It’s been 35 years since Martin Sherman’s “Bent” premiered on Broadway but the play still packs a wallop, at least in Moisés Kaufman’s superb revival at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Let’s face it, not everyone can handle live drama that offers a whack in the head or a wrench in the gut; for those who can, this tragicomedy about the treatment of homosexuals during the Holocaust (running through Aug. 23) is a must-see that will not leave you unmoved.

The most surprising element is the play’s biting black humor, more “Endgame” than “Hogan’s Heroes.” It’s almost as if Sherman were channeling Samuel Beckett in the stylistically different second act that takes place in Dachau. Patrick Heusinger (Max, the protagonist) and Andy Mientus (Rudy, his lover) are first-rate, but Charlie Hofheimer (Horst, a fellow gay prisoner Max meets in Dachau) gives the standout performance in a fine ensemble, with a razor-sharp delivery to match the dialogue. Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design and costumes and Justin Townsend’s lighting add immeasurably to the atmospheric production. Call 213-972-4400 or visit Center Theatre Group.

Wendy Graf’s equally devastating “All American Girl” at the InterACT Theatre Company in Hollywood (just extended through Aug. 30) demonstrates the power of solo performance—one woman alone on stage can be just as compelling as the 12-member cast of “Bent.” This play isn’t for everyone either; some may misinterpret it as pro-Muslim or anti-American when it is nothing of the kind.

“Girl” concerns the growing social conscience of a child of privilege named Katie, who comes to see herself as a soldier fighting a war for human rights. Annika Marks is stunning in the role, as she embodies every human emotion from love and wonderment to humiliation and fear. Jeanne Syquia, with whom she alternates, is every bit as outstanding from what this writer has heard. Anita Khanzadian directs with the sensitivity the play deserves. Call 818-765-8732 or visit InterACT.

Annika Marks is also exceptional in a radically different characterization, in the title role of “Grace” (available on DVD from Entertainment One). Here she’s a young alcoholic trying to get sober in a Florida beach town and come to terms with unhappy memories. Sharon Lawrence is award-worthy as Sonia, a compassionate coffee shop owner who’s there for her without lecturing or moralizing—like the film itself. Written and directed attentively by Heath Jones, from a heartfelt story by actor-exec producer Cindy Joy Goggins.

Author: Jordan R. Young

Jordan R. Young is a journalist, show business historian, playwright and theatre critic. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Magazine, Westways, AAA Tour Books, and The People’s Almanac.