We give nods this week for Donald Margulies' Coney Island Christmas at the Geffen, Anything Goes at the Ahmanson, Rise playing mid-week at Elephant Stage, A Mulholland Christmas Carol back at Theatre of NOTE and A Down & Dirty Christmas at Zombie Joe's Underground. For all the latest new theater reviews, see below.

This week's stage feature looks at how Elevator Repair Service's Gatz at REDCAT and a simple card-trick show, Nothing to Hide at the Geffen, each exposes the lie of all number of truisms on how we live in an era of short attention spans that demands high-tech glitz in our entertainments.

Rachel York (center) with the cast from Roundabout Theatre Company; Credit: Joan Marcus

Rachel York (center) with the cast from Roundabout Theatre Company; Credit: Joan Marcus

L to R: Larry Joe Campbell, Dan Castallaneta, Frank Caeti, and Brian Stepanek; Credit: Craig Schwartz

L to R: Larry Joe Campbell, Dan Castallaneta, Frank Caeti, and Brian Stepanek; Credit: Craig Schwartz

L to R; Isabella Acres and Annabelle Gurwitch; Credit: Michael Lamont

L to R; Isabella Acres and Annabelle Gurwitch; Credit: Michael Lamont

L to R: Amy Rosoff and Dean Chekvala; Credit: Iama Theatre Company

L to R: Amy Rosoff and Dean Chekvala; Credit: Iama Theatre Company


as well as this Christmas-themed romp featuring garter gals and sinful

sirens brimming with nubile exuberance. A sextet of cutie pies bedecked

with lingerie, glitter and tattoos angelically sings a carol a cappella

before some spicy, Latin-flavored dance music kicks in and the girls go

wild. In what is essentially a 55-minute show of Christmas sketches, a

lesbian version of Dickens' old chestnut A Christmas Carol

is the loose storyline that stitches it all together. An uber-cute

showgirl/assistant hits the road after her buxom Madame director bosses

her around once too often. Madame's “spirit guide” appears in the shape

of a snail puppet, guiding her through Christmases past, present and

future in an attempt to encourage the stern Madame to mellow out. As

Madame's holiday revue takes shape, a young male MC steps in, amusingly

camping it up big-time until he gloriously appears in drag. Director

Vanessa Cate's entertaining show beautifully mixes standards such as

“What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?” and “Santa Baby” with a haunting

Joni Mitchell tune and references to the beloved Peanuts comic strip.

It's candy-cane eye candy. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850

Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.; through Dec. 21. (818)

202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. (Pauline Adamek)

GO: Elevator Repair Service: Gatz:

Zombie Joe's Underground ensemble; Credit: Vanessa Cate

Zombie Joe's Underground ensemble; Credit: Vanessa Cate

Steven Gunther
L to R: Scott Shepherd as Nick, Jim Fletcher as Gatsby and Victoria Vazquez as Daisy

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 2 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 1 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 9. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W.

Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org. See Stage feature.

L to R: Scott Shepherd as Nick, Jim Fletcher as Gatsby and Victoria Vazquez as Daisy; Credit: Steven Gunther

L to R: Scott Shepherd as Nick, Jim Fletcher as Gatsby and Victoria Vazquez as Daisy; Credit: Steven Gunther

Groundlings holiday company; Credit: Shawn Bishop

Groundlings holiday company; Credit: Shawn Bishop

GO Nothing to Hide: An evening of card-shark-ery, written by Derek DelGaudio, directed by Neil

Patrick Harris. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 & 10:30 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Jan. 6. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le

Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com. See Stage feature.

L to R: Gene Michael Barrero, Christopher Meiman, Stephen Simon, Dan Wingard, Lucy Briffith-Nemeth and Lauren Dobbins Webb; Credit: Darrett Sanders

L to R: Gene Michael Barrero, Christopher Meiman, Stephen Simon, Dan Wingard, Lucy Briffith-Nemeth and Lauren Dobbins Webb; Credit: Darrett Sanders

L to R: Gowrie Hayden and Brett Colbeth; Credit: Elephant Theatre Company

L to R: Gowrie Hayden and Brett Colbeth; Credit: Elephant Theatre Company

Presented by Company of Strangers.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15.

Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com.

86'd: Written by Jon Polito and Darryl Armbruster, directed by

Ronnie Marmo. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 22, plays411.com. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los

Angeles, 323-960-5068.

Angels Fall: Lanford Wilson's 1982 drama takes place on an

Indian reservation in New Mexico, where six people gather anxiously in a

Catholic church after authorities warn about a possible nuclear mishap.

The play's most urgent conflict concerns the kind, moral parish priest

(Carl J. Johnson), distressed because his foster son (Gabe Fonseca), a

Native American doctor, is leaving the impoverished reservation to

pursue a more lucrative career elsewhere. Less dramatically compelling

plotlines track the tribulations of a loquacious, middle-aged professor

(Stewart Skelton) burned out by academe, and those of a wealthy widow

(Penny Peyser) catering to the whims of her youthful lover (Michael

Sanchez). Directed by Alex Egan, the production's weakest link is

Fonseca's simplistic rendering of the troubled young physician, a man

torn between temptation and duty. Then again, all the performances

appear at best under-rehearsed, with even the usually excellent Johnson

seeming distanced from the good father's emotional core. (Deborah

Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 22, (800) 838-3006, theprodco.com. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles.

GO Avenue Q:

How can you not like a musical puppet show that looks a little like

Sesame Street but sounds more like South Park? Director Richard Israel's

charming local production of the Tony Award-winning musical proves that

the show plays brilliantly on a small, intimate stage. After all,

Avenue Q is at its heart a puppet show, and what's the point if you're

so far back in the house you can't see the puppets? Utilizing a

fast-paced staging that's rich with youthful energy, as well as angst,

the show boasts some hilarious and surprisingly subtle performers, who

also manipulate their puppet characters with style and acrobatic skill.

Admittedly, the show is essentially a straightforward staging of the

Broadway script — a nice introduction to the work, but if you've

already seen the play, it's not certain that this production adds much

to it. Still, it's easy to enjoy Chris Kauffman's amusingly ironic turn

as mousy puppet Princeton, and Danielle Judovits' beautifully vulnerable

Kate Monster — and it's fun to experience the lively renditions of

peppy ditties on topics as diverse as masturbation, racism and puppet

sex. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.;

Sundays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through Feb. 3, (323) 802-4990, domatheatre.com. The Met

Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, www.themettheatre.com.

Bad Evidence:

Playwright Terry Quinn's bleakest of black comedies resides in a

savagely misanthropic literary suburb where friends and neighbors go by

names like LaBute and Albee and Strindberg. It's the kind of

neighborhood where deception and sexual betrayal are as ubiquitous as

backyard barbecues, and where words not only cut like a knife but are

also usually wielded with a homicidal intent. Act 1 features a

lacerating, coital dance of death by Glory Simon and James Wagner (in a

marvelously malign duet) as marrieds whose mutual contempt has become a

bitterly sadomasochist conjugal embrace. Act 2's cocktail party of the

damned widens the focus to include their incestuous circle of pranking

emotional ambushers (that includes standout Justin Sintic). Director

Katie Sabrira Rubin delivers a seamless staging (amid Adam Haas Hunter's

clever set pieces), but neither she nor her capable ensemble can

finally anchor the play's glib cynicism in a recognizable or

toxicity-mitigating humanity. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9, (323) 960-7712, plays411.com. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

GO Bob Baker's Nutcracker:

Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues

through Jan. 27, $20. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St.,

Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.

GO A Bright New Boise:

Ever wonder what transpires in the heart and mind of a fundamentalist

zealot? Samuel D. Hunter ventures into that murky terrain in his dark,

droll and ultimately explosive work A Bright New Boise, set in a

soulless big-box store in Boise, Idaho. Just arrived from a small town,

new hire Will (Matthew Elkins) comes across as a gentle guy and docile

worker, although his authorship of a Christian e-novel does set him

oddly apart from the average Joe. Will's motive for procuring this

particular dead-end job is to introduce himself for the first time to

another store employee: his biological son, Alex (Erik Odom). Raised in

foster homes, Alex is looked after by his foster brother, Leroy (a

razor-sharp Trevor Peterson), a snaky, irreverent rule-breaker

determined to protect the unstable boy from the psychological predator

he deems Will to be. Funny, compassionate and disturbing all at once,

Hunter's quintessentially American scenario portrays an individual

trapped in an emotional and cultural wasteland, his life configured by

uncaring impersonal forces, his spirit hobbled by unnamed guilt. Elkins'

performance — so palpable and so genuine he might be the guy standing

next to you in the supermarket line — captures it all. Betsy Zajko is

on the mark as a no-nonsense, anti-union store manager with a

compassionate streak and a relenting heart, while Heather L. Tyler, as

Will's coequally isolated co-worker, compounds the pathos. Designer

David Mauer's set aptly reflects the unvarnished bleakness of these

characters' lives. John Perrin Flynn directs. (Deborah Klugman).

Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 9. Rogue

Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

The Christmas Present: Guy Picot's dark comedy.

Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 12, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.;

Sun., Dec. 16, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 18, 8 p.m.; Wed., Dec. 19, 8 p.m.;

Thu., Dec. 20, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 22, 8 p.m.;

Sun., Dec. 23, 8 p.m. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los

Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

The Coarse Acting Show: Michael Green's spoof of amateur theatricals, presented by Sacred Fools Theater Company. See Stage feature.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec.

15. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles,

310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.

Dirty Filthy Love Story: Rob Mersola's comedy about a romance between a hoarder and a trash man. See Stage feature.

Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Continues through Dec. 29.

Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com. See New Reviews.

GO Doomsday Cabaret:

This irreverent rock musical, with book, lyrics and music by Michael

Shaw Fisher and direction by Chris Raymond, was inspired by the Mayan

calendar, which seems to predict the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012.

The setting is a symposium at the San Bernardino Community Center on

Dec. 21, and attended by a bizarre group of people who are convinced

that the end will come at midnight. Attendees include notorious arsonist

Kurt Billie (David Haverty); fundamentalist married couple Nathan and

Lorraine Dugan (Joe Fria and Molly Cruse); the Messenger (Mark

Bemesderfer), who claims to represent the Hopi people; sex pot Lady

Vavoom (Liza Baron), who hopes to be experiencing orgasm when the

Rapture strikes; Bee Girl Deedra Witwit (Leigh Wulf), who's obsessed

with the mysterious extinction of bee colonies; and web-freak Dale Reed

(Jake Regal). A vaguely defined guru (Nick Nassuet) presides over the

occasion and coke-head Ed (writer-composer Fisher) serves as Emcee. The

humor is anarchic and scattershot, the performers are able, and the

music (played by the four-man Doomsday Band) is often rousing. The

mostly young audience seemed to find it hilarious. (Neal Weaver). Sat.,

Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 21, 8 & 11 p.m.

Second Stage Theater, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.

Finding Barb:

Barbara Heller has taken her personal quest for her spiritual path and

turned it into an earnest and sweet musical. The show's pretty songs —

beautifully sung — are composed by Avi Avliav, who performs live on

electric piano, conveying sensitivity and flair. (Two songs are credited

to co-composer Katie Thompson.) Heller, who wrote the book and lyrics

and also stars, dominates the stage with her confessional, acting out

episodes from her life alongside co-star David Scales. Scales plays

every male Barb encounters, including her father, doctor, rabbis and

various boyfriends. Heller's younger sister is shown on video as a hand

puppet, dispensing sage advice. Unafraid to play dorky, sometimes

childish and ever hopeful, Heller brings a fearless approach to her

story that proves endearing. Director Eve Minemar has selected a

bare-bones staging approach that complements Heller's courageous,

unvarnished performance. While somewhat appealing, this tale is not all

that compelling. (Pauline Adamek). Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through

Jan. 10, findingbarbshow.com. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner

St., Los Angeles, 323-851-2603, www.workingstage.com.

The Fisherman's Wife / Doesn't Anyone Know What a Pancreas Is?:

A distant offspring of “tentacle” (sci-fi or horror-themed) porn, Steve

Yockey's bizarre sex comedy builds around an estranged husband and wife

whose disintegrating relationship is treated by a mysterious nomad.

Carrying a knapsack of unusual sex aids, the unorthodox marriage

counselor (Patrick Flanagan) calls on the embittered, frustrated Vanessa

(Sarah McCarron) while her mate, Cooper (Michael Hanson), is off

fishing. While Vanessa is being sexually relieved and enlightened, the

helpless Cooper is undergoing brutal rape by a duplicitous squid-octopus

duo (Kim Chueh and Gary Patent). The play, an outrageously raucous

cartoon, comes with an ick factor that will make some people laugh,

others wince (count me in here), and still others react both ways.

Flanagan's oddball shaman is sharply and drolly drawn, whereas McCarron

and Hanson are missing the details that make for a smartly etched

caricature. Chueh is an appropriately smarmy cephalopod, while John

Burton's puppets compound the weird humor. Gates McFadden directs.

(Deborah Klugman). Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 13, (323)

644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, www.atwatervillagetheatre.com.

GO Foote Notes: A Young Lady of Property & The Land of the Astronauts:

Subtlety and skill are on ample display in this duo of Horton Foote

one-acts, directed by Scott Paulin. “A Woman of Property,” set in

Foote's Harrison, Texas, in 1925, revolves around a high-spirited,

15-year-old named Wilma (Juliette Goglia), whose mom has died and whose

dad is about to remarry and sell the family home. In an outstanding

turn, Goglia's performance captures both the innocence of the play's

time and place and the spirit of confused rebellious adolescence that

transcends it. In “The Land of the Astronauts,” set in 1983, the modern

world looms closer to Harrison. The plot concerns a young family nearly

torn apart when the father (Aaron McPherson), overcome by a sense of

futility, goes off the deep end and pursues his fantasy of being an

astronaut. Laetitia Leon is spot-on as his warm, lovely wife, Lorena,

who doesn't quite understand but knows how to comfort her man and get

him back on track. Supporting performances help weave the sense of

community that is the hallmark of Foote's work: among them Talyan

Wright, beguiling and utterly professional as Lorena's young daughter,

and Matt Little as the helpful young deputy obviously vulnerable to

Lorena's charm. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2

p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica

Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse:

It would take a cultural philosopher to adequately explain why zombies

have so profoundly resonated with audiences at this historical moment.

One does not, however, need to be a Gilles Deleuze to understand its

baroque potential for satire. Which is to say that anyone with even a

passing acquaintance with the genre rules laid down by George Romero

will find a lot to like in director Patrick Bristow's amiable,

Americanized version of this improv-derived British fringe import by Ben

Muir, Jess Napthine, David Ash and Lee Cooper. Bristow is zombiologist

Dr. Bobert Dougash. Jayne Entwistle, Mario Vernazza and Chris Sheets are

his seminar's panel of conspicuously underqualified experts, who take

very seriously the ludicrous prospect of surviving a fictional,

species-exterminating epidemic. Bristow expertly leads the crew through

some clever wordplay routines worthy of Abbott & Costello, padded

out with some genial barbs directed at audience targets of opportunity.

(Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 22, combinedartform.com. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica

Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.

Hughie: Eugene O'Neill's one-act is part of

an intended series of plays under the rubric of “By Way of Obit,”

essentially monologues about a dead person to a third party. Hughie was

the only one published and, though it's not one of the playwright's most

popular works, it has showcased marquee actors such as Jason Robards

and Al Pacino. After an evening of extended drinking, Erie Smith (Andrew

Schlessinger) swaggers into the lobby of his decrepit Manhattan hotel

with only the night attendant to keep him company. The reason for this

petty gambler's binge was the death of Hughie, the former night clerk, a

fact that emerges as Erie gradually regales the new guy (Joe Hulser,

adroitly channeling boredom, incredulity and attentiveness) with fables

about past times, women he's bedded, big names he's associated with, his

hardscrabble youth and all the big money he's pocketed over the years.

But beneath the bluster is a frail, vulnerable human being craving

connection and redemption, and it is this flawed, softer side that makes

the character interesting. Schelssinger turns in a good performance,

but he does overwork the “tough-guy hustler” shade of Erie's

personality. That quibble notwithstanding, this is a neat, engaging

production under Martha Demson's direction. (Lovell Estell III).

Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 13. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd.,

Los Angeles, 323-882-6912, www.openfist.org.

I'm Dop3!: Written and performed by Afia Fields. Fridays,

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 19,

$30, (443) 928-5941, saiproarts.org. Elephant Studio Theater, 1076 Lillian Way, Los Angeles.

In HEAT In Hollywood HO HO HO: Written by David Trudell,

directed by Michael Kearns. Starting Dec. 8, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays,

3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23, (702) 582-8587, katselastheatre.com. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

GO In the Red and Brown Water: Playwright Tarell

Alvin McCraney sets this music-, dance- and myth-infused work in the

“distant present,” weaving his story around talented young athlete Oya

(Diarra Kilpatrick), who risks her future to care for her ailing mother.

The play charts a downhill course for this lovely, open-hearted person:

Her mother dies, the prized scholarship goes to someone else and Oya is

trapped in the barrio, plagued with passion for an unfaithful lover

(Gilbert Glenn Brown) and for the same fulfillment as every other woman

in her circumscribed community — a child. It's no accident that Oya's

barrenness parallels the predicament in Federico Garcia Lorca's Yerma,

or that she bears the name of a Yoruba goddess. McCraney pulls together a

confluence of elements — although predominantly Yoruba — to present a

visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America.

Kilpatrick's portrayal embraces every bit of her feisty, soulful

character, made more compelling by the intimate performance space.

Brown's slick, calibrated womanizer is an aptly fashioned foil and the

remaining ensemble is strong. But designer Frederica Nascimento's set,

with its pale walls and light wood backdrop, is too tidy and sterile to

reflect the play's darkness. Shirley Jo Finney directs. (Deborah

Klugman). Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Feb. 24. Fountain

Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.

GO Justin Love:

The tiny Celebration Theater can barely contain the energy and talent

bursting from every aspect of this world-premiere musical that both

blasts and lionizes Hollywood through through the tale of an

action-movie superstar coming out of the closet. Structurally the piece

follows the classic 20th-century Broadway musical form, with the book by

David Elzer (who, full disclosure, is a publicist with whom the Weekly

works often) and Patricia Cotter skillfully recounting the story of

fresh-faced Midwestern newbie Chris (Tyler Ledon) whose apprenticeship

with Cruella-like publicist Buck (Alet Taylor) leads him to a secret

affair with super-hot star Justin (Adam Huss). Sharp performances by

these stars, along with an equally fine ensemble — every one of whom

can really sing and act — make Michael Matthews' expert direction even

stronger. But what makes this truly special is an extremely smart (not

just clever) package of music and lyrics by Lori Scarlett and David

Manning (beautifully realized by music director John Ballinger) that

recalls the style of William Finn's Falsettos series of musicals from

the 1990s. There is still some trimming and tuning in store for this

piece as it grows from its present digs to a larger space, as it is

likely to do. Even within the limits of this theater, the multi-use set

by Stephen Gifford, with inventive use of projections by Jason H.

Thompson, give the production its sense of largeness. (Tom Provenzano).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16,

plays411.com. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Los

Angeles, 323-957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com.

GO The Magic Bullet Theory:

Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola's The Magic Bullet Theory is the second

play to be produced locally this year focusing on the 1963 JFK

assassination. Dennis Richard's Oswald: The Actual Interrogation

was performed in January and February at Write-Act Repertory, also in

Hollywood. Though strategically ambiguous, Richmond Shepard's staging of

Richard's play appeared at least in part to support the lone-gunman

theory (the conclusion drawn by the Warren Commission): that a single

ricocheting bullet (from one of three shots) killed the president of the

United States and wounded Texas Gov. John Connally, both of whom were

riding in the sedan with their wives as part of a parade through Dealey

Plaza in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. With the exception of a couple of

flashbacks, Oswald arrived at its view through an extended

interrogation scene between the accused Lee Harvey Oswald and a

mild-mannered Dallas Police Department captain, Will Fritz — a scene

cobbled together from Fritz's hand-scribbled notes. That production also

posited the suggestion that Oswald had been framed. The tone of that

production combined the noir melodrama of Dragnet and Law and Order,

honoring the almost theological conviction of baby boomers that those

three shots heard around the world in November 1963 represented the

beginning of the end of innocence for the United States. The Magic Bullet Theory,

however, written and produced by post-baby boomers, defies all such

reverence, and with that defiance carries a healthy skepticism that any

era of American history, or any other history for that matter, was

innocent. Its larger point is its derision for the controversial single-

or “magic” bullet theory. As directed by JJ Mayes, it presents a

sketch-comedy conspiracy, irreverently choreographed by Natasha Norman,

that unambiguously leaves the Warren Commission report in tatters. In

fact, one scene dramatizes the single-bullet theory with an actor

holding a bullet, which carries a tail of red string, from the

assassin's rifle to and through the passengers (actors posing dutifully

in a cardboard cutout of the open sedan). The scene demonstrates the

trajectory of the bullet, which would have almost had to reverse

directions in midair to support the single-bullet theory, in the

meantime slicing through 15 layers of clothing, about 15 inches of

tissue and a necktie knot, taking out a chunk of rib and shattering a

radius bone. (This point of view also could be found in Oliver Stone's

movie JFK as well as its parody on Seinfeld.) The play

replaces that theory with a highly speculative suggestion that the

assassination was a botched conspiracy, headed by The Texan (Rick

Steadman) — Lyndon Baines Johnson goes unnamed — employing a couple of

“Yale-Fuck” killers (Pete Caslavka and Monica Greene), as well as

Oswald (Michael Holmes), plus Charles Harrelson (Tocantins), who, with

Oswald by his side, fires shots before placing the murdering rifle into

dimwit Oswald's hands, thereby also supporting the notion that Oswald

was framed. Life may be stranger than fiction, but this fiction hangs on

the most tenuous of threads: that the Texas contingent and the CIA were

so peeved by President Kennedy's soft handling of Cuba, they just

wanted to scare him, to let him know what they could do if he didn't

stand up to Castro. In flashback, we see The Texan order the parade

slowed to 10 miles an hour so the hired guns could fire and miss,

sending a message, Mafia-style. But something went terribly, terribly

wrong. Imagine the JFK assassination replayed by Monty Python. The Brit

sketch-comedy troupe infuriated millions of Catholics with its version

of the Crucifixion in The Life of Brian. (The crowd whistles to the lyric “Always look on the bright side of life” as the Savior hangs and nods in rhythm.) The Magic Bullet Theory

is a comparatively local sacrilege — a couple of thugs dance in

slo-mo, mock anguish whenever they see somebody killed. The production

dances gleefully with nihilism, finding its footing somewhere between

bravery and childishness. (Steven Leigh Morris). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15, $25,

plays411.com/magicbullet. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los

Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.

A Midsummer Night's Dream / Macbeth: Directed by Amanda

McRaven (Macbeth) and Beth Gardiner (Midsummer). Presented by Fugitive

Kind Theater. Sat., Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 6:30 p.m., brownpapertickets.com. The cARTel House (Collaborative Arts LA), 1436 S. Main St., Los Angeles.

A Mulholland Christmas Carol:

Written by Bill Robens, directed by Alina Phelan. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 23, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 16. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com. See New Reviews

GO Point Break Live!:

Jaime Keeling's merciless skewering of the 1991 hyper-action flick

starring Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey is loaded with laughs, as well as

surprises, like picking an audience member to play Reeves' role of

Special Agent Johnny Utah. It's damn good fun, cleverly staged by

directors Eve Hars, Thomas Blake and George Spielvogel. (LE3).

Saturdays, 8 p.m., (866) 811-4111, theatermania.com. Dragonfly, 6510

Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thedragonfly.com.

Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin: It takes singer

Sophie B. Hawkins a song or two to perfect Janis Joplin's gravelly

growl, but she gets there just in time and maintains the requisite

throaty cackle of the bad-girl icon throughout. Though Hawkins'

girl-next-door prettiness needs a bit more roughing up to achieve a true

Joplin metamorphosis, her singing carries the show. But writer-director

Gigi Gaston's thin storyline tells us nothing new about Joplin and

veers into caricature territory far too often. Fans of the Joplin

songbook likely will enjoy the covers, but those expecting any glimpses

beyond the streetwise flower-girl public persona Joplin perfected before

her untimely death will feel shortchanged. (Amy Lyons).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Dec. 30.

Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.

GO Rise: Cal Barnes' intense drama. Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica

Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 6. (323) 960-4410, plays411.com/rise. See New Reviews.

GO The Santaland Diaries:

The season brings with it enough Christmas- and holiday-themed fare to

set your teeth on edge from sugar overload. Fortunately for the cynics

among us, the Blank Theatre has brought back its not-safe-for-children,

one-man hit show for the fourth year running. Based on comedian David

Sedaris' sardonic radio segments on NPR's Morning Edition, the show

charts the protagonist's increasingly bizarre experience as a costumed

elf at Macy's department store. Sedaris' tale takes us from the

laborious interview process and training to the hell that is frenzied

parents and excited kids during the most intense shopping period of the

year. Paolo Andino climbs back into the elf suit for a second time, and

it's still a perfect fit. Cute, sly and bouncing with verve, Andino

carefully modulates the tone, delivering a comedic monologue that is

never too sarcastic or snarky. He also glides from raconteur to warbler

in the show's handful of brief musical interludes. But it's his gift for

impressions that really makes this show sing. (Pauline Adamek).

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16,

plays411.com. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles,

323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.

GO Silence! The Musical:

In the daft and campy Silence! The Musical, based on beloved Grand

Guignol horror film The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the Cannibal)

Lecter doesn't just eat a liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti: He

also sings in a lovely baritone. This droll retelling of the film —

book by Hunter Bell, music and lyrics by Jon Kaplan and Al Kaplan — is

clearly targeted at fans of the movie, and the material assumes a

certain amount of familiarity with the original work. However, within

that context, director Christopher Gattelli dishes up some brilliant

stagecraft. Opening with a band of singing and narrating chorines in

lamb costumes, the play follows the same narrative trajectory of the

film, but with surprisingly ambitious, yet ghoulish, production numbers

meshing a South Park sensibility with crisp choreography, cheerful

(though not particularly memorable) music and smirking irony. Although

the work is straightforward, the Carol Burnett Show-style parody tends

to wear thin after about an hour and a half. Still, it's hard not to

find the overall quirkiness irresistible. As FBI Agent Clarice Starling,

Christina Lakin does a perfect deadpan imitation of Jodie Foster — but

the true standout is Davis Gaines' dead-on, leeringly charismatic turn

as the amusingly menacing, cannibalistic killer. (Paul Birchall).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 & 7 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 9, (866) 811-4111, silencethemusical.com/. Hayworth Theatre, 2511

Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, www.thehayworth.com.

Slipped Disc

Bertolt Brecht, in defining his vision of “epic theater,” coined the

term Verfremdungseffekt, or “alienation effect,” which implied that in

order to be effective, theater should keep an audience from fully losing

itself in the story being told. Playwright Ingrid Lausund, also German,

seems to have embraced Brecht's vision, but she and Green Card Theatre

perhaps take the concept of alienation further than the master had

intended. Set in a nondescript office, this play consists of a series of

vignettes that attempt to satirize the cutthroat environment of

corporate culture. There is little plot, character development or story

to speak of, all of which hinder audience engagement. Add to that a

preponderance of earsplittingly loud shrieks, howls and buzzer sounds,

and the audience is only further alienated, but in a way that ironically

subverts Brecht's vision. Director Christopher Basile and the cast give

it their all, but if there were anything engaging or impactful in

Lausund's original, the effekt has sadly been lost in translation.

(Mayank Keshaviah). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 23. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., Los

Angeles, 213-351-3507, www.sonofsemele.org.

Snowangel: Written by Lewis John Carlino,

directed by John Coppola. Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m.;

Sat., Jan. 12, 8 p.m.; Sun., Jan. 13, 3 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 19, 8 p.m.;

Fri., Jan. 25, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan. 26, 8 p.m., plays411.com. Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-988-1175.

GO Terminator Too:

Judgement Play: Some of the folks involved with the long-running Point

Break Live! have regrouped to present another live spoof of a popular

movie, this time putting everyone's favorite action ham, Arnold

Schwarzenegger, in their sights. The interactive stage show recruits

their leading man from the audience, getting willing showoffs to leap

onstage, do some push-ups and deliver the iconic line “I'll be back” for

an audience rating. The one with the most strangled Austrian accent

gets the role for the night and is prompted throughout with dialogue on

laminated flash cards presented by a saucy Latina maid (Melanie

Minchino). It's tempting to suspect the hero in the performance reviewed

was a slightly coached plant; he was way too good. Supporting cast

brings ample enthusiasm for the absurd and fast-paced nonsense,

especially petite Joya Mia Italiano doing her best, squeaky-voiced

Edward Furlong impersonation as the bratty teenager John Connor, and

ripped, no-nonsense Christi Waldon as Sarah Connor. Production values

are deliberately (and hilariously) low-tech, including robo-costumes

made from aluminum roasting trays and cars clearly constructed from

cardboard. Plastic ponchos are provided to protect the audience from the

barrage of water gunfire and blood splatters throughout. Silly, messy

and moderately funny, the show's two 45-minute acts fly by. (Pauline

Adamek). Saturdays, 7:30 & 10:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 8. The

Viper Room, 8852 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-358-1881, www.viperroom.com.

GO Their Eyes Saw Rain:

Playwright West Liang also stars in his astonishingly intense ensemble

drama, set in a fictitious small country town. The specter of tragedy

hangs over the townspeople of Castle, emblematized by an ever-present

decay caused by months of relentless rain. Or is that really the cause?

Stern and unyielding, Terrance (Liang) bullies his two younger brothers

Joanus (Kavin Panmeechao) and Billy (Marc Pelina) into community

service, dropping books off at the homes of their neighbors and

assisting where they can. With this goodwill mission, Terrance (as

active reformer) struggles to fill their recently deceased father's

shoes, even as the mental illness that took him begins to crowd

Terrance's consciousness. Meanwhile a blossoming romance between Joanus

and a young, single mother, Peach (Samantha Klein), provokes an eruption

from her wannabe sheriff boyfriend, Jake (James Thomas Gilbert).

Director Justin Huen's staging and direction are beautifully rendered.

Performances from the cast of eight are all good, especially the

precision and detail of Liang's somewhat one-note paranoid paternal

figure. A brief scene where the true extent of Terrance's psychosis is

revealed is breathtaking in its intensity, courtesy of Gregory Niebel's

teeth-rattlingly powerful performance. Their Eyes Saw Rain may have an

all too predictable and tragic trajectory, but it's a trip worth taking.

(Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 16, companyofangels.org. Company of Angels at the

Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, Los Angeles,

323-489-3703, www.companyofangels.org.


The Next Arena presents Jean-Michel Richaud as Vincent van Gogh.

Written by Leonard Nimoy, directed by Paul Stein. Sundays, 6 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 16, (323) 417-2170, thenextarena.com. VS Theatre (formerly the Black Dahlia Theatre), 5453 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles.


ASTROGLYDE XX: Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 16.

Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North

Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

A Christmas Carol
: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3

p.m. Continues through Dec. 16. GTC Burbank, 1111-B W. Olive Ave.,

Burbank, 818-528-6622, www.gtc.org.

A Down & Dirty Christmas: Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 21. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See New Reviews.

The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever!: Joe Marshall's comedy

about a struggling gay theater company's annual holiday show. Fri., Dec.

7, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Dec. 14, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8

p.m.; Sat., Dec. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Dec. 30, 8 p.m. Avery Schreiber

Theater, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-766-9100.

Golden Girls LIVE On: Stage Reunion and Christmas Episodes – A

Parody: Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 30, brownpapertickets.com/event/297806. Oil Can Harry's, 11502

Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-9749, www.oilcanharrysla.com.

It's a Wonderful Life: Theatre Unleashed's play within a play,

based on Frank Capra's film, set in a struggling 1940s radio station.

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15.

Missing Piece Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-563-1100, www.themissingpiecetheatre.com.

GO Kong: A Goddamn Thirty-Foot Gorilla: Adam

Hahn's spoofy homage to King Kong, the 1933 creature feature about a

colossal gorilla that is captured and then runs amok in New York City,

is an ambitious undertaking. Just how do you depict a giant ape onstage

without stop-motion animation trickery and cinema magic? Director Jaime

Robledo's brand of creative staging and low-tech gimmickry include

trompe l'oeil shifts in perspective and scale. So when platinum blonde,

bewigged scream queen Anne (Sara Kubida) is in the grip of Kong's giant

paw, the actor playing Kong (all snuffles and primal bellowing from

Germaine De Leon) can be seen clutching a Barbie doll. Cast members tilt

and sway in unison to suggest the passage of a ship. Tifanie McQueen's

scenic and prop designs are minimal and effective, and curiously less

complicated to reset than the lengthy scenes in front of the curtain

should warrant. Yet some of these odd scenes, including shipman Jack

Driscoll's (Eric Curtis Johnson) confessions to an AA meeting and the

Skull Island native chief (Arden Haywood) shedding his headdress to

instruct us about “race” movies from the 1930s, offer some deliciously

amusing rewards. Audience members are enlisted into the air squadron for

Kong's Empire State Building-set climactic demise with a supply of

do-it-yourself paper airplanes. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, Sundays.

Continues through Dec. 9, (800) 838-3006, SkyPilotTheatre.com. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood.

One November Yankee: “Art imitates life imitates art” observes

one of the characters in writer-director Joshua Ravetch's ambitious,

idea-packed new play. The two don't so much “imitate” each other as

merely “intersect” in Ravetch's trio of tales about art's mystical power

to provide healing catharsis. Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit play three

pairs of conflicted, middle-aged siblings in four scenes anchored by the

towering wreck of set designer Dana Moran Williams' crumpled Piper Cub.

In one scene, the plane serves as installation artist Hamlin's

sculptural metaphor for “civilization in ruins.” In another, it is the

still-smoking air disaster that has sidelined Swit and her fatally

injured brother in the wilderness. In a third, it is the chance

discovery by sibling backpackers that finally brings closure to a

traumatizing family tragedy. Hamlin and Swit are fine, but not even

these venerable TV veterans can breathe life into Ravetch's forced,

pedestrian dialogue and patently contrived situations. (Bill Raden).

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Jan. 5.

NoHo Arts Center, 11020 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.

PLAY/ground: The Annual New Play Festival: Readings include

Pluto by Steve Yockey, Mesmeric Revelation … Before Edgar Allen Poe by

Aaron Henne, Modern House by Kira Obolensky, Se Llama Cristina by

Octavio Solis, and A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay About

the Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath. Sat., Dec. 8; Sun., Dec. 9.

Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626-683-6883, www.bostoncourt.com.

Santasia: A Holiday Comedy: Produced by Loser Kids

Productions. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 24, (800) 838-3006, santasia.com. Whitefire Theater, 13500

Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, www.whitefiretheatre.com.

She F*&%ing Hates Me: A Love Story: Written by Scarlett

Ridgway Savage. Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Dec. 15. Zombie

Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood,

818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See New Reviews.

Sherlock's Last Case: Written by Charles Marowitz, directed by

Larry Eisenberg. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues

through Jan. 13. Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank

Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-700-4878, www.thegrouprep.com.

The Tortoise and the Hare Make a Holiday Wish: Presented by

the Limecat Family Theatre Company. Sundays, 1 & 3 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 23. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim

Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.

GO You Can't Take It With You: Imagine a home

where live snakes, spontaneous ballet dancing, fireworks explosions and

occasional xylophone playing are ho-hum affairs, and you'll have an idea

of the unhinged eccentrics in this delightful production of George S.

Kaufman and Moss Hart's 70-year-old Depression-era comedy You Can't Take

It With You. The Sycamore household is part carnival, part asylum.

Penny is an aspiring Picasso, and also fancies herself a successful

dramatist (with a bulging stack of unfinished plays to prove it). Her

hubby Paul specializes in explosives and chance ignitions, while

daughter Essie consistently flutters about like a prima ballerina.

Grandpa (Joseph Ruskin, in a wonderful performance), enjoys the life of a

retiree, but has some ugly tax problems, and daughter Alice, who is in

love with her boss' son and wants to marry him, must try to bring her

beau's snobby parents into the Sycamore fold. The operative word here is

fun; there always seems to be some monkeyshines going on and there are a

few pleasant surprises that pop up. Director Gigi Bermingham has done

an excellent job of balancing the play's comedic elements and pacing the

three acts, and Tom Buderwitz's set design is marvelous. Note that as

with all Antaeus productions, the play is double-cast. (Lovell Estell

III). Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 9. The Antaeus Company

and Antaeus Academy, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. antaeus.org


GO Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play: Even after 60 years and counting, Eugene Ionesco's classic absurdist farce The Bald Soprano

is still one of France's most popular and frequently produced plays.

And as director Frederique Michel demonstrates in this steadfastly

enjoyable revival, it's still good for a load of laughs. The opening

tableau reveals a middle-aged Parisian couple, the Smiths (Jeff Atik,

David E. Frank in drag, skillfully blending impertinence and camp),

relaxing at home. She decorates the Christmas tree and discusses banal

details about dinner, while he responds with outbursts of guttural

gibberish from behind a newspaper. Things turn even more bizarre with

the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Bo Roberts, Cynthia Mance) — who

initially don't seem to even know each other — and a loquacious Fire

Chief (Mitchell Colley). The evening gradually segues into a frenetic

outbreak of meaningless chatter, jarring non sequiturs, grade-school

storytelling and oddball silliness, all of which Michel and her cast

(which includes Lena Kay as a ditzy maid) serve up with impeccable

comedic skill and elan. Ionesco satirizes middle-class manners and

banality, and at the same time constructs a dramatic environment where

logic, language and reality are wittily disassociated, and therein is

the fun and laughs in the piece. Cast performances under Michel's

direction are first-rate. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23,

brownpapertickets.com/event/289020. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts

Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.

Bob's Holiday Office Party: Written by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk,

directed by Matt Roth. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 22, plays411.com/bobs. Pico Playhouse, 10508 W.

Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-204-4440, www.picoplayhouse.com.

A Child Left Behind: Written and performed by Alan Aymie.

Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 20. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000

Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

Enchanted April: Written by Matthew Barber, directed by Gail

Bernardi. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 16. Theater Palisades' Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road,

Pacific Palisades, 310-454-1970, www.theatrepalisades.org.

The Last Romance: It's a pity that a play nominally devoted to

taking chances manages so few of its own. This capable production of

Joe DiPietro's geriatric love story retreads familiar plot devices,

dredging up exhausted clichés — those kids these days and their rap

music! — that may comfort but offer little to challenge or excite. An

affable Italian-American octogenarian (Howard Storm) living with his

caretaker sister (Dorothy Sinclair) falls for the AARP hottie (Mariko

Van Kampen) at the local dog park. Storm's self-deprecating humor is

pitch-perfect, but the underwritten women struggle to not come across as

shrill or grating. Older folks deserve a play that speaks to their

concerns, but this script treads water on themes better dealt with in

Moonstruck/. Michèle Young's costumes artfully telegraph character, but

the honeyed operatic interludes of Matthew Ian Welch, as young Ralph,

are easily the most transporting. Directed by James Paradise. (Jenny

Lower). Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through

Dec. 18. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly

Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

Mrs. Mannerly: Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, directed by Robert

Mackenzie. Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 8, 8 p.m.;

Sun., Dec. 9, 2 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec. 14.

Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills,

310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.

GO Nora: Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of A Doll's

House restructures Henrik Ibsen's fierce family drama, stripping the

play to its emotional essence, a goal that's underscored by director

Dana Jackson's spartan but evocative production. On a simple set

consisting of some chairs, a Christmas tree in the back and, later, a

bed, Jackson's staging puts its emphasis where the play's money is — on

the subtext driving the car crash that is the marriage of Nora and

Torvald Helmer. Brad Greenquist's brutally curt and entitled Torvald

comes across as the sort of business executive who sees a trophy wife as

being merely part of his resume, while Jeanette Driver's Nora, with

surface-level bubbliness belying an interior desperation and, yes,

horror, is subtle and touching. Add to this Martha Hackett's wan,

hard-used Mrs. Linde and Scott Conte's self-loathingly desperate

Krogstad, and the production boasts some incredibly nuanced

characterizations. Although the decision (by Bergman, not Jackson) to

add a dramatic, pace-interrupting sex scene to the final act jars, the

clarity and power of the show's performances make this a textbook

dynamic production of the tragic drama. (Paul Birchall). Sundays, 3

p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Jan. 27. Pacific

Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.

Present Laughter: Noel Coward's comedy. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sun., Dec. 9, 7 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m. Continues through Dec.

15. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.

The Rainmaker: Written by N. Richard Nash, directed by Jack

Heller. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m.;

Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through March

24. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica,

310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.

SIDDOWN!!! Conversations With the Mob: Three short plays by

Sam Henry Kass on the theme of organized crime. Fridays, Saturdays, 8

p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Ruskin Group Theater,

3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.

GO Silent: That Los Angeles now is considered

the homeless capital of the United States makes the West Coast premiere

of Irish playwright Pat Kinevane's one-man show all the more apt. His

flair for speaking on behalf of society's throwaways was showcased in

the Odyssey Theatre's 2011 production of Forgotten, about geriatrics in a

nursing home; in Silent, it sparkles with unsettling intensity and

physicality. First seen as arms and legs protruding from under a shabby

blanket, homeless Dubliner Tino McGoldrig calls the dark expanse of a

back alley home, collects bottle tops (“hobo chic”) for money and has a

disturbing obsession with silent-film star Rudolph Valentino. Channeling

a raft of scary characters, Kinevane constructs a harrowing and

sometimes morbidly humorous narrative about Tino's broken life, as the

character speaks passionately of a gay brother harassed into suicide; an

emotionally arid home life; a failed marriage and parenthood; bouts

with depression, alcoholism and social service agencies; and the

constant, feverish effort to maintain a drop of sanity and a hope for

better things tomorrow. Kinevane's at his best when he evokes the

elusive, sexually charged screen presence of Valentino (in one segment,

the blanket is fashioned into the famous cape the actor wore in The

Sheik). Jim Culleton provides smart, perceptive direction, while Denis

Clohessy's music and sound are subtly unnerving. (Lovell Estell III).

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Thu., Dec. 13, 8 p.m.

Continues through Dec. 16. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los

Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com

Smoke and Mirrors: Written by and starring Albie Selznick.

Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 31, 8 p.m. Continues

through Dec. 31, (800) 595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Promenade

Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, www.promenadeplayhouse.com.

GO Theatre in the Dark: This collection of

vignettes is performed entirely in the dark. No, really — upon arrival,

you'll notice a solitary candle burning at stage center, which after

the preshow announcements is blown out, plunging us into 90 minutes of

inky darkness, only very occasionally alleviated by a momentary flash or

murky ghost light. Lord help you if you have claustrophobia! If not,

however, the collection of one-act sketches is an unexpectedly vivid

series of ghost stories, radio-style dramas and other mysterious

theatrical episodes that emphasize virtually all senses but sight.

Incidents range in tone from Anna Nicholas' macabre “Our Dark

Connection,” in which seemingly random members of the audience are

dragged out of their seats and into the black by an unseen monster, to

Friedrich Durrenmatt's compellingly disturbing “The Tunnel,” a narrated

tale of a man who discovers he's on a train to oblivion (both are

directed with maximum eeriness by Ron Sossi). “One of the Lost” is

Ernest Kearney's spooky tale of the ghostly final transmission of a

Russian cosmonaut on a secret space mission. John Zalewski's sound

design is incredibly evocative — and Sossi and his co-directors

artfully manipulate all the senses within the live performance to craft a

set of dramas that utilize darkness almost as a character. (by Paul

Birchall). Like its sister show Dark, More Dark, the second half of the

Odyssey's Theatre in the Dark festival, represents truth in advertising.

Save for the odd ghostly hospital monitor or the emergence of one pale,

glowing blue eye, this collection of 15 short, moody vignettes offers

up nearly 90 minutes of theater in the dark, laced with an immersive

soundtrack of things to go bump in the night. Clever, deftly

choreographed and technically impressive, the production efficiently

transports its audience as far afield as the drizzly London of a randy

radio play (“Forbidden Fire”) or a fairy-laden British forest (an

excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream), but the true setting of many of

its episodes is the liminal space between consciousness and

unconsciousness, life and death, or sanity's thin border, a strange

netherworld well calibrated for unleashing the imagination. (by Mindy

Farabee). Wednesdays, Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Dec. 16.

Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.

Tom, Dick and Harry Meet Mary: John Stark's comedy about a

nun's failed attempts at online dating. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.;

Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S.

Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com

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