Stage Raw: City Garage Bids Adieu To Fourth Street

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John Lithgow Photo by Nigel Perry

John Lithgow will ring in the New Year spinning yarns in Stories By Heart, previously produced at the Lincoln Center and at the National Theatre of Great Britain.  Jane Fonda stars in Moisés Kaufman's 33 Variations (to be performed at the Ahmanson). The docket also includes Lanford Wilson's Burn This and Theresa Rebeck's family drama, The Novelist. Closing the season is Morris Panych's Vigil, directed by the author and starring Olympia Dukakis "in a clever pas de deux that re-defines the word droll"

CITY GARAGE BIDS FAREWELL TO THE ALLEY BEHIND THE MALL

City Garage artistic director Frederique Michel said that due to a major funder ceasing subsidy to the company next year, 2010 will mark the final year of the theater at its Fourth Street, Santa Monica location, that it's held for 15 years. Charles Mee's Paradise Park will be the closing production there. Relocation plans for 2011 are unclear, at this point.

For COMPLETE THEATER LISTINGS, press the More tab directly below

COMPREHENSIVE THEATER LISTINGS for August 27-Sept. 2, 2010

Our critics are Pauline Adamek, Paul Birchall, Lovell Estell III,

Rebecca Haithcoat, Martin Hernandez, Mayank Keshaviah, Deborah Klugman,

Steven Leigh Morris, Amy Nicholson, Tom Provenzano, Bill Raden, Luis

Reyes, Sandra Ross and Neal Weaver. These listings were compiled by

Derek Thomas

Productions are sequenced alphabetically in the following

cagtegories: Opening This Week, Larger Theaters regionwide, Smaller

Theaters in Hollywood, Smaller Theaters in the valleys , Smaller

Theaters on the Westside and in beach towns. You can also search for

any play by title, using your computer's search engine.

OPENING THIS WEEK

ASIMPROV from Tyrone Giordano's workshop., $10. Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Sept. 2-4, 8 p.m....

THE CLEAN HOUSE "Sarah Ruhl's unpredictable and sublime rumination on

the importance of laughter and mess in our lives.". International City

Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; opens Aug. 27; Fri.; Sat.;

Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 19. (562) 436-4610.

LAST FARE A one-man mystery written and performed by Dominic

Hoffman., $20. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Sat., Aug.

28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Sept. 2, 8 p.m.. (310)

306-1854.

THE MEN OF MAH JONGG Richard Atkins' comedy about four mature Jewish

men finding happiness through the ancient Chinese game of mah jongg.

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

Hills; opens Sept. 1; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 26.

(310) 364-0535.

NAACP FESTIVAL OF 10-MINUTE PLAYS Produced by the Beverly

Hills-Hollywood NAACP., $10. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S. Spring

St., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 28, 3 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 3 p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

NEIGHBORS Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' story of a family of rowdy actors

who move next door to an upwardly mobile academic. Directed by Nataki

Garrett., $25. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 28,

7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 2:30 p.m.; Thurs., Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m.. (323)

852-1445.

PHI'LA Jamal Y. Speakes' musical addressing "overwrought racial

contention" between friends, centered on a black teenager who moves

from Philadelphia to L.A., $20. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514 S.

Spring St., L.A.; Sun., Aug. 29, 8 p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

SACRED FOOLS' CREEPY CARNIVAL! Carny-style madness to kick off the

company's 14th season., $15. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope

Dr., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 28, 7:30 p.m.. (310) 281-8337.

SURFIN' TIKI VARIETY SHOW Stories, music, acts and art from the

Captured Aural Phantasy Theater crew., $10. The WHERE Gallery, 1519

Griffith Park Blvd., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m....

TAPE Stephen Belber's acclaimed three-person motel-room drama,

directed by Joelle Arqueros., $20. Bill Becker's NoHo Stages, 4934

Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; opens Sept. 2; Thurs., 8:30 p.m.;

thru Sept. 30. 323-839-0023.

TITUS REDUX Circus Theatricals and Not Man Apart Physical Theatre

Ensemble co-produce this high-energy adaptation of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.

Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; opens Aug.

29; Sun., 7 p.m.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Sept. 11. (213) 628-2772.

TRANSITIONS A trilogy of one-acts dealing "ordinary people

struggling with a call from God"., $20. Los Angeles Theater Center, 514

S. Spring St., L.A.; Sat., Aug. 28, 8 p.m.. (213) 489-0994.

THE WOMEN Short stories by L.A.'s "best female writers . . .

performed by top film, television and stage actors.". MBar Supper Club,

1253 N. Vine, L.A.; Fri., Aug. 27, 7:30 p.m....

CONTINUING PERFORMANCESIN LARGER THEATERS REGIONWIDE

GO FREE MAN OF COLOR A young, well-spoken and

highly educated black man is tapped to become the leader of a nation.

But it's not who you think. The year is 1828, the place is Athens,

Ohio, and the man is John Newton Templeton (Kareem Ferguson), a freed

slave whose education is facilitated by the Rev. Robert Wilson (Frank

Ashmore). Wilson, a strictly principled man, enrolls John in Ohio

University. Wilson's wife, Jane (Kathleen Mary Carthy), initially cold

to Templeton when he comes to live with them, softens over time;

however, she plants doubts in Templeton's head about Wilson's plan to

make him the governor of Liberia. Charles Smith's spare three-character

study unfolds through intimate moments and intellectual discourse,

powerfully examining the issues of its day, as well as questions

surrounding citizenship and belonging, which continue to occupy us. The

dialogue is especially refreshing for its crisp diction, for which the

credit goes to both the cast and director Dan Bonnell. The show also

appeals visually, as David Potts' set, consisting of stark silhouettes,

brings to mind both the popular 18th century portraiture and African

woodcuts. Similarly, A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's authentically plain

costumes avoid the dual pitfalls of theatrical period garb, which is

often either too showy or simply looks fake. The cast is stellar all

around, taking us on a journey that stresses the urgency of fulfilling

the promises upon which our country was built. (Mayank Keshaviah).

Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2

p.m.; Sat., 3 p.m.; thru Sept. 12. (818) 558-7000.

HAMLET It's anyone's guess what vision might have guided director

Ellen Geer's fervent but unfocused, Medieval-dress version of

Shakespeare's most baroque and psychologically nuanced tragedy. There's

certainly little hint of the Oedipal undercurrents or political

allegorizing that have been a mainstay of 20th-century productions. Nor

is there much sign of the paralyzing conflict between faith in purpose

and intellectual certainty, which traditionally drives its hero's

famously agonized inaction. In the case of Mike Peebler's Hamlet,

neither his mission nor its justness ever seems in doubt; Peebler

attacks the role with the zeal and righteous wrath of the recently

converted. Even his soliloquies are delivered at the audience as if

from a pulpit. Gertrude (Melora Marshall) in turn appears more pissed

off at her son's increasingly antic disposition than aggrieved by what

it might imply about his sanity. Claudius (Aaron Hendry), by contrast,

comes off as positively good-natured, a guy caught with his hand in the

cookie jar rather than his fingerprints all over a nefarious regicide.

Willow Geer is convincing as a feisty yet vulnerable Ophelia, though

even here the method of her madness seems more a response to the murder

of Polonius (a very broad Carl Palmer) than any jilting by Hamlet.

Director Geer keeps it all moving at a fast clip, but some

exasperatingly eccentric blocking divides the focus of too many

critical turning points -- most egregiously in the mousetrap scene --

all but obliterating their dramatic purpose. (Bill Raden). Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug.

28, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m.; Sat.,

Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 5 p.m.;

Sat., Oct. 2, 4 p.m.. (310) 455-3723.

LIFE COULD BE A DREAM Writer-director Roger Bean's doo-wop jukebox

musical. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach;

Sat.-Sun., 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; thru Aug. 29.

(949) 497-2787.

GO LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE Ilene Beckerman's

book, on which Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron based their "intimate

collection of stories," is the kind you'd grab from the display near

the register at a Barnes and Nobles, to serve as a dressy envelope for

a birthday check to your goddaughter or an upgraded Mother's Day card.

But if the recipient read it instead of tossing in onto a pile of

similarly gifted minibooks, she'd find a classy little number, a J.

Peterman catalog minus the pretentiousness. With sparse text and

barebones sketches, Beckerman records her history through the clothes

she and her female relatives wore. Director Jenny Sullivan constructs

the stage version in much the same way: The star-studded ensemble wears

black (there's an ode to the color, every woman's old faithful) while

sitting in a straight line; and Carol Kane, who reads as Beckerman,

handles the main prop, a "closet" full of the book's renderings

situated on wire clothes hangers. But this is Nora Ephron, and

chumminess quickly trumps austerity. The scenes themselves are

ruminations on relationships thinly veiled as (mostly) funny riffs on

clothes -- Tracee Ellis Ross almost runs away with the show every time

the spotlight's hers but particularly so with "The Shirt." Kane, who

must be one of the most endearing actors ever, dances her monologues'

transitions so delicately and adroitly you can only marvel. There are a

couple of moments ("The Bathrobe," "Brides") during which all but those

with a particularly voracious emotional appetite will find themselves

choking on the syrup. Fortunately, though, the Ephron sisters have

nimbly stitched together the scenes so that there's far more head

nodding than eye rolling. (Rebecca Haithcoat). Geffen Playhouse, 10886

Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Tues.-Fri., Sun., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8

p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (310) 208-5454.

NEW REVIEW

GO

MASTER CLASS

In the wooded Theatricum Botanicum, though

the crickets are competing to hit the high "C," they can't rattle Ellen

Geer's imperious turn as Maria Callas -- the soprano is used to swatting

down her rivals. Today, her targets are the overconfident Julliard

students in her master class: they're too soft, too simple. When it

comes to la Divina and her precious time, these three coeds (Elizabeth

Tobias, Meaghan Boeing and Andreas Beckett) can't win. Weak voices are

an insult, better voices an affront. Would you expect hugs from a

scrapper who saw even the audience as her enemy? Terrence McNally's

fanged comedy is gleeful schadenfreude when Callas destroys these

hopefuls and burnishes her own legend but sublime when discussing the

art of opera -- after she's shredded the students' egos, she gifts them

a foundation to rebuild. But while director Heidi Helen Davis helps

Geer sharpen her knives, both are lost in McNally's too on-the-nose

inner monologues. These are meant to expose Callas' vulnerability,

particularly in her memories of Aristotle Onassis, who by the play's

setting had already dumped the diva for Jackie Kennedy. Here, these raw

pains ring like fluttery pop psychology -- if Callas heard them, she'd

shriek. "This isn't just opera, this is your life," she commands, and

like Tosca and Medea, she is the heroine of her own tragedy. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat., Aug.

28, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 4, 8 p.m.; Sat.,

Sept. 11, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 25, 4 p.m.

(310) 455-3723. (Amy Nicholson)

NEW REVIEW

GO

ON THE VERGE (OR THE GEOGRAPHY OF YEARNING)

When you receive the hieroglyphic text,

"omg r u going to b here l8r?" from your mother, not your preteen

cousin, the days of spitting at the spelling of "Quik," or "E-Z," seem

positively quaint. Indeed, "language takes a beating in the future,"

says Harriet Whitmyer as Fanny, one of three spirited, prefeminist

explorers in Eric Overmyers' time-tripping, word-whirling play. For

those greedy geeks of us who've always gobbled sentences faster than

they're written, Overmyer offers the equivalent of a buffet table

buckling under the weight of one of each of Jonathan Gold's "99 Things

to Eat in L.A. Before You Die": All deserve your undivided attention,

but the next tastes equally as delicious as the last. Yet the true coup

is that Overmyer actually says something with all those lovely words.

Though the women (a terrific Anna Kate Mohler and Susan E. Taylor

complete the trio) are trekking -- lustily, not fearfully -- through

"terra incognita," they are unmitigatedly familiar with their internal

ranges. This is an Eden where women can take nips of liquor from their

own flasks, eat "bear chops and moose mousse" and wield knives and guns

with the ease of gangsters, while simultaneously bemoan "life without a

loofah" and sweat over the sight of a man (the funny Diego Parada).

Fear steadily increases, as the future begins to tumble into their

consciousnesses but so does their inclination to embrace it, for better

or worse. Daniel Bergher's and Sean Gray's light and sound designs

nicely complement the dialogue-thick script. Andrew Vonderschmitt

directs. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St.; Long Beach.

Fri.-Sat., 8:00 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through September 18. (562)

494-1014 (Rebecca Haithcoat)

SMOKE & MIRRORS Will Osborne and Anthony Herrera's mystery, set

on a desert island filming location. Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E.

Anaheim St., Long Beach; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Aug. 28. (562)

494-1014.

SPEAK OF ME AS I AM It's easy to understand why singers and dramatic

artists would want to portray the legendary Paul Robeson. Actor,

athlete, intellect and man of principle, Robeson fearlessly battled for

justice -- and paid the price. This solo show, featuring opera baritone

KB Solomon, meshes some of the highlights of Robeson's life with

renditions of the songs ("Old Man River," "Going Home") for which he's

most famous. The (uncredited) script relays information about Robeson's

life in no particular order but repeatedly returns to his battle with

HUAC's hearings and their painful aftermath. Directed by Jeffrey

Anderson-Gunter, Solomon (whose bio lists music credits but no acting)

spins an expository monologue that remains on the surface and seems

most suitable for youthful audiences unfamiliar with the material.

Designer Michael Boucher has crafted a low-budget but attractive set,

and Joyce S. Long's lighting adds professional sheen. (Deborah

Klugman). Barnsdall Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., L.A.;

Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; Through Sept. 5.; thru Aug. 29. (323)

960-5772.

THE THREE MUSKATEERS Alexandre Dumas' swashbuckler. Will Geer

Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Fri., 8

p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 26, 7:30

p.m.; Sun., Oct. 3, 3:30 p.m.; thru Sept. 24. (310) 455-3723.

apertickets.com/event/121721. (Bill Raden)

NEW REVIEW

GO

A WITHER'S TALE

The Troubadour Theatre Company, led by

writer-director and chief jester Matt Walker, is renowned for witty

mash-ups of Shakespeare with pop tunes. Watching this lampoon of A

Winter's Tale and Bill Withers, die-hard Troubie fans may lament the

less-than-usual ratio of comedy to drama. Combining a handful of

Withers' gentle pop hits with Shakespeare's problematic play (is it a

drama? is it a romantic comedy?) makes for a more low-key experience

than usual. Echoing Othello, an irrationally jealous King (Matt Walker)

incarcerates his pregnant wife, Hermione (Monica Schneider), on

suspicion of fraternizing with his best friend, King Polixenes (Matt

Merchant), and orders the execution of their baby girl. The somber saga

builds to Walker's showstopping rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine,"

enhanced by Jeremy Pivnick's elegant lighting design. Clocking in at 90

minutes (no intermission), this show's strength lies in the plaintive

musical numbers. The five-strong band is superb and features some

haunting underscoring and solos from John Krovoza on cello and violin.

The entire cast sing, harmonize and dance exquisitely -- credit Ameenah

Kaplan for her deceptively simple yet tight choreography. Sets for a

Troubie show are typically spartan, which makes Sharon McGunigle's

luscious period costumes particularly noteworthy. Falcon Theatre, 4252

Riverside Drive, Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through

September 26. (818) 955-8101. A Troubadour Theatre Company production

(Pauline Adamek)

CONTINUING PERFORMANCES IN SMALLER THEATERS SITUATED IN HOLLYWOOD, WEST HOLLYWOOD AND THE DOWNTOWN AREAS

AS THE GLOBE WARMS Solo performer Heather Woodbury creates elaborate worlds. For her performance What Ever,

Woodbury elasticized herself into 100 characters for a sprawling

American epic. This follow-up is a semi-political soap opera that will

run a new installment every weekend for three months, and, gauging by

its launch, Woodbury's interested in charting the rise and fall of the

artistic class and the crystallization of the divide between the two

Americas. On the 4th of July 1985, a cowed girl picks up a video camera

and discovers she's an artist; 25 years later, she's dead and her

brother is attempting to describe her archive of tapes to a barbecue of

gentrified Californian creatives who deign to do their own sculpting

rather than hiring interns for the "dirty" work. On the other coast, a

preacher, his shrewish Tea Party wife and their daydreamy teen daughter

fret about the BP oil spill and a species of endangered frogs that

might prevent them from expanding their church's parking lot. Woodbury

has little patience for both blues and reds and loves to skewer the of

hypocrisies of both camps. To help her stay true to her own voice, she

could use a director (none is credited) to help her shape and simplify

her frantic character changes; she has a capable range of accents but

spends scenes shifting wildly around in her chair to make sure we're

following who's who. Besides the chair, the only prop onstage is a

handycam that records each episode for the internet and streams it live

on a screen against the wall. It's unclear yet if the distraction will

prove purposeful, but what's certain from the starting gate is that the

enthusiastic Woodbury has energy for miles (and months). (Amy

Nicholson). Echo Curio, 1519 Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Sat., 8 p.m.; thru

Oct. 2. (213) 977-1279.

ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT SUNDAY Jordan Black directs the Groundlings

Sunday Company. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Sun., 7:30

p.m.. (323) 934-9700.

NEW REVIEW

GO

CHESS IN CONCERT

Stage Raw: City Garage Bids Adieu to Fourth Street

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