Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers
Los Angeles theater shifts into high gear with a lengthy roster of enticing productions, led by four sure-fire blockbusters. A new comedy by the multitalented Joan Rivers seems a good place to start. This showbiz force of nature stars in and co-wrote (with Douglas Bernstein and Denis Markell) Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress (Geffen Playhouse, February 5-March 30), helmed by award-winning director Bart DeLorenzo. The introspective four-character play, set immediately prior to an awards show, is inspired by real backstage events.

Writer-director Daniel Hennings' new docudrama Dickie and Babe: The Truth About Leopold and Loeb (Hollywood's 2nd Stage Theatre, February 2-March 16), is based on court transcripts of this infamous 1924 Chicago murder. Starring are Bruce Boxtleitner, Vicki Lewis, Charlie Schlatter and Michael Urie. Neil LaBute's Some Girl(s) (Geffen Playhouse's Audrey Skirball Theatre, through March 9), stars Mark Feurstein as a man in search of something who meets women from his past (played by a variety of familiar TV faces!). Alfred Uhry's tender drama Driving Miss Daisy, starring Emmy winner Michael Learned, is revived at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (February 1-17). Ron Rifkin, Neil Patrick Harris, Josh Radnor, and Patricia Wettig, and Jon Glover star in LATW's The Paris Letter (Skirball Cultural Center, February 20-24).

The Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities offers up its first world-premiere musical. Ray Cooney's Twice Upon a Time (Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, February 13-March 2), which stars Millicent Martin and Misty Cotton, and is about reincarnation and rival gangs in 1929 Chicago. Sherman Edwards' classic rumination on the birth of our nation, 1776, is at Hollywood's Actors Co-op (February 6-March 16). Long Beach's International City Theatre revisits the Kander and Ebb classic Cabaret (February 5-March 9). Reprise! Broadway's Best presents the vintage backwoods tuner Li'l Abner (UCLA's Freud Playhouse, February 5-17), featuring Eric Martsolf, Brandi Burkhardt, Cathy Rigby, and Fred Willard. And writer-performer Kristen Holly Smith premieres her solo vehicle about a 1960s rock-and-roll icon in Stay Forever: The Life and Music of Dusty Springfield (Hollywood's Renberg Theatre, February 7-24).

Heading an interesting array of dramatic offerings is the L.A. premiere of John C. Russell's hit Off-Broadway play Stupid Kids (Hollywood's Celebration Theatre, February 13-March 23), which follows the travails of four high-school students. Theatre@Boston Court in Pasadena offers an all-female version of Othello (February 14-March 23), collaborating with Women's Shakespeare Company. T.S. Cook, author of The China Syndrome, unveils his world-premiere play, Ravensridge, about a turbulent confrontation in 1992 Russia (Pasadena's Fremont Centre Theatre, February 22-March 30). The Asian American-focused East West Players offers Jon Siroto's new play, Voices From Okinawa (David Henry Hwang Theatre, February 7-March 9), about a mixed-race American teacher trying to assimilate into Okinawa's culture.

Kenneth H. Brown's 2007 Obie-winning military drama The Brig (Odyssey Theatre, February 9-March 30), created by Living Theatre, makes its West Coast premiere. Actors' Gang revives Adam Simon and Tim Robbins' raucous 1987 satire about televangelism, Carnage, A Comedy (Culver City's Ivy Substation, through March 8). The internationally renowned Dell'Arte Company makes a rare L.A. appearance, resetting Moliere's classic The Miser in contemporary California in The Golden State (Keck Theatre, February 1 & 2, and 24th Street Theatre, February 8-24).

Family audiences will want to catch South Coast Repertory's adaptation of E. B. White's classic fable Charlotte's Web (February 8-24), scripted by Joseph Robinette and directed by Shelly Butler.