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Los Angeles Spotlight: October 2004

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Max Von Essen in Dorian
(Photo © Jason Gillman)
Red-hot musicals, revivals of classic dramas, the further adventures of a Gestapo-like nun, and a Garbo who doesn't vant to be alone are among the highlights in a sinfully rich potpourri of Los Angeles theatrical offerings during the chilly month of October. The musicals provide the most anticipation, led by the West Coast premiere of Dorian, The Musical on October 8. Conceived and directed by James Mellon, and starring Kevin Bailey and Max von Essen, it's a contemporary version of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, set in New Orleans with a jazzy, bluesy score. The producers promise a deliciously dark slant on the classic tale and plenty of sultry sexuality as well. This show introduces the new NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood. Something sort of grandish also fills the air at Burbank's Colony Theatre, where Disney's Peter Schneider (producer of The Lion King and Aida) directs the glamorous Broadway tuner Grand Hotel, a tale of decadent and dangerous 1920s Berlin. Check in anytime after October 13. Other tuneful offerings include a lesbian jazz musical, Pulp, at the gay-focused Celebraton Theatre (October 1), the world premiere of Peter Wells's coming-of-age musical Blue Dove (Ivar Theatre, October 16), and something with the intriguing title A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant (Powerhouse Theatre, October 15).

Those who like their dramatic experiences sans show tunes have some tantalizing plays to choose from. Beginning October 22, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre is staging a 25th-anniversary production of Jane Chambers's lesbian ensemble drama, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, a watershed girls-in-the-band seriocomedy. There's yet another lesbian-themed work in writer/director/actress Odalys Nanin's reworked version of her critically lauded 2001 romantic comedy Garbo's Cuban Lover, about the real-life Hollywood romance between Hollywood superstar Greta Garbo and her amour, novelist Mercedes de Acosta. The sparks ignite on October 2 at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. Dumas's classic tearjerker Camille is adapted by writer/director/star Natalija Nogulich as The Dame of New Orleans, set during the 1947 Mardi Gras. The world premiere work from Grace Players kicks off at the Egyptian Arena Theatre in Hollywood on October 8. A classic of another sort, Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, an enigmatic dissection of family politics, will be offered by Glendale's classics-focused company A Noise Within, starting October 8. Michael Franco's stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's classic Russian novella Heart of a Dog, a scathing social satire, bows October 15 at the Lillian Theatre, presented by Elephant Stage Works. From Russia with love comes another dramatic piece, Charlatan, starring veteran actor Tony Tanner in his solo piece, a salute to fabled Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the driving force behind the Russian Ballet. This show, a hit at the New York and Minneapolis Fringe Festivals, makes its L.A. debut beginning October 16 in Great Hall at West Hollywood's Plummer Park.

There's still more promising dramatic fare. The venerable West Coast Ensemble launches its 22nd season on October 1 with Joseph Heller's stage adaptation of his vintage antiwar novel Catch-22. Famed dramatist John Guare (House of Blue Leaves, Six Degrees of Separation) offers a tragicomic tale of a disastrously failed utopian community in the West Coast premiere of Lydie Breeze, offered at Open Fist Theatre starting October 29. Veteran actress Park Overall co-stars with Alana Stewart and Rebecca Holden in Ed Gracyk's moody Texan drama Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, rolling into town at West Hollywood's Court Theatre on October 8.

Two shows should satisfy those with a taste for the offbeat. Maripat Donovan, as the fierce parochial school nun whom you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, opens a sequel to her long-running solo comedy hit when she unveils Late Night Catechism 2: The Sequel, opening October 5 at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse. Talkers and gum chewers beware! And those who fondly remember the unique dramatic experience of Tamara will want to check out Joshua Sobol's Alma, in which the audience follows characters of their choice throughout various rooms of a huge mansion. The story is based on the character of Alma Mahler-Werfel, a femme fatale, who bedded and married composer Gustav Mahler, among others. Dinner and drinks supplement the drama in this production, staged at the historic downtown movie palace the Los Angeles Theatre, beginning September 30.

There's something for everyone in a packed month of theatrical temptations. Shut off the DVD player, and go out to support live theater.

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