Bathsheba Doran's “elliptical comedy about those who save us and those who don't” drew praises from Jenny Lower, and is is this week's Pick. For all the latest new theater reviews, and theater listings, see below.
This week's stage feature looks at three solo shows in the DougasPlus series and Radar L.A. festival. The shows are performed by Luis Alfaro, Trieu Tran and Roger Guenveur Smith.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication October 3, 2013:
Four one-acts, performed by the Chalk Repertory and set in the exhibition halls of the Natural History Museum, deal, directly or indirectly, with the museum's history. Tom Jacobson's A Vast Hoard, directed by Janet Hayatshahi, set in 1913 and played in the Rotunda, deals with the efforts of two officials (Joseph Gilbert and Amy Ellenberger) to persuade wealthy Harris Newmark (Rod Menzies) to donate his family portraits to the museum. Ruth McKee's Skin and Bones, directed by Andrew Borba, is set in 1929 in the African Mammal Hall. Zakiyyah Alexander's Under the Glass, directed by Jeff Wienckowski, is set in 1978 and played in the Gem and Mineral Hall; it deals with the Colonel (Tony Amendola), who's obsessed with his geologic specimens. Prom Season, by Boni B. Alvarez, directed by Jennifer Chang, is set in the Dinosaur Hall and examines the conflict between randy teenagers and a dedicated security guard. The plays themselves are blandly pleasant, but the real star of the evening is the museum itself: The evening offers a fascinating tour of the exhibits. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park; Oct. 5, 6, 7, 11 & 13, 7 p.m. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org. (Neal Weaver)
HOSPITAL In the new theater production Wunderbaum, the irreverently incisive Rotterdam theater collective, whose work has wittily examined the abrasive interstices between culture and the lives of ordinary people, teams up with Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), the veteran skid row performance troupe, whose angry activist aesthetic zeroes in on society's most downcast and dispossessed. The mix in this show, turns out to be not so much oil-and-water as it does gin-and-tonic, a bit too heavy on the tonic. Hospital's subject is the history of healthcare — or the lack of it — in America and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands. The combined ensembles draw from their individual medical histories for raw material, though it is the cradle-to-grave enactment of LAPD Artistic Director John Malpede's lifetime brushes with hospitalization that ultimately forms the evening's tongue-in-cheek spine. That includes a wryly explosive opening scene of disciplined anarchy in which Maartje Remmers gives birth to a rubber-baby stand-in for Malpede while simultaneously videoing the chaos onto a projection screen that looms above Maarten van Otterdijk's hospital-green surgical-theater set. Filled with politically pointed anachronisms and playful metatheatrical asides, Hospital succeeds in personalizing the despairing intractability of universal healthcare, but in a sermon preached to a Radar L.A. choir of the presumably already converted. Tower Theatre. Closed. (Bill Raden)
PICK OF THE WEEK: KIN
In Bathsheba Doran's elliptical comedy-drama Kin, the title becomes shorthand for the people we save and those who redeem us. Sean (Grinnell Morris) is a personal trainer and Irish émigré; Anna (Melissa Collins) is a Columbia University adjunct who's just completed her first book, a bone-dry exegesis of Keatsian punctuation. We can see where this is going, but their onstage meet-cute gets postponed; instead we chart the couple's romantic progress via separate encounters with their respective tribes, whose stories are equally compelling. There's Sean's mother, Linda (Rhonda Lord), a boozy agoraphobe since an assault decades ago derailed her life; her brother and Sean's surrogate father, Max (a delightful John Combs); Anna's father (David Hunt Stafford), a retired colonel nursing a broken heart since the death of Anna's mother, or so she believes; and best of all Helena (Elizabeth Lande), a thwarted actress whose quirky humor belies her profound loneliness. Collins offers a rich turn as the layered Anna, who aches for connection even as she pushes others away, but it's Lande who steals the show.Director Jules Aaron's even hand delivers both humor and sensitivity, while Jeff Rack's lovely minimalist, modular set allows actors to dwell onstage, lingering in each other's scenes like emotional subtext. Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Oct. 27. (310) 364-0535, theatre40.org (Jenny Lower)
LAKE ANNE Marthe Rachel Gold's lumbering melodrama is a concoction of dramatic setups that never develops into an interesting or credible narrative. Widowed Anne (Laurie O'Brien), a former ballerina, lives with her grown mentally and physically disabled son, Will (Alex Smith), in a house that's been owned by her family for generations. Although it's about to be auctioned off, Anne refuses to sell it when someone makes her a generous direct offer. Meanwhile, Will needs a heart operation that she keeps postponing. (She thinks maybe he's better off dying before she does.) A dalliance with her sister-in-law's son and her dream of resuming her career collapse simultaneously when the man in question returns to his steady girlfriend. Gold's prosaic dialogue and John Frank Levey's lackadaisical direction leave the performers floundering. Act 2 is a bit more compelling, as the play's impending crisis and the loss of her home and lover give O'Brien something solid to work from. NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 9. roadtheatre.org. (Deborah Klugman)
GO: THE LARAMIE PROJECT: 10 YEARS LATER The original production of The Laramie Project rode on the wave of passion and grief spawned by the murder of Matthew Shepard. The current work, which looks at Laramie and the related issues as they appear 10 years after the fact, is necessarily more contemplative and thoughtful, but it builds up its own brand of steam. Predictably, opinions of Laramie, Wyo., citizens were all over the place. Some felt that Matthew had been forgotten too quickly, while others felt that his story had become a millstone around the town's neck, fostered by the media. But largely due to 20/20 broadcast, which ignored the trial evidence and claimed that the murder was not a hate crime but just a drug-infused robbery gone wrong, a softer, less upsetting, revisionist view has been adopted by many local citizens. The script, richly based on actual words of those involved, including murderer Aaron McKinney (Michael Hanson, alternating with Dylan Seaton), and Shepard's mother, Judy (Elizabeth Herron), is acted with passion by 10 wonderfully gifted actors, accompanied by folk singer Johanna Chase. Director Ken Sawyer demonstrates that, although the documentary approach is not sensational, it's nevertheless gripping, effective and deeply affecting. Gay and Lesbian Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m. (no perf Oct. 20); through Nov. 16. (323) 860-7300, lagaycenter.org/theatre. (Neal Weaver)
GO: THE PLAYER KING The name John Wilkes Booth isn't likely to be forgotten, but many are unaware that the infamous assassin was part of an accomplished family of actors. In this solo show, Darin Dahms brings the Booth clan to life. Drawing on historical and biographical material, Dahms constructs what is mostly a commanding portrait of the Booths. It touches on the drunken, tormented theatrical genius of patriarch Junius Brutus; his problematic, strained relationship with second son Edwin — who at age 13 traveled with his father as a caretaker — and the dissolute, and fatefully disillusioned, John, whose final performance in the theater was his most memorable. One of the more gripping segments of the show, and the most dynamically scripted, tells of the day of Lincoln's assassination, and the dark, chaotic aftermath. Dahms is a talented, engaging performer, and he's at his best when channeling these characters or delivering one of many splendid soliloquies from the Bard's more famous works (King Lear, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet). His performance more than offsets a script that tends to flit about and needs greater coherency and context. The Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hlwyd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru Nov. 2. (800) 838-3006, brownpapertickets.com/event/464197. (Lovell Estell III)
ROMEO AND JULIET The good intentions of the appealing, youthful ensemble of this production of Shakespeare's great tragedy of young love and death are tragically outdone by the technical requirements of the Bard's language. With a minimal set consisting of a few slabs and an arch, director Tony Cronin's straightforward, modern-dress production achieves a level of workmanlike competence that slips into sloppiness toward the end, with clumsy blocking and line readings that suggest a lack of psychological analysis on the textual level. The piece's under-rehearsed feel is evident in a number of boisterous but clichéd arm-waving acting turns, awkward chemistry and blustery performances. The pacing is crisp, though, hinting interestingly at the unstated idea that the characters' true tragic flaw is not rage but impatience. Moments provided by Zachary Kanner's sweetly nerdy Romeo are winning, as is Julia McIlvaine's unusually glacial and prim nurse — a turn that's against the usual casting type. Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica; Sept. 27 & 28, Oct. 6, 17, 19 & 25, 8 p.m.; Sept. 29, Oct. 11, 13 & 27, 2 p.m. (310) 458-8634, milesplayhouse.org. (Paul Birchall)
ONGOING SHOWS REGION-WIDE: