Four new theatrical offerings explore very different styles of humor

By Michael Aushenker

The Kentwood Players’ “4000 Miles” features Alexandra Johnston as Bec, who wonders what Leo, played by Dan Fagan, has on his mind after riding cross-country to see her. Photo by Shari Barrett

The Kentwood Players’ “4000 Miles” features Alexandra Johnston as Bec, who wonders what Leo, played by Dan Fagan, has on his mind after riding cross-country to see her.
Photo by Shari Barrett

“Laughter is the best medicine,” or so goes the saying that long pre-dates the similarly titled section in Reader’s Digest.

If that’s truly the case, cure what ails you by catching one of the following four plays coming to local stages

“Almost Perfect” @ Santa Monica Playhouse

Jerry Mayer is no stranger to these pages — or to the Santa Monica Playhouse, where the Pacific Palisades playwright and Playhouse founders Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie share a collaboration going back to 1986, when this play (Mayer’s first) debuted there. DeCarlo, who directed the first revival of Mayer’s marriage comedy for a 1999-2000 run, also directs this time around.

The play holds up surprisingly well thanks to a clutch of good performances led by veteran Playhouse player Michael Marinaccio as Buddy Apple, a surrogate for young Mayer at a romantic crossroads, torn between humdrum wife Jenny (Ryan Driscoll) and caliente client Boots Clark (Lucy Rayner). Driscoll and Rayner are solid as Apple’s dueling love interests, but it is Wayne Roberts’ naturalistic performance as Buddy’s jaded brother Mike, a zinger-slinger who all but steals the show, especially in a hilarious what-if hallucination sequence.

And since Mayer’s TV writing credits include “All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H*” and “The Bob Newhart Show,” you know going in that there’ll be witty one-liners galore peppering all the quasi-autobiographical career self-absorption and marital hand-wringing.

“Almost Perfect” runs through June 28 at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. $24.50 to $29.50. (310) 394-9779; santamonicaplayhouse.com

“4000 Miles” @ Westchester Playhouse

Kentwood Players presents Amy Herzog’s dramatic comedy “4000 Miles,” directed by Gail Bernardi and produced by Susan Goldman Weisbarth. The cast (featuring Dan Fagan, Alexandra Johnston, Zoe Kim and Michelle Rosen) brings to life the strange bedfellows story of 21-year-old Leo who, following a major loss while on a cross-country bicycle trip, must endure his 91-year-old grandmother Vera while holed up in a rent-controlled Greenwich Village apartment that hasn’t been redecorated since 1968.

This production comes packed with theater-world street cred, having been a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and having won the 2012 Obie Award for Best New American Play (not to mention named Time magazine’s #1 Play or Musical of 2012).

“4000 Miles” opens at 8 p.m. Friday and continues Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 2o at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave., Westchester. $18 to $20.

Tickets: $20.00 with a $2.00 discount for seniors, students, servicemen, and Metro riders who present their monthly pass or TAP card when purchasing tickets at box office. (310) 645-5156; kentwoodplayers.org.

“63 Trillion” @ Odyssey Theatre

The New American Theatre troupe presents John Bunzel’s dark comedy of “money, sex and bad behavior” that explores the predatory, scheming world of Wall Street as global financial markets turn toxic.

“Money makes the world go around, and dark comedy seems an appropriate genre to tackle the business of finance,” said playwright Bunzel, whose film and TV writing credits include “Born to Be Wild” and “The Wonder Years.” “The financial history of this country, and the world, is a litany of booms and busts, tragedy and comedy, heroes and sharks.”

The play is directed by award-winning Broadway director Steve Zuckerman and stars Robert Cicchini, Megan Gallagher, Noah James, Jeffrey Jones, Ken Lerner, Jordan Lund and Jack Stehlin.

“63 Trillion” continues its run at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. $34.99. facebook.com/newamericantheatre

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” @ Venice High School

Venice High School students stage a musical adaption of the 2001 film comedy starring Reese Witherspoon as a sorority girl out to win back her ex-boyfriend back by earning a law degree.

Given that the school mounting this production doubled as Rydell High in the 1978 classic “Grease,” it’s a good bet that the performing arts department here knows a thing or two about marrying movies and musicals.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical,” directed by Traci Nichols-Thrasher with choreography by Lawrence Hatcher and musical direction by Ben Ginsberg, continues its run on May 22 and 23 the Venice High School Auditorium, 13000 Venice Blvd., Venice. $10 to $12. venicehigh.net

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