Also, this week's INTERVIEW with playwright Richard Greenberg

THE REHEARSAL is this week's Theater Pick

The Rehearsal Photo by Craig Schwartz

NEW REVIEW THEATER PICK In French dramatist Jean Anouilh's scintillating 1958 play, The Rehearsal, a group of amateur thespians is rehearsing a production of Marivaux's 18th century The Double Inconstancy, which offers a skewed mirror image of their world, and provides a pretext for Soojin Lee's lavish Louis XVth costumes.  The Count (Robertson Dean), known as Tiger, and his wife Eliane (Susan Angelo), devote their lives to pleasure.  He has a mistress (Jill Hill), and she has a lover (Steve Coombs). Also in attendance is Hero (Geoff Elliott), Tiger's boyhood friend, now a destructive, cynical drunk. Eager to seduce the young governess, Lucile (Lenne Klingaman), Tiger casts her in the play's ingénue role. To his own astonishment, he falls deeply in love, for the first time in his life, and she returns his love. But passion and sincerity offer profound threats to their shallow, hedonistic world, and the others join forces to destroy this dangerous love, with Hero assigned to deliver the cruel coup-de-grace. Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott gives this richly textured and sophisticated play a brilliant, handsome and finely-honed production laced with splendid performances. Special kudos for Elliott's detailed, deeply-felt Hero. A Noise Within, 234 South Brand Boulevard, Glendale; in rep, call for schedule; through May 24. (818) 240-0901, Ext. 1.
–Neal Weaver

The other latest NEW THEATER REVIEWS seen over the weekend, are embedded within this coming week's COMPREHENSVIVE THEATER LISTINGS


(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


BIG, THE MUSICAL Boy grows up overnight in this musical

adaptation of the Tom Hanks film. Book by John Weidman, music by David

Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. El Centro Theatre, 804 N. El Centro

Ave., L.A.; opens May 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 28.

(323) 460-4443.

CROWNS Church hats make the lady in this gospel musical, adapted by Regina Taylor from the book Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats

by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry. Nate Holden Performing Arts

Center, 4718 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; opens May 8; Thurs.-Fri., 8

p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru June 14. (323) 964-9768.

COURTING VAMPIRES World premiere of Laura Schellhardt's drama about

a bloodsucker put on trial. Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena;

opens May 9; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 7. (626)



screenwriter of the 1987 box-office hit, gives her formulaic film the

Broadway treatment. In case you forgot, here's the high concept: “Two

fiercely independent young spirits from different worlds come together

in what will be the most challenging and triumphant summer of their

lives.”. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; opens May 10;

Sun., May 10, 6 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1

& 6:30 p.m.; thru June 28. (213) 365-3500.

FREUD REVOLTS Lyda L. McPherson's dramedy about a psychiatrist and

her patients. Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood;

opens May 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24, (818) 720-2009.

HALF OF PLENTY Lisa Dillman's satire of modern life, lean times and

neighborhood watch. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; opens May

8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 21, (323) 960-7774.

HANK AND MY HONKY TONKY HEROES Jason Petty is country music icon

Hank Williams. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens May 14; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (866) 811-4111.

THE IDEA MAN Corporate bosses seize the greed when a line worker

proposes a revolutionary idea, in Kevin King's class-warfare

commentary. Elephant Stageworks, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens

May 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru June 13,

(323) 960-4410.


pair of one-acts: Stephen Sondheim's deleted Broadway tunes and Jason

Robert Brown's bidirectional romance. David Henry Hwang Theater, 120

Judge John Aiso St., L.A.; opens May 13; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 7…

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.; opens May 14; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 939-9220.


Peru's “hilarious personal exorcism.”. L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center,

Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; opens May 8; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 860-7302.

RICHARD II The Porters of Hellsgate take on Shakespeare's doomed

king. Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; opens May 8; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru May

31. (818) 761-0704.


installation deconstructs the burial rituals of Okinawa amid butoh

dance and sanshin music. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St.,

Santa Monica; May 8-9, 8:30 p.m.. (310) 315-1459.

SETUP & PUNCH A pair of Broadway composers are forced to

collaborate with a rock star, in Mark Saltzman's comedy. The Blank

Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens May 9; Thurs.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 21. (323) 661-9827.


Derek Ringold's “multiple-threat” performance mixes monologue, dance

and video. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; opens May 13; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 623-9036.

TRAFFICKING IN BROKEN HEARTS Edwin Sanchez's play about a gay

hustler torn between two lovers. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; opens May 8; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.;

thru June 7, (323) 957-1884.

WILDWOOD: A WESTERN FABLE Wild West saloon turns 99-seat theater in

Tom Patrick's parody. Hayworth Studio, 2509 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; opens

May 10; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 31,

(213) 389-9860.


NEW REVIEW GO AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' Come for Act 2. Richard Maltby, Jr.

directed this music-bar revue of songs from the Fats Waller era, many

composed by Waller, with words by a stream of lyricists, including

Maltby, Jr. Like the director, choreographer Arthur Faria has also

returned from years-long involvement with the 1978 Broadway show to

streamline this revival — dwarfed somewhat by the Ahmanson' barn-like

scale. The glitz of  shimmering streams of small lights that rim the

feet of stairways, or blast in an arc over John Lee Beatty's art deco

set (lighting design by Pat Collins), only gets in the way. Music

director William Foster McDaniel sits parked at a spinet that floats

across the stage through the wonder of hydraulics. I found Act 1

insufferable, with the women in the five actor ensemble overplaying the

same bits of mock-jealousy and forced, girly eroticism, as though

Malby, Jr. adhered to the dubious principle that if a gag fails once,

keep repeating it until it works. The interpretations of 15 songs in

Act 1, including “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Squeeze Me,” ranges from

competent to painful, with the uber-effect of cheesiness stemming from

the strain of forcing an intimate revue into the kind of overly broad

performing style that it just can't accommodate. Act 2, is like a

different show. The glitz recedes, and the style settles into something

more earnest and simple — even the vaudeville bits, such as Eugene

Barry-Hill's terrific rendition of “The Viper's Drag” in which he

wobbles amidst jazzy crooning about the pleasures of reefer. Most of

the act, however, is committed to blues and ballads, sung with

emotional earnestness and simple tech support, with the help of the

great eight-piece band behind them, and McDaniel on piano. The show is

about the music and contains a wit that 's far more savvy and wry that

the style of humor in Act 1. The music also provides a mirror onto the

ambitions and torments of people in the years before WWII.  When the

performers (also including Doug Eskew, Armelia McQueen, Roz Ryan and

Debra Walton) are left alone to do what they do best, the show takes

flight. The company turns “Black and Blue” into an ethereal quintet,

accompanied only by the piano, that could be been plucked from a church

service. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 31. (213) 638-4017 or (Steven Leigh Morris)

Debra Walton and Eugene Barry-Hill in Ain't Misbehavin' Photo by Craig Schwartz

BACK TO BACHARACH AND DAVID This splashy production provides a

timely reminder of just how much the songs of Burt Bacharach (music)

and Hal David (lyrics) have imbedded themselves in our consciousness.

With their 40 chart-topping hits, many written for Dionne Warwick, they

created an astonishing body of work. This production, with musical

arrangements by Steve Gunderson, direction by Kathy Najimy, and busy

choreography by Javier Velasco, features some 30 of their songs,

including “Close To You,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “What The World

Needs Now Is Love.” The four performers, Diana De Garmo, Tom Lowe,

Susan Mosher and Tressa Thomas are expert, energetic and vocally adept

(two of them are American Idol alums), but the production suggests a

cabaret show masquerading as a rock concert. The vast venue works

against intimacy and tends to homogenize the performers, while the

flashing, moving, sometimes blinding colored lights, cinematic

projections, and smoke machines can distract, particularly from the

less familiar songs. One is grateful for the moments, like Lowe's

rendition of “Alfie,” when someone is allowed to just sing, without

being overloaded with production values or cutesy choreography. It's a

fun show, and it goes down smoothly, but a little less might have

provided a little more. (NW) The Music Box @ Fonda, 6126 Hollywood

Boulevard, Hollywood; for schedule and tickets; thru May


EMILIE Lauren Gunderson's true story of <0x00C9>milie du

Ch<0x00E2>telet's affair with Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire.

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa; Tues.-Fri.,

7:45 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:45 p.m.; thru May 10. (714) 708-5555.

THE FANTASTICKS The world's longest-running musical, which is also

now running off-Broadway, with music by Harvey Schmidt and lyrics by

Tom Jones. Directed by Jason Alexander. UCLA Freud Playhouse, Macgowan

Hall, Westwood; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 &

7 p.m.; thru May 17. (310) 825-2101.

GO GHOSTS There's nothing supernatural about Henrik

Ibsen's 1881 drama: his ghosts are our own bitter memories and the old,

dead ideas that continue to confine and stifle us. The form and the

language may be dated, but the issues are as fresh as ever. Mrs. Alving

(Deborah Strang) has crucified herself in the service of duty and

respectability that narrow provincial society and her own hypocritical

minister, Pastor Manders (Joel Swetow), have drilled into her. But her

efforts to do the right thing have back-fired because they were based

on lies, and her attempts to shield her son (J. Todd Adams) from hard

truths have almost destroyed him. Ibsen has structured his play like Oedipus Rex

— or a modern whodunit. On a seemingly ordinary day, inconvenient

truths keep emerging, inexorably, till everything and everyone is

morally compromised or destroyed. Director-adapter Michael Murray has

assembled a fine cast (including Mark Bramhall and understudy Rebecca

Mozo); he calibrates their performances with precision, and reveals a

sharp eye for Ibsen's dark comedy. If one wanted to quibble, one might

wish the last scene had been played for a bit less melodrama, but

overall it's a terrific, coherent, and always engrossing production.

Nikki Delhomme provided the fine costumes. (NW) A Noise Within, 234

South Brand Blvd., Glendale; in alternating rep through May 8; call for

schedule. (818) 240-0910.

LOOKING FOR NORMAL Gender-bender comedic drama by Jane Anderson about a

middle-aged Midwesterner who decides after 25 years of marriage that he

wants a sex-change operation. Malibu Stage Company, 29243 Pacific Coast

Hwy., Malibu; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m.; thru May 24. (310)


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 June 28. (310) 208-54545.

LYDIA This L.A. premiere of Octavio Solis' poetical drama boasts

many of the same actors featured when the play premiered at the Denver

Theater Center. And staying with a production for so long is one

possible explanation for the dynamic and richly textured performances

by Stephanie Beatriz in the title role – a feisty teenage maid hired

from Mexico by a dubiously assimilated Latino-American family in mid

1970s El Paso. Her mirror image is the teenage daughter, Ceci (Onahoua

Rodriguez, equally enhralling), of a bitter short order cook, Claudio

(Daniel Zacapa, in a perfectly modulated interpretation of brutal

machismo and sensitive stoicism) and his vivacious wife, Rosa (Catalina

Maynard). Ceci suffers brain damage from an auto accident that left her

writhing and twitching, speaking with what one character calls a

“vegetable tongue.” But when Solis and director Juliette Carrillo spin

out some magical realism, Ceci rises like a dancer and speaks with

hidden knowledge in waves of thick poetry. At first, juxtaposed against

the gentle strains of a guitar and the family's daily rituals, the

effect has a transcendent beauty, but eventually this etherial device

simply imposes on the play's more rudimentary aspect: investigating the

mystery of what led to the terrible car crash. The answer involves a

pair of brothers, one a sensitive poet (Carlo Albán), the other a

fighter (Tony Sancho), and a cousin (Max Arciniega) who, early on,

shows up in an INS uniform — a sliver of foreshadowing that's every bit

as bludgeoning as the many mirror images are delicate. This is a hefty

play that's ultimately, without any intended irony, the kind of

tele-novella (with some dream sequences) that the characters watch in

their living room. Reaching for epic, it's mostly long – the difference

being in the quality of the secrets unearthed. (SLM) Mark Taper Forum,

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

1 & 6:30 p.m.; through May 17.

THE REHEARSAL Jean Anouilh's story of a jaded count and his jealous

court in 1950s France. A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale;

Sun., May 10, 2 & 7 p.m.; Through May 15, 8 p.m.; Through May 23, 8

p.m.; Through May 24, 2 p.m.. (818) 240-0910.

GO THE SEAFARER If you're seeking innovation in the

theater, look elsewhere. Conor McPherson's Irish yarn is chip off the

stock-block of Celtic-folklore – story-telling, bullshitting,

scatological jokes, card playing and a visit by somebody from the

metaphysical realm, which raises the not-trivial question: what on

earth are we doing with our time? Thanks to a quintet of

sharp-as-they-come performances, under Randall Arney's carefully

calibrated production, the event holds up. McPherson's drama isn't as

menacing as in New York; Arney gives it a lighter touch, which reveals

some of its holes but also skirts around both melodrama and glibness.

This is starkly moral universe, filled with causes and consequences,

where somebody named Mr. Lockhart (Tom Irwin, in a spit-and-polished

suit) arrives to collect an old debt at the North Dublin home-tavern of

Sharky (Andrew Connolly) and his disabled brother, Richard (John

Mahoney) – who blinded himself while scavenging in a trash canister.

The drama slowly pivots on a poker game with life and death stakes as

the men, including denizens Ivan (Paul Vincent O'Connor) and Nickly

Giblin (Matt Roth) – who's the new husband of Sharky's ex-wife – try to

bluff their way through the night, which is really the larger allegory

for existence. Imagine Harold Pinter having re-written Charles Dickens'

A Christmas Carol in an Irish brogue. Arney's gentle production can't

mask or provide irony for the sentimental resolution, but the strength

of his interpretation derives from the silent, brooding power of

Connolly's victimized Sharky, and the perverse indulgences of Sharky's

blind brother, played by Mahoney with a gleeful grittiness that renders

him a weird blend of whining matron and the power-broker of the house.

The marvelous, tawdry details of Takeshi Kata's set have little

congruence with the actors' perfect teeth – one tiny reminder of how

difficult it is to leave Hollywood on our stages, despite theater's

magic.(SLM) Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood;

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

& 7 p.m.; through May 24. (310) 208-54545.

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Shakespeare's battle of the sexes. (Schedule

varies, call for info.). A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale;

Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 240-0910.


<3 Imagine what Tristan Tzara, co-creator of Dadaism, would have

done had he access to the Internet, cell phones, instant messaging and

video projection. In the midst of World War I, Dada protested bourgeois

culture and intellectual conformity, a mindset shared by the younger

brother of the groom who texts his screed against the post-9/11 world

to his blog as he mopes about a Los Angeles wedding reception. He,

along with the bride and groom's friends and their dates, make up the

group waiting for the happy couple to arrive in this collaboratively

developed play. Each of the 20-somethings has his or her own neurosis,

and most center on some aspect of love (the title of the piece if you

tilt your left ear downwards to look at it). Unfortunately, due to the

lack of through-line and character depth, the play ends up as episodes,

as though from a teen reality show. Director Jenny Byrd employs

creative blocking and gets a good effort from the cast, but even their

best can't compensate for the dearth of substance in the text. The

extensive use of digital projection and multimedia is interesting at

times, but somewhat ham-fisted in the attempts to mimic the “ADD

lifestyle” of the millennial generation. One exception is a projection

of the L.A. skyline, which is both picturesque and realistically

creates a rooftop view of the city. Aside from that great view, most of

the event had me wondering WTF? (MK) Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 9. A

Brimmer Street Theatre Co. Production.

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.

THE BIG RANDOM Just minutes into Dana Yeaton's road drama, you get

the unmistakable, justified feeling that the evening will be a long

one. Claire (Madison Flock) is a gangly teenager with an oddly charming

demeanor ; she's been confined to a mental institution because she is a

“cutter.” She is heavily medicated and seemingly trapped in an inner

world of lurid, violent fantasies, until a sudden visit by her

estranged godfather Roland (Eric Charles Jorgenson), whom she slyly

cons into helping her escape. At this juncture, the story starts to

take off but never quite leaves the ground. The pair head north to

Canada, stop to eat, stop to sleep, get stopped by a gendarme, camp out

in the woods, see the sights, and eventually wind up at a church where

something spiritual occurs – a heavenly grace that feels more like a

convenience for the playwright than a convincing transformation. That

Yeaton fails to tell much of a story here is just part of the problem.

Despite his neatly written script, he hardly scratches the surface of

Claire's pathology (one that is shared by many young girls), and leaves

too many questions lingering. Teenager Flock turns in a fine

performance under Sam Roberts' direction. (LE3) Attic Theatre and Film

Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

& 7 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7776.

BILL W. AND DR. BOB Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey's story of

Alcoholics Anonymous. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 960-7827.

GO BRONZEVILLE Tim Toyama and Aaron Woolkfolk's

drama centers around the Goodwins, a black family looking for a new

life and respite from southern racism in Los Angeles during the early

years of WWII. After their move into a home (an artfully designed set

piece by J.P. Luckenbach) formerly occupied by a Japanese family that

was forced to relocate to a camp, all seems well. Mama Jane (CeCe

Antoinette) is the sharp-tongued, devout matriarch who loves to garden

and has vivid memories of life as a slave. Her son Felix (Larry

Powell), is young and angry, and has hopes of becoming a musician,

while his brother Jodie (Dwain A. Perry), is a simple working man with

a devoted wife (Adenrele Ojo) and teen daughter (Candice Afia). But the

Goodwin's soon discover that they have a “guest,” when Henry (fine turn

by Jeff Manabat) tumbles into their midst, forming a bond with his new

family, but also forcing Jodie to make a troubling, fateful decision

that impacts the lives of everybody. Director Ben Guillory does a fine

job directing this provocative piece. Woolfolk and Toyama's script is

well written and subtly explores philosophical and moral issues that

are as relevant today as they were then. (LE3) Los Angeles Theater

Center, 514 S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru

May 17. (213) 489-0994. A Robey Theatre Company production.

THE COUNTRY WIFE William Wycherley's 1675 cuckold satire. Hayworth

Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.;

thru May 30. (323) 969-1707.

THE CRUCIBLE Arthur Miller's ageless tale of fear, greed and power

surrounding teenage girls trying to conjure witchcraft in the

17th-century town of Salem. Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower

St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 p.m.; thru

May 16. (323) 462-8460.

DADDY'S DYIN', WHO'S GOT THE WILL Director Jeff Murray has here

substituted the “white trash” clan in Del Shores' comedy about a

dysfunctional family in 1986 Texas with an African-American cast. For

most of the evening, it's funny watching this caustic mix of vipers

playing head games and sniping at each other. Shores<0x2019>

dialogue is blisteringly funny, but sometimes these qualities don't

emerge forcefully enough under Murray's understated direction. (LE3).

Theatre/Theater-Hollywood, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 31. (323) 954-9795.

DEAD, THEREFORE I AM Writer-director Max Leavitt's furious passion

project tracks a suicidal 30-year-old named John (Leavitt), who lives

in his parents' garage where he's haunted by Sophie (Karen Jean Olds)

— the obsessive goth girl next door — and the sniping Egyptian god

Anubis (Nicholas Tucci). John's depressed, and since he enters the play

with his head severed by a guillotine, we know things aren't going to

end well, especially as his coping mechanisms are booze, pills, and

screaming at Sophie and Anubis. Both have John in their bondage:

Sophie, because they're furtively, allegedly in love (though tenderness

is missing from all of their interactions), while Anubis has John on a

physical and emotional choke chain to train him into thinking his

miserable life is nothing more than a doorway to the underworld. With

its subtleties overwhelmed in histrionics, and its comedy made glum by

all Leavitt's sincere agony, this is still a work in progress — a play

fumbling through the stressful business of discovering its strengths,

just like its protagonist. (AN) East Theatre at the Complex, 6468 Santa

Monica Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (323)


NEW REVIEW GO THE DESIGNATED MOURNER Written in the dark days when

humanistic ideals seemed under siege by the barbarian imperatives of

globalization (a.k.a. the Clinton-Gingrich years), Wallace Shawn's

speculative fable is a pitch-black, comic lament for the demise of the

belletrist class. Set in a fictional land that seems strangely to

resemble New York, the play follows the travails of an aging literary

lion, Howard (Don Boughton), and his hero-worshiping daughter, Judy

(Sarah Boughton), as they and their genteel circle fall victim to a

fascistic regime. Telling their tale is the play's titular mourner,

Jack (Michael Kass), Judy's deceptively genial husband and one of the

pettiest, mean-spirited and most unreliable narrators in stage

literature. A member of Howard's inner circle by accident of marriage,

Jack is a hopeless lowbrow whose envy for his father-in-law's highbrow

stature soon turns into a toxic resentment as his own intellectual

limitations exclude him from Judy and Howard's rarified world. Director

Matthew McCray nimbly navigates a potentially unwieldy text —

essentially three interwoven monologues — ably realizing all of

Shawn's famously acerbic wit and savage ironies. Kass's Jack is a

marvel of modulation as the affably sympathetic everyman of Act I

metamorphoses into the venomous, solipsistic scoundrel of Act II.

Equally fine is Sarah Boughton's sweetly captivating study in filial

fidelity. It is Don Boughton, however, with his mesmerizing portrait of

the play's deeply flawed patrician poet, who all but steals the show.

Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Tues., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sat., May 16, 3 p.m.; thru May 23. (213) 351-3507. (Bill Raden)

The Designated Mourner Photo courtesy of Son of Semele Ensemble


THE DEVIL WITH BOOBS Director Tom Quaintance and his cast work

theatrical magic with this superb staging of Dario Fo's bawdy satire

(in a finely tuned translation by Jon Laskin). Fo is as much a

prankster and polemicist as he is a playwright, all of these aspects

are richly displayed here. The action takes place in a town in Northern

Italy where fraud, corruption and vice run amok. However, the staunchly

upright Judge Alfonso de Tristano (Michael Winters) is a light amidst

the darkness, a, man so pure he recoils at the sight of a pair of tits.

This situation is intolerable to Master Devil Francipante (the stellar

and dangerously funny Phillip William Brock) and his apprentice

(Herschel Sparber), so they conspire to possess the judge's body and

spirit. Unfortunately, the plan backfires and the judge's buxom

housekeeper (Katherine Griffith) winds up playing host to the devil,

which causes an eruption of comedy, naughty bits, and mayhem.

Quaintance provides fluid, intelligent direction, but the cast is

flawlessly funny. Even the musical ditties scattered throughout are

nicely done (one such number by Brock had me laughing so hard I thought

I'd pass out). Cristina Wright's period costumes and puppets are a

riot, and Adam Rowe's set piece (composed almost exclusively of doors),

adds just the right touch. (LE3) Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica

Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m, Sun. 3 p.m. thru. May 16. (323)

882- 6912.

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.; indef. (323) 960-1056.

DOLORES Edward Allen Baker's dark comedy about two abused sisters.

Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Sun., May 10, 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 17, 8 p.m.. (323) 960-7822.

DOOMSDAY KISS As you enter the lobby, you're greeted with an art

installation that reflects the theme of nuclear annihilation, complete

with a performance from a live band featuring a USO-style chanteuse.

The ambience of all this sets up an evening of four short plays

centered on visions of post-apocalyptic worlds. While three are

standalone pieces, the fourth, “Who is Randall Maxit,” about the crisis

of conscience faced by a retired nuclear scientist, is interwoven

throughout, though a bit haphazardly. “You Might Be Waking Up,” the

first of the trio, takes place in an office building turned Survivor

set where the workers scrounge for food, reveal their sexual fantasies,

and riff on aging, bodily functions, and relationships — among other

things. In “Fun Days at Sea,” the most entertaining of the lot, a pair

of newlyweds and a pair of swingers are lubricated by a steady stream

of alcohol from the cruise ship's bartender and try to enjoy themselves

despite constant radio transmissions about the crumbling world outside

the vessel. Finally, “The Class Room” features a teacher in remote

country schoolhouse interviewed by a strangely sexual reporter about

her success improving the temperament of young children. While the

concept is interesting, and there are funny moments along the way

(especially from Michael Dunn and Jessica Hanna, who play the swingers

in “Fun Days”), most of the evening lacks the stakes that go along with

doomsday scenarios as well as the character development that would

create audience engagement. (MK) Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd.,

L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through May 10. (213) 389-3856.

A Repo Division Production.

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)


EURYDICE The myth of Orpheus and his bride, told from Eurydice's

perspective, by Sarah Ruhl. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd.,

L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 16. (323) 960-7726.

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

NEW REVIEW FUBAR Karl Gajdusek's new play deals with two San Francisco couples

whose lives overlap as they deal with addiction, temptation, and

realization.  Mary (Alice Dodd) and David (Ron Morehouse) live in the

shadow of a mountain of boxes belonging to Mary's deceased mother, who

was violently abused by her husband. David's high school buddy Richard

(David Wilcox) and his wife Sylvia (Amanda Street) experiment with

designer drugs, frequent clubs, and engage in cyber sex.  When Mary

becomes a victim of violence while taking a walk, she becomes hell bent

on fighting back and joins a boxing gym where she is trained by D.C.

(Richard Werner).  As Mary and David's marriage falls apart, David,

chasing youth and excitement, becomes enmeshed in the lives of Richard

and Sylvia, sinking into their drug-addled lifestyle.  Director Larissa

Kokernot employs projections creatively, but she fails to get much

emotion from her cast and certain choices, such as on-stage costume

changes and a naturalistic cooking scene, are more confusing than

anything.  Despite the accomplishments and lengthy resumes of the

playwright, director and cast, the play's characters, relationships and

scenarios just don't sing, leaving the audience with a cocktail of

ideas and images that remains beyond recognition. Theater of NOTE, 1517

N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through

May 30.  (323) 856-8611.  (Mayank Keshaviah)

Fubar Photo by Darrett Sanders

THE HIGH Teen-drama parody, “from OMG to LOL.”. ComedySportz, 8033 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Fri., 10:30 p.m.. (323) 871-1193.


blues pulsates resoundingly throughout this stirring musical based on

the life of feisty, soulful singer Big Mama Thornton. The strengths in

class-act vocalist Barbara Morrison's performance lie not in her effort

to re-create the historical woman but in her expressionistic portrayal

of this talented but troubled figure's essence, captured in Morrison's

earthy, heartrending vocals. Carla DuPree Clark directs a top-notch

supporting ensemble, and the music is simply topflight. (DK). Stella

Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.,

May 16, 8 p.m.; thru May 16. (310) 462-1439.

THE INTERNATIONALISTS The race to outer space told through

“movement, live music, sound and meta-theatrical performance.”

Conceived and directed by Jesse Bonnell, artistic director of Poor Dog

Group. PDG Performance Warehouse, 2485 Hunter St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; thru May 9,…

L.A. VIEWS II: TALES OF PRESENT PAST A hundred years ago the

Alexandria Hotel in downtown L.A. played glamorous host to presidents

and movie stars; now faded, it's home to the Equity-waiver Company of

Angels. Their current offering — 15 short plays and/or monologues

written and directed by company members — takes the hotel as a common

thread, claiming inspiration from the silent screen luminaries who once

graced its corridors. In fact, the link between the material and the

concept is mostly tangential. Crisply introduced by bellhops Juanita

Chase and Joshua Lamont, the show opens with a promise that

unfortunately wanes. The pieces, a hodgepodge of lightweight segments

set in both past and present, offers some biographical information but

doesn't provide much revelation or insight (The dead celebs are talked

about but not depicted). Closeted homosexuality is a recurring, though

not exclusive, theme. In “Weekend Getaway,” by S. Vasanti Saxena,

directed by Tony Gatto, two married celebrities (Brian Rohan and Onyay

Pheori) bicker incessantly between photo ops; we soon learn they're

both gay. In Kyle T. Wilson's El Conquistador,” directed by Lui

Sanchez, the spirit of Ramon Navarro hovers over an encounter in a

contemporary gay bar between two friends (Eric Martig and Maurice

Compte), climaxing in a proposal of marriage (indignantly rejected). In

“Fresh Cream Pie,” by Damon Chua, directed by Gatto, two heterosexual

security guards (Mel Rodriguez and Xavi Moreno) share their sexual

fantasies, one of which involves a cream pie. Overall, this showcase

fare, is mildly entertaining, with some performers, including Chase,

Lamont and Rodriguez, displaying assurance. (DK) Alexandria Hotel, 501

S. Spring St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; thru May

10. (323) 883-1717. A Company of Angels Production


Ever since the days of Artaud, the seemingly irreconcilable ontological

differences between the live stage and the motion picture have led to

an uneasy truce that can be expressed roughly as, “render unto cinema

the things which are cinema's . . . and let theater do the rest.”

Writer-director Randy Sean Schulman is having none of that. In this

deeply personal, solo-performance work (co-directed by Jane McEneaney),

Schulman attempts an audacious shotgun marriage of the two media by

interacting with a screening of his own, fully realized, widescreen

version of a Mack Sennett-styled silent film. Sort of a cryptic,

Hegelian meditation on time, mortality and the transcendent power of

love, the piece opens onscreen with the Chaplinesque castaway, Luminous

Birch (Schulman), separated from his true love, Tangerine (Delcie

Adams), by a sea mishap. Birch, who literally climbs out of the

onscreen pantomime into the theater, can only impotently prowl the

stage as Tangerine is harried by the nefarious Absurd Conquistador (Roy

Johns) in the movie. Unfortunately, despite lush production values

(John Burton's set, Cameron Lowe's cinematography and Ingrid Ferrin's

costumes are all outstanding), even Schulman's seductive stage alchemy

can't make oil and water mix. The filmed spectacle so overshadows its

live counterpart that the formal tensions upon which Schulman relies to

make sense of the proceedings are all but lost. (BR) Greenway Court

Theater, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.;

thru May 10. (323) 655-7679.

MEASURE FOR MEASURE Write Act Repertory re-imagines Shakespeare's

play. Write Act Theater, 6128 Yucca St., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

thru May 23. (323) 469-3113.

GO MUNCHED Katie Paxton's two older sisters died

before she was born. When she became deathly ill, the nurses and the

law were convinced that her mother Marybeth (Andrea Hutchman) was

killing her slowly in a sordid, attention-seeking case of Munchhausen

by Proxy. Marybeth went to prison; Katie (Samantha Sloyan) recovered

immediately and went into the foster system. Kim Porter's spellbinding

and intimate play catches up with the Paxtons 20-years later when Katie

finds a Pandora's box of letters, from her mom and to her mom, in her

foster mother's attic. We're never sure if Marybeth is guilty, though

she admits to giving her daughter a poisonous dose of ipecac. But what

is clear is that mother and daughter share the same DNA — both face

the world with a bitter humor, Katie joking wryly about wrenching

trauma, and Marybeth channeling her self-righteous anger into a sarcasm

as sharp as a knife. Sloyan and Hutchman turn in two of the best

performances I've seen all year. Aided by Duane Daniels' direction,

they make comic agony out of deliberate pauses and askance smiles.

Shirley Jordan and Peter Breitmayer are quite fine as a whirlwind of

nurses, doctors, lawyers and do-gooders, each with their own agenda,

and unable to see the facts of Marybeth's actions through their

certainty of her psychosis or martyrdom. (AN) El Centro Theatre, 804 N.

El Centro Ave., Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 30. (323)



celebration of the Harlem Renissance writer. Los Angeles Design Center,

5955 S. Western Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May

31. (323) 599-0811.

GO PHOTOGRAPH 51 This West Coast premiere of Anna

Ziegler's powerful yet subtle play, Photograph 51, concerns Rosalind

Franklin, the scientist who was instrumental in the discovery of the

structure of DNA. Set against Travis Gale Lewis' cleverly accretive set

and illuminated by Kathi O'Donohue's complex and variegated lighting,

the play takes us into a seminal period in biophysics. No sooner are we

introduced to Rosalind (Aria Alpert), her colleague Dr. Wilkins (Daniel

Billet), and her graduate assistant Maurice Gosling (Graham Norris)

than Rosalind declares in no uncertain terms, “Dr. Wilkins, I don't do

jokes. I do science.” Her confidence and professionalism leads to an

uncomfortable friction with Wilkins and the rest of the chauvinistic

male scientific establishment, including Watson (Ian Gould) and Crick

(Kerby Joe Grubb), who are simultaneously in search of the genetic

blueprint. While Rosalind remains the consummate professional, even

cold at times, she does reveal slivers of her inner life through

correspondence with American scientist Don Casper (Ross Hellwig). As

each side gets closer to the genetic blueprint, one of Rosalind's

photographs ends up becoming crucial to unlocking the mystery. Director

Simon Levy efficiently orchestrates the manipulation of time and space,

turning vast leaps into imperceptible segues, and inspiring powerful

performances from his actors. The entire cast sparkles behind Alpert,

whose portrayal of Rosalind's ruthless efficiency, biting wit, and deep

pain is a tour de force that brings to mind Meryl Streep's take on Anna

Wintour. This tribute to a woman who helped crack the Pyrex ceiling

reminds us of the need to reexamine “his”tory, and should not be

missed. (MK)The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 31. (323) 663-1525.

PLAY WITH A KNIFE Zach Fehst's existential take on murder. Stages

Theatre Center, 1540 N. McCadden Pl., L.A.; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru May

31. (323) 960-7784.

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.

NEW REVIEW THE REAL THING “Loving and being loved is so illiterate,” sighs

playwright Henry (Jay Huguley) in Tom Stoppard's dramedy about

commitment to your amour and emotions. Henry boasts that he's too

superior to feel jealousy; his confusion at being cuckolded is

channeled into his brilliant, but bourgeois living room dramas, which

— like him — risk sounding flip. He's frustrated with drafting an

earnest love story for his new actress wife (Susan Duerden), and

Stoppard's self-aware digressions feel like the author's apologia for

any potential weaknesses. Luckily, such meanderings are few. Before

long, Henry's loudmouthed cynicism eases into a convincing case that

he's the last romantic in England. The brittle wit of the first act

softens after intermission when a tenderized Henry offers his

definition of fidelity. However, to breathe, these observations need a

light, deft touch. Instead director Allen Barton instead cranks up the

emotionalism, even ending several scenes in a deafening climax of

screams and music. Whatever Huguley is bellowing at the ceiling is

drowned out in the fury, a misstep for a play that worships the power

of words. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat.,

8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru June 7. (323) 960-7861. A Katselas Company

production (Amy Nicholson)

The Real Thing Photo by Ed Krieger

RICHARD III REDUX: OUR RADICAL ADAPTATION The Veterans Center for the Performing Arts mashes up Shakespeare's Richard III and Henry VI, Part 3

as a study of post-traumatic stress disorder. Mortise & Tenon

Furniture Store, Second Floor, 446 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Mon., Sun., 8

p.m.; thru June 8. (888) 398-9348.

NEW REVIEW R.U.R. Czech playwright Karel Capek's 1921 sci-fi horror-show is

about people's desire to outsource drudge labor to robots, which are

created (birthed in test tubes) by the thousands in a factory where the

play transpires.  A woman named Helena Glory crosses the ocean to

defend the rights of robots in a satire of the early trade union

movement. On the Island of Rossum (reason), which houses the factory,

she meets and eventually marries the factory's general manager, Harry

Domin (Jamil Chokachi). That the robots don't feel anything, and that

the humans can benefit from so much leisure time, i.e. unemployment, is

an early 20th century glimpse into precisely the gaffes of economic

logic that have landed us in the mire of the early 21st century: If

people aren't employed, how exactly are they supposed to buy the things

that the cheap and/or outsourced labor produces? The other side of the

play's equation points to the slippery grip we have on what it means to

be human. Adapter Tiger Reel directs a large ensemble, and stages the

play on his and Tom Metcalf's set that features a pair of large screens

that mask, translucently, bubbling gelatinous blobs – future workers in

a kind of uterus, blood surging, muscles being formed –

Frankenstein-like. The intrusions of one scientist lead to more

“perfect” robots  with emotions, which means they finally realize their

oppression, and they rise into revolution, turning against their

creators. The large ensemble is mostly fine, but Reel has a better eye

than ear. When the melodrama of the robot takeover kicks in, it's hard

to discern whether or not the hand-wringing tone is a parody or merely

overwrought. When the humans jump around robotically, Reel scores

points for concept, but loses points for the emotional ligaments of

storytelling. Chokachi's Harry Domin was so intense, screaming a good

many of his lines, he had me rooting for the robots. At least the

machines are comparatively quiet, and they don't overact. Particularly

deft performances by Tee Williams, Vera Miao and Jennifer Gabbert. 

Art/Works Theatre, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; added perf Sun., May 10, 6 p.m.; through May 16. (323) 908-7276.

(Steven Leigh Morris) 

R.U.R. Photo by John Dlugolecki


RELATIONSHIPS, AND SOMETIMES … LOVE Monologues on all of the above,

by Joelle Arqueros. Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.; Sun., 7

& 9 p.m.; thru May 10. (310) 226-6148.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS Explore art, psychopathy, love and intimacy in

Neil LaBute's drama centering on the lives of four young students who

become emotionally and romantically involved with each other. L.A.

Fringe Theatre, 929 E. Second St., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May

23. (213) 680-0392.


assortment of new, short plays from Padraic Duffy, Joshua Fardon, Carey

Friedman, Nova Jacobs, David LM McIntyre and Tommy Smith, punctuated by

a free chocolate treat and a drawing for more chocolate after each of

the performances. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m.; thru May 30. (323) 856-8611.

GO STICK FLY Lydia R. Diamond's scintillating

comedy is set in the elegant and expensive summer home (gorgeously

designed by John Iacovelli) of Dr. Joseph Levay (John Wesley), in an

elite, African-American enclave of Martha's Vineyard. The family is

arriving for the weekend, and son Flip (Terrell Tilford), a successful

plastic surgeon, is bringing his white fiancée Kimber (Avery Clyde) to

meet the family. Writer son Kent (Chris Butler) also brings his

bride-to be, Taylor (Michole Briana White), who comes from a lower rung

on the social ladder. At first all is banter, horse-play and fun, but

gradually fracture lines appear. Despite their wealth and privilege,

the Levays are not immune to the stresses and prejudices of snobbery,

race and class, conflicts between fathers and sons, and brotherly

rivalries. Mom hasn't turned up for the family gathering, and secrets

about sexual hanky-pank lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt.

Meanwhile, young substitute maid-housekeeper Cheryl (Tinashe Kajese) is

seriously upset about something. Diamond's play combines complex

characters, provocative situations, and literate, funny dialog in this

delicious comedy of contemporary manners. Director Shirley Joe Finney

reveals a sharp eye for social nuance, and melds her dream cast into a

brilliantly seamless ensemble. They are all terrific. (NW) The Matrix

Theatre Company, 7657 Melrose Avenue, L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 3

p.m., thru May 31. (323) 960-7740.

13 BY SHANLEY FESTIVAL Seven full-length plays and six one-acts by

John Patrick Shanley. (Weekly schedule alternates; call for info.).

Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; thru May 24. (323) 960-7827.

TNA ONESIES: THE FUTURE? The Next Arena's fourth annual comedy

one-act festival. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.;

Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (323) 960-5774.

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)


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 May 17. (323) 960-7711.

VOX HUMANA PRESENTS “LITTLE THEATER” Overtones by Alice Gerstenberg, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, The Rope

by Eugene O'Neill. Hollywood Court Theatre, Hollywood United Methodist

Church, 6817 Franklin Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7

p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 769-5794.


AND THE WINNER IS Mitch Albom's tale of an actor desperately trying

to get to the Oscars. Stillspeaking Theatre, 2560 Huntington Dr., San

Marino; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 24. (626) 292-2081.

BEST WISHES The untimely death of a matriarch occasions a reunion of

disaffected siblings in Bill Barker's family comedy, first presented

locally in 1984. Del Shores used a similar scenario, with more comedic

panache in his Daddy's Dyin, Who's got the Will. A comfortable house in

tiny Liberal, Kansas becomes a battleground when Elda (Joanne McGee),

Crystal (Nadya Starr), Dorie (Carol Jones), Vera (Ann Bronston), Gil

(Dana Craig) and Denny (Barker) assemble to bury their mother and

settle the estate. It isn't long before familial fault-lines emerge.

Dorie, always the dutiful daughter, is bitter about her vacuous life

and wears her feelings on her sleeve. She constantly clashes with Vera,

who has escaped small-town anonymity and boredom for the big city, but

is a drinker and party girl. Wife and mother Elda is a good natured

pleaser, but a dingbat, and Crystal remains an emotional and

psychological mystery. There are stabs at humor and lots of squabbling,

much of it mundane and pointless. This may be the point, but still . .

. Either the play, or Hollace Star's staging of this revival, fails to

say much incisive about these characters or make them emotionally

accessible. Gil and Denny emerge as ciphers, and only Fanny (Peggy Lord

Chilton), the town quid nunc, is consistently engaging. (LE3) Crown

City Theater on the campus of St. Matthew's Church; 11031 Camarillo

St., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through May 10.

(818) 745-8527

GO THE BIRD AND MR. BANKS Alternately ghoulish and

sweet, playwright Kevin Huff's darkly ironic tale is a pleasingly

twisted mix of romance and Grand Guignol horror. After she's dumped by

her louse-lover boss (Chet Grissom), corporate secretary Annie (Jenny

Kern) tries to kill herself. She receives emotional support from a

co-worker – the soft spoken, eerily staring accountant, Mr. Banks (Sam

Anderson), whom the other folks in the office have long considered

slightly creepy. After she moves into Mr. Banks' sprawling, dusty

house, Annie discovers that the co-workers don't know the half of it.

Still attached by a cast iron Oedipal apron string to parents long

since dead, Banks has furnished the home in a dusty style that can

charitably be called “Norman Bates Modern.” When Annie's boss stops by

and attempts to rape her, Banks pulls out a cudgel and events take a

gruesome turn. Although the plot slightly bogs down during a needlessly

long Act Two road trip, Huff's writing is otherwise smartly edgy, full

of vituperative charm. Director Mark St. Amant's comedically tight

production punches the weird, Addams Family tone with brio,

nicely balancing horror with genuine sympathy for the characters. From

his deep, soft, insanity-steeped voice to his shambolic gait and his

half baked “drunk crazy uncle” stage persona, Anderson's turn as the

crazed killer-accountant is utterly compelling. (PB) Lankershim Arts

Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun.,

2 p.m.; through May 16. (866) 811-4111. Road Theater Production.


FIFTH DIMENSON The Magellan spaceship has a conservative crew onboard,

but Captain Dan Dixon (Matthew Sklar) and the rest of his men can't

resist the Vulvulans <0x2014> green, pasties-clad go-go dancers

with pneumatic exoskeletons. Playwright Sklar and director Zombie Joe

know the heart of their show beats near the Vulvulans' gyrating curves,

but they've generously gone on and given us sharp comic timing and even

a half-serious philosophical theme. (AN). ZJU Theater Group, 4850

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru May 16.

(818) 202-4120.

NEW REVIEW THE CATERER “A guy who's dying jumps off a cliff. On his way down, a

sniper puts a bullet through his head. Who killed him?” It's the kind

of intellectual conundrum that's posed in late-night college dorms,

among philosophy majors, and in writer-director Brian Alan Lane's

meandering, stylishly perplexing play. The title character is Oliver

Mestman (LeVar Burton), who offers his customers “an appropriate

death,” i.e., a demise that's a victory, not a surrender. His client is

a computer-game creator named Stan Guest (James Hiroyuki Liao), doomed

to die of Mad Cow Disease. He's apparently prepared to pay $10 mil for

a “good” death, which Oliver delivers via a polonium-laced drink. The

play never offers us solid moorings. Oliver sometimes seems to have

supernatural powers, and at others he's an ordinary mortal with a messy

life. He spouts aphoristic lines that sound clever but ultimately don't

seem to mean much, though some are good one-liners. As the saying goes,

There's less to this than meets the eye. As director, Lane provides a

slickly elegant production on a clever black-and-white set by Adam

Rowe, and the cast is terrific, with fine performances by Burton, Liao,

Cynthia Watros, Angelle Brooks, and Buddy MacKinder. The Whitefire

Theatre, 13500 Ventura Boulevard, Sherman Oaks; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.,

Sun., 3 & 8 p.m., thru May 10. (323) 960-7724. (Neal Weaver)

The Caterer Photo by Ricahrd J. Lee

NEW REVIEW GO THE COLUMBINE PROJECT Marking its 10th anniversary, writer-director

Paul Storiale's involving play explores the personalities and

circumstances surrounding the Columbine high school massacre  of April

20, 1999.  After planting bombs, which fortunately did not detonate,

two teenagers, Eric Harris (Artie Ahr) and Dylan Klebold (Justin

Mortelliti)  shot and killed 12 other students and a teacher, then

turned their guns on themselves  Unveiling the story in non-sequential

scenes,  the script recreates the elements of the tragedy. Portraying

not only the relationship between the perpetrators  and their prior

disturbed behavior (Harris laid  out their plans on his website but

they were never taken seriously), it also spotlights their devastated

parents and some of the innocent victims.  Among them was Rachel Scott

(Rya Meyers), a popular girl and self-identified Christian who went out

of her way to befriend the outcasts within the school body, where

anyone who wasn't a jock was ridiculed.  Transcending melodrama, the

play delivers a nuanced account of the whole horrific event. Portraying

the banality of evil is not easy, and Ahr does a scrupulous job

imparting layers to the menacing Harris.  Mortelliti  communicates

Klebold's precarious volatility, while Meyers, sweet without being

saccharine, exudes a lovely presence.  Other strong performances

include Kelli Joan Bennett as Harris's mom, crushed with remorse, and

Marquerite Wiseman as another grief-stricken parent.  Production values

are minimal but this is one of those barebones productions in which the

drama needs no further embellishment. Avery Schreiber Theater, 11050

Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;  Sun, May 12, 7

p.m. thru May 16. (818) 766-9100. (Deborah Klugman)

The Columbine Project
Photo by Justin Schwan



GO DRACULA Director Ken Sawyer, who recently helmed

the delightful Lovelace: A Rock Opera at the Hayworth, has scored again

with this stylish adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire tale. Co-writers

Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston's liberties they take on the

story in now way diminish the quality of the production. Robert

Arbogast is splendid as the creepy count, first seen rising from his

grave to put the bite on the lovely Mina (Mara Marini), upon his

arrival in England. When Lucy Seward (Darcy Jo Martin), contacts a

mysterious illness, her mother, Lily (Karesa McElheny), who runs an

asylum, enlists the expertise of Abraham Van Helsing (Joe Hart) to find

a cure. Thrown into the mix are Lucy's betrothed Jonathan Harker (J.R.

Mangels) and the mad, bug-eating Renfield (Alex Robert Holmes). This

one's all about atmosphere. Desma Murphy's alluring set design is

cleverly accented by an enormous backdrop of an incubus sitting on a

sleeping woman, inspired by Henry Fuseli's painting “The Nightmare.”

Luke Moyer's lighting schema is perfectly conceived. Sawyer uses an

arsenal of haunted house special effects here, including lots of

rolling fog and wolf howls, but they never come across as cheesy or

overdone; and there are a few scary moments during this 90-minute show,

amidst the well-placed humor. (LE3) NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia

Blvd.; N. Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 17.

(818) 508-7101.

GOTHMAS Kerr Seth Lordygan and Laura Lee Bahr's goth (or really, nu

metal) musical opens on Halloween when depressive Helena (Bahr) slits

her wrists. The debut production itself would benefit from its own

cruel cuts. At its black, festering, wonderful heart, Gothmas is a love

triangle between self-absorbed best frenemy roommates — hetero Helena,

gay Garth (Lordygan) and their selfish bisexual hustler lover Joe

(Kadyr Gutierrez, who capitalizes on the duo's need for freakdom by

suggesting they share him. Clocking in at three-hours, this bleak charm

of this 12-member ensemble's behemoth would be better served if every

element were chopped in half. There's a fantastic piece buried in here,

especially once director Justin T. Bowler doubles the cast's narcissism

and hysteria, which would help the play find consistent footing between

songs that ache with betrayal and ones that sting with unrepentant,

grim glee. (And once Joel Rieck's choreography eases away from the

literal — when Helena sings she's got “nothing to lose, nothing to

grab,” the entire cast clutches at the air.) This run is worth seeing,

however, as a midnight cult fave-in-process with some inspired axe

murders. (AN) Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd.,

Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (323)


THE LAST HIPPIE: A WESTERN NOVEL Performer-designer Vincent Mann's

claims that his solo show (directed by Rachel Rebecca Roy) “began as an

(almost) finished novel.” Those origins are clear in his epic,

autobiographical performance, that runs over two-hours with

intermission. Mann's saga starts during his youth in mid-'70s San

Antonio Texas, centering on his and his high school pals' magnetic

attraction to mind-altering drugs and the personal-metaphysical

explorations that were part and parcel of the Hippie movement, which

was fading even then, in the wake of the subsequent pre-Reagan,

greed-is-good generation. Among the performance's many virtues are

ability to take a personal story and attach it to the sensibility of an

era – and Mann accomplishes this with erudition and literacy.

Eventually, as his friends fall by the wayside, he flees his town on a

kind of spiritual quest from Texas to Colorado Springs, working as a

janitor for minimum wage. Here, the Quixotic essence of the Hippies'

scrambled ideals, and Mann's stake in those ideals – including

enlightenment through hallucinagenic drugs – unravels into mere

autobiography, a stream of events that represent little beyond

themselves. (SLM) Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks;

Tues., 8 p.m.; through May 12. (818) 783-6784.

MR. MARMALADE Noah Haidle's black comedy about a 4-year-old girl's

imaginary friend, a combative, cocaine-fueled porn addict. Two Roads

Theater, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7

p.m.; thru May 17. (800) 838-3006.

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY Detective chases serial killer in this

musical adaptation of William Goldman's novel. Book, music and lyrics

by Douglas J. Cohen. Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Toluca Lake;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru May 17. (818) 558-7000.

NOSTALGIA AND DREAMS White Buffalo Theatre Company presents Brett

Holland's poetic drama. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru May 24. (818) 569-3037.

SONG OF ST. TESS Chris Collins' tragedy about a San Francisco

divorc<0x00E9>e. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North

Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 10. (323) 960-7735.

TEN TO LIFE As Lodestone Theatre Ensemble prepares to close its

doors after 10 years, it will present four one-acts from veteran

writers of its own ranks (Nic Cha Kim, Annette Lee, Tim Lounibos, and

Judy Soo Hoo). GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave., Toluca Lake;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 7. (818) 238-9998.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK Stephen Mallatratt's ghost story, adapted from

the novel by Susan Hill. Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd.,

Sherman Oaks; Wed., 8 p.m.; thru May 13. (866) 262-6253.

YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's comedy

classic about a kooky clan. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre

Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 6.

(626) 256-3809.


THE ACCOMPLICES Bernard Weinraub's documentary drama about an

activist's efforts to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. Odyssey

Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru June 14. (310) 477-2055.

AND THE WAR CAME Through a collage of interwoven sketches and

onscreen projections, director Joanne Gordon, nine writers and a fine

ensemble attempt to convey a sense of the sometimes whimsical but

usually tragic experiences of those touched by the Iraq War. All too

often, however, the narratives simply get tangled in Gordon's overly

elliptical structure and taste for the maudlin. And would it really

have been a disservice to veterans for Gordon to have included some

antiwar voices or, God forbid, those of the Iraqis themselves? (BR).

National Guard Armory, 854 E. Seventh St., Long Beach; Through May 9, 8

p.m.. (562) 985-5526.

APPLE Emotional bonfires crackle around the infidelity of an

ordinary, married guy, Andy (Albie Selznick), with a beautiful woman,

Samatha (Carmit Levité), who just happens to be a medical technician

whom Andy's wife, Evelyn (Ellyn Stern), sees frequently during her

breast-cancer diagnoses and treatments. Evelyn is dying, there's no

question, and her philandering husband lies stretched on a rack of

grief and self-loathing – careening between his physical passion for

his healthy mistress and his torment as a care-taker for his fading

wife. Does his expressed adoration of his spouse stem from something

larger than guilt and self-recrimination? “I'm rotten,” he confesses to

her. She knows what's going on, and thank goodness she's no peach

herself. Foul-mouthed and sometimes petulant, she reveals a

mean-streak, telling hubbie that she never loved him. That could be

true, but it's more likely to be the only kind of revenge she can

inflict. The larger question explored in Canadian Vern Thiessen's

absorbing play hangs in the murky territory between lust and love, and

Rachel Goldberg's wisely abstracted and seductive production tries to

clarify that distinction, despite stretches of gratuitous poetical

narration that tilt the tone towards the mawkish. Jeff G. Rack's park

bench set and the projected images of Benjamin Goldman's animation

design contribute to the sense of a poem in motion. On opening night,

the ensemble was just starting to find the play's unspoken truths, and

will doubtless unearth more through the production's run. Levité's

smart, charming mistress finds herself smitten with Andy for reasons

still vague, though in one scene at the clinic, her defiant defense of

Evelyn's wishes, overriding Andy's will, could be a kind of punishment

of him. Stern's ill Evelyn is further along, handily negotiating cross

currents of wisdom and peevishness, while Selznick nicely handles

Andy's sometimes cloying yet convincing earnestness and he tries to man

up. The production invites no easy moralizing, though there is the

suggestion that the vow “till death do us part” probably shouldn't be

rushed along – the parting or the dying. (SLM) Theatre 40, 241 Moreno

Dr. (on the Beverly Hills High School Campus), Beverly Hills; in rep,

call for schedule; through May 24. (310) 364-0535.

BETRAYAL Harold Pinter's bizarre love triangle. Little Fish Theatre,

777 Centre St., San Pedro; Wed.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru May 14. (310)



reading the world press, that racism and, by extension, classism, had

suddenly been vanquished from the nation – overnight, by a stunning

national election. Such is the power of symbolism and hope. Sooner or

later, we will settle into a more realistic view of who we are, and

were, and how we have evolved in ways perhaps more subtle than the

current “we are the world” emotional gush would lead one to believe.

It's in this more self-critical (rather than celebratory) frame of mind

that Molière's 1670 comedy – a satire of snobbery and social climbing –

will find its relevance renewed. For now, however, Frederique Michel

(who directed the play) and Charles Duncombe's fresh and bawdy

translation-adaptation serves up a bouquet of comedic delights that

offer the caution that — though celebrating a milestone on the path of

social opportunity is worthy of many tears of joy — perhaps we

shouldn't get ahead of ourselves with self-congratulation. The Bourgeois Gentleman was first presented the year after Tartuffe,

and it contains many of the hallmarks of its more famous cousin: a

deluded and pompous protagonist (Jeff Atik); a con man (Troy Dunn)

aiming for social advancement by speculating on the blind arrogance of

his patron; and the imposition of an arranged marriage, by the insane

master of the house, for his crest-fallen daughter (Alisha Nichols).

The play was originally written as a ballet-farce, for which composer

Jean-Baptiste Lully performed in the production before the court of

Louis XIV. Michel's visually opulent staging features scenery (designed

by Duncombe) that includes a pair of chandeliers, and costumes (by

Josephine Poinsot) in shades of red, maroon and black. Michel employs

Lully's music in a nod to the original. (The singing is far too thin

even to support the jokes about its competence.) Michel also includes a

lovely ballet by performers in mesmerizing “tears of a clown” masks, a

choreographed prance of the fops, and she has characters bounding and

spinning during otherwise realistic conversations, in order to mock

style over substance. Comedy has a maximum refrigeration temperature of

75 degrees, and when that temperature was exceeded during Act 1 on the

performance I attended, the humor ran off the tracks – despite the

broad style being sustained with conviction by the performers. By Act

2, the heat problem had been remedied and the comedy started playing

again as it should. In fact, I haven't seen a comic tour de force the

likes of Atik's Monseiur Jordain since Alan Bomenfeld's King Ubu at A

Noise Within. As Jourdain is trying to woo a countess (the striking

Deborah Knox), Atik plays him attired in silks and bows of Ottoman

extravagance, with a blissfully stupid expression – every dart of his

eyes reveals Jordain's smug self-satisfaction that's embedded with

delirious ignorance. (SLM) City Garage, 1340½ (alley) Fourth Street,

Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 8. (310)


BURN THIS Lanford Wilson's drama about four New Yorkers and a

funeral is a slippery portrait of love and loss. Staged with a warm

cast, it's flush with hope; just as easily, though, a more aloof

ensemble can flip it into a play about emotional isolation where the

polite relationship between Anna (Marisa Petroro) and perfect-on-paper

boyfriend Burton (Jonathan Blandino) casts a cold shadow across all

dynamics, making her devotion to callously funny roomate Larry (Aaron

Misakian) and temperamental lover Pale (a wrenching and infuriating

Dominic Comperatore) seem nearly like pathological self-punishment.

Director John Ruskin sees this as a love story — the scene breaks

twinkle with sentimental music — however his cast isn't up to it and

hasn't even been instructed to at least pretend to be listening to each

other. (Burton's confession of a random blowjob from a strange man

rolls off Anna like he was droning on about the weather.) Comperatore's

combustible Pale has four times the spark of the rest of the ensemble

— when he bursts into the scene, we see the gulf between what Wilson's

play could be and what this staging actually is. (AN) Ruskin Group

Theater, 3000 Airport Dr., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; through May 9. (310) 397-3244.

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.


farce by Joshua Grenrock and Catherine Schreiber should be catnip for

those who love Hollywood in-jokes. Ashley (Kate Hollingshead) and David

(Brian Krause) are lovers and writing partners; though they've been

writing for years, they've never sold a script. Ashley's convinced that

producers never actually read their scripts, so she kidnaps three of

them (writers Grenrock and Schreiber, and Andrew Ross Wynn) at

gunpoint, locking them in a wire cage in her living room (built before

our eyes by trusty techies). She prepares a gourmet meal for the

producers, while David reads to them — despite their protests — a new

script. The reading is punctuated by phone calls from agent Vanessa

(Jennifer Taub), a death by apoplectic fit, an earthquake, a

resurrection, and a home invasion by a pair of robbers (Scott Damian

and Stephen Grove Malloy) who drop off their pix and resumes on their

way out. And, oh, yes, the rental agent (Vivian Bang) arrives to show

the house to prospective tenants (Damian and Eden Malyn). The actors

are game and skillful, and director Kay Cole keeps the action spinning

along on Francoise-Pierre Couture's set, cleverly designed as an

architect's blueprint. (NW) Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St.,

Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 & 7 p.m., thru May 10.

1(800) 838-3006 or

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 May 10. (310) 358-9936.

FENCES August Wilson's story of an African-American family's unyielding

struggle to overcome the barriers of bigotry in the 1950s. (May 15 show

is by invitation.). Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa

Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 828-7519.

FIFTH OF JULY Lanford Wilson's farm-family drama. Long Beach

Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru May 23. (562) 494-1014.

HAY FEVER Noel Coward's 1924 comedy. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre

St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 7 p.m.; Thurs., May

21, 8 p.m.; thru May 23. (310) 512-6030.

INCORRUPTABLE Michael Hollinger's Dark Ages farce. (In rep with Apple,

call for schedule). Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241

Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills; Sun., 2 p.m.; Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2

& 8 p.m.; thru May 21. (310) 364-0535.

IS HE DEAD? In the West Coast premiere of a newly discovered comedy

by master of American humor Mark Twain, a struggling artist stages his

own death to drive up the price of his paintings. International City

Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; thru May 24. (562) 436-4610.

MADE ME NUCLEAR On March 1, 2006, singer-songwriter Charlie Lustman

was informed by his doctor that he had a rare OsteoSarcoma (bone

cancer) of the upper jaw. What followed was a grueling and painful

siege of therapies, involving radiation injected into his body, surgery

removing three quarters of his jawbone, surgical reconstruction, and

extensive chemotherapy. When, after two years of treatment, he was

declared cancer free, he created this touching 12-song cycle about his

experiences. He sings about the bone-numbing shock and terror of being

told he had cancer, his fear of death and sense of helplessness, the

solace provided him by his loyal wife, his children and his doctors,

memory problems caused by his chemo (mercifully temporary), and so on.

But the tone is more celebratory than grim: he's determinedly

life-affirming, full of hope and gratitude, and his songs are pitched

in an intimate, jazzy, bluesy style. He's an engaging and personable

performer (thanks in part to his skillful doctors), who brings rueful

humor and mischief to a tale that might have been unrelievedly grim. If

anything, tries a bit too hard to keep things light. We need a bit of

scarifying detail if we're to appreciate his remarkable resilience and

optimism. (NW) Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th Street, Santa Monica;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., through May 30. (866) 468-3399 or Produced by the Sarcoma Alliance.

A NUMBER Caryl Churchill's meditation on identity. Odyssey Theatre,

2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru

June 21. (310) 477-2055.

OUR TOWN Thornton Wilder's slice of Americana. Actors' Gang at the

Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Fri.-Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru May 30. (310) 838-4264.


South's hypomanic, alcoholic one-man show tells how a New York

waiter/performance artist unleashes all his issues and finds himself

capapulted onto the TV-writing fast track. The Other Space at Santa

Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.;

Sun., 6 p.m.; thru June 7. (310) 394-9779.

GO THE SCHOOL FOR WIVES The central character in

Molière's comedy, here translated and adapted by Frédérique Michel

& Charles Duncombe could be and often is a punching bag. But not

here. Arnolphe is another in a stream of Molière's aging, patronizing

nitwits (like Orgon on Tartuffe) who presume that they can control the devotions and passions of young women in their care. In Tartuffe,

when Orgon's daughter protests his insistence that she break her

wedding plans to her beloved suitor in order to marry the clergyman he

prefers, Orgon figures her rebellion is just a impetuous, child-like

phase. In The School for Wives, there's a similar mind-set to

Arnolphe (Bo Roberts), who has tried to sculpt his young ward, Agnes

(Jessica Madison), into his future wife. He's known her since she was

4, and he's strategically kept her closeted, as though in a convent,

hoping thereby to shape her obedience and gratitude. Just as he's about

to wed her, in stumbles young Horace (Dave Mack) from the street below

her window, and the youthful pair are smitten with eachother, soon

conniving against the old bachelor. Horace, not realizing that Arnolphe

is the man keeping Agnes as his imprisoned ward, keeps confiding in the

older man about his and Agnes' schemes, fueling Arnolphe's exasperation

and fury. Perhaps it's the use of director Michel's tender, Baroque

sound-tracks, or the gentle understatement of Roberts' performance and

Arnolphe, but the play emerges less as a clown show, and more as a

wistful almost elegiac rumination on aging and folly. Arnolphe tried to

create a brainless wife as though from a petri dish, an object he can

own, and the more she rejects him, the more enamored he becomes of her,

until his heart breaks. The pathos is underscored by the obvious

intelligence of Madison's Agnes – an intelligence that Arnolphe is

blind to. The production's reflective tone supersedes Michel's very

stylized, choreographic staging (this company's trademark). The ennui

is further supported by a similarly low-key portrayal by David E. Frank

as Arnolphe's blithe friend and confidante, Chrysalde. In In fact, when

lisping, idiot servants (Cynthia Mance and Ken Rudnicki) keep running

in circles and crashing into each other, Michel's one attempt at

Commedia physicality is at odds with the production rather than a

complement to it. Company costumer Josephine Poinsot (surprising she

doesn't work more) provides luscious period vestments and gowns, and

Duncombe's delightful production design, includes a gurgling fountain,

a tub of white roses, and abstract hints of some elegant, Parisian

court. (SLM) City Garage, 1340½ Fourth Street (alley entrance); Sat., 8

p.m.; Sun., 5:30 p.m.; through May 31. (310) 319-9939.


BEHIND BARBED WIRE Some 50 teenage actors and writers collaborate

with playwright Virginia Grise and bring in their personal experiences

to explore issues surrounding immigration. PLAZA DE

LA RAZA, 3540 N. Mission Rd., L.A.; Fri., May 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., May 9, 2 p.m.. (323) 223-2475.

CHICKEN PARMIGIANA Tracy Esposito cooks up Italian-American delights

in her one-woman comedy. Free chicken parmigiana after the show!.

Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.; Sat., May 9, 8 p.m.;

Sun., May 10, 3 p.m.. (818) 623-7022.

CIRCLE X FREE READING SERIES Full schedule at Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Wed.,

8 p.m.; thru May 27. (323) 463-3900.


5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3

p.m.; thru May 10. (866) 811-4111.

FRETTED Julio Martinez's solo show about “one man's quest for

personal fulfillment while abusing and being abused by love, art and

the six-string guitar.”. Altadena Junction, 2524 & 2526 El Molino

Ave., Altadena; Sat., May 9, 8 p.m.. (626) 791-8586.

LEADS & MISFITS Performance showcase directed by Molly Durand.

Lyric Theatre, 520 N. La Brea Ave., L.A.; Tues., May 12, 8 p.m.; May

19-20, 8 p.m., (323) 939-9220.

MOTHER LOVE Concert reading of August Strindberg's play. The Lillian

Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, L.A.; Sun., May 10, 1 p.m.. (323)


SHEN YUN PERFORMING ARTS Communist dancers twirl for your pleasure.

Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena; Fri., May 8,

7:30 p.m.; May 9-10, 2 p.m., (800) 817-7116.

TEA TIME ON BROADWAY Mother's Day tea and tunes with the Los Angeles

Jubilee Singers. Playhouse Theatre Players, 600 Moulton Ave., L.A.;

Sun., May 10, 3 p.m.. (323) 227-5410.

VICKI LAWRENCE AND MAMA: A TWO-WOMAN SHOW The comedienne shares the bill with her cranky character from The Carol Burnett Show. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Sat., May 9, 2 & 8 p.m.. (562) 944-9801.

WAR OF THE WORLDS/THE LOST WORLD Staged readings of the H.G. Wells

and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tales, to be recorded for radio series The Play's the Thing.

Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Brentwood; May

13-15, 8 p.m.; Sat., May 16, 2:30 p.m.; Sun., May 17, 4 p.m., (310) 827-0889.

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