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Plummer’s ‘Word or Two’ amuses in LA, STAGEStheatre revives Funny Thing’ in OC

Keeney, Freeze, Martin, Miller
Keeney, Freeze, Martin, Miller

Another word or two about Christopher Plummer’s “A Word or Two” (at Ahmanson Theatre through February 9), now that I’ve seen it. The great surprise of this solo show directed by Des McAnuff is that the actor’s passion for language is matched by his razor-sharp wit. And if his self-deprecating humor isn’t enough to amuse, he even mocks Twitter.

If you’re there for the Shakespeare, there’s plenty of it of course, along with Lewis Carroll, Dylan Thomas and more, plus terrific impressions of Auden and Nabokov. If you’ve got the means, by all means treat yourself to an evening with Plummer. Call (213) 972-4400.

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Barry McGovern’s one-man Beckett show, Christopher Plummer’s ‘Word’ solo

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Ninety percent of directing is in the casting, as Tony Richardson once sagely told me; it’s certainly true of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” as is evident in STAGEStheatre’s current revival of the Sondheim-Shevelove-Gelbart musical farce (playing through March 9 in Fullerton).

Mike Martin has the chops to play Pseudolus, the wily slave who acts as emcee for this tale set in ancient Rome, but it’s a big load to shoulder. He’s an engaging host, at his best when interacting with the audience; he falls short, I think, in not playing it broadly enough. If ever a part called for an actor to go over the top, it’s this one (Jeff Rockey’s outlandish scenery-chewing in last season’s “Eating Raoul” is the sort of thing needed here).

Glenn Freeze is perfection as Hysterium, the slave who wins his freedom by uniting his master, Hero, with the object of his affection. The only trouble is, he’s unavailable for other roles—like Lycus, the flesh peddler, a part for which Michael Keeney seems miscast. Robert Tully might have been a better choice but obviously had his hands full in directing the show—a chore he handles well but like Miller perhaps a little too tamely.

Topher Mauerhan is an appealing Hero; Jennifer Pearce, though equally pleasant and in earnest as his lady love Philia, is also miscast. Patti Cumby’s instincts are right on the mark, as usual, in her broad caricature of Domina, Hero’s overbearing mother. Phil Nieto is glorious as Gloriosus; Vic Miller, Adam Poynter and Wade Williamson are amusing in smaller roles. The courtesans are appropriately sexy, notably Sabrina Zellars and Bryana Pickford. Call 714-525-4484.

More from Jordan:

‘Trudy and Max’ at South Coast Rep, Nottage’s ‘Vera Stark’ in paperback

O’Neill’s ‘Long Day’s Journey’ at Maverick, Culture Clash at SCFTA’s Off-Center

Academy Award Losers, 1912-1939:
Great Performances in the Oscar Hall of Shame, Vol. 1

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