The cast of Steel Magnolias
(Photo © Walter Niejadlik)
The cast of Steel Magnolias
(Photo © Walter Niejadlik)
Many Las Vegas theaters can only offer very limited seasons because of budget constraints, and others end up shutting down entirely due to the rigors of operating a small company in a town notorious for its giant-sized entertainment. Despite such challenges, two theaters that are consistently creating new productions in the desert city are the Las Vegas Little Theatre and the Social Experimentation and Absurd Theater. They couldn't be more different, but they're both giving Vegas audiences a steady diet of varied theatrical experiences.

The Las Vegas Little Theatre is the oldest community theater in Southern Nevada and bills itself as "theater by the community, for the community." Founded in 1978 by Jack Bell and Jack Nickolson, this amateur company takes its mission quite seriously and works hard to provide theatrical entertainment and education for people in the area. They frequently offer classes, and they always provide a full and varied slate of plays on the mainstage. Just this season has seen, among other things, an old classic (A Streetcar Named Desire), a new classic (Driving Miss Daisy), and, surprisingly, a recent New York flop (Surviving Grace). Currently, those who can't make it to Broadway to see the star-studded revival of Steel Magnolias can take in LVLT's production of Robert Harling's warm comedy.

Las Vegas Little Theatre also continues exploring riskier plays with its exciting Insomniac Project series. From May 13-22, it's giving Vegas a Midnight Makeover with this collection of six new short plays: Daniel on a Thursday, Talc, Laughing Wild Monologues, Between Two Friends, Fiat, and Mere Mortals. The Project has even added a new performance time -- in addition to the 11pm showings on Friday and Saturday night, early-to-bedders can also get in on the fun at 6pm on Sunday. Best of all, tickets are only $10!

While LVLT does a mix of more standard fare along with new and non-traditional works, the Social Experimentation and Absurd Theater is pretty much all crazy, all the time. The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently named SEAT the Best Performance Group of 2005, describing its work as "take-no-prisoners, cutting-edge programs that sometimes include nudity, profanity, adult themes...It's bare-bones, in-your-face theater -- but at least it's theater of the mind, which is such a refreshing change of pace we don't mind at all."

This month, SEAT is featuring no fewer than three performance pieces. The run of Croquet is Okay: A Picaresque Tale of Villainy finishes up on May 7. Written by Seattle-based playwright Larry Coffin, this absurdist play is far too difficult to describe, but it involves a commune made up of cheerleaders and an Indian chief who enjoys his croquet, so you get the idea.

Croquet won't have even ended yet when their next major production gets going: Eric Bogosian's one-man show Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead starts up on May 5 and goes until the 21st. And complementing that is the one-woman show Confessions of a PT&A Mom, playing a brief engagement from May 6-8. In it, Carole Montgomery relates the story of a Brooklyn Jew living amongst Mormons.

To find out more about SEAT, visit www.godsexandbowling.com (there's a URL you can remember, eh?). Check out the Media section for a taste of the company's work, or read about the Absurd Youth program to find out how talented high schoolers can get a free course in the theatrical arts. To keep up with the goings-on and Las Vegas Little Theatre, check out its home on the web at www.lvlt.org.