Marcus Gardley's epic tale of freed slaves in Oklahoma, the road weeps, the trail runs dry at LATC, nabs this week's Pick of the Week. Our critics also felt warmly for Beckett's Endgame at Pasadena's A Noise Within, and for Evita at the Pantages. See below for the latest new theater reviews and region-wide stage listings.
Sheldon Epps speaks with the Weekly about his mixed-race production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at Pasadena Playhouse, where Epps serves as artistic director. See theater feature.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication October 31, 2013:
“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness; it's the most comical thing in the world,” chimes Nell (Jill Hill), one of the very unhappy souls in Samuel Beckett's 1957 absurdist classic, Endgame, about four pitiful characters trapped in a decrepit room as the outside world collapses in decay and sterility. Unlike the equally pitiful tramps in Waiting for Godot, there is no expectation of hope or purpose, just the agonizing passage of time, ending in an inevitable, painful demise. Nell's misery is shared with Nag (Mitchell Edmonds): Both are confined to battered rubbish cans, and periodically emerge to ask for a stale biscuit or engage in meaningless chatter. Perched upon a grotesque caricature of a throne sits the blind and crippled Hamm (Geoff Elliott), whose every whim and need is grudgingly tended to by the bent, shuffling Clov (Jeremy Rabb), in a perverted, meaningless ritual of servitude. Jeanine A. Ringer's rusted building interior, strewn with scraps of trash, makes a fitting backdrop for this doleful scenario. Elliott's direction is as spot-on as his performance; he skillfully accents the play's comic and lyrical elements without compromising Beckett's dark, relentlessly blighted vision. This superb revival showcases fine performances from other cast members as well, especially Rabb, who raises chuckles every time he moves. A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena.; Sun., Nov. 3 & 17, 2 & 7 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 8 & 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 9 & 23, 2 & 8 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m. (626) 356-3100, anoisewithin.org. (Lovell Estell III)
GO: EVITA This now-legendary musical began as a concept record album, later became a Tony-winning stage hit on Broadway in 1979 and then a film starring Madonna. It's now receiving its first full-scale revival in more than 30 years (this production, which originated in London, closed on Broadway in January). The show tells the grim Cinderella story of Eva Peron (Caroline Bowman) and her spectacular rise from tango dancer in a rural Argentine cantina to ambitious social climber who slept her way to the top, married dictator Juan Peron and became first lady of the land, regarded as a near-saint by the Argentine people. But don't expect nuanced political history: The approach is metaphorical (in part through director Michael Grandage's stunning visual images) and generalized rather than specific. The show's appeal lies elsewhere. Andrew Lloyd Webber's passionately melodic score, Tim Rice's lyrics and the athletic and aggressive choreography by Rob Ashford provide a stirring spectacle, enhanced by Christopher Oram's costumes and grandiosely architectural set. There are impressive performances by Bowman, Josh Young as Che, Sean McLaughlin as Juan Peron, Krystina Alabado as Peron's discarded mistress and Christopher Johnstone as Eva's feckless first husband. It's an enthralling but curiously remote, impersonal theatrical experience. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through Nov. 10. (800) 982-2787, ticketmaster.com. (Neal Weaver)
EXIT THE KING Although Exit the King was written as a response to World War II, what comes as a surprise in director Pat Towne's manic revival of Eugène Ionesco's withering, existential allegory is that the play's apocalyptic vision of a Western civilization in social and moral collapse feels no less resonant or relevant to our own day. That said, no one can accuse Towne of a light touch. Jeff Alan-Lee's steamroller turn as King Berenger I all but flattens the screwball loopiness of Ionesco's slapstick into an unmodulated shriek. Erin Matthews and Jill Bennett (along with the fine Nicholas Ullett as the Doctor) provide a more measured restraint as the antic royal consorts, while a handsome set by Christopher Murillo and goth-accented costumes by Halei Parker lend the proceedings a smart polish. But it is only Matt Richter's strikingly sculpted lighting and hauntingly poetic sound that fully tap the poignancy and power latent in Ionesco's calculated absurdity. NoHo Actors Studios, 5215 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat.-Sun, 8 p.m.; through Nov. 30. (818) 763-1208, exittheking.com. (Bill Raden)
LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST
This early comedy of Shakespeare's takes place in the Kingdom of Navarre, where Liege Ferdinand (Jeremy Lelliott) and Lords Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville (Michael Faulkner, John Klopping, TJ Marchbank) forswear the company of the fairer sex for three years, fasting and studying, while they pursue the loftier regions of philosophy and art. They succeed — for about five minutes — until the French Princess (Sammi Smith) arrives with her trio of attractive attendants (Julianne Donelle, Emelie O'Hara and, at the performance reviewed, Kylie Wills standing in for Madeline Harris), after which celibacy and ascetic hardships go out the window. This is not one of the Bard's strongest plays. It's bursting with excess dialogue, has clunky plot divertissements, and even has a painfully protracted play-within-a play segment. Director Ted Barton doesn't ameliorate these problems, and thus a play that clocks in at a little over two hours feels like four. Cast performances, on balance, are good. Coeurage Theater Company at 2nd Stage, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 3, 2 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 10, 7 p.m.; through Nov. 10. (323) 944-2165, coeurage.secure.force.com/ticket. (Lovell Estell III)
THE PAIN AND THE ITCH
Playwright Bruce Norris' dark satire about upper-middle-class, white American triviality is a difficult pill to swallow, with his trenchant, discursive dialogue often being as bitter as pickle brine and his characters as twisted as pretzels. It's Thanksgiving in the Pacific Palisades home of a seemingly contented upper-middle-class family, but everyone truly loathes one another. Young dad Clay (Eric Hunicutt) and his ferociously aggressive lawyer wife, Kelly (Beverly Hynds), simmer with rage at each other, while some kind of a mysterious monster upstairs runs amok, sickening their young daughter. In Norris' drama, the monster appears to be a metaphor for the family's moral rot but, notwithstanding the keen wit of the writing, there's something one-note about the shrill situations and endless spite. Nevertheless, director Jennifer Chambers' taut production crackles with energy and rage, and assured, often harrowing performances are offered by Hynds in portraying the hateful and hate-filled Kelly, Hunicutt as the seething Clay, and April Adams as the casually monstrous, visiting mother-in-law. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 1. (323) 960-5774, plays411.com/pain. (Paul Birchall)
PICK OF THE WEEK: the road weeps, the well runs dry
There are glints of the Oresteia in Marcus Gardley's poetic, sweeping drama, the road weeps, the well runs dry, which takes place in a 19th-century Oklahoma town settled by fleeing African-American freedmen and their Native American cohabitants. The story's tragic chain of events erupts around the searing rivalry between the community's swaggering Native American sheriff, Trowbridge (Darrell Dennis), and his implacable enemy, Number Two (Demetrius Grosse), a dark and violent man. When their children fall in love, Number Two brutally and without compunction murders his rival's son, whereupon drought settles on the land, followed by additional cruel and heartrending events. The play's grim narrative is leavened by its all-too-human characters and their laughable foils: a feckless preacher (Darryl Alan Reed) functions as a spineless companion to his fanatical wife (Nakia Secrest); an ineffectual shaman (Brent Jennings) keeps up his dancing long after its senselessness becomes clear. As a fount of evil, Grosse simmers in Act I and scorches in Act II. The rest of the ensemble shines as well, especially Monnae Michaell as Trowbridge's angry widow, a woman of mighty magic who ultimately proves to be Number Two's nemesis. Designer Frederica Nascimento's bleak but striking set and Bruno Louchouarn's haunting music and sound frame the spectacle. Shirley Jo Finney's direction displays her accomplished hand. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 3 p.m.; through Nov. 17, thelatc.org (Deborah Klugman)
ONGOING SHOWS REGION-WIDE:
Tickets & info: 323-871-1150 or thevisceralcompany.com. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Nov. 3. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.