Alan Aymie's autobiographical saga
of his travails within LAUSD, A Child Left Behind, is this week's Pick. Other New Reviews also include Bill Raden's “GO” review of Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, honoring the 20th anniversary of our most recent riots. Smith is not performing in that production (at the Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz), but she is appearing tonight, Wednesday, April 25, 7-9 p.m., for a community discussion of the events of 20 years ago. Robert F. Kennedy Community High School (Cocoanut Grove Theatre), 701 S. Catalina St., Los Angeles.
Click here for the latest New Theater Reviews, or go to the jump. Also check out this week's Stage Feature on The Convert at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, and The Magic Bullet Theory at Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, Scheduled for Publication, April 26, 2012
PICK OF THE WEEK: A CHILD LEFT BEHIND
Alan Aymie takes aim at the Los Angeles Unified School District and the L.A. Times in his solo show A Child Left Behind, about his time spent as a teacher in a low-performing school. Laid off from teaching for a second time last year and given a “below average” ranking in the Times' database of value-added teacher ratings, which are based on student progress on standardized tests, Aymie picked up a pen instead of a picket sign. The resultant narrative is a Sisyphean struggle to teach poverty-stricken students amidst dwindling budgets and out-of-touch administrators. Compounding Aymie's frustrations over missed connections with kids is his son's diagnosis with Asperger's syndrome. The script balances social and personal commentary successfully, and Aymie's energetic charm allows us easy access to his outrage. Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 26. (702) 582-8587. ktctickets.com, bhplayhouse.com (Amy Lyons)
GO THE CONVERT
Danai Gurira's colonial story set in 19th-century southern Africa. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6:30 p.m. Continues through May 19. Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 213-628-2772, centertheatregroup.org. See Stage feature.
THE GIRL MOST LIKELY
Michael Premsrirat's play, directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, is resolutely upbeat, featuring splashy drag-show musical numbers lip-synched to recordings by pop divas, exotic costumes, athletic choreography by Giovanni Ortega and lots of glitz and glamour. The plot, however, is grimly downbeat, examining the problems of drag queens and cross-dressers in hostile societies. In the Philippines, Mama Cid (Ramon de Ocampo) is male by day and the flamboyantly gowned Toast of Luzon by night. He falls for an American serviceman (Nicholas Downs) who wants to take him home to the United States. In America, the Boy (Tobit Raphael) sees himself as a girl and wants to act and dress accordingly, naively unaware of possible dangers. When he takes up with a macho homophobe (Eric Schulman) who believes that he's really a girl, disaster seems inevitable. Despite disconcerting tonal shifts, it's a lively show. But its final message seems to be that the cross-dresser's lot is not a happy one. There are solid performances by de Ocampo, Raphael, de Leon, Schulman, and Raphael, plus a telling turn by Mandela Bellamy as the needy girl who befriends and then betrays the Boy. The abstract set, with its useful turntable, is by John H. Binkley. Playwright's Arena, Latino Theatre Company and PAE Live at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., dwntwn.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 13. (866) 811-4111, thelatc.org. (Neal Weaver)
I WAS A CELLIST IN THE MARCHING BAND
Drawing on her stand-up roots as well as her book, solo performer Sherry Netherland relates a string of mildly humorous, self-deprecating true stories that display her affable idiosyncrasies and general “cluelessness.” Reading from papers behind a music stand, with a handheld mic to her lips, Netherland has a relaxed and confident delivery that sells the quirky tales that touch on everything from growing up with a butch mom and a dad who loved show tunes (stereotypically “gay” yet actually hetero parents) to decoding date signals to a rumination on the mysterious alacrity and demise of lesbian relationships. She occasionally alludes to — but omits — a handful of the presumably juicier tales. During a handful of pleasant song interludes, Netherland strums her ukulele prettily, in one instance urging a sing-along to the refrain, “I hate people, don't you?” Less than successful is a “rap song for people who read,” where she dons a blingy medallion and newsboy cap over her spiky hair, then finds rhymes for words such as “quotidian.” Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 29. (818) 763-5990, thegrouprep.com. (Pauline Adamek)
THE MAGIC BULLET THEORY Terry Tocantins and Alex Zola's satirical fantasia of JFK assassination-conspiracy theory (staged by JJ Mayes). Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., April 22, 2 p.m.; through April 28. (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org. See Stage feature.
NO TIME TO WEEP How do you reconcile the horrendousness of the Holocaust, with its monstrous implications about human nature, with the facile format of an American musical? The short answer: You can't — not successfully, anyway. Directed by Ivor Pyres, Auschwitz survivor Lucy Deutsch's autobiographical piece begins prior to the Nazis' roundup of Jews, when the writer was a carefree 14, then moves to the unimaginable terror of her life in the camp. Act 2, coming after her liberation, revolves around Deutsch's marriage, divorce and subsequent friendships. The production coalesces around talented lead performer Caitlin Gallogly, totally engaging in the tremendously challenging role of the young Lucy. As actors, the supporting ensemble acquit themselves respectably, although, save Gallogly's lovely singing, the vocals are mediocre. The book, by Deutsch, registers as too simple, especially for the weighty material, and the juxtaposition of song (lyrics by Deutsch and Deedee O'Malley, music by O'Malley and Pyres, music by O'Malley and Pyres) within the story is often jarring. A guest production at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 3. (323) 960-7780, plays411.com/notime. (Deborah Klugman)
THE 100TH MONKEY EFFECT Written by Christina Cigala and directed by Samantha Shada, this show is a sporadically funny lampoon of the familiar “mad scientist” genre. The production features a slate of 11 vignettes with Brad Harris and Emile Richeson as the scientists/narrators. The “host” for the evening is the terminally deadpan Rev. Mitcz, who in a show with noticeable flaws doesn't help matters with lots of wry commentary. The problem is that even for a spoof, most of what transpires here either doesn't make any sense or is starkly humorless. Such is the case with scenes like “The Science of Sexism,” where Richeson underwhelms with a cheeky tirade about women, science and stereotypes, and “Alien Hand Possession,” a tale of a bizarre loss of control over her hand. The only truly funny segment is “The Weight of My Soul,” about an attempt to weigh the souls of the deceased. Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; through May 5. attictheatre.org. (Lovell Estell III)
GO TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, 1992
Just in time for the 20th anniversary (April 29) of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, director Leila Vatan commemorates the event in an often searing, albeit oddly theatricalized adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith's acclaimed one-woman stage panorama of dramatic monologues taken from interviews with people involved. This Twilight is pared down from Smith's two-hour-plus 1996 Berkeley Rep text to a spry 75 minutes. Brevity, however, is the least of the production's departures. Vatan also fully casts the monologues with a 25-member ensemble in a polished and seamless trompe l'oeil of accomplished individual performances. Her greatest liberty, however, may be the introduction of a gangsta dance chorus costumed in black hoodies. As choreographed by Sophia Marzocchi and Sarah Mitchell, the chorus injects an omnipresent aura of menace, especially in a climactic number that finishes with the dancers practically in the laps of the audience, pointing threateningly into the house. As accented by Jeff McLaughlin's eerie, low-key lighting, the moment is devastatingly effective. It is also emblematic of a show that appeals to the emotions rather than the intellect. But for a city that has yet to come to terms with those three days of conflagration and that remains as racially divided and geographically alienated as it was two decades ago, that may be Vatan's greatest tribute. Skylight Theater, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 29. (702) 582-8587, ktctickets.com, bhplayhouse.com. (Bill Raden)