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This is Anthony Byrnes opening the curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

It’s 8:15 on Saturday night in Echo Park and I’m in a bedroom with a scientist and a hooker and I’m watching TV.

This, of course, is the Filament Theater Company’s production of a play called “Second” by Neal Utterback.

The production is staged in a private home. But Utterback’s play is split into three discrete story lines. Each story plays out in a different room. When you arrive at the house you have to choose from the bedroom, the living room or the kitchen...and in each room one story line is live and the other two are shown on closed circuit tv’s. The tv’s are always on and the actors never leave the room but the action is really only happening in one room at a time.

So I chose the bedroom, and when the two live flesh and blood actors in front of me stop their scene we all start watching television. Awkward. They’re still sitting there. Acting. Kind of.

And consciously, or unconsciously, the Filament Theater Company has captured one of the central dilemma’s of Los Angeles theater. Contrary to popular belief, more plays open in LA every year than in New York, and yet we here still live in the shadow of film and television. I worked at the Mark Taper for many years, and an agent asked the casting department “what happens if my client gets real work?"

You see the money is in Hollywood -and this play is a living metaphor for that conundrum. The actors in “second” are constantly waiting to be “on tv." – so the question is how do you keep theater from being more than a pastime before you land that pilot? And that metaphor continues because in this show the live theater feels like a passtime and never becomes more important than what we’re watching on TV, which is kinda sad given that we’ve got real live human beings in the room with us.

The Filament Theater Company, and LA Theater, are capable of more. The actors are wonderfully trained - I want more than the gimmick of video - break these three stories open. Challenge us in the audience - like say the work of Elizabeth Lecompte’s Wooster Group, where the video helps transcend the boundaries of theater rather than constrain it.

I want LA Theater to transcend it’s big brother. I want LA Theater to be more than something to do while you’re waiting.
Filament Theater Company’s production of "Second" runs through May 29th.

What’s your balance between theater and hollywood? I’d love to hear your thoughts at

This is Anthony Byrnes opening the curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.