Don't be put off by the title of the igLoo group's first production in its Hollywood space.
The pretentious sounding "A Fire Was Burning Over the Dumpling House One Chinese New Year" doesn't even hint at the chords struck by the writing of Paul Peditto and the lead performances in this production of his Steppling-esque exploration of a small-time hustler and his alcoholic, drug-ridden girlfriend.
Horace is a bartender in a Manhattan transvestite bar--well, it's a job--and Baby Jane is a regular customer, hiding under a frowzy wig and behind dark shades. Their mutual spark ignites and they begin a muddled odyssey that ends in Atlantic City, he behind a casino gaming table and she in scroungy Baltic Avenue bars.
It's a disconcerting, harrowing journey. But under Daniel Piburn's theatrical, tightly wound direction, there is also the sense of humor that most people find to help them survive life's traps.
A lot of that humor, and a great deal of insight into what makes Baby Jane tick, is provided by the exceptional performance of Maria Tirabassi as the lost girl trying to find a light to follow. Chris Peditto is fine as the passive Horace, irresistibly drawn to Baby Jane but hampered by his own inability to act on his better judgment. Samantha Kaye also impresses as Jane's junkie girlfriend.
"A Fire Was Burning" is an intriguing local bow for this relocated Chicago company. They're imaginative and unafraid to take chances, and that makes for exciting theater.
At 6543 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; indefinitely. $12; (213) 962-3771.
'Dark Ride' a Symphonic Tone Poem in Words
There is a linear plotline in Len Jenkin's "Dark Ride" at Beyond Baroque, but it's of little import.
A writer is hired by Sublime Publications to translate an ancient Chinese manuscript, but can't decide if the fragments are real or a fraud. One fragment describes a girl whose lover has left her. The lover steals a precious gem from an obsessive jeweler, and here we leave reason and venture into Jenkin's hypnotic, other-worldly realm of fluid language, of scrambled eras, mixed images and surprise packages of dramatic genres.
This carnival ride--"Listen, lady, if he's old enough to enjoy the ride, he's old enough to need a ticket," hollers an announcer--is dark, but it's also full of light. Less of a play than a symphonic tone poem in words, it requires the audience to listen, to submit to its rhythms and to absorb the significance of its calligraphic brush strokes as they flash past.
In a large company, Jonathan Emerson makes a strong impression as the Translator, as do James Nixon as the lover turned Thief, Synthia Hardy as Deep Sea Edna, and Nancy Magathan as Margo, the girl who lost her lover and becomes the bait for his capture.
Director Alec Doyle guides his large cast with expert attention to the text, given an added advantage in his energetic staging by Kevin Adams' versatile set and intricate, dream-world lighting. David Dowse and Lee Scott provide a sound design that places the audience smack in the front seat, as they are reeled through the fascinating labyrinth of the translator's Book of the Yellow Ancestor.
At 681 Venice Blvd., Venice; Saturdays and Sundays, 8 p.m.; ends June 24. $8; (213) 822-3006.
'Only You'--Good Stuff Trapped in a TV Sitcom
Timothy Mason's "Only You" at 2nd Stage has a fine, versatile set designed by Robert L. Smith, effective costumes by Jill Ohanneson and excellent, intricate lighting by J. Kent Inasy. It's well directed at the proper frenzied pace by Joel Asher, and boasts some good performances, particularly Mark Arnott's hysterical, loony, paranoid bachelor and Kristina Starman's ditzy bimbo, who can't rise above being an armchair feminist.
But none of these admirable efforts keep the play from seeming merely a television version of Howard Korder's "Boys' Life." If these latent-adult males struggling with junior high school mentalities in the battle of the sexes bear any resemblance to the thirtysome-thing males of the early '90s, we're in deep trouble.
Jeff Doucette, Stacey Stone, Carey Eidel and Ric Stoneback, as a heavenly manipulator, do their sitcom best, but can't keep "Only You" from looking like a pilot that didn't make it.
Playwright Mason has been seen to better advantage in plays such as "In a Northern Landscape." What possessed him to move in this direction?
At 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Thursdays through Sundays, 8 p.m.; ends July 1. $15; (213) 466-1767.
Mixed Bag of Monologues at Theatre/Theater
The three monologuists whose visions make up "Triple Vision," a brief program at Theatre/Theater, present a mixed bag of effects with some hits and some misses.
Susan Van Allen's four pieces are linear, almost plotted, but she doesn't take her material as seriously as she could. From her nasty little girl, who screeches that she wants to go to the zoo, to her elitist novelist working as an office temp, she starts on an intriguing path of satire without ever reaching a conclusion.
Don Victor is more successful, less linear and more startling in his imaginative approach and evocative writing. His surrealistic Commander Ray is a bouquet of verbal Dadaism, and his aging baby-sitter Waldo, improvising a story for his charges through audience suggestion, is clever and oddly touching.
The highlights of the program are Siobhan Fallon's excerpts from her one-woman show. Her ostentatiously programmed therapist, her chorus girl in a non-Equity stock production of "My Fair Lady" and her pantomimed "Fish" are singular delights and spark this uneven hour.
At 1713 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; Saturdays, 5 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m.; ends July 1. $10; (213) 871-0210.