Located near Griffith Park’s Camp Hollywoodland, the Bronson Caves are actually more of a tunnel, about 50 feet long, with three entrances, dug by a quarry company around the turn of the last century. Everyone from John Wayne to Batman has used it as a film location since. Next weekend, it hosts what is likely its first apocalyptic-themed, site-specific play.
In the aptly named Cave, a self-crowned prophet drags his wife and two daughters out to the remote, titular location, convinced that he’s receiving messages from God warning him the end times are nigh and that holing up is their only hope of riding out the coming conflagration. Instead, they fall prey to cabin fever and “the madness of the venture.”
“Apocalyptic stories usually focus on the apocalypse,” playwright Ted Hommrich said. “I wanted to get at this obsession with the end of days that fundamentalist or extremist Christianity engenders.”]
Raised by “sane” Catholics, Hommrich says he took inspiration from Cormac McCarthy, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible and the story of the True Russian Orthodox Church, a splinter group whose members, upon orders from their dear leader, spent up to six months in the winter of 2007 waiting out the imminent Armageddon underground in western Russia.
The play is staged at sunset in order to take advantage of natural light. Going site-specific wasn’t just about being literal, Hommrich says. He wanted both the creepy aura and the bucolic feel that such an environment would bring. “There is a purity to nature,” he says.
Directed and co-produced by Hommrich's wife, Giovanna Federico, Cave’s self-produced run represents the first of the writer’s plays to get a public staging, one that comes with unique complications. Although the couple considered going guerrilla style early on, they ultimately opted to cough up for proper city permits. That doesn’t buy them exclusive rights to the caves, however. “On the nights of the performances, we’ll have to station someone outside to ask tourists, ‘Please don’t walk through the stage,’” Hommrich says. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
Cave is performed July 25 and Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Bronson Caves in Griffith Park. Performances are free, though donations are encouraged and reservations are required. Visit playinacave.tumblr.com.
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