Fall Theater: Relatives from Out of Town

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

You can feel it slowly creeping towards us. Maybe it's the flurry of back to school emails, or the work projects that will finally begin "when everyone's back," or just a sense that a summer this nice can't last forever: fall is just around the corner. Before your schedule gets filled up getting back in the swing of things, I have three must-see theater picks from our presenting houses.

This isn't work from our local theater companies, or Broadway tours touching down at the Ahmanson or the Pantages, these are plays from across the country and across the world making a quick trip to LA: think of them as relatives from out of town in for a short visit. Sometimes too short a visit, if you don't plan ahead, you'll miss them.

The first is in September at REDCAT downtown. Titled "La Melancholie des Dragons," it's Philip Quesne's fantastical story of a group of metalheads whose Citroen breaks down in a snowy wilderness. Left with nowhere to go, they decide to create a heavy-metal amusement park complete with light show and inflatable sculptures. Visually it looks stunning and who could go wrong with a soundtrack that spans from AC/DC and the Scorpions to John Cage and Elmer Bernstein.

It plays one weekend only, September 23 through 25, downtown at REDCAT.

Next, we head across town to the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA and Peter Sellar's collaboration with Toni Morrison "Desdemona." Mr. Sellars has taken Othello's Desdemona and an oft missed line of Shakespeare's text that speaks of her mother's African slave, Barbary, and forged a completely new work built around Ms. Morrison's words and African song. Peter Sellars is one of LA's remarkable theater artists whose work we never get to see. Don't miss this chance, October 8th through the 11th at UCLA.

Next up, SITI Company returns to Los Angeles with "Steel Hammer" a collaboration with the composer Julia Wolfe and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. You'll remember the SITI Company from their many L.A. visits: most recently in a stunning collaboration with Bill T. Jones at UCLA and before that "The Persians" at the Getty Villa. SITI's work is always visually stunning and physically profound. For this piece, the steel hammer of the title belongs to John Henry. You remember? The man who challenged machine to build a railroad. This piece melds our memory of Appalachia with lyrics from Ms. Wolfe and text from playwrights Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor. It's plays at UCLA October 23rd and 24th.

These are three shows from out of town that you shouldn't miss. So pencil these in your calendars and over the next couple of weeks I'll be back with locally grown theater picks for the fall.

“La Melancolie des Dragons“ plays at REDCAT downtown September 23 through 25.

“Desdemona“ plays at UCLA in Westwood October 8th through 11.

"Steel Hammer" plays at UCLA October 23 and 24.

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

Photo: Michael Brosilow