Fall LA Theater Picks

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If you heard my commentary on Tuesday, hopefully you’re asking “So what other theater should I pencil in this fall?”

I’m glad you asked.

Let’s continue a little to the south at South Coast Repertory. One of my favorite LA actors, Hugo Armstrong is playing Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Shenkkan’s “All The Way.” It’s a great role that follows President Johnson as he tries to pass the Civil Rights Act. The cast is stacked with some of LA’s best theater actors. The script won a Tony. It’s a drive to Costa Mesa, but this production will be worth it. It plays from September 7th through October 2nd.

Also at South Coast this fall, Aaron Posner’s “District Merchants.” Mr. Posner wrote the amazing adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull” – “Stupid Fucking Bird” that played at Boston Court several years ago. This time, he’s tackling Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and setting it post-Civil War D.C.  If it captures even a tiny bit of the magic of his earlier adaptation, it will be stunning. It plays October 2 – 23rd.

Then in November, the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA presents Robert Wilson’s “Letter To A Man” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov. I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for Robert Wilson’s work. Yes, there have been a couple less than memorable productions of late, but even perfunctory Wilson has transcendent moments. Paired with Baryshnikov and based on the diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky with choreography from Lucinda Childs, “Letter To A Man” is an opportunity to catch remarkable artists at a profound moment in their trajectories. It plays November 18th and 19th at UCLA.

Then for the second week of  December, you’ll find me, all week(!!), at UCLA for Forced Entertainment’s “Complete Works: Table Top Shakespeare”: all 36 plays condensed to less an hour each and played out on a stage no bigger than a tabletop. The conceit is genius but what I’m most looking forward to is the audience. There’s something transformative for an audience that goes on a long journey together. People I met in the audience at “Gatz,” Elevator Repair Service’s marathon performance of “The Great Gatsby,” have become dear friends. It’s about giving yourself over to a longer narrative; creating community through an act of ongoing participation. Intermissions become moments to bond over the journey in progress. Of course, you can pick and choose and just see a single program (which will encompass two plays across two hours) but how often do you get to see the breadth of Shakespeare played out with ketchup bottles and cheese graters in a single week? Clear your schedule and join me for the journey: December 6th through 11th!

How about LA’s intimate theater?

While I’m sure some remarkable productions will bubble up this fall, the real drama will be happening offstage. Plagued by an ongoing dispute with the actor’s union, Actors’ Equity Association, our intimate theater will likely be consumed with judicial action: legal filings, court hearings, and enough propaganda to satisfy the most jaded among us.

If you believe small theaters, December 14th is the day that LA’s intimate theater’s will be transformed (“go dark” say the most apocalyptic prophets). If you believe the union, it will be the moment small theater finally becomes “professional” (their slogan “Pros get paid”). Regardless of where you fall on the union dispute and what the outcome is of the various disputes (Superior Court, National Labor Relations Board, the Court of Public Opinion, etc.), LA theater will change. Let’s hope all this sturm und drang, is worth the effort on both sides.