Prince Charming gets a floozy for ‘Ever After’


There’s not much more to playwright Amy Heidish’s impish “The Big Ever After” than an extended sketch comedy idea: What if the worlds of pulp fiction and fairy tales got gene-spliced somehow, so that palookas and princesses could meet and mix up the rigid rules of their respective genres?

The good news is that director Richard Tatum’s new production for the Ark Theatre Company works comfortably within the confines of Heidish’s self-referential conceit, and his game cast makes the most of the play’s often witty juxtapositions.

A narrator (John Murphy) dryly sets it up: In the “city that never sleeps,” morally ambiguous characters go through their noir paces, while in “fairy tale land,” happy endings come when good characters vanquish villains. Never the twain do meet -- till some fortuitously timed earthquakes shake and stir them together, hopelessly blurring their plotlines and morals.


Heidish cites but doesn’t overdo the free-will-versus-determinism theme; instead, she sets about having more fun with the mash-up of gritty and folkloric than would seem possible.

Two key crossover romances are expertly handled. One has a sensible Cinderella (Jamie Virostko) winning over a dubious detective (Tom Groenwald), while the other imagines a giddy platinum floozy (Amy Tofte) overwhelming a callow Prince Charming (David Stevens).

Ryan Jessica Lennon’s lovingly exaggerated costumes bear most of the load in the show’s amiably shoestring design. With an enthusiastic cast and such outsized roles, there is some inevitable overplaying, but no overstaying their welcome.

-- Rob Kendt

“The Big Ever After,” the Ark Theatre Company and Playwrights 6 at the Ark Theatre, 1647 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 27. $20. (323) 969-1707 or Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.


Bringing order to the theater

The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts’ presentation of “The Misfortunes of a Household” begins with its author, the 17th century Mexican nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, attempting to coax more realistic portrayals from the sisters of her convent, whom she has cast in the play. She seems ready to give up in exasperation when the magic of the theater takes hold and the sisters are transformed into the coed lineup of characters, sumptuously dressed in period ruffles and plumes.

Sor Juana rose above the constraints of her time to become a playwright, poet, philosopher, scientist and role model. In this adaptation of the 1683 comedy “Los empenos de una casa” by Margarita Galban and Lina Montalvo, Sor Juana herself metamorphoses into Leonor (Sonya Smith), the story’s heroine, who is in love with the dashing Carlos (Manolo Travieso). Foiling their elopement plans, the jealous Pedro (Ernesto Miyares) abducts Leonor and whisks her to his home in Toledo, Spain, and the care of his sister Ana (Adriana Cornejo), who is caught up in intrigues of her own. As the characters converge in the dead of night, their entanglements become ever knottier.


The household’s crafty maid, Celia (Ariana Estrada), and Carlos’ nervous servant, Castano (Ray M. Quiroga), further complicate the situation -- especially when Castano attempts to disguise himself in a dress.

Performances are offered in Spanish or English, with accompanying cast changes. The reviewed performance was conducted in a style so broadly comic that it became all but unrecognizable as human behavior. Still, the production, directed by Galban, stopped short of pure lunacy, enabling viewers to identify the humor inherent in a play that depicts love as a literal and figurative grope in the darkness.

-- Daryl H. Miller

“The Misfortunes of a Household,” Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, 421 N. Avenue 19, Los Angeles. All remaining performances in Spanish except March 19, in English. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; added performance 4 p.m. this Saturday. Ends March 20. $25 to $36. (323) 225-4044. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.


Personalizing the Civil War

Sean Branney, artistic director of Theatre Banshee, has been sifting through diaries, letters and extant writings from the Civil War period for two years now. The result of his research, “Mine Eyes Hath Seen,” now playing at the Gene Bua Theatre in Burbank, is not a perfect production by any means. However, this world premiere, which Branney co-created with his wife, Leslie Baldwin, proves a rousing, well-staged, thoughtfully performed and ultimately cathartic examination of the era.

To get the quibbles out of the way first, the most problematic element is the interstitial narration. Clad in contemporary attire, Branney, who also directs, is an inarguably essential kibitzer who provides necessary explanations throughout the play. However, Branney’s anachronistic references to contemporary events, most particularly the war in Iraq, detract from the painstaking period ambience.

And a rich ambience it is too, from the backdrop of authentic battle flag replicas, lovingly created by the company, to Laura Brody’s realistic period costumes. Fiddler Mary Ann Sereth and banjoist Walter Sereth perform tunes of the day, from martial music to elegiac laments. For the various choral interludes, music director Matthew Fahey elicits full-bodied and robust performances from the actors.


Playing several characters apiece, the performers all rise handsomely to the emotional demands of the occasion. Branney’s theatricalized docudrama forgoes exhaustive recapitulation of Civil War campaigns and scrutinizes events from a deeply personal perspective. Humorous, harrowing and always eloquent, the accounts of these long-dead diarists and correspondents are guaranteed to stick in the memory.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Mine Eyes Hath Seen,” Gene Bua Theatre, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 10. $18. (818) 628-0688. Running time: 2 hours.


A twist on the love triangle

Playwright Stephen Belber toys with notions of emotional perception in “The Death of Frank,” a spinning top of a drama that holds our focus right up until it loses momentum and topples over.

Belber’s “Tape,” a mordant but confused piece that was made into a movie starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, initially ran off-Broadway and played locally at the Coast a few seasons back. In “Frank,” a Blue Sphere Alliance production at the Avery Schreiber Theater in North Hollywood, two men adore the same woman -- but the twist is that one of the “lovers” is the woman’s brother, a sexually ambivalent character who identifies with his sister to a pathological pitch.

Belber, who is also known as a co-author of “The Laramie Project,” is a dab hand at realistic dialogue, which skims trippingly off the tongues of these colorful characters. Peter (Jeff Daurey) is a fierce idealist who tends to his garden, yearns to end world hunger, and obsesses over his sister Natalie (Kate Connor), an aspiring architect. To Peter’s dismay, Natalie has fallen in love with Frank (Tim Ryan), a shady criminal type who claims to be in the construction game. Lynn (Joan Lauckner), a sardonic linguist who does spoken word performances, falls in love with Peter -- but that’s only a temporary distraction from his unwholesome preoccupation. Soon, Peter’s interference in Frank’s affairs triggers violence.

Belber’s knack for believable characters and black humor almost compensates for the desultory nature of his scattered and reiterative plot. Director Anthony Barnao keeps the top spinning smoothly as long as he can, but a couple of roles have been miscast. The boyish Daurey needs more emotional weight, while the likable and collegial Ryan lacks a necessary underlayer of true creepiness. But Lauckner’s droll acerbity is refreshing, while Connor’s Madonna-like serenity makes her emotional desolation all the more effective.


-- F.K.F.

“The Death of Frank,” Avery Schreiber Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends April 9. $20. (866) 811-4111 or Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.


Quirky content is lacking focus

Time, space, form and function blur in “Blur” in its West Coast premiere at Theatre/Theater. Melanie Marnich’s 2001 allegory about a teenager going blind views its communal metaphors through an aggressively oddball lens.

“Blur’s” one-act look at Dot DiPrima (Jenni Kirk) opens with a symbolic birth sequence. “When you ask me where I came from, I’ll tell you the truth: From my wishes,” says Dot’s single mother (Juliana Bellinger). Shifting from Dot’s childhood to her Catholic-school girlhood, “Blur” trips forward in time while remaining in the present.

After an eye doctor (Jonathan Winn) informs Mom that she is the source of Dot’s incurable condition, Mom pins it on Dot’s long-absent father. So, Dot gropes past Mom’s eccentricities, her faith-challenged priest (Brett Aune) and ever-thicker glasses to connect with two other outsiders.

Schoolmate Francis Butane (the funny Mary Elizabeth Ellis), a tomboy with a cleft palate, introduces Dot to zoo “habitat hygienist” Joey (Matt Saunders). They fall in love. Then Dot learns the truth about Mom’s genes.

Director Ira Steck and his Meadows Basement cohorts chart this with keen focus. The actors give their all, and designs, especially Christopher Singleton’s bifocal lighting and the uncredited sound, are effective.


If only the script’s fuzzy standoff between whimsy and portent was as clear-eyed. The coming-of-age plot, with its cosmic overlay and salty language, plays like a Judy Blume novel invaded by Conan O’Brien. Only once, when Dot meets an enigmatic Braille student (Winn), do Marnich’s means yield meaning. “Blur” gets props for pluck, but its quirky content needs a corneal transplant.

-- David C. Nichols

“Blur,” Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., fourth floor, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 10. $15. (323) 782-6218. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.