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Theater Beat

This doctor is unwell

February 13, 2009|David Ng; Charlotte Stoudt; F. Kathleen Foley; David C. Nichols

Some horror classics just keep on giving. The well-trod story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde gets its umpteenth dramatic makeover, this time from Theatre Movement Bazaar, which has reimagined the Robert Louis Stevenson novel as a quasi-dance, quasi-melodramatic performance piece.

Titled "Model Behavior," this production at the 24th Street Theatre is a visual marvel, featuring 11 ensemble members enacting a highly choreographed interpretation of Stevenson's grisly tale. In terms of plain storytelling, however, the show is cursed with two left feet, unable to convey plot and character in an elegant way.

Dr. Jekyll (Jacob Sidney) is a respected London physician who holes up in his laboratory, where he unleashes his murderous alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. His erratic behavior frightens his army of maids while his friends slowly begin to suspect that all is not well with him psychologically.

Director-choreographer Tina Kronis arranges her performers in shifting symmetrical formations to underscore the story's theme of duality. Her staging is hypnotic and frequently transcendent, making excellent use of the theater's cavernous proscenium.

But the show fails in the larger respect of narrative coherence. The plot -- admittedly one that most viewers are already familiar with -- often feels secondary to the visuals, and the character development lags at crucial junctures.

The text (adapted by Richard Alger) serves mostly as a platform for the show's impressive dance sequences. A more equal footing between style and substance would have steadied this ambitious attempt at literary reinvention.

-- David Ng

"Model Behavior," 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles. Visit www.24thstreet .org for show times. Ends Feb. 22. $24. (213) 745-6516. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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Secrets of a lapsed Mormon

Steven Fales -- ex-prostitute, ex-addict and ex-Mormon -- doesn't exactly seem like a poster boy for religious tolerance. But his new solo show, "Missionary Position," now extending at Celebration Theatre, feels right in tune with Obama's Era of Accountability.

Part 2 of the story that Fales began in "Confessions of a Mormon Boy," "Missionary" has minimal sex but plenty of seduction. Fales recounts his adventures as a young Mormon missionary in Portugal, where his genuine desire to spread joy was co-opted by the LDS machine's conversion strategy; to paraphrase Mamet, always be saving. Let's just say the Mormon Church seems to keep track of numbers a lot better than Wall Street. (The show's most disturbing sequence involves the "spiritual rape" of a young Catholic girl, bullied into baptism.)

The boyish Fales is certainly engaging; you can see how his Pepsodent smile won converts by the dozen. His show, however, needs focusing. The chronology feels fuzzy, and Fales resorts to a camp twinkle when he's missing a segue or a deeper turn on the material. But something truly subversive happens when he dons genuine Mormon temple garments and starts spilling ritual secrets in this out and proud theater; it's like the pope turning up in "Hairspray." A costume is a costume -- endowed with meaning only by believers. Whatever deity you pray to, "Missionary Position" asks a valid question: What is the true care of a soul?

-- Charlotte Stoudt

"Missionary Position," Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 22. $25. (323) 957-1884. Running time: 90 minutes.

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Many stories and stereotypes

Greg Phillips is a playwright with a story to tell. In fact, he has a dozen or so stories to tell. The problem is that he shoehorns them all into the same operatically fervid play, the world premiere "Unbroken Circles," a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre.

Phillips, who also directs, sets his overpopulated yarn in the North Carolina home of the Moss family, a group of legendary country singers spanning three generations. When the clan gathers to celebrate the family matriarch's 75th birthday, the stage is set for various high-jinks, low-jinks, and all kinds of jinks in between.

The action is presumably set in the present day, but the characters' complaints about how sweltering it is inside the house are simply baffling. These people are affluent, and they certainly don't seem environmentally motivated. So why haven't they heard of air conditioning already? Still, it gives one and all a convenient excuse to step out on the porch for a breath of air and -- you guessed it -- more jinks.

Tonally speaking, Phillips can't seem to decide whether he's Del Shores or Tennessee Williams. More problematically, he tends to condescend to his regional characters, who bridge any gap in the dialogue with persistent requests for "coke-colas." (Bring on them moon pies, sistah-woman.)

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