SCENE IN LA
STEVE ZALL AND SID FISH
Here we are again with another new year to explore. Why not start it by scouting out some of the worthwhile productions to be enjoyed in our local theatres, including:
“Take Me Out” Much of the play is set in the locker room of a professional baseball team, and as such has an all-male cast that explores themes of homophobia, racism, class, and masculinity in sports. The play's main character, Darren Lemming, is a popular and successful mixed-race baseball player at the peak of his career when he decides to come out. Several of his teammates react strongly (some supportive and accepting, and some not), and the drama plays out over the course of a baseball season as they learn only teamwork will make the dream work. While Glenn Burke was out to teammates and team owners in the 1970s and Billy Bean came out in 1999 after retiring from playing in Major League Baseball for eight seasons, at the time of the writing of this play no Major League Baseball player had ever come out to the public during his career. This play is the dramatic exploration of what such an event might be like. Written by Richard Greenberg, and directed by James Kenneth, it runs January 4 through February 2 at the Flight Theatre in the Complex in Los Angeles. For tickets call 424-333-2117 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/532655.
“Human Identity” Vened was a star of Henryk Tomaszewski's world-famous Wroclaw Pantomime Theater until he defected to the west while on tour in West Germany because martial law was declared in Poland. In the decades since, he's become an influential force in the worlds of performance and training, writing a key textbook and teaching at UCLA. His latest piece of "monodrama theatre" is nothing less than a quest to figure out the meaning of human identity. Written by Christopher Vened, it runs January 5 through February 9 at the Lounge Theatres in Los Angeles. For tickets call 323-960-5773 or visit www.plays411.com/humanidentity.
“Trudy and Max in Love” The story follows Max, a celebrity novelist, who is single, and Trudy, who is working on a new novel, and is happily married. They meet in a writer’s room and form a fast friendship that leads to a complicated affair. The play explores the question of whether it’s possible to love two people completely. Written by Zoe Kazan, and directed by Lila Neugebauer, it runs January 5 through January 26 at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. For tickets call 714-708-5555 or visit www.scr.org.
“Barrymore” Set in 1942, the play brings the aging, rye-soaked, but still fiercely charming John Barrymore to life in the empty theater where he and his loyal prompter, Frank, attempt to run lines for a much anticipated reprise of Barrymore's "Richard III" the part that elevated him from matinee idol to serious Shakespearian in 1920, when he was 38 years old. The most prominent member of a multi-generation theatrical dynasty, he was the brother of Lionel Barrymore and Ethel Barrymore, and was the paternal grandfather of Drew Barrymore. He passed away in 1942 at age 60. Written by William Luce, and directed by Janet Miller, it runs January 9 through January 19 at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. For tickets call 818-508-4200 or visit www.elportaltheatre.com.
“Becky’s New Car” is a thoroughly original and contemporary comedy about love, loss, choices and what makes life worth living - a devious and delightful romp down the road not taken. Have you ever been tempted to flee your own life? Becky Foster is caught in middle age, middle management and in a middling marriage—with no prospects for change on the horizon. Then one night a socially inept and grief-struck millionaire stumbles into the car dealership where Becky works. Becky is offered nothing short of a new life…and the audience is offered a chance to ride shotgun in a way that most plays wouldn't dare. Written by Steven Dietz, and directed by Susan Stangl, it runs January 10 through February 15 at the Westchester Playhouse in Westchester. For tickets call 310-645-5156 or visit www.kentwoodplayers.org.
“The Lake House Project” Byron is a famed writer of best-selling mystery novels. His reputation is damaged when his accountant, Chris, lets slip details of Byron’s less-than-secure financial situation while in a casual conversation with a gossip columnist. Byron has invited Chris to join him and Byron’s assistant/protégé Josh at Byron’s idyllic lakeside retreat for a weekend. Having passed out after a heavy meal, Chris awakens to find himself next to Josh’s bloodied body. Byron accuses Chris of raping and murdering Josh, but Chris has no recollection of those events. Written and directed by Randall J. Gray, it runs January 10 through February 16 at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Hollywood. For tickets call 323-960-7776 or visit www.plays411.com/lakehouse.
“A Picasso” This cat and mouse drama revolves around art, politics, sex, and truth. How timely, now 40 years after Picasso’s death and as Museu Picasso in Barcelona celebrates the 50th year of being open, the intriguing relationship between art, history and politics is again in the news with the discovery recently of over 1400 paintings looted by the Nazis. Picasso’s disdain for the German occupation of Paris was often reflected in his work. In Hatcher’s A Picasso, three of Picasso’s paintings have been “confiscated” by the Nazis from their Jewish owners. The Nazi Ministry of Propaganda considers Picasso’s art degenerate and assigns a wily interrogator, Miss Fischer (Natalia Lazarus) to persuade Picasso (Vincent Lappas) to confirm the paintings are real. She tells him they are planning an exhibition but when Picasso realizes it is actually a burning, he becomes desperate to save his work by calling on all of his talents to outwit her. Written by Jeffrey Hatcher, and directed by Natalia Lazarus, it runs January 10 through February 15 at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica. For tickets call 323-960-7740 or visit www.plays411.com/apicasso.
“Day Trader” A comedy writer in a career freefall becomes convinced that he deserves more, and sets out to write his own Hollywood ending. Truth proves stranger than fiction as he implicates his family, his best friend, and a bewitching young woman to get what he thinks he’s got coming. Seduction, suspicion, and suspense become intertwined in a twisted tale of comic noir that leaves no one unscathed. Written by Eric Rudnick, and directed by Steven Williford, it runs January 11 through February 16 at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles. For tickets call 213-389-3856 or visit www.bootlegtheater.org.
“Don’t Leave It All to Your Children” Two women and two men, all seasoned veterans of love, life, and living, delight you with an afternoon of sustained laughter, with witty songs, snappy sketches, and lots of jokes. Now that we’re living longer, don’t allow anyone to marginalize us after we reach certain milestone birthdays; there’s plenty of all kinds of living left to do. Written and directed by Saul Ilson, it runs January 12 through March 30 at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. For tickets call 800-838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/526560.
“Ceremony” Michael is approaching mid-life disconnected, disillusioned and depressed. He’s had a string of failed relationships and is mired in a drudge job that he hates. In rapid succession, he encounters a string of individuals who impel him to change the vector of his life. Leaving his job, he sets off for the Andes, in search of a family of mystics in the Sacred Valley of Peru. In a series of rituals, he ingests ayahuasca, a powerful hallucinogen of fabled properties. His life is about to radically change direction as he embarks upon a journey of discovery and hope. Written by Michael Kass, and directed by Diana Wyenn, it runs January 13 through February 3 at the Moving Arts Hyperion Station in Los Angeles. For tickets call 323-666-3259 or visit www.movingarts.org.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity. Written by Linda Woolverton, with music by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and directed by Rob Roth, it runs January 14 through January 19 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. For tickets call 714-556-2787 or visit www.SCFTA.org.
“An Ideal Husband” A government capital is shaken with plots, insider trading, sexual intrigue, greed, blackmail, back-stabbing, and a scandal so shocking it threatens to topple the established order. Is it Washington in 2013? No, it’s London in 1895. A politician on the rise is threatened with the destruction of his career and the loss of his adoring wife’s love if a sexy, vixenish extortionist reveals an appalling secret from the legislator’s youth. Written by Oscar Wilde, and directed by Gigi Bermingham, it runs January 17 through February 23 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre. For tickets call 626-355-4318 or visit www.sierramadreplayhouse.org.
“Changes in the Mating Strategies of White People” explores urban dating, technology, love and sex in contemporary Los Angeles. A man and a woman meet for the first time on an Internet date while nearby another man and woman meet to end their marriage. One coffee shop. Two couples. A million chances to settle the score. Written by Solange Castro, and directed by Craig Anton, it runs January 18 through February 24 at the Lounge 2 in Hollywood. For tickets call 323-960-7787 or visit www.plays411.com/changes.
“Doodu Boy” Stefhen grows up in a church commune in the ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. His deeply religious mother loves him but frequently beats the sin out of him with a tamarind branch if she suspects any taint of the devil. He acquires the nickname Doodu Boy after a childhood accident (recounted in hilarious if embarrassing detail). As a teenager, he gets to go to Yonkers to live with his father and loving stepmother in an “apartment in the sky” (a la The Jeffersons). He wishes to bond with his father and seeks his approval, but finds his attempts cruelly rejected. Years later, Stefhen graduates from UCLA. He visits his father, who calls the police to have him removed. His mother reveals to Stefhen a shocking truth: he was a child of rape. His devout Christian mother also rejects him after he reveals he is an atheist. He travels to Japan, where he has found long-term employment as an English language teacher. Stefhen gets to indulge his particular preference: East Asian women. Something unexpected happens: A particular woman touches his heart and he falls in love. His life will never be the same. He has unfinished family business in the U.S.A. His new love, Shoko, will accompany him. Written by Stefhen F.D. Bryan, and directed by Jared Scheib, it runs January 19 through February 23 at the Santa Monica Playhouse in Santa Monica. For tickets call 800-838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com/event/536274.
“The Book of Mormon” follows two young missionaries who are sent to Uganda to try to convert citizens to the Mormon religion. One missionary, Elder Price, is an enthusiastic go-getter with a strong dedication to his faith, while his partner, Elder Cunningham, is a socially awkward but well-meaning nerd whose tendency to embroider the truth soon lands him in trouble. Upon their arrival in Africa, Elders Price and Cunningham learn that in a society plagued by AIDS, poverty and violence, a successful mission may not be as easy as they expected. Written by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, with music by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, and directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, it runs January 21 through May 11 at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. For tickets call 800-982-2787 or visit www.hollywoodpantages.com.
“Let’s Misbehave” In the California premiere of this de-lovely musical, over 30 classic songs by Cole Porter are woven together to tell the story of three single friends in 1930s New York who make a pact to find true love. Their quest is all in good fun — until the two women, Alice and Dorothy, find they both have eyes for Walter. It’s clever, funny, and irresistibly romantic, featuring songs like “Night and Day”, “Begin the Beguine” and “Anything Goes” from one of America's most beloved and prolific musical theater composers. Written by Karin Bowersock and Patrick Young, with music by Darryl Archibald, and directed by Todd Nielsen, it runs January 24 through February 16 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center in Long Beach. For tickets call 562-436-4610 or visit www.internationalcitytheatre.org.
“The Light in the Piazza” During their travels in Florence, Margaret Johnson, and her beautiful daughter, Clara, are swept up in the city’s charm. When Fabrizio, a dashing young Italian, captures Clara’s heart, Margaret is compelled to reveal her daughter’s secret. Struggling with her concern about Clara’s future, she must decide whether or not to give the young lovers her blessing. Written by Craig Lucas, with music by Adam Guettel, and directed by Kent Nicholson, it runs January 24 through February 23 at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. For tickets call 714-708-5555 or visit www.scr.org.
“On the Money” is about financial pressure and the dangerous lengths to which good people will go to get their hands on money. It focuses, sometimes comically, sometimes tragically, on three people who are driven to desperation by the kind of financial problems that plague millions of ordinary Americans today. Written by Kos Kostmayer, and directed by Tom Ormeny, it runs January 24 through March 2 at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank. For tickets call 818-841-5421 or visit www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
“Passion Play” Religion, politics and theater collide in a wildly ambitious triptych that follows three acting troupes as they stage a classical passion play at three different moments in history: Elizabethan England, Nazi Germany and Reagan-Era America. Bart DeLorenzo directs the Los Angeles premiere of Sarah Ruhl’s funny and lively excursion through centuries of religious pomp and pageantry. Written by Sarah Ruhl, and directed by Bart DeLorenzo, it runs January 25 through March 16 at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles. For tickets call 310-477-2055 or visit www.odysseytheatre.com.
“Above the Fold” tells the story of Jane, an African-American newspaper reporter from New York, who flies to a Southern university where three white fraternity boys have been accused of raping a young African-American woman. Taking place amidst the shift from print to digital journalism it asks tough questions about the exploitation of tragedy, the cost of success and the dangers that come when ambition collides with truth. Written by Bernard Weinraub, and directed by Steven Robman, it runs January 28 through February 23 at the Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena. For tickets call 626-356-7529 or visit www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
“Chicago” Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who maliciously murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today’s tabloids. Written by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and directed by David Hyslop, it runs January 28 through February 2 at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa. For tickets call 714-556-2787 or visit www.SCFTA.org.
“Belfry” Artie O’Leary is a lonely, middle-aged man who lives with his invalid mother and works as a sacristan in the Catholic Church in small-town Wexford. He falls in love with Angela, the married woman who changes flowers at the church, and when he kisses her after the birthday party for a troubled altar boy, their passionate affair in the church’s belfry begins. Artie’s life changes for the better, until a stunning betrayal tears he and Angela apart. Written by Billy Roche, and directed by Veronica Brady, it runs January 31 through March 9 at the Malibu Playhouse in Malibu. For tickets call 310-589-1998 or visit www.malibuplayhouse.org/purchase-tickets.
“Over the River and Through the Woods” Set in 1998, centers on a tightly knit Italian-American family whose grandson dutifully visits two sets of loving yet loony grandparents for dinner every Sunday. His grandparents believe in the 3 F’s: family, faith, and food. Playing matchmakers, they set him up to meet a woman they hope will prevent him from taking a job on the West coast. Written by Joe DiPietro, and directed by Martin Lang, it runs December 31 through February 8 at the Glendale Centre Theatre in Glendale. For tickets call 818-244-8481 or visit www.glendalecentretheatre.com.
Happy New Year everyone!