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 actorsgang.com Tim Robbins UCLA-weaned troupe does politically conscious plays with sleek production values.
Alliance Repertory Company alliancerepertory.com 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 arktheatre.org performs classics with a rock & roll sloppiness; equal parts aggravating and scintillating, always worth watching.
Arroyo Repertory Theater arroyorepertorytheatre.com Founded in 1983, the Pasadena company stages musical theater to classics to adaptations of films.
Attic Theater Center attictheatre.org Production standards of modern plays have been steadily rising.
Bellflower Theater Company bellflowertheater.org Mostly family fare on the outskirts of Long Beach.
Blue Sphere Alliance bluesphrealliance.com Frequently stages festivals of one-acts and solo performances with mixed results; solid production values.
Buffalo Nights Theater Company buffalonights.org The postActors Gang UCLA-weaned company hosts this years 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 years Queen of the Angels at the 25th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards.
Burglars of Hamm burglarsofhamm.com Five clowns whose satires of theater and its conventions are mercilessly funny.
Cal Rep calrep.org 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 cavernclubtheater.com Goofball drag and movie parodies.
Celtic Arts Center celticartscenter.com Irish heritagethemed 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 circustheatricals.com Conventional interpretations of classics that stress the acting.
City Garage See article by SLM.
Classical Theater Lab classicaltheatrelab.org Focuses on readings and workshops of classics.
Coleman and Smith Artistic Company colsac.org This industrious multicultural troupe has fared better with chestnuts than new plays.
Colony Theater Company colonytheatre.org 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 nohoartsdistrict.com/theatre Good actors and ideas, but the company is still finding its way.
Cornerstone Theater Company See article by Erin Aubry Kaplan (EAK).
Culture Clash cultureclash.com A core of three very smart comedians make this troupe one of the nations busiest, angriest and funniest Latino companies.
Deaf West Theater deafwest.org 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 geocities.com/diversityplayers Their name says it all. We liked their production of Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown, but found it like so many others.
East L.A. Classics eastlaclassic.org 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 companys productions of playwrights from Manuel Puig to Brian Friel have garnered respectful reviews.
Electric Lodge electriclodge.org A laboratory for performing and visual arts in Venice, its experiments have proven unreliable, but thats what experimentation is about.
Ensemble Studio Theater The Los Angeles Project See article by SLM.
Evidence Room evidenceroom.com Its taste ranges from Charles Mees whimsical poetry to Edward Bonds 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 fabulousmonsters.org 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 foundtheatre.org Wacky comedies in Long Beach.
Furious Theater Company furioustheatre.com This strong company had its city-owned theater space in Pasadena snatched away, and is looking for a new home.
The Ghost Road Company ghostroad.org Delving ever deeper into ensemble-created projects. Takes collaboration more seriously than most, and the results have been intriguing.
Interact Theater Company interactla.org Does American chestnuts very well.
Knightsbridge Theater Company knightsbridgetheatre.com 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 latinotheater.com Does politically focused new works with moments of clumsiness and flashes of magnetism.
Lodestone Theater Ensemble lodestonetheatre.org This young Asian-American company produces rarely but memorably.
Long Beach Shakespeare Company bardintheyard.com A new company that performs Shakespeare quite well, plus an occasional detective comedy.
Lonny Chapman Group Repertory Theater lcgrt.com A North Hollywood institution. When theyre good, theyre perfectly respectable; when theyre bad, theyre 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 larep.org One of L.As 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 Womens Shakespeare Company lawsc.net Is that a banana in Hamlets pocket? If the shows 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 loudrmouth.com 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 lucidbyproxy.com Young, vibrant troupe unafraid of tweaking convention.
MACHA Theater Company machatheatre.org A womens 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 magnacartatheatre.org 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 themettheatre.com 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 movingarts.org New plays. Has shown a penchant for Christopher Durang-style absurdism.
Naked Angels nakedangels.org This NYC-based troupe staged an impressive production of Stephen Belbers 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 theyll be more useful to society.
Neurotic Young Urbanites nyurbanites.com 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 oasistheatre.com Vamps on classics with a cleverness thats always entertaining though occasionally too clever.
Open First Theater Company See article by SLM.
Pacific Resident Theater See article by SLM.
Pasadena Shakespeare Company pasadenashakespeare.com A talented company currently regrouping since landing in a fiscal marsh.
The Powerhouse Theater powerhousetheatre.com Very snappy company thats just taken its topflight musical (about a pathetic all-girl rock band) to Chicagos Lookingglass Theater.
Quantum Theater Company quantumtheatre.org Anythings possible: They made Timberlake Wertenbakers verbal gymnastics in Our Countrys Good look easy, but also made corned beef hash out of Romeo and Juliet.
Road Theater Company roadtheatre.org Disney couldnt 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 sacredfools.org Its core aesthetic is sci-fi. Very busy company that occasionally demonstrates its capacity for brilliance.
Shakespeare Festival/L.A. shakespearefestivalla.org 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 68centcrew.com New and new-ish plays range from hokey to riveting.
Son of Semele Ensemble sonofsemele.org Keeps knocking at societys edge in kinetic and sometimes upsetting productions.
Sons of Beckett email@example.com Stages existential farces. Our reviews have been mixed.
Theater Banshee at the Gene Bua Theater theatrebanshee.org Has been staging British farces with shining moments, but not entirely effectively.
Theater District (at the Cast) thetheatredistrict.com Has a front-porch drama aesthetic.
Theater 40 theatre40.org Some excellent actors, mostly staid play selection.
Theater Neo theatreneo.com A big, stylish company that does many new plays.
Theater of NOTE theatreofnote.com 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 nohoartsdistrict.com/theatre A terrific acting ensemble in North Hollywood. Does fairly traditional (Clifford Odets, Lanford Wilson) large-cast shows.
Theater West theatrewest.org Old-fashioned fare by one of L.A.s most senior rep companies.
Theatricum Botanicum theatricum.com From Shakespeare to Arthur Miller in the summers open air; keeping Will Geers populist, pro-union politics alive on the stage and in the actors paychecks.
Towne Street Theater See article by EAK.
Troubadour Theater Company troubie.com They mock pop culture in classics with sharp, ribald humor and wild theatricality.
Two Roads Theater Company nohoartsdistrict.com/theatre Prolific in its productions of domestic-themed new plays that dont always pay off.
Unity Players Ensemble See article by EAK.
Vampire Cowboys Theater Company vampirecowboysla.com 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 thevictorytheatrecenter.org 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 wcensemble.org 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 writeactrep.org Literate and imaginative productions in a church-hall setting.
Ziggurat Theater Company ziggurattheatre.org The company explores primitive Asiatic influences in modern society. Results are mixed when good, spectacular.
Zombie Joes Underground Theater Group zombiejoes.com Specializes in snappily produced short works packed with goth surrealism and fanciful staging.
Zoo District zoodistrict.org A smart, serious company. Stresses innovation and theatricality. Just opened its first ensemble-created piece.
Research by Luis Reyes
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.