Barry Yourgrau, Sandra Tsing Loh a Winning Pair in ‘Funny’
Performance art--a term that still confuses a lot of people--is best seen instead of talked about. Two splendid examples are Sandra Tsing Loh and Barry Yourgrau at Theatre/Theater.
“Two Funny” is a pair of solo turns, Loh at a grand piano doing musical monologues on American movie musicals and Yourgrau--are you ready for this?--standing there reading to you from one of his short stories.
The evening is pristine, winsome and sublime, rather like watching a talented couple of people take over a cocktail party with some unexpected bits of beguilement. You want a different theatrical experience--this is one opportunity.
Loh is effervescent in the curtain raiser entitled “ShiPOOpeE! The American Musical De-Constructed,” which she introduces with an ingenuous question: “Remember when the American musical was eager, uncomplicated and fun--before Bob Fosse?”
Loh, in a formal red gown, pounces on the ivory and off we go to a nonstop recreation of that ’49 movie musical, “On the Town.”
Loh, who once gave a piano performance on the Harbor Freeway at rush hour, has an infectious, absorbing style chronicling movie musical plots. Also verbally and musically deconstructed, and based exclusively on the celluloid versions, are “The Music Man” and “A Chorus Line.”
Yourgrau’s performance is called “Safari,” taken from his collection of stories, “Wearing Dad’s Head,” in which the writer tells the odyssey, from a young boy’s viewpoint, of a father and son’s big game hunt in their suburban back yard.
Yourgrau, who suggests Woody Allen imitating Spalding Gray, is first of all a superb writer but as a performer it’s his voice, with its steady, not-quite-droll cadences, that carry you along through this delightful Oedipal fable.
The contrast between the artists couldn’t be greater but they are winsomely complementary.
At 1713 Cahuenga Blvd., Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m., through July 20. $12. (213) 285-3780.
Acting Talent Overcomes the Script in ‘Haiku’
A more accessible, less quirky dramatic exercise is Katherine Snodgrass’ “Haiku,” centered on a mother, her autistic daughter who talks in haiku imagery, and a visiting older daughter who renews contact with her family.
The production at Angels Theatre is strongly acted by Bobbi Holtzman’s determined mom, Judith Bridge’s no-nonsense daughter and, especially, by Kathleen Flynn’s impaired younger sister. Flynn’s autistic portrayal, in what could be a showy star turn, is sensitive and modulated.
In fact, this show is a case of acting talent overcoming a rather pedestrian script. The flashback sequences are well staged by director Sanford Clark, but the play is rather ordinary in its theme and character development. Most of the staging undermines the theatricallity. The younger sister barely moves from her perch by a window and the other two women are also essentially stationary figures.
The evening’s adventure, curiously, is “The Light,” a curtain-raiser that’s an altogether different work. It’s a fanciful dramatization of an island maiden seeking knowledge and friendship.
Created by K. R. Klimak, “The Light” enjoys the translucent quality of an illustrated children’s book, complete with a storyteller reading the silent girl’s thoughts. Corky Omine wondrously played the native girl on the night reviewed (the show is double-cast).
At 2106 Hyperion Ave., Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m., through July 24. $ 7. (213) 466-17678.
Fantasy, Reality Blur in ‘Tremor Cordis’
If you’ve been around the Padua Hills Festival or seen some of the works produced by Heliogabalus and John Steppling, the minimalist drama, “Tremor Cordis,” by playwright Joel K. Murray, might appear familiar. Maddeningly so, as it turns out.
The title is taken from Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” in which jealous King Leontes expresses a heart breaking: “I have tremor cordis on me; my heart dances, but not for joy, not joy.” In this play, the joyless counterpart is a cuckolded husband, played with an engaging zeal by the director, Mick Collins. The husband wants to take his wife to bed but she wants to go to Iceland.
Actress Deborah Piper makes the wife’s hard sexual edges interesting, and that’s going some, considering the play’s murkiness and its self-conscious, elliptical tone. Collins ends the marital ordeal, symbolized by a brightly lit toilet, with a riotous monologue. He appears as a foaming satyr-like figure in black tights, with Nordic spear, hovering over his wife’s graphic fornication with a mysterious young man (Danny Sullivan).
At one point the husband plants a big kiss on the mouth of the attractive young man. The production fails to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Maybe it’s all real. There’s also a mute young woman (Gwen Cannon) who floats around. The two young supporting players seem lost most of the time.
The production, co-directed by Laura Carter and artfully lit and designed (in basic black) by Lance Crush, is ultimately too ice-like; the experience plays like an exercise that is stylistically intriguing but but not nourishing.
At 800 N. El Centro Ave., Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. through July 19. $5. (213) 462-0265.