The big events around town include War Horse at the Ahmanson Theatre and The Exorcist at Geffen Playhouse. But much of note takes place in smaller venues. I hope youll go out and discover one near you.
How the devil do you turn The Exorcist into a stage production? The Geffens 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.
War Horse has been written about everywhere so Ill be the voice of dissent. I didnt fall in love with this undeniably spectacular production. Its two-and-a-half hours long and I wished for its conclusion early into Act II. I know its 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 Im clearly in the minority 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 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
Mind of its own 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 isnt delivering malware. One of its most noted productions, Small Engine Repair, is heading to New Yorks Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Under John Perrin Flynns 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 companys mutually beneficial relationship with Theatre/Theater.
Onstage now through July 29: The New Electric Ballroom and Where the Great Ones Run; House, part of the cutting-edge late night series that gave us Small Engine Repair; and their monthly writer-as-performer showcase Rant & Rave.
The New Electric Ballroom, by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and directed by Flynn, is a Rashomon-like tale of three Irish sisters whose world has closed in on them as a result of one life-changing night. Its 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.
Where the Great Ones Run is the less poetic and somewhat more melodramatic story of a country music star who returns to the mother of the grown daughter hes never known, hoping to reconnect with both before its too late. The acting is great, as is the writing and delivery, but the play was not as envelope-pushing as Rogues other work.
Once a month, Rant & Rave 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 writers are asking them to be involved in this highly professional evening.
The edgy play House is part of Off the Clock, the late night (10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays) series which last season introduced the award-winning Small Engine Repair.
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 http://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, Perpetual Peace, developed on-site. At 6 p.m. theres an artist talk by curator-in-residence Bill Kelley Jr., then visit resident artists studios, enjoy an artists’ marketplace and a DJ set by artist Eamon Ore-Giron. More can be found at http://www.18thstreet.org.
Santa Monicas gallery km has an intriguing two-part exhibit, Chasing the Sun, Los Angeles artist Jill Daves first solo show. In her wood grain paintings, 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 http://www.gallerykmLA.com for more information.
Culver City Public Theatre has an adventurous line up of free theatre performances this summer. The Odyssey, Homers epic poem of Odysseus 10-year journey home from the Trojan War, is interpreted by Blake Anthony Edwards for the Childrens Popcorn Theatre, an initiative for young audiences.
For grownups, Carlo Gondonis 1743 A Servant To Two Masters is a commedia dellarte comedy classic with stock characters in the tradition of Italian farce. And The Matchmaker, Thornton Wilders adaptation of a play that later morphed into Hello Dolly, 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 http://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.