Arts In LA
LA STAGE INSIDER

by Julio Martinez, August 15, 2014



Elyse Mirto and Tom Astor in Rubicon Theatre Company production of Conviction


THE THEATRE @ BOSTON COURT RE-EXAMINES BECKETT CLASSIC

The Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena presents Samuel Beckett’s 1961 two-person classic, Happy Days, starring stage and film star Brooke Adams and three-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (Monk) (both pictured), opening Sept. 13. Helmer Andrei Belgrader reexamines the work, “newly relevant to a generation burdened by climate change and environmental doom.”


LA OPERA REVIVES DANIEL CATÁN’S ‘FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS’

Mexican-born composer Daniel Catán created the Spanish language romantic opera Florencia en el Amazonas in 1995, inspired by the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez, co-commissioned by LA Opera.

   The work is being revived by LA Opera, starring Verónica Villarroel (pictured) in the title role, staged by its original director Francesca Zambello, conducted by Grant Gershon, opening Nov. 22.


LA MIRADA PLANS REIMAGINED, ‘IMMERSIVE’ STAGING OF ‘CARRIE’ FOR 2015

La Mirada Theatre is moving forward with “an all-new, re-imagined, environmental, and completely immersive theater production” of the 1988 Broadway tuner, Carrie, wrought by Lawrence D. Cohen (book), Michael Gore (music) and Dean Pitchford (lyrics)—based on the novel by Stephen King—helmed by Brady Schwind, choreographed by Imara Quininez (pictured).

   The production plan is to completely transform La Mirada Theatre into Ewan High School, “putting audiences, for the first time ever, at the center of the action.”


PREMIERES

Blank Theatre in Hollywood launches its 24th season with The Why—“one part modern satire, one part honest investigation”—scripted by Victor Kaufold, helmed by artistic director Daniel Henning, opening Sept. 20. The cast includes Ben Crowley (pictured), Nicholas Cutro, Jen Landon, and Jeff Witzke.

   Rubicon Theatre Company continues its 16th season with the premiere of Conviction, scripted by Carey Crim, helmed by Scott Schwartz, starring Elyse Mirto and Tom Astor (pictured above)—following the story of a teacher accused of a crime he may or may not have committed and the impact that accusation has on his relationships with close family and friends. Produced in association with Dead Posh Productions, Bay Street Theatre, and the Royal Manitoba Theatre, the production debuts Sept. 6.

   Zephyr Theatre in West Hollywood hosts the premiere of Low Hanging Fruit—focusing on four homeless women, all combat vets of Iraq/Afghanistan, trying to make their way on the mean streets of LA’s Skid Row—scripted by Robin Bradford, directed by Lee Sankowich, opening Sept. 20.

   Fountain Theatre in Hollywood offers the West Coast debut of John Biguenet’s solo play, Broomstick, starring Jenny O’Hara (pictured) as “a wacky, bizarre old woman living in an odd little shack who just may happen to be a witch,” helmed by Fountain’s Steven Sachs, opening Oct. 11


MUSICALLY INCLINED

Ford Theatre in the Cahuenga Pass hosts this summer’s second edition of Chris Isaacson’s Broadway Under the Stars, starring Tony winner Jennifer Holliday (pictured), supported by Broadway vets Erich Bergen, Rogelio Douglas Jr., Danny Gurwin, and Chad Kimball, hosted by Obba Babatundé, helmed by David Galligan, on Aug. 16 only.

   Vox Lumiere: The Phantom of the Opera—“an explosive mash-up of live music, dance, technology, and silent film that offers a fresh take on the 1925 Lon Chaney silent film”—conceived by Kevin Saunders Hayes, with original music by Hayes, a vocal chorus, dancers, and a live band, opens Sept. 19 at LA Theatre Center in downtown LA.

   Laguna Playhouse follows up its run of bio rock tuner Buddy—The Buddy Holly Years, with Motorcity Magic—A Musical Journey Through the Motown Years, staged by Michael Yorkell, Aug. 13–24.


AROUND TOWN

Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks honors the 35th anniversary of Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Buried Child—a macabre look at a Midwestern family with a very dark secret—helmed by Bryan Rasmussen, featuring Jacque Lynn Colton (pictured), opening Sept. 6.

   Marsha Norman’s 1983 Pulitzer-winning two-character drama, ‘night, Mother, starring Sylva Kalegian and Ellen Gerstein, helmed by Eliah Whitmore, opens at Whitmore Eclectic @ The Lost Studio on Oct 11.

   Santa Monica Playhouse presents the 10th anniversary revival of Jerry Mayer’s two-person romantic comedy 2 Across, starring Kip Gilman and Wendy Michaels, helmed by artistic director Chris DeCarlo, opening Aug. 23.


INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY

Ian Abercrombie is born Sept. 11, 1934, in Grays, Essex, England. After appearing as a teenage dancer on London stages, he makes his way to the US in 1951 at age 17. He makes his acting debut in Stalag 17, opposite Jason Robards in 1955. Abercrombie and his much-admired British accent finds work in a variety of theatrical offerings, from revues to Shakespeare and even as a magician’s assistant.

   His quest for a life on the stage in America is interrupted in 1957 when he is drafted into the US Army and is stationed in Germany. Released from the service in 1959, Abercrombie travels to Los Angeles for a backers audition. That fizzles but he decides to stay on the West Coast with the desire to find work in television and film while continuing to pursue his first love, live theater. Hollywood doesn’t discover his talents until 1965 when he scores an uncredited role in Von Ryan’s Express, opposite Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard.

   Over the next four decades, Abercrombie finds steady work in film and television, highlighted by his breakout role as Elaine’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) highly eccentric and demanding boss in the NBC series Seinfeld. “I adore the TV and film work,” Abercrombie admits during a radio interview on KPFK, “but what makes it all the more glorious is that I’ve been able to also perform consistently on stage.” He reveals that he has never gone a year without a stage performance of some kind.

   Highlights of his career include Sweet Prince with Keir Dullea (1982); A Doll’s House (1982) opposite Linda Purl at the Matrix; The Arcata Promise (1981) with Anthony Hopkins at The Center Theatre at The California Center of Performing Arts; and Abercrombie’s one-man show, Jean Cocteau—A Mirror Image, which he tours.

   “I have adored being able to work in theater here in Los Angeles,” says Abercrombie. “There are so many wonderful stages in this town and so much of the work is first rate.” A sampling of Abercrombie’s LA stage fare includes The Crucifer of Blood at the Ahmanson (1980); Journey’s End at the Cast Theatre (1982);  The Wrong Box at Cast-at-the-Circle (1983); and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at Freud Playhouse (2002). Ian Abercrombie dies at age 77 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Jan. 26, 2012, of complications from kidney failure.

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).
 

 

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NEW THIS WEEK

   * Theater reviews of Oklahoma!, One in the Chamber, Reasons to Be Pretty, The Taming of the Shrew, 6 Rms Riv Vu, Paternus


COMING NEXT....

   * Theater reviews of Trying, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Spring Awakening, Race, and more
 

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