STAGE FEATURE on plays without words: Hamlet Shut Up! and Violators Will Be Violated


The yin and yang tug and pull between expressing our condition through the absence of words versus their abundance gets nicely expressed in two “silent” comedies (Jonas Oppenheim's Hamlet Shut Up! and Casey Smith's Violators Will be Violated — respectively at Sacred Fools Theatre and Son of Semele in Hollywood) contrasted against the verbiage of almost every Irish play ever written. Almost all Irish plays seem to circle back to the idea of spoken stories being a core component of personal identity, national legends and cultural myths. Writer-director Enda Walsh's peculiar, engrossing comedy concerns three sisters (Rosaleen Linehan, Ruth McCabe and Catherine Walsh) trapped in a some hovel of a “stone age” coastal town (Savine Dargent's set depicts rock formations outside the windows of what's supposed to be a home, but is here abstracted into something more resembling an industrial warehouse.) Two of the sisters, now in their 60s, make a sporting ritual of telling stories – in retro costume and with the help of a follow-spot, stored in their dwelling — about a romantically wrenching event of their youth that's solidified into the apparent cause of their cynicism and malaise. Meanwhile, their considerable younger sibling acts as a kind of referee, with body language that hangs at angles, suggesting a state of perpetual panic. Not unlike Walsh's The Walworth Farce, also presented by this same Druid Ireland theater company at this same venue, the action of the play is the performance of a play, or, in this case, stories that are performed as though in a contest or an audition. Language flows from these people as though from a spigot. The question is whether the torrent of words is a liberation or a curse. The occasional lulls in conversation create a kind of terror, wherein they must confront the nothingness that envelops them. There's a fishmonger named Patsy (Mikel Murfi), an awkward lout overflowing with frenzied gossip, who washes in and out with the tide, aching for a simple invitation to tea. He is the embodiment of the women's shattered dreams, which they try to unshatter through a kind of baptism of him. He's a man whose stories cannot include the expression “your beautiful face”, despite being urged to speak with poetry rather than idle ravings. The slightly mystifying situation is as hypnotic as the Beckettian linguistics are riveting. It's also beautifully performed. The play ponders whether the silence and comfort of the womb, or just the inside of their home, in its infinite loneliness, is preferable to the babble of the outdoors, with its infinite loneliness. Therein lies the difference between the absence of words, and the prison of their abundance. Druid Ireland at UCLA Live's International Theater Festival, Ralph Freud Playhouse; perfs nightly 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. through December 6. https://uclalive.org (Steven Leigh Morris)

For this coming week's new review docket, plus local stage happenings, press the Continue Reading tab directly below.

Check back here Monday afternoon for New Reviews of:

ABSINTHE, OPIUM, & MAGIC: 1920s SHANGHAI The Grand Guignolers take a luxury cruise to Shanghai, the most decadent city of the 1920s. Artworks Performance Space, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:15 p.m.; Sun., 6:45 p.m.; thru Jan. 3. (800) 838-3006.

ACCOMPLICE: HOLLYWOOD Part game, part theater, part tour: “It all begins with a phone call disclosing a secret meeting location. Aided by clues and mysterious cast members strewn throughout various locations such as street corners, bars, iconic landmarks and out-of-the-way spots, the audience traverses the city streets, piecing together clues of a meticulously crafted plot.” Tickets: www.AccompliceTheShow.com. Hollywood Blvd.,

GAY APPAREL: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Dickens get dicked: Jason Moyer's homoerotic re-imagining of Charles Dickens' holiday classic. Lyric-Hyperion Theater, 2106 Hyperion Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (800) 838-3006.

THE HOUSE OF BESARAB A new environmental adaptation of “Dracula” with Travis Holder. Audience members eat and drink in the venue's historic Deco Bar before the show. Hollywood American Legion, 2305 N. Highland Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 9 p.m.; Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (310) 203-2850.

THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW, at the Groundlings Theater on Melrose Avenue. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 10 p.m.

PANDORA Neo Acro Theatre's story of two young women from different worlds. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 465-4446.

ROBBIE JENSEN: THE 12 STEPS OF CHRISTMAS Tony Matthews and Matt Schofield's comedy takes the audience to a “Robbie Jensen Life Skills Workshop.”. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.plays411.com/robbiejensen. (323) 960-1053.

THE SANTALAND DIARIES Nicholas Brendon stars in David Sedaris's one-man play about an out-of-work writer who takes a job as a Macy's Christmas elf. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.theblank.com. (323) 661-9827.

STATED INCOME Two guys plot to cheat the tax system, by Hugh Gross. Pan Andreas Theater, 5125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 20. (323) 962-6207.

THREE TALL WOMEN Edward Albee's study of contemporary womanhood. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 20, www.westcoastensemble.org. (323) 460-4443.

WACADEMIA Joe Camhi's satirical comedy about a hit man who has to take care of his father, whom he tries to teach political correctness in the same environment with his wife, who is suing an academic colleague for sexual harassment. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 19. (323) 874-1733.


SOUTH COAST REP PRESENTS A READING OF Beau Willimon's Spirit Control — “the story of an air traffic controller trying to avert disaster. Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.  at SCR in Costa Mesa. (714) 708-5555.

Debbie Allen's saga of  Omani and American roommates at a military academy. Royce Hall, UCLA, Dec. 10-12. (310) 825-2101.

N(E)IG(H)G(BO)ERS The Matrix Theatre Company and the Public Theatre New York present a staged reading of Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins' play as part of a workshop en route to the Public Theatre. Sunday, 1 p.m. 7657 Melrose Ave. Los Angeles (323) 852-1445. Free.

GUEST OF HONOR Staged reading of a new play by Dave Field about Scott Joplin's lost opera. Meta Theatre, 7801 Merlose Avenue. Dec. 9, 8 p.m. (323) 860-6625.


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