Midcentury modernist architects Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler may have been good friends when they studied together in Vienna, but by the time they ran into one another one last time in a Los Angeles hospital in 1953, they were bitter enemies. Ensemble Studio Theatre/L.A.'s production of The Princes of Kings Road, now playing at the Neutra Institute in Silver Lake, imagines what it might have been like in the hospital room they shared (in a bizarre coincidence, they were admitted to the same room).
Neutra (played by Raymond Xifo) was the more successful of the two, which Schindler (John Nielsen) resented. As the play progresses, though, it’s clear that each man genuinely cares about the other, as evidenced by Schindler's grudging respect for Neutra's work and Neutra's efforts to reconcile. The Neutra Institute, where director-writer Tom Lazarus staged the 60-minute show, is one of Neutra’s many buildings (most of them private residences) in Southern California and is now a museum devoted to his work. It’s a fitting setting, reminding the audience that Neutra’s legacy has lived on more strongly than Schindler’s.
The banter between Schindler and Neutra is enjoyable, especially the snide jokes about Schindler's womanizing tendencies, but the writing can feel forced, with characters making unnatural segues to propel the plot. Fortunately, the simple but effective set is nicely offset by projections of Neutra's and Schindler’s architectural sketches and completed buildings, which bring their stories to life.
Neutra Institute and Museum, 2379 Glendale Blvd., Silver Lake; through Oct. 4. (323) 641-7747, princesofkingsroad.com.