Rosie Glen-Lambert Pens Intriguing Work for the Attic Collective

The Attic Collective has devised a new intriguing play entitled "I Decided I'm Fine: A Roach Play" written by Rosie Glen-Lambert and Veronica Tjioe and directed by Rosie Glen-Lambert. Glen-Lambert (pictured above) talks to us in great detail about the Attic Collective and this fascinating new work.

Tell first and foremost about the mission of The Attic Collective.

R G-L: The Attic Collective is a community of diverse young artists whose unique approach to live performance strives to redefine theatre, both in who it is for and what it can be. Our work investigates the human experience with equal parts joy and profundity; by utilizing magical realism, clowning, movement, music, and an emphasis on design, our work tackles universal questions through a lens of wonder and discovery. We offer our audiences universes unbound by the rules of reality as a sanctuary of escape to, and not from, their own emotions. We create theatre for theatre-lovers, theatre-haters, theatre-skeptics, theatre-believers, theatre professionals, theatre novices, or, put more simply: we create theatre for everyone.

How does this revamped play I Decided I'm Fine: A Roach Play fit into the mission?

R G-L: This is a play which tackles very difficult subject matter, so it would be easy for it to be two hours of difficult-to-watch drama. But our company believes in exploring the complexity of human emotion from seemingly unlikely vantage points. There is clowning in this show. There is comedy in this show. There is a fifteen minute cockroach musical in this show. It is our belief that, rather than minimizing the weightiness of this play, these moments of levity bring our audience closer to the emotional stakes present. Laughing one minute and crying the next is our brand. It is how we take care of our audience, assuring them that emotional release and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive. This is a very “Attic Collective” show.

The show is about hoarding. I am a hoarder myself, so can definitely relate to how serious a problem this is. What inspired you to write a play about this issue?

R G-L: It’s fascinating to me who self-identifies as a “hoarder” and who doesn’t. As a person who has held on to every note I’ve received since childhood and who cannot bring myself to throw out a single VHS tape in my storage unit, I used to sort of casually self-identify, finding it to be a kind of humorous self-deprecation. But the question of who and what a hoarder is is unbelievably complex. As we have been developing and discussing this show over the past two years I’ve gotten to hear varying responses to this classification. I Decided I’m Fine: A Roach Play was created after our company was commissioned by another theatre company to create a new, devised work as part of their season. The space we would be creating it for was wonderful but intimate-just 35 seats and two entrances. As we were pondering the best way to make the intimate setting for this new piece purposeful, I was simultaneously in the process of making multiple trips to Detroit to help my family sort through my grandmother’s home in preparation for helping her move into a nursing facility. My grandmother, a tough, wonderful woman, had a home teeming with belongings: antiques, documents, receipts, unopened purchases, etc. We always knew she was a collector, but the scale to which she had accumulated only really became evident as we were helping to facilitate this move.

I started to wonder about where this tendency stemmed from. Was it her impoverished upbringing, being raised by Jewish immigrants during the Great Depression? Was it a symptom of her abusive marriage? Had she collected to this extent as a response to her failing memory? I thought about the reality shows we have all become so familiar with, the ones which encourage us to shudder and retch at people who’ve “let things get out of control.” I thought about the way these shows focus on the symptoms of each “hoarder’s” lifestyle, giving little or no attention to the source of the compulsion. I thought about the way these shows are meant for entertainment. I did research about Compulsive Hoarding Disorder, and the ways in which hoarding is most often a response to a trauma. I thought about the way wealthier people are often considered “collectors” rather than hoarders because of the space they have to store their objects. I thought about my own overflowing storage unit (filled with things I inherited from my grandmother) and wondered what my own children will say about me as they facilitate my move one day. The topic felt too rich not to investigate further, so I brought it to the Company and we began devising this play.

The play concerns a serious problem with a couple who are experiencing a serious loss. How does the magic and clowning play into this scenario? How, as director, do you meet the challenges of the switch in tone?

R G-L: Hoarding is an incredibly delicate issue that is frequently handled indelicately. For many people, their only familiarity with the topic comes from reality television which has stigmatized and sensationalized the behavior. In creating a new piece of theatre which aimed to address hoarding empathetically, it felt impossible not to grapple with this cultural touchstone directly. We watched several episodes of both A&E’s “Hoarders” And TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive” as research and were struck by the presentational quality of these shows. Each “Hoarder’s” life was compressed into an hour-long episode where the most shocking and disturbing details were highlighted for the viewers benefit. This steered us towards a framing device for our show which addresses the sensationalism of these reality shows somewhat directly: celebrity doctors/lifestyle coach type characters who “present” the core story of Ellen, a woman who is hoarding as a response to loss. These characters are inherently clowns, representing a removal from the sympathy the audience may feel for Ellen. Separately, there is another frame through which the audience can watch the performance which highlights through magic and abstraction the comfort (as well as the distress) that Ellen gains from her accumulation. How do these different framing devices work together? I think quite similarly to the way we approach this topic in real life. Hoarding is something you are asked to gawk and laugh at when you’re watching strangers on television. It is something you feel sad about when you watch it have a stronghold over someone you love. It is something that can at times feel magical, like an incredible archive of a person’s life. The tonal shifts ask the audience to grapple with the complexity of the behavior itself.

Why did you revamp the original version of the play? Did audience reaction suggest this?

R G-L: As a company, we have created a number of new plays through our distinctive devising process which have all been well-attended and well-received. But I Decided I’m Fine: A Roach Play, which was originally performed in August of 2018, had a unique effect on our audience. It elicited the most vulnerable post-show conversations, resulted in the most thoughtful next-day email messages, and we continued to hear about the way it stuck with our audiences long past its final performance. People who thought coming in to the performance they had no personal connection to the subject matter left empathizing with friends and family, and people for whom the topic was deeply personal entered the performance with trepidation and left feeling validated and hungry for deeper conversation. And, thrillingly, a number of patrons who do not typically go to the theatre (some for whom this was their first live theatrical performance!) left excited about seeing more. One patron approached me afterwards to tell me that he “didn’t realize this is what theatre could be.” It felt like it was too special to put back in the vault, so we’ve continued to work on it in the hopes of bringing it to a wider audience.

Attic Collective has received awards and has a fantastic reputation in the theatre community. Could you talk about this a little bit?

R G-L: We are very proud of the work we have created for the Los Angeles community. This past summer, our sold-out run of The Last Croissant, which we produced for the Hollywood Fringe Festival, won Best Ensemble Theatre, Best of the Broadwater, as well as Top of the Fringe, the top honor awarded. We were also nominated for the Larry Cornwall Award for Musical Excellence as well as the Steve Kent Award for Social and Political Change. Our previous Fringe project, Dead Dog’s Bone: A Birthday Play was awarded the 2015 Encore Producer’s Award and earned nominations for Best Direction of the festival as well as Best Performance. Our devised play, What Happened to Where I’ve Been, was chosen to be a part of Son of Semele’s Company Creation Festival in 2017 and enjoyed an extension after the close of the Festival. In addition to the award-winning work we do, we are also extremely proud to offer free theatre workshops that are open to the community. Every three months we gather to hone our skills, create and play. It is a wonderful opportunity for artists to practice their craft and deepen their sense of community. In this way we hope that in addition to making a name for ourselves by creating thoughtful and evocative theatre we are also adding to the Los Angeles theatrical landscape by providing a place for artists to connect with one another.

Is there anything you wish to add?

R G-L: I think this is a special, very difficult play. I hope it can be the beginning of a continued conversation about grief, mental health, stigma and compassion.

Content Warning: Please be advised that the following themes which may be triggering for some audience members are present in this performance: Alcoholism, Anxiety, Compulsive Hoarding Disorder, Death, Death of an infant, Hoarding, Mental Illness.

I Decided I'm Fine: A Roach Play runs Feb. 7 – Mar. 1. It plays Fridays, Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays 6pm) at Studio/Stage 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90004

For tickets, visit: TheAtticCollectiveLA.com/i-decided-im-fine-a-roach-play

(Photo credit: Rachel Rambaldi)


TICKETHOLDER AWARDS 2019 PART I

My 28th annual TicketHolder Awards are now posted on my TicketHoldersLA website in two parts. You can read it below and click here for photos.

Choosing my honorees this year is a real bitch. Almost as many tears shed as Carrie Ann Inaba eliminating a sports figure she finds hot. Yet there’s not much else good to write home about in 2019 besides theatre in El Lay. Between the mess we’re making of our planet and the eye-opening disintegration of everything I’ve championed and held dear all my life, thank Terpsichore it’s been a spectacular year for the creation of theatrical art to help ease the pain and frustration of living in our Trumpian nightmare. And even though I have a whole heap of productions to honor this year, with part of my time spent in New Orleans hosting an exhibit of my paintings and medical issues to tackle that seem to come with the territory at age 348, there were also a lot of noteworthy productions I sadly missed. In my world, it’s definitely been a year to praise some monumental directorial work and a plethora of spectacular ensemble casts; choosing winners in both categories has not been an easy task. And what do you think of the Geffen Playhouse? After too long a period of less-than exciting fare, the announcement in 2017 that Matt Shakman had been hired as the complex’s artistic director guaranteed a positive change and without a doubt, the turn around has been staggering. Two of the company’s casts are tied here for Best Ensemble, two of its masterful set designs are as well, and five of my top production choices for 2019 were presented at the Geffen, including my second, third, ninth, and tenth pick for Best Play and second choice of Best Revival. If I gave an annual award for Best Season, surely the Geffen Playhouse would win this year. As a matter of fact, maybe I should initiate such a thing. As a matter of fact, I think I will. 

THE 2019 TICKETHOLDER AWARD
FOR BEST SEASON

Geffen Playhouse; Matt Shakman, resident puppetmaster

BEST PRODUCTION OF 2019

Linda Vista, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum
The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen Playhouse
RUNNERS-UP: The Abuelas, Antaeus; Andy Warhol’s Tomato, Pacific Resident Theatre; Apple Season, Moving Arts; Dana H., CTG/Douglas; The End of Sex, Victory Theatre Center; For The Love Of (or the Roller Derby Play), Theatre of NOTE/CTG at the Douglas; 4.48 Psychosis, Son of Semele; Frankenstein, A Noise Within; Handjob, Echo Theatre Company; The Mountaintop, Garry Marshall Theatre; On Beckett, CTG/Douglas; The Play That Goes Wrong, CTG/, Ahmanson; Sisters in Law, Wallis Annenberg Center

BEST REVIVAL PRODUCTION

JitneyCenter Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum 
FalsettosCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus Theatre Company; Cats, Pantages; The Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus Theatre Company; Happy Days, CTG/Mark Taper Forum; Hello, Dolly!, Pantages; Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; The Ruffian on the Stairs, Los Angeles LGBT Center; Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Garry Marshall Theatre

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION

Indecent, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – September 16 - 22, 2019

Theatrical shows, Film Festivals, Fringe Festivals, Dance, and Shakespeare NOW registered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Rooftop Screams at the Montalban

The Addams Family

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Evil Dead

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Hocus Pocus

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Dawn of the Dead

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The Mummy

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Ghostbusters

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Beetlejuice

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Get Out

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Coco

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Theatrical Festivals, Shows, and Dance Performances

Gem of the Ocean

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Driving Wilde

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To Dad With Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen

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Charlotte Stay Close

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My Name is Mommy

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Jack and the Giant

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Fools

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Fertile

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Yoga Play

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Titus Andronicus

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Tonoccus McClain: Living A Why Not Life

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Buried Child

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The Chinese Lady

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Little Shop of Horrors

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Measure for Measure

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I Never Saw Another

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The Music Man

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Never is Now

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Miss Lilly Gets Boned

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The Dumb Waiter

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Barrymore

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Romeo and Juliet

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HalfTruths, Full Plate

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Milkcrate Monologues Vol. 1

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TST Sum Poetry

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Conversations 'Bout the Girls

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Art is Useless When You're Being Mauled by a Bear

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Fourth Annual Binge Fringe Festival of FREE Theatre

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Masoch and Desade

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4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane

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Peter & the Wolf Presented by LA Youth Ballet

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Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – July 3 - 21, 2019

Theatrical shows, Film Festivals, Cabaret, and Music Programs  NOW registered on the Better Lemons calendar, including Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore! Producers and Best of Broadwater Award recipients.

For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

MEN ON BOATS

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Towne Street Theatre's "Push the Culture" Nights of Sum Poetry!

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Tartuffe

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The One-Man Improvised Musical

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She LA Arts Summer Theater Festival

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Fefu and Her Friends

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West Side Story

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It Happened in L.A

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OTHERWISE ENGAGED

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LOOSE KNIT

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The Last PowerPoint

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Boeing Boeing

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Dope Queens

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Musical Theatre West presents "Disney's The Little Mermaid"

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Ryan Raftery's "The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart"

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Adam Pascal: So Far ..,

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Embrace Love Free

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Under Milk Wood

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Beasts from the Sea!

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Enerjoyce...Evolution of a Pisces Baby Boomer

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Camp Fangoria

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Early Birds

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THE SPANISH PRAYER BOOK

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Miss America's Ugly Daughter: Bess Myerson & Me

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Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – April 1 - 7, 2019

Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

 

Invisible Tango

“Magic sensation Helder Guimarães returns to the Geffen with the world premiere of his one-man show, Invisible Tango. Directed by legendary film producer and director Frank Marshall (Jurassic World, Indiana Jones, Goonies, Back to the Future), Invisible Tango explores the nature of secrets and how far we are willing to go to discover them. In the midst of the information age and our culture of over-sharing, Guimarães challenges our interaction with the unknown and explores how we can embrace the magic of wonder and mystery. Guimarães last amazed and charmed Geffen audiences in the smash hit Nothing to Hide, the two-man magic show that extended four times before transferring to New York. ”

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SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

“The Tap-Happiest Show Ever! GOOD MORNING TO YOU! LA MIRADA THEATRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS & McCOY RIGBY ENTERTAINMENT (celebrating its 25th Silver Anniversary at the theatre) are thrilled to present SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, based on the greatest movie musical of all time with screenplay by Betty Comden & Adolph Green and songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The fresh new production will be directed & choreographed by Spencer Liff (Emmy nominee for TV's “So You Think You Can Dance” and Broadway's Head Over Heels, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Falsettos), associate director is Cynthia Ferrer (original “Kathy Selden” in the first National Tour of Singin' in the Rain) with musical direction by Keith Harrison.”

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EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

“ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY (ETC) presents the fourth show of its 40th Anniversary Season, the Southern California premiere of the stunning and wildly popular novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED, adapted by Simon Block and directed by Jonathan Fox.
Jonathan, a young Jewish-American writer, travels to Ukraine to seek out the woman who may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. He hires Alex, a young Ukrainian tour guide who takes him on a hilarious road trip in search of the woman's village. Along the way, they confront haunting memories as Jonathan and Alex's histories become entwined.”

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Moving On: The One-Acts 2019

“Moving On: The 2019 One Acts features a mix of established playwrights and exciting, emerging younger talent.”

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Boxing Lessons

“A ferociously dark and hilarious new comedy by award-winning playwright John Bunzel (63 Trillion, Death of a Buick). When a famous writer dies under mysterious circumstances, family and friends gather in his cabin on a remote island in the Puget Sound to box up his belongings. As they go through the clutter dad left behind, hidden family secrets come to light — and they come to realize just how much they both despise and love one another.”

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A Bad Year for Tomatoes

“Fed up with the pressures and demands of her acting career, the famous Myra Marlowe leases a house in the tiny Vermont hamlet of Beaver Haven, and settles down to write her autobiography. She is successful in turning aside the offers pressed on her by her long-time agent, but dealing with her nosy, omnipresent neighbors is a different matter. In an attempt to shoo them away, and gain some privacy, Myra invents a mad, homicidal sister – who is kept locked in an upstairs room, but who occasionally escapes long enough to scare off uninvited visitors. The ruse works well, at first, but complications result when the local handyman conceives an affection for “Sister Sadie' (really Myra in a fright wig) and some of the more officious ladies decide it is their Christian duty to save the poor demented Sadie's soul. In desperation, Myra announces that her imaginary sibling has suddenly gone off to Boston – which brings on the sheriff, and the suspicion of murder!”

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Twisted Broadway

“'Twisted Broadway' promises to be an irreverent afternoon offering your favorite Broadway tunes turned upside down and inside out...Theatre LA Cares, LA's newest producing company, is committed to empowerment, healing, and dignity, and robustly supports Time's Up so that someday soon no one will ever have to say, “me, too” again. Time's Up is a unified call for change from women in entertainment and for women everywhere. From movie sets to farm fields to boardrooms alike, Time's Up envisions nationwide leadership that reflects the world in which we live.”

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The First Wives Fight Club

“A musical parody of the cult film classics “The First Wives Club” and “Fight Club” starring Raja, Brooke Lynn Hytes, Ginger Minj, Peaches Christ, and more. Written and directed by Varla Jean Merman & Peaches Christ.”

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Duet for One

“A famous concert violinist is stricken with a disease which necessitates her retirement from the stage and which threatens her marriage as well. The play is structured as a series of interviews between the violinist and her psychiatrist in which she tries to cope with her illness and its effect on her life. Featuring Mia Christou and Howard Leder. ”

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Brain Problems

“A world premiere comedy by Malcolm Barrett, directed by Bernardo Cubría. After being diagnosed with ‘brain problems,' a cynical man copes with his life-threatening condition by retreating into his imagination.”

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The Fantasticks by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt

“The Fantasticks by Tom Jones & Harvey Schmidt
Produced through special arrangement with Music Theatre International
“Try To Remember” a time when this romantic charmer wasn't enchanting audiences around the world. The Fantasticks is the longest-running musical in the world and with good reason: at the heart of its breathtaking poetry and subtle theatrical sophistication is a purity and simplicity that transcends cultural barriers. The result is a timeless fable of love that manages to be nostalgic and universal at the same time.”

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Dying for Our Voices

“Our journalists are in danger – being forsaken by their people and slaughtered for their pursuit of the truth. As a multidisciplinary piece performed in three different languages, Dying for Our Voices explores that pursuit's high costs, its global impacts, and personal consequences. ”

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The End of Sex

“It's Nancy's birthday. Her daughter and son-in-law come to take the parents out to celebrate. But when new desires and old frustrations collide over dinner, all four slide into a tense standoff as Nancy questions her own collusion with the sexual agreements and power dynamics within her own marriage. Using cutting humor and venturing into tricky territory, The End of Sex (Or What's Wrong With Mom) wrestles with how sexual behavior encourages and creates power arrangements – even in consensual relations.”

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Valley of the Dolls

“An all-star benefit reading of Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls, directed by Richard Hochberg. Susann's infamous tale of cutthroat careerism, wild sex, and fierce female protagonists will be on hilarious display for two nights only. The cast features (in alphabetical order) Steve Bluestein, Wilson Cruz, Joely Fisher, Mo Gaffney, Robert Gant, Tom Lenk, Greg Louganis, Alec Mapa, Laraine Newman, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Gordon Thomson, Joan Van Ark, Bruce Vilanch, Marissa Jaret Winokur.
One hundred percent of the proceeds will benefit Alcott Center for Mental Health Services and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.”

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Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando

“Set under the white-hot glare of Hollywood and Celebrity, “Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando” tells the story of Marlon Brando's troubled, headline-making son…in his own words. Written by Champ Clark and featuring John Mese as Christian, this 59-minute one-act–based on personal interviews conducted by Clark and populated by the likes of Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson, Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Anjelica Huston, Robert Blake and others–is, most importantly, the story of father and son.”

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Argonautika

“In this fresh retelling of the classic Greek myth, Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece has been reframed for our time. Join the fantastic voyage and encounter Hercules, Hera, sirens, centaurs, and more—familiar mythological figures imbued with unexpected character and depth. Discover humor, love, and the unimaginable as Tony Award® winner Mary Zimmerman reveals the humanity in the most monstrous of creatures in this unforgettable journey for the ages.”

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Noises Off

“One of ANW's most beloved production is back: Your favorites are ready to rein in the chaos of this joyfully out-of-control British farce about the auspiciously titled play-within-a-play Nothing On. Step behind the curtain and meet the under-rehearsed and over-worked cast and crew with a penchant for drama more personal than professional. As the production progresses, the bumbling cast brings down the house—literally!
Better Lemons readers receive $5 off with the discount code ANWLemon when you purchase your tickets.”

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Let's Write a Musical

“David Hamilton decides to write a romantic musical comedy with his wife to cheer himself up when he's diagnosed with cancer. “Let's Write a Musical “ is the musical they wrote together with the story of their cancer journey weaving through it. Based on a true story.”

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SkyPilot Runway - A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Divorce

“A Funny Thing …, written by Jeff Gould and directed by Margaret Starbuck, introduces three couples, all going through difficult divorces, as they anxiously and frustratingly wait in a room at a courthouse for an appointment with a mediator. Conversations begin, details of each of their troubled marriages are revealed and they eventually learn more about themselves and their relationships in just hours than they have in years of matrimony.”

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Maroo Village the Musical

“In the Korean language with English Subtitles. In the summer of 2014, Ezekiel Drama Ministry's third project, the musical Maroo Village opened. The musical explores the definition of church and defines it as not a place, but the people themselves. Maroo Village was a success that broke records leading to multiple encore shows in the same year. The Ezekiel is now opening a remastered version that takes on the original 1hr 20 minutes of the musical Maroo Village to a full-length 2-hour musical...this creative Christian musical Maroo Village pertains to 20 actors [and]...There are 24 songs from various genres including Korean folk songs, opera, classic musical, retro rock, hip hop, and waltz.”

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WORKING 2020

“The Actors Gym, in association with the Whitefire Theatre, present WORKING 2020. Created and written by Academy Award winner Bobby Moresco (Crash, Million Dollar Baby), and members of the Actors Gym, produced by Bryan Rasmussen, Bobby Moresco, and Steven Christopher Parker. Working 2020 explores what work means to different people in different circumstances in the U.S. today, adding new characters, and this time focusing on the sadly relevant slide from middle to working class.”

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LET ME HEAR YOU WHISPER & THE STRANGEST KIND OF ROMANCE

“The Group Rep presents two unusual one-acts, Paul Zindel's LET ME HEAR YOU WHISPER directed by Katelyn Ann Clark, and Tennessee Williams' THE STRANGEST KIND OF ROMANCE directed by JC Gafford. LET ME HEAR YOU WHISPER concerns a cleaning lady working in a mysterious lab where experiments are being conducted on mammals. Drawn to one of the subjects, she is shocked when she learns the gentle creature's fate is in danger. In THE STRANGEST KIND OF ROMANCE the proprietress of a boarding house tells a potential tenant that one of the former tenants left his cat behind. This highly unusual piece is peopled with fascinating, strongly-opinionated characters, and someone falls in love with … the cat.”

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Sand Moon

“What does it mean to love someone? What do we do when that person becomes unrecognizable? When a brother and sister start bringing their girlfriends on family vacations, a house built on secrets begins to shift. The push and pull of the ones we love gives us one of two options: resist or relent? WORLD PREMIERE.”

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Dorothy's Adventures in Oz

“A vibrant, joyful family-friendly musical comedy that follows a grown-up Dorothy on the quest to return to OZ… Based on characters created by L. Frank Baum, the originator of the first fourteen Oz books ... Follow the escapades of Dorothy and her companions along the windy road to that mystical place where dreams really do come true and nothing is as it seems…along the way, help Dorothy save her family farm, do battle with the vain but glorious Queen Coo-ee-oh, join forces with a vagabond princess who is revolting (although she doesn't look it), meet a magical Patchwork Girl, a Rainbow Maiden and help to set free the King of the Rainbow, face such looming monsters as war, drought and mortgages, learn a great deal about the world around us, and even a little bit about ourselves.”

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Willy's Lil Virgin Queen

“Winner of the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival Encore Producer's Award. Willy's Lil Virgin Queen illuminates one woman's journey to discover strength and empowerment and triumph over tragedy as she finds her true power through the words of a playwright; William Shakespeare. This urgently-paced, hilarious and dark coming-of-age-story dives deeply into the many roles that a woman plays on her road from girlhood to womanhood, and it does not shy away from the darker aspects of finding one's own purpose in a world that tells girls to shut-up and look pretty. As was true for the original Virgin Queen Elizabeth, in a man's world it takes a woman to rule herself, and one woman in particular to learn that that within the words of the greatest playwright in history there is truth and within every woman there is a queen.”

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(mostly)musicals: KEEP THE CHANGE

“(mostly)musicals returns to Upstairs at Vitello's with it's 32nd edition on April 8th with a cabaret you'll flip for! Join music director Gregory Nabours and a stellar cast of singers from LA and Broadway for an exciting evening featuring songs about changing your mind, changing the world, changing your clothes, and maybe just spare change!”

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Disrobed

“The producers of the HFF16 immersive hit, Love the Body Positive, are back with the full length comedy, “Disrobed: Why so clothes-minded?” The play has been adapted and updated by Steven Vlasak (HFF18's Nights at The Algonquin Roundtable) from the British naturist classic, “Barely Proper” by Tom Cushing. It's Meet The Parents with a twist! Skye is about to introduce her conservative boyfriend to her family. But she's never told him that she and her family are all nudists! Will their relationship survive? Once again, this immersive theatre experience requires the audience to be in their birthday suits. Don't forget to bring a clothes bag and a towel to sit on! All photography is prohibited and all cellphones must be turned off and stored in the clothes bag upon entering the venue”

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Peter and the Starcatcher

“Tony-winning Peter and the Starcatcher upends the century-old story of how a miserable orphan comes to be The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (a.k.a. Peter Pan). A wildly theatrical adaptation of Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's best-selling novels, including marauding pirates and jungle tyrants to unwilling comrades and unlikely heroes, Peter and the Starcatcher playfully explores the depths of greed and despair… and the bonds of friendship, duty and love. ”

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Scarlett Fever

“In 1936, producer David O'Selznick began a 2 year search to find an unknown to play Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. The story unfolds in 10 moments incorporating stylized movement, dance, song, original text, several suitcases, and the great Scarlett dress. All accompanied by live percussion.”

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Homeward LA 2019

“Homeward L.A. 2019 is a program consisting of eleven monologues based on stories of people who've experienced homelessness. Actors of Theatre 40 will perform the show, directed by one of Theatre 40's regular directors, Jules Aaron. Proceeds benefit Midnight Mission.”

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Old Jews Telling Jokes

“'Old Jews Telling Jokes,' which has been called a 'pickle-barrel full of giggles,' showcases five actors in a revue-type production that pays tribute to and reinvents classic jokes of the past and present. It celebrates the rich tradition of Jewish humor and ‘all the rabbis, complaining wives, fed-up husbands, patience-challenged physicians, gossiping ladies, and competitive men' populating it. The humor is suggestive and even raunchy as the ‘Old Jews' make fun of themselves as well as followers of every other religion ... Warning: adult (bawdy) humor. Not for audiences under 21.”

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WHAT I DID FOR A JOB

“In What I Did for… a Job, J. Elaine humorously reveals her unique approach to auditioning and what it took to book 10 Broadway Shows. “I had to learn to break the “rules” in order to be noticed. Many of my audition pieces were practically cabaret acts so I put them in a show.” says Broadway veteran. J. Elaine was last seen playing ‘Alexi Darling” in RENT: LIVE . “I've also added some inside scoop about doing RENT: LIVE.”

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Crime and Punishment

“This award-winning adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's famous novel is a thrilling 90-minute psychological inquiry into the troubled mind of a murderer. Dive into the greatest crime story ever written, a tale of murder, motive and redemption that plumbs the depths of the human soul. Written for only three actors, Crime and Punishment stars Michael Trevino (CW's Roswell, New Mexico; The Vampire Diaries) as Raskolnikov, with Lola Kelly (Circle X, Chance Theatre, SCR, REDCAT) and Brian Wallace (End of the Rainbow at La Mirada, Cash on Delivery at the El Portal) playing all the other characters. 'Engrossing theater… will banish any bad memories you might have of trying to struggle through Dostoyevsky's book'”

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Yes. No. Maybe.

“What would you do for a million dollars? What would you do for someone you love? Can we ever be certain that we'll NEVER do something like have sex for money or career advancement? Thorne & his wife Fleur find themselves in a modern day twist of the Indecent Proposal scenario. Yes, people are being targeted by sexual predators, but what about the people who consciously use sex to get ahead? “Yes. No. Maybe.” examines the moral implications of the ways in which we all prostitute ourselves to advance our careers, improve our bank balances, stay in power, keep a roof over our heads, or get whatever it is we feel we ‘need' to survive, be happy or feel validated ... 'Yes. No. Maybe.' is a dramedy of manners for an adult audience unafraid to consider the possibility that their morals may not be as set in stone as they'd like to believe…Comedy, drama and a splash of contemporary dance merge to create a unique theatrical experience.”

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Cirque du Giselle

“Giselle is an ethereal, “Fringe Festival” contemporary take on the classic ballet. Giselle, a sickly peasant girl , falls in love with, and subsequently dies of a broken heart after discovering her love is actually betrothed to another. A dark and tragic love story of deceit, heartbreak, consequences, and redemption – where love eventually triumphs over vengeance from the grave and beyond. Brought to life on the stage in a swirl of aerial and cirque magic!”

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Octopi Wall Street

“Octopi Wall Street addresses the subject of climate change through a series of vignettes told from the perspective of both human and non-human entities (think drunk birds, drag queen barley, algae, and a glacier). The play is based on extensive research of mainstream media articles dealing with off-beat aspects of global warming and climate change. The opening monologue of the play recently won a nationally recognized award at the Region 8 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival as its 2019 Monologue Selection.”

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EVENTS OPENING THIS WEEK

THE TRAGEDY OF MEDUSA @ Son of Semele

January 16, 2019 8:00 pm

The romantic relationship between the goddess Athena and her human priestess, Medusa is complicated when the other gods find out and intervene. This nuanced and challenging retelling of the classical Medusa myth is poetic ...read more


DEFINITION OF MAN @ Arena Theater

January 17, 2019 7:00 pm

A sexier, more violent Waiting for Godot, Definition of Man is a physicalized post-modern decreation myth. The one-act was created by Nikki Muller and Jason Rosario by synthesizing personal narratives, academic texts and Russian ...read more


THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN @ Antaeus Theatre at Kiki David Gindler Performing Arts Center

January 17, 2019 8:00 pm

Inspired by the real-life filming of the documentary Man of Aran, Olivier Award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh's dark comedy is set on the small Aran Island community of Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) off the Western Coast ...read more


IT IS DONE @ Theatre 40

January 17, 2019 8:00 pm

Hank's Bar is a roadside joint on a desolate highway in the middle of nowhere. Hank the barkeep (played by Kurtis Bedford) passes the time when he has no customers by perusing a porn ...read more


DOUBLE DOUBLE - A MEDITATION ON MACBETH @ The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

January 17, 2019 8:00 pm

Macbeth didn't die on the battlefield of Dunsinane — he entered witness protection and was relocated to 1950s Los Angeles to sell insurance.  Double Double collides Macbeth with the classic film noir Double Indemnity, delivering ...read more


GRAY PEOPLE (2019 EXTENSION)@ The Belfry Stage (Upstairs)

January 17, 2019 8:30 pm

Critics Lemonade: 100%
Audience Lemonade: 100%

Walter Kartman and Kyle Felts - Photo Credit: Carlos R. Hernandez Kyle Felts, Walter Kartman and Olivia Lemmon - Photo Credit: Carlos R. Hernandez...read more


BRILLIANT [email protected] Lounge Theatre

January 18, 2019 8:00 pm

Rosannah Deluce has been driving for days. Her car dies in a snowbound corner of Alaska. In distress, she seeks shelter in the only nearby structure, an old barn that is the home of ...read more


HOW TO PRODUCE A HOLLYWOOD FRINGE SHOW @ Studio C

January 19, 2019 1:00 pm

Excited about the thought of doing a show at HFF, but have concerns and questions? Get the answers to your questions and an overview of the Hollywood Fringe in this 3 hour workshop, taught ...read more


LIZZIE @ Bootleg Theater

January 19, 2019 7:30 pm

Critics Lemonade: 100%

EXTENDED! LIZZIE will now bring the axe down at the Bootleg Theater Jan. 19-27, 2019 On a sweltering summer morning in 1892, in a small New England city, a prominent businessman and his wife were ...read more


SHEENA [email protected] Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

Grammy Award winning singer, recording artist and actress Sheena Easton is a versatile performer who is a top concert attraction around the world. Known for numerous hit songs, including “U Got the Look” with ...read more


THE 39 STEPS @ Morgan-Wixson Theatre

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

Hitchcock meets hilarious in this fast-paced mystery/romantic comedy/adventure for everyone who loves the magic of theater. The Morgan-Wixson presents The 39 Steps, adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and based ...read more


HIR @ Odyssey Theatre

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

A darkly funny, shockingly absurd and endlessly surprising vision of a world in transition by MacArthur genius Taylor Mac. Somewhere in the suburbs, Isaac has returned from Afghanistan with a dishonorable discharge, only to ...read more


AN EVENING WITH JOHN WILKES BOOTH @ Theatre West

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865) was notable on several accounts. He was a successful and wealthy actor, and member of a celebrated show business family (son of Junius Brutus Booth and brother to Edwin and ...read more


FAMILY [email protected] Jewish Women's Theatre @ The Braid

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

Moving and funny show of stories exploring secrets only whispered about, until now! ...read more


SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE FINAL PROBLEM (OLD TIME RADIO STYLE) @ Long Beach Performing Arts Center (Beverly O'Neill Theatre)

January 19, 2019 8:00 pm

When Holmes and Moriarty face off at Reichbach, one or both must fall! In the last of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first run of Sherlock Holmes stories, he wanted a dramatic showdown between the super-sleuth ...read more


CINDERELLA @ Santa Monica Playhouse

January 20, 2019 12:30 pm

The Los Angeles Times dubbed this Santa Monica Playhouse original family theatre musical  "An Enchanting Cinderella!…captivates its young audience, highlighted by fast pacing, fancy costuming and a lovely, unweepy Cinderella…she's no slouch with a ...read more


THE MARRIAGE ZONE @ Santa Monica Playhouse

January 20, 2019 3:00 pm

Critics Lemonade: 87%
Audience Lemonade: 100%

Cal and Beth are selling their home. They're visited by Skip and Ellie, an engaged couple, very much in love who are eager to buy their first home. They're joined by Mike and Liz, ...read more


ALEICHEM SHOLOM! THE WIT AND WISDOM OF SHOLOM ALEICHEM @ Santa Monica Playhouse

January 20, 2019 3:30 pm

Critics Lemonade: 92%

Extended Once More! Take a journey through the life, loves and laughter of the world's most beloved Yiddish humorist, as you are treated to an in-depth look at the foolish philosophers, philosophical fools, comical ...read more


ROD SERLING'S STORIES FROM THE ZONE @ Theatre 40

January 21, 2019 8:00 pm

Rod Serling's Stories from the Zone consists of stage adaptations of two classic episodes of his best-loved TV series. Mr. Garrity and the Graves: In the Old West circa 1890, a man and his ...read more


WELL @ Lindhurst Theatre at Pepperdine University

January 22, 2019 7:30 pm

"This play is not about my mother and me," begins Lisa Kron in this hilarious, moving story that combines the genres of solo performance and experimental theatre with the timeless story of mothers and ...read more


BILL FRISELL “WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR” FEATURING PETRA HADEN, THOMAS MORGAN, & RUDY ROYSTON @ Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine University

January 22, 2019 8:00 pm

With a career that has spanned more than 35 years, guitarist and composer Bill Frisell's diverse catalog has been described as “the best recorded output ...read more 


Top Dozen of 2018!

Every year I do this, draw up a list of my dozen best. Given the amount of wonderful theatre I get to see, some rules became necessary. First, no two shows from the same theatre company. Second, I limited myself to actual plays, rather than (for example) dance performances. This year I faced a dreadful choice between two plays by the same writer who is a friend of mine!
The Flu Season (Pico Playhouse) was an exquisate poem of a play, about people who meet and feel and try to endure what they have or have not said, done. felt. When you see as much theatre as I do, frankly any play that keeps you guessing as this does, while continuing to make sense, is a treasure. That all this surprise surrounds so many fundamental human issues, tricky ones, the might have beens that haunt us, helps make this a very special show, brought to life by an ensemble that moved me in so very many ways.
Romeo and Juliet (Vagrancy) Why does Juliet fall for Romeo. In answering this question, the Vagrancy's production makes this centuries-old play extremely topical for our specific day and age. For that reason I'm sure some audience members were offended. But to me, the entire company created a world for the play which echoed our own in some terrible, tragic ways. This ended up the best production of this play I've yet seen.
Native Son (Antaeus) Another topical work, one which has sparked quite a bit of controversy amid my circle of friends. Some lifted their eyebrows as this milky white dude reviewed a play based on this classic African American novel. Others were upset at the liberties taken with the novel's story. Some found the central character (understandably) repellent. I certainly did. But--and here is what puts this production on my list--as disgusting as I found that young man's actions, I grew to understand the why of them. In seeing and knowing the shaping of his paranoia, his myopia, his desperation--and also realizing fundamentally he was far from the only person so shaped--I came to stunning realization. Namely, that I am a monster. In this society, even moreso in the era of the play, my white skin makes me a creature of whimsical and vast power. It changed me by revealing a truth. What more is Art for?
The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man (Son of Semele) may be the most original work on this list--a musical taking place inside the mind of a real science fiction author, a woman who pretended to write her works as a man. What we saw on stage was an Odyssey with a female Odysseus confronting all the most important people of her life, up to and including many aspects and avatars of herself. This theatre company, which put on the single best piece of theatre I have ever seen a few years ago, once again wowed and shook and moved me to center of my heart.
The Woman is Perfected was a one-woman show, the title coming from the last poem written by Sylvia Plath. So. A comedy! Well, no--rather a searing portrait of a woman whose soul has become infected with and then totally converted to misogyny. It was a horror story, in monologue, not told in terms of a story related but rather the monologue itself.
Play On! is another one woman show, this time a cabaret of songs written by and for the performer, each inspired by one of Shakespeare's great female characters from Olivia to Ophelia, Viola to Juliet and Gertured and Lady Macbeth and others.
Longing Pinocchio (ZJU) was an original retelling and re-imagination of the 19th century novel that somehow (much like Alice in Wonderland or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) somehow succeeded in becoming a modern fairy tale. Breathed into new life by looking at the source material with a fresh, often irreverent as well as sharply observant eye.
Winter Solstice (City Garage) is an example of why I give each theatre company only one slot on this list each year. It otherwise proves too hard. This play from Germany, superbly acted and directed as ever by City Garage, touches on an extremely topical question--that of the covert rise of fascism, via attractive lies and alluring half-truths all wrapped up in a generally friendly, supportive package. But what does one do? That question, powerfully asked by the play, is not answered here. Rather, the answer is left where it belongs--with us, for us to come up with something, each individual. Where else after all does the responsibility lie?
Gray People (Force of Nature) was written by a friend of mine, and this is one of two plays of his that opened this year. I was very hard pressed to choose which one to put on the list. It came down to which feels a tiny fraction of a shade more complete emotionally. And it could have gone either way. In the middle of the night, three people who prove both strangers and not-strangers to each other have met within some far-off woods. Thriller, mystery, dark comedy, tragedy, and redemptive drama plus more, this play and cast enacted a soul-shaking tale of disturbing surprise to haunt audience members.
King Dick is literally the funniest political farce I have ever seen, to the point where I sometimes cried and/or had trouble breathing. At one point in history (this part is true) Elvis Presley requested a meeting with President Richard Nixon. From this emerges a comedy of error, mismanagement, paranoia, fantasy, drugs, and talking to the dead. The cast superbly managed the absurdity of the situation so perfectly my brain is still reeling from it.
Blue Surge (Sixty-Six Theatre Company) tells a seemingly simple story about some flawed but generally likable folks in an ordinary small city. It might almost count as a soap opera. But we sense from almost the first line this will dive deeper into the human condition, fathoms deeper. With a wonderful cast that is how deep it proceeds to go, down to some of the saddest facts of being human and alive--yet also how we can endure, how we can heal, how we can find a reason to breathe at all.
Love's Labour's Lost (Chase What Flies) proves a brilliantly delightful and "on target" production of what may be Shakespeare's lightest comedy. Honestly, this script makes As You Like It look like Romeo and Juliet! But--and this oft ends up forgotten in heavier fare--it has some genuine emotional truths, some sharp insights, and a melancholy or bittersweet undertaste that makes the humor so much more poignant. That is portrays women as more mature than men, yet does not condemn either one, marks just one more detail this production hit in the bullseye!


EVENTS OPENING THIS WEEK

IRISH FILM FESTIVAL @ A Noise Within

October 25, 2018 7:00 pm

Irish Screen America showcases contemporary media makers and their work in the US though screening, panels and receptions in New York and Los Angeles. ...read more


DESERT RATS @ Los Angeles Theatre Center

October 25, 2018 8:00 pm

A dark comedy about life and crime in America's contemporary West. In a squalid motel room on a hellish day in Barstow, brothers Frank and Jesse plan a kidnapping. When day turns into night ...read more


MEMBERS ONLY @ Los Angeles Theatre Center

October 25, 2018 8:00 pm

A roller-coaster ride to redemption. The year is 1982: the golden age of boxing, the dying gasp of disco, the flowering of identity politics — a time before AIDS had a name. Two decades ...read more


THE SHOOTER'S BIBLE @ Los Angeles City College

October 25, 2018 8:00 pm

Vietnam, March 14, 1970. For Lt. Jockey John and his men, tonight their war and their world comes down to this one room on this one last night. ...read more


THE [email protected] MiMoDa Studio

October 26, 2018 8:00 pm

The Constitution by Mickaël de Oliveira tells the story of four actors, who are invited by the government to write a new Constitution during troublesome political times. They are sequestered from society and given ...read more


PL.A.Y NOIR 2018 @ Actors Workout Studio

October 26, 2018 8:00 pm

Punk Monkey Productions returns with their homage to the beloved film genre with five new Noir-acts for the stage. The seventh season of PL.A.Y Noir presents an even keel of comedy and drama in ...read more


DOCTOR ZOMBA'S GHOST SHOW OF TERROR @ The Complex

October 26, 2018 11:45 pm

Critics Lemonade: 100%

Audience Lemonade: 86%

The award winning campy horror comedy returns to Hollywood this Halloween! "This Halloween treat will satisfy your horror craving and tickle your funny bone."-Hollywood Gothique Doctor Zomba revives the “Ghost Show” popular in the 1950's featuring ...read more


MEET THE CRITICS II @ Theatre West

October 27, 2018 10:00 am

On Saturday, October 27, from 10 am to 12 noon, Better Lemons and Theatre West will be hosting “Meet the Critics!” part 2, featuring several of LA's premier critics for a panel discussion of ...read more


THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO SPACE AS A MAN @ Son of Semele

October 27, 2018 8:00 pm

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man – Part fact, part fever dream, and part musical, this captivating new work opens with Alice B. Sheldon – better known to sci-fi aficionados as ...read more


CRISTINA MONTES MATEO, HARP, AND SUSAN GREENBERG, FLUTE @ Raitt Recital Hall at Pepperdine University

October 28, 2018 2:00 pm

As the 1st Prize winner in the XII Edition of the Torneo Internazionale di Musica (Rome, 2006), and the 1st Prize winner in the International Harp Competition V. Bucchi (2009), Cristina Montes Mateo is ...read more


MACBETH, AN ALL-FEMALE CAST PRESENTED BY SHAKESPEARE ON THE DECK @ The Kimpton Everly Hotel, on the deck

October 28, 2018 8:00 pm

"Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair" Nothing is what it seems. When three witches tell Macbeth that he is destined to occupy the throne of Scotland, he and his wife choose to become ...read more


VALLEY OF THE HEART @ Mark Taper Forum

October 30, 2018 8:00 pm

Luis Valdez, the legendary creator of Zoot Suit and hero of the Latino theatre (The New York Times), returns to the Taper with a sweeping new epic examining the difficult divide between America's ideals and its actions in ...read more


Now Registered This Week on the Better Lemons Calendar - September 10 through September 16, 2018

NEW! Theatrical shows, Musical Concerts, and Film Festivals registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For more shows visit our Calendar. For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

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Visit our Wakelet for more shareable stories on registered shows and festivals!


THE BALLAD OF THE BIMINI BATHS: 5 Questions for Tom Jacobson, Playwright

Almost a decade ago, I met Tom Jacobson during my transition from undergrad studies at Princeton back to Los Angeles theatre life. A few alumni contacts recommended I involve myself with Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA because it was one of Los Angeles' premier theatre for new play development. Tom was active in the company's artistic directorship and took me under his wing.

What I remember most about my mentorship with Tom Jacobson was his staunch belief in outlining before writing. Because of his adherence to this rigorous prep work, Tom's plays remain immensely well-researched, planned and cared for, structured, and richly detailed.

Tom Jacobson's newest creative endeavor is The Ballad of the Bimini Baths, a trilogy on the now-forgotten but once (in)famous Bimini Baths, a hot springs resort that only the City of Angels could produce. Tom's trilogy boasts an unprecedented exploration of almost 50 years of Los Angeles' history through the lens of the Baths. Each of the works in The Ballad of the Bimini Baths will be produced by a different LA intimate theatre: Son of Semele's production of Plunge will run until June 17; Rogue Machine's presentation of Mexican Day runs through July 1; and Playwright's Arena's premiere of Tar opens June 9 and runs through July 2.

Recently, as Tom prepared to take LA theatregoers to the Baths, I checked in with him to find out about this exciting project.

Donathan Walters and Darrell Larson

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): You are writing a trilogy on a forgotten place in LA. I'm already in love with the prospect of these works. What drew you to the subject matter?

Tom Jacobson (TJ): Bimini Baths was located a block from my house. It's in an unnamed neighborhood at the edge of Koreatown, Historic Filipino Town, Silver Lake, and Wilshire Center/Westlake. A lost stream called Sacatella Creek used to run through it to a swamp called Bimini Slough. There were two movie studios and a restaurant on the top floor of the American Storage Building called Thirteenth Heaven where the waiters wore angel wings (until they were shut down for liquor violations during Prohibition). Lots of drama happened in these few blocks, including fires (Palomar Ballroom in 1939, civil unrest in 1992), floods (Sacatella Creek overflowed as far southwest as Mariposa and 6th) and several drownings in Bimini Baths. A lot of the conflict in the area grew out of racial bias, and these stories of the past are still relevant today. Plus, I'd like the neighborhood to get a name: Bimini Basin.

RQM: Which piece came first? Why did you start there?

TJ: I workshopped one play with Son of Semele Ensemble for several years, trying to create a site-specific work that encompassed 100 years of stories. That proved to be too much for one play, so I broke it into three plays, starting with Plunge, set in 1918. I outlined all three plays to tell one novelistic story, and then started at the beginning with the original sin that overshadowed the next 30 years.

RQM: Now, three of LA's finest companies are working with you to present the trilogy. Wow! What a feat! How did this production arrangement come about?

TJ: I had relationships with all three companies (Captain of the Bible Quiz Team in 2016 at Rogue Machine, The Orange Grove in 2004 at Playwrights Arena, plus the workshops with SOSE), and John Flynn, Jon Lawrence Rivera and Matt McCray all liked the idea of collaborating on a theatrical event related to the history of our city. They've done a terrific job of linking actors (some characters appear in more than one play), sets, costumes, sound, lighting over the 30 year span of the story. It was wonderful to see the directors exchanging ideas about how to link their productions.

Jully Lee and Jonathan Medina

RQM: The trilogy traverses a critical time period in LA's history: 1918 to 1948. The two Great Wars, the rise of Hollywood, the Roaring 20s, the Great Migration, the television age, our first freeways - just to name a few milestones. In your research, what major cultural shifts caught your eye during this time frame?

TJ: Plunge begins with the founding of Otis Art Institute, a proud civic moment as Los Angeles was just starting to envision itself as a city focused on the future. As Los Angeles boomed during the early Hollywood years and as a center of production during World War Two, civil rights became more of a focus nationally and in our city. Race figures prominently in all three plays, andMexican Day chronicles an early (and mostly unknown) civic rights victory.

RQM: Ultimately, one of the things I adore about this project is that it is an investigation of Los Angeles history written by a Los Angeles playwright which will premiere before a Los Angeles audience. You have always believed in the power and dignity of developing dramatic work in this town. Why should writers continue to make theatre in LA?

TJ: There are so many unexplored stories in our vast city. Any writer can find Los
Angeles tales that touch their hearts, probe their questions and bring to life issues about which they are passionate. We're so much more interesting than the cliches of beaches, Hollywood and plastic surgery. Together we can rediscover our landscape and remind ourselves of what we have in common as well as what tears us apart (which is drama). We can shape our public image in the stories we tell. Los Angeles is really coming into its own, a true city of the future, emblematic of our country's future, and that should be celebrated on stage.


FIVE QUESTIONS FOR THE DIRECTOR - A Conversation with Lovell Holder

At the core of any successful production is an open, inspired, and constructive relationship between writer and director. To my mind, this bond is the sacred foundation upon which a play's life is built. As a playwright, I learn so much from my directors. While working on a script, we engage in hearty discourse about everything from design elements to actor interpretations to dramaturgy and development. Talking through a script with a director is when I come alive - it's that magical process through the blueprint you've established on the page is given physical, tangible life on the stage.

My bond with director Lovell Holder is a special one. We went to undergrad together, where he was instrumental in the development of my first full-length play Orange Woman. We have recently reconnected and I'm happy to be collaborating with him on a new solo show, The Duat.  It will be part of Son of Semele's Solo Creation Festival, where it will run from July 27-30.

Set in the Egyptian afterlife, this language-movement-performance work imagines the spiritual reckoning of Cornelius Johnson, a fictionalized FBI informant during the Black Power Movement.

In the thick of rehearsals, I took some time to chat with Lovell about his experience with The Duat. Here are my five questions for him:

Lovell Holder, director of THE DUAT

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): After you just read the script, what came to your mind?

Lovell Holder (LH): My instant thought was how proud I was of you as a writer, Roger. Given that we've known each other over ten years now, it's been such a privilege to watch you grow and develop your craft, and I continue to be so impressed by the level of focus you're finding in your work, The Duat being no exception. Indeed, the images that come to mind for the play for me are those of an onion or perhaps even nesting dolls, as our hero keeps revisiting the same narratives over and over again until he comes closer and closer to the truth (well, what he can admit as the truth). Because the language within the text captures so many different tones over the course of the narrative (simultaneously poetic, reckless, elegiac, the list goes on and on...), I also was excited by how we could explore these shifts with movement (both in complimentary ways and through means that might run a little more perpendicularly at the text). Finally, even though the story takes place in a very specific incarnation of the Egyptian afterlife, I was very moved by how distinctly American the story is. We follow our lead character from his childhood in Texas into his twenties in Los Angeles (and beyond), while also visiting on his father's exploits in Virginia years prior. Given the little touches of street names and specific political movements that pepper the narrative
(the ghosts of many of them still with us some 50 years after the events described in the story), I felt a strong connection to the themes of journeying and how that relates to a quest for identity, which I do believe
is something toward which many Americans feel a very unique kinship.

RQM: The play is a series of stories told, untold and retold. How will we keep it active?

LH: I think there are multiple factors that are crucial in order to keep the audience engaged in what is fundamentally a collection of ghost stories told over a campfire in many ways (the play isn't set in the afterlife for nothing, after all). Obviously, there are the simple technical performance components that our wonderful actor, Darien Battle, and I revisit over and over again in rehearsal, investigating pace and the employment of upward vocal inflection to keep the text constantly up and moving. There are of course deeper and more specific tools that we rely on for this specific production as well. Chiefly, we've realized that drum that is written in the script is a real gift to enlivening and heightening the development of the narrative, and it helps us distinguish and punctuate how the narrative unravels and corrects itself based on the reliability of our lead character. Secondly, the use of repeated movement phrases and gestures (when they appear; how they appear; how they change both in size, speed, and content; etc.) helps also pique the audience's interest and provide some additional underscoring - and even clues - for deciphering the veracity and honesty of the story that's being told. Mostly however, we benefit from the rich, bold language of the text, and that is our greatest gift for audience engagement.

RQM: What excited me about working with you was the role that movement and music can play in the work. What's the plan?

LH: Right now we've spent several weeks exploring the role of the drum and how that relates to our actor. We had a tremendous discovery in working with a local drummer, the terrific Denice Frazier. Originally, the plan was for Denice to teach Darien some drumming techniques so that he could generate the music himself during performance, which we thought could provoke an interesting dynamic between our primary character and his relationship to the truth (as symbolized by the drum). However, the unspoken musical dialogue that was opened up when Darien and Denice would improv certain sections (him performing the text while she accompanied on the drums) provided him such freedom as an actor and exploded open the text so beautifully that we all very quickly realized that this was the infinitely more magical way to tell the story. Thus, we found the duet in The Duat (pardon the pun). We certainly realized this is the way that the story wants to be told in its current incarnation. Consequently, this epiphany has also changed how we were originally envisioning movement for the piece. What once felt like the need for a demanding physical score to drive the piece now feels like it can be more appropriately accomplished through the use of simple, specific, and repeated gestures that can help suggest and provoke the piece along in concert with the drum. Fundamentally, this piece lives in the text spoken by the actor and the beat evoked by that drum - to get in the way of that would be foolhardy, and every choice we make in terms of staging and choreography has to support that relationship first and foremost.

RQM: You and Darien Battle, our actor, have worked together before. Tell me a little about your history.

LH: Darien and I actually went to grad school together at the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company MFA Program! As such, we've already clocked quite an impressive roster of hours in purgatory together, which made for excellent practice given the subject matter of this piece. All kidding aside, we benefited from attending a phenomenal conservatory training program with some of the best teachers in the world, and consequently we have a very similar working vocabulary and shorthand given that we'd flown out of the same nest, for lack of a better analogy.  Darien and I were scene partners many times in class, and we also moved to LA at the same time five years ago, so we've been in the artistic trenches alongside each other for some time. Darien is a very gifted actor who has such a strong, open, fearless presence onstage, and his voice is a truly remarkable instrument. The demands of this script could not be in the hands of a more capable performer.

RQM: Why should people come and support the show?

LH: I certainly think this a story that really invites the audience to explore their relationship with the truth, and how their particular ideas of what they believe their lives to be might or might not align with objective fact. That might not sound fun, but I can guarantee you that Darien makes it a total blast! Roger, amidst an incredibly powerful and moving exploration of guilt both from a historical perspective and a personal one, you've also infused a LOT of humor and surprises that Darien has risen to with eagerness and joy. Consequently, I think the audience is going to laugh quite a bit on their journey in this piece. I'd also recommend this project for anyone who has an interest in African-American history as well as the forgotten stories of mid 20th-Century Los Angeles. You've revived a lot of cultural history and significance that many people should be much more aware of, Roger, and I think anyone who sees this play will leave more informed, both as a citizen of LA and even on the fundamental level of simply being a human trying to figure out where they fit in to the personal vs. political debate that is rapidly shaping our contemporary America.

The Duat runs at Son of Semele's Solo Creation Festival from July 27 to 30. Lovell Holder directs. Darien Battle stars. Denise Frazier performs on drums. Abdullah Helwani produces. It is part of an evening of solo works.

For tickets and more information, visit: https://www.artful.ly/son-of-semele-ensemble/store/events/12537