Welcome into Louis Mustillo's living room.
True, you have to walk down an alleyway to the rear of Theatre/Theater and watch your step as you enter a space tinier than most people's garages. But Mustillo, author and performer of "Different Angles," doesn't make it feel like a garage.
You're welcome on his turf, though he resists ingratiating himself with the audience. He doesn't even clue us in on what he's up to. He just starts in, as this nasal-voiced guy named Eddie from Buffalo. Eddie will reappear, in much funnier form, during the show, but since his whole identity is basically a verbal spew of opinions, he's very up-front and identifiable. He hates Florida (because it's too slow), he likes Buffalo (because it's a real city), and he doesn't know anyone who hasn't been divorced.
A glib exaggeration, perhaps, but Eddie is like that. Besides, the other men who pop up in Mustillo's gallery of burnt-out cases amplify Eddie's observation.
The slightly effete wedding party guest, for example, who loves lobbing verbal bombs at his pal's wife. Or the inveterate gambler, out of his mind with fear and loathing when his bookie tells him that he recorded his football bet wrong ("Florida State , not Florida!").
People in Los Angeles don't talk like this; even people who've moved here from New York eventually stop talking like this. Mustillo, a member of New York's Second Story ensemble (as is his director, Richard Johnson), is fresh off the train.
Mustillo can turn complaining into an art form, but when he gets serious, as in one sketch about a homeless Vietnam veteran, or another about a man explaining to his brother why he'll never re-marry, maudlin sentimentalism gets in the way of his wry instincts. Johnson could help with the weeding.
Not much is necessary, for Mustillo's comedic passages drive into you like a Gotham taxi. His spoof of a guy miming all of the Rolling Stones is a look inside Mustillo's rock 'n' roll heart without a word being spoken. But the highlight is Eddie from Buffalo blabbing away about, of all things, the recent remake of "The Fly." He pounces on the movie with the disgust of the betrayed audience member, expecting a fly and a little of the old Vincent Price magic, but getting some silly Jeff Goldblum-Geena Davis romance. If there has ever been a funnier movie review inserted into a show, I haven't seen it. Forget "The Fly." Try Eddie.
At 1713 N. Cahuenga Blvd., on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7:30 p.m., until May 6. $10; (213) 871-0210.
De Wet Translation Premieres at Tiffany
Enter the New American Company, whose expressed purpose is to stage "difficult" new translations and plays, with a mix of professionals and USC students.
The first play is, to be sure, new, a translation and difficult. South African writer Reza de Wet's "Deep Ground," at the usually glitzy Tiffany Theatre, is also very un commercial and not theater-in-training. It's the premiere of the English translation, by De Wet herself, who has been hyped as "the female Athol Fugard."
Sam Shepard and William Faulkner also have been suggested influences, but Tad Z. Danielewski's production more often suggests Afrikaans Gothic, centered on two siblings, Soekie and Frikkie (Lillian D'Arc and Todd R. Hansen), who were abused as children and are now insane and self-exiled to a remote farmhouse. Even with their black live-in maid (Phyllis Applegate), it's hard to see how the brother and sister manage to stay alive. They spend their days sleeping or playing at being "Mommy" and "Daddy," and their nights digging a hole in search of a mythical underground river.
They need help, but the help offered by their visitor and distant relative, Grove (Scott Atkinson), is a kind of death. Grove is to put them in a home.
De Wet sets up the battle, and Danielewski's cast spars extremely well. The conflict's cadences, though, are broken by repeated pauses for the role-playing; it doesn't help, either, that these passages become maudlin. De Wet's climax slides into pure melodrama. Like her writing, though, this experiment with pros and students is an ambitious stretching of the muscles. Better an interesting failure than a finger exercise.
At 8532 Sunset Blvd., Thursdays through Sundays, 8 p.m., until May 6. $10; (213) 854-3684.
Melrose Revives 'Butter and Egg Man'
Today's Hollywood, in which the deal is more important than the movie, should recognize itself in Bill Cort's handsome revival of George S. Kaufman's "The Butter and Egg Man" at the Melrose Theatre.
This is Kaufman's take on Broadway, where a couple of cons (the funny Milt Oberman and Steven M. Gagnon) can draw in an innocent with cash (K.C. Roemer as the "butter and egg man") to complete the deal. The catch is that the innocent eventually burns the cons with their own methods.
Aside from some sloppy timing and blocking in a hotel group scene, Cort's show brings back memories of the defunct Room for Theatre's economic but natty revivals (which included this very comedy). Louise Lazzara's and Dayne Johnson's '20s costumes are as picture-perfect as Roemer's innocent, whose budding savviness is more entertaining than any deal.
At 733 N. Seward Ave., Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., until May 20. $12-$15; (213) 466-1767.