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The 99-Seat Beat: ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Kaufman and Hart and more

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Every five minutes you think of another task that needs to be added to your holiday to-do list, but c’mon, give yourself a break. A getaway to a local stage this weekend could involve a holiday-themed sketch show called “Santasia” or an eerie take on artificial intelligence, “Wake.” Families might choose up-close seats to the Disney musical “Beauty and the Beast” or the classic comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

“Beauty and the Beast” at Casa 0101

The essentials: A hairy Beast lives in a remote castle, hiding from a world that fears him. His true nature is revealed by an open-hearted young woman named Belle. As they get to know each other, they are looked after by a teapot, a candelabrum and … oh, you know the story. And if you don’t, ask a kid, who will sing you the songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

Why this? Because it’s a “tale as old as time,” which means it’s about love, and who doesn’t love a story about love? What’s more, it’s a story about learning to see beyond our differences — finding the human heart beating beneath what you at first perceived as hair and fangs. Reflecting the city’s multidimensionality is a core commitment of presenters Casa 0101 and TNH Productions, which delivered well received versions of “In the Heights” and a dual-language “Aladdin.” The director here, Rigo Tejeda, also directed “In the Heights.” In the 99-seat Casa 0101 Theatre, everyone has a premium seat.

Details: Casa 0101, 2102 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights. 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; ends Jan. 21. $25-$35. (323) 263-7684, www.Casa0101.org

“Santasia” at the Whitefire Theatre

The essentials: Now in its 18th year, the sketch comedy show “Santasia” is a well established tradition. Big names at holiday time — Frosty the Snowman, the Wise Men and, of course, Santa — make appearances or get name-checked in sketches that tend to collide with popular culture in parodies of Broadway musicals or television shows. Think: kids waiting to see Santa who sing, “A Chorus Line”-style, about what they hope to get. Scattered among the sketches are stop-motion animation shorts, in the Rankin/Bass style, and parody videos. Among the latter this year is a take on “Stranger Things.”

Why this?: Brothers Shaun and Brandon Loeser began the show as a way to power through their first Christmas without their father, a funny, holiday-loving guy who’d battled hard against cancer. In addition to performing, the brothers divide producing, staging and technical roles, as well as writing the sketches with cast member Lon Gowan. Their wives are involved too, Tania Pearson-Loeser as choreographer and costume designer, Rachel Loeser as assistant to the choreographer and house manager. The goal, Shaun Loeser says: “We want our audiences to feel that same feeling of innocence and excitement as a kid on Christmas morning.”

Details: Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 and 8 p.m. Sundays, with some variations; ends Dec. 25. $28-$40. (818) 990-2324, www.santasia.com

“Santasia” with, from left, Tony Nunes, Lon Gowan, Darren Mangler, Brandon Loeser, Shaun Loeser and Jim O’Brien. Michael Blase

“Wake” by City Garage

The essentials: The world is not at all what she remembers. Revived from cryogenic slumber, she has emerged into a future in which her terminal cancer has been cured but life is now plugged into something called the “Platform,” a computer network that has replaced known reality. Has technology finally taken control?

Why this? It’s just the sort of material that L.A. has come to expect from City Garage, a thoroughly nonconformist, European-style theater that wears its idiosyncrasies proudly. Its boldly stylized productions — staged by Paris-born artistic director Frédérique Michel and designed by producing director Charles A. Duncombe — are like nothing else in the area. Here the pair tackle a new play by Gordon Dahlquist, who gained some renown for his 2006 debut novel, “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.” Michel says: “I have always been intrigued by AI, what it might do to humanity, and the possibility of another life after death. But here, instead of finding a new and exciting life Irene [the central character] finds her worst nightmare.”

Details: City Garage in Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; ends Dec. 17. $20-$25; Sundays pay what you can. (310) 453-9939, www.citygarage.org

"Wake" at City Garage
“Wake” with, from left, Natasha St. Clair-Johnson, Alicia Rose Ivanhoe and Sandy Mansson. Paul M. Rubenstein

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” by Actors Co-op

The essentials: Nothing is quite so upsetting as a disruption to the way you live. Laughs flow from this truism in George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1939 comedy “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” about a celebrity who, while on a speaking tour before Christmas, slips on ice at his dinner hosts’ front door and must convalesce in their home. None too happy about the situation, he promptly displays how ornery and meddlesome he can be.

Why this? You just have to laugh at a guy who drives a nurse so bonkers that she flees to the munitions industry, hoping to destroy the human race. Yet despite his outward fearsomeness, the central character is a source of uplift, and that’s the sort of tale at which Actors Co-op excels. In the current round of Ovation Awards, the company has 10 nominations, including best production of a play in an intimate theater for “33 Variations.” For “Dinner” it has tapped Linda Kerns to direct. A Broadway actress (“Nine”), she has also become a go-to director.

Details: Actors Co-op, 1760 N. Gower St. on the campus of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; ends Dec. 17. $20-$30. (323) 462-8460, www.ActorsCo-op.org

"The Man Who Came to Dinner"
“The Man Who Came to Dinner” with Greg Martin, left, John Allee and Jean Kauffman. John Dlugolecki

The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our team of reviewers — people with more than 75 years of combined experience tracking local theater — shortlist current offerings at 99-seat theaters and other smaller venues. Some (but not all) recommendations are shows we’ve seen; others have caught our attention because of the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. You can find more comprehensive theater listings posted every Sunday at latimes.com/arts.

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Twitter: @darylhmiller

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