There's a ripe, sarcastic moment in "The Steven Weed Show" where four young women bewail the disappearance of machismo --guys who drink beer, play pool, who love 'em and dump 'em. They're tired of the warm, sensitive, Alan Alda man of the '70s. Bring back real men.
They're not entirely kidding. Caustic irony peppers this late-night dish of a show at Theater/Theater. The target in a consistently funny, stinging, kaleidoscopic chronicle is the self-involved 1970s.
Angst is the satire's operative word. Why else name a show after the once-beleaguered, whiny Steven Weed (Patty Hearst's pre-SLA boyfriend)? Weed is not a character in the production, but writer/performer Shawn Schepps and director Fax Bahr use Weed as their wimpy image and titular symbol of the Me decade.
That is cruel to Weed, of course, but somebody has to pay. Plenty of other '70s types pay, too. The decade past has been lampooned before, but it has never looked like such a nightmare. One sketch is called "The Symbionese Liberation Army Show" (a network sitcom), another the "Son of Sam Bicentennial Minute." Encounter groups, richly mocked by performer Adam Small's obnoxious est leader, are scorched, along with assertive blacks (the Afro-topped Marcus D.), the decade's music ("Manilow Angst ," "Bowie Angst "), heavy relationships and assorted identity crises.
The 10 performers smoothly function as an interweaving ensemble. The acting highlight, in which the comedy turns dark, is Olivia Barash's glittery, pathetic rock groupie. All she yearns for is to seduce Bowie and "then I'll be complete." Barash's character becomes harrowing. Another pointmaker is Bryan Cranston as an unctuous charmer in a terrible lime leisure suit.
The intermissionless show is speedy and disciplined, concluding with the ensemble uncorking the Hustle. Even the dancing is on the mark. Here's comedy so close to home--was I part of that stuff?--that it hurts to watch.
Performances at 1715 Cahuenga Blvd., Fridays, Saturdays, 11 p.m. through Nov. 4. Tickets: $6. (213) 871-0210. 'STANDING ON MY KNEES'
Up to a point, the bedeviled poet in this impressively acted drama brings to mind the torment of Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton (both of whom were dramatized in strong local productions in recent years). John Olive's play is fiction but credible enough to suggest a tear sheet from a real-life file.
The program credits a psychiatric consultant, and it doesn't appear to be a hollow credit. In the hands of actress Diane Salinger, the schizophrenia in the L.A. premiere of "Standing on My Knees" at the Zephyr Theater is potent instead of histrionic. That's largely because director Tom Alderman's tone is measured instead of theatrical.
Salinger is a striking figure, whether in comparatively rational moments with her lover, her book editor and her therapist or in her character's alternate lapses into mental disarray. It is a singularly affecting performance, and a dangerous one, too.
She conquers the surface predictability of the text and turns the gloom to her advantage. What also enhances the play is the human light cast on the victim's caring lover, solidly played by Robert Neches (who also co-produces). His desperation and very sanity is testament to that biting line by another playwright (Joe Orton): "No good deed goes unpunished." This character loses his job over his head-wringing.
The poet's best friend and editor proves less helpless and is well defined by Diane Civita. But Michelle Callahan's shrink is so deadening in her detachment that the portrayal is a cliche. The sick poet's cluttered apartment (designed by Dorian Vernacchio and Debra Raymond) perfectly evokes the protagonist's internal upheaval.
Performances at 7456 Melrose Ave., Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays 7 p.m., indefinitely. Tickets: $14.50-$16.50. (213) 465-0070.
JUST LIKE THE POM POM GIRLS'
The Groundlings comedy troupe has momentarily forsaken sketches in favor of staging a full-length play, "Just Like the Pom Pom Girls," at the Groundling Theater.
It's a knockabout shambles of a comedy that does bring to light a genuine character created by playwright/protagonist Melanie Graham. Her inspiration could well have been the larky mother in that Hollywood saga, "Inside Daisy Clover." Graham is a blast as the rambling wreck of a doting mother, whose young daughter ("Baby") draws a squealy performance from actress Blair Tefkin.
Almost peripheral to the proceedings is the plot, centered on a child-custody scrap in a mess of a Hollywood apartment. The set is a domestic pit (East Hollywood comes to mind), garnished ultimately with a peach-colored sofa. The designer is the uncredited Stephen T. Howell.
Five fringe characters unevenly enliven events, including an obligatory transvestite, in an OK high-heeled turn by Timothy Laurie. Graham developed the piece out of sketches she performed in the Groundlings Sunday Company. Some of her dialogue is quite funny. William Schreiner directed.