The big events around town include ¬ìWar Horse¬î at the Ahmanson Theatre and ¬ìThe Exorcist¬î at Geffen Playhouse. But much of note takes place in smaller venues. I hope you¬íll go out and discover one near you.
How the devil do you turn ¬ìThe Exorcist¬î into a stage production? The Geffen¬ís answer attempts to render creepiness through churchly and tension-inducing music, ominous pulsating lighting, one mind-boggling levitation scene and the suggestion in profile of heads turned all the way round.
Starring Richard Chamberlain and Brooke Shields, the intensity needed to make this play truly thought-provoking falls short. Chamberlain delivers a pointless post-script about good, evil and love that heavy-handedly tells us what the play itself should have.
¬ìWar Horse¬î has been written about everywhere so I¬íll be the voice of dissent. I didn¬ít fall in love with this undeniably spectacular production. It¬ís two-and-a-half hours long and I wished for its conclusion early into Act II. I know it¬ís not Shakespeare, but the story line is simplistic and the human characters felt like caricatures while the personalities of the giant puppet horses seemed more believable. I wish I could say I loved it (I did shed a tear!) because I¬ím clearly in the minority ¬ó it won five Tony Awards.
Little theatre that could
A rogue machine, in tech parlance, is an unknown device with a mind of its own, used to introduce damaging malware into your computer. (Think Hal in ¬ì2001: A Space Odyssey.¬î)
¬ìMind of its own¬î applies to Rogue Machine, the 5-year-old theatre company that has swept up many local drama awards honoring its mission to present (mostly) original plays that often showcase local artists. And Rogue Machine isn¬ít delivering malware. One of its most noted productions, ¬ìSmall Engine Repair,¬î is heading to New York¬ís Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Under John Perrin Flynn¬ís artistic direction, Rogue Machine ambitiously presents concurrent productions on multiple stages, seven months a year at Theatre/Theater on Pico Boulevard near La Brea Avenue.
Flynn, a Santa Monica/Venice border dweller, taps his decades-long television connections to attract exceedingly creative writing, directing and acting talent, though he credits his wife for the connection that led to the company¬ís mutually beneficial relationship with Theatre/Theater.
Onstage now through July 29: ¬ìThe New Electric Ballroom¬î and ¬ìWhere the Great Ones Run;¬î ¬ìHouse,¬î part of the cutting-edge late night series that gave us ¬ìSmall Engine Repair;¬î and their monthly writer-as-performer showcase ¬ìRant & Rave.¬î
¬ìThe New Electric Ballroom,¬î by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and directed by Flynn, is a ¬ìRashomon¬î-like tale of three Irish sisters whose world has closed in on them as a result of one life-changing night. It¬ís told in an evocative Beckett-like language of poetic speech, ritualistic repetition, Irish blarney and a great deal of existential absurdity. If the actors are not actually from Ireland, their accents sounded 100 percent authentic.
¬ìWhere the Great Ones Run¬î is the less poetic and somewhat more melodramatic story of a country music star who returns to the mother of the grown daughter he¬ís never known, hoping to reconnect with both before it¬ís too late. The acting is great, as is the writing and delivery, but the play was not as envelope-pushing as Rogue¬ís other work.
Once a month, ¬ìRant & Rave¬î presents writers, both known and unknown, who know how to deliver their material for two hours of completely fresh, original, outrageous, hilarious, poignant, moving and downright inspirational writing, based on a pre-determined theme assigned a few weeks in advance. No longer does Rogue Machine solicit participants ¬ó writers are asking them to be involved in this highly professional evening.
The edgy play ¬ìHouse¬î is part of ¬ìOff the Clock,¬î the late night (10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays) series which last season introduced the award-winning ¬ìSmall Engine Repair.¬î
Victor is a man in crisis, eager to confess tales of his sordid history with the hope of achieving a more satisfying future. Blurring boundaries between actor and audience this unpredictable ride is riddled with black humor and vivid storytelling. It runs through Aug. 11. More info at www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Close to home
This Saturday, July 21, the 18th Street Arts Center opens its doors for Summer Art Night, featuring an opening reception for Lab Artist Michelle Dizon’s new video installation, ¬ìPerpetual Peace,¬î developed on-site. At 6 p.m. there¬ís an artist talk by curator-in-residence Bill Kelley Jr., then visit resident artists¬í studios, enjoy an artists’ marketplace and a DJ set by artist Eamon Ore-Giron. More can be found at www.18thstreet.org.
Santa Monica¬ís gallery km has an intriguing two-part exhibit, ¬ìChasing the Sun,¬î Los Angeles artist Jill Daves¬í first solo show. In her ¬ìwood grain paintings,¬î Daves uses oil paint to trace patterns of grain in the wood panels she paints on, retracing for a set number of repetitions then adding her own intuitive touches to enhance the patterns to beautiful effect.
And in the site-specific installation, for four hours a day Daves uses colored pencil to mark the shadows made by the sun on the walls, floors and windows of the gallery. Fascinating line drawings emerge and take on a character of their own. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 2903 Santa Monica Blvd. Visit www.gallerykmLA.com for more information.
Culver City Public Theatre has an adventurous line up of free theatre performances this summer. ¬ìThe Odyssey,¬î Homer¬ís epic poem of Odysseus¬í 10-year journey home from the Trojan War, is interpreted by Blake Anthony Edwards for the Children¬ís Popcorn Theatre, an initiative for young audiences.
For grownups, Carlo Gondoni¬ís 1743 ¬ìA Servant To Two Masters¬î is a commedia dell¬íarte comedy classic with stock characters in the tradition of Italian farce. And ¬ìThe Matchmaker,¬î Thornton Wilder¬ís adaptation of a play that later morphed into ¬ìHello Dolly,¬î is also on the lineup.
Plays have different schedules on Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 2 p.m. through Aug. 19; all are free and open to the public at Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park. For schedule and info, visit www.ccpt.org.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.