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Los Angeles Spotlight: May 2011

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Peri Gilpin in Standing on Ceremony
Chuck Green
A highly anticipated theatrical happening that has been viewed in workshop presentations during the past two years is now set for its premiere run. Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays (Renberg Theatre, through June 27), conceived and directed by Brian Shnipper is an anthology of short works. Promising to be a major highlight of the spring season, the production aims to spread a powerful message regarding human rights during the turbulent Proposition 8 era. Major playwrights (Jordan Harrison, Jeffrey Hatcher, Moises Kaufman, Joe Keenan, Neil LaBute, Wendy McLeod, Jose Rivera, Paul Rudnick, Doug Wright) have contributed, and the rotating casts will include many notable performers, including John Getz, Harriet Harris, Peter Paige, Tom Everett Scott, Cynthia Stevenson, Wendie Malick, and Peri Gilpin, with more to be announced.

Noted actors Barbara Bain and D.B. Sweeney star in Thicker Than Water (Promenade Playhouse, May 6-22), an evening of six short plays by Dale Griffiths Stamos, including comedies and dramas, and dealing with issues of family life. David Selby stars as Bram Stoker's timelessly fascinating vampire Dracula (Skirball Cultural Center, May 18-22) in an adaptation by Charles Morey. This L.A. Theatre Works presentation will be taped for subsequent radio broadcasts. Additional star power will be evident in Reprise Theatre Company's revisit to Cole Porter's evergreen Kiss Me Kate (UCLA Freud Playhouse, May 10-22), starring Tom Hewitt, Lesli Margherita, and Meg Gillentine.

Five additional tuners are on tap. The classic bio-musical, Gypsy, by Arthur Laurents, Jule Stein, and Stephen Sondheim, will be staged by West Coast Ensemble, under the direction of Richard Israel (Theatre of Arts Arena Stage, May 11-July 3). Jonathan Larson's iconic rock musical Rent, plays at Big Arts Lab (May 5-28). The Asian-American-focused East West Players presents Krunk Fu Battle Battle (David Henry Hwang Theater, May 12-June 26), a hip-hop romp about first love, respect, and standing up for yourself. Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ' iGhost, a world premiere (Lyric Theatre, May 20-June 19), offers a contemporary spin on Oscar Wilde's classic, The Canterville Ghost. The hit Off-Broadway revue Girls Night: The Musical (Laguna Playhouse, May 17-June 5) is described as "Desperate Housewives meets Mamma Mia!"

An impressive roster of dramas is headed by the classics-focused Antaeus Company's double-cast production of John Marston's 1604 masterpiece The Malcontent (Deaf West Theatre, through June 19), a rarely revived revenge play reminiscent of Hamlet. In Juan and John (Kirk Douglas Theatre, May 17-29), performer-creator Roger Gueneveur Smith recalls a day in August 1965, during his youth, when he witnessed on TV a historical brawl between players in a baseball game, leading to ruminations upon violence during that decade. GLAAD-nominated playwright Chris Phillips unveils his latest work, Garden District (Celebration Theatre, May 3-11), exploring the previously unseen lives of three Tennessee Williams characters who met tragic ends in the master's plays.

Playwrights 6 premieres two productions at the Open Fist Theatre. Writer-director Laura Black's Drive (May 4-June 8) tells of an ambitious woman involved in a near fatal car accident, as she attempt to piece together what occurred and its life-changing aftermath. Monica Trasandes' Fernando Richardson's Treacherous Brain (May 5-June 9), directed by Andre Barron, involves a man making startling statements following his brain surgery. Cornerstone Theater Company, in association with Watts Village Theatre Company, presents the site-specific staging of Lynn Manning's The Unrequited (Between Two Worlds), through May 22, performed in the southeast L.A. neighborhood of Watts. Performances are at Youth Opportunities High School in the Mafundi Auditorium. The story tells of a woman torn between two men -- her fiancée and the soul of her deceased flame.

Horton Foote's The Traveling Lady (Actors Co-op's Crossley Terrace Theatre, May 6-June 12), directed by Linda Kerns, is the portrait of an anxious spirit in search of home. Wendy Graf's solo play No Word in Guyanese For Me (Sidewalk Studio Theatre, May 12-June 12), starring Anna Khaja, and directed by Anita Khanzadian, explores religious and sexual identity, in the story of lesbian Guyanese émigré Hanna Jokhoe. Famed comedian Paul Rodriguez reportedly takes on a more serious tone in his autobiographical solo piece, Just For the Record (May 19-29, El Portal Theatre).

Comedic fare includes Odalys Nanin's Lavender Love (Macha Theatre, May 6-June 18). In contemporary West Hollywood, a down-on-her luck woman falls through a time warp, going back 90 years to the historic Garden of Allah estate, where she meets lesbian lovers, as well as Rudolph Valentino and his male lover, Paul Ivano. Brimmer Street Theatre Company offers the premiere of Christine Cigala's Flower to Flower (El Centro Theatre Chaplin Stage, May 5-June 4), in which a recently married couple has not consummated their union, as a dazzling Mary Kay saleswoman enters the scene, stirring up the pot.

Highlighting the month's family fare is Troubadour Theatre Company's Funky Punks Circus Spectacular, directed by Matthew Morgan (Falcon Theatre, May 14-June 5), an interactive circus extravaganza, including clowns, puppetry, stilt-walking, jugglers, and more. The Attic Theatre & Film Center presents Where the Sidewalk Ends (May 14-15), developed by Ty Freedman, and based on the works of Shel Silverstein.

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