Our selective list of (almost) 100 actor-driven ensembles that have staying power:

Photo by Raul Vega

Action/Reaction Theater Company (818) 786-1045. Impressive track record ranging from ancient Roman comedy to an adaptation of a Jack London story to a new play.

Actors Co-op See article by Steven Mikulan (SM).

Actors’ Gang Tim Robbins’ UCLA-weaned troupe does politically conscious plays with sleek production values.

Alliance Repertory Company The company seems to physically rebuild its theater to best serve each production; high acting standard.

Antaeus Company See article by Steven Leigh Morris (SLM).

Ark Theater Company performs classics with a rock & roll sloppiness; equal parts aggravating and scintillating, always worth watching.

Arroyo Repertory Theater Founded in 1983, the Pasadena company stages musical theater to classics to adaptations of films.

Attic Theater Center Production standards of modern plays have been steadily rising.

Bellflower Theater Company Mostly family fare on the outskirts of Long Beach.

Blue Sphere Alliance Frequently stages festivals of one-acts and solo performances with mixed results; solid production values.

Buffalo Nights Theater Company The post–Actors’ Gang UCLA-weaned company hosts this year’s L.A. Weekly Theater Awards. So yes, we like them.

Also in this issue:

Company Town: How did sprawling Los Angeles become a mecca for small theater? Nearly 100 self-sustaining companies, many with distinguished reputations, are at work in the city. STEVEN LEIGH MORRIS addresses the question of why L.A. is such fertile ground for ensembles, and profiles some of the best, along with ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN and STEVEN MIKULAN. Plus, MORRIS on Gordon Davidson, who will be designated this year’s Queen of the Angels at the 25th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards.

Burglars of Hamm Five clowns whose satires of theater and its conventions are mercilessly funny.

Cal Rep Intriguing productions that veer toward the academic.

Camelot Artists Productions (310) 855-1556, Ext. 24. Has a long history of elegantly produced large-cast revivals of modern plays.

Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo Goofball drag and movie parodies.

Celtic Arts Center Irish heritage–themed plays, mostly well produced.

Chautauqua Theater Alliance (323) 960-8865. A gypsy theater company with a local history dating back to the 1920s. Now leans toward a TV-style/movie drama aesthetic.

Circle X Theater Company See article by SLM.

Circus Theatricals Conventional interpretations of classics that stress the acting.

City Garage See article by SLM.

Classical Theater Lab Focuses on readings and workshops of classics.

Coleman and Smith Artistic Company This industrious multicultural troupe has fared better with chestnuts than new plays.

Colony Theater Company One of the few local small theaters to grow viably to mid-size; solid production values, working to sustain challenging programming amid commercial pressures.

Company of Angels See article by SM..

Company Rep Good actors and ideas, but the company is still finding its way.

Cornerstone Theater Company See article by Erin Aubry Kaplan (EAK).

Culture Clash A core of three very smart comedians make this troupe one of the nation’s busiest, angriest and funniest Latino companies.

Deaf West Theater Theater by and for the hearing-impaired, and others. Its revival of Big River transferred to the Taper, to Broadway and is returning to the Ahmanson.

Diversity Players Their name says it all. We liked their production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but found it like so many others.

East L.A. Classics Targets the schools to bring literary-based theater classics (incorporating pop culture and a commedia style) to underserved youth.

Eclectic Company (818) 508-3003. The company’s productions of playwrights from Manuel Puig to Brian Friel have garnered respectful reviews.

Electric Lodge A laboratory for performing and visual arts in Venice, its experiments have proven unreliable, but that’s what experimentation is about.

Ensemble Studio TheaterThe Los Angeles Project See article by SLM.

Evidence Room Its taste ranges from Charles Mee’s whimsical poetry to Edward Bond’s visceral explorations of urban violence. With works sometimes baffling, sometimes penetrating, ER is always fearless, and has largely accomplished its goal of creating a “scene” around its theater.

Fabulous Monsters With its Burning Man aesthetic, it dresses up Hindu myths in ornate costumes, puppetry, lavish choreography and techno pop. The Monsters are either enchantingly hypnotic or relentless, depending on your mood at the time.


The Found Theater Wacky comedies in Long Beach.

Furious Theater Company This strong company had its city-owned theater space in Pasadena snatched away, and is looking for a new home.

The Ghost Road Company Delving ever deeper into ensemble-created projects. Takes collaboration more seriously than most, and the results have been intriguing.

Interact Theater Company Does American chestnuts very well.

Knightsbridge Theater Company Has undergone an amazing transformation over the years, from an overabundance of shoddily performed classics to an arresting theatricality in its musicals and summer-stock dramas.

Latino Theater Company Does politically focused new works with moments of clumsiness and flashes of magnetism.

Lodestone Theater Ensemble This young Asian-American company produces rarely but memorably.

Long Beach Shakespeare Company A new company that performs Shakespeare quite well, plus an occasional detective comedy.

Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theater A North Hollywood institution. When they’re good, they’re perfectly respectable; when they’re bad, they’re unbelievable.

Los Angeles African American Repertory (818) 761-0704. In each of two new plays reviewed by the Weekly in the past two seasons, our critics have loathed the material and praised the company.

Los Angeles Repertory Company One of L.A’s oldest extant classical repertory companies (founded 1966) with a reputation for staging classics well, the troupe has been dormant for a couple of years.

Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company Is that a banana in Hamlet’s pocket? If the show’s by LAWSC, it probably is. All gals doing the Bard is great fun for the actors and makes the gender-point overabundantly clear.

Loud*R*Mouth Theater Company All productions directed by Laura Marchant, mostly light comedies, excepting the local premiere of Suzan-Lori Parks’ In the Blood last year.

Lucid by Proxy Young, vibrant troupe unafraid of tweaking convention.

MACHA Theater Company A women’s company “advancing culture, history and art” through community and educational outreach. Only one full production that we know of, since its inception in 2000.

MagnaCarta Theater Company Founded in 2001, averages about a production a year, mostly well-performed, thoughtful comedies.

Matrix Theater Company (323) 852-1445. Has been quiet lately. A tradition of excellent stage productions by working TV actors; originated the policy of strategic double-casting that spread around the city like wildfire.

Meadows Basement See article by SM.

MET Theater Very active company does everything under the sun; production standards vary.

MetaTheater Company (323) 993-7113. This young, ambitious company got off to a good start with a visceral production of Dogs Barking and The Dead Eye Boy last year.

Moving Arts New plays. Has shown a penchant for Christopher Durang-style absurdism.

Naked Angels This NYC-based troupe staged an impressive production of Stephen Belber’s Tape here two years ago, and just opened a bill of one-acts (co-produced by FOX Broadcasting Company) aimed at turning playwrights toward TV, where presumably they’ll be more useful to society.

Neurotic Young Urbanites A smart, fun-filled troupe that consistently asks us to examine the way we watch the theater, and things beyond it.

A Noise Within See article by SM.

Oasis Theater Company Vamps on classics with a cleverness that’s always entertaining though occasionally too clever.

Open First Theater Company See article by SLM.

Pacific Resident Theater See article by SLM.

Pasadena Shakespeare Company A talented company currently regrouping since landing in a fiscal marsh.

The Powerhouse Theater Very snappy company that’s just taken its topflight musical (about a pathetic all-girl rock band) to Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater.

Quantum Theater Company Anything’s possible: They made Timberlake Wertenbaker’s verbal gymnastics in Our Country’s Good look easy, but also made corned beef hash out of Romeo and Juliet.

Road Theater Company Disney couldn’t do environmental atmosphere any better. The acting is also excellent. Play selection veers toward the sentimental and melodramatic.

Robey Theater Company See article by EAK.

Sacred Fools Theater Its core aesthetic is sci-fi. Very busy company that occasionally demonstrates its capacity for brilliance.

Shakespeare Festival/L.A. Festive alfresco stagings of the Bard go down easy.

Silo Theater Company (323) 692-8108. From Sarah Kane to Ubu Rex, from dark anarchy to gleeful anarchy, the company stages the end of the world with conviction and craft.

The 68 Cent Crew New and new-ish plays range from hokey to riveting.


Son of Semele Ensemble Keeps knocking at society’s edge in kinetic and sometimes upsetting productions.

Sons of Beckett Stages existential farces. Our reviews have been mixed.

Theater Banshee at the Gene Bua Theater Has been staging British farces with shining moments, but not entirely effectively.

Theater District (at the Cast) Has a front-porch drama aesthetic.

Theater 40 Some excellent actors, mostly staid play selection.

Theater Neo A big, stylish company that does many new plays.

Theater of NOTE Excellent production values. Appears at the moment to be working through a tear between its punk-poetry heritage and an opposing impulse toward something sweeter, more light-hearted and box-office friendly.

Theater Tribe A terrific acting ensemble in North Hollywood. Does fairly traditional (Clifford Odets, Lanford Wilson) large-cast shows.

Theater West Old-fashioned fare by one of L.A.’s most senior rep companies.

Theatricum Botanicum From Shakespeare to Arthur Miller in the summer’s open air; keeping Will Geer’s populist, pro-union politics alive on the stage and in the actors’ paychecks.

Towne Street Theater See article by EAK.

Troubadour Theater Company They mock pop culture in classics with sharp, ribald humor and wild theatricality.

Two Roads Theater Company Prolific in its productions of domestic-themed new plays that don’t always pay off.

Unity Players Ensemble See article by EAK.

Vampire Cowboys Theater Company The West Coast version of a joint NYC-L.A. venture. Aims for the edge of the knife, which sometimes cuts sharp, sometimes just leaves a dent.

The Victory Theater A Burbank tradition, financial pressures have kept it in on the limb recently with social comedies, though its recent partnership with Lodestone Theater Company and Orphan Theater Company last year resulted in a magical fantasia.

Watts Village Theater Company See article by EAK.

West Coast Ensemble Treads cautiously in its play selection; this is our version of an off-Broadway house that loves Sondheim and West Coast premieres, and does them well.

Write Act Literate and imaginative productions in a church-hall setting.

Ziggurat Theater Company The company explores primitive Asiatic influences in modern society. Results are mixed — when good, spectacular.

Zombie Joe’s Underground Theater Group Specializes in snappily produced short works packed with goth surrealism and fanciful staging.

Zoo District A smart, serious company. Stresses innovation and theatricality. Just opened its first ensemble-created piece.

—Research by Luis Reyes


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