The latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS are embedded in this coming week's COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS; Also, see this week's  THEATER FEATURE on Oleanna at the Taper

law logo2x bPhoto by Paula Court

The Wooster Group's La Didone

NYC's The Wooster Group, in partnership with REDCAT, has built its reputation on director Elizabeth LeCompte's high-tech juxtapositions of video images and live performance. The company's Hamlet, for example, showed clips of Richard Burton's recorded rendition against live action impersonations of the scenes being shown, so that the line between what was living and what was recorded grew deliberately fuzzy. There was also a haunted quality to Burton's image occasionally skipping back or forward by a mili-second, or disappearing into static, before returning. This was more than the sense of receiving a transmission as though from outer space, it was a three-dimensional rumination of the essence of mortality and memory, perfectly woven into the play's themes. The company's latest, La Didone, does this, and more, by transposing Fracesco Cavalli's and Giovanni Francesco Busenello's 1641 Italian opera about widowed African queen Dido's  (the glorious mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn), who's heart becomes possessed with love for the Trojan warrior, Aeneas (John Young), set against Mario Bava's mid-'60s cult sci-fi flick, Planet of the Vampires, in which a spaceship crew gets marooned on a planet, finding that the souls of the crew are becoming possessed by aliens.  Souls being possessed is the linking thread; the two universes collide and careen with split-second precision that's both intellectually precocious, slightly campy and indescribably moving. Much of the emotion comes from the beautiful and beautifully sung music, and Bruce Odland's magnificent adaptation of it, employing the electric guitar, accordion, ukulele as well as period instruments. RECAT, Diesney Hall, southwest corner; Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through June 21. (213) 237-2800. Wooster Group and St. Anne's Warehouse.

–Steven Leigh Morris 

For more NEW THEATER REVIEWS, press the Continue Reading tab directly below


(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


CABARET THE MUSICAL Life is a cabaret at a seedy 1930s Berlin club,

courtesy Kander and Ebb. MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A.; opens

June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Aug. 9, (323) 957-1152.

CARVED IN STONE Jeffrey Hartgraves' comedy about a heterosexual

writer who discovers he's a gay literary icon in the afterlife. Theatre

Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 9,

(310) 473-5483.

COMING HOME Athol Fugard's story of a mother and child in South

Africa. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.; opens June 20;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 29, (No perf July 4.).

(323) 663-1525.


winners perform the hits of Broadway. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand

Ave., L.A.; June 23-26, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun.,

June 28, 3 & 8 p.m.. (213) 628-2772.

FARRAGUT NORTH Beau Willimon's satire of political PR. Geffen

Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; opens June 24; Tues.-Thurs.,

7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.;

thru July 26. (310) 208-5454.

FOOTLOOSE How many degrees are you from Kevin Bacon?. James R. Armstrong Theatre, 3330 Civic Center Dr., Torrance; June 19-20, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 781-7150.


Specialization presents burlesque and circus acts, as part of their

mission “to confront sexism, transphobia and heteronormativity.”.

Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; June 19-20,

8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

MAGICALLY DELICIOUS: A CABARET Jason Graae is the name, cabaret is

the game. The Magic Castle, 7001 Franklin Ave., L.A.; June 22-23, 8

p.m.. (323)-851-3313.

MUTINY AT PORT CHICAGO World premiere of Paul Leaf's account of the

controversial 1944 military disaster. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000

Airport Dr., Santa Monica; opens June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru July 31. (310) 397-3244.

PROOF David Auburn's story of a mathematician's daughter. Sierra

Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; opens June 19;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 1. (626) 256-3809.

ROS INDEXICAL/SPIRALING DOWN Avant-garde dance and video by Yvonne

Rainer. REDCAT, 631 W. Second St., L.A.; June 25-27, 8:30 p.m.; Sun.,

June 28, 3 p.m.. (213) 237-2800.

SECRET ROSE MINI MUSICAL FESTIVAL The Queen & The Dragon, libretto by Jan Michael Alejandro and Jonathan Price, music by Jonathan Price; Change of Plans, music, book, and lyrics by Michael Gordon Shapiro; More Precious Than Diamonds, music, book and lyrics by Stephanie Hutchinson; Myjovi El Musical, music, book and lyrics by Jan Michael Alejandro; The Red Bouquet, music, book and lyrics by Joshua Fardon; Something Not Real, music, book and lyrics by Joshua Fardon; Sweeney Tidd,

book and lyrics by Gordon Glor and Barb E. Rickard, music by Gordon

Glor. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; opens

June 19; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 5, (No perf July

4.). (877) 620-7673.

ST. JOAN OF THE SLAUGHTERHOUSES Peter Mellencamp's translation of

Bertolt Brecht's cautionary tale. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice

Blvd., Venice; opens June 19; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

Aug. 9, (No perfs July 3-4.). (310) 822-8392.

TEN CENT NIGHT Marisa Wegrzyn's Country-Western comedy. Victory

Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Toluca Lake; opens June 19;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Aug. 2. (818) 841-5421.

TRUE WEST Hollywood screenwriter and his estranged brother trade

roles, in Sam Shepard's play. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion

Ave., L.A.; opens June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 25, (800) 595-4TIX.

2 PIANOS 4 HANDS Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt's play with

music about a pair of aspiring pianists. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third

St., Toluca Lake; opens June 20; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7

p.m.; thru July 26. (818) 558-7000.

UNA VIEJA MUY BERRACA Pablo Escobar's mom reflects on luxuries of

her son's Colombian drug cartel, by Ruben Amavizca-Murua. Frida Kahlo

Theater, 2332 W. Fourth St., L.A.; opens June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 28. (213) 382-8133.

THE UNSEEN Craig Wright's psychological thriller about prisoners

incarcerated under a totalitarian regime. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens June 19; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 22. (866) 811-4111.

THE VOISEY INHERITANCE David Mamet's adaptation of Harvey

Granville-Barker's 1905 play about financial fraud. Theatre 40 at the

Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; opens June 24;

Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 19. (310) 364-0535.

THE WASPS Meryl Friedman reworks Aristophanes. Musical direction by

David O. Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; opens June 20;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 26. (323) 871-5830.


CIRQUE BERZERK Alt-circus with “burlesque dancers, gothic stilt

walkers, punk rock clowns, psychedelic vaudevillian tomfoolery,

contortionists, and an original dark, sexy musical score.”. LOS ANGELES

STATE HISTORIC PARK, 1245 N. Spring St., L.A.; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.;

Fri.-Sat., 7 & 10 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 8 p.m.; thru July 5,…

CROWNS This musical by Regina Taylor examines the passionate

attachment of certain churchgoing African-American women for their

hats. Adapted from the book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry,

Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, it turns on the

interaction between Yolanda (Angela Wildflower Polk), a tough street

girl from Brooklyn raging with grief over the murder of her brother,

and various women she encounters after she's shipped off to South

Carolina to live with her grandmother (Paula Kelly). The book that was

the musical's source material consists of an elegant collection of

photo portraits and firsthand reminiscences; Taylor appropriates these

as monologues, then juxtaposes them with original dialogue and gospel

hymns. The thrust of the show — increasingly churchly as the evening

wears on — is the effort to educate Yolanda regarding the importance of

hats to her identity and her spirituality. Under Israel Hicks'

direction, the focus is clear but its execution — both script and

performance — is disappointing. Five female performers each deliver

various monologues that simply don't add up to recognizable characters

who serve the story — itself a cobbled construct. Lackluster

choreography, less than top-notch vocals and indifferent lighting also

detract, as does the production's two-hour length, without

intermission. The strongest element is the outstanding contribution of

Clinton Derricks-Carroll in a variety of male roles, but especially as

a fervently possessed, pulpit-thumping preacher. In an uneven ensemble,

Vanessa Bell Calloway and Suzzanne Douglas are worthy of note, as are

the instrumentals, under Eric Scott Reed's musical direction. (DK) Nate

Holden Performing Arts Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2 & 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through July

5. (323) 964-9768. An Ebony Repertory Theatre/Pasadena Playhouse


GO CYMBELINE What might Shakespeare have written if

he'd been asked by some 17th-century counterpart of a TV producer to

come up with something quick, hot and flashy? It's likely an

extravagantly plotted comedy like this one, with story ideas snatched

from legend, his peers and some of his own better-developed and more

sublime works. Regarded today as one of Shakespeare's more minor plays,

this comedy revolves around a king's daughter named Imogen (Willow

Geer), banished from court by her father, Cymbeline (Thad Geer), for

daring to marry the man of her choice. The plucky gal's travails

intensify when a villain named Iachimo (Aaron Hendry, alternating with

Steve Matt) decides willy-nilly to slander her to her husband Posthumus

(Mike Peebler), who then commands a servant to assassinate her for her

alleged infidelity. Her wanderings eventually land her on the doorstep

of her father's old enemy, Belarius (Earnestine Phillips), who has

raised two of Cymbeline's children (thus Imogen's own siblings) as her

own. Director Ellen Geer has fashioned an appealing production laced

with an aptly measured dose of spectacle and camp. At its core is

Willow Geer's strong and likable princess. As her adoring and, later,

raging, jealous spouse, Peebler's Posthumus is earnestly on the mark,

while Jeff Wiesen garners deserved laughs as the foppish suitor she'd

rejected. The latter meets his end at the hands of the princess'

newfound brother, well-played by Matt Ducati. (DK) Will Geer Theatricum

Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru

Sept. 27. (310) 455-3723.


law logo2x bPhoto by Craig Schwartz


Barry Humpries AO. C.B.E has for years been terrorizing audience

members near the front of the stage, in the guise of the irrepressible

Australian diva, Dame Edna. She sports a mauve do, more glittering

baubles than a Vegas showqueen, and gleeful imperiousness (“You adore

me because I adore myself, and it's contagious”), as she slices through

the dignity of anyone she encounters with the tenderness of a

lawnmower. (“What a lovely color you've got on. I'm sure that very soon

it'll be back.”) She reflects on her late husband Norm, who suffered

from a “prostate murmur” that got ever louder until the neighbors were

complaining. “Oh, the years I spent with that man's prostate hanging

over my head.”  She delivers her standup act, dragging audience members

onto the stage to participate, and even her “daughter” (Erin-Kate

Whitcomb), on furlough from the correctional facility, who croons one

song. This is humor with mocking kindness and concern, a kind of

genteel sassiness, barbs on aging, appearance and fashion delivered in

silky tones, along with the gladioli stems that she hurls into the

crowd. Center Theatre Group at the Ahmanson Theater, 135 N. Grand Ave.,

downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.;Sun., 3 p.m.; through June

21. (213) 628-2772. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO DIRTY DANCING Blockbuster musicals based on

blockbuster films are multiplying like viruses, but Dirty Dancing is

different. Its approach to slapping film on a stage is the zenith of

the seamless and shameless. Instead of adding songs, original

screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's theater translation mimics scenes with

a faithfulness to her treasured 1987 source material that's slavishly

high camp. Add in James Powell's extravagant direction and we're served

up fantastically expensive cheese that knows audiences don't just want

to see Baby (Amanda Leigh Cobb) and Johnny (Josef Brown) dancing on a

log, they want to see that log descend majestically from the ceiling

and be dismissed when it's served its momentary purpose. By duplicating

the pacing, plot and props, Dirty Dancing revels in the luxurious

disposability that tells a crowd they're getting their money's worth.

Wow factor is key when you're shelling out the cost of several DVDs to

watch the exact same thing live — the set whirls and motors, spitting

up bridges and doors and revolving platforms, dancers in great costumes

pack the stage, and giant video screens even show us the fractured

glass when Johnny punches a window. It's the kind of nonsense that

delights both cynics and fans. (Inversely, it's now the script's

dabbling into race and class consciousness that feels cheap.) Cobb and

Brown are twins for Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze, the charming Cobb

approaching the role with actual acting, while the muscular Brown has

fun aping Swayze's show-pony dramatics. In a strong and massive cast,

standouts include Britta Lazenga as the ill-fated dancer Penny and the

very funny Katlyn Carlson as Baby's snotty sister Lisa. (AN) Pantages

Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through June 28. (213) 365-3500.

A Broadway L.A. production.


solipsistic hunger strike in his own Paris restaurant, in Michael

Hollinger's dark comedy. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road,

Laguna Beach; Sun., 2 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., June 21, 7 p.m.; thru June 28. (949) 497-2787.

FELLOWSHIP! Musical parody of The Fellowship of the Ring,

book by Kelly Holden-Bashar and Joel McCrary, music by Alen Simpson.

Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 4 p.m.; thru July 12, (No perf July 4.). (818) 955-8101.

JULIUS CAESAR Shakespeare's tragedy. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum,

1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., June 27, 4

p.m.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 29, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m.;

Sat., 4 p.m.; thru Sept. 26. (310) 455-3723.

law logo2x bPhoto by Paula Court


The Wooster Group, in partnership with REDCAT, has built its reputation

on director Elizabeth LeCompte's high-tech juxtapositions of video

images and live performance. The company's Hamlet, for example, showed

clips of Richard Burton's recorded rendition against live action

impersonations of the scenes being shown, so that the line between what

was living and what was recorded grew deliberately fuzzy. There was

also a haunted quality to Burton's image occasionally skipping back or

forward by a mili-second, or disappearing into static, before

returning. This was more than the sense of receiving a transmission as

though from outer space, it was a three-dimensional rumination of the

essence of mortality and memory, perfectly woven into the play's

themes. The company's latest, La Didone, does this, and more, by

transposing Fracesco Cavalli's and Giovanni Francesco Busenello's 1641

Italian opera about widowed African queen Dido's  (the glorious

mezzo-soprano Hai-Ting Chinn), who's heart becomes possessed with love

for the Trojan warrior, Aeneas (John Young), set against Mario Bava's

mid-'60s cult sci-fi flick, Planet of the Vampires, in which a

spaceship crew gets marooned on a planet, finding that the souls of the

crew are becoming possessed by aliens.  Souls being possessed is the

linking thread; the two universes collide and careen with split-second

precision that's both intellectually precocious, slightly campy and

indescribably moving. Much of the emotion comes from the beautiful and

beautifully sung music, and Bruce Odland's magnificent adaptation of

it, employing the electric guitar, accordion, ukulele as well as period

instruments. RECAT, Diesney Hall, southwest corner; Tues.-Sat., 8:30

p.m.; through June 21. (213) 237-2800. Wooster Group and St. Anne's

Warehouse. (Steven Leigh Morris)

GO THE LITTLE FOXES Lillian Hellman's 1939

melodrama, set in the South of 1900, studies the voracious appetite for

profit by the middle-class Hubbard clan, who look with contempt on both

the aristocrats they've replaced, and their black employees whom they

continue to cheat. And so the drama offers Hellman's harsh commentary

on both the economic and racial foundations of prosperity by those who

can afford it, usually at the expense of those who can't. In addition

to his perfectly paced production, director Dámasco Rodriquez also

scores points for keeping the repugnant N word that Hellman sprinkles

so liberally in the most casual conversations. The plot has a

Swiss-watch construction, starting with a visit by William Marshall

(Tom Schmid) from Chicago, finalizing a business deal to construct a

mill in the small town. Financing would involve contributing shares by

three partners: Benjamin Hubbard (Steve Vinovich), his brother Oscar

(Marc Singer) — who married and now abuses his aristocratic wife,

Birdie (Julia Duffy) — and, finally, the very reluctant Horace Giddens

(Geoff Pierson), who has been recuperating for months in Baltimore from

a chronic heart condition. Horace's wife, Regina (Kelly McGillis), is

the play's centerpiece, summoning home her ill husband and engaging in

all manner of negotiations, including blackmail against the thieving

Hubbards, and against her own husband, in order to grab the most money

she can for herself. The play contains some Chekhovian ambiance, such

as when Birdie confides that she's never experienced a happy day in 22

years, and the program notes refer to the drama as one in a series of

“great American plays” that the theater has committed to produce. This

may be an observant play, but it's not a great one, as it can't quite

crawl inside the hearts of people it's too eager to condemn. And that's

the difference between a tragedy and a potboiler. Even McGillis' fine,

emotive performance as Regina, offers the tawdry “survival” excuse for

her cold-blooded manipulations. It's as lame a rationalization as the

serial-killer movies that blame the pathology on the killer's having

been abused in childhood. Pierson's Horace is just grand — tired, wise,

yet still on fire to outwit the town's sundry little foxes. Nice turns

also by Yvette Cason and Cleavant Derricks and the servants in

residence. As Regina's coy daughter, Rachel Sondag makes an impressive

transformation, from sweetness to defiance, as she slowly figures out

what's going on under her nose. Paradoxically, her kind of moral

outrage is also the play's undoing, serving up more of an editorial,

authorial opinion than a vision — an impulse Chekhov, or Tennessee

Williams, rarely succumbed to. Gary Wissman's opulent yet

frayed-at-the-edges set shows the beginning of a metaphor but not

enough to compensate for the shortcomings of this well-crafted but

limited play. (SLM) Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena:

Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through

June 28. (800) 378-7121.

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 Aug. 2. (310) 208-54545.

OLEANNA Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles star in David Mamet's 1992

drama about a college professor and the charges of sexual harassment

lodged against him by a failing student. The play is a reaction against

the mindset of an era that featured the despotism of political

correctness — embodied by Anita Hill's 1991 testimony before the U.S.

Senate against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for his allegedly

sexually explicit conversations while she worked at his secretary at

the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After all these years, and

with Pullman's affable performance juxtaposed against Stiles' stoic

confusion and indignation, the play strains more than ever to express

some serious ideas through a kangaroo court. (SLM) Mark Taper Forum,

135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8

p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through July 12. (213) 628-2772.

PUPPET UP! UNCENSORED Henson Alternative's improv-comedy puppet

show. Avalon, 1735 Vine St., L.A.; Sat., June 20, 8 p.m.. (323)


RING OF FIRE Broadway tribute to Johnny Cash, featuring 38 songs by

the country hitmaker. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900

La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; thru June 21. (562) 944-9801.


ACME THIS WEEK ACME's flagship sketch show, with celebrity guest

hosts each week. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Sat.,

8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

ALL ABOUT JACK: THE IMPERSONATORS OF JACK NICHOLSON Patrick O'Sullivan's follow-up to All About Walken,

with nine actors doing their best Nicholson. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset

Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru July 23, (888)



law logo2x bPhoto courtesy of Theatre Planners


two one-acts, written and directed by Matt Morillo, deal with

contemporary romantic/sexual conflicts and collisions. In All Aboard

the Marriage Hearse, Amy (Jessica Moreno) and Sean (Keenan Henson) have

lived together happily for three years, till she decides they're going

to get married, whether he likes it or not. He doesn't, and the

resulting battle, verbal and physical, radically changes their lives

while maintaining the status quo. Some of the marriage debate seems

over-familiar, but the piece is clever, nicely directed, and

beautifully played. In Stay Over, adapted from a play by Maria

Micheles, Michelle (Moreno) gives her lover Mark (Tom Pilutik)

permission, for reasons that are never made clear, to have an affair

with someone else. She hits the ceiling, however, when she discovers

that he's bedded her kittenish dancer friend Lily (JessAnn Smith).

Michelle is a bullying shrew, Mark is a manipulative two-timer, and

Lily is a determined baby- vamp, willing to go to any

lengths–including performing a very naked modern dance number — to

win Mark for herself. The result is an evening of over-the-top

bickering that soon becomes tiresome. The Lounge Theatre, 6021 Santa

Monica Boulevard, Hollyqoos; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through

July 5. (No perf. July 4) (323) 960-5521 (Neal Weaver)   

AS YOU LIKE IT Shakespeare's comedy, courtesy Declan Adams Theatre.

Next Stage Theater, 1523 N. La Brea Ave., Second Floor, L.A.; Sat., 8

p.m.; thru June 20. (213) 926-2726.

GO BIG Director Richard Israel and his fine cast

have a first-rate revival of this 1996 Broadway musical, based on the

film that made Tom Hanks a star. And if you've seen the movie and think

you know the story, think again: You can expect a few witty surprises

here. Big (John Weidman, book; David Shire, music; Richard Maltby,

lyrics) is a whimsical tale about Josh (L.J. Benet), an undersized

teenager whose oversized crush on a schoolmate results in a startling

metamorphosis when a carnival contraption grants his wish to be “big.”

When he wakes up as an adult, Josh (Will Collyer) has his hands full

coping with life, his best friend, Billy (Sterling Beaumon), and a

heartbroken mom (Lisa Picotte). When he stumbles into a high-caliber

job with a toy company, he catches the eye of corporate climber Susan

(the outstanding Darrin Revitz) and finds romance, but he ultimately

discovers that life as a 13-year-old adult is not all that great.

Israel has done a remarkable job staging this piece on a small stage,

and manages the large cast — which features some fine adolescent actors

and actresses — quite well. Christine Lakin's choreography is polished

and attractive, with many of the dances evincing an edgy comic

expressiveness. Musical director Daniel Thomas does equally fine work.

(LE3) El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., through July 26. (323) 460-4443. A West Coast

Ensemble production.


FESTIVAL A month of 12 winning plays by teenage playwrights, with three

new plays each week. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 28,

(323) 661-9827.


6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

June 28. (323) 960-7846.

COME BACK LITTLE HORNY In playwright Laura Richardson's clever

sourball of a family comedy, mom Susan (Wendy Phillips) and dad Ian

(Scott Paulin) used to be artists, but now they're retired — read

“tapped out” — and they seem to spend most of their time sniping at

each other. Meanwhile, their closeted gay son Loki (Brendan Bonner) and

borderline schizophrenic daughter Nora (Jennifer Erholm) still live at

home, subjected to endless sneers and veiled insults thrown in their

direction. Into this toxic atmosphere comes the family's one successful

scion, Stanford University professor and bestselling author Raven

(Danielle Weeks), who, estranged from her clan, shows up for a visit,

bringing along her newly adopted pet dog Horny (delightfully played in

canine drag by Jason Paige, whose leg-humping, slobbery performance all

but barks with the unfiltered love that the human characters can't

express to each other). Raven's latest book is a hostile but truthful

roman à clef about her family — and, as they peruse the book, the clan

is forced to confront the miserable truth. Director Martha Demson's

character-driven production artfully emphasizes the subtext underlying

the family's brittle relationship. Not a line is spoken that doesn't

seep with layers of corrosive back story. Although the pacing

occasionally falters — and the piece frankly could use some cutting,

particularly during the final third — the writing is smartly full of

just the sorts of lines you hope never to hear from your mother. The

ensemble work boasts some ferocious acting turns, particularly from

Phillips' scathingly bitter mother and Weeks' superficially loving,

passively hostile daughter. (PB) Lost Studio Theatre, 130 S. LaBrea

Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through June 20. (310)


THE CURSE OF RAVENSDURN The New Comedy Theater presents Nick Hall's

wacky history of a doomed English family. Barnsdall Gallery Theater,

4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 20, (323) 660-4254.

GO DIVORCE! THE MUSICAL Erin Kamler's witty and

entertaining new musical satire (for which she wrote the music, the

lyrics and the book) takes apart almost every emotional phase of a

marital breakup, including the horrors of dating and the hollows of

rebound sex, and sets it to chirpy and wry songs that feature some

sophisticated musical juxtapositions and harmonies. (Musical direction

and arrangements by David O) Kamler skirts the apparent danger of

triteness (setting a too familiar circumstance to music) by cutting

beneath the veneer of gender warfare. This is a study of the decaying

partnership of a resentful Brentwood radiologist (Rick Segall) and his

aspiring actress wife (Lowe Taylor), goaded by their respective

attorneys. The lawyers are the villains here – one (Gabrielle Wagner),

a Beverly Hills shark, the other (Leslie Stevens), a swirl of confusion

from her own recent divorce and now “temporarily” based in Studio City.

These vultures collude to distort the grievances of their clients, who

both actually care about their exes, and would be better off without

“representation.” They might even remain married, the musical implies.

Director Rick Sparks gets clean, accomplished performances from his

five-person ensemble (that also includes Gregory Franklin, as the

Mediator – i.e. host of an absurdist game show.) Danny Cistone's cubist

set with rolling platforms masks the live three-piece band, parked

behind the action: This includes the ex-groom's impulsive decision,

based in his lawyer's misinformation, to removal all furniture from his

home, where he ex-bride continues to live — only to find his bank

accounts and credit cards frozen. In the song, “We Stuck It Out,”

there's a kind of Sondheimian ennui to the verities of life-long

partnerships. The song is ostensibly an homage to his parents, in whose

basement he winds up living. As the Brits would say, marriage is bloody

hard work. (SLM) Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; run open ended. (323)


ECSTASY: THE MUSICAL What's this? A musical based on the notorious

hallucinogenic drug whose psychoactive effects include lust and a

strong sense of inner peace? Well, not quite. At times, we suspect that

the dreamlike mood of S. Claus' downright strange musical comedy is an

attempt to convey what it's like to partake of the drug. Yet, Claus'

work is also a cheerful 1970s kitsch-fest, set in a world of flaring

bellbottoms, John Travolta-esque disco suits and untroubled hedonism.

College freshman Angel (Lisa Marinacci) loves her virgin boyfriend Tom

(Meyer deLeeuw), but she can't make him sexually “close the deal” with

her. Somehow, Angel magically transports Tom to an alternate universe

called the Land of Ecstasy, where Tom's path crosses that of a wickedly

sexy Black Widow Woman (Gina D'Acciaro, whose gorgeous, rock-ballad

voice is outstanding), a sex-crazed prostitute (Dina Buglione), and a

genial space alien (Patrick Hancock). Claus' upbeat score isn't deep,

but the work boasts some quick-witted lyrics and some zippy tunes,

particularly during the larger production numbers. Director Kay Cole's

energetic staging, which is layered with Day-Glo 1970s iconography and

Susanne Klein's wonderfully tacky leisure-suit costumes, is offbeat and

gleefully campy. Sadly, though, the show's narrative structure lurches

from half-baked subplot to subplot — less dreamlike than sloppy.

Sometimes the play seems like a joke told by someone on a drug — funny,

but only if you're the stoned guy telling it. Still, some of the cast's

gorgeous voices are clearly more evocative than the flimsy material

allows them to show. Buglione's bubbly Sally Bowles-like turn as the

prostitute is delightful — and so is Hancock's toothy, yet sexually

androgynous turn as the space alien. (PB) Art/Works Theater, 6569 Santa

Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through July

12. (323) 960-7789. A Theatre Planners production.

GO EL OGRITO (THE OGRELING) Jesús Castaños-Chima

stages Suzanne Lebeau's dark fairy tale (performed in Spanish with

English supertitles) with sweetness and depth. It concerns a mother

(Julieta Ortiz) trying to protect her young son (the adult Gabriel

Romero) from the heredity and instinct of blood lust. His father, you

see, was/is an Ogre, or one who eats children. After going through six

of his own daughters, he fled to give his infant son a chance. Dad

hangs offstage in the forest, watching with admiration as his son

struggles with hereditary, demonic passions to eat little animals and,

eventually, little children, while his mother strives valiantly to ban

the color red from the house, and serve him vegetarian fare grown in

the garden — in these plays, gardens always serve as an antidote to the

horrors of who we are. (SLM) 24th Street Theater, 1117 24th St., L.A.;

Sat.-Sun., times vary, call for schedule; through June 21. (213)


ENTER THE SUNDAY All-new sketch and improv by the Sunday Company.

Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.. (323)


GO EVE'S RAPTURE The fall of Adam and Eve has

furnished raw material for countless works of art but one rarely as

fantastical as Bryan Reynolds' unpredictable play. A dizzying mix of

metaphors, it begins with Satan (Chris Marshall) in command of an armed

and loyal jihad of fallen angels; they are determined to take down God

by either recruiting Adam (Ryan Welsh) and Eve (Kendra Smith) to their

cause, or destroying them. Act I depicts the first couple gamboling in

the Garden, notwithstanding Eve's uneasy sense that there's more to

existence than affectionate kisses and playful body rubs. The end of

innocence comes after Satan personally tempts her to bite the apple,

then fucks her wildly — leaving them both wowed by their unexpected

erotic rapport. Their intercourse marks the beginning of Eve's total

transformation; whereas Adam develops the doldrums, and worse. By

play's end, Eve is one gal you surely wouldn't want to mix it up with.

Part-parable, part-comic strip fable, part-action drama, the play

speaks powerfully to the unseen forces and symbols that dominate our

lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Eden sequences drag, layered as

they are with so much saccharine that one's soon rooting for the Devil

to break it up. As the prime mover of the action, Marshall's

performance is one of understated mastery. As his wife/daughter Sin,

Sage Howard sizzles. Robert Cohen directs. (DK) Hayworth Theatre, 2511

Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 27.

(323) 960-7721.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE Weekly sketch comedy. Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.. (323) 525-0202.

GIVE YOU HARD COMEDY Sketch, improv, and musical parody by all-girl

comedy group The Fluffers. Paul G. Gleason Theatre, 6520 Hollywood

Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; thru June 21. (617) 899-4283.

GODSPELL Biblical musical by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael

Tebelak. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Dr., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri., July 10, 8 p.m.; thru July 12, (No perf July 4.).

(323) 667-0955.

A GRAND GUIGNOL CABARET Evoking the raucous, free-form ambiance and

style of a 1920s underground Berlin cabaret, director Amanda Harvey's

show scores big on variety, less so on quality. Hosted by the charming,

garrulous Gunter (Carlos Peñaranda), the evening opens with a lukewarm

ditty called “When the Special Girlfriend,” followed by a riotously

funny “chair dance,” salaciously performed by the female members of the

ensemble to the music of ” Wagner's “Die Valkyrie,” which concludes

with the gals spouting water from their mouths like fountain

sculptures. Such visual engagement is the cabaret's strength,

imaginatively choreographed by Vanessa Forster. Peñaranda's turn as a

drag queen and his German-accented rendition of “Ol Man River,”cum overalls and straw hat don't cut it. Two short plays are also on the bill. Haney, Dani O'Terry and Forster created The Little House in Friedrichstadt, a delightful grotesquerie artfully rendered in mime, which tells of fiendish, bloody goings-on in a brothel. Eddie Muller's Orgy in the Lighthouse,

adapted from Alfred Marchand's play, is about two brothers who

entertain a pair of whores on a holy day; this version is painfully

insipid. (LE3) Sunset Gardner Stages, 1501 N. Gardner St., Hollywood;

Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m.; through June 28. or

GROUNDLINGS ENCHANTED FOREST This well-executed evening of comedy

consists of a random collection of skits by company member Laird

Macintosh and various co-writers. In “One Fifth Is All You Need,” a man

(Steve Little) who believes himself to be of Irish extraction lands in

Native-American heaven, where he discovers he's one fifth

Native-American and immediately acquires skills in weaving, archery and

hand-to-hand combat. In the predictable but nicely performed “Be

Grateful for the Good Times,” a couple (Macintosh and Wendi

McLendon-Covey) on the cusp of an amiable divorce end up at each

other's throats, while a mollycoddling divorce counselor (Ben Falcone)

tries to mediate. “Soft Butt Firm,” finds Melissa McCarthy on-target as

a sugar-tongued huckster of her recently acquired product — a

super-absorbent toilet paper. An alcoholic Dad (Little), drunk and

abusive at a Thanksgiving get-together, is urged by one and all to hit

the road, in “Giving Thanks.” Directed by Roy Jenkins, the ensemble

proves uniformly adept; while the material is generally amiable and

entertaining, none of the segments delivers a knock-out comedic punch.

(DK) Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8

& 10 p.m.; thru July 18. (323) 934-9700.

GO HALF OF PLENTY Anyone still trying to trace the

roots of the great economic collapse of 2007 can stop digging.

Playwright Lisa Dillman's somewhat schematic satire argues that the

monetary debacle responsible for crippling the markets and the

existential paralysis gripping her suburbanite protagonists were both

spawned by a common corruption of spirit rather than of finance. In

fact, the instability that drives Marty Tindall (John Pollono) and his

wife, Holly (Carolyn Palmer), to regroup in the ironically named Ardor

Park housing development (and postpone having a child) has more to do

with Marty's recent bout of alcoholism and his downwardly mobile new

job at the local box factory. Complicating their effort to rebuild

their lives — and marriage — is Marty's Alzheimer's-afflicted father,

Jack (Robert Mandan), whose presence forces Holly to be both caregiver

and co-breadwinner by taking on medical-transcription work. The crisis

comes when Holly seeks solace in a romantic correspondence via

transcription tape with an unseen albeit married doctor/client while

Marty joins the quasi-terrorist “Neighborhood Vigil,” enforcing

anti-immigrant, tract etiquette alongside the cell's creepily

charismatic Zooks (the very funny Ron Bottitta and Betsy Zajko).

Although a feebly bathetic denouement ultimately suggests Dillman is

more interested in the exposition of theme over character, Barbara

Kallir's crisp direction of a spot-on cast, aided by the polished

support of a fine design team (particularly Stephanie Kerley Schwartz's

trompe l'oeil set paintings), ably fills the gaps with laughs. (BR)

Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; through June 21. (323) 960-7774 or A

Rogue Machine production


“chanteuse, priestess, lounge lizard and metaphysical life coach.”

Wait, I thought Dame Edna was at the Ahmanson?. Hudson Guild Theater,

6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru

July 19, (323) 960-7792.

HE ASKED FOR IT Erik Patterson's study of HIV-positive gay men in

“Internet chat rooms, Hollywood back rooms and nightclub bathrooms.”.

Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru July 19. (323) 654-0680.


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Photo courtesy of Ark Theatre


Henrik Ibsen's proto-feminist classic, poor Hedda (Julie Granata)

marries dull professor George (Darrel Guilbeau), and soon has reason to

regret it, as she's not remotely suited for the stultifying life he

offers her.  With few career or personal options, the bored and bitter

hausfrau finds joys in manipulating her former lover Loveborg (Zack

Hamra) and school pal Thea (Shanti Bowes) — not merely just for her

own amusement, but also because she dreams of living vicariously

through them.  Tragedy results.  Director Les Miller's decision to

reset the play in the 1950s raises some awkward minor anachronistic

issues – after all, if Hedda lived in the '50s, she could sublimate her

boredom with a job or by getting an only slightly scandalous divorce. 

The production is frankly more noteworthy for its intriguing depiction

of Hedda herself.  In Granata's at times ferociously angry turn, we are

treated to Hedda as Mean Girl – a former high school bully and shallow

party gal, as much Hedda Locklear or Paris Gabler, whose breathy smiles

and glitteringly insincere simpers at her husband turn into venomously

terrifying rictuses of rage the moment his back is turned.  Sadly,

Miller's production ultimately feels one sided, and Grenata's

multi-dimensional, harrowingly brittle Hedda often feels as though

she's in a totally different play from the one inhabited by the blander

supporting cast.  Still, Bowes' sniveling Thea is just the sort of girl

whom one can see Hedda smacking around in school.  Also engaging is

Peter Colburn's effortlessly oily turn as increasingly sleazy family

friend Judge Brack.  Ark Theatre at the Hayworth, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.,

Los Angeles; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through July 11.  (323)

969-1707.  (Paul Birchall)

THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, “from OMG to LOL.”. ComedySportz, 733 Seward St., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.

GO THE IDEA MAN The unspecified manufacturing plant

at the heart of Kevin King's comedy-drama has a “Gillette account,”

referring to the razors and razorblades being produced there, among

other products. The detailed set design (credited to Elephant

Stageworks) includes welding stations lined along the walls of the tiny

stage. The realism in the design creates a naturalistic and enveloping

atmosphere of the workplace, which supports and, in subtle ways, also

stifles King's richly textured examination of the class divide within

that factory and, by implication, across America's dwindling

manufacturing base. When Al Carson (James Pippi), a bright machinist

and union rep, visits the salubrious home of plant manager Simmons

(David Franco), Al's awe and awkwardness are apparent in Pippi's

expressions, while behind him, we see welding machines, which is a

intrusion. As directed by David Fofi in a style that combines earthy

David Mamet/Steppenwolf Theatre realism with occasional hints of a

sitcom in the making, the ensemble is so good that the production rides

largely on the strengths of the atmosphere and the actors. Al has just

won the “suggestion of the month” prize, for a design generating

exponentially more efficiency in the production of razorblades. The

idea could be worth millions of dollars in potential savings to the

company, and for this, Simmons is willing to reward Al with a check for

$100 and a laminated plaque with his name on it — on the condition that

Al signs over the rights to his design. Al understands the insult; he's

no fool What ensues is a series of artfully conceived scenes between

the Al and staff engineer Frank (Robert Foster), who's task is to make

Al's idea “work” — a blue collar-white collar cat-and-mouse game in

which the roles of cat and mouse keep shifting. That Simmons would

invite top management to fly in from God knows where, this coming

weekend, no less, for a presentation on Al's suggestion — even before

Frank has had the opportunity to test it — reveals a management style

so reckless, it's hard to believe. Yet it's on this somewhat contrived

stress test that playwright King builds the play's suspense. King's

ideas are so fine, they deserve refining. (SLM) Elephant Theatre

Company, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., through

June 20. (323) 960-4410.

INSIDE OUT Jody Vaclav's “one-person show in two persons.”. Actors

Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

July 11. (310) 306-6298.

INVISIBLE HEROES Storytelling by Here and Now Theatre Company.

Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru June

28, (323) 463-3900.

LITTLE BLACK VEIL David LeBarron and Abby Travis' “drag queen

romantic comedy musical.”. Ruby Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July 5, (323) 960-5774.

LOVE WATER In a drainage pipe near a park and a ditch that might be

a space-alien breeding ground, unloved Antonio (Joseph Vega) and overly

loved Lulu (Alina Phelan) hide out from their normal lives. He's a

teenager escaping his family, which includes a manic mother (Misi Lopez

Lecube), who may be lacing his food with poison, and a dad (Chuma

Gault) and sister (Jessica Martinez) who don't care either way. She's

fleeing a husband (Jon Beauregard) so devoted to her he leaves pies in

the park for her. “There's a lot of love in that pie,” Lulu tells

Antonio, which means something to playwright Jacqueline Wright, whose

allegories here are made of flotsam — her pieces are stitched together

with wild images that stir the imagination but don't quite absorb your

emotions. Wright is a clear talent, who delights in the theater medium.

Overhead Lulu and Antonio's hideout, a broken man bandaged from head to

foot describes the joy of bashing out brains in a skiing accident and

suggests — but doesn't quite advocate — that we jump off a building.

Meanwhile, a lonely lecher finds and hatches a gigantic egg, out of

which climbs a pale, naked English-speaking creature who demands

freedom and caramels. Sibyl Wickersheimer's austere set invites

movement, and director Dan Bonnell has his cast run — rarely walk —

from end to end. But with Bonnell allowing half the cast to use

Wright's dreamlike imagery and language as an excuse to heighten their

speech, while the other half recognizes the need to ground the

characters with natural performances, the production feels too bipolar

for us to commit to caring about why Dad eats paper, why Mom wears

Antonio's clothes and why Lulu pushes away intimacy. (AN) Open Fist

Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; through July 11. (323) 882-6912. A co-production of Open Fist

Theatre and Ensemble Studio Theatre — The L.A. Project

GO MADNESS IN VALENCIA We get a look-in on Spain's

Golden Age via playwright-poet Lope de Vega's 1590 farce about love and

lunacy, in David Johnston's pleasing and somewhat audacious 1998

translation. (Johnston's version adds a second, alternate ending.)

Across the English Channel at around the same time de Vega and Calderon

were fusing dreams and life in their writings, Shakespeare was toying

with similar ideas in both The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer Nights

Dream. In Madness, however, we get no magic potions concocted by the

sprites in order to fool mortals into believing that they're donkeys,

or “enamored of an ass.” De Vega worked from the presumption that

people are either mad, or pretend to be so, without any medicinal help.

Floriano (Michael Holmes) arrives in the woods around Valencia in a

panic that, for the love of a woman, he's murdered a local prince. He

confesses this fear to a young beauty, Erifila (Vivian Kerr) – a

trusting confession to say the least. Erifilia fled with a servant from

her father and his plans to bind her future to an arranged marriage.

(The servant strands her in the woods after robbing her of her jewelry

and outer-garments.) In order to escape notice, the pair choose to

seclude themselves in the safest place around — Valencia's famed

mental asylum – where the pair pretend to be nuts, and where the play's

enveloping metaphor for society, and for lovers, takes root. There's an

amiable goofiness in Suzanne Karpinski's staging of her 13-member

ensemble, and this is the right company to pull off a show so

influenced by the Italian Commedia clowning. Holmes' Floriano has a

hangdog charm that makes him both a persuasive leading man and idiot

savant, depending on whom he's trying to fool, while Kerr possesses a

vivacious esprit that spins, when needed, into the requisite arrogance

that accompanies sanctimonious betrayal. Kurt Boetcher's relies heavily

on burlap and cloth drapery to symbolize the woods, in hues of green

and purple. And though Karpinski's tone is a bit languid at the start,

the play's tangles of attraction, and their accompanying pangs of

jealousy, grow increasingly absorbing. For all the technical details

and the abundant merits of Karpinski's production, one does get the

feeling that the play has been more staged than interpreted. The canvas

on which the play unfolds contains few striking visual motifs that

offer an urgent idea of why this play is being performed – beyond the

obvious explanation that a few people sort of liked it. As such, it's a

delightful museum piece that could be much more, with a greater breadth

of vision. Terrific performances also by Laura Napoli, Juliette Angeli,

Grandon Clark, and Paul Byrne, among others. (SLM) Sacred Fools

Theatre, Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. (added perf Sun., June 28, 2 p.m.); through

June 28. (310) 281-8337.

GO MERCURY FUR A cross between A Clockwork Orange

and the plays of Sarah Kane, British playwright Philip Ridley's

controversial drama, set in a dystopian London under siege, follows a

group of young men desperate to survive. Elliot (Edward Tournier) and

his brother Darren (Andrew Perez) clean up an abandoned apartment to

prepare for a party organized by their friend and gang leader Spinx

(Greg Beam). They are assisted by Naz (Jason Karasev), a friend who

happens to live in the building, and their drag queen friend Lola (Jeff

Torres), who arrives with a costume for the Party Piece (Ryan Hodge), a

barely-conscious “Paki” boy who becomes the center of attention. Once

Spinx finally arrives, along with The Duchess (Nina Sallinen), final

preparations are made for the Party Guest (Kelly Van Kirk) who will be

their salvation from this hellhole, but as the party starts, things go

awry in a series of twisted, violent events. Like the songs of the

British trance band Prodigy, one of which plays in the final scene, the

drama's layers slowly unfold, culminating in an apocalyptic climax that

is foreshadowed, yet nonetheless blows you away with its brutality and

horror. Dado's direction brings out the intensity of her actors who

throw themselves headlong into this nightmarish world and reveal their

characters to be at once gritty, reprehensible, funny, and pitiable. I

left the theater disturbed and affected, which after all is the point.

(MK) Imagined Life Theatere, 5615 San Vicente Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 5 p.m.; through June 28. (800) 838-3006. A

Needtheater production.


one-acts, writer-director Kasey Wilson parodies 1940s film noir by

introducing private eye Bolt (Scott Gerard), who though not exactly Sam

Spade, is nevertheless good for some laughs. In Marked for Love, the

impavid Bolt, who hasn't had a case in three months, is seen asleep at

his desk when he is visited by the seductive, black-clad Vivian

(Elizabeth V. Newman), who needs a purloined painting recovered.

Solving the crime is not easy, as Bolt must contend with a jealous

cohort (Mike Park), a shadowy thin guy (Drew Droege), deception at

every turn, as well as his own engaging ineptitude. Of Dicks and Dames

is not as cleverly written but still serves up its share of humor.

Here, Bolt is enmeshed in a megaconvoluted case involving a missing

woman (Lauren Leonelli), the murder of a sinister purveyor of porn

(Droege), a creepy, peg-leg German (Eric Charles Jorgenson), and Viola

Shylock (Jan Pessin), whose appearance comes courtesy of the Bard.

There is more style than substance here, but it eventually adds up to

an evening of fun and laughs. And for an added bit of spice, Wilson

(a.k.a. Honey Ima Home), does a smoking-hot burlesque routine between

acts. (LE3) Attic Theater and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd.;

LA. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 27. (323) 960-1055.

ONCE UPON A MATTRESS Princess-and-pea musical, adapted from the Hans

Christian Andersen fairy tale. Music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by

Marshall Barer, book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer.

Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 939-9220.

GOPOINT 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.

RANTOUL AND DIE Mark Roberts' bleak comedy has four great characters

and a half-dozen great speeches in search of a point. Set in Rantoul,

Illinois, it opens with Gary (Paul Dillon) counseling heartbroken bud

Rallis (Rich Hutchman) on his pending divorce from Debbie (Cynthia

Ettinger), who works down at the Dairy Queen. Gary is a redneck mystic

and self-described tiger; his approach to keeping Rallis from slicing

his wrists is to choke the fear of death in him. With the entrance of

the cruel and curvaceous Debbie (who's hell-bent on keeping the house

and Honda) and her cat-lady boss Callie (Lisa Rothschiller), Roberts

opens several inviting routes for his play to explore grief, guilt and

mercenary lust. Instead, it stalls, with repetitive arguments and

shocks that don't register as the nasty fun we crave. Director Erin

Quigley gets fun performances from her four leads and gives each their

moment to hold court over production designer David Harwell's

painstakingly accurate suburban ranch house, complete with dogs that

bark each time a character slams the front door in frustration. (AN)

Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 7 p.m.; through July 4. (323) 960-4424 or


House Rock was a long-running kids' TV show that winningly combined

cartoon characters and songs with a high educational content. Here

director-choreographer Rick Sparks assembles six terrific, high-energy

performers — Harley Jay, Tricia Kelly, Jayme Lake, Michael “Milo”

Lopez, Lisa Tharps and Brian Wesley Turner — to employ all their skill

and pizzazz on songs about numbers, multiplication, parts of speech,

American history, government, the bones of the body, financial interest

rates, and a score of other useful topics, all turned into lively

entertainment. (A math song about multiplying is called “Naughty Number

Nine,” and the American Revolution is served up in “No More Kings.”)

There's a scrap of plot, about saving a financially failing diner, but

that's the merest of pretexts. Cody Gillette provides crisp musical

direction and leads the trio (with Anthony Zenteno, on guitars, and

Eric Tatuaca on drums) to provide infectious, hard-driving

accompaniments on Adam Flemming's handsome diner set. Clever costumes

are by Kat Marquet, and Daavid Hawkins provides hundreds of zany props.

If you already know that 7 x 9 = 63, you might feel, as I did, that 20

songs is a few too many, but the kids seem to love it. Greenway Court

Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Avenue, L.A.; call for schedule; through July

26. (323) 655-7679, ext. 100, or

SERIAL KILLERS: THE PLAYOFFS Facebook factors into this serialized

improv competition: Log in and vote each week on which serials

continue, until there is only one! (Final round and awards ceremony,

July 11.). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., L.A.; Sat., 11

p.m.; Sat., July 11, 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (310) 281-8337.

GO SETUP & PUNCH Director Daniel Henning

seamlessly moves the action between the past and the present in Mark

Saltzman's highly original new comedy. After a bitter 10-year breakup

with former writing partner Vanya (Hedy Burress), Brian (Andrew Leeds)

contacts her about the copyright to a children's show they co-produced.

Through a series of letters, the breakup of the once happy writing duo

is laid bare. The two met at Cornell, and Vanya followed Brian to New

York City to kick-start his Broadway aspirations. They audition for a

revue, but are told to collaborate with Jan (a mesmerizing P.J.

Griffith), a rock star and composer. As the twosome becomes a

threesome, Vanya's unrequited love for Brian, a deeply closeted gay

man, spills through. However, Jan, a sexual libertine, opens the closet

door for Brian. The sexual tension is one contributing factor to Vanya

and Brian's breakup, but when Vanya is hired for a TV series they had

both been working on, Brian goes ballistic. All of this is revealed

through a series of letters, which become e-mails, which become phone

calls, as the two draw near a rapprochement. Performed without an

intermission, Henning keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, even as

the two compose letters. Griffith also performs in the smaller role of

Miguel, a once-raucous Cornell classmate who has diverged onto a

spiritual path. (SR) Second Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 21. (323)

661-9827. A Blank Theatre Company production


above, by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.;

Sun., 7 & 9 p.m.; thru July 26. (310) 226-6148.

THE SINGING SKELETON The first hour of Stefan Marks' satire of

actors and their odd relationship to theater finds hilarious truth in

the absurdity of the odyssey of inexperienced but emotionally connected

artists trying to find a path through Hollywood. Spouting eye-rolling

platitudes about acting techniques and script-writing, several

characters might easily become two-dimensional jokes, but Marks' ear

for actor lingo and a fine cast allow the play to weave a tight fabric

of reality out of the ludicrous. Most successful is Barrett Shuler,

with a brilliant, deadpan portrayal of Brandon, a first-time playwright

nearly as passionate about the work as he is about gorgeous Hannah

(Jessica Kepler), whom he hopes to cast (and kiss) as his star. Brian

Taubman as his clueless best friend; Mark Gadbois as an aging and

idiotic macho actor; and Matt Weight as an Australian pretty boy join

in to make this journey through Equity Waiver heartbreakingly funny.

The title is not metaphoric but literal, as a singing skeleton (Marks)

punctuates the play and play-within-a-play with pithy songs beautifully

sung to acoustic guitar. Sadly, Act 2 disintegrates into cheap sketch,

still garnering laughs, but from feeble jokes rather than clever

insights. Occasionally the foolishness pauses for a melodramatic

moment, but the play never regains the polish and painfully funny

beauty of Act 1. (TP) Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 27. (888) 201-0804.

Crooked Arrow Productions


Derek Ringold's multimedia performance mixes monologue, dance and

video. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru June

24. (323) 623-9036.

THE SOMETHING-NOTHING Fielding Edlow's romantic comedy set in New

York's West Village. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru July 2. (323) 960-7753.

THE STICKING PLACE As Shakespeare drafted Macbeth, he thought, “This

is solid stuff — but what if I set it in a swimming pool?” Or not. But

director Chris Covics has gone ahead and set it in one anyway for the

sole purpose of paralleling Macbeth's doom to the pool's water level.

As the Thane's guilt rises, the water surges from the floor and rains

down overhead on the four female ensemble (Brittany Slattery, Angela

Stern, Erica Stone and Amy Tzagournis) whose white robes tangle and

drag with the wet weight. For a few minutes, it's chillingly effective.

The ladies enter blindfolded, fumbling their way like primordial

lizards in a cave, as though Covics is prodding us to think about the

Macbeths' drive to survive and the centuries we've spent reliving their

fate. But the miserablist new setting has consequences: drains that

gurgle over speeches, distracting fears for the actors' safety, and

worst of all, the director's reliance on his gimmick to compensate for

the complete mess he's made of Shakespeare's play. It's impossible to

follow. Not just because the actors trade off roles fluidly in

mid-speech, but because they haven't been directed to articulate the

lines in either pronunciation or performance. Happy, scared, female,

male, Banquo or Lady M, everything is delivered in a fearful psychotic

squeal. At best, it's a Macbeth tone poem — an unpleasant one for

audience and actor alike. Or rather, since the 60-minute production

closes with the “Tomorrow” speech, Covics has deliberately made the

end-all of nouveau-nonsense Shakespeare adaptations, sending us out of

the theater with “Signifying nothing” ringing in our heads as a lesson

to the cock-eyed creatives. (AN) Unknown Theater, 1110 N. Seward St.,

Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 27. (323)


GO STRANGER Keythe Farley and Eva Anderson's world

premiere musical (or more accurately a play with music) is set in the

Nevada town of San Lorenzo in 1847. A bandit named Lagarto (Michael

Dunn) has murdered the town's sheriff and kidnapped his daughter

Lucinda (Molly O'Neill). Lucinda's mother, Miranda, (Ann Closs-Farley,

who also creates the beautiful costumes) owns the local saloon and

takes in The Stranger (Cameron Dye) who wanders into town one day,

running from his own dark past. Lagarto is after treasure Miranda has

hidden away, but she refuses to give it up without a fight, rallying

the townspeople behind her, including The Padre (Joe Hernandez-Kolski),

a morally ambiguous figure. The ambiguity of the priest's motives, as

well as the style of the piece evoke, and simultaneously parody, the

“spaghetti Westerns” of the 1960s. Composer Anthony Bollas' blues licks

mixed with Western rock and Spanish guitar perfectly set the mood,

along with Rebecca Kessin's desert soundscape. Francois-Pierre

Couture's wood-slat backdrops that appear branded with a hot iron are

wonderfully evocative of The Ponderosa as well. Farley, who also

directs the piece, masterfully shifts between scenes and creates

arresting tableaux, using the set to its full capacity. Dunn

charismatically embodies a larger-than-life outlaw, delivering lines

full of humor and irony, and the rest of the cast shines as well, from

Dye's tough-as-nails demeanor and O'Neill's ferocity to Closs-Farley's

Mae West-like spunk and Hernandez-Kolski's silver tongue. (MK) Bootleg

Theater; 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.

(June 21 & 28 only); through July 4. (213) 389-3856.


THE STUTTERING PREACHER/DAD Levy Lee Simon's one-acts: a comedy

about a Baptist pastor and a dramedy about a father and son. The

Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru July 26. (818) 731-7885.

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)


TOUCH THE WATER The cause is great. The intentions are beyond

reproach. So why is it that so much of playwright Julie Hébert and

director Juliette Carrillo's eco-advocacy drama plays like preaching to

the choir? Perhaps it's because their protagonist isn't a human

character but a piece of city infrastructure — the much-abused and

long-neglected L.A. River. It certainly doesn't help that the city's

adoption of the 2007 Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan has,

in effect, already robbed the political storyline of its dramatic

thunder (which may explain why talky stretches of river-greening

exposition are about as entertaining as a press release). Still, even

sermons can have their charm, and choirs make beautiful music, and this

production is rich in both. There is the pleasure of Carrillo's

site-specific staging on the northern bank of the L.A. River

overlooking Frogtown (represented in Darcy Scanlin's river-refuse set)

and the rousing raft of original songs (music by Shishir Kurup, lyrics

by Kurup & Hébert) that animates the show's human story. There are

engaging, lead performances by Kurup and Page Leong as old, Frogtown

friends estranged by a riverbank gang killing, who are finally brought

together by the river's renewal. And there is the climactic coup de

théâtre, engineered by lighting designer Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, and its

stunning moment of spine-tingling magic that is the raison d'être of

site-specific theater. (BR) Rio de Los Angeles State Park, Bowtie

Parcel, entrance adjacent to 2800 Casitas Ave., L.A.; Wed.-Sun., 8

p.m.; through June 21. (213) 613-1700, ext. 37.


hauntingly familiar about Edwin Sanchez's lowlife romance, and I don't

mean its pre-Giuliani, 42nd Street locale, so palpably invoked by

Sanchez and director Efrain Schunior's blistering stage poetry. The

block's sordid miasma of peepshows, seedy hotel rooms, gay movie houses

and Port Authority men's rooms — cleverly represented in designer

Marika Stephens' triptych of skeletal, neon-trimmed, box scaffolds —

comprises the track where Puerto Rican street veteran Papo (a soulful

Ramon Camacho) hustles the tricks of his rough trade. It's also where

he falls for Brian (Stephen Twardokus), a chronically repressed

attorney and 26-year-old virgin so tangled in the apron strings of a

domineering mother that he can't consummate a hooker-john liaison much

less engage in an openly gay relationship. In the meantime, Papo will

have to settle for the runaway, Bobby (Elijah Trichon), a 16-year-old

package of dangerously damaged goods, who only wants to make Papo a

good wife. The arrangement quickly develops into a volatile mix of

vulnerability, unrequited desire and wounded pride just waiting for the

inevitable spark. Of course, Papo is no hard-bitten Ratso Rizzo; he's

descended from an even more ancient line of Hollywood hokum: the

proverbial hooker with a heart of gold. Credit Schunior's skillful

sleight of hand, and riveting performances by Camacho and Twardokus for

selling such a shamelessly adolescent fantasy, which may be the

greatest hustle of the show. (BR) Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through June 28.

(323) 957-1884 or

TRUCK STOP CAFÉ Sharon L. Graine's stage adaptation of the film Bagdad Café. Playhouse Theatre Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 27. (323) 227-5410.

GO VOICE LESSONS Justin Tanner's very funny sitcom

shoots darts at a trio of characters who are tied to the dart board by

their transparent lunacies and hubris, which makes it an exercise in

almost pointless cruelty, though the broadness of Bart DeLorenzo's

staging may have contributed to the sense of this Punch & Judy Show

masquerading as a satire. In earlier plays, like Pot Mom,

Tanner stumbled onto an insight that unearthed the unseen side of a

stereotype. His skills at structure, one-liners and caricature are so

sharply honed, his persisting challenge is finding something worth

saying. Tanner's parody is directed at the vicious and deluded vanity

of a hopelessly obviously talentless and aging pop singer, Virginia

(Laurie Metcalf), trying to claw her way to TV fame. Can a target get

any easier? She cements her ambitions to a voice teacher, Nate (French

Stewart), whose initial mask of respectability and ethics slithers down

the greasy pole of his own personal desperation. Maile Flanagan further

inflates the farce, portraying Nate's zaftig live-in girlfriend,

setting up a catfight over the forlorn and increasingly sleazy teacher.

For all its petulant ambitions, the evening is wildly entertaining

thanks to the irrepressible talents of the cast. It's hard to see how

this play would survive without these actors. With a deep and slightly

nasal voice, and deadpan responses that should be copyrighted for the

mountain of silent thoughts they reveal, Stewart provides the perfect

foil for Metcalf's meticulously executed tornado of psychosis and

Flanagan's lovely cameo. DeLorenzo deserves credit for the comedy's

sculpted timing, and Gary Guidinger's set and lighting depicts with

realistic detail the frayed fortress of Nate's living room. (SLM)

Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

7 p.m.; through June 28. (323) 960-7711.

WHO WROTE THIS SH!T Patrick Bristow directs an improv ensemble

through the Hollywood script process, from pitch meeting to DVD review.

Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.; thru

July 30. (800) 838-3006.

YA GOTTA GO HIGHER One-man show on addiction and recovery by

comedian Yul “Spencer.”. East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa Monica

Blvd., L.A.; Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 & 10 p.m.; Sun., 4

p.m.; thru June 28,…


THE APPLE TREE Three one-act musicals, music by Jerry Bock, lyrics

by Sheldon Harnick, book by Bock and Harnick. Crown City Theatre, 11031

Camarillo St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

June 28. (818) 745-8527.

GO BREAKING THE CODE Brilliant, eccentric

mathematician Alan Turing (Sam R. Ross) did vital work for British

intelligence during World War II, breaking the Nazi Enigma Code, which

saved thousands of allied lives, and materially helped defeat the Axis

powers. But because his efforts were top secret, he received only

posthumous public recognition. (Later, building on his work on the code

machines, he pioneered the modern computer.) But as playwright Hugh

Whitemore observes here, he broke other codes as well: moral, legal,

professional, and personal, including the homosexual's 20th century

code of silence. Gay, guileless, awkward, ruthlessly honest, and

socially inept, he was often oblivious of his effect on others. When a

sexual encounter with a bit of rough trade (Adam Burch) led to a police

investigation, he rashly admitted to the inspector (Armand DesHarnais)

that he had sexual relations with the young man. He found himself, like

Oscar Wilde, prosecuted for “gross indecency,” his life and career

wrecked. Writer Whitehouse and actor Ross provide an eloquent,

touching, richly detailed portrait of Turing, and director Robert

Mammana has assembled a fine supporting cast, including Sarah Lilly as

Turing's garrulous, loving mother, and David Ross Patterson as a

hilarious dim-bulb bureaucrat. (NW) The Chandler Studio Theatre, 12443

Chandler Boulevard, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 20. or (800) 838-3006. The Production


law logo2x bPhoto by Zombie Joe


am a sick man…I am a spiteful man.” Thus begins the narrative of one

of Fydor Dostevsky's most infamous characters, here portrayed with

unsettling energy and passion by Michael Blomgren. Director Zombie Joe

has infused a touch of modernity in this production, drawing mainly on

the text from the novella, but also adding many references to

contemporary time and places. The result is a piece that, although not

doing full justice to Dostoevsky's work — a near impossible task for

anyone — does artfully dramatize its core themes of alienation and

anti-rationalism. The opening tableau is jolting, with Blomgren nestled

at the feet of his maid Apollo (Noelle Adames), who sings “Ether,” a

delightfully grotesque dirge written by Christopher Reiner, with the

appropriate eerie musical accompaniment. Blomgren heats up the next 20

minutes with a blistering, full throttle monologue filled with

existential angst and rage, explaining the particulars of what amounts

to a wretched existence, and a perverse delight in his own suffering,

as well as that of others. A social gathering and a sexual liaison only

only add to the sense of desolation and madness. The production is

short, but it packs a punch from Blomgren's loaded performance.

Rounding out the cast are Heather Lehigh, Lauren Andrea Nelsen, Conrad

Lawson, and Lauren Vaughan.  ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd.,

North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8: 30 p.m.; thru June. 27. (818) 202-4120.

(Lovell Estell III)


real-life stories (from writers Peter Sichrovsky's “Born Guilty” and

Dan Bar-On's “Legacy of Silence: Children of the Third Reich”), Hannah

Moscovitch's involving psychological drama revolves around an SS

doctor's son and his struggle to live with the knowledge of his

father's crimes.  Teenage Rudi (Russell Sams) grows up in Paraguay

oblivious to his parent's past, until a more jaundiced classmate  named

Hermann (James Barry) – also the son of a Nazi — decides to wise him

up. Profoundly disturbed, Rudi leaps into an affair with Hermann, but

soon decides to flee the country for Germany.  There he takes on a new

name and falls in love with a Jewish-American girl named Sara (Carolyn

Stotes) whose mother was a Holocaust survivor.   (Is this real passion,

or is he just looking for a way to atone? the play asks.) For fear of

losing her he conceals his lineage – a circumstance that brings his

guilt into even more agonizing focus, even more so when she learns

about it anyway.  Effectively staged by co-directors C.B. Brown and

Sara Botsford, the script's strongest and most persuasive element is

Rudi's monologue, a vivid piece of storytelling that serves as the

piece's compelling spine.  With his mien of wry detachment, Sams

delivers a credible performance that nonetheless lacks the depth and

nuance that make for powerful drama.  Stotes is extremely appealing as

his love interest, and the scenes between them are among the best. NoHo

Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru July 19. (818) 508-7101.  A co-production of NoHo

Arts Center Ensemble and 49th Parallel Theater. (Deborah Klugman)

GO THE ELEPHANT MAN In his very romantic and even

sentimental Tony-award winning 1979 play, Bernard Pomerance challenges

our presumptions as to where monstrosity resides. A scientist named

Treves, portrayed by Andrew Matthews with bright-eyed, bow-tied

self-assurance, presumes he understands the entirety of a situation he

simply does not, when he rescues a the pathologically deformed John

Merrick (Daniel Reichert) from a carnival freak show in Victorian

London. Director John Demita stages the nine-member ensemble on the

tiny almost bare stage around a trio of portable, translucent screens,

like hospital screens, which come to represent the thin veneer of

privacy in the hospital clinic where Merrick spends his final days.

(Set designed by Steven Markus.) True to the Broadway staging, and in

direct contrast to David Lynch's 1980 movie, the monstrosity of

Merrick's condition is revealed without a spec of makeup or any

plastic-cloth constructions. Rather, Reichert contorts his body, down

to the fused fingers we hear about in the dialogue and see in projected

photographs. Pomerance's Merrick is a tortured angel, something of a

prophet. The production is meticulously acted, with superb performances

also by Abbey Craden as an actress who captures Merrick's heart, by

Norman Snow as hospital administrator Carr Gomm, by Brian George

doubling as Merrick's carney-barker patron-thief, as well as a local

Bishop. I wish it weren't so staid. The director introduces his

ensemble with the promising tones of a Street Violinist (Max Quill),

and a juggler (Aandrea Reblynn), who returns to show how Treves'

attempts to sustain funding for a ward are a juggling act, yet the show

doesn't quite push beyond the tone of the clinic where its action

finally settles — despite Kim DeShazo Wilkinson's lush and colorful

costumes. (SLM) Andak Stage Company at the New Place Studio Theatre,

10950 Peach Grove Street, North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; through June 21. (866) 811-4111.

INSIDE PRIVATE LIVES Audience members interact with infamous or

celebrated personages from the 20th century, as re-created in a series

of monologues. Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South

Pasadena; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28, (866)


IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE Charles Michael Edmonds' solo show. Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June

27. (323) 960-5773.

THE MUSCLES IN OUR TOES High school, the cherished never-neverland

of pop culture, is the setting for Stephen Belber's hit-and-miss

comedy, here in its world premiere. On the occasion of their 20th high

school reunion, old friends Les (Daniel Milder), Rag (Michael Benyaer),

Dante (Al Espinosa), and Phil (Bill Tangridi) congregate in an old

music classroom to reminisce and trade shots of booze. This group is a

study in contrasts. Dante is a banker, a new convert to Judaism and is

full of swagger and attitude; his brother Phil is “atypically gay”; Les

works in theater as a fight coordinator; and Reg, an Iranian, works for

the federal government. Unfortunately, the bonhomie mojo of the moment

is tempered by the absence of their comrade Jim (Keith Ewell), a

tennis-shoe baron who's been kidnapped by rebels in Chad, supposedly in

retaliation for the U.S. government's detention of a terrorist. The

play's premise, already stretched thin, turns to rice paper when the

group hatches an insane plot to free their buddy. Most of the buzz here

comes from the raft of one-liners, testosterone-fueled antics and bawdy

humor, although it starts great in the absence of a viable plot. Cast

performances are fine under Jennifer Chambers' direction. (LE3) El

Portal Forum Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd., Thur.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m. through June 28. (866) 811-4111.


farce about Italian-American family life depends on a few minutes of

soppy sentimentality to balance out two hours of caricature.

29-year-old Nick (Ren Bell) spends every Sunday night in Hoboken for

dinner with both sets of grandparents – four nearly imbecilic

characters who fuss and rant, but never listen to their grandson, who,

in turn, constantly yells at them.. When Nick tells them he is moving

to Seattle for a big promotion, the old folks move into overdrive to

stop him – their big weapon: a blind date with the lovely Caitlin

(sweetly played by Alyse Courtney). She shames him for his mistreatment

of the grands, which leads to enough household calm to explore some

deeper emotions and finally tone the hollering down for the characters

to find resolution. The writing is quite funny in its Everybody Loves

Raymond style, and the over-the-top performances by Irene Chapman,

Robert Gallo, Michele Bernath and director Larry Eisenberg (filling in

on a Sunday matinee) garnered constant laughs from an appreciative

audience. While the script alternates between bombastic and cloying,

Eisenberg keeps his actors fully committed to each moment. Chris

Winfield's very naturalistic suburban living room set also helps keeps

the cast grounded in some reality. (TP) Lonny Chapman Group Repertory

Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; thru June 27. (818) 700-4878.

RED, HOT AND BLUE! Director-choreographer Joe Joyce tries to blow

the dust off Cole Porter's antiquated musical, but with mixed success.

The music and lyrics by Porter can't be faulted other than they have

little to do with Howard Lindsy and Russel Crouse's antediluvian book,

grafted onto a musical comedy. The very thin plot line concerns “Nails”

O'Reily Dusqusque (Allyson Turner) auctioning off the true love of her

life, Bob Hale (Kyle Nudo). These two are fine but some of the minor

roles are grating. Richard Horvitz (channeling Joe Pesci) plays the

comic foil way over the top. Worse though is Sandra Purpuro as Peaches,

who strives for a Betty Boop voice and achieves something more akin to

nails scratching a chalkboard. Choreographer Joyce does what he can on

a postage-stamp-size stage. (SR) Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura

Blvd., Sherman Oaks. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. thru July 5. (800)

838-3006. By George Productions.

SEX, LOVE, AND TIME TRAVEL Five comedy one-acts by Daniel Weisman.

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

Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 28. (323) 960-1054.


there's a moral to director Carlos Martinez' late-night collection of

short meditations on urban alienation it's that one man's pain is

another man's comedy. For the playwright who takes this to heart, a

mother lode of laughs awaits; for everyone else, it's melodramatic

fool's gold. The lesson is lost on writer Sebastian Kedlecik, whose

“Angel City” and “Blue Eyes Turned Brown at Birth” assay out as

portentously turgid essays in adolescent angst. Norman A. Bert's

well-meaning “The Llano Estacado Blues” likewise misses the obvious

absurdist vein in its social-welfare critique. It is only in matters of

romance and its losers where the pieces finally pan out. These include

Phillip Kelly's “The Tender Creep is Me,” about a mousy but scarily

misogynistic misfit (the fine Charles Allen Hutchison) and the woman

(Liesl Jackson) resigned to dating him. Hutchison also shines as a

would-be Fred to Jennifer Kenyon's Ginger in Martinez' whimsical

“Tripping the Light Over Coffee and Tea.” Kenyon comes into her own,

first as a woman enduring a self-lacerating session before her dressing

mirror in Jenn Scuderi's “Pretty Face,” and again in Sharon Yablon's

“1:58 a.m.” when the actress literally stops the show (and gives new

meaning to the expression “cold shoulder”) as the utterly indifferent

object of clueless boor Jim Martyka's desire. Kenyon and Martyka's

flawless timing plus Yablons' 18-karat text strike unadulterated, comic

pay dirt. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Sat., 10:30 p.m.; thru June 27. Produced by Theatre

Unleashed. (818) 849-4039 or (Bill Raden)

TRACING SONNY Young voice-over artist Sonny (Jacob Smith) has more

problems than a single play can accommodate. His parents adopted him

because his dad (Sebastian Kadlecik) was experiencing a spell of

impotence, which rendered children unlikely. Then, when the pressure

was off, Dad sired a daughter, who later died of a childhood illness.

Mom (Sylvia Anderson) blamed ever-angry Dad, and their marriage

foundered. Now Sonny has taken up with pretty, animated cartoonist Luci

(Vanessa Hurd), whom he met at the zoo, and they're engaged. When she

miscarries their baby, the resulting grief and guilt render Sonny

impotent. His efforts to remedy the situation are hindered by parental

voices reflecting Dad's anger and Mom's accusations of inadequacy.

Playwright Andrew Moore attempts to use both the cartooning and the

voice-overs as metaphors, but his plot meanders. Short scenes follow

one another without climaxes, scenes are interlarded with bits of old

animated cartoons featuring Porky Pig, Popeye, Betty Boop, etc., and

director Pamela Moore's direction fails to supply dramatic thrust.

Smith and Hurd provide charm and skill, making the most of their

material, but Anderson and Kadlecik are hindered by sketchy, one-note

characters. (NW) Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 28. Produced

by Theatre Unleashed. (818) 849-4039 or


BABYLON HEIGHTS Munchkins go wild on the set of The Wizard of Oz,

by Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanaugh. Garage Theatre, 251 E. Seventh St.,

Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 20. (866) 811-4111.

law logo2x b
Photo by Enci


a few notes of sardonic humor, Itamar Moses' sketch about would-be

musical stars of the 18th-century, who ultimately fade into the shadows

of Johann Sebastian Bach,  aims for for erudition, but too often lands

in tediousness. Four composers named Georg and three Johanns vie for

the post as Leipzig's organ master, a position that would guarantee the

winner the power to shape the musical, cultural (and, it seems

political) fortunes of the Holy Roman Empire – at least the valuable

German parts. Intrigues, reality-show-style alliances and betrayals

abound as the composers plot and prepare for an all-important audition.

Between connivances they spout literate, self-conscious oratory

covering the artistic soul in and out of relation to the growing feud

between Lutheranism and Calvinism. An interesting descent into farce is

undercut buy the author's too-precious self-comparison to Moliere.

Director Darin Anthony serves up almost balletic choreography, with

some success. The best moments, though, come from Ron Nagle powerhouse

performance as the only  thoughtful character, and from Henry Clarke

who perfectly balances swagger and foppishness as a womanizing

nobleman. The production is visually stunning, through an array of

exquisite period costumes and wigs designed by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., June

14, 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Aug. 9. (310) 477-2055. (Tom Provenzano)



coming-of-age story. Psychic Visions Theatre, 3447 Motor Ave., L.A.;

Sat., 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 7, 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 8. (310) 535-6007.

CINDERELLA: THE MUSICAL Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie's

family-friendly fairy tale. (Resv. required.). Santa Monica Playhouse,

1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat.-Sun., 12:30 & 3 p.m.; thru Dec.

27. (310) 394-9779.

DID YOU DO YOUR HOMEWORK? Writer/performer Aaron Braxton has passion

and talent – both amply evident in this promising work-in-progress

about the difficulties of teaching in the urban classroom. A 13-year

veteran with L.A. Unified, Braxton builds his piece around his early

experience as a substitute teacher filling in for an old-timer – 33

years on the job – who one day ups and quits. A gift for mimicry brings

the performer's characters into clear comic focus: himself as the

beleaguered Mr. Braxton, several colorful problem students, their even

more colorful and problematic parents and another staff member — a

well-meaning elderly bureaucrat in charge of the school's

counterproductive testing program. At times Braxton steps away from

dramatizing the action to speak to the audience directly about the

frustrations of trying to make a difference, contrasting his own

upbringing as the son of a teacher, taught to respect education, with

the imperviously disdainful attitude of his pupils. He also sings 4

songs, displaying a beautiful voice. The main problem with the piece is

its disjointedness and discontinuity; the songs, reflective of

Braxton's message, are only tenuously connected to the narrative,

itself a patchwork collection of anecdotes juxtaposed against addresses

to the audience. This gives the show a hybrid feel – part performance,

part moral exposition, part musical showcase. Yet there's plenty of

power and potential here. Kathleen Rubin directs. (DK) Beverly Hills

Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

through April 18. (310) 358-9936.

FACING EAST Mormon husband and wife deal with their homosexual son's

suicide, by Carol Lynn Pearson. International City Theatre, 300 E.

Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru July

5. (562) 436-4610.

I'LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT Even by the standards of the

venerable 12-step confessional, Jonathan Coogan's one-man memoir of

growing up amid the pot smoke, promiscuity and pernicious parenting of

the freewheeling Hollywood of the '70s is fairly tepid stuff. Which is

not to say Coogan doesn't have a lot going for him as a performer. With

a wry, self-deprecating manner and an engaging stage presence, he

clearly knows his way around a one-liner. His autobiographical

material, however, just doesn't generate the highs — no pun intended —

or lows demanded by the shopworn victim-recovery formula. Perhaps

that's because, in the land of medical marijuana, having been a teenage

stoner turned weed dealer scared straight by a brush with the law seems

so, well, underwhelmingly ordinary. More likely it's because this

“addiction” story, at least as it's framed here by Coogan and his

co-writer, director Dan Frischman, seems to constantly shrink before a

pair of far more compelling characters always looming in the background

— namely Coogan's colorful, pot-smoking New York-Jew parents. In fact,

judging by the unresolved bitterness permeating the piece, its real

star is Rosy Rosenthal, Coogan's Ralph Kramden-esque wisecracker of a

father (tellingly, the mother's name is never uttered). Far more than

any clichés about a “higher power,” it is Rosy and his

spare-the-fist-spoil-the-child version of tough love that determines

the psychic trajectory of Coogan's life and is this tale's true heart

and soul. )BR) Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly

Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through June 27. (310) 358-9936.

THE MIRACLE WORKER The Helen Keller story, by William Gibson.

Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Sun., June 28, 7 p.m.; thru June 21. (310) 399-3666.

A NUMBER A widower (John Heard) discovers that a hospital has bred

clones of his bachelor son (the aptly named Steve Cell), making him a

father to an unknown number of identical young men. The son, Bernard,

is confused, but open to meeting his brothers; the dad immediately

cries “lawsuit!” — allowing playwright Caryl Churchill to plunge

straight away into her themes about the boundaries, rights and values

of an identity. (And when Bernard suspects he's not the original, is

that even worse?) Churchill argues that personality is separate from

genetics and introduces us to three Bernards as distinct as Goldilocks'

bears: one bitter, one sweet, and one conflicted. Cell plays all three,

and it's hard not to interpret director Bart DeLorenzo's decision to

signify the role-switching by having Cell button, unbutton or strip off

his overshirt as a lack of trust in either the performer or the

audience. Their father is clearly hiding a secret, and Heard captures

him as a man defeated before the play even begins — he resolves every

confrontation by telling the Bernards what they want to hear. If there

is one truth under his lies, it'd be the play's only singularity: While

the clones share a disgust for him, it springs from different reasons.

“You don't look at me the same way,” the widower says of how he tells

them apart. But unlike him, we never see the clones or their father as

people, only players in a fable that's constrained by the very

dichotomies it wants to explore. (AN) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through June

20. (310) 477-2055.

GO OUR TOWN Upon learning that one of L.A.'s most

daring theater companies, the Actors' Gang, is tackling Thornton

Wilder's beloved three-act stage perennial about life, love and death,

one is keen to witness the group's “take” on the play's universal

themes. This play is, after all, the hoop through which almost every

high school theater department must jump. Interestingly enough,

director Justin Zsebe's interpretation in his intimate yet powerful

production is one of surprising and sincere faithfulness to the play's

tone and mood. This is a beautifully rendered and moving Our Town.

Narrated by Steven M. Porter's genial yet crusty Stage Manager, the

play's story of life in a small New England town, centering on the

romance and marriage of sweet young Emily (a luminous Vanessa Mizzone)

and her beloved George (Chris Schultz), receives a staging whose basic

simplicity belies unexpected depths of subtly articulated feeling.

Zsebe admittedly tosses in a couple of visual conceits that might cause

Wilder to whirl in his grave: There's a character who performs a

dazzling yet wholly irrelevant acrobatic dance from a long sash,

seemingly just because it looks good; and, during the play's third act,

set in the underworld, the deceased characters hang from playground

swings, when simple chairs are called for in the script. Yet the

ensemble work is deft and subtle — and moments that are often corny in

other, lesser productions evoke laughter and tears here — from the

beautiful scene in which Ma Webb (Lindsley Allen) and Ma Gibbs

(Annemette Andersen) shuck their peas, to the touching one in which

Schultz's George suffers his wedding night-cum-fear of mortality

jitters at the altar. (PB) Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver

City; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m. (no perfs June 18-21); through

July 11 (310) 838-GANG. An Actors' Gang production.


BOTANICUM SEEDLINGS: A DEVELOPMENT SERIES FOR PLAYWRIGHTS Public readings of new plays: The Power of Birds by Robin Rice Lichtig (June 7), How To Shoot a Bull Moose by Jonathan A. Goldberg (June 14), Awake

by Michael David (June 21). Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N.

Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sun., 11 a.m.; thru June 21. (310)



of old-time radio shows. BANG, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Sun., June

21, 7:30 p.m.. (323) 653-6886.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Staged reading of Oscar Wilde's comedy, to be recorded for syndicated radio series The Play's the Thing.

Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; Through

June 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 20, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., June 21, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889.

PHIL CROSSON AND HIS MAGICAL REVUE . Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W.

Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Sun., June 21, 7 p.m.. (626) 256-3809.

THEATRE WEST PLAY READING SERIES June 9: Petain by Lloyd J. Schwartz; June 16: SLIP/KNOT by Dayle Reyfel; June 23: Fall Back, Spring Forward by Barbara Nell Beery; June 30: Two Gentlemen of Manhattan by P.G. Sturges; July 7: What Are Friends For? by Victoria Vidal; July 14: Moose on the Loose by Dina Morrone; July 21: There Is a Season by Doug Haverty; July 28: Abandon by Chris DiGiovanni; August 4: Grandma Good by Arden Teresa Lewis; August 11: Zeno's Paradox by Wendy Graf. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Tues., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 11. (323) 851-7977.


producer Neil Meron, talent manager Danny Sussman, talent agent Brandt

Joel and director Andrew Bernstein. XRT, 1581 Industrial St., L.A.;

Wed., June 24, 7 p.m….


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