Los Angeles Spotlight: June 2010
Return to the Heights
Multiple-award-winning Angelino playwright-screenwriter-director Del Shores debuts his first new work in seven years: Yellow (Coast Playhouse, through July 25). Chronicling a year in the life of a seemingly perfect Mississippi family rocked by a sudden crisis, the piece has been described by Shores as a major departure for him, moving away from the intense comedy evident in his previous works.
Veteran actor Harry Hamlin stars in writer-director Luke Yankee's The Jesus Hickey (Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight Theatre, June 4-July 11). It's called a modern-day fable about a tough Irish laborer whose daughter becomes a superstar when it's discovered that a hickey on her neck is shaped in the image of Jesus.
The venerable classics-focused outdoor theatre Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon opens three of its summer-season productions this month: Shakespeare's Hamlet (opening June 5) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (opening June 6), plus a world premiere adaptation of Alexander Dumas' swashbuckling The Three Musketeers (opening June 12). The shows continue in alternating repertory into October.
Another classic, from German master Bertolt Brecht, is The Good Woman of Setzuan (translated by Eric Bentley, directed by Charles Otte), presented at Open Fist Theatre, through July 17. Set in pre-Communist China between world wars, the play offers an alternately hilarious and shocking look at how humanity deals with love, money, and social injustice. Yet another classic is on the schedule: Arthur Miller's heart-wrenching wartime domestic drama All My Sons (Raven Playhouse, June 5-July 25).
Other dramatic fare on tap includes Lynn Nottage's Fabulation: or the Re-education of Undine (West Coast Ensemble at the Lounge Theatre, June 4-13), which satirizes stereotypes at both ends of the social spectrum. Beth Grant and Melinda Page Hamilton star in Tom Zielger's Grace and Glorie (Colony Theatre, June 12-July 18), about a feisty, illiterate 90-year-old Virginian who has checked herself out of a hospital and receives a new volunteer caregiver. Two sisters separated by the Holocaust reunite in Barbara Lebow's tender drama A Shayna Maidel (International City Theatre, June 8-July 3). Antaeus Theatre Company launches its ClassicsFest 2010 series with Shakespeare's King Lear, starring Dakin Matthews and Harry Groener, alternating in the lead role amid two double-cast ensembles. It will be staged at Deaf West Theatre, June 12-August 8.
Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, a passionate tale about composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his rivalry with Antonio Salieri, is staged by the Production Company under the direction of August Viverito (Chandler Studio Theatre, opening June 18). Michael Hollinger's Opus (Fountain Theatre, June 12-July 25), explores the fictional Lazara String Quartet, riddled by conflicts as a White House appearance approaches. And for a real shift in gears, TV nostalgia buffs can wallow in the fluffy pleasures of CHiPS the Musical! (Falcon Theatre, June 17-July 25), by Rick Batalla and Henry Phillips, taking us on a toe-tapping journey along the 405 freeway, circa 1970s, complete with hunky motorcycle cops in tight pants.
The highly anticipated Hollywood Fringe Festival (various theaters, June 17-27) features a wide variety of predominately edgy fare, staged by local theater companies or individuals. Meanwhile, L.A.'s third annual Festival of American Musicals (continuing through August 21), presented in various venues throughout Southern California, includes a mix of professional and student productions, staged readings, and budding shows in various states of development. Highlights among the June offerings include Long Beach Opera's Orpheus & Euridice, performed in the Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool (June 11-13); Jim Luigs and Scott Warrender's offbeat C&W tuner Das Barbecu, (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex Theatre, June 14), loosely based on Richard Wagner's The Ring Cycle; and It's Top Secret!, Steven A. Muro and Dan W. Davis' debuting musical farce about the Marx Brothers (NoHo Arts Center, June 19-July 18).