School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play
School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play
Craig Schwartz

Fall Brings a Multifaceted, Multicultural Mix to L.A.'s Theater Scene

Fall is just about here, bringing L.A. theater audiences plenty to choose from when it comes to dynamic and dramatic entertainment onstage. There are shows aplenty, from touring to homegrown productions, brand-new or kicking off their West Coast premieres. We couldn't list all of them, but here are a few of the highlights worth marking on your calendars, both currently running and upcoming in the next few months.

Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood

Playwright Adam Szymkowicz's work was last seen at Theatre of NOTE in 2012 in his hilariously funny graphic-novel spoof, Hearts Like Fists. His latest play is a cheeky gender-bending parody of the Robin Hood story. The production features Kirsten Vangsness (Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds) as Maid Marion — who, in Szymkowicz's telling, is also Robin in disguise, with a panoply of Merry Men characters played by male actors and crossdressing female ones. The adept ensemble includes Joel Scher as a fey Prince John and Alex Eliot-Funk as a fornicating Friar Tuck. Christopher Johnson directs. Thru Sept. 22 at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood; (310) 856-8611, theatreofnote.com.

Sweat
Sweat
Craig Schwartz

Sweat

Lynn Nottage's Sweat premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015 and went on to win the 2017 Obie Award for Playwriting and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play is set in Reading, Pennsylvania (officially one of the poorest cities in the United States), and revolves around a group of blue-collar workers and the impact of job loss and de-industrialization on their lives — including the fracturing of a longtime friendship along racial lines. More than one critic has noted a parallel between Nottage's narrative and current political events, with key characters matching the profile of Trump supporters. Directed by Lisa Peterson. Thru Oct. 7 at Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org/theatres/mtf/.

School Girls or, The African Mean Girls Play

In Jocelyn Bioh's play, the "mean" girls that serve as a staple in American teenage films and stories are transplanted to a girls' school in Ghana. Two girls — the reigning queen bee and a newcomer — compete in a beauty contest for Miss Ghana 1986. The newcomer's skin becomes an overriding factor in the contest, and the play deals with prejudices that people of color may inflict on one another, spurred by those of the world at large. Thru Sept. 30 at Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org.

The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona
The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona
Darrett Sanders

The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona

Prolific Obie Award–winning playwright José Rivera ventures to the afterlife in this play about a woman seeking to communicate with her dead twin. An agency that specializes in hooking people up with the deceased puts her in touch with a dead person who becomes her lover. Together they venture through the unknown. Jo Bonney directs. Thru Oct. 7 at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com.

Native Gardens

Jason Alexander directs Mexican-American playwright Karen Zacarías' new comedy about hitherto friendly neighbors whose dispute about a fence between their property balloons into a major conflagration with racial overtones. The feuding parties are an up-and-coming pair of young Latino professionals who just arrived in the neighborhood and an older white couple with roots there. The setup is intended as a microcosm for the larger upheavals that threaten the stability of the planet, with shenanigans that get pretty farcical. The ensemble includes Christian Barillas (Modern Family), Bruce Davison (Longtime Companion), Frances Fisher (Titanic) and Jessica Meraz (Major Crimes). Thru Sept. 30 at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; (626) 356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org.

SwansongEXPAND
Swansong
Robert Catto

Swansong

Irish playwright Conor McDermottroe's one-person show features noted Australian performer André de Vanny as a troubled and mildly brain-damaged young man whose ostracism early in life helps forge his volatile and violent nature. An Australian import co-produced by the Australian Theatre Company and Skylight Theatre, the play has been staged to accolades in London, Dublin, New York, Australia and the Edinburgh Fringe. Thru Oct. 7 at Skylight Theatre, 1816½ N. Vermont Ave., East Hollywood; skylighttheatre.org.

Gunshot Medley: Part 1

Framed with a historical perspective, Dionna Michelle Daniel's play is set in a North Carolina graveyard and deals with the impact of racial tensions on the lives of its characters. Desean Kevin Terry, who scored Stage Raw's Best Lead Male Performance award in August for Lorraine Hansberry's Les Blancs, directs. Thru Sept. 23 at Rogue Machine in the Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., East Hollywood; and Oct. 5-14 at WLCAC Theatre, 10950 S. Central Ave., Watts; roguemachinetheatre.com.

Black!EXPAND
Black!
Sandey Tenudo

Black!

British writer-performer Michael Washington Brown examines the permutations of race and identity in this thoughtful solo show. Brown portrays four black men from different parts of the world (an American, a Caribbean, an African and a Brit), illustrating the contrast in the experiences of a person of color within a variety of cultures. Brown underscores the viciousness of the American slave tradition when, speaking as himself, he educates us to the existence of an 18th-century document titled "The Makings of a Slave," which instructs plantation owners on the methodology of human subjugation. Thru Oct. 14 at Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Fairfax District; (323) 653-4667, zephyrtheatre.com.

All Night Long

Open Fist Theatre Company has a long history of undertaking challenging material. Its upcoming venture is a 1980 surreal play by California playwright John O'Keefe, directed by Jan Munroe. Straddling the unconscious, it shreds the notion of the traditional American family with a bizarre plot and stream-of-consciousness dialogue. One family member lives inside a wall closet (where she's plugged in to recharge) while a mother and son engage in an incestuous liaison. Sept. 14-Oct. 21 at Open Fist Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; (323) 882-6912, openfist.org.

Lost in TimeEXPAND
Lost in Time
Courtesy Lost in Time

Lost in Time

Writer Tony Pasqualini's play looks at regret and the all-too-human longing to backpedal through time to correct some of the bad choices we've made — and maybe get it right the second time around. It doesn't always work out that way. The piece was developed at Ensemble Studio Theater/LA, a company of artists committed to fostering new work. Keith Szarabajka directs. Sept. 14-Oct. 21 at EST/LA at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; (818) 839-1197, dime.io/events/lost-in-time.

Gloria

Echo Theatre Company artistic director Chris Fields directs this West Coast premiere of Obie Award winner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' play about ambitious editorial assistants and how far they're willing to go to vanquish their rivals. Sept. 15-Oct. 21 at Echo Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; (310) 307-3753, EchoTheaterCompany.com.

GloriaEXPAND
Gloria
Alexa Vellanoweth

Everything That Never Happened

Shakespeare's portrait of a venal Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is arguably empathetic given the century in which it was written, but by today's standards it's crassly anti-Semitic. In her world-premiere play, Sarah Mantell takes an intriguing back-door approach to the story, framing it as the experience of a young Jewish woman who falls in love with a man outside her faith. Jessica Kubzansky directs. Sept. 27-Nov. 4 at Boston Court Pasadena, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; (626) 683-6801, BostonCourtPasadena.org.

Resa Fantastiskt Mystisk

The ever-inventive Burglars of Hamm collaborate with Sacred Fools Theatre Company on a restaging of their 1999 production of a work by (imaginary) Swedish playwright Lars Mattsun. The show, which won this year's Top of Fringe Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, was conceived as a parody of literary dramas and follows the adventures of a troubled young artist in a magical world. During the performance, audience members wear headphones, so they can listen to the comments of the director-translator, played by Todd Merrill, as he vents on the actors. Both the play and the company of players have a reputation for being unique and hilarious. Oct. 5-Nov. 3 at Sacred Fools Theatre Company, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.

Oppenheimer

Robert Oppenheimer was a complex, conflicted figure — at one time a communist, he ended up working for the U.S. military to build the atomic bomb. The feud between Oppenheimer and Edward Teller was legendary, with Teller eventually testifying to have Oppenheimer's security clearance revoked because of his left-wing past. Tom Morton-Smith's play premiered to acclaim at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford in 2015. John Perrin Flynn directs here. Oct. 6-Dec. 30 at Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; roguemachinetheatre.net/oppenheimer.

Silence! The Musical
Silence! The Musical
Courtesy Silence! The Musical

Silence! The Musical

A satirical musical parody of The Silence of the Lambs in which FBI agent Clarice Sterling pursues a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill, the show won the 2005 NYC Fringe's Best Musical Award. Oct. 11-Nov. 3 at Bucket List Theatre at the Actors' Company, 916 N. Formosa Ave., Fairfax District; bucketlisttheatre.com/silence.

Cal in Camo

A woman's failure to bond with her newborn infant compounds the problems of an already conflicted couple in this West Coast premiere of William Francis Hoffman's play. Amy Harmon directs an ensemble featuring LADCC multiple award winner Tim Cummings (2017 Best Lead Performance for The House in Scarsdale). Oct. 13-Nov. 9 at VS Theatre, 5453 Pico Blvd., Mid-Wilshire; (323) 739-4411, reddogsquadron.com.

Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen
Courtesy Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen

What happens to us when our white lies get out of hand? Winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical (music and lyrics by La La Land's Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, book by Steven Levenson), this show tells the story of an anxious, awkward teenager who is thrust by circumstances — and a lie of his own gone viral — into an admiring social media spotlight. The boy struggles between wanting to be honest and his reluctance to sacrifice the admiration and acceptance his deceit has garnered. Michael Greif directs this touring production. Oct. 17-Nov. 25 at Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org/tickets/ahmanson-theatre/2018-19/dear-evan-hansen/.

Cost of Living

Polish-American playwright Martyna Majok won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for this four-character play about two difficult disabled individuals and the people who care for them. John Vreeke directs. Oct. 17-Dec. 16 at Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood; (323) 663-1525, web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/34420.

The Little Foxes

Los Angeles' foremost classical theater company presents Lillian Hellman's drama about wealthy siblings in a Southern town battling among themselves for money and power. Cameron Watson directs. Oct. 18-Dec. 10 at Antaeus Theatre Ensemble at Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Broadway, Glendale; (818) 506-1983, antaeus.org/shows/the-little-foxes/.

Valley of the Heart

Founder of El Teatro Campesino, longtime activist and iconic Mexican-American playwright Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit) drew on personal experience when he wrote this play about the fortunes of a Japanese-American family and a Mexican-American family against the backdrop of World War II. The Montaños are sharecroppers working the land for the Yamaguchis in the Santa Clara Valley when the latter are herded off to Japanese internment camps, shattering their lives and, not incidentally, disrupting the already verboten love affair between foreman Benjamin Montaño and the daughter of his employers. This very California work deals with racism, xenophobia and the immigrant experience, themes that can't be sounded too often. Valdez directs. Oct. 30-Nov. 11 at Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown; (213) 628-2772, centertheatregroup.org/theatres/mtf.

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