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Just too bland for the Bard

March 20, 2009|David Ng; David C. Nichols

Theatre Banshee's vanilla staging of "Macbeth" offers little in terms of theatrical innovation or conceptual bravado. But this somewhat bland production features an outstanding performance by Andrew Leman as the murderous Scottish thane whose power lust proves to be his ultimate undoing.

Leman's interpretation of the title role is quiet and introspective, a slow boil of ambition that curdles into something more sinister. The actor delivers Shakespeare's words with a calmness that respects both the text and the audience's ability to comprehend the verse without the help of actorly emoting.

But spotty acting by the rest of the cast -- as well as an overall lack of theatrical inspiration -- makes this production of Shakespeare's tragedy a rather pedestrian affair. The supporting cast tends to oversell their lines (the younger cast members are far more guilty of this than their restrained elders) and the result is ultimately fatiguing for the viewer.

The production, directed by Sean Branney, eschews the contemporary drag that is de rigueur for Shakespearean revivals in favor of traditional medieval couture. The bloodthirsty Lady Macbeth (McKerrin Kelly) cuts an appropriately imperious figure, while the three witches (Annie Abrams, Kacey Camp and Rebecca Wackler) look convincingly diseased and pustular. Music by local Celtic group Wicked Tinkers is used mostly for scene changes, providing much- needed ambience for this under-imagined production.

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-- David Ng

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"Macbeth," Theatre Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 26. $20. (818) 846-5323. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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An intense but uneven debut

Keith Bridges' psychosexual drama "Lie With Me" has an instructive title -- the characters are either crawling into bed with one another or they're telling hurtful stories of dubious veracity.

This intensely acted but deeply flawed new play follows the lives of two sisters: Carla (Taylor Coffman), a sex worker who can't seem to work up much passion for her live-in boyfriend, and Susan (Amber Hamilton), a barely legal nymphet who struts around the house in her underwear.

The sisters perform a synchronized cannonball into the deep end of familial dysfunction. Their father, Stan (Christian Lebano), harbors a festering sexual secret of his own, while their mother (Emily Morrison) hurls insults from her hospital deathbed. The confluence of repressed anger and hatred climaxes in a gruesome family smash-up.

Bridges' play (which serves as the first outing for the new Mutineer Theatre Company) struggles to find a consistent -- or at least consistently inconsistent -- tone. Scenes of campy comedy randomly cohabit with moments of heart-tugging sincerity. When the plot's big secret is revealed, it feels contrived and unconvincing -- just another twist in the story's flow chart of sexual pathology.

Still, the play (directed by Joe Banno) contains a few powerful scenes, the most memorable of which is a bathroom seduction between the Lolita-esque Susan and her sister's boyfriend (Jon Cohn). Cheerfully trashy and unafraid of being gross, the scene -- which involves urination and a jar of vomitus -- has a concision and formal elegance that the rest of the drama sorely lacks.

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-- David Ng

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"Lie With Me,"Art/Works, 6569 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 7 p.m., Sundays. Ends April 5. $18. (323) 960-7787. Running time: 2 hours.

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A promising duo is getting started

Commercial seduction battles existential simplicity amid the abstract angles of "The Parabox" at Son of Semele theater. This guest attraction from Post Fact Productions enfolds its core message within a relatively ornate avant-garde framework.

Make that "avant hard," which is how co-directors/performers Rachel Kolar and Lauren Brown describe their ethos. Merging movement, sound, text and socially conscious subjects, Post Fact aims to create widespread experimental performance through the marriage of local progressive music and theater.

Accordingly, "Parabox" features a vivid soundtrack from Future Pigeon and Lucky Dragons, and intriguing designs on a dime, with Dayv Sweetland's lighting especially mordant. Kolar's oblique narrative concerns a pair of elemental entities who run the gamut of postmodern desires and conflicts after exposure to the title object, a metaphor for television and the influence of Madison Avenue.

Highlights include the tickling opening video set on a craggy beach, a side-by-side erotic interlude behind hanging frames that dominate the bare-bones set, and the climactic arrival of competitive trains of silver-sprayed cardboard boxes.

Both artists are notably talented, lithe in their unitards, landing Brown's choreography and the stylized dialogue with easily correlated conviction. Kolar is a shade more facially resonant, Brown a bit wider of vocal range, but they make an impressively well-matched duo.

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