Our critic Deborah Klugman found Tadeusz Slobodzianek's drama, about Polish complicity in the German Nazis' persecution of Polish Jews in the 1940s, and presented by Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre, to be a model of stagecraft and emotional to watch. For all the lastest new theater reviews, see below.
A pair of plays, each performed by two actors, is the topic of this week's theater feature. Bart DeLorenzo directs Annapurna, featuring married couple and comedy duo Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. Meanwhile, The Skylight Theatre presents Allen Barton's Years to the Day at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication April 25, 2013
GO ANNAPURNA: Husband and wife actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman star in this drama by Sharr White, about two old lovers who reunite for the first time in twenty years. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., May 8, 8 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 22, 8 p.m.; Wed., May 29, 8 p.m.; Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through June 9, $25-$30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com. See theater feature.
GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS If David Rambo's play were Hamlet, Claudius, rather than killing King Hamlet, would have been appointed co-monarch and merely irritated him for two hours onstage. Such a diluted version of a succession struggle, transposed to a fictional Rock Baptist megachurch, is the driving “conflict” between the elderly Dr. Gottschall (Ted Heyck) and his potential replacement, the younger Dr. Mears (Christian Lebano). Mediating their “struggle” is Hugo Taney (Paul Perri), the church's resident gopher and audio/visual specialist, who's in recovery from the excesses of his youth. He's also the resident scene stealer, as Perri plays Hugo's self-deprecation and obsession with clip-on microphones to the hilt. Lebano, who shined in Opus, has a smooth, preacherly baritone but is a bit lukewarm, while Heyck's one-note bluster and roar becomes tedious. Director Nancy Youngblut's staging employs creative elements, but her frequent blackouts exacerbate the filmic style of a script that equally suffers from characters spending too much time describing offstage events. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; through May 18. (626) 355-4318, sierramadreplayhouse.org. (Mayank Keshaviah)
HABITAT In Judith Thompson's NIMBY drama, kindly Lewis Chance (Sal Lopez) opens a group home for homeless youth in a wealthy Toronto enclave, triggering all the predictable squabbles over property values, racism and good intentions. In Canada, Thompson is a major playwright known for works about marginalized figures, and through her lens this familiar outline refracts into a study of family dynamics and the hostile psychological habitats in which we trap ourselves and others. It's an ambitious approach, and the second act labors under the effort, straining too hard to provoke empathy and sacrificing character believability to politically minded artifice. The motif of monologues delivered to the invisible forces that bind, however, nicely showcases the able cast, especially Nina Silver as a woman bewildered by her status as a grown-up child and tormented by her own imperfections. Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 12. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Mindy Farabee)
GO HURACLOWN To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, this is one clown you should send in, for a good time and some soul-healing laughter. Aziz Gual has been working his magic for decades, graduating from Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College and working with “the greatest show on earth,” as well as traveling all over the world as a performer. In this hourlong show (ideal for parents with fidgety youngsters), Gual uses his formidable talents to create a world that is remarkably easy to get lost in. There is the obligatory, bulbous red nose that honks as if it had a mind of its own; the saggy pants with a gigantic pocket that traps his hand; the stepladder he effortlessly balances on his nose; the saw he plays with a bow, like a violin; the balls that appear out of nowhere, which he juggles with mind-boggling dexterity; and the playful tune he renders on an accordion. He also knows how to work the crowd, and engages audience members during a few segments. It isn't all smiles: There are a couple of interludes where a dark melancholy sets in, and this otherwise cheerful clown turns pitifully sad. But for the most part it's old-school clowning without techno frills, and with plenty of laughs for all ages. 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A.; Sun., 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.; through April 28. (213) 745-6516, 24thstreet.org. (Lovell Estell III)
IT GOES LIKE THIS Written and directed by veteran actor Jack Betts, It Goes Like This is a personal story, clumsily told. Leaden-footed, as if cast in concrete, the melodramatic saga manages to be both utterly predictable yet also contain enough dramatic revelations to rival a telenovela. Kevin McCorkle rigidly portrays a highly decorated general who runs his family with an iron fist. Against the protests of his gentle wife, Colleece (Rachel O'Meara), he is shipping his guitar-playing teen sons off to military school so they can man up. But out of the blue he gets a call that causes his past to crash in on him. Expected though unmotivated, his abrupt volte-face in Act 2 engenders a tender speech that proves a highlight in an otherwise exposition-laden script, though the dialogue between the two sons, nicely played by Edan Freiberger and Justin Preston, is well observed. Both acts have a lengthy, disruptive scene change behind an ill-fitting black curtain. Marilyn Monroe Theatre at the Lee Strasberg Creative Center, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 5. (323) 650-7777. (Pauline Adamek)
SCULPTRESS OF ANGEL X This surreal but disappointingly choppy opus from playwright-director Zombie Joe is an attempt to explore that strangely thin boundary separating the creation of art from, well, the act of whoring out oneself along the boulevard. A mysterious, white-haired aesthete (Kelby Cross) spots a sexually voracious prostitute trolling her trade on the street and discovers she's actually the legendary artist Wyler Benoit (Melita Camilo), sculptress of a world renowned image of innocence, Angel X. Through a series of scattershot flashbacks, staged in director Vanessa Cate's awkwardly humorless production, we discover the cataclysmic road of excess — hooker mom, loving but incestuous artist uncle, drug and sex addictions — that led Wyler to her simultaneous life as artist and prostitute. Aytpically, Zombie's play is at its most engaging in the early moments, when the text and presentational style are ambiguous and open to interpretation. The underlying theme of gorgeous art arising from the chaos of sexual dysfunction is engaging, but midway through, the work adopts a more conventional narrative that devolves into glum, melodramatic cliché. ZJU Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd, N. Hlywd.; Fri., 11 p.m.; through May 10. (818) 202-4120, zombiejoes.com. (Paul Birchall)
LOW TECH Playwright Jeff Folschinsky's confused stab at an artificial-intelligence comedy juggles a number of potentially compelling ideas, any one of which might have powered the thoughtful and penetrating critique of global smartphone dependency to which his too-brittle, overly broad science-fiction satire aspires. The freshest may be the notion of a near-future, Siri-esque “neural operating system” that results in a romance between the technology's spokesmodel (Amanda Smith) and the humanlike cognitive avatar (Fuz Edwards) that exists only in her mind's eye. Unfortunately, rather than following its twisted sociopathology — imagine Dr. David Bowman and HAL 9000 as lovers rather than deadly antagonists — Folschinsky squanders the premise on lowbrow sight gags, sitcom one-liners and unearned redemptions. Director Chelsea Sutton only compounds those deficits with a two-note staging (shrill and loud) that abdicates any real wit or intelligence to costumer Ken Patton's canny, retro-future homage to sci-fi films of the 1960s and '70s. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m., through May 19. (818) 508-3003, eclecticcompanytheatre.org. (Bill Raden)
PICK OF THE WEEK: OUR CLASS A disturbing drama, executed by an accomplished ensemble under Matthew McCray's direction, Tadeusz Slobodzianek's play deals with the alleged massacre of 1,600 Jews by their Polish neighbors in a small town in 1941. The multistranded plot builds around 10 individuals, five Jewish and five Catholic. It begins in their elementary school years, then presses forward in time, portraying how a few instigators help hatred, greed and cruelty to overtake the Polish townsfolk, culminating in acts of unimaginable cruelty against the Jewish minority. Casting a macroscopic net, Act 2 tracks the fate of both perpetrators and survivors as they struggle to get on with their lives using vengeance, repression and denial. One reason the play succeeds so well is that Slobodzianek's characters elude cliché. Heroism and wrongdoing manifest on both sides: A Polish woman of conscience (Melina Bielefelt) hides a former Jewish classmate (Kiff Scholl), a flawed narcissist who later becomes an Israeli interrogator who beats and tortures the accused in his charge. Despite its length and detail, the production stays compelling. Performances are top-notch, with Dan Via a standout as the town's crafty betrayer and twisted psychopath. As the Jew who escaped, Michael Nehring gives voice to the grief and consternation of appalled humanity. Son of Semele Ensemble at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 5. sonofsemele.secure.force.com/ticket#
GO SLIPPING Playwright-director Daniel Talbott doesn't make it easy for us. He tells his story in a defiantly nonlinear fashion, making multiple references to offstage characters we know little or nothing about. He explains nothing and ends his play with a non sequitur. But despite this obfuscation, he keeps us fascinated: He presents us with the puzzle pieces and leaves it to us to put them together. His central character — one can't call him a hero — is Eli (Seth Numrich), a seriously troubled young gay man. He pursues sexual encounters but fears real intimacy. He blames his mother, Jan (Wendy vanden Heuvel), for being unfaithful to his father, whom he loves but despises for his ineffectuality. He practices self-mutilation and, predictably, falls in love with Chris (Maxwell Hamilton), a self-hating homophobe, who loathes his attraction to Eli and transforms it into violence. And when Eli encounters classmate Jake (MacLeod Andrews), who honestly and forthrightly loves him, he sabotages the relationship. The piece — the first work by the L.A. branch of New York company Rattlestick Playwrights Theater — emerges as a hip, savvy study of emotional and sexual ambivalence, beautifully directed and acted by a terrific ensemble. Hamilton is particularly striking as the tragically conflicted Chris, who helplessly reveals his homosexual feelings even while strenuously denying them. Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m.; through May 5. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/335220. (Neal Weaver)
GOYEARS TO THE DAY A dark comedy written by Allen Barton about two 40-something men who have been friends for decades, and who finally get together for coffee after only staying in touch via social media. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through May 12, $25-$35. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-855-1556, www.bhplayhouse.com. See theater feature.
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGION-WIDE
See New Reviews
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS