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Lots of fun left in 'Boyz'

July 17, 2009|David Ng; David C. Nichols; F. Kathleen Foley; Philip Brandes

With Lance sprung from the closet and Justin situated comfortably at the top of the charts, any jokes about boy bands these days are almost certain to feel stale and behind the curve. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that "Altar Boyz," the 2004 theatrical satire of the aforementioned pop phenomenon, still manages to pack a rather potent comical punch.

Celebration Theatre's current production is an enjoyably fleet-footed affair, featuring a hilarious and swoon-worthy cast that's bursting with charisma.

The musical tells the story of a five-member Christian pop group on the last leg of its world tour. Sporting biblical names, the singers fall comfortably into quotation-marked archetypes -- Matthew (Jesse Bradley), the white-bread dreamboat lead singer; Mark (Clifford Banagale), the high-pitched effeminate one; Luke (Jake Wesley Stewart), the homeboy with a substance-abuse problem; Juan (Robert Acinapura), the Latin stallion; and Abraham (Kelly Rice), the lapsed Jew.

The cast, under the direction of Patrick Pearson, performs the show's 13 numbers with just the right combination of angel-faced oblivion and winking sexual innuendo.

Written by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker (with a book by Kevin Del Aguila), the show sends up the boy-band craze while also giving in to its irresistible appeal.

It's a kind-hearted satire whose jokes can be read in countless ways.

"Altar Boyz," which is currently in its fourth year off-Broadway, shows no signs of slowing down. May it be blessed with eternal life.

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David Ng --

"Altar Boyz," Celebration Theatre, 7051B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m., Sundays. $30. (323) 957-1884 or www.celebration theatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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Finding a spark in women's romance

The unspoken currents that swerve across "Stop Kiss" at Theatre Theater almost outstrip the actions they generate. Diana Son's delicate 1998 dramedy about a nascent romance between two women in New York receives an admirable, albeit still gelling, L.A. premiere by Rogue Machine.

Distracted traffic radio reporter Callie (Deborah Puette) is a 12-year Manhattan veteran when she meets Midwestern emigre Sara (Kristina Harrison).

Against the wishes of her parents and boyfriend, Sara has taken a fellowship to teach third-graders in the Bronx but needs to house her cat.

Their initial encounter flirts with sitcom while hinting at greater depths. The playwright then flashes forward, to the aftermath of a random act of violence that left Sara in a coma and Callie guilt-ridden and disconsolate.

Thereafter, "Stop Kiss" pendulum-swings across time, pitting the pair's gravitational pull toward each other against the outcome of their culminating moment.

Puette and Harrison do imposing work, well attuned to each other's strengths. Christian Anderson and Justin Okin are solid as their respective men.

Inger Tudor is a bit more effortless as a Caribbean nurse than as the crime's eyewitness. Jeorge Watson valiantly handles the thankless role of police detective.

Son's script is quietly inventive and wholly sincere, but the folded-time structure creates some nuance gaps in Elina de Santos and Matthew Elkins' intelligent staging.

Not all of the emotional hairpin turns feel consistent, and the vignette-laden structure takes a toll on our involvement.

Such inequities seem likely to tighten as this worthy effort enters its repertory run with "Treefall" next month.

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David C. Nichols --

"Stop Kiss," Rogue Machine at Theatre Theater, 5041 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, through July 26. Starting Aug. 2, runs in repertory with "Treefall," see www.rogue machinetheatre.com for schedule. Ends Aug. 23. Adult audiences. $25. (323) 960-7774. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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Messy, charming

'Ten Cent Night'

Marisa Wegrzyn's regional comedy, "Ten Cent Night," now in its West Coast premiere at the Victory Theatre, is as cute and as fun to watch as a speckled pup.

Too bad it won't stay on the paper. Wegrzyn's delightful but messy romp gambols over much, venturing into circular scenes that do little to facilitate the forward momentum of the plot. But with a harsh correction or two, "Night" might yet make the show circuit.

Set primarily in Texas in the early 1970s, the plot concerns two sets of fraternal twins whose father -- who recently committed suicide -- was a hard-drinking musician made famous by his boozy bar song, "Ten Cent Night."

Roby (a splendidly sultry Tara Buck), herself a boozy musician, and Dee (Caitlin Muelder), a prickly virgin, are one set of twins, at bitter odds since the cradle.

Much more congenial, alarmingly so, are twins Sadie (Alison Rood), a sweet 16-year-old with a bum heart, and her offbeat brother Holt (Shane Zwiner), her too-significant other.

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