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Los Angeles Spotlight: August 2006

Swinging for the Fences logo
Angela Bassett
(© Marzullo / Retna Ltd.)
While the roster of shows this scorching-hot summer couldn't be called the most sizzling of the year, there are several goodies to look forward to in August.

Many August Wilson revivals have popped up locally since the great playwright's death last fall, but none can compare to the Pasadena Playhouse's upcoming production of the Pulitzer-and Tony-winning drama Fences (August 25-October 1). Why? Because this one reunites film and stage greats Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, who co-starred in the films Akeelah and the Bee and What's Love Got to Do With It?, for which both received Oscar nominations for their portrayals of Ike and Tina Turner.

Musical theatre aficionados who didn't catch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels during its pre-Broadway run in La Jolla or its current Great White Way production -- or those who simply want to see it again -- can head to Hollywood's Pantages Theatre for the lighthearted tuner's Los Angeles premiere (August 15-27). Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz repeats his Tony Award-winning role as Freddy Benson, one of the titular snakes in this delightful show, alongside Tom Hewitt as his partner in crime.

A second L.A. debut of a Broadway musical occurs earlier this month at the Pantages: the national tour of Little Women (August 2-13), top-lining Drama Desk nominee Maureen McGovern as Marmee. Additional musical mirth arrives courtesy of Much Adoobie Brothers About Nothing (Santa Monica's Miles Memorial Playhouse, August 5-September 10), the latest in Troubadour Theatre Company's annual spoofs of Shakespeare set to rock-pop sounds from yesteryear.

Another anticipated highlight is a repertory bill that brings back two of the city's most acclaimed solo shows of recent years to Ventura's Rubicon Theatre: Writer-performer Geraldine Hughes' Belfast Blues, directed by Carol Kane, plays in alternation with Conor McPherson's The Good Thief, starring Conor Lovett and directed by Judy Hegarty-Lovett (August 5-September 17). Set in Belfast during the 1970's and '80s, Hughes' vehicle is a tragicomic story of family, war, Jesus, and Hollywood, while Thief is a darkly dramatic portrait of a nameless, immoral Dublin thug.

Other August highlights include George Bernard Shaw's historical comedy Caesar and Cleopatra (Hollywood's Lillian Theatre, August 11-September 24), and Lillian Hellman's translation of Jean Anouilh's poetic Joan of Arc drama The Lark (Silverlake's Company of Angels Theatre, August 9-25). Meanwhile, Robert Cohen's Machiavelli -- The Art of Terror (The Hayworth, August 4-September 2) charts the controversial political theories of commedia del arte inventor Niccolo Machiavelli, who wrote the famous textbook on terrorism that Hitler and Mussolini kept by their bedsides.

The early years of the AIDS epidemic are reflected in Robert Chesley's 1986 two-hander Jerker (Santa Monica's Highways Performance Space, August 4-September 20), in which a Vietnam vet and a man with AIDS fall in love during 20 erotic phone calls. Another work exploring sociological concerns of the gay community is The Tina Dance (Gay and Lesbian Center's Renberg Theatre; August 3-12), a docudrama about the devastating effects of the crystal methamphetamine crisis.

Two promising family offerings on tap are Tina Howe's adaptation of the Norwegian folk tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon (South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, August 12-20), and International City Theatre's production of writer-director Diana Doyle's Pollution Solution! (various Long Beach parks, through August 17). This musical romp, presented for free, is said to entertain children while educating them on the importance of ecology.

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