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Los Angeles Spotlight: August 2008

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Hershey Felder in Beethoven, As I Knew Him
(© Craig Schwartz)
As the summer winds down, August is typically one of the slimmest months for theater openings in L.A. Yet there are still a handful of tantalizing offerings. Fans of versatile musician-actor Hershey Felder, who previously surveyed the careers of composers George Gershwin and Frederic Chopin to critical acclaim will tackle yet another legendary maestro in the Geffen Playhouse's L.A. premiere of Beethoven, As I Knew Him (August 19-October 12). This latest chapter in Felder's Composer Sonata Series, is directed by Felder's regular collaborator, Joel Zwick. In this solo vehicle, Felder portrays the legendary 18th-century Belgian composer, plays the master's music, and recounts highlights of his life and career.

Eugene O'Neill aficionados are in for a treat with the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum's revival of the marathon-length masterpiece Long Day's Journey Into Night (through September 27). This Pulitzer-prize winning play provided an exorcism of personal demons for the celebrated Irish-American scribe, in a searing dramatization of his home life in Connecticut in the early 20th century. Heidi Helen Davis directs a cast including Ellen Geer, Aaron Hendry, William Dennis Hunt, and Jim LeFave.

Don't cry for the Chance Theater in Anaheim, as it will offer the evergreen Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice blockbuster Evita (July 31-September 7). The operatic-flavored musical biography of Argentinean leader Eva Peron is reportedly interpreted in a bold and intimate new way under the helm of director Jocelyn A. Brown. A live tango band will be featured, as well as a multimedia production design, heavily influenced by Latin art forms.

Several other shows offer promise. Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse's Winter will have its U.S. premiere at the Culver Studio Stage 7 in Culver City (July 31-August 17). Translated into English by Ann Henning Jocelyn and Lene Pederson, and directed by John Swanbeck, the play charts an affair between two strangers who meet one cold winter evening, leading them into a sometimes comic, sometimes brutal relationship. Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills will present the West Coast premiere of David Marshall Grant's Pen (August 1-31). The psychological drama by this noted actor-writer (who was nominated for an acting Tony for Angels in America) is about three people caught in an untenable situation. Fremont Centre Theatre in Pasadena will unveil Cheryl Bascom's world premiere comedy Scaredycats (August 9-September 14), directed by Doug Clayton, called "part farce, part romantic comedy." An unlikely band of neighborhood vigilantes attempt to thwart a local crime wave.

Summer and Shakespeare go hand and hand, and Shakespeare Orange County's late-season entry into the fray is The Tempest (August 7-23), directed by Thomas F. Bradac, and presented at the Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove. The Asian-American-focused Lodestone Theatre Ensemble will take a fresh look at Tennessee Williams' sultry Suddenly Last Summer (GTC Burbank, July 31-August 24). Chil Kong will direct the drama of family strife and cannibalism in the Deep South. The ever-adventurous City Garage in Santa Monica will bring two-time Obie winner Mac Wellman's Bad Penny (August 1-September 7), directed by Frederique Michel, in which a motley crew of characters in Central Park wait, Godot-like, for their destinies to unfold.

There are warm-weather treats for family audiences as well. South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa will offer Peter Pan (August 9-17), adapted by Timothy Mason from J.M. Barrie's classic story. The Actors' Gang's Summer in the Park series will present King O'Leary (Media Park, August 9-31), a comic adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy King Lear, set in the American West of 1849. Santa Monica Playhouse will present a bilingual Japanese-English performance, Summer Dreams, Summer Schemes (August 10), billed as "a musical fairy tale for ages 2 to 102."


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