Theater for a new year

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“What the Constitution means to me.” Photo credit: Dael Orlandersmith

Happy New Year! 

LA theater is all about women in the new year.  There are one woman shows, re-imagining women from history.  Here’s a quick list of the shows I’m looking forward to this spring.

Let’s start with a hit one-woman show … that now stars another woman.

Okay, that’s a little weird but so is the Mark Taper Forum’s production of “What the Constitution means to me.”  The “me” in that title is, or was, playwright Heidi Schreck. She’s the one who as a teenager extolled the constitution at American Legion halls for scholarship money.  The play is her story. But…she’s unavailable so … actress Maria Dizzia is taking on the role. Good news: she’s a great actress and let’s face it, like it or not, the constitution is all too relevant these days.  The show plays at the Taper through February 23rd.

In Culver City, another strong woman Dael Orlandersmith’s brings her play “Until the Flood” to the Kirk Douglas.  Set in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown, Ms. Orlandersmith’s one-woman show is drawn from interviews with community members.  The piece has been praised for mixing documentary with the poetic. It plays at the Kirk Douglas Theatre through February 23rd.

To round out the spring, here are two modern takes on historical women.

Here’s a premise. A play based on Julie d’Aubigny, a queer 17th century French swordswoman and opera singer.  Enough said. Qui Nguyen and the Vampire Cowboys were commissioned by the Geffen Playhouse to create “Revenge Song.” This sound like a whole lot for one show - fight scenes, hip hop, gender, sex, rock? But when’s the last time you saw a play about a queer swordswoman?  It plays at the Geffen February 4th to March 8th.

Echo Theatre Company’s “Poor Clare” is the story of St. Clair of Assisi, a simple noblewoman whose life is changed and eyes opened. While the setup might not grab you, Alana Dietze is directing, and she’s done a series of stunning plays giving voice to powerful women.  This one isn’t to be missed. It plays in Atwater Village March 14th to April 20th.    

Now, if you simply must see plays about men, here are two I’m looking forward to.

Every few years, LA audiences get a chance to see Alfred Molina on stage. Pasadena Playhouse has lured him to perform in “The Father”, a French play about an elderly man struggling with dementia.  The play is deeply moving and the combination of Mr. Molina and director Jessica Kubzansky should make this more than worth the trip. It plays at the Pasadena Playhouse from February 5th to March 1st.

Also in February, one of my favorite LA companies Four Larks tackles “Frankenstein.”  Four Larks is known for their rich immersive pieces woven with installation art, theatre, and, what they call, junkyard opera.  This production at the Wallis is exciting and a little scary - because this is a big leap for the company. Part of the fun of a Four Larks show was discovering some old warehouse transformed.  Will that same magic translate to Beverly Hills? I hope so - this is a company that deserves to step up. “Frankenstein” plays February 12th through March 1st.

That’s just some of the exciting work in LA to get your theatrical New Year off to a good start. For my picks every week, subscribe to the weekly KCRW theatre newsletter at kcrw.com/theatre.

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Host:
Anthony Byrnes