, Elisabeth (Katherine Tozer), possess the language, dialect and attitudes of upwardly mobile Brits. They simply lack the lineage and resources — what with Henri working as a hired hand at the local perfumery for a jocular, world-wise boss (William Dennis Hunt). Henri's woes are compounded by his masochistic daughter's engagement to a presumptuous black man (William Christopher Stephens), and by Michael's offer to sweep her out of France — an offer Henri's wife envies and covets. Henri also has an offer — or, like his daughter, he believes he does. An Englishman, Nicholas Caton-Smith (Christopher Shaw), who lives half the year in France, runs a series of bookshops in lackluster British cities. Henri believes that his future happiness lies in managing one of his neighbor's shops in Bristol. (Shannon Holt has a beguiling, twitchy humor as Caton-Smith's poodle of a wife.) The murkiness of these promises forms the strategically wobbling axis of Nagy's Absurdist and ultimately despondent comedy, which speaks as much in symbols and dreams as it does in the gently unfolding story — not unlike a latter-day Woyzeck. The family portraits that decorate Frederica Nascimento's stark set are removed, one by one, as the scenes progress, as the rain pours down unrelentingly. The comedy is lyrical, urbane and erotically charged (largely by Swinda Reichelt's silky costumes), yet technical problems intrude upon what should be a kind of haunting. In one scene, the sound of the rain is so severe, crucial dialogue becomes muffled. Moreover, the play's flow depends on a descent from a comedy of British manners into the marsh created by the emotional and atmospheric tempests of a foreign land. Despite the caliber of the actors, the blithe and witty repartee of Act 1 is more mannered than crackling, giving the production a layer of artifice it can ill afford, with its already built-in shifts to the laconic and the violent. This beautiful, difficult play deserves a fully accomplished production to match its brilliance. It could approach that standard as its run progresses. Rogue Machine in Theater/Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through November 15. (323) 960-7774. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO POINT BREAK LIVE! Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3). Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.. (866) 811-4111.

GO SAVIN' UP FOR SATURDAY NIGHT A thunder'n'lightinin' romance between ex-spouses crackling around a restraining order lies in the vain heart of Jeff Goode (book) and Richard Levinson's (songs) new musical, set in an undisclosed locale that sounds a whole lot like west Texas. And though this is a countrified variation on Erin Kamler's urban and urbane Divorce! The Musical, that played at the Coast Playhouse earlier this year, director Jeremy Aldridge does double-duty to seduce us into an environment, as he did with last year's hit at this same theater, Louis & Keely, Live at the Sahara. David Knutson's set transforms the theater into small town canteen/gas station, with plastic L.P records and American flags pinned to the wall. Jaimie Froemming's Texas costumes can make you feel a tad out of place for leaving that shirt with the fringe and the cowboy boots in the closet. And there are other striking similarities between Savin' Up and Louis & Keely: a marriage on the rocks, an onstage band (honky-tonk rather than jazz, consisting of musical director/guitarist John Groover McDuffie, who's also on Pedal Steel; Peter Freiberger on bass; Dave Fraser on piano; John Palmer on drums; and Al Bonhomme, alternating on guitar). Levinson's songs are a throwback to early Elton John, when he was working with Bernie Taupin, with a twist of Randy Newman's harmonic grandeur. Each of the two acts opens with a ballad accompanied just by piano (“Dr. Bartender” and “Small Town”) that have simple yet haunting harmonic progressions from John's earliest albums, and the shit-kicking Act 2 “Gotta Lotta Rockin' To Do” is a musical nod to John's “Saturday Night's Alright (for Fighting).” Also echoing Louis & Keely is a dimension that makes this show just right for L.A. — a prevalent tension between narcissism and the capacity to give of oneself, that's perfectly embodied in the delusions of Eldridge, Jr. (Brendan Hunt), a local homophobe who believes he possesses the charisma and style of Elvis Presley. In fact, he has a slight speech impediment and a deranged glint in his eye. His singing act dominates the bar, with his name in lights as a backdrop. (A number of the bulbs tellingly need replacing, like in his own emotional circuitry.) Can he win back his ex, Lucinda (the vivacious Natascha Corrigan) – a woman of machine-gun wit and fury who works double time to penetrate the impenetrable veneer of Eldridge's ego? Things get touchy, when Eldridge's long time friend, bartender Doc (the bear-like Bryan Krasner) finally has the guts to make a move of Lucinda, while sweet Patsy (Courtney DeCosky) cares for Eldridge – but not that much. It's a thin entertainment, enhanced by Allison Bibicoff's sashaying choreography, but an entertainment nonetheless. Its tone of sentimentality sprinkled with metaphysics is embodied in the song “Here,” beautifully rendered by Rachel Howe, who plays a daffy waitress. The place and people can make you so insane, you want to flee, she croons: “And I know someday/We're all just gonna disappear/So I want to take the time right now to say/I really love it here.” Sacred Fools Theatre, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct 4 & 11, 7 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (310) 281-8337. (Steven Leigh Morris)

SHERLOCK'S LAST CASE Charles Marowitz toys with the Victorian sleuth. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, (Added 2:30 p.m. perfs Oct. 17, 24 & 31.). (323) 462-8460.

GO SHINING CITY Conor McPherson's pristine study in urban loneliness, first produced in 2004, unfolds in a Dublin walkup where a sexually confused therapist, Ian (William Dennis Hurley), listens, and listens, and listens some more to the half completed sentences spewed by his despondent client, John (Morlan Higgins), who keeps bursting into paroxysms of sobbing over the loss of his wife, killed in an auto accident. Making matters worse, the couple were estranged at the time, and what will eventually unfold is John's story of his blazingly pathetic and unconsumed adultery with someone he met at a party — his blunderings, his selfishness, and his need not so much for sex but for the validation that comes from human contact, which his now-late wife couldn't provide to his satisfaction. John is haunted by her ghost, and Ian must ever so gently tell him that what he saw or heard was real, but ghosts simply aren't. (That gently yet smugly articulated theory will be challenged, along with every other pretense of what's real, and what isn't.) While listening to his forlorn client, and answering with such kindness and sensitivity, Ian is himself going through hell: A former priest, he must now explain to his flummoxed wife (Kerrie Blaisdell, imagine the multiple reactions of a cat that's just been thrown out a window) that he's leaving her, and their child, though he will move mountains to continue to support them financially. Ian's plight becomes a tad clearer with the visit of a male prostitute (Benjamin Keepers) in yet another pathetic and almost farcical endeavor to connect with another human being. Director Stephen Sachs' meticulous attention to detail manifests itself in the specificity with which Ian places his chair, in the sounds of offstage footsteps on the almost abandoned building's stairwell (sound design by Peter Bayne), in the ebbs and flows of verbiage and silence, in Higgins' hulking tenderness, and in the palate of emotions reflected in the slender Hurley's withering facial reactions. This is a moving portrait, in every sense: delicate, comical, desolate and profoundly humane. It's probably a bit too long, the denouement lingers to margins of indulgence, but that's a quibble in a production of such rare beauty. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through December 19. (323) 663-1525. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO THE SOMETHING – NOTHING An excessively late start, covered by pounding, annoying club music led this reviewer to notice only the flaws in the first part of this outing — but Fielding Edlow's smart script and the fine acting eventually prevailed. Three solipsistic New Yorkers nearing 30 pride themselves on their cynical worldliness while simultaneously hiding their desperate loneliness and fear of intimacy. Liza (Annika Marks) awkwardly uses the most complicated words in conversation, which is ironically laced with the youthful crutch of “like” several times per sentence. She persists in trying to keep up with those she secretly believes are her intellectual superiors. She is alternately adored and scorned by her near-psychotic lesbian roommate Luna (a delightfully grotesque performance by Robyn Cohen) as well as by her love interest, a narcissistic would-be writer (played with sexual zeal and emotional vacancy by Michael Rubenstone). The three characters spiral down into self-pity, lifted occasionally by some moments of genuine human contact — generally shut down by the receiving party. Edlow's dialogue bounces between razor-sharp and languid, creating a weird uneasiness. She ends the second act with a character shouting, “This is not a Neil LaBute play” — a remarkable insight, as the play does feel like a female response to LaBute's constant woman-baiting. Director Kiff Scholl smartly allows his hand to disappear, giving over the storytelling to the richly textured, sad characters. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (323) 960-7721. (Tom Provenzano)

SONDHEIM UNSCRIPTED Impro Theatre makes up musicals. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22. (800) 838-3006.

GO STOP KISS Manhattan traffic newscaster Callie (Deborah Puette) meets Sara (Kristina Harrison) the week the young blonde schoolteacher arrives in the city. Both have always identified themselves as straight: Callie's got her friend-with-benefits George (Christan Anderson), who she assumes she'll marry once they both stop trying to find someone better, and Sara has just left her boyfriend of seven years, Peter (Justin Okin), behind in St. Louis in her quest to find a bigger, harder, more worthwhile life. The two women gradually become best friends, deliciously tormented by their quiet hints that they both want a more physical relationship. But no sooner do they stick a tentative foot out of the closet than they're pushed out in the worst possible way — as a news story about a violent bigot who puts Sara in a coma. Diana Son's time-jumping play about coping with the unexpected skips from their first meeting to Callie's first sitdown with the investigating cop (Jeorge Watson); we're rooting for the couple to get together under the shadow of the consequences. But Son's equal emphasis on romance makes the play looser and more inviting than a social problem drama, and the question isn't about the source of hate, but the depth of Callie's love when Peter announces that Sara's family wants to move her hospital bed back to Missouri. Under Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkin's direction, the ensemble opening night was still a little stiff, but Puette's tender performance captures a haphazard woman realizing that she's finally sure of at least one thing. (Amy Nicholson) Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (Sat., Oct. 24, 5 p.m.) ; thru Oct. 25. www.roguemachinetheatre.com. (323) 960-7774. A Rogue Machine production

NEW REVIEW STRAY
Photo by Karl Gajdusek

There's

an old adage taught in playwriting workshops that goes something like,

“When in doubt, raise the stakes.” The idea being that the extremity of

potential consequences directly determines a drama's narrative torque.

Judging by this earnest but desultory, Bad Seed melodrama, it's

a class playwright Ruth McKee evidently skipped. What's at stake here

is whether the disruptive, albeit never-seen, 8-year-old Ugandan

refugee, Daniel, will be allowed to stay at his Midwestern magnet

school or whether his increasingly bizarre behavior will banish him to

the “special-ed warehouse” at the city's overcrowded and underfunded

elementary school. For his altruistic, white adoptive parents, James

(Matt Gaydos) and his Kenyan wife, Rachel (Analeis Lorig), the wrong

outcome threatens to tarnish their reputations as caregivers. For the

school's harried principal, Tanya (the fine Angela Bullock), and

Daniel's neophyte teacher, Ms. Kennedy (the funny Jennifer Chang), it's

impossible to both teach and deal with a child who cowers under his

desk and barks (and bites!) like a rabid dog. As a therapist is brought

in (Eileen Galindo) and battle lines are drawn, there's a tantalizing

moment when the characters' emerging emotional insecurities, personal

prejudices and cultural misunderstandings seem poised to give flight to

a caustic comedy of errors. That this more satisfying trajectory never

lifts off is no fault of director Larissa Kokernot's brisk staging or

of her polished ensemble, but rather the timidity and pallid plotting

of McKee's surface-bound text. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico

Blvd., Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22.

(800) 838-3006.  https://www.thedahlia.com  (Bill Raden)

SUNDAY OF THE DEAD All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

10-MINUTE PLAY FESTIVAL Info and tickets at www.attictheatre.org. The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. (323) 525-0661.

TILTED FRAME Live improv performed simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francsico, thanks to the magic of the Internet. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 19, www.tiltedframe.com. (323) 962-1632.

TINY VAUDEVILLE 826LA hosts this once-a-month variety show benefiting children's writing and tutoring programs. The Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A.; Last Monday of every month, 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 28, www.826la.org/store-tickets/. (213) 413-8200.

VAMPIRE MASQUERADE Vampires and witches put on a show, written and directed by Chris Berube. Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Fri., 8 & 9:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 20, www.theberubians.com. (323) 850-7827.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS

NEW REVIEW AS WHITE AS O Against the backdrop of a New

York art show titled “The Innocents: 30 Years of Outsider Art in

America,” this world premiere of novelist Stacy Sims' first dramatic

endeavor explores synesthesia, a condition in which senses are cross

wired so that feelings are 'tasted' and letters and numbers appear in

specific colors, among other things.  The “outsiders,” in this case are

Jack (Vince Tula) and his father Sam (Mark St. Amant), who both spent

much of Jack's childhood in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky festooning their

modest backwoods cabin with the detritus of our consumer society. 

While such decoration was therapeutic for them after losing Jack's

mother Grace (Elizabeth Sampson), they are discovered by Clara (Lauren

Clark), a documentary filmmaker who becomes interested in the house and

in Sam.  Running parallel to this storyline, adult Jack is the subject

of another work in the same show by Ed (Ramon Campos), who interviews

and videotapes Jack to create his piece.  The play fluidly oscillates

between the present and the past, and accomplished director Sam

Anderson deftly handles the transitions, though his pacing and shaping

of his characters' emotional climaxes is a bit uneven.  Desma Murphy's

set, enhanced by Jeremy Pivnick's subtly shifting lighting, is

wonderfully detailed and spatially enhances the thematic elements in

the piece.  The cast has moments of inspiration, but only Sampson

consistently delivers the emotional energy required of Sims' script,

which itself would be strengthened by fewer tangential story-lines, and

a stronger central plot. The Road Theatre, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., N.

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru December 12.  (866)

811-4111.  (Mayank Keshaviah)

A BIG GAY NORTH HOLLYWOOD WEDDING Interactive homo-nuptials, by William A. Reilly and Ben Rovner. Crown City Theatre, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 745-8527.

BOSTON MARRIAGE David Mamet's Victorian comedy. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri., Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 1, 3 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 7, 8 p.m.. (818) 700-4878.

NEW REVIEW GO CHESAPEAKE
Photo by Katherine Bedoian

There's

much to enjoy in Lee Blessing's philosophic mono-drama — so long as

you don't expect too much logic and credibility. It's a fantastic,

cockeyed parable about a naïve, idealistic performance artist named

Kerr (Mark Thomsen), who's heavily influenced by Italian Futurist

writer Filippo Marinetti. When he performs a nude rendition of the

Biblical “Song of Songs,” Kerr's condemned as a pornographer by ultra

conservative Senator Therm Pooley, who's hell-bent on killing off the

National Endowment for the Arts. Pooley has a dog, a Chesapeake Bay

retriever named Lucky, which gives him a folksy, vote-getting aura. In

a far-fetched scheme, Kerr decides to kidnap Lucky as a piece of

reality-based performance art. His plans go awry, Lucky is accidentally

killed, and Kerr is mysteriously transformed into a retriever, who

looks exactly like Lucky. He's adopted by Pooley, who's convinced that

he's a messenger from God. Thomsen is a skillful, likeable performer,

who finds rich comedy in the plight of a man who's half human and half

dog. The play's clever twists and turns don't entirely add up, but

director Martin Bedoian gives it a clever, funny production, and

Thomsen's performance alone is worth the trip. CTG Theatre, 1111-B West

Olive Avenue, Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., thru Oct. 31.

Produced by Syzygy Theatre Group. (800) 838-3006 or  https://www.Syzygytheatre.org. (Neal Weaver)

GO CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD Most productions of Mark Medoff's pioneering 1979 drama about the romance between a deaf student and her hearing-abled teacher are directed and staged from the point of view of a hearing audience, who are introduced to the world of the hearing-challenged. Yet, director Jonathan Barlow Lee's haunting production of the play, staged by Deaf West Theater to celebrate the piece's 30th anniversary and the epochal role the drama played in the advent of Deaf Theater, is compellingly told from the point of view of the deaf, with those who can hear being subtly poised as outsiders. The play tells the story of beautiful, deaf student Sarah (Shoshannah Stern), a pupil at a school for the deaf who steadfastly refuses to learn how to communicate – either verbally or through ASL. Although Sarah's choice exiles her from any contact with the hearing world, the young communications instructor assigned to her, James (Matthew Jaeger), finds her fiery spirit irresistible – and they eventually fall in love, a romance that is ultimately threatened by the stresses of their two hugely different worlds. Though Act 2's focus on 1970s earnest-revolutionary issues inevitably causes the dramatic momentum to sag, Medoff's play has aged less in terms of its activist stance for the deaf and more in terms of the tightening of protocol in teacher-student relationships over the decades: The romance between a teacher and his student now actually seems somewhat creepy, and we can't help but wonder whether James' kind concerns for his student would be so intense if she weren't so physically attractive to him. Still, Lee's production — orchestrated for audiences at all level of hearing ability — dazzles, and the ensemble, encompassing hearing, deaf, and hard-of-hearing actors, offer beautiful, subtle acting turns. Stern's ferocious performance as Sarah is particularly powerful. With the exception of one elementally searing moment, the actress doesn't utter a sound – yet, we're struck by how much passion and love can be communicated via ASL during her operatic, yet paradoxically silent performance. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 1. (866) 811-4111. (Paul Birchall)

THE END OF CIVILIZATION George F. Walker's dark comedy about a middle class couple's economic decline. Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 29, www.skypilottheatre.com. (818) 558-5702.

FINDING NEO Original one-acts by Denise Devin, Alex Dremann, Michael Erger, David Garry, Mark Harvey Levine, David Lewison, Marina Palmier, Donaco Smyth, and Ralph Tropf. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 29. (877) 620-7673.

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS World-premiere play with music by Laurie Stevens and Ronald Jacobs. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (877) 620-7673.

THE FOREIGNER Larry Shue's comedy. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 14. (626) 256-3809.

GOD SAVE GERTRUDE Playwright Deborah Stein's melodramatic, musical mash-up of '70s punk-rock and Hamlet is eerily reminiscent of a beer-fueled, college-dorm-room debate over what constitutes a punk aesthetic — albeit the losing side. As suggested by Stein's fictional ex-punk superstar-turned vodka-swilling first lady, Gertrude (Jill Van Velzer), the play argues that punk was a politically idealistic movement agitating for social revolution. Maybe, but real-life veterans of New York's CBGB's or Max's Kansas City — Gertrude's erstwhile, formative music scenes — might remember something slightly more sardonic, skeptical and nihilistic. Nevertheless, in this Bizarro Shakespeare, where a besieged Elsinore is under bombardment by an anarchist army, Gertrude takes refuge in a decrepit theater (on Susan Gratch's war-torn set) to perform an impromptu concert of old songs interspersed with regrets over her betrayal of that alleged punk spirit. Her remorse includes complicity in the murder of a first husband by her current president/spouse (James Horan) that has left her rising, rock-star son (Steve Coombs) smoldering with resentment. But if Van Velzer's portrayal of a grasping, narcissistic diva doesn't exactly resonate with the Bard's Gertrude, Stein and composer David Hanbury prove more in tune as a lyricist-songwriter team for the show's half-dozen, faux-vintage punk numbers. Van Velzer belts them out with credible gusto, though director Michael Michetti's somewhat lumbering production could have benefited from the energy of live accompaniment instead of musical director Rob Oriol's prerecorded band in a can. Theater @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through November 8. (626) 683-6883. (Bill Raden)

IT'S JUST SEX Jeff Gould's comedy about “lust and trust.”. Two Roads Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (818) 762-2282.

GO JUST IMAGINE The fun of seeing and hearing Tim Piper's great John Lennon impersonation in an intimate setting with an outstanding band, under Greg Piper's musical direction, is just undeniable. The evening, which includes a large portion of the Beatles catalog followed by Lennon's solo work, never misses a beat or lick with Piper's perfectly pitched and accented voice and expert instrumentation: Don Butler's hot guitar, Morley Bartnoff's keyboard and Don Poncher's drums. The guys scruffily kowtow to Lennon's lead, creating the perfect illusion of superstar power. Jonathan Zenz's sound design achieves a powerful volume without killing our ears in the small Noho Arts Center space. Lighting by Luke Moyer along with Tim Piper's video images complete the double fantasy of Lennon before and after Yoko. The musical portion is so enjoyable, under the overall eye of director Steve Altman, that we hopefully forget the lame one-man play that slips between the songs. Perhaps the plan is to pull Lennon off his lofty saintlike perch, but the result of a plodding timeline narrative bio leaves Lennon sounding dull and whiny, until the music returns him to his proper place. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. www.justimaginetheshow.com. (818) 508-7101, Ext. 7. (Tom Provenzano)

GO MOM'S THE WORD Six mothers wrote these intertwined jokes and rants about parenting, and even those who haven't undergone birth themselves (a minority in the audience I was part of) feel sympathy pangs after Kimleigh Smith starts the show by screaming and pleading for the pain to go away. That agonizingly true opener arcs from “What have I done?” to “How couldn't I have done this?” Though the trajectory of the show is a vindication of motherhood, the five actors (all parents themselves) cathartically focus on the smelly, slimy, exhausting, self-denigrating, unsexy, paranoid and bewildering qualities motherhood elicits. This certainly isn't a Precious Moments valentine to parenting; happy moments are so rare, it's a small feat that director Jerry London makes the closing sufficiently upbeat that the parents in the house don't immediately make a dropoff at the nearest orphanage. In a nifty bit of casting, Smith, Gina Torrecilla, Becky Thyre and Cathy Schenkelberg are joined by real-life gay dad Hutchins Foster, who steps into an originally female role with just a few tweaks. This casual and enthusiastic evening is worth a babysitter for moms and dads who want to hear others speak the unspeakable. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. (818) 508-0281. (Amy Nicholson)

NOT WITH MONSTERS Zombie Joe Underground presents Adam Neubauer's “madcap race through time and classic horror monsters.”. ZJU Theater Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Oct. 31. (818) 202-4120.

NEW REVIEW PRIVATE EYES There are so many lies afoot in

playwright Steven Dietz's puzzle box of a romantic comedy, you'll be

excused if you come away with the impression that if they're talking,

they're lying.   The play opens with a scene in which a hateful

director abuses a young actress who has shown up to audition for his

play. However, in a surprise reveal, the sequence turns out to be scene

from a play within the play being rehearsed between a married pair of

actors, Lisa (Sarah Kelly) and Matthew (Adam Hunter Howard). Other

revelations follow:  Lisa is having an affair with the play's slimy

director Adrian (James Elden), and they both assume that Matthew

doesn't know about it – that's even part of the thrill for them. Yet,

it turns out that Matthew is keeping a few surprises under his belt, as

well.  Dietz's play is ingeniously structured in a convoluted time line

that inevitably brings to mind Pinter's Betrayal, with us often being

left guessing the characters' personalities and motivations from scene

to scene.  Although the dialogue is glib and occasionally ferociously

witty, the characters' essential inscrutability becomes increasingly

off-putting, while director Dan Fishbach's smooth, straightforward

staging is unable to shed any light on these peoples' motivations.  The

impression we're left, perhaps intentionally, is of a group of

spiteful, self absorbed folks whose desire for romantic adventure leads

only to despair.  Kelly does a fine job depicting an otherwise sensible

gal who finds herself caught up in a compulsive appetite for romantic

risk, but the male performers are strangely cipher-like, making it hard

to understand why Kelly would prefer one above the other.  Raven

Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Oct. 25.  (323) 960-7782 or https://www.privateeyesla.com Epiphany Productions.   (Paul Birchall)

REP*A*TROIS Three plays in rotating rep: Heroes by Gerard Sibleyras, Painting Churches by Tina Howe, and Boston Marriage by David Mamet. (Call for schedule.). Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sun..; thru Nov. 7. (818) 700-4878.

ROCKIN' WITH THE AGES Following in the footsteps of such shows as Too Old For the Chorus, this musical revue gives the over-60 set a chance to sing, dance, kick up their heels, and prove they're not too old to cut the mustard. Not surprisingly, the songs tend to be nostalgic golden oldies, ranging from “My Man” and “These Boots Are Made For Walkin,'” “The Music of the Night,” and “Summertime.” But there's some real talent here, a number of terrific voices, and a sequin-and-feather-clad tap-dancing ensemble called The Razzmatappers, who prove they're as spry and energetic as most 20-year-olds. Vocal highlights include David Lara's operatic renditions of “Summertime,” and “O Solo Mio,” Carl Jacobs' “Dream the Impossible Dream,” Susan La Croix's sassy rendition of “Anything Goes,” and Klyda Hill Mahoney's “Stormy Weather.” Director Warren Berlinger keeps the show moving along nicely, emcee Hank Garrett adds dollops of naughty Catskill-type humor, and Ron Rose provides deft keyboard accompaniments. There's a huge cast, but the lineup seems to vary from performance to performance. The show is obviously a big hit with seniors, but it's hard to say how much appeal it'll have for younger audiences. Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through October 25. (818) 506-0600. (Neal Weaver)

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's musical thriller. Chandler Studio, 12443 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.theprodco.com. (800) 838-3006.

THAT PERFECT MOMENT What is it about rock & roll that makes it so stubbornly resistant to conventional dramatic representation? Perhaps it's that the rock metanarrative — the collective absurdity of backstage misbehavior, egocentric pettiness and self-destructive excess that is somehow transcended in the artistry and catharsis of the live performance — runs so close to self-parody that it can only be captured in documentary or satire (or both, i.e., This is Spinal Tap). Whatever the reason, playwrights Charles Bartlett and Jack Cooper's warmed-over band-reunion dramedy misses the mark by an L.A. mile. When ponytailed, 60-something literature professor, Mark Vanowen (Tait Ruppert), hears that a label is interested in his former, never-signed, '60s protest band, The Weeds, for an oldies compilation, he promptly recalls his old bandmates to discuss reforming for a support tour. The problem is former drummer Skip (Bruce Katzman), now a prosperous Republican with a McMansion in Calabasas, who holds the song rights along with a vindictive grudge against Mark for jumping ship at the moment of The Weeds' almost-success. Complicating matters is Mark's wife, Sarah (Kelly Lester), who abruptly walks out after he chucks his department's chairmanship for a last stab at rock & roll glory. Though director Rick Sparks elicits spirited performances from a stellar cast (including Sha Na Na's Guerin Barry and the comically gifted John Bigham), neither Adam Flemming's sterile apartment set nor the play's atonal text musters the authenticity needed to make this production rock. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N.Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through November 8. plays411.com/perfect. (323) 960-7745. (Bill Raden)

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation of Harper Lee's classic novel suffers from a lack of narrative drive due to the inclusion of an adult narrator. In the much-beloved story, Scout (Rachel Arnold), her brother, Jem (Dalton O'Dell), and friend Dill (Taylor Cosgrove Scofield) spend a long, hot summer in 1935 Macomb, Alabama, trying to get Boo Radley (Price Carson) to come out of his house. Scout also observes how her lawyer father, Atticus (Jim Gleason), handles a trumped-up rape charge against a black man named Tom Robinson (Myron Primes), levied by the racist Bob Ewell (David Wells) and his daughter Mayella (Hayden Wyatt). Although well-intentioned, this adaptation's use of a both 7-year-old Scout and her adult self (Penny Louise Moore, who also directs) gives the play a strained earnestness. However, the acting can't be faulted, and director (and set designer!) Moore astutely marshals the large cast on the small stage, which also benefits from her set design. The child actors are terrific, particularly Scofield. Gleason achieves the right gravitas as Atticus, and Wells makes an outstanding snarling villain. Actors Repertory Theater at Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through October 25. brownpapertickets.com/event/74143. (800) 838-3006. (Sandra Ross)

NEW REVIEW GO
Photo by Ed Krieger

WONDER

OF THE WORLD Contemporary American farce has a hero in playwright David

Lindsay-Abaire, who skews old-fashioned two-dimensional absurdity by

surreptitiously adding depth to initially shallow characters. Elizabeth

Bond's brilliant, comi-tragic performance  embodies Cass – a wife who

suddenly leaves her seven-year marriage after discovering a grotesque

secret about her otherwise dull husband Kip (Ian Vogt). She follows her

list of adventures she wants to experience, which takes her to Niagra

Falls and a cast of oddballs, who slowly turn into a strange new

family. Chief among these is Lois (Kimberly Van Luin) a drunken

divorcée determined to end her life by riding a barrel over the falls.

Director Neil Wilson skillfully attends to each new piece of

foolishness, sustaining the intensity of performances even as the

comedy cuts through. Of special interest is Jen Ray, who plays several

absurd caricatures with conviction. Act 1 produces some of the most

honest laughs this reviewer has experienced in years. The second act

doesn't quite live up to the hilarity and emotional charge promised by

the first, but at least it offers a satisfying conclusion – and an

obligatory adventure scene. The script demands several distinct setting

and designer Damon Fortier provides them with skill and wit. Victory

Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Nov. 15. (818) 841-5422. https://SeaGlassTheatre.org A SeaGlass Theatre Company production. (Tom Provenzano)

THE WONDERFUL ICE CREAM SUIT Ray Bradbury's fantastical comedy. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Nov. 14, www.plays411.com/raybradbury. (323) 960-4451.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

ABSOLUTELY HALLOWEEN Holiday-themed Rudie-DeCarlo musical. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 1:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Oct. 31, https://www.theatermania.com/los-angeles/shows/absolutely-halloween_159396/. (310) 394-9779.

NEW REVIEW CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT
Photo by Chris Kane

Vampires

have saturated pop culture to the point that it seems impossible it

could hold one more drop of blood. Scott Martin's musical takes us back

112 years, when hobbyist, writer and backstage grunt Bram Stoker

(Robert Patteri) can't get any interest in the first reading of his new

play, Dracula. The cast and audience think it mediocre and cornball.

Worse, though Stoker wrote the role of the Count for the great actor

Sir Henry Irving (Gordon Goodman), his longtime business partner

refuses to play the part. Irving's excuse is that Dracula is ghastly

trash; besides, he adds, “I've never played a Romanian.” We suspect

it's that Irving also sees too much of himself in it; he's been sucking

Stoker dry for 20 years. There's the bones of an interesting musical

about predatory friendship and faith in your creative instincts, but

the thrust of the play is merely about whether Stoker and champion

Ellen Terry (Teri Bibb, very good) can sway Irving's mind. When Goodman

bites into the Count's dialogue, he's so terrifying and imperious we

agree with Stoker's fixation, but mostly this is a handsomely done

production that putters, and the songs that fuel it could be

transplanted into dozens of other musicals by scarcely tweaking the

lyrics. Under David Galligan's direction, the strong ensemble looks and

sounds great, with supporting players Gabrielle Wagner, Ashley Cuellar,

Melissa Bailey and Gibby Brand flaunting their comic timing in the

numbers “How Do I Get a Part with the D'Oyly Carte?” and “The Scottish

Play.”  Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 1. A Katselas Theatre

Company production. (310) 358-9936. (Amy Nicholson)

CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25 years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired, she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; through Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.

DEAD GUILTY Richard Harris' suspense thriller. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 7. (562) 494-1014.

GO THE DOCTOR DESPITE HIMSELF In Molière's farce, oafish woodcutter Sganarelle (Charles Fathy) takes a (rubber) mallet and beats his wife, Martine (Clara Bellar), like a dirty carpet, and why not? since she kind of likes it. However, this doesn't prevent Martine from spitefully telling a passing dolt (Brad Schmidt) that Sganarelle is a famous surgeon who enjoys being paid for his toils by receiving even more-savage beatings. The dolt beats Sganarelle like a brass gong and then hires him to cure his master's daughter (Raquel Brussolo) of muteness. Of course, it turns out that the girl is only pretending to be mute so she can trick her dullard dad (Steven Houska) and marry the handsome student (Brad Schmidt) she loves. More beatings ensue. The first thing you need to know, even before watching the play's casual thumpings, is that director Gulu Montiero's madcap production is steeped in the art of the clowning. The show has the wonderfully shrill pitch and frantic pace of a living cartoon. The cast know the way around the 17th-century gags — and the goofiness is heightened by designer Swinda Reichelt's jaw-dropping costumes, which turn these classical characters into outlandish figures risen from some other dimension. In his leering turn as Sganarelle, Fathy's grinning mug floats in what appears to be a blubbering multicolored beach ball, and when he turns into “the doctor,” he is fitted with a bizarre collar with dangling tassles your cats would adore. Sganarelle's spiteful wife wears a plastic-y swoop skirt covered with rubber balls — and she then returns later as a sexy housemaid, wearing weird plastic blond braids and gigantic plaster breasts. The result of all this artistry is a production that is both timeless and yet cracklies with the freshness of a living children's picture book. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave, Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through November 8. (310) 823-0710. www.electriclodge.org. An Ipanema Theatre Troupe production. (Paul Birchall)

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE The Robert Louis Stevenson classic, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Nov. 8. (310) 364-0535.

HATE MAIL Bill Corbett and Kira Obolensky's correspondence comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 29. (310) 512-6030.

JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY Henry Jaglom's world premiere about a family of thespians. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 392-7327.

GO THE NEED TO KNOW In a much-evolved solo show that she first presented at Burbank's tiny Sidewalk Studio Theatre seven years ago, and which she's been touring ever since, April Fitzsimmons has grown into the role. Given that her show is autobiographical, this is a bit like saying she's grown into herself, which is also probably true. Perhaps the show has taught her more about the complexities of life, but it's also taught her how to act. Her impersonations of family and friends, her vocal range, her physical dexterity and her comedic timing are now more fully accomplished, and a scene referring to Obama has been added. What starts as a domestic romp from her childhood in Montana and her fling with a man engaged to somebody else, slides into an adventure monitoring Russia and the Middle East as part of a U.S. Air Force intelligence team. Partly to spite her father and her family's Navy heritage (her father refused to support her wish to pursue an acting career in L.A.), she joined the Air Force, and found herself in the south of Italy, working as an intelligence analyst. Even then, she had a raw morality that simply bristled at evidence of nuclear materials being illegally trafficked across foreign lands, evidence that never made it into the press, because the “need-to-know” standard, and U.S. relations with those foreign governments, prevailed against it. That bristling was also the germinal fuel of Fitzsimmons' eventual antiwar activism: It's not wars that protect our freedom, it's the Bill of Rights, she tells a heckler at a beachfront, antiwar ceremony honoring U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. Having marched with an M-16, and been privy to the byzantine workings of the military-intelligence network, Fitzsimmons' has earned the right to stage an agitprop performance. She describes being a teenager in the south of Italy, living on the estate of an older Mafioso as refuge from her barracks. He sidles up to her and complains of his “tensseeon,” that the cure is “amoooree.” Yet Fitzsimmons flips this cheesy pickup line into poetry, when, at show's end, she speaks of the tensions in the world, and how the only cure is amore. Steven Anderson directs. Actors Gang, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; through October 24. (310) 838-4264. (Steven Leigh Morris)

ONCE IN A LIFETIME L.A. Theatre Works records this staged reading of Kaufman and Hart's comedy for syndicated radio series The Play's the Thing. Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Through Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Oct. 24, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 4 p.m., www.latw.org. (310) 827-0889.

RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.

SCENE BITES Multimedia show by Edgemar students. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Through Oct. 23, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 29, 8 p.m.. (310) 399-3666.

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS

CINDERELLA THE MUSICAL I attended writer-director Chris De Carlo & Evelyn Rudie's musical adaptation of the timeless fairy tale with my 9-year-old niece, Rachel. We found ourselves joined by a birthday party of kids who appeared to be around 6, though there was a smattering of infants and adults. These kids were obviously smitten with the broad comedic antics of the stepsisters (Celeste Akiki and Billie Dawn Greenblatt) and their mom (Serena Dolinksy, doubling, in a rare, high-concept moment of intended irony, as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother). The actors' goggle-eyed expressions and broad-as-a-barn reactions generated screams of laughter from the kids, who were also riveted by the songs (ranging in style from pop ballads to Gilbert and Sullivan parodies). This production has been chugging on and off for 25 years now. Actor John Waroff has dedicated a quarter century of his adult life strutting the boards as King Isgood, so points scored for perseverance, which is more than can be said for Rachel, who promised to write this review and then left it to me. Can't not mention Ashley Hayes' lush costumes, nor the tinny sound design that left the singers marooned. Rachel said she really liked the stepsisters and Cinderella (Melissa Gentry) but wished somebody had been more cruel, as in the story. Everybody here was just so nice, and Rachel was aching for something meaner or weirder. I concur. Rachel also said some unkind things about some of the performances, but if she wants those aired, she can write a review herself. (SLM) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., noon & 3 p.m.; through Dec. 27. (310) 394-9779.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED Douglas Carter Beane's look at Hollywood dealmaking. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 17. (310) 828-7519.

THE NEED TO KNOW April Fitzsimmons' journey from military recruit to peace activist. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (310) 838-4264.

THE NERD Larry Shue's comedy about a nerd. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road, Pacific Palisades; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 11. (310) 454-1970.

THE RECEPTIONIST If there is a premise behind playwright Adam Bock's superficial political satire, it might be the notion that even Adolf Eichmann had a beloved mother, and, no doubt, an efficient receptionist too. It is in the latter's domain of a generic, office waiting room (in Chris Covics' appropriately bland-moderne set) that Bock places his comic cautionary study in the mindless, bureaucratic surrender of moral judgment to the dictates of duty — what Hannah Arendt meant by “the banality of evil.” And there are few duties more banal than Beverly Wilkins' (Megan Mullally of NBC's Will & Grace). Holding down the front desk of the innocuous-sounding “Northeast Office,” the veteran employee sorts the mail, makes the coffee and screens the incoming calls for her harried boss, Mr. Raymond (Jeff Perry), at least when she isn't gossiping on the phone or giving relationship advice to Mr. Raymond's flighty, love-hungry assistant, Lorraine (Jennifer Finnigan). It is only with the surprise visit of the Central Office's affable Martin Dart (Chris L. McKenna) and Mr. Raymond's inexplicable absence that Beverly's comfortable routine begins to unravel and the horrific nature of the Northeast Office's “services” is finally brought to light. Though Mullally nails the officious manner and mercurial pettiness of the practiced office functionary, Bart DeLorenzo's detail-mired direction ultimately proves unable to bridge the miscalculated disconnect between Bock's cobweb-thin characterizations and the discordant heft of his message. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru November 23. (310) 477-2055. (Bill Raden) An Evidence Room/Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production.

RICHARD III Shakespeare's history play. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Oct. 24. (866) 811-4111.

SOCK & SHOE The “Sock” portion of this pair of clown and puppet acts features former Cirque du Soleil maestro Daisuke Tsuji in the latest incarnation of the nouveau pantomimist's quest to take clowning out of the circus and onto the performance-art stage. Call it clowning for those who hate clowns. “Death and Giggles” (co-created by Tsuji and puppeteer Cristina Bercovitz) eschews the Cirque's more egregious audience pandering and slapstick grotesquerie for an often lyrical and richly metaphoric exploration into the metaphysics of dying. Framed by an ocean-surf drowning, the narrative has Tsuji, who is made up in simple whiteface and dressed in a sports coat and tie, on a balloon-strewn stage, improvising and miming his way through a series of life memories, ranging from a petulant, hyper-active child being called to dinner, to a school cafeteria food fight, to the sexual awakening of adolescence, through adult experiences of love, marriage and loss. Each scene is punctuated by the wit and vivid atmospherics of composer Jonathan Snipes' striking sound design which, in what may be the show's cleverest conceit, is cued by Tsuji's bursting of successive balloons as each, drowning breath is released. The evening's curtain-raiser, “Sole Mate,” an ingratiatingly cute exercise in close foot puppetry, has Bercovitz's sneaker sing the titular, romantic ballad (music by Snipes, lyrics by Snipes, Bercovitz & Jessica Erskine) as it searches through Erskine's mismatching footwear for its missing mate. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m., Sept. 26 & Oct. 10; thru Oct. 23. (310) 838-4264. (Bill Raden)

THREE SISTERS As with much of Anton Chekhov's work, this play about the Prozorov family deals with the decay of the pre-Soviet Russian aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century and the uncertain future that lies ahead for the country. Set in a provincial town, the story centers on the lives of the titular femmes, Olga (Vanessa Waters), Maria (Susan Ziegler) and Irina (Murielle Zuker), who have lost their father and live in the family home with their older brother Andrey (Scott Sheldon) and his wife Natalia (Cameron Meyer), while they long to return to the glamour and excitement of Moscow. The challenge with Chekhov, of course, is striking the fine balance between the almost slapstick comedy and heartbreaking tragedy that alternately define the lives of his characters. Company co-founder and director Jack Stehlin does a laudable job with the humor in the text, and his balletic transition between Acts III and IV is innovative; however he never fully draws out the emotional weight of loss in the piece, leaving it to ubiquitous Russian “philosophizing.” Kitty Rose's layered set facilitates the numerous entrances and exits, and Zale Morris' finely detailed costumes have the appropriate period feel to them. The cast, too, is solid, but Meyer stands out in completing her emotional journey on stage and making us feel something, even if hatred, for the vicious figure she becomes. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m. (Wed. perfs until Oct. 14 only); Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (Sun. perf Nov. 8, 7 p.m.); thru November 8. (310) 477-2055, ext. 2. A Circus Theatricals Production. (Mayank Keshaviah)

THE VALUE OF NAMES West Coast Jewish Theater presents Jeffrey Sweet's comedy-drama. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Nov. 22, www.wcjt.org. (323) 506-8024.

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Edward Albee's sobriety PSA. Hermosa Beach Playhouse, 710 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Oct. 25, 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 25. (310) 372-4477.

WTF?! FESTIVAL Singer/songwriter series, film talkback series, theater and dance series, and literature series, each curated by actor Tim Robbins. Complete schedule at www.wtffestival.com. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; Fri., 9 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (310) 838-4264.