Orange County theatre got off to an invigorating new start last weekend with two offbeat plays—but while both are provocative comedies much ado about sex and the human condition, the offerings at South Coast Repertory and Fullerton’s STAGEStheatre couldn’t be more different.
Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Broadway hit, “The Motherf**ker with the Hat,” begins with a wickedly funny opening scene and keeps the laughs coming at South Coast Rep. The craziness seldom lets up in this edgy study of human relationships where everyone seems to have something to hide—Jackie, a recovering alcoholic, his longtime girlfriend Veronica, his nouveau riche cousin Julio, his AA sponsor Ralph and Ralph’s wife Victoria.
Michael John Gares’ direction is as sharp and full of surprises as Guirgis’ dialogue. Tony Sancho is wholly credible—and wildly energetic—as the charismatic Jackie, though Elisa Bocanegra steals the show as earthy, non-nonsense Veronica. Larry Bates provides a fine contrast as the low-key Ralph; as Julio, Christian Barillas offers a stereotypically effeminate characterization but is consistently amusing nonetheless. Through Jan. 27; call 714-708-7555 for info.
There are no sacred cows in Jean Genet’s “The Balcony” at STAGES. One by one they fall to the slaughter in a savage and surreal attack on hypocrisy and social convention that mocks the church, the law, the military, the ruling class, and the political machine. You’re unlikely to see this challenging absurdist comedy at SCR or anywhere else in OC, while one can easily visualize “Motherf**ker” at STAGES.
Directors Dave Barton and Jeremy C. Hohn bring insight and clarity to what could’ve been a mess in other hands. Cynthia Ryanen solidly anchors the play as the madam of the Grand Balcony, the uh, titular brothel where the play is set. She leads a first-rate ensemble cast, including Adam Poynter, Austin McCoy, Sabrina Zellars, Katrina Klein, Sean Hesketh, Robert Dean Nunez and Wade Williamson. The standouts are Rick Kopps (as the chief of police) and Jack Millis (a palace envoy), who both go deliciously over the top. Through Feb. 16; call 714-525-4484.
Kvetch of the day: The STAGES show is overly long at three hours, but at least there are two intermissions; the folks at SCR can’t even permit us one bathroom break in two hours, which is unfortunately becoming the norm rather than the exception there. What's up with that?
Hot tip: So Cal theatergoers get “MoFo” their money Jan. 31-Feb. 3 when the Guirgis play’s original Broadway cast, headed by Chris Rock and Bobby Cannavale, reprises their performances in the L.A. Theater Works production of the show at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater. Call 310-827-0889.
More from Jordan:
Best of OC Theatre 2012
Best of OC Theatre 2011
Academy Award Losers, 1912-1939: Great Performances in the Oscar Hall of Shame, Vol. 1 http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ARTJGOA
Japanese & Finnish films on DVD, American lit on stage and screen
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