Director Bart DeLorenzo sips a Dewar‘s at Taylor’s Steakhouse while describing his next ambitious project — a May staging of David Edgar‘s Pentecost at the Evidence Room, the hippest small theater in town, where he serves as artistic director. DeLorenzo, known for his penchant for brainy plays and noir aesthetic, is for once dressed in shades of charcoal rather than his usual all-black attire; he and Evidence Room actors Christian Leffler and Tobias Baker are on the town tonight, with Baker playing the part of wheelman of a rented Lincoln Town Car. Just as the frizzy-haired, bearish director begins discussing Edgar’s politically charged drama, an aging dowager sitting at a nearby table begins choking. No problem: Leffler swings into action and administers the Heimlich maneuver.
Soon after, the woman and her friends begin flirting with the handsome actor. The revived woman asks Leffler if she can practice the Heimlich on him; with the woman‘s gnarled hands poised just above the actor’s crotch, DeLorenzo, always the director, nonchalantly instructs her to move her hands a little lower.
(Raised in Massachusetts, the Yale- and Harvard-educated DeLorenzo founded Evidence Room in 1994 with Jason Adams, Alicia Hoge and Ames Ingham, all of whom are executive directors at the theater.)
During the joy ride from downtown to Hollywood, DeLorenzo has the air of an Andy Warhol, from the deceptively passive mien to his celebrity name-dropping. Marilyn Manson, Susan Tyrell, Dennis Christopher, Fred Ward and Marisa Tomei are but a few of the celebs who‘ve attended his shows, he says. Other stars like Megan Mullally, John Fleck and Laurie Metcalf have performed in productions at Evidence Room.
As the car approaches the Music Center, DeLorenzo deadpans disbelief at Taper artistic director Gordon Davidson’s well-known penchant to catnap during performances. He says jokingly, “I sat directly behind Gordon Davidson at The Moliere Comedies, and he was actually awake the entire time.” DeLorenzo complains that the Music Center doesn‘t support local artists: “We get too many rehashes of shows that have been hits in New York or London.” (This despite the fact that the Taper has been renting DeLorenzo’s theater for its 35th-anniversary “Next Step” productions of new plays.) Since moving from Culver City to its new space on a rough stretch of Beverly Boulevard that literally and figuratively straddles the downtown and Hollywood art communities, Evidence Room has chalked up an impressive series of hits under DeLorenzo‘s aegis. From the new venue’s inaugural show, The Berlin Circle, Charles L. Mee‘s adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle (directed by David Schweizer), to Dog Mouth, written and directed by John Steppling, the company has solidified its reputation for producing literate spectacles, while DeLorenzo has risen to prominence through his ability to make the highbrow accessible and the lowbrow seem smart.
Adding to the Evidence Room‘s growing popularity as a late-night hangout is The Strip, a riotous serial comedy penned by Justin Tanner, Patricia Scanlon and Michael Connor. Enjoying some measure of local celebrity, DeLorenzo recently appeared as himself in the ever-changing show.
The lumbering DeLorenzo is equally at ease discussing The Strip’s murderous hillbilly spoof as he is discussing the politics of 18th-century German melodrama. In last year‘s Don Carlos, DeLorenzo directed John Rafter Lee’s adaptation of Frederich Schiller‘s melodrama to critical acclaim and sold-out houses.
At Musso & Frank, DeLorenzo immediately sets out to rearrange the barstools, earning a swift rebuke from the bartender. Right then, porn star Ron Jeremy strolls by.
The jaunt winds up late at night at Mel’s Diner in Hollywood, just as a group of performers from the Actors‘ Gang are leaving. Gang member Jack Black, one-half of the rock group Tenacious D and star of the films Orange County and High Fidelity, sidles up alongside a table populated by DeLorenzo and his posse. The disheveled Black grabs the Weekly’s tape recorder and makes an official-sounding pronouncement — overblown but capturing a sentiment of the moment: “Bart DeLorenzo is the king of theater.”
BART DeLORENZO, artistic director of Evidence Room. High points: No Orchids for Miss Blandish; Don Carlos; Saved — all directed by DeLorenzo; The Berlin Circle, directed by David Schweizer; Dog Mouth, written and directed by John Steppling.