This week's theater feature wonders why, in our movie-industry town, so little theater is picture or moving-picture based — you know, it is almost everywhere else in the world. To address this, we take a look at REDCAT's New Works Festival and a dance-theater presentation over at Zombie Joe's Underground.
Finally, an announcement from playwright Sharon Yablon: “It's another round of Backyard Theater! Labor Day Weekend, Saturday 8/31 and Sunday 9/1, 5 p.m., short plays, poetry and a dance. In Sharon and Josh's yard, free! 1644 Talmadge St., Los Angeles, 90027, in Los Feliz. Please bring a chair and snacks/byob.”
NEW THATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication August 8, 2013:
BEIRUT Alan Bowne's nightmarish indictment of AIDS hysteria may evoke shudders of recognition for a generation facing eroding privacy and encroaching government surveillance. In a dystopian perversion of the Lower East Side, an unknown virus has turned Tompkins Square Park into a mass grave. “Positives” are quarantined, sex is outlawed, and youngsters resort to “dry kissing” and jerking off to sex detectors. Inside a fortified, decaying walk-up, infected Torch (Katie Booth) worries a rosary and checks herself for lesions. When healthy amour Blue (Victoria Cardozo) braves the patrol units for an illicit booty call, she's unprepared for Torch's well-intentioned rebuff. The pair grapples with the stalemate (and each other) until a terrifying encounter puts Torch's fears into context. Director Meghan Cox has recast the Rent-meets-Contagion romance with two women, somewhat diminishing the threat of violence underlying their power struggle. Booth and Cardozo's timing often hums, though Cardozo would do well to tone down the accent. Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Aug. 4. (323) 465-4446, stellaadler-la.com. (Jenny Lower)
CIRQUE-A-PALOOZA: ROAD TO PALOOZA There is a looseness to Road to Palooza, the loopy, vaudevillian variety show playing as part of the Pasadena Playhouse's three-week Cirque-a-Palooza festival, that can border on happy anarchy — “Thanks for coming to our rehearsal,” juggler Scot Nery quipped at one point — but riffing and working the crowd plays to the strengths of these sorts of performers. Co-producer and host Stefan Haves fills his kid-friendly variety show with mimed fart jokes, tap dancers, sword swallowers, acrobats, the merest hint of thrills and the expected allotment of whimsy. The show doesn't coalesce around any grand theme but rolls out a smorgasbord of acts, making for a mostly fast-moving two-plus hours studded with impressive physical feats, even if less imaginative moments, such as medleys and large ensemble dance numbers, feel like afterthoughts. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Fri.-Sat.; 8 p.m.; through Aug. 10. (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org. (Mindy Farabee)
GO: DANCING ON THE EDGE
Denise Devin's theatrical dance production that explores beauty, laughter, tears and love within a sexy mosaic of movement. Directed by Denise Devin, featuring choreography by Donna Noelle Ibale, Randall Morris, Carrie Nedrow, Jade Waters-Burch and Cody Whitley. Starting Aug. 3, Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 4, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 21. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See theater feature.
THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
Easily the most poignant moments in this dramatized telling of the Anne Frank story come in its epilogue, when Holocaust survivor Otto Frank (Jack Kandel) returns to his family's hidden dwelling to discover his youngest daughter's diary and inform us of the demise of his family and friends at the hands of the Nazis. Kandel handles his role as kindly patriarch pretty well throughout, infusing credibility into this problematic melodrama, which compresses two years of intimate interpersonal relationships among nine people into a little more than two hours. Any production of this play — adapted by Wendy Kesselman from the 1950s script by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett — must rise and fall on the strength of the performer playing Anne. In this case that's Valerie Rose Lohman, who is a bit older than the girl she's depicting. Lohman's charisma radiates in her smile, but ultimately too many coy mannerisms take their toll, and her Anne is more archetype than a fully individualized character. Along with Kandel, supporting players Jessica Richard, nicely understated as Anne's elder sister, Margot, and Warren Davis as Mr. Van Daan, whose family is interned with the Franks, acquit themselves best. Mark Belnick directs. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 18. (818) 763-0086, thenohoartscenter.com. (Deborah Klugman)
PICK OF THE WEEK: GARBO'S CUBAN LOVER
Writer-director Odalys Nanin's fictionalized bio-play zeroes in on Mercedes De Acosta, who in the 1930s was celebrated as a poet, playwright and novelist, though nowadays she's remembered mostly for her lesbian affairs with famous actresses including Eva LeGallienne, Alla Nazimova and Tallulah Bankhead.In Nanin's play, De Acosta (played by the author), meets Greta Garbo (Angela Nicholas) and forms an obsessive relationship with her. But daunted by Garbo's selfishness, reclusiveness and whims of iron, she distracts herself with Marlene Dietrich (Kelly Mullis) — until Garbo beckons once again. Apparently De Acosta's obsession lasted till her death in 1968.Nanin's script is clever and often effective, and her performance is stylish, though it sometimes veers into melodrama. Nicholas portrays Garbo with accuracy and distinction, but Mullis seems to have been encouraged by director Ivonne Coll to go for the obvious, which Dietrich seldom did. Tessa Munro contributes a nice turn as dancer Isadora Duncan, while Helene McCardle is a stolid Salka Viertel and Vince Donvito offers a rumbustious take on producer Irving Thalberg.The uncredited costumes are excellent, and John Toom provides the handsome Art Deco set. Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd. | Thurs., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 25. (323) 960-4429, machatheatre.org (Neal Weaver)
THE KITCHEN WITCHES Performing comedy isn't rocket science. It's actually much more difficult, both to define and to send into orbit. Call it an aerodynamic balance of characterization, situation and timing É and about six weeks of rehearsal. So when director Ryanne Laratonda was forced to recast her two leads the day before opening, it probably was a mathematical certainty that, 36 hours later, this second performance of playwright Caroline Smith's 2003 cable-access cooking show satire would be the stage equivalent of the Challenger disaster. That's not to say that the efforts of replacement stars (and courageous troupers) Madeleine Drake and Adriana Bate won't eventually cohere into something more than a cold stumble-through. It's more that it's a pointless injustice to actors, audience and play alike to open a production with its stars still on book and having not yet discovered any rhythms or nuances that might add up to laughs. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 15 & 29, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 2 p.m.; through Aug. 31. (310) 512-6030, littlefishtheatre.org. (Bill Raden)
NEW ORIGINAL WORKS FESTIVAL: REDCAT: Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater, 631 W. Second St., Los Angeles, 213-237-2800, www.redcat.org. See theater feature.
GO: POINT BREAK LIVE!
Creating a raucous, rocked-out party atmosphere by blasting preshow music (think “Welcome to the Jungle” at ear-splitting volume), the hilarious spoof show Point Break Live! offers super-soaked excitement in a grungy Hollywood nightclub setting. What do we mean by “soaked”? Let's just say you'd be wise to take them up on the $2 ponchos for sale before the show. The low-tech, seat-of-the-pants, interactive presentation of an abbreviated version of Kathryn Bigelow's slightly corny 1991 cop surf drama is further camped up by a fun-loving cast. The actor playing the central role of Johnny Utah — memorably portrayed onscreen by Keanu Reeves in his “Woah, dude” stoner phase — is recruited from among the dozen or so audience members who audition on the spot and are rated by the audience. The rookie performer then goes on to utter dialogue aided by cue cards. (Too bad opening night's guy was virtually illiterate and inexplicably prone to channeling Forrest Gump.) Utah's volatile detective partner, Pappas, is well played by Tom Fugedi, though he would benefit from a bit more crazy Gary Busey and a bit less Chris Farley in his performance. Tobias Jelinek is excellent as the bizarrely spiritual crime boss/surfer guru Bodhi. The plastic ponchos offer protection from the barrage of water spray, blood splatters and — uh — other bodily fluids. Stupid fun. Booze available. Dragonfly, 6510 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sun., 7:30 p.m.; through Sept. 29. (323) 466-6111, brownpapertickets.com/event/413629. (Pauline Adamek)
GO: THE TAMING OF THE SHREW
The slapstick, or batacchio, which originated in the commedia dell'arte of 16th-century Italy, is a wooden device used to create a loud, smacking sound. So it seems fitting that in staging Shakespeare's contemporaneous tale of a headstrong woman who finally meets her match, director Ellen Geer plays its physical comedy to the hilt, incorporating slide whistles, drums and other noisemaking devices to punctuate the onstage pratfalls, fisticuffs and acrobatics. The choice is mostly effective, but it's Geer's vivacious staging of the battle between Katharina (a hilariously histrionic Willow Geer) and Petruchio (a charmingly macho Aaron Hendry) that makes the show. Their terrifically torrential tango is complemented by Petruchio's servant, Grumio (Melora Marshall), who delivers perfectly pitched Shakespearean asides and wordplay, showcasing both sides of the “wise fool.” The remaining cast members, clad in Val Miller's gorgeous period costumes, admirably execute their roles as well. The play's conclusion, with its seeming support for the patriarchy (or is it to be merely taken as farce?) is a bit jarring. Nonetheless, this wonderful, sylvan hideaway, where 40 years ago its namesake founder created a haven for artists, retains its rustic charm and remains an excellent setting for a night of Shakespeare. Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., Aug. 16, 23 & 30, Sept. 6 & 13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 10 & 24, 4 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 21, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, Sept. 29, 3:30 p.m.; through Sept. 29. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)
This feel-good country musical moves the plot of Shakespeare's As You Like It to Texas, adding some J.R. EwingÐlike antics and Lone Star state line-dance musical numbers. Writer Zora Margolis and composer Peter Spelman craft the tale of a Texas mogul (Kevin Michael Moran) who seeks to steal acres of ranchland, sending rivals fleeing for the woods of Arden — uh, Austin. In director Allison Bibicoff's clunky, sometimes maladroit staging, the play's plot may amusingly echo Shakespeare's story, but the modern book's weak dialogue and the awkwardly tinny musical score make for a tepidly involving production. With aimless hoofing and hesitant gestures further sabotaging the flatly clunky dance numbers, the performers sometimes look downright uncomfortable. Admittedly the singers croon nicely Ñ but even with the casting of always engaging baritone Sean Smith in a central role, the piece possesses a strangely sad, inert mood. Along with the stodgy pacing and the unexpectedly dense, convoluted book, the results are inevitably offputting. Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p,m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Aug. 25. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org. (Paul Birchall)
Robert Riemer and Zombie Joe's “reimagining” of the Old Testament story of King Saul, Israel's first ruler, and David, who eventually was crowned king, has a few moments of brilliance but doesn't make much of an overall impression. A large part of the problem is that Riemer doesn't incorporate much of the source material, and his rambling script is frequently puzzling. David is a venerated biblical figure, the humble shepherd boy who slew Goliath, but here he is incarnated as a sashaying bisexual (played with haughty panache by Willy Romano-Pugh) decked out in S&M gear, while Bathsheba is a cheeky, seductive man (Cameron Munson). David delights in tormenting and challenging the Old Man (Amir Khalighi), whose main concerns are getting a drink, whoring about and wondering about his sanity, and there is a battle of sorts for the crown, but by play's end, it doesn't matter. There is, however, some stunning choreography by the chorus, and Kevin Van Cott is superb on drums. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sat., 8:30 pm.; through Aug. 10. (818) 202-4120, ZombieJoes.com. (Lovell Estell III)
ONGOING SHOWS IN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE:
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS:
Beethoven and Misfortune Cookies: The true story of Kabin Thomas, a musician and Professor of Music at the University of Arkansas, who loses his job after educating his students about the song “Strange Fruit,” and then goes to Hollywood to participate in reality TV. Written by Joni Ravenna, directed by T.J. Castronovo. Starting Aug. 10, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Sept. 15. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles, 323-957-1152, www.themettheatre.com.
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.
GO: Eat the Runt: Playwright Avery Crozier and director Tom Beyer return to Theater of NOTE for more laughs with their raucous satire, which takes a flamethrower to social proprieties, workplace decorum and some sacred PC cows. The format hasn't changed since it was performed in 2010: The audience determines which role the seven performers are to play by drawing names right before the performance. It's a slick gimmick. The mise en scene is an upscale art museum during a job interview for a candidate named Merritt, who has flown all the way in from California. It isn't long before it becomes apparent that the interviewee is no ordinary job applicant. Her (or his) face time with staff members morphs into bouts of sexual harassment, racist caricaturizing, office backstabbing, gossip and even a brief discussion on anal sex and hemorrhoids. Things really turn crazy when another candidate pops up claiming that she or he is the real Merritt, causing a lot of confusion — and laughs — with a coup de grace involving religious ecstasy, speaking in tongues and a sacred foreskin. This is solid ensemble work, with the funniest performances, in the performance reviewed, turned in by Chris Neiman as a jittery, coked-out curator and Tricia Munford as Merritt 2. (Lovell Estell III). 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.
eve2: A new take on Adam and Eve, written by Susan Rubin, directed by Mark Bringelson. This time around, Adam and Eve work at a hospital morgue that has lost power in a massive electrical outage. Starting Aug. 10, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Sept. 8. Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.
PICK OF THE WEEK: 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. 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. See New Reviews
Celebrity Autobiography: The Music Edition Volume 3: The international comedy hit, in which outrageous and true celebrity memoirs are performed live on stage. For this installment, self-penned writings from artists including Beyonce, Justin Bieber, and Britney Spears will be acted out by comedians Fred Willard, Joey Fatone, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Melissa Manchester, Laraine Newman, Rita Wilson, Steven Weber, and others. Thu., Aug. 15, 8 p.m., $45. Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, 213-765-6800, www.grammymuseum.org.
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: https://www.laweekly.com/2013-05-30/stage/fried-octopus-bootleg/full/. 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: 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. (Neal Weaver). 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.
GO: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot: Judas on trial! Yes, in playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis' courtroom drama, the man who double-crossed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver is tried for his treachery, with the case being heard in a magical courtroom somewhere in Purgatory. Fiery defense attorney Fabiana (Sarah Ruth Ryan), a recently deceased modern gal, seeks to get Judas (a nicely brooding Robert Walters) released from hell and takes it to the celestial court. Oily, vaguely sinister Prosecutor Yusef (Robert Paterno) summons a variety of witnesses to testify against Judas' redemption, but in the end, guilt or innocence actually resides in a desperate, and beautifully tragic, interaction between Judas and Jesus. Guirgis' text provides an often engaging exploration of all sides of the drama's theological issues, but the real pleasures are found in director Josh T. Ryan's vibrant, fast-paced production (a redo of the same producer's spring staging of the same play, at Victory Theatre). Lively and wonderfully multidimensional performances leaven the potentially dry aspects of the religious debate. Ruth Ryan's ferocious defense attorney and Paterno's increasingly haunted prosecutor are particularly adroit acting turns, but it's the impeccable comic timing and emotionally sophisticated work by Robin Michelle McClamb's wonderfully dotty yet theologically rigid Mother Teresa, Marc Erickson's terrifying Satan and Walters' inscrutable Judas that anchor the show. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 24. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
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. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
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.
GO: One Night in Miami: Although rooted in a historic event, Kemp Powers' period piece about a meeting between Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, Malcolm X and Cassius Clay is less about these gentlemen per se than it is about the struggle of African-American men in general to deal with the ubiquitous racism that continually challenges their manhood. The play takes place in a motel room following Clay's victory over Sonny Liston in 1964. At 22, fresh off his triumph, the young boxer (Matt Jones) is both less scarred and less knowing than the others. He's also a recent convert to Islam, which raises the eyebrows of Cooke (Ty Jones) and Brown (Kevin Daniels) — both alcohol-imbibing, womanizing, pork chop-loving hedonists. Well directed by Carl Cofield, the play heats up around the philosophical divide between Malcolm (Jason Delane) an ideologue and devout Muslim who scorns the White Establishment, and Cooke, a musician and player in the music business who's successfully worked the system for his own gain. (Sadly and ironically, both these men would be dead within a year.) Powers' perspicacious script gives the performers plenty to work with, and they make the most of it, bouncing off each other with savvy, skill and humor. Delane is excellent as an understated Malcolm, struggling to master not only his passions but his well-founded fear that his life is in danger. A charismatic Jones augments an intense portrayal with his gifted singing voice. Giovanni Adams and Jason E. Kelley add menace and levity as Malcolm's bodyguards. (Deborah Klugman). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 855-585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com.
GO: 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. See Stage feature: https://www.laweekly.com/2013-08-01/stage/shem-bitterman-open-house/full/. 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. 17. Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-469-9988.
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. (Lovell Estell III). 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.
Revelation: 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. (Paul Birchall). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Elephant Stages, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
Riding the Midnight Express: The true story behind the Oscar-winning film Midnight Express, told by the man who lived it. This is Billy Hayes' astounding story of survival and endurance, and the tales of Hollywood, happiness and what happened next. Written and performed by Billy Hayes and directed by John Gould Rubin. All proceeds will benefit The Blank Theatre. Mon., Aug. 12, 8 p.m. The Blank Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-661-9827, www.theblank.com.
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.
Spumoni!: An evening of three short comedies chosen from the Hollywood Fringe Festival: The Booby Prize, written and performed by Lizzie Czerner and directed by Rebekah Walendzak and Jeffrey Wylie; Daddy Didn't Die, Did He?, written and performed by Casey Christensen and Will Matthews, directed by Jeffrey Addiss; and Define: Dif-fer-ent, written and performed by Keaton Talmadge, directed by Kelleia Sheerin. Presented by The Complex in association with RANT/L.A. Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Sept. 21. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-465-0383, www.complexhollywood.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: Lalo (Miguel Santana), Paco (Henry Madrid) and Nacho (Roberto Garza) have been friends for 50 years. Former field workers, they escaped a life of hard labor by forming a trio and earning a living as singers of Mexican love songs. Now elderly and unemployed, they reflect back on the humiliations they endured as immigrant workers, as well as the one woman who touched all their lives. Playwright Josefina Lopez conceived this broad musical comedy as a tribute to her father, to celebrate both the music he loved and the spirit of the culture it sprang from. Directed by Edward Padilla, the performances are mostly unpolished, and the vocals are not outstanding. On the other hand, Santana, Madrid and Garza are fun to watch as they clown around, indulging the privileges of age — which are to say and do as you wish, propriety be damned. And schmaltzy as they are, the lyrics can be touching. (Deborah Klugman). 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: 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.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN THE VALLEYS:
Attack of the Rotting Corpses: Zombie Joe's disgusting new thriller-comedy about a condo complex in the San Fernando Valley, where the water supply becomes contaminated with a dangerous microbe, transforming the residents (and their pets) into ravenous, flesh-eating zombies. Fridays, 11 p.m. Continues through Aug. 9. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Blistered Hands and Bloody Mouths: Sam LaFrance's new play about a young woman living with her crazed alcoholic landlady in Texas. Madness ensues when she tries to get back to her hometown in London, but her psychopathic ex-lover breaks out of prison to confront her about leaving him. Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com.
Brendan: Ronan Noone's middling seriocomedy treads the familiar narrative of the newly arrived immigrant seeking to assimilate into American society. Brendan (Patrick Quinlan) is a hale and hearty Irish lad living in Boston, but his shy, reserved demeanor isn't helpful when it comes to finding that special lady. Adding to his problems is the constant presence of his mother's ghost (Kathleen M. Darcy), whose advice and hectoring furnish some of the play's funniest moments. Eventually he takes up with a prostitute (Catia Ojeda), who also doubles as his driving instructor, and he at last finds a deeper relationship with the beautiful Rose (Devereau Chumrau). Parceled into more than 30 scene/segments — some of which are way overwritten — this sentimental tale, which is blended with a substantial bit of melodrama, would have been better if the relationships that are at the heart of the story were more substantial. McKerrin Kelly directs a good cast. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, 818-846-5323, www.theatrebanshee.org.
GO: Dancing on the Edge: Denise Devin's theatrical dance production that explores beauty, laughter, tears and love within a sexy mosaic of movement. Directed by Denise Devin, featuring choreography by Donna Noelle Ibale, Randall Morris, Carrie Nedrow, Jade Waters-Burch and Cody Whitley. Saturdays, 11 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 8, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 15, 7 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 22, 7 p.m. Continues through Sept. 21. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See theater feature.
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. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-763-0086, www.thenohoartscenter.com. See new reviews.
GO: Hurricane Season 2013 – 10th Annual Festival Competition of Short Plays: Carrying On, The Road to Paradise, Supermom: Now in its 10th year, Hurricane Season is a competition of short new plays. Block Two (reviewed here) continues over this weekend, with Block Three running Aug. 9-18. The audience favorites of the festival will receive awards in an Aug. 23 ceremony, and a jury will give monetary prizes to the top three best-written plays. In The Road to Paradise, by Caroline Marshall, Ryan McDonough plays a terminal patient with gallows humor. His fiancee (Rachel Kanouse) — a frequent visitor to his hospital bed — at first cannot account for his renewed lusty vigor and impassioned speeches. Marshall's dialogue is occasionally too theatrical when it needs to be natural, but this is a sweet, half-hour one-acter. Less successful is Dean Farell Bruggeman's decidedly unfunny satire Supermom, about a stay-at-home mom (dreadfully acted by playwright Caroline Marshall) who slaves for her ungrateful family. She is set on her true mission of saving the world by a sassy, colorful, African-American spirit guide, “Mother Earth.” This clichŽd caricature is only partially rescued by the casting of Gabriel Green in drag. Harry M. Bagdasian's Carrying On is the best of the bunch. Its bittersweet tale of a developmentally challenged young man (Elliott Davis) anxious to break away from an oppressive, small-town home life is well plotted and nicely staged. (Pauline Adamek). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, 818-508-3003, www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
The Island: 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. (Bill Raden). Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18. T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, 818-205-1680.
Ready for the Storm: A jukebox musical with a pop soundtrack, about the youthful relationship between Bobby, a singer, and Jenn, an actress. Written, directed and produced by Randall Gray. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Sept. 14. Stages of Gray, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena, www.stagesofgray.com.
GO: Smoke and Mirrors: If you've forgotten the childlike joy and sublime wonderment of seeing magic performed, Albie Selznick's theatrical show is an enchanting reminder. The accomplished actor-magician puts on a bewildering tour de force that has more “how did he do that” flashes than can be counted. The show also has a personal element, as Selznick recounts his long path to becoming a master magician, starting when he lost his father at the age of 9 and used magic to escape reality, and then as a means of challenging and overcoming his fears. He knows how to work the crowd, and uses members of the audience in a number of his routines. Toward show's end, he swallows some razors (kids, don't try this), then regurgitates them on a long string, and wows with a demonstration of fire eating and juggling some wicked-looking knives. Other amazing moments are the eerie conjuring of doves out of nowhere and a mind-blowing exhibition of midair suspension. Like all good magicians, Selznick has highly capable assistants — Brandy, Kyle, Tina and Daniel — who dazzle with their own magic in a stylish preshow. Paul Millet directs. (Lovell Estell III). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 25, 800-595-4849, smokeandmirrorsmagic.com. Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.lankershimartscenter.com.
Southern Girls: Written by Sheri Bailey and Dura Temple Curry, this drama follows the lives of six women from childhood (circa 1952) through middle age. A bittersweet play that reflects the changes in the lives of these women in the era of the changing South. Fridays-Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10. J.E.T. Studios, 5126 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, www.thejetstudios.com.
Thank You, Minerva: This musical comedy about the Roman goddess Minerva's (Rachel Berman) travels through American history is in love with the U.S.A. — arguably too much so. The show's 11 scenes each follow the same formula: Minerva is sent by Jupiter (John McCool Bowers) and Juno (Julia Shear Kushner) to assist a songwriter as he or she works on a well-known American holiday song — for Veterans Day, for instance, it's Lee Greenwood writing “God Bless the U.S.A.” The show has a talented ensemble, making the best of what they're given (the actors in multiple roles, Rachel Howe, Jonathan Byram and Jackson Smith, are especially valiant), but it isn't enough to save the show from a formulaic format. Even more troubling is writer-producer Alan Stillson's bizarre commitment to whitewashing America's past and present, instead presenting a highly idealistic version in which all problems are solved through music. It's patriotic, yes, but at times feels like propaganda. (Kevin O'Keeffe). Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Continues through Aug. 18, stillsonworks.com. Secret Rose Theater, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, 877-620-7673, www.secretrose.com.
Whore's Bath: Robert Riemer's theatrical re-imagining of the Biblical travails between King David and Saul, and their attempt to attain “the throne of man.” Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 10. Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, 818-202-4120, zombiejoes.homestead.com. See new reviews.
GO: 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, Wrap Your Heart Around It. 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 taste — 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. (Kevin O'Keeffe). 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.
ONGOING SHOWS IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED ON THE WESTSIDE AND IN BEACH TOWNS:
GO: El Grande de Coca-Cola: This comic extravaganza, written by Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman and John Neville-Andrews and first produced in 1971, went on to become an international hit. Now the Ruskin Group brings it back, and to insure it retains its original comic glory, two of the original creators have returned: Shearman provides the direction and musical direction, and House reprises his role as the irrepressible emcee Senor Don Pepe Hernandez, presenter of “Parada de las Estrellas.” But the Parade of Stars turns out to be just a gaggle of his enthusiastic but inept friends and relations, who gamely attempt to perform every act in the popular repertoire, including tango, hip-hop, magic, sharp-shooting, wire-walking, the high trapeze, Shakespearean recitation (in Spanish) and slow-motion combat. Inevitably, their efforts prove hilariously disastrous. It's a tribute to the inventiveness of the ensemble (House, Nina Brissey, David Lago, Lila Dupree, Aaron Jackson and Paul Denk) that the variations on this one joke never grow stale or repetitious. They are all skilled and exuberant comedians, but a special word must be said for Jackson, who brings a devil-may-care physical recklessness and a wistful, eager-beaver charm even to his slapstick. (Neal Weaver). 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. Mondays-Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Aug. 21. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theater, 241 Moreno, Beverly Hills, 310-364-0535, www.theatre40.org.
Hook: The 30 Minute Musical (yes Steven Speilberg's Peter Pan film): 30 Minute Musicals presents their 9th original musical work parodying the Steven Spielberg classic, Hook. Sat., Aug. 10, 9:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 11, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 24, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Third Street Theatre, 8115 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-655-9232.
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. Continues through Aug. 11, $30. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, 310-477-2055, www.odysseytheatre.com.
Kitchen Witches: A comedy that takes on the back-biting world of televised food shows, written by Caroline Smith. Two on-air chefs with a long-standing feud are forced to host a new cooking show together, which changes their quiet mutual disdain into a raging, public cat fight. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 15, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 25, 2 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 29, 8 p.m. Continues through Aug. 31. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org. See New Reviews.
GO:Lady Windermere's Fan: Inaugurating a new outdoor summer performance series at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the site-specific specialists at Chalk Rep take Oscar Wilde's quintessential comedy of manners, Lady Windermere's Fan, out of the drawing room and onto the terraces and landscaped gardens of the English Baroque landmark. Apart from providing an atmospheric backdrop for Wilde's epigrammatic assault on late-Victorian bourgeois respectability, director Jennifer Chang's environmental, modern-dress (courtesy of costumer Halei Parker) staging lends an engaging, naturalistic buffer to the brittleness of the play's 19th-century melodramatic tropes while rooting the wealth of its Wildean bon mots in a soil of contemporary psychological truth. Tess Lina's society-crashing parvenu, the mysterious Mrs. Erlynne, comes underscored with an affecting note of maternal regret. Brian Slaten's hunky cynical roue, Lord Darlington, now not only has the best lines but imbues them with the poignant ache of disappointed romantic yearning. And Owiso Odera and Amielynn Abellera transfuse the problematical archetypes of Lord and Lady Windemere with fresh authenticity, making of them something more than mere moral-absolutist counterparts to the worldly, realistic Darlington and Mrs. Erlynne. The rest of the ensemble fills out Wilde's cast of nitwitted blue bloods with comic aplomb, fashioning this Windemere as a satisfying mix of froth and earnest heart. (Bill Raden). 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.
Ojai Playwrights Conference Summer New Works Festival: The OPC presents its 16th season of up-and-coming theater works. For full schedule and tickets, visit www.ojaiplays.org. Fri., Aug. 9; Sat., Aug. 10; Sun., Aug. 11, www.ojaiplays.org. Matilija Junior High School, 703 El Paseo Road, Ojai, 805-640-4355.
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. Continues through Aug. 31. Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, 310-399-3666, www.edgemarcenter.org.
Rounding Third: A lighthearted look at fatherhood and baseball, written by Richard Dresser. Sun., Aug. 11, 2 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 16, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 17, 8 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 21, 8 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 22, 8 p.m. Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre St., San Pedro, 310-512-6030, www.littlefishtheatre.org.
b>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. See new reviews.
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.