Bombs, Balls and Broads

Joel Beers theater notes

If the intoxicating stink of sweating, straining, creating theater folk gets you off in the worst of ways, then you're no doubt already shivering in lusty anticipation of the coming weekend. Beginning Friday night, all the county's a stage, with theater companies mounting plays that explore the psycho-social origins of erotically twisted killers, feature famous philosophers on hallucinogens and consider America's favorite pastimes—dropping bombs and throwing baseballs.

Rude Guerrilla's Faust Is Dead, written by Mark Ravenhill, is ostensibly about a world-famous philosopher whose journey across America includes mind-expanding drugs and boys with razor fetishes. But the play probes deeper than the obligatory Rude Guerrilla sex/nudity/violence disclaimer might suggest. "The play completely fits in for the Halloween season, but instead of manufactured scares, the play is about real horrors: alienation, loss, violence, depersonalization and unexpected death," says director Dave Barton. "Instead of sham bogeymen, the play is about real-life monsters: Bill Gates, the Internet and Michel Foucault." (For more info, check out rudeguerrilla.org.)

Three very Halloween-themed shows also open Friday. The first is the eighth installment of Madame Guignol's Macabre Theatre, courtesy of the Hunger Artists (hungerartists.com). (Full disclosure: OC Weekly theater contributors Kelly Flynn and I worked on this show; Flynn as director and I as a typist.) This year's vignettes include five wild takes on Grimm's Fairy Tales, tied together by a narrative that uncovers the origin of the mysterious seductress Madame Guignol (Kimberly M. Fisher, in her fifth consecutive portrayal of the eponymous Madame) and her age-old nemesis, Wolff (Mark Coyan). "We've lined up some of the best writers I've ever had the pleasure of working with to tell the origin of Orange County's favorite mistress of the macabre, Madame Guignol," Flynn said. "The result is without a doubt the best Halloween production we have had in years. It's sexy, sick and disturbing, yet surprisingly funny."

Two adaptations of the book inspired by the legend of Vlad the Impaleralso open this weekend. Fullerton College is mounting John Balderston and Hamilton Deane's 70-year-old adaptation, Dracula, the Vampire Play, while the Insurgo Theater Movementis mounting Steven Deitz's more contemporary (that is, bloodier and sexier) version, Dracula(insurgotheater.com).

There are even 11 world premieres this weekend, with Stages Theatrecontinuing its run of Rube!(see Theater review); the Orange County Playwrights Alliance mounting new work by two of its members (ocpaplay wrights.org.); and the Chance Theater wrapping up its very ambitious new play festival, which includes eight world premieres (chancetheater.com).

Meanwhile, in the professional arena, South Coast Repertory's production of Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna In the Tropicsopened last weekend to rave reviews, and the equally lauded The Laramie Projectcloses at the Laguna Playhouse.

Even dinner theater and usually staid community theaters are running interesting work, with the Los Alamitos WestEnd Cultural Arts Centerand dinner theater (thewestend.org) staging El Grande de Coca-Cola, a usually rib-splitting gringofied Spanish-language farce about a third-rate promoter who tries to turn his struggling nightclub into a star-studded cabaret. Across the county, the Anaheim Community Theatre takes on Arthur Miller's penetrating attack on American greed and hypocrisy, All My Sons.

The theatrical activity is so intoxicating that even theaters that aren't producing something are in the news. Wade Williamson reports that his company, The Vanguard Theatre Ensemble, has finally signed the lease on a downtown Fullerton venue. At 2,900 square feet, the space is about twice the size of the troupe's former space, now occupied by the Hunger Artists.

Finally, we give a shout out to the mysterious Steven Sonderson, some talented wag who has put together a pretty bitching and comprehensive website that lists all kinds of information on local theaters. Check it out at octheater.org.

 
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