A Campy Stage Version of ‘Foxes,’ for Sure, for Sure


Apparently the 1980 film “Foxes” has a cult following. How else to explain the tribal gathering on Friday nights at the Hudson Backstage in Hollywood? There a “film-to-theater interpretation” by Scotch for Breakfast Productions is staging a cross-gender version of the movie about teen-age Valley girls that featured Jodie Foster. They call it “Phoxes,” probably on advice of counsel.

But it’s unnecessary, since the pretentious, sentimental Hollywood version is finally getting the camp treatment it deserves. Now the Sally Kellerman character (portrayed to mirror perfection by Brett Paesel) is justifiably a hoot as she cries, “Hips! You make me hate my hips!” And the uncanny Foster imitation by Loretta Fox as Kellerman’s daughter projects a latent panic of the 1970s, etched in her trademark laugh. There’s even a walking soundtrack when Bruce Daniels hilariously lip-syncs to Donna Summer’s disco anthems.

The delirious experience recalls the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” phenomenon. “Phoxes” is to traditional theater what Yellow Zonkers are to caviar. Beware: Whether “Foxes” or “Phoxes,” it’s a guilty pleasure, full of empty calories and disgustingly addictive. Screening the film would probably help, since director Benjamin Zook’s adaptation reprises entire scenes while assuming the audience is familiar with the plot. But homework isn’t mandatory to enjoy this odd but exhilarating homage to the second-rate.


* “Phoxes,” Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays, 10:30 p.m. (Saturdays, 10:30 p.m., starting April 9.) Indefinitely. $10. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 2 hours.

‘The Firebugs’ Glow Dies Before Igniting


The All-U-Can-Eat Players remain on the road previously taken by the Actors’ Gang. Just as Tim Robbins’ company did after graduating from UCLA, the Players migrated from Indiana University to Hollywood. Like the Actors’ Gang, they also prefer darkly comic Expressionist and absurdist classics such as their 1994 season-opener, “The Firebugs.”

Where the two companies separate is on aesthetic grounds. While the Actors’ Gang wildly exploits “The Oresteia” currently, the Hoosier kids struggle to faithfully realize “The Firebugs.” But at the World Theatre, a devout approach gets undermined by space limitations and conceptual detours. Although there are scenes of transcendent menace, and harrowing images sometimes gather in the claustrophobic space like nightmares, “The Firebugs” never ignites. It’s a parody of a classic, more kitsch than absurdist.

Swiss novelist Max Frisch wrote “The Firebugs” in 1958 as a cautionary fable about how corruption consumes any society that placates evil. Thematically and stylistically, it resembles the late Eugene Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros” and Harold Pinter’s theater of menace. But in tone, “The Firebugs” could be an Arthur Miller morality play about the responsibility of individuals to resist extremism.

Unknown arsonists have been burning the city, neighborhood by neighborhood. Businessman Biedermann (a magnetic Michael Kostroff) curses these pyro-Nazis, but remains passive when a sinister stranger moves uninvited into his attic. If they share space and food, he reasons, then peaceful coexistence should prevail. Eventually, Biedermann’s wife (a frenetic Kathryn Kelly) and servant (a hilarious Kimmy Robertson) uneasily accept the stranger. Compromise leads to catastrophe.

Director Tuc Watkins sacrifices suspense in the name of cartoonish gags. Since the narrow stage won’t permit both the attic and dining room to be simultaneously present (as in Frisch’s original text), parallel visual puns are missing while scene changes disrupt narrative logic. The pace is regrettably slowed as well by these transitions, and the impact is further undermined by the addition of an intermission to a one-act play.


Joe Dietl and Christopher Reintz are a memorable team of arsonists, ludicrous yet ominous madmen on a mission. Commentary is provided by a one-man Chorus (Michael Hunt) in a fireman’s uniform, marking time with a miniature xylophone; his monotone delivery, at first quite effective, gradually evokes a soporific mood.

* “The Firebugs,” World Theatre, 6543 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends April 19. $10. (213) 883-1565. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

‘Ice Pick’: Eloquent, Vivid AIDS Drama


At Celebration Theatre, British playwright John Roman Baker provocatively and eloquently explores the hell of AIDS-haunted gay relationships in “The Ice Pick.” Although somewhat repetitious toward its moving climax, the story of HIV-positive Michael (Doug Spearman) and HIV-negative Peter (Michael Latimer) possesses a harrowing, hypnotic grace. The actors (including Stanton Schnepp’s multitude of fine cameo roles) resemble superb musicians performing a Bach fugue, gradually exposing emotions that are heartbreakingly vivid.

Is it the virus, or fear of intimacy, that threatens to extinguish their passion? Is AIDS like an ice pick that plunges into the heart of love? Or is AIDS-hotline counselor Peter really the ice pick chipping away at his lover’s frigid detachment? The playwright shrewdly encircles the epidemic by focusing on his couple’s stereotypical relationship struggles. Director Jason Jacobs beautifully maintains an elegiac pace, with brief scenes hovering between blackouts like pictures at an exhibition. This reflective tone encourages us to ponder the universal ramifications of AIDS while focusing on the compelling particulars of a relationship.

* “The Ice Pick,” Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Mondays-Tuesdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends April 19. $10. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

‘Farm Team’ Revue Bats a Thousand *

The Groundlings’ farm team of rookies and minor league players are allowed in public once a week. The title of their revue, “Slippery When Sunday,” implies that these rookies fumble like Michael Jordan on a baseball field.


But the writing on Sundays is first-string. Aside from an over-written rap-parody of the Clintons, none of the sketches clunk. “Flowers” is an inspired comment on office politics and feminism. “Wuthering Heights” displays the superb physical gifts of Carolyn Hennessy, while “Talk Show” does the same for Chris Kattan as the missing link. Indeed, it’s the physical clowning by these newcomers that inspires the most laughs. There’s nothing grounded about these Groundlings. In fact, at times they remind us of Jordan on a basketball court.

* “Slippery When Sunday,” Groundling Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Indefinitely. $12. (213) 934-9700. Running time: 2 hours.

The ‘Housekeeper’s’ Theory Falls Short


Meet Adolf and Angela, the dysfunctional siblings. Adolf’s hot for his niece. Angela’s in denial. Alas, their co-dependency spawns the Holocaust.

Playwright Eliza Wyatt based “The Housekeeper” on research about Adolf Hitler’s childhood and pre-Reich life. But this research never comes to life at the Burbage Theatre Ensemble. Inert exposition and awkward flashbacks muddle an earnest courtroom docudrama about Hitler’s half-sister Angela’s (Kerry Michaels) complicity in little Adolf’s incestuous relationship with her daughter (Soleil Moon Frye).

“The first crime he committed with his own two hands” becomes the focus of Wyatt’s investigation of the origins of Nazism. Michaels labors mightily to make believable the half-sister’s complicity, but her acting is burdened by the symbolic baggage of representing Germany’s denial of genocide. Hitler’s father is portrayed with predictable tyranny by Robert Schuch. Frye has a magnetic stage presence equal to her work as TV’s Punky Brewster. But such isolated signs of life get suffocated by Francine Markow’s ponderous story-theater direction.

* “The Housekeeper,” The Burbage Theatre Ensemble, 2330 Sawtelle, Los Angeles. Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Ends May 7. $12-$15. (310) 478-0897. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.