Arts In LA
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, December 19, 2014



Stephanie Satie in Silent Witness
Photo by Rick Friesen


LA OPERA FEATURES PATTI LUPONE

LA Opera’s West Coast debut of John Corigliano’s comic opera, The Ghosts of Versailles, with libretto by William C. Hoffman—based on the character and plays of Pierre de Beaumarchais—will premiere Feb. 7 at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown LA. The production features opera stars Patricia Racette and Christopher Maltman, joined by Broadway icon Patti LuPone (pictured) and a supporting cast, totaling 41 soloists (the largest cast in LA Opera history), helmed by Tony winner Darko Tresnjak, conducted by LA Opera music director James Conlon.


PREMIERES

Geffen Playhouse has completed its casting for the West Coast premiere of Conor McPherson’s 2013 New York Drama Critics Award winner, The Night Alive—concerning a hard-luck loser compelled to help a young woman with less fortune than even himself—helmed by Geffen Playhouse Artistic Director Randall Arney, opening Feb. 11 in Gil Cates Theatre. The ensemble includes Paul Vincent O’Connor (pictured), Fiona O’Shaughnessy, Dan Donohue, Denis Arndt, and Peter O’Meara.

   Indefatigable playwright-author-theater founder Josefina Lopez premieres her second stage work in six weeks, debuting Clean Start—a comedy focusing on a Beverly Hills socialite who loses her fortune and must move in with her loyal maid—scripted by Lopez and Kathy Fischer, helmed by Fischer, opening Jan. 23 at Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights.

   Recently established Lucid Dramatics offers its inaugural production, Revival—set in Crispin’s bar, where a panoply of characters escape the mundane aspects of their lives through Crispin’s transformative drinks—scripted and helmed by company co-founder Carla Neuss (pictured), opening Jan. 18 at Acting Artists Theatre in West Hollywood.


AROUND TOWN

Vicky Jenson (pictured) (co-director of 2001 Oscar winner Shrek) has been tabbed to helm Donald Margulies’s 2009 Tony-nominated Time Stands Still—one couple grapples with a changing relationship amid evolving social issues—opening Jan. 17 at Secret Rose Theatre in NoHo. The cast includes Presciliana Esparolini, Aiden Bristow, Troy Ruptash, and Lily Holleman.

   Riverside Studios in Atwater Village hosts “an apocalyptic, immersive, multimedia, and cinematic adaptation” of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which helmer Derek Magyar affirms is “a darker version than most, testing the limits of intimacy, sex, and love.” The production, starring Tom Payne (pictured) and Ana Khamis in the title roles, opens Jan. 22.

   The New Short Fiction Series, founded by spoken word guru Sally Shore, continues its series at Federal Bar in NoHo on Jan. 9, presenting Pushcart Prize winner Mary Kuryla’s Animal Control and other stories, performed by Shore and a guest ensemble, including Deborah Geffner, Carolyn Gilroy, and Karen Praxel.

   Comedienne Rita Rudner (pictured) brings her holiday show, Rita Rudner: Out With the Old, in With the Rita, to Laguna Playhouse for New Year’s Eve, but she won’t be alone. Her opening act is her 12-year-old daughter, singer-songwriter Molly Bergman.

   The holiday fare continues at Elephant Theatre Company in Hollywood with the extension of Will Kern’s Hellcab—scenes from a day in the in the life of a Chicago cabbie at Christmastime—helmed by David Fofi, now reaching out through Jan. 3 at the Elephant Stage.


GOING SOLO


Obie-winning local girl Mandy Gonzalez (pictured) (Eli’s Coming), who starred as Nina Rosario in the original Off-Broadway production of In the Heights, makes her solo debut at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood, under the auspices of Chris Isaacson and Upright Cabaret, helmed by Eric Michael Gillett with music direction by Brian J. Nash, Jan. 27–28.

   Writer-performer Stephanie Satie (pictured at top) returns to Odyssey Theatre, reprising her 2013 solo work, Silent Witnesses—giving voice to four women who were child survivors of the Holocaust, directed by Anita Khanzadian, opening Jan. 11.

   The much-traveled biographical show-and-tell Gene Kelly: The Legacy—An Evening With Patricia Ward Kelly—an intimate portrait of a Hollywood legend, presented by his widow and biographer—stops over for one night at Beverly Hills’s The Wallis, Jan. 10, in the Bram Goldsmith Theater.

   And writer-performer Kris Andersson continues to channel his alter ego, Dixie Longate, and her one-woman sales extravaganza, Dixie’s Tupperware Party, at Segerstrom Center’s Samueli Theater in Costa Mesa, through Jan. 4.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY



In 1852, the great British tragedian Junius Brutus Booth is touring Northern California with a small troupe that includes his sons Edwin and Junius Brutus Booth Jr. Although scheduled to perform in San Francisco and Sacramento, Booth’s tour is cut short when torrential rains close the theaters. Junius immediately leaves California for his home in Baltimore. His son Junius Jr. likes San Francisco so much he takes up residence there.

   Edwin decides to strike out on his own, forming his own troupe, performing in saloons, mining camps, and whatever venue will have him. Achieving some success, Edwin informs his troupe that he wants to work his way south to Los Angeles. Every member of his fledgling company quits immediately, claiming that Los Angeles is too uncivilized to accept a Shakespeare Company and too dangerous to visit for any reason. Edwin gives up his venture and heads back East to rejoin his family and re-start his acting career. He is more than successful.

   By the 1880s, Edwin Booth (pictured) is the most successful actor in the United States, and his troupe sells out wherever it performs. In February 1887, Booth and Company embark on a nationwide tour that will include Los Angeles for the first time, performing at Grand Opera House, located at 110 S. Main St., on March 3 and 4. His repertoire includes Hamlet, Othello (with Booth playing Iago), and The Merchant of Venice.

   When Booth reaches San Antonio, Texas, on Feb. 24, he receives notice from his advance man that all performances in Los Angeles are sold out. Booth adds a March 2 performance of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1839 historical play, Richelieu, which is remembered for the line, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This also sells out. At the conclusion of his stay, Booth sends word to his bookers in New York that Los Angeles is decidedly civilized and most definitely a theater town.

   Within 15 years, Los Angeles is considered the crown jewel performance destination for all the national booking outlets.

Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review—celebrating the best in live theater and cabaret in Greater Los Angeles—on Fridays, 2–2:30pm, on KPFK (90.7FM).
  Upcoming is the three-day Arts in Review Radio Drama Holiday Celebration, featuring AIR Repertory Players’s premiere of the Chanukah play Dreidels and Donuts on Tue, Dec. 23 (6:30–7pm); The Christmas Eve Truce on Wed, Dec. 24 (6:30–7pm); and the Christmas Day one-hour special, featuring the 11th annual presentation of Dylan Thomas’s A Child’s Christmas in Wales, read by Al Alu, and To All a Good Night: The History of Santa Claus, as well as holiday music from Al Jarreau, on Wed, Dec. 25 (2–3pm).
 

 
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, December 13, 2014


Piñata Dreams at Casa 0101 Theatre


LA THEATRE WORKS 2015

For 2015, LA Theatre Works offers an impressive array of stage fare in its record-before-a-live-audience-for-future-radio-broadcast series, presented at James Bridges Theater on the campus of UCLA, beginning with Intelligence-Slave, by Kenneth Lin (House of Cards), helmed by Matt August, focusing on the true story of Austrian Curt Herzstark, who, while imprisoned by the Nazis, used his confinement to develop one of the most significant devices of the 20th century: the hand-held calculator. The production, starring Joe Spano (pictured) (replacing Dakin Matthews) and Josh Stamberg, opens Jan. 29.

   In partnership with LA Opera, LATW presents a “radio theater-style” performance of the third and least-known of Pierre de Beaumarchais’s celebrated Figaro plays, The Guilty Mother, once again finding wily peasant Figaro coming to the aid of aristocratic but clueless Count Almaviva, helmed by Michael Hackett, opening Feb. 13.

   LATW gathers original cast members Russell Harvard, Susan Pourfar, and Mare Winningham (pictured) from 2012 Drama Desk Award–winning Tribes, Nina Raine’s “savage, funny look at family dynamics and the challenges of communication,” director TBA, opening March 12.

   LATW premieres Arthur Miller–A Life, a docudrama revealing the events in Arthur Miller’s life that shaped some of the most iconic plays in modern history, based on the book by Martin Gottfried. Helmed by BBC’s Kate McAll, starring Edward Asner, Hector Elizondo (pictured), and Jane Kaczmarek, the production opens April 15.

   The season continues with Claudia Shear’s homage to Mae West, Dirty Blonde, featuring the original 2000 Tony-nominated cast of Shear, Kevin Chamberlin, and Bob Stillman, opening May 14; Doug Wright’s 2004 Pulitzer-winning I Am My Own Wife, a solo sojourn within the life of transgendered Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, starring Tony-winner Jefferson Mays (pictured), opening June 18; and The Whipping Man, by Matthew Lopez, starring Jonathan Groff, helmed by Judyann Elder, opening July 16.


PREMIERES

Fountain Theatre in Hollywood offers the LA premiere of Zayd Dohrn’s Reborning—a “darkly funny and insightful psychological thriller that takes an unsettling look at work, motherhood, and the power of creation”—helmed by Fountain’s producing director Simon Levy, opening Jan. 24.

   Also in Hollywood, Lounge Theatre hosts the premiere of Mitch Hara’s Mutant Olive—a solo journey within the psyche of an actor whose myriad foibles from his past seem to constantly seep into his present, all during the course of an audition for Death of a Salesman—helmed by Terri Hanauer (pictured), opening Jan. 22.

   Echo Theatre Company premieres Fugue—set simultaneously in Austria, Italy, and Russia—playwright Tommy Smith’s chronicle of the real-life stories of three love triangles involving composers Piotr Tchaikovsky, Arnold Schoenberg, and Carlo Gesualdo, opening Feb. 14 at Atwater Village Theatre.

   Odyssey Theatre in West LA hosts two West Coast debuts: Sunset Baby, by Dominique Morisseau (pictured)—focusing on the troubled emotional journey of a former black revolutionary and political prisoner who decides to connect with his estranged daughter, opening Feb. 28; and Corktown ’57—a family drama about the Irish Republican Army operating in America in the late 1950s, playwright not announced, opening March 28.


AROUND TOWN

Also at the Odyssey, real-life father and daughter Jeff Perry (Scandal) and Zoe Perry (Deception) (both pictured) star in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s 1922 Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Christie, focusing on a coal barge captain reunited with the daughter he abandoned to a life of hardship when she was a child, opening Jan. 24.

   Deaf West Theatre teams with Cal State LA to present a revival of David Mamet’s American Buffalo—“a modern classic that weaves humor and menace throughout an emotionally charged struggle for identity and dominance”—opening Feb. 7 at State Playhouse on the campus of Cal State LA.

   About Productions—celebrating its 25th anniversary—offers Properties of Silence, scripted by Theresa Chavez, Rose Portillo, and Alan Pulner, helmed by Chavez. In the play, poetry, science and history spiral out of control as a contemporary Phoenix realtor, her pool contractor husband, and 17th century poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz meet in a multi-ayered dreamscape, opening Feb. 28 at Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre.


BIO TUNERS

Doma Theatre offers the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber–Tim Rice rock tuner, Jesus Christ Superstar, opening Feb. 13 at MET Theatre in Hollywood.

   International City Theatre in Long Beach continues its season with End of the Rainbow, Peter Quilter’s exploration of the final days of Judy Garland, starring Gigi Bermingham (pictured), featuring a plethora of Garland tunes, opening Feb. 20.

   Lillian Theatre in Hollywood presents Recorded in Hollywood: The Musical—the true story of black businessman, record label owner, and music producer John Dolphin, an important but little-known pioneer in the birth and development of rock ’n’ roll, opening April 11.


THE THING IS…

“This is not necessarily a Christmas-themed play, but since piñatas are often utilized in the celebration of the holidays, it lends itself to the season. That is the reason we wanted to premiere it in December. This play has so many facets to it. The themes are rich and multilayered. It is also explosively colorful and meant to be enjoyed by the whole family. It would be great if we could do it every year at this time. The story follows the adventures of a young boy named J.J., who yearns to be a piñata maker like the older members of his family. I am so happy that we found Noah Martinez (pictured) to play the part. He is from our neighborhood in Boyle Heights. He had never acted in a play before, but he auditioned and he was terrific. When you write a play, you are creating the characters out of your own heart and soul. Then to find a young man like Noah who is exactly what I imagined when I wrote it, is like magic. I felt like I gave life to this character and then he walked through the door. This play has a very important message and it is very personal to me. Growing up, I struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder, dyslexia and depression. I didn’t even know I had these conditions. And because I had learning disorders, people thought I was lazy or stupid. The piñata is a metaphor for me because I felt like a broken piñata. Then I slowly came to realize that I just processed things in a different way. Once I understood this, I just blossomed. And this is the journey of discovery that J.J. makes.”
—Playwright Josefina Lopez premieres her new play, Piñata Dreams (pictured above), at Casa 0101 Theatre in Boyle Heights, running through Dec. 28.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY


Los Angeles Ballet's The Nutcracker

On Dec. 1, 1944, William Christensen, the artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, is informed that the company might never be able to stage another ballet again. It is almost bankrupt, suffering from the general public’s lack of interest in ballet during the turbulent war years. When he is told by the company’s business manager that he needs to stage an event to attract the public, Christensen comes up with the plan to use the company’s reserve funds to produce and choreograph Tchaikovsky’s two-act The Nutcracker, which has never been performed in the US. To make it an event, he proclaims that he is staging it on Christmas Eve and plans to make it an annual tradition “as a gift to the citizens of San Francisco.” The Nutcracker literally saves the San Francisco Ballet from bankruptcy.

   Over the years, numerous visiting ballet companies stage the ballet in Los Angeles at various venues, choreographed by such dance luminaries as George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Yet, no professional LA-based company emerges or sticks around long enough to establish a local tradition of presenting a professional production of The Nutcracker at Christmas. Balanchine, who has aspirations to establish a professional Los Angeles company, finally gives up, declaring LA “a ballet wasteland.”

   In 2006, recently formed Los Angeles Ballet takes up the challenge, presenting its original production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by founding co–artistic directors Thordal Christensen (no relationship to William) and Colleen Neary (pictured) (former New York City Ballet principal dancer). Continuing its annual holiday presentations, Los Angeles Ballet is offering performances of The Nutcracker at Dolby Theatre in LA (Dec. 13 & 14), Royce Hall, UCLA (Dec. 20 & 21), and Redondo Beach PAC (Dec. 27 & 28).

Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review—celebrating the best in live theater and cabaret in Greater Los Angeles—on Fridays, 2–2:30pm, on KPFK (90.7FM).
 

 

The following have generously supported ArtsInLA.com....
 
Fitzmaurice Voicework
with Lisa Pelikan
www.LisaPelikan.com
 
 
Fountain Theatre
  Reborning
Opening Jan. 24

www.FountainTheatre.com

 
 
 
NEW THIS WEEK

   * Theater reviews of Blithe Spirit, Possum Carcass, Bob's Holiday Office Party, She Loves Me, The Snow Queen, Into the Woods (Wallis), Luna Gale, Northanger Abbey, Love Noel


COMING NEXT....

   * Santa Claus, or coal in your stocking
 

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