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This delightful, latest installment of the late-night comedy serial Crime Scene, now in its fourth year, gleefully revels in the holiday season’s dark underbelly with two alternating story lines — writer-director Andy Corren’s "Naughtyville," and Dr. Jeuss’ "How Simon Stole Christmas, or Who Slew Part 2: The Hubbulous Holiday Hullaballoo," directed by Joe Jordan. "Naughtyville" is a Romeo and Juliet–style love story about feuding white-trash families Nice and Naughty, featuring creepy David Lynchesque characters (Lori Funk’s homicidal Mamie Ruthmore is a standout) and music. In the lovingly foul-mouthed Dr. Seuss parody, cartoon siblings Sammy (Henry Dittman) and Tammy (Lisette Bross) and their various tormentors are up to the challenge of rhymed verse. Each of the three episodes features a bonus self-contained comedy piece: On the night of this review, sketch-comedy group Actual Size presented "Bagnet," a parody of the ‘60s TV show Dragnet, with Sergeant Joe Santa (Corey Klemow) hauling a bag of gifts the night before Christmas. Unfortunately, Sacred Fools, one of the city’s most provocative and whimsical theater troupes, is in imminent danger of losing its space if a financial miracle doesn’t occur by January 1. Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Sat., 11 p.m.; thru Dec. 22. (310) 281-8337. (Miriam Jacobson)
At first this pastiche of musical-theater memories threatens to be saccharine confection as two young Broadway headliners recall their childhood experiences of Broadway shows, their early struggles, dues paying and ultimate success. Fortunately, however, this production spends much more time and energy on the superb performing talents of James Barbour and Hershey Felder. Barbour, one of the most exciting contemporary Broadway singers, made his name with a brilliant rendition of Billy Bige-low in the latest revival of Carousel and blasts through the character’s signature number, "My Boy Bill." Every note of the singer’s immense range is filled with emotion and beauty. There was a palpable sigh of delight as he sang the first two notes of "The Impossible Dream," from Man of La Mancha. Felder also sings wonderfully, but his real passion is the piano. He is famous for his one-man tribute to George Gershwin, whose music he plays with intensity, and he earns huge ovations for his virtuoso versions of classical pieces. Tiffany Theater, 8532 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 3 p.m. (additional perfs Mon., Dec. 31, 6:30 & 9 p.m.); thru Dec. 31. (310) 289-2999. (Tom Provenzano)
A CHRISTMAS THRANCE 2001: Another Slightly Sarcastic, Sparkling Thrantastic, Jumpin’ Jubilee
Director-choreographer Jes sica Schroeder’s holiday hybrid show is a candy cane twist of theater and dance but without that confection’s sticky sweetness. Instead, she takes darker seasonal sentiments such as frustration and apathy, and flavors them, as the title suggests, with a "slightly sarcastic" sense of fun. Schroeder mixes familiar holiday tunes (Elvis crooning "Blue Christmas") with the less familiar ("I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas") and with lesser-known versions of popular favorites (Chandler Travis singing "White Christmas"), then choreographs them with a focus on attitude. The 15 performers are not professional hoofers (no perfectly pointed toes or amazing extensions here), and don’t look for character development or subtext, either. Everything’s right on the surface. The aim is kind of goofy, campy entertainment; the execution slightly sloppy, with lots of finger-snapping and cheesy, big-toothed grins, coupled with scowling expressions, slunk shoulders and impertinent dispositions. Outlaw Style Thrance Co. at the McCadden Place Theater, 1157 McCadden Pl., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (added perfs Dec. 17-19, 8 p.m.); thru Dec. 19. (323) 860-6503. (Terri Roberts)
Overheard from a kid watching a recent performance of Do Jump!: "This is kind of like Cirque du Soleil, only it’s not as good" — on the money. Robin Lane’s variety show features acrobatics, aerial acts, music and comedy, none of which is enthralling, although some kiddies
in the audience appeared to be having a good time, thanks to all the audience participation and the performers’ game efforts. One routine features David Brittain flying kites over the crowd. Another, titled Power Lunch, has some business execs shifting and tumbling around a table, an exercise in physical comedy that isn’t at all funny and starts to grate after 30 seconds. I did like the enchanting Something From Nothing, a bit of visual trickery that featured flying, disconnected hands in blacklight. And credit must be given to the Do Jump! Band: Mike Partlow, Joan Szymko, Mike Van Liew and Courtney Von Drehle. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Thurs., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 16. (310) 208-5454. (Lovell Estell III)
Set in post-apocalyptic NYC, with an appealing cabaret-type ambiance, this yuletide musical by Bradley Rand Smith and Lewis Black (book) and Mark Houghtaling (music and lyrics) is strongest when it sticks to dark comedy. (Cheery songs about dead bodies piling up like cordwood and machete-wielding street waifs are hard to resist amid the seasonal sugar glut of eggnog and candy canes.) The action takes place on Christmas Eve at Club Le Bleu, a mysterious nightspot where a menacing, blind MC (Christopher Spencer) calls to mind Cabaret’s sinister Master of Ceremonies. As troubled customers wander in, it becomes clear that the damned walk the earth and the dead haunt the living. A glamorous torch singer (Alisa Wilson) urges patrons to "unchain the children" — if just for one night. Houghtaling’s peppy music and lyrics are memorable and original, though Smith and Black’s book needs more spine. While redemption is indeed a worthy theme, the story’s occasional sappiness dilutes the black comedy. The acting is significantly better than the overall vocal work, but director Charlie Otte finesses this by assigning the majority of the songs to Wilson, Rachel Andersen and Pamela Heffler. Open Fist Theater Company, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (all Sun. perfs "pay-what-you-can"); mat Sat., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 22. (323) 882-6912. (Sandra Ross)
HAPPY PANTIES: A Tribute to American Vaudeville
While melding vaudevillian slapstick with absurdist surrealism might prove intriguing, that isn’t the case with this boisterous but amateurish production. The plot revolves around the courtship of a dimwitted Girl (Bonnie Warner) and an equally dimwitted Boy (writer-director Robert Gifford) that is complicated by the Grrrl (Nicole Scipione), a sultry Russian femme fatale who is also vying for the Girl’s affections. Some bits reveal an inventive comedic flair such as a swipe at the current anthrax scare and lines like "boneless, skinless chicken only 15 cents a yard," but most of the jokes and sight gags fall flat or are interminably long, such as a fight scene between the Boy and the Grrrl, or a chase scene in desperate need of a strobe-light effect. Couple this with Gifford’s sluggish pace, and the 90-minute running time feels like hours. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 23. (323) 934-3071. (Martín Hernández)
With three weeks till Christmas, Hazie (Ellen Ratner) finds herself surrounded by lunatic kin, all chock full of the holiday spirit. Stepson Drew (Aaron R. Hill) remains marginally upbeat though he recently had his five-year career at Albertson’s terminated for nicking a carload of canned goods, thus delaying a much-anticipated move out of the overcrowded house, taking pregnant wife Candy (Melissa Courter) with him. Meanwhile, daughter Dottie (Heather Pauley), who’s addicted to Jesus and Jenny Craig, faithfully endeavors, despite her "Godless surroundings," to present the best church pageant ever under the saintly guidance of her boyfriend, Glen (Jeff DiDomenico). And so on. Justin Tanner’s holiday story takes a blowtorch to the "no-place-like-home-for-the-holidays" theme, with wonderfully offensive characters mixing it up. And the playwright directs his solid cast with brisk precision; Ratner’s wonderfully layered performance and Pauley’s wild-eyed energy are especially noteworthy. Third Stage, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Jan. 26. (818) 842-4755. (Amy Schaumburg)
Regarding the two plays on the bill (directed by David P. Moore), while one is overstuffed and the other a little lean, they’re both fulfilling holiday treats. Humorist David Sedaris’ NPR commentary is adapted by Joe Mantello as The Santaland Diaries, a witty one-person show about Sedaris’ stint as a Macy’s Department Store elf. A rumpled Andrew Fried man recounts the journey of the hapless elf Crumpet — Sedaris’ nom d’elf — who must contend with puking kids, pushy parents and neurotic Santas. Moore’s enchanting staging and production effects (most especially Brian Fletcher’s lighting), combined with Friedman’s droll performance, all salvage Man tello’s excessive script and abruptly anticlimactic ending. Thornton Wilder recounts 90 years in the life of the affluent Midwestern Bayard family in his bittersweet The Long Christmas Dinner. Wilder introduces us to the Bayards at a late-19th-century holiday feast, then has family members politely excuse themselves, as they head for the proverbial tunnel of death. An exquisite ensemble portrays multiple roles under Moore’s understated direction and fleshes out Wilder’s sketchy characters — Scott Paetty’s pompous Charles; Blythe Baten as his stuffy wife; and Deena Rubinson as his spunky spinster sister stand out. Sacred Fools Theater Company, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Dec. 22. (310) 281-8337. (Martín Hernández)
Geared to folks under 10, Koni McCurdy’s "family musical" adaptation of Mozart’s last opera tosses a smidgen of biographical detail about the composer with the opera’s fantastical plot. The story revolves around the efforts of Prince Tamino (Mi chael Mewborne) to rescue his beloved Princess Pamina (Nickella Dee) from evil forces, including her mother, the Queen of the Night (Jill Gascoine). An ensemble of 16 adult performers portrays various courtiers, comic jesters and villains. Under McCurdy’s direction, the performances are broad and, with a couple of exceptions — Terry Marinan’s oafish baddie and Robert Ruth’s commanding patriarch — not very finely tuned. The music gets short shrift with a single pianist (Milla Nova) and generally mediocre vocals. Blatantly absent is a flautist. (Yes, this is a Magic Flute without one, live or recorded.) All this said, the 7-year-old two seats down — along with her peers — seemed delighted. L.A. Troupe at the Odyssey Theater, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (added perfs Dec. 26-28, 2 p.m.); thru Jan. 6. (310) 477-2055. (Deborah Klugman)
A set of Evald Johnson’s slickly pro duced and edited videos highlight writer-performer John Schaffer’s multimedia, one-man show. Schaffer’s four characters were all inspired by people he met while working comedy clubs: Danny, an overweight gigolo; Karl, a lonely karaoke-loving guy who works in the photocopy room of an insurance company; Blue Maniac, a masked American wrestler fighting South of the Border and also fighting for his marriage; and Stinky Joe, the world’s worst country-western singer doing the bar circuit. (On guitar, Schaffer plucks out some wonderfully absurd musical motifs.) Seamlessly directed by James Giordano, who co-wrote the characters with Schaffer, the rapid-fire show is sometimes amusing, often poignant. As wrestler Blue Maniac, the masked Schaffer shows the range that makes his show so fine — shifting from a man comically struggling to speak Spanish in the ring to the loneliness, terror and rage of losing his family. Sidewalk Theater Company, 4150 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; thru Dec. 15. (818) 846-3403. (Jim Crogan)
Playwright-director Pamela Eberhardt’s quickly paced, but choppily plotted Christmas comedy fleshes out the tenet that there’s nothing like your family to turn your holiday into a hell-i-day. Likable young Nick Donner (Marcus Klemp) has avoided his relatives for the last five years but grudgingly agrees to introduce his new girlfriend, Faye (Jennifer Chandra), to his sprawling clan on Christmas Day. During his increasingly strained interactions with the boorish and embarrassing relatives — including doofy dad Frank (Mark Bell), tightly wound mom Jane (Barbara Benner), resentful brother Ned (Dave Gangler), flamboyantly gay uncle Rick (Michael O’Conner), and venomously embittered family friend Carly (Chris Farah) — Nick quickly recalls every single reason he fled the homestead. When Faye unexpectedly takes the deranged clan’s side against him, Nick casts wistful eyes at his old flame, local bad girl Shawna (Nickie Benner). Eber hardt’s comedy, co-directed by herself and Lonni Silver man, is pleasingly intimate and boasts patches of briskly dispatched, sardonic dialogue. Yet after establishing that the Donners are shrill and cartoonish mon sters, Eberhardt’s attempts to humanize the harpylike horrors through standard "they’re-not-really-so-bad" TV sitcom plot twists feel trite and unconvincing. Eberhardt’s characters are truly at their most interesting when they’re at their most appalling: Bell’s truly dreadful Frank, Benner’s shrill Jane, and Farah’s totally sour Carly are all farcically adroit acting turns. American Renegade Theater, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; thru Dec. 16. (818) 763-1834. (Paul Birchall)
Being a runt is "about fear," explains Jamaican-born writer-performer Michael Phillip Edwards in his fire-crackling solo show. Its blazing centerpiece is Edwards’ father, a self-made, domineering man who countered any opposition from his wife and children with an iron will and a mordant tongue. Edwards’ passionate literary fusillade extends from his early years on a Jamaican farm — where he first learned about "top dogs" and "runts" — through his student travels, artistic ventures and into his recent fatherhood. Ed wards’ pulsating portrayal of his complex, fearsome dad floats through the production, as the older man relates to his women (many tall blondes), to his children and to the world. One particularly memorable paternal remonstrance evolves into an erotic rumination on "sweet love" — a quaking passion that extends beyond any one woman. With sinewy eloquence, the piece reflects a son’s efforts to measure up to a nigh totemic figure in his life, in a performance — smoothly calibrated by director Kimberly Elise — both powerful and precise. Edwards won an Edinburgh Fringe Festival First Award for this work — deservedly so. Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 16. (323) 655-8587. (Deborah Klugman)
Hugh Brian Asnen and Ron Petronicolos’ well-intended play (based on Asnen’s book) attempts to add a new chapter to Christmas mythology for kids. The story follows the longstanding rivalry between master toymaker elf Sockmuffin (Petronicolos) and Santa Claus (Scott E. White). The ensuing adultlike concerns of elf labor disputes and violent uprisings tilt the childlike slant over the edge of any unified style. Furthermore, the writing is unmemorable and the songs, tuneless. But at least the tots get to see Sockmuffin hock a loogie onstage. Petronicolos fails to bring any charm to his role, though Hilary Holmes is quite endearing as Sue Sockmonkey. Under Ron Petronicolos’ loose direction, the show feels long at 80 minutes; just ask any kid who saw it. Nick Entertainment at the Globe Playhouse, 1107 N. Kings Road, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (323) 655-8587. (Terry Morgan)

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Big science, little people: Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen. By Steven Leigh Morris

THEATER PICKS:God Bless America, Part 2; Copenhagen



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