Laughter is the thing right now. I don’t know that it ever wasn’t a thing, but I’m sure you catch my drift. It’s hip, the funny stuff. In the Los Angeles area, we are fortunate to have many live theatre options when we are in need of a good guffaw.
You can search any ARTS section to find a number of contemporary or classical comedy-type plays running at any given time; theatre that has never been seen before and theatre that has been seen a million times. There are plenty of those kind of shows here. And no matter what part of town you are in, there are standup comedy clubs that are overflowing with comedic talent. And it’s not just a bunch of white guys on stage telling dirty jokes. You can find women and men, young and old, from every background, performing clean comedy, stuff that will make you blush, and everything in between. In need of an immediate laugh? Go look up a comic on Twitter and scroll through a couple of tweets. Comedy is everywhere.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to a new label for your favorite (well, at least mine) type of theatre, the “theatre of argument.” It’s pretty catchy, no? I can’t take credit for it. I was listening to NPR recently while stuck in traffic and that phrase was used to categorize the 2013 Pulitzer Prize wining play, Disgraced, now on stage at the Mark Taper Forum. I can’t come up with anything better. NPR nailed it.
Ayah Akhtar is a playwright, novelist, and screenwriter after my own heart, who could have written Disgraced yesterday, but, in fact, wrote it in 2012, such is its relevance to today. It’s defeating to see how little we’ve figured out about dealing with Islamophobia and bringing Muslim-Americans into the fold. Akhtar has put together a humdinger of a play, with quite a cast of characters, leaving no audience member room to be safe and smug. Every member of the central event, an upscale New York dinner party, has their flaws readily on display. I’m guessing every theatregoer in attendance will change who they identify as the “good guy” and “bad guy” more than once in the alcohol infused meltdown.
There is a lot of buzz in the musical world (and beyond) about Hamilton, the musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda currently taking Broadway by storm. You can’t buy tickets unless you have a lot, and I mean A LOT, of cash in your back pocket. And no, I didn’t see it, nor am I reviewing it, although feel free to start a campaign to send me to NY! The best thing about the Hamilton phenomenon is that it gives hope for the future of musicals in America. I happen to love a good musical, and I guess therein lies the problem: the “good” qualifier. A good, or dare I hope for great, new musical can be hard to come by. We are fortunate in LA because there is another light that can be seen on the musical landscape, which happens to be a local light. It’s from the Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz.
A Brit and an American walk into a bar. Err…no, that’s not exactly right. A British playwright by the name of T.L. Shannon and American playwright Phil Scarpaci have joined forces to give us a new British comedy, Baby oh Baby. It’s premiere location of choice, the lovely little Whitefire Theatre every Saturday night at 8:00 pm in Sherman Oaks.
The play opens with two very different half-sisters living together in a flat just outside of London. Bella (played by the consistently amazing Amy Tolsky) is a single, middle aged woman who may have let herself go a bit, works out of her home for her match making business and has no real dating prospects. Angie (played by the pretty darn stellar Felicity Wren) is the attractive slightly younger sister, similarly single, who has a lot of first dates/one night stands, but no more real luck in the pursuit of a long term relationship, possibly due to her clingy, needy ways. The sisters couldn’t be more different, yet obviously get on well together.
Wait…we have two compelling and relatable women given to us by two male playwrights? Why yes, yes we do. Good job gentlemen.read more
If you are paying attention lately, there’s plenty to be concerned about: the presidential election, racism, terrorism. UGH. I know. I’ll stop. I think we can all agree that a serious dose of silliness is in order for just about all of us. Lucky for the Angelinos, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder on stage at the Ahmanson is here to save the day.
Theatre has many superpowers, one of them is to transport the audience to a better place. So, off we go to Edwardian London. Under the delightful Tony-award-winning direction of Darko Tresnjak, we meet Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) after attending the funeral for his mother. An unexpected and unknown visitor, Miss Shingle (Mary VanArsdel) pays him a visit with intriguing news. It turns out she happens to know Monty’s mother was disinherited by her wealthy family, the D’Ysquiths, ages ago for marrying a Castilian musician for (gasp!) love. Miss Shingle informs Monte that he is eighth in line to be the Earl of Highhurst. With hope of being welcomed back to the family and a bit of their fortune, he immediately pays Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams), the girl who holds his fascination, a visit to inform her that he may be a man of importance. Her response: to draw his attention to her new pink dress. Isn’t she a keeper? Her fascination obviously lies more with herself than anyone else, and she informs Monty that she will be marrying a rich rival suitor.
You can be the judge if this is the motivating factor that sends Monte on a mission to be brought back into the D’Ysquith fold. He, as expected, is immediately shunned by his estranged family, and he sets off to meet and murder each of the members that stands in the way of him becoming Earl. Murder? This is where we are being transported? To the story of a serial murderer? Think of it as a story of murder (plural, actually; murders!) filled with shenanigans, glee, and love; there’s a little love in there, too.read more
There are many reasons for theatre. There could be as many cases for the viability of theatre as there are people who love theatre, do theatre, watch theatre. And these cases are varied. Theatre for entertainment above all else. Theatre as enlightenment. Theatre to provoke or shock. I’ve spent years pondering the case and reasons for theatre, and just when I think I’ve got it figured out, I see something new that broadens my view. Expands the case for theatre in my mind.
Criers for Hire. East West Players (celebrating 50 years, by the way) presents the world premiere comedy, Criers for Hire. In the pre-show announcement, it’s stated that the dialogue will be in English and Tagalog. Some of the phrases in Tagalog would be repeated in English, and one could find a glossary of terms in the program. Gulp. I started to panic and look around. Was I the only non Tagalog speaking person in the joint? I was wondering if I’d made a big mistake as I fumbled for my cheat sheet.read more
I’m delighted. You might be, too . . . or not at all. I think this is a one or the other situation.
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), currently on stage at the Geffen Theatre, is throwing some folks for a loop. I’m not sure why . . . or maybe I am. Let’s start with a little history. This one-man show is from the mind of Will Eno. Ten years ago it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. TP(BON) started out at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in ’04, where it received an award, moving on to the Soho Theatre in London, and to an Off Broadway showing in NY the following year. Not too shabby. Frankly, I’d never heard of it. It’s a long awaited LA premiere, directed by OBIE Award Winner, Oliver Butler. For all I knew, it could have been the world premiere. What a nice surprise.read more
So, I went to see Bridges of Madison County at the Ahmanson Theatre. If you are anything like me, you might wonder why I would do that. I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic, but I’d heard the book was good (no, I haven’t read it) and the movie with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood did well (all the way back in 1992) but I never saw it. At this point, I just haven’t been interested in BOMC. After seeing the national tour of the musical, my interest hasn’t grown. Groan.
To go or not to go (see Christmas is Dead at The LOFT Ensemble, in the Arts District downtown)… that is the question. Well, no, there is an even more important question to be asked in this instance. Why do you go?
There are almost as many different types of theatre-goers as there are reasons to see live theatre. If you are a once or twice a year patron, one time being during the holidays, this is not the show for you. Stick to the big, flashy, fun theatres who will have an across the board crowd pleaser on stage. Really. You can stop reading now.
I’m not going to beat around the bush. Carrie The Killer Musical Experience onstage now at the historic Los Angeles Theatre is not a piece of high art nor a very good musical. DON’T STOP READING. I know, I know, I just said the musical isn’t very good. The original Carrie the Musical opened on Broadway May 12, 1988 and closed May 16, 1988. That was not a typo. It had a 5 day run (and 16 previews to be fair). There was a revival (with revisions to the show) in 2012 that was only slightly more successful. It had a run of about a month. This is not a secret. I’m not the only one with the belief it’s a crappy show.