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Los Angeles Scene|
by Bill Kaiser
The weather is hot in L.A. this summer and so is the theatre. People in other parts of the country may not realize it, but L.A. is a big theater town. We have many theaters of all sizes, as well as many creative theater companies. I have recently seen four extraordinary shows of interest to The Purple Circuit including “Pterodactyls” by Nicky Silver, “Zanna Don’t!” by Tim Acito, “Zorro in Hell” by Culture Clash, and “Still Photos” by Vanda. All of them are different, intriguing, and worth seeing!
“Pterodactyls,” by Nicky Silver, is the most absurdist and incomprehensible of the group. Presented by The Athena Theatre at The Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, Silver explores the disintegration of a family in denial about absolutely everything.
A gay son (Todd Kubrak) returns to his upper-middleclass family to announce he has AIDS. His sister (Veronique Ory) doesn’t acknowledge that her brother even exists. Her waiter, workingclass fiancé (Ryan Taylor), has become the family’s servant and is dressed, in Orton-esque style, in a French maid’s uniform at the socialite mother’s insistence. In a tour de force, the mother (Gilliam Doyle) descends from haute couture into alcoholism, while the father (Christopher Bradley) hasn’t a clue about any of this.
The play is very close in style to Edward Albee’s plays, especially “Oh Dad, Poor Dad!” Truly a dark comedy, finely kept that way by Director Patrick Varon.
West Coast Ensemble is one of the best theater companies in the city and has been forced to relocate several times in the past few years. It has finally surfaced in Silver Lake, at the Lyric-Hyperion (formerly Company of Angels) Theatre, with an entertaining L.A. premiere of “Zanna Don’t!,” an Off-Broadway hit.
The musical is set in Heartsville, USA, a magical place where Zanna (a delightful Danny Calvert) uses his magic wand to help his high school friends fall in love, and same-sex relationships are the norm. It is a fantasy place where chess team champs like Mike (Dan Pacheco) are the school heroes, and Steve, the handsome football quarterback (Brent Schindle) is the misfit.
The music is upbeat and lighthearted, and all about teenage love; finding it, losing it, and keeping it! The ensemble cast is excellent, including Natalie Monahan as the butch Roberta who has a hard time finding love. The set is done up in lively colors and director Nick De Gruccio uses every inch of this intimate space to good advantage.
Zorro in Hell
Culture Clash’s “Zorro in Hell” is in a class by itself at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza have created a world rich in Spanish and English languages, literature, pop and classical culture, and they do it in a comic and provocative way. Of particular interest to Purple Circuit audience are the two gay cowboys as well as Kyle (Ric Salinas), the sodomizing grizzly bear. Besides the abundant literary and historical references, they throw in political satire and activism, something badly needed these days.
Well know for the sketch comedy shows, Culture Clash’s “Zorro in Hell” has the more elaborate integrated storyline of a writer (Ric Montoya) seeking information on the Zorro myth for a play at an old inn built on the San Andreas fault, where a 200-year-old woman (played to the hilt by Sharon Lockwood) has helped writers from Eugene O’Neill, to Oscar Wilde, and The First Chicano, Don Ringo (Herbert Siguenza), live along with Kyle the Bear. This show is not to be missed.
Celebration Theatre has mounted the world premiere of “Still Photos” by Vanda, the winning entry of their year-long playwriting contest. Directed poignantly by Sharon Rosen, the story chronicles the period of WWII and the 50s when most women were not as free to express love for each other, and leaving husbands was only for the truly brave.
Through flashbacks and interactions with her younger self (played by Rachel Hardisty), Grandma Charlie (Peggy Lord Chilton) describes to her Granddaughter Emily (Angela M. Grilo) her relationship with Audra (Jenni Fortana), and how it might have turned out. All of the characters including the husbands (Dan Roach and Kevin Meoak) play their characters remarkably well. This is a touching play that adds much to our lesbian theatre.
The 2007 ONE Culture Series launched in May. Events included poets Eloise Klein Healy and Louise Moore, Robert Patrick gave a great talk on the Caffe Cino and beginnings of gay theater and Off-Off-Broadway, and director Jennifer Abod talked about her great documentary “The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde” The Series aims to bring diverse voices in different media each month.
Future talks in the ONE series:
August 19 - historian Craig Loftin speaks on Letters to ONE from gays and lesbians during the McCarthy periodONE Archives, 909 West Adams, Los Angeles, California
Third Sunday of each month - 2pm