Lynnmarie Rink's one-woman (not counting her band) show about her life as a polka star is this week's pick of the week. It's called Wrap Your Heart Around It, and it's being performed at the Falcon Theatre in Burbank. Also, recommendations for Theatricum Botanicum's new work Merlin: The Untold Adventures in Topanga Canyon, and Rebecca's Gamble at Theatrecraft Playhouse in Hollywood. For all the latest new reviews and region-wide theater listings, see below.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Bruce Norris' A Parallelogram — a funny, bleak comedy about our enslavement to destiny — is now at the Taper, and the topic of this week's theater feature.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication July 25, 2013:
Nobody writes a sweetly wistful, romantic ballad like the composer-lyricist team of Jonathan Price and Chana Wise. It is a talent that was put to poignant use in last year's electronica sci-fi musical Earthbound (with a book by Adam Hahn). In this contemporary, tongue-in-cheek musical riff on The Tempest, it gets off to a promising start before encountering what proves to be the intractable stumbling block of the evening — namely, Price's own underwritten and uninspired book. Gone are any traces of Shakespeare's poetic introspection, psychological complexity or sense of peril. In their place is the most skeletal of plots, serving a rather scatological, expletive-numbed satire of modern-day celebrity and sexual mores. The best songs go to Prospera (a rousing Lindsey Mixon) and her ditzily screwball sprite Ariel (the fine Ashley Fuller). Whenever they take the stage, the evening soars; the other two-thirds of the show tends to tailspin under Jeanette Farr's indifferent direction. Skypilot Theatre at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 18. (818) 205-1680, skypilottheatre.com. (Bill Raden)
In David Lindsay-Abaire's dark comedy, Kimberly (Dorrie Braun) is a teenager who suffers from progeria, a disease that causes its victims to age more than four times faster than the normal rate. Though she is only 16, she has the face and body of a woman approaching middle age, and she must face a sharply truncated lifespan. Her one wish is for a normal family life, but that's not likely, given that her father (Josh Heisler) is an immature alcoholic, her mother (Amy Gumenick) is a selfish, pregnant hypochondriac and her aunt (Jessie Sherman) is a scam artist pushing a nefarious scheme. Kimberly's only ally is Jeff (Rudy Martinez), a schoolmate with a passion for anagrams and Dungeons & Dragons. Director Tracy Woodward delivers a somewhat skillful production but never quite makes us believe in the wacky events and characters. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through Aug. 11. firstname.lastname@example.org, boxofficehero.com/boh-artist/89343-kimberly-akimbo. (Neal Weaver)
GO: MERLIN: THE UNTOLD ADVENTURES
Begat of a demon, gifted with second sight and shape-shifting powers, the druid Merlin provides much of the momentum of the Arthurian legend. In the process of retelling the fabled wizard's backstory, playwright-director Ellen Geer has concocted a high fantasy with a strong antiwar flavor. The work's emphasis on meshing threads of pagan philosophy and Christian references — with a side trip to mythical Atlantis thrown in for good measure — can cause matters to become a little thematically and dramatically muddled. Yet Geer's brisk and buoyant direction makes excellent use of her atmospheric venue, incorporating a moody electronic ambiance alongside some elegant pageantry, thoughtful fight choreography and enchanting choral interludes. Lead Melora Marshall at times overplays her Merlin with a borderline cartoonish physicality, but it is a performance overall grounded in the epic earnestness and warm humor of Geer's text. Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; in repertory through Sept. 29; call for schedule. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com/index.html. (Mindy Farabee)
NICKEL AND DIMED
In her book Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich detailed her sojourn into the world of the working poor, illuminating (as no recounting of statistics ever could) the struggle, heartache and resilience of this often forgotten and/or disrespected class of Americans. A journalist and college instructor, Ehrenreich shed her middle-class trappings and traveled the country, working for minimum wage (and less) as waitress, housekeeper, caregiver and low-level retail clerk. Joan Holden's stage adaptation dramatizes Ehrenreich's experiences in a series of vignettes that are moderately entertaining and, from a progressive standpoint, politically and culturally on target — but lacking bracing energy or dramatic punch. The character of Barbara frequently steps away from the action to comment, and while performer Zachary Barton emanates the intelligence and compassion the role calls for, her discursive manner slows the dynamic. Kathleen Ingle stands out depicting a number of kind-hearted, blue-collar women. Richard Kilroy directs. Bright Eyes Productions at the Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 25. (323) 960-5770, plays411.com/nickelanddimed. (Deborah Klugman)
Bruce Norris' dark comedy examines main character Bee's ability to look into the future. Given this gift, she questions if she should reinvent destiny or accept that life is basically unalterable. Starting July 21, Sun., July 21, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. www.centertheatregroup.org. See theater feature.
GO: REBECCA'S GAMBLE
Issues of science, medical ethics and criminal law propel Art Shulman and Robert Begam's provocative courtroom drama. Director Rick Walters has transformed this small venue into a courtroom interior surrounded by audience members, some of whom render a verdict at play's end. The site-specific setting is used to good effect. The accused, Dr. Rebecca Adler (Diane Linder), is charged with murder for her part in the cryonic disposal of her terminally ill patient. Counsel for the defense is Joe Purcell (Randy Vasquez), while the state is represented by Scott Novak (Jerry Weil), with Judge Dale Fox (Henry Holden) presiding. The format follows the procedures of a real court proceeding: Witnesses are called, testimony is given, cross-examination is allowed and a verdict is rendered. There are even a number of emotional outbursts, which are a bit overworked. The compelling thing about this thoughtfully written script is that it explores in detail some topical scientific, ethical and legal subjects that are easily grasped. Cast performances, on balance, are quite good, notwithstanding a few glaring instances of botched lines. Theatrecraft Playhouse, 7445 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Sept. 1. (818) 465-3213, rebeccasgamble.com. (Lovell Estell III)
Playwright Samuel Brett Williams' comedy takes place during The Rapture — you know, the day when God summons up to Heaven all the righteous souls, leaving behind the lustful, the angry, the greedy and the just plain doofy. Into this last category falls young Brandon (appealingly Everyman-esque Marco Naggar), a likable shlep who wakes up in a doomsday Manhattan where airplanes fall pilotless from the skies, cars smash driverless into walls and faces erupt with pus-filled boils. Joining up with his sultry next-door neighbor Rebecca (Zibby Allen, nicely ironic) for a crosscountry road trip in search of a way into Heaven, Brandon endures all sorts of biblical misadventures in an insane world. Many of the play's calculatedly wacky comic strip-like incidents become repetitive, but the ferocious pacing of director Lindsay Allbaugh's quick-witted staging keeps the story sailing straight along. Plus, Williams' writing is nicely black-humored, and the performances are sprightly, hitting a perfect note of creepy quirkiness. Lillian Theater at the Elephant Stages, 1076 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m; through Aug. 25. elephanttheatre.org. (Paul Birchall)
PICK OF THE WEEK: WRAP YOUR HEART AROUND IT
Polka star LynnMarie Rink describes herself as “the Susan Lucci of the Grammys” — after the soap star who often lost at the Daytime Emmys — in her solo show. But Rink is nothing short of winning in this production, which mixes her music with her real-life story. Rink's life hasn't been easy, from struggling with her alcoholic father to raising a child with Down's syndrome, yet she effortlessly infuses her tale with heart and humor. Tragedy becomes triumph through Rink's charming stage presence, and her storytelling avoids the cliché, as it's rich with specificity and detail. Though polka isn't to everyone's liking — a fact Rink acknowledges and jokes about — her musical and emotional bravado trumps any difference in genre taste. Plus, it's not often you'll get to hear a polka version of The Proclaimers' ubiquitous late-'80s song “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles).” Michael Kearns' direction and Paul Carrol Binkley's musical direction are good, but it's Rink who transforms the show into a true wonder. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank; Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 & 7:30 p.m.; through Aug. 11. (818) 955-8101, falcontheatre.com (Kevin O'Keeffe)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:
Chicago: Brooke Shields directs this star-studded production of the long-running Broadway classic. Featuring Ashlee Simpson, Drew Carey, Lucy Lawless, and Stephen Moyer. Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 7:30 p.m. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles, 323-850-2000, www.hollywoodbowl.com.
Cirque-A-Palooza: Acting as co-producer and host, Stefan Haves serves up pantomime, clowns, object manipulation, tight-wire walkers and physical humorists in this variety show. Starting July 31, Mondays-Fridays, Sundays, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org/box-office/special-events/cirque-la-weekly.html. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Cirque-A-Palooza Festival: An Evening With Groucho: This one-man play written by and starring Frank Ferrante introduces the audience to the legendary performer Groucho Marx. Sat., July 27, 8 p.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
Cirque-A-Palooza Festival: Moonie:
The improvisational clown and magician performs in the Carrie Hamilton
Theatre. Thu., Aug. 1, 6 p.m. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave.,
Pasadena, 626-356-PLAY, www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
I Do! I Do!: The story of Michael and Agnes and their fifty years of marriage takes place around a large four-post bed and features the musical standard, “My Cup Runneth Over.” Book by Harvey Schmidt, music and lyrics by Tom Jones, directed by Alan Souza. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 2 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, 949-497-2787, www.lagunaplayhouse.com.
The Judy Show: My Life as a Sitcom: Obsessed by the fantasy families of TV shows she devotedly watched while growing up, “6-foot-2, observant Jew and lesbian mom of two” Judy Gold apparently has spent most of her adult life pitching uninterested network executives a sitcom about her unremarkable life. Instead, we have a play called The Judy Show that has nominally been transferred to the stage from a stand-up comedy club. That is to say, the 85-minute show remains an extended stand-up piece. There's an added scenic element of seven television screens of varying size positioned upstage displaying everything from baby photos and brief home movies to images from the iconic TV family sitcoms to which Gold makes frequent reference, plus an upright piano on which she occasionally bashes out a show's theme. She traces her experiences at Jewish summer camp, high school, Rutgers and, later, her career as a stand-up comedian and her family life. The jokes fall flat and Gold's story doesn't bear sharing. (Pauline Adamek). Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles, 310-208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Legally Blonde: The Musical: In Heather Hach's lighthearted musical, Elle Woods goes back to school and surprises everyone, including herself, about how smart she really is. Look out, Harvard Law School, here she comes! Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 805-449-2700.
GO: Merlin: The Untold Adventures: Merlin, the magical figure perhaps best known for his role in Arthurian legend, has inspired countless modern warlocks and sorcerers as well as the recent BBC series about Merlin as a young wizard, an international hit. But this summer, the woodsy, hugely popular warm-season amphitheater setting of Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum is telling what the theater company describes as his “untold story.” The legend has been adapted by playwright Ellen Geer and is told against an electronic score by Marshall McDaniel and Kellen McDaniel. Merlin is the fourth production this season for Theatricum Botanicum, a nonprofit theater whose often sold-out productions are set amidst riparian beauty and protected California Live Oaks not far from the village of Topanga. Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 9, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 18, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 31, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 7, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 14, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 20, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 7:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html. See new reviews.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: See stage feature. Tuesdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 28. Veterans' Administration West Los Angeles Healthcare Center, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-478-3711.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A summer standard, this is the Theatricum's signature production of Shakespeare's wondrous enchanted forest tale of love, fairies, and the power of nature. Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 15, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 22, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 1, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 2, 6:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 14, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 28, 8 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
GO: ModRock: This jaunty jukebox musical, with book by Hagan Thomas-Jones, direction by Brian Lohmann, arrangements by David O, musical direction by John Ballinger and choreography by Michele Spears, is set in England in 1965, when London was said to swing like a pendulum. Younger Brits are divided into rival factions: The Mods are obsessed with fashion and dressing up, while the Rockers dress down in Levis, T-shirts and leather jackets. The Mods regard Rockers as roughneck hooligans, and the Rockers consider Mods fops and sissies. In a nod to Romeo and Juliet, Mod Kate (Melinda Porto) falls for Rocker Adam (Steven Good), despite the unspoken rule that the two groups can't fraternize. A fierce rivalry develops between Adam and Simon (Scott Kruse), Kate's clotheshorse brother. When the two groups converge on the same popular night-spot, an improbable but lively rumble ensues, staged by Joe Sofranko. The rudimentary plot may be predictable but there's ample compensation by an engaging, top-notch cast, including Michael Hawley and Harley Jay as goofball Rockers. The 20 hit songs include “Downtown,” “Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “For Your Love” and “There's a Kind of Hush.” (Neal Weaver). Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28, El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-508-4200, www.elportaltheatre.com.
New Original Works Festival: Week 1: The 10th-annual New Original Works festival continues to showcase experimental new forms for the stage. During week one, Christine Marie & Ensemble create shadow theater reminiscent of silent-era movies in a piece called 4Trains. Mecca Vazie Andrews' Molly Maps Erratic features spoken prose that's “part William S. Burroughs and part Whoopi Goldberg.” Samantha Goodman's Depth of Surface blends “Afro-Brazilian and postmodern dancing with live music improvisation.” Fri., July 26, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 8:30 p.m., $18, $14 students. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
New Original Works Festival: Week 2: Week two of the NOW festival continues with Jennie MaryTai Liu's Actress Fury, a drama that explores ambition, with three performers representing “one tormented actress.” Tyler Matthew Oyer's 100 Years of Noise: Beyonce Is Ready to Receive You Now is “a dysfunctional dialogue across a century.” Waewdao Sirisook & Ronnarong Khampha perform a traditional fingernail dance from Northern Thailand in Fauwn Leb/Identity. Thu., Aug. 1, 8:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 8:30 p.m. REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org.
A Parallelogram: Bruce Norris' dark comedy examines main character Bee's ability to look into the future. Given this gift, she questions if she should reinvent destiny or accept that life is basically unalterable. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 213-628-2772. See theater feature.
GO: Sister Act: The Musical: Sister Act's story of a murder witness hiding out in a convent is similar to a summer blockbuster in that it viscerally excites despite a flimsy premise and plot points advanced through coincidences of convenience. Transposed from the 1992 movie to 1970s Philadelphia, this tuner features songs from legendary composer Alan Menken, who nicely layers in the '70s soundscape, and a book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner, sitcom veterans who don't fully disguise their oeuvre. Ta'Rea Campbell, as a spunky, funky and funny Deloris Van Cartier, plays perfectly off the delightfully dry wit of Hollis Resnik's Mother Superior. Both actresses showcase resonant voices and are supported by a solid cast with standouts that include E. Clayton Cornelious (a lovable “Sweaty” Eddie), Florrie Bagel (a tremendously energetic Sister Mary Patrick), Lael Van Keuren (the demure but feisty Mary Robert), Diane J. Findlay (Mary Lazarus) and Richard Pruitt (Monsignor O'Hara). Veteran director Jerry Zaks clearly understands comic timing, and his vision is fully realized by Klara Zieglerova's sparkly set, Natasha Katz's colorful lighting and Lez Brotherston's amazing costumes. It's hardly a groundbreaking work that lingers, but it's a fun ride while it lasts. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 800-982-2787, www.hollywoodpantages.com.
Sunset Boulevard: Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical celebrates its 20th anniversary in SoCal. Faded silent-movie star Norma Desmond longs for a return to the movie screen. In her mind, her glamor never faded away, “It's the pictures that got small.” When she meets screenwriter Joe Gillis, it sets in motion a volatile relationship with tragic results. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 2 & 7 p.m. Continues through July 28. Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, 562-985-7000, www.carpenterarts.org.
The Taming of the Shrew: Shakespeare's rowdy romp about the lovely Bianca and her sister “Katherine the Cursed,” who must be married off before Bianca is allowed to entertain suitors. Sun., July 28, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 4 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 4 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 16, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 23, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 4 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 30, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 6, 8 p.m.; Fri., Sept. 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, 310-455-3723, www.theatricum.com/index.html.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:
The Baby: A new play based on the 1973 cult film of the same name, adapted for the stage and directed by Visceral Company's artistic director Dan Spurgeon. Part of the “Best of the Hollywood Fringe Festival” extensions. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31. Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles, 323-871-1150.
Beirut: Set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Alan Browne's dramatic play is a stunning yet sobering look at a man named “Torch” who lives in an impoverished room in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He is quarantined after testing positive to a nameless disease which sounds alot like AIDS. His girlfriend, “Blue”, who is not infected, makes the journey across the quarantine line to be with him. “A Romeo and Juliet of the Burroughs but with this production, the director has cast two women”. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 4. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-4446, www.stellaadler-la.com.
Bernhardt on Broadway: The Musical: A one-woman musical, written and performed by Carol Dunitz, about the life of the divine Sarah Bernhardt during her peak in the 1890s. Sat., July 27, 2 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 6 p.m. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617.
Bob Baker's It's a Musical World!: The Bob Baker Marionette Theater continues its 53rd season with a day at the circus, a stop at an enchanted toy shop, and a visit to a teddy bear's picnic. Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Continues through Sept. 29. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
The Boomerang Effect: A comedy, written by Matthew Leavitt, consisting of five interrelated short plays that peek into the sex lives of five different couples in various bedroom scenarios. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Zephyr Theater, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-9111.
GO: Ceremony: In writer-performer Michael Kass' solo show, Ceremony, he depicts himself as a pathetic, all-around loser, until a bizarre series of encounters seems to be telling him that he must try the Peruvian drug ayahuasca. When he's dumped by his current lady-love, he impulsively books a flight to Peru and arranges to participate in a shamanistic ceremony to imbibe the ayahuasca potion. After all, he thinks, with a drug that tastes foul, makes you throw up and disables your cerebral cortex, what's not to like — if it leads you on a voyage of self-discovery. He's a curious blend of gullibility and skepticism — and thus avoids an overly reverential attitude that might seem merely gaga. On a bare stage, assisted only by a healthy sense of humor and a collection of multicolored plastic pails, he shows us the frightening but ultimately enlightening ayahuasca ceremony. There's nothing more difficult than conveying a transcendental experience, but Kass approaches it with a feisty, bumptious charm and considerable narrative skill. He may not make you want to rush out and try his drug of choice, but at least he takes us on an interesting ride, deftly shaped by director Diana Wyenn (who, in full disclosure, has dealt with L.A. Weekly frequently in her public relations work for REDCAT). (Neal Weaver). Fri., July 26, 10 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
GO: Dying City: When Peter (Burt Grinstead) unexpectedly shows up at Kelly's (Laurie Okin) Lower Manhattan apartment, the mood is prickly and awkward. That's understandable; Peter is the identical twin of her husband, Craig, a hard-as-nails soldier who recently died in a military accident in Iraq. But during their conversation, many questions tug at this pair, threatening to bring them down into an emotional undertow. Did Craig really die in an accident? Why is Kelly's phone number unlisted and why is she obscuring evidence she may be moving out? Christopher Shinn's writing is sophisticated and elusive, presenting only tantalizing fragments and expecting you to make the connections and piece the backstory together. The language is raw and real — people really do talk this way — and Shinn, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for this play, perfectly captures the discomfort of a relationship that exists only through a marital connection yet becomes cathected and extremely complicated. Director Michael Peretzian stages the one-act play well, using lighting and sound cues sparingly but above all extracting superb and deeply expressive performances from his cast of two. Both actors are called upon to negotiate some difficult emotional terrain, and Grinstead, in particular, demonstrates his range. (Pauline Adamek). Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m.; Mondays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 5, $30. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
Eat the Runt: Written by Avery Crozier and directed by Tom Beyer. This satirical theater piece, which turns its eye on political correctness, includes a cast of seven actors whom don't know which parts they will be playing until the audience decides the night of the performance. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 24. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-856-8611, www.theatreofnote.com.
Garbo's Cuban Lover: Odalys Nanin's dramedy focuses on the enigmatic poet, novelist and playwright Mercedes de Acosta and her notable lovers from the Silver Screen, which included divas Greta Garbo, Nazimova and Marlene Dietrich. Sun., July 28, 3 & 7 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, West Hollywood, 323-654-0680, www.machatheatre.org/home.html.
Heart Song: A middle-aged Jewish woman struggling with a crisis of faith is convinced to join a flamenco class for “out of shape” women which forever changes her life. Written by Stephen Sachs. See stage feature. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, 323-663-1525, www.fountaintheatre.com.
Just Imagine: Although the wow factor is missing, aficionados of John Lennon probably will appreciate this tribute to the iconic musician, which juxtaposes renditions of his most famous songs with a narrative of his life. Lennon impersonator and lead singer Tim Piper addresses the audience in a confiding manner as he relates events in Lennon's life — his troubled boyhood in Liverpool culminating in the death of his mother, up through The Beatles, his marriage to Yoko Ono and his transformation into a family man and spokesman for the counterculture antiwar movement. There are no surprises in writer-director Steve Altman's script, and watching and listening to Piper, an American donning a Liverpool accent, failed to persuade me that I was hearing the real McCoy. That said, Piper's backup band, Working Class Hero, performs well and provides an opportunity for those who wish to reimagine the legend to do so. (Deborah Klugman). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
Kimberly Akimbo: David Lindsay-Abaire's dark comedy examines a teenager with a rare condition that makes her age at an alarming rate. She also has to deal with a hypochondriac mom, a drunken father and a new lover. Proceeds shared with the Projeria Research Foundation. Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 2, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 8 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 5, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 8, 8 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 9, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 8 p.m. Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 323-463-3900, www.studio-stage.com. See new reviews.
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker With the Hat) puts the Bible's most infamous traitor on trial in a modern-day courtroom and examines the meaning of forgiveness modern, urban and scathingly provocative contemplation on the meaning of forgiveness. The Bible's most known traitor is tried in a present-day municipal courtroom. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 24. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 960-7738.
Listen…Can You Hear Me Now?: Gloria Rosen's autobiographical one-woman show, based on her experiences growing up as the hearing child of two deaf parents. Part of the “Best of the Hollywood Fringe Festival” extensions. Fri., July 26, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 3:30 p.m. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com.
Love Songs, A Musical: This world premiere of Steven Cagan's amorous musical hardly feels like a full-fledged production. First off, James Esposito's set is little more than some black cubes and stools on a bare stage. Add to that the fact that A. Lynn Downey's lights are wincingly and monotonously bright throughout, and the production has to be carried on the backs (and vocal cords) of the actors. The cast, portraying three couples in different stages of their relationships all staying at the same resort hotel, delivers Cagan's generically sweet melodies with aplomb, aided by Stuart Elster's yeoman piano work. The actors seem hampered by the lack of scenery, however, and mechanically execute director-choreographer Kay Cole's limited choreography and awkwardly presentational blocking. Despite Cagan's and Cole's credits, this bare-bones launch of a show, whose sung-through nature demands clearer direction and design to help the audience invest in the characters and navigate the story, seems premature. (Mayank Keshaviah). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28, www.crtheatre.com/lovesongs.html. Chromolume Theatre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-205-1617, www.chromolume-theatre.com.
Nickel and Dimed: Joan Holden's dramatic adaptation of Barbara Ehrenreich's bestseller examines whether a middle-aged, middle-class woman can survive when she suddenly has to make beds all day in a hotel and live on $7 an hour. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 960-5770, plays411.com/nickelanddimed. See new reviews.
Nine: There are two potential audiences for Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit's 1982 musical fantasia woven from Federico's Fellini's 8 1/2. The first is those evangelical cineastes that can't get enough of the auteur's highly personal baroque surrealism. The second is those who can appreciate Yeston's solid collection of reflective ballads, sizzling torch songs and clever music-hall numbers in spite of Kopit's problematically attenuated book. Unfortunately, neither will find much to like in director Marco Gomez's uninspired and decidedly un-Felliniesque revival (on Amanda Lawson's drab cinderblock set). As the story's sexually charged but woman-troubled film director, David Michael Treviño proves an unusually low-voltage romantic lead. It's a drawback that retards whatever sparks might have flown among the admittedly uneven, nearly all-female ensemble. As Luisa, Melissa Anjose nails the signature tunes “My Husband Makes Movies” and “Be on Your Own,” but it is Toni Smith who shows all the right stuff in a standout turn as Claudia. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
Open House: An audacious real estate salesman needs to sell an overpriced house during an off season. Enter a seductive, mysterious woman new to California who senses that something wrong has happened in the house, in writer Shem Bitterman's third dramatic production at the Skylight Theater. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 323-666-2202.
Pack Up the Moon: Directed by Amy K. Harmon, this not-ready-for-prime-time production concerns a married gay couple, Andre (David Jette) and Carter (Brad Harris), whose relationship sours after the death of their adopted infant son. Distraught over their empty nest, the fragile Carter persuades his flaky cousin, T-Anne (Emilia Richeson), to become a surrogate for the couple's second child. Tension between Andre, the biological father, and T-Anne segues into physical attraction once she is carrying his baby. Christina Cigala's soap-operatic script is an uphill challenge; the play's first half is especially uninvolving as a result of the lack of visible chemistry between the spouses and the noisy and/or unshaded performances from the three primary performers. Richeson is a potentially watchable presence whose ditzy mother-to-be would fit nicely into some screwball comedy. But this is serious drama, in which her character's clamorous shtick becomes a distraction. The problem seems directorial. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 13. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers: A radical retelling of the J.M. Barrie classic, written by Michael Lluberes. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through July 28. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
Philosophy in the Boudoir: A dramatic play, based on the Marquis de Sade's novel, that introduces a young virgin girl to a hedonistic philosophical system by two scheming libertines. Fri., July 26, 10 p.m.; Sat., July 27, 10 p.m. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
The Pokemusical: This musical follows the journey of Ash, Misty, Brock, Pikachu, and the rest of the crew from the original games, as they traverse Kanto, this time with song and dance in tow. Original book and lyrics by Alex Syiek with new music by Andrew L. Cooper. Part of the “Best of Hollywood Fringe Festival” extensions. Fri., July 26, 11:59 p.m. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. www.thepokemusical.com
GO: Rebecca's Gamble: Complications arise in Art Shulman and Robert Begam's drama when a beautiful woman doctor overdoses a willing patient, before freezing his body with the intention of reviving him in the future. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 1. Theatrecraft Playhouse, 7505 1/2 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-876-1100. See new reviews.
Resurrection of the Ants: A twisted comedy by Paul Fontana about a struggling author's misconception about how his life will be after his novel gets published. See stage feature. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28, plays411.com. Hayworth Theatre, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-213-6955, www.thehayworth.com.
Revelation: A black comedy written by Samuel Brett William about being prepared for the rapture by fleeing the big city of New York to Arkansas in the hopes of finding the New Jerusalem. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. www.elephanttheatre.org See new reviews.
Something to Crow About: The Bob Baker Marionettes' musical “Day on the Farm.” Saturdays, Sundays, 2:30 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 10:30 a.m. Bob Baker Marionette Theater, 1345 W. First St., Los Angeles, 213-250-9995, www.bobbakermarionettes.com.
Tom Rubin: Success Guru: A one-man comedy by Tom Rubin that skewers and mocks a self-help seminar. Fridays, 9 p.m. Continues through Aug. 30. Dorie Theater at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.com.
Trio Los Machos: A comedic Latino bromance set to music, written by Josefina López. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, 323-263-7684, www.casa0101.org.
GO: Trouble in Chiozza: Kings Road Park is a small, bucolic gem, plunked down amid our urban sprawl, and a perfect venue for the city of West Hollywood's Free Theatre in the Parks program. This play, produced by the Classical Theatre Lab, is by Carlo Goldoni and was first performed in 1762. But the approach is anything but purist: Director Louis Fantasia has updated it by adding Italian-flavored pop songs such as “Mambo Italiano,” “That's Amore” and “Che Sera.” The busy plot, set in a small fishing village, hinges on four embattled pairs of lovers, all at odds because of gossip, backbiting, jealousy and stubborn pride. Chaos reigns till a frazzled public official (Michael Matthys) is brought in to engineer the happy ending required by a good folk comedy. Fantasia keeps the action moving at a nice clip, with engaging performances by the cast of 14, including Daniel Jimenez as an extroverted flirt, Christine Avila as a local matriarch, Carolyn Crotty as her nubile daughter, Lucietta, Paul David Story as Lucietta's jealous lover and Steve Peterson in a fine comic turn as the garrulously incoherent Fortunato. Dorothy MacLean provides the colorful peasant costumes and Mother Nature supplies the setting, beneath a spreading gingko tree. (Neal Weaver). Saturdays, Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through July 28. Kings Road Park, 1000 Kings Road, Los Angeles, 310-657-2616.
True Hustle: Marie Lively stars in a dramatic solo play she co-wrote with Annie Mebane about the rise of a naive Christian temp worker who becomes a high-powered executive for the biggest pornographer in town. Sat., July 27, 10:45 p.m. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
Villain / The 99: Two plays by Kristin Lerner, directed by Grey Rodriquez. Fridays, Saturdays, 10 p.m. Continues through July 27. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-960-5068, www.theatre68.com.
GO: Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini: Sequels are tough. Expectations are generally high and you can never attain the novelty factor of the first outing. Writer-director Jaime Robledo's Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini, the second installment in his Watson series, is less dazzling (far fewer action set-pieces) and more talky than the first but maintains his inventive staging and bizarre humor, sending his beloved characters on an ultimately darker, more spiritual journey. Estranged for the past 10 years, sleuthing duo Dr. Watson (Scott Leggett) and Sherlock Holmes (Joe Fria) reunite to solve a string of grisly murders marked by signs of the occult. Their hunt takes them to New York City, where they encounter a legendary escape artist, the mysterious Harry Houdini (a charismatic Donal Thoms-Cappello), who seems to know more than he's letting on. Meanwhile, Watson is spooked by visions of his departed wife, Mary (CJ Merriman). With its fractured timeline, Robledo's plotting is more ambitious and demanding than the first installment, 2010's Watson: The Last Great Tale of the Legendary Sherlock Holmes, yet offers deeper rewards. He neatly incorporates cinematic conventions, such as showing a murder re-enact itself in slow-motion rewind. Nods to Hitchcock (a runaway carousel, cleverly staged) and Bruce Lee (the hall-of-mirrors sequence) delight, as do numerous pop-culture references. Carrie Keranen is a welcome addition as Violet Hunter (a minor character from Doyle's novels and Watson's love interest) and her gowns (period costuming is by Linda Muggeridge) are especially gorgeous. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Los Angeles, 310-281-8337, www.sacredfools.org.
GO: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915: Don't let the disconcerting title put you off: We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury's compelling drama is a stunning work of ferociously creative stagecraft. In director Jillian Armenante's deceptively improvised-seeming production, a group of actors, under the leadership of a young, angry actor (Julanne Chidi Hill, fierce), attempt to stage a play about a 19th-century African atrocity during which the German army slaughtered entire populations of African tribes. It sounds dire, I know, but the tale is told impressionistically, sometimes as a rehearsal exercise, sometimes as a dreamlike set of dances, fights and interactions. A ladder becomes a railroad trestle, a Sparkletts water bottle becomes a tribal drum, and Spolin-esque theater games are mocked but then utilized to make searingly powerful emotional points about race and morality. Through exercises meant to channel an atrocity, the cast simultaneously juggle a number of issues, from the near-comic self-absorption of actors, to the ultimate inability to depict true evil, to a final, unbearably disturbing coda that suggests the past is not nearly as distant as one would wish. Armenante's assured intellectualization and the perfect comic and dramatic timing of the cast together craft a rare work of charged political agitprop that awakens us to the pure imaginative potential of the theater. (Paul Birchall). Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, 323-852-1445, www.matrixtheatre.com.
White Hot: A dark, psychological thriller, encased in a tight love triangle between a troubled woman, her sexy sister, and her opportunistic husband. Written by Tommy Smith. Part of the “Best of Hollywood Fringe Festival” extensions. Fri., July 26, 8 p.m.; Sun., July 28, 7 p.m. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, 323-962-1632, www.theatreasylum-la.com.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
The Diary of Anne Frank: The story of a family of Dutch Jews, told from the viewpoint of young Anne, hiding from the Nazis in a storage attic. Written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett with a new adaptation by Wendy Kesselman. Starting July 27, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com.
PICK OF THE WEEK: Wrap Your Heart Around It: Written, composed and performed by LynnMarie Rink, this musical one-woman show chronicles the story of the writer's struggles with her father's alcoholism, her religious beliefs and the difficulty of raising a special-needs child. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 & 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11. Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, 818-955-8101, www.falcontheatre.com. See new reviews.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy: Precariously perched between a history play and Pirandellian farce, playwright Peter Lefcourt's fever dream of a metadrama satirizes one of the fundamental paradoxes — and purposes — of the narrative arts: When it comes to the singular historical event, any representation is a distortion. In the case of this play about a play about the murder of Leon Trotsky (Joel Swetow), the deformation begins with the playwright (Greyson Lewis), whose burlesque of Trotsky's circle in Mexico has already caricatured figures including Diego Rivera (Joe J. Garcia) and Frida Kahlo (Murielle Zuker) into sexual gargoyles. But when the actors rebel against the text in a mid-performance attempt to restore dignity to the revolutionary leader, the resulting travesty verges on the Stoppard-esque. Where Stoppard's intellectual virtuosity and comic ingenuity are always in perfect sync, however, in director Terri Hanauer's otherwise polished staging (on Joel Daavid's playful hacienda set), Lefcourt's clever ideas rarely connect with their intended laughs. (Bill Raden). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through July 28. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
El Grande de Coca Cola: This musical comedy by Alan Shearman, Diz White, John Neville Andrews & Ron House is set in the nightclub of a small town somewhere south of the border. Pepe Hernandez (Senor Show Business) has persuaded his uncle, a manager of the local Coca-Cola bottling plant, to advance him enough money to rent the club for three nights. It's showtime for Pepe's ambitious extravaganza, “Parada de las Estrellas” (Parade of the Stars). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31. Ruskin Group Theater, 3000 Airport, Santa Monica, 310-397-3244, www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.
The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln: Workshop performances of this one-person play, written by award-winning playwright Tom Dugan, about a private visit with America's most haunted first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln. Starting July 31, Mondays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
GO: Ionescopade, A Musical Vaudeville: More than most of his contemporaries, Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco had a devilishly bleak and irresistibly engaging sense of humor to his vision about the absurdity of the world and human existence. It's clearly on display in Ionescopade, the vaudeville-style musical based on his plays (The Bald Soprano, Exit The King, Rhinoceros and others) and poetry under the wily direction of Bill Castellino, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden. It's a load of laughs — spiced with a few dark, sobering moments. Songs, mime, slapstick mayhem and mirthful wordplay are packaged in a string of vignettes, hosted by a comic/mime designated as the Writer (Alan Abelew). There is even a very bald soprano. David Potts' cartoonish scenic design provides the appropriate backdrop for this plunge down the theatrical rabbit hole, and Mylette Nora has designed an eye-catching variety of odd costumes. Among the more memorable skits are a bizarre cooking class conducted by a garrulous French chef (Joey D'Auria, who also appears as a man with a rhino horn); a spirited gathering of devotees to a headless autocrat; an International Peace Conference of shouts, accusations and gibberish; and a family of clowns (from The Bald Soprano) all named Bobby Watson. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; Wed., July 31, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 11, $30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Lady Windermere's Fan: The Chalk Repertory Theatre Company presents a new production of Oscar Wilde's comedy of manners. The play will be performed throughout the lawns and courtyards of the library. Starting July 27, Saturdays, Sundays, 6 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, 2520 Cimarron St., Los Angeles, 323-731-8529, www.clarklibrary.ucla.edu.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Tim Robbins directs this workshop production of Shakespeare's summer tale about mystical romance and foolish humans. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through July 27. Actors' Gang at the Ivy Substation Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, 310-838-4264, www.theactorsgang.com.
GO: Ophiliamachine: “I expel all the semen which I have received. I transform the milk of my breasts into deadly poison.” Lifted from Heiner Muller's eternally confounding Hamletmachine, the words are a fitting part of the opening tableau of Polish playwright Magda Romanska's similarly themed postmodernist drama, now in its world premiere at City Garage. Seated behind an old typewriter on a stage that's segmented into halves, Ophelia is realized as something of a triadic entity — brain/narrator, terrorist and madwoman (Kat Johnston, Megan Kim, Saffron Mazzia), while Hamlet (Joss Glennie Smith), situated in the other half of the stage, mostly watches television. Romanska uses this framework for a vigorous deconstruction of the feminine psyche, image and gender roles, and her script — heavy laden with dense imagery and symbolism — explores love, sex, violence, politics, class sensibilities, feminist aesthetics, the vacuities of mass culture and the timeless mystery of death. This is theater that's not easily accessible and is devilishly bleak at times, but it's not without shards of humor, and is relentlessly provocative and challenging under imaginative direction by Frederique Michel. The production is nicely embellished with a collage of visuals projected on a huge screen and two monitors. Cynthia Mance, RJ Jones and Leah Harf round out the cast. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through July 28. City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, 310-453-9939, www.citygarage.org.
GO: The Rainmaker: A con-man/drifter walks into a small town, usually in the Midwest, and seduces a vulnerable local female. He not only seduces her, he awakens her to her true self and potential, which the opinions of others — her family and society — have been suffocating. Oh, brother. Get the broom and sweep off the cobwebs. In lesser hands than director Jack Heller's, watching The Rainmaker would be like trudging through a slightly dank, primeval marsh without rubber boots — the kind of experience where you might say, “Well, isn't this historic and curious. Where can I dry my socks?” The production is saved in part by its linchpin, Tanna Frederick's droll, rat-smart Lizzie. With subtlety and composure that often belies the text, she knows who she is and what she wants. Though the play is over-written, Frederick's performance lies so entrenched beneath the lines, it's as though she absorbs the play's excesses so that they don't even show. Her terrific performance is not enough to turn the play into a classic, but it does provide enough of an emotional pull to reveal the reasons why it keeps getting staged. (Steven Leigh Morris). Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Tanglin' Hearts: Zora Margolis wrote this country Western musical set in contemporary Texas about a greedy businessman who wants to establish a resort next to a toxic waste dump but is opposed by his own brother. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
A View From the Bridge: Many consider Arthur Miller's dramas moral tragedies, but you also can think of them as mysteries, as their narratives contain events whose true meaning only becomes clear at the end. Longshoreman Eddie (Vince Melocchi) is a salt-of-the-earth type who thinks he's doing a good deed when he lets a pair of his wife's distant cousins, both illegal immigrants from the old country, move in with his family. He soon has reason to rue this decision, though, as his lovely niece, Catherine (Lisa Cirincione), falls in love with the more handsome of the two cousins, Rodolpho (Jeff Lorch) — and Eddie is destroyed by his own inexplicably over-the-top jealousy. This is a mostly powerful, admirably straightforward production by co-directors Marilyn Fox and Dana Jackson, which stumbles slightly during the clumsy, frenetically staged final sequence. The production is anchored by Melocchi's nicely gruff Eddie, whose turn suggests a character swept along by passions he lacks the articulacy to express. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Thursdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice, 310-822-8392, www.pacificresidenttheatre.com.