A few years ago, Austin Pendleton's drama made quite a splash in the local theater community during its extended run at the Black Dahlia Theater. This expanded version, under Damaso Rodriguez's superb direction and featuring a terrific cast, is even more impressive. It's 1960, and backstage at Dublin's Gaiety Theater, the renowned drama critic Kenneth Tynan (Scott Lowell) has come to visit the legendary Orson Welles (Bruce McGill) to ask him if he would like to direct a production of Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros at London's Royal National Theatre, starring Laurence Olivier (Charles Shaughnessy) and his lover, actress Joan Plowright (Libby West). This provocative scenario instantly engages and offers a strong dose of laughter. When Olivier and Plowright appear, the emotional pyrotechnics, pleasant and painful memories, and clashing egos shift into high gear. However, it's the unexpected entrance of Olivier's estranged wife, Vivien Leigh (played with devastating magnetism and charm by Sharon Lawrence), who shows up for rehearsal in Act 2, that makes the show. More than just a mix of personalities or an occasion for meta-theatrical banter, Pendleton's clever narrative also reminds us of the often-painful price of stardom, and the impact it has on the lives of celebrities. Nick Cernoch rounds out this stellar cast. Gary Wissmann's theater-within-the-theater set is masterful.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 11. Continues through Feb. 17, 2008

LA Weekly