Pomposity of ‘Targets’ hits mark


In case anyone was wondering, the Burglars of Hamm fairly thrive on adversity. Take “Easier Targets,” playing the Powerhouse Theatre tonight only, after the Burglars’ savage motivational seminar, “Focus Today.” The late-show offering, a refurbished edition of the troupe’s 2002 “Easy Targets,” punctures solo-performance pretensions via flying sock balls, hurled by the audience at hapless monologists. (They sell additional ammo, including T-shirt bombs, between sets.)

As ever, the Burglars’ scabrous, self-reflective, communally constructed ethos thwarts conventional analysis.

Jon Beauregard’s “My Interesting Relative” presents Albert Dayan as a New Age storyteller who channels an ocarina-carving aunt. There follows the fearless Carolyn Almos’ peignoir-clad gyrations around a portrait of husband Matt Almos in “The Greatest Love of All,” which is his script for her tribute to his, um, guidance.


Carolyn Almos’ “Frankly My Dear: An Evening With Clark Gable” is propelled by Beauregard’s outre caricature, Rhett Butler meets Burt Reynolds. Dayan’s “I Was Molested and Now I Have Diabetes” features Matt Almos atop his twisted game. After this holistic ledge-hanger, Serena Woolery Smith’s “Word Magic” is almost undernourished, though the piquant Smith makes a ferocious post-feminist poetry slammer.

Devotees may feel deja vu dilutes impact, and new content is variable, even given the deliberately off-kilter objective. However, the subversive verve remains rarefied. Fans, newcomers and southpaws should welcome this opportunity for target practice, which also will hit the Evidence Room on July 14 as a fundraiser for Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential campaign. Did I mention that the Burglars thrive on adversity?

-- David C. Nichols

“Easier Targets,” Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. Today only, 10:30 p.m. Mature audiences. $12 (includes 10 rolled-up socks for throwing). (323) 769-6334 or www.burglarsof Running time: 75 minutes.


‘Light’s’ eccentrics dwell in shadows

With last year’s “Yellow Flesh/Alabaster Rose,” Erik Patterson emerged as a compelling new voice who could fashion strangely seductive drama and mine richly moving comedy from the deep domestic trauma of a broken family as it pieced itself back together.

In his new sequel, “Red Light Green Light,” Patterson’s complicated empathy for his flawed characters, as well as his disarming wit, are in full effect. But the drama is faltering and unfocused, as this eccentric extended family, once happily assembled, faces the ever-after part.

Gay teacher Elliot (Patterson on the night reviewed) remains an almost painfully needy soul, though he has an endearing protectiveness for a little sister (exquisitely touching Mandy Freund) who believes she’s pop diva Bjork. When Elliot’s sensitive new lover, Caleb (Trevor H. Olsen), momentarily leaves him alone on a street in West Hollywood, a bitterly homophobic neighbor (Stewart Skelton) taunts and gravely injures him with a pipe.


This senseless bashing throws his circle of loved ones -- including his volatile stripper sister (Jennifer Ann Evans), survivor mother (Sarah Lilly) and pregnant goth niece (radiant Rachel Kann) -- for a loop, in a series of reiterative confessional monologues. Patterson doesn’t need these; when he writes actual scenes -- between Caleb and his concerned mother (Judith Ann Levitt), between Elliott and a hustler neighbor (Brad C. Light), between a resentful son (Alan Loayza) and his deadbeat dad (Scott McKinley) -- the play snaps and sparkles.

Director Miguel Montalvo gives the play a slightly dizzying urban whirl, on an evocative all-around avenue set by Jason Adams and Alicia Hoge. But Patterson’s “Red Light Green Light” moves fitfully amid this stop-and-go traffic.

-- Rob Kendt

“Red Light Green Light,” Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 10. $15. (323) 856-8611. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes.


‘Summertime’ lacks substance

After the premiere of Charles L. Mee’s “Summertime” in 2000, he decided to rewrite. The result, in 2002, was the exquisite “Wintertime,” with seven of the same characters.

Unfortunately, the first professional L.A. production of either play is of the rough draft. “Summertime” is only fitfully amusing at the Boston Court.

The setup is flimsy. A young man (Thomas Patrick Kelly) stumbles into a Martha’s Vineyard vacation home. He needs an Italian-reading translator for the text that accompanies a series of photographs. The first person he sees is a young woman (Tessa Thompson) who knows Italian. The photos are too small for the audience to appreciate any significance they might have. The man’s infatuation for the translator feels wholly contrived. Not that Mee’s plays are realistic. In “Wintertime,” however, he established a much more credible framework.


Director Michael Michetti lures a few laughs out of “Summertime.” Bjorn Johnson’s earnest philanderer, who flirts with the translator, turns out to be the lover of her jealous mother (Elizabeth Huffman). The translator’s father (Travis Michael Holder) also arrives with his lover (Larry Reinhardt-Meyer).

A lesbian couple (Zoe Cotton and Marcia deRousse) from next door show up, as in “Wintertime.” So do five other oddballs. Sandy Martin and Patrick Gallo shine in more detachable roles, but the people played by Eileen T’Kaye, Jeanne Sakata and Jim Anzide are mixed up in the romances, which become tiresome. When the characters hit an impasse in their discussions of sex and love, they resort to the customary Mee style of extremely physical body language in order to express their feelings.

The bare branches of designer Tom Buderwitz’s birch trees look, well, wintry.

At least “Summertime” offers a glance inside the process that would later yield “Wintertime.” But Mee novices who see “Summertime” might be turned off by what seems to be shallow self-indulgence.

-- Don Shirley

“Summertime,” Theatre@Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends July 11. $30. (626) 683-6883. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.


An awkward tribute to ‘Hattie’

Even the greatest victories are sometimes bittersweet. As Mammy in the 1939 film “Gone With the Wind,” Hattie McDaniel occupied an unusually high-profile role for an African American of her time, and she made history as the first African American to be awarded an Oscar. Entrenched racism prevented her from fully enjoying this success, however, and her performance would forever after be the focus of passionate debate about whether it transcended or merely perpetuated stereotypes.

Instructive, inspiring and inherently dramatic, her life story is a natural subject for the stage, but the new play “Hattie,” introduced by Long Beach Playhouse in its Studio Theatre, mishandles it.


The script by William Blinn trots out the expected show-business highlights, such as a comic segment in which McDaniel (Carla Drew) rehearses the movie’s famous corset scene with male pal (Stephen Grove) as her somewhat overenthusiastic Scarlett.

But Blinn’s depictions of key events sometimes flout recorded history, and he heavy-handedly weaves in social themes, as when he contrives for McDaniel to befriend a young actress (Alexis Elena) frustrated by typecasting in exploitative Zulu war movies. His plotting is clumsy too -- most notably when an imagined crisis is peremptorily resolved by the arrival of a special delivery packet, just in time for a happy ending.

To worsen matters, the production, under Spencer Scott’s direction, didn’t seem ready for its opening last weekend. Scenes plodded forward with monotonous sameness, and Drew, as McDaniel, didn’t seem to have a handle on her character. Most annoyingly, several of the actors cluelessly added an “s” whenever they spoke the title character’s last name.

McDaniel deserves better.

-- Daryl H. Miller

“Hattie,” Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; also this Sunday and June 20, 2 p.m. Ends July 10. $20. (562) 494-1014. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.