As L.A.'s hipster-habitués of downtown's more prestigious performance-art dens can testify, nobody throws a party quite like REDCAT's genial artistic director, Mark Murphy. And last night's blowout celebrating the kick-off of the much-anticipated Radar L.A. festival was no exception.

The evening's featured entertainment was the North American premiere of Neva, from playwright-director Guillermo Calderón, performed by Chile's critically acclaimed avant-theater troupe Teatro en el Blanco. The show got a sold-out house and a lengthy standing ovation to begin Radar's week of theatrical treats.

The real action came post-show, when a multitude of out-of-town theater professionals here for the national TCG convention joined a motley assortment of bloggers, buffs, print journalists and Murphy's own overworked and bleary-eyed staff in the REDCAT bar. Between mouthfuls of exotic Spanish cheeses and shot-glass-sized servings of banana bread puddings, a nonstop flurry of business-card exchanges between klatches of credentialed conventioneers betrayed the evening's more pressing, ulterior purpose. The stars of Teatro en el Blanco stood around looking somewhat bemused and all but forgotten amidst the frantic networking.

Of course, Radar L.A. isn't the only theater festival, much less the only noteworthy theater gracing Los Angeles stages this week. The Hollywood Fringe opened this past weekend, to which Stage and Cinema's Tony Frankel was able to personally attest. The indefatigable blogger sat through an astonishing 18 Fringe shows over the weekend.

Frankel's inhuman feat of endurance aroused my own curiosity as to whether any of the TCG conferees had similar plans to leave the comfort zones of their respective hotel rooms and CTG meeting rooms and take a flyer on a non-Radar stage show. In the most unscientific of informal surveys, the blank stares and quizzical shrugs that greeted my question suggested not.

When I cut off the LA Weekly's own Steven Leigh Morris from making a beeline for the REDCAT lobby exit with his trusty mountain bike, the critic suggested that, for L.A. theater folk at least, Murphy's internationally-slanted Radar may prove too successful by effectively erecting a seductive bubble over downtown, beyond which few of the influential, 900-plus conference goers will dare to tread.

LA Weekly