A step into the past...and maybe the future

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theatre for KCRW.

There was a time, roughly a decade ago, when the evidEnce Room was one of the centers of LA theater. Under the artistic direction of Bart DeLorenzo, the company churned out thrilling show after show, all in fantastic warehouse spaces, first in Culver City then finally near downtown in a space that's now the Bootleg Theater.

EvidEnce Room shows all had a few things in common: talented, aggressive design, a really interesting and eclectic mix of plays that tended towards muscular language and a dark undertone, and an energetic company of actors. It was one of the few places in LA that turned out consistently interesting, theatrical work...and the fantastic bar served as a place to connect and grab a drink after, and sometimes during, a show.

margo_veil.jpgSince the Evidence Room left their east-side home in 2006, their productions have been few and far between. But they're back, and their latest play Margo Veil just opened as a co-production with the Odyssey Theatre in West LA.

And the gang's all here; DeLorenzo directs and it's the usual suspects acting and designing. The play, written by Len Jenkin is, like a lot of his other work, more interested in the sound of language and capturing a feeling than with linear narrative. Loosely, the show follows a small town actress named Margo Veil, but don't worry too much about the plot. It'll just frustrate you - because it's really a series of vignettes or character studies told in that radio-play-pulp-fiction-noir second person narrative style that keeps dropping you into the middle of a new scene, a new world.

Stringing the pieces together is the notion that a soul can be transferred from one body to another and retain a vague memory of its former self. An appropriate, if ironic, piece for the transplanted EvidEnce Room.

Across town, what do you get when you trap 40 arts journalists in an old firehouse in downtown LA, give them a website, two major theater festivals, two conferences and 11 days? Sounds like the setup for a joke, right?

eng28.jpgWell the answer, or maybe it's a question, is Engine 28, aka the NEA's Art Journalism fellowship. The fellowship is creating a pop-up newsroom and a temporary website to cover all things theatrical for the next two weeks - remember this is LA's big moment with the TCG conference, Radar:LA, and the Hollywood Fringe Festival. I'm lucky enough to be one of the fellows embarking on this great experiment.

At its core, the program is grappling with a radically changed media landscape and that perennial cry, at least from artists, for more and better coverage. But what does that mean? What's missing? How do you wish the arts were covered? I'd love to hear your thoughts and frustrations at kcrw.com/theater and check back during the festivals for online updates and more reviews.

Margo Veil plays at the Odyssey Theatre in West LA through July 31. Engine28.com goes live tomorrow morning until the following Monday.

For info on both text the word "curtain" to 69866.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theatre for KCRW.

Banner image: Dorie Barton and Tom Fitzpatrick in Margo Veil. Photo: Enci