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The 99-seat beat: Carl Weathers, hidden figures and political warfare hit L.A.'s small theaters

The 99-seat beat: Carl Weathers, hidden figures and political warfare hit L.A.'s small theaters
Carl Weathers, photographed in Venice in 2014. He's directing a John Patrick Shanley play running through Sept. 10. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Is there life beyond “Hamilton”? Of course there is, and with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega-musical bringing a new generation to the stage, it’s a good time to point out the other side of the SoCal scene, the so-called 99-seat intimate theaters.

Every week our team — reviewers with more than 50 years of combined experience tracking local theater — will shortlist the current offerings and point out productions you might otherwise miss at 99-seat theaters and other smaller venues. Some will be shows we’ve seen; others might have caught our attention because of the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. This list will appear every Friday, a bookend to our longer, more comprehensive theater listings posted every Monday at latimes.com/arts. This week on the 99-seat beat:


1. ‘Silent Sky’ at ICT

The essentials: Before the female mathematicians of “Hidden Figures” came along, another group of women blazed the science trail and became known as the Harvard Computers. Lauren Gunderson’s play centers on Henrietta Swan Leavitt, whose work at the Harvard College Observatory a century ago helped to prove that our universe extends beyond the Milky Way.

Why this?: A 2011 Times review of “Silent Sky” at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa knocked the production for framing a proto-feminist story as a geeky rom-com. This International City Theatre production still has the romance, but it does hit the feminist note with earnest conviction. Last weekend, the audience seemed particularly pleased by a supporting cast that includes Jennifer Parsons, an ICT and South Coast Rep veteran, and Leslie Stevens, who originated the role of Anne in “La Cage Aux Folles” on Broadway.

Details: An International City Theatre production at the Beverly O'Neill Theater, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 330 E. Seaside Way. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, ends Sept. 10. $47-$49. (562) 436-4610, ictlongbeach.org.

From left: Jennifer Parsons, Leslie Stevens, Jennifer Cannon and Eric Wentz in "Silent Sky."
From left: Jennifer Parsons, Leslie Stevens, Jennifer Cannon and Eric Wentz in "Silent Sky." (Tracey Roman)

2. La Razón Blindada at 24th Street

The essentials: “Writer-director Aristides Vargas writes from the deeply personal perspective of one who has suffered under a system gone mad of tyranny.” That description comes from a 2010 Times review of “La Razón Blindada” (“Armored Reason”), and for those who know that feeling all too well lately, there’s this play — partly inspired by the experience of political prisoners held during Argentina’s “Dirty War” of the 1970s.

Why this?: America’s fractured political climate has spawned a wave of theater as social commentary. Despite the sharp politics onstage here, the writing has some surprisingly funny moments. And for those who like activism with their entertainment, the theater says it will donate half of all ticket sales from opening day to the Southern Poverty Law Center to track hate groups in America. Performed in Spanish with English supertitles.

Details: 24th Street Theater, 1117 West 24th St., Los Angeles. 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 9 to Oct. 15. $10-$50. (213) 745-6516, www.24thstreet.org

Jesús Castaños-Chima, left, and Tony Duran in "La Razón Blindada."
Jesús Castaños-Chima, left, and Tony Duran in "La Razón Blindada." (Juan Tallo)

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3. ‘Nevertheless, She Persisted’ at the Echo

The essentials: These five short plays, Echo Theater Company says, “explore the treatment of women in today’s political climate.” All were written by women and commissioned specifically for the Echo’s associate members.

Why this?: The lineup of playwrights includes Mary Laws, whose “Blueberry Toast” last year delighted Times critic Charles McNulty, and Jacqueline Wright, a “Toast” actress. Four of the five plays here will be directed by women. And with the cast consisting of Echo’s associate members — younger, inexperienced actors — tickets are just $20.

Details: Echo Theater Company, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays, 4 p.m. Sundays, ends Sept. 10. www.echotheatercompany.com

Jacqueline Wright, pictured with Albert Dayan in "Blueberry Toast," has written one of the five short plays that make up "Nevertheless, She Persisted."
Jacqueline Wright, pictured with Albert Dayan in "Blueberry Toast," has written one of the five short plays that make up "Nevertheless, She Persisted." (Darrett Sanders)

4. ‘Danny and the Deep Blue Sea’ at Edgemar

The essentials: Prolific playwright John Patrick Shanley, a Pulitzer and Tony winner for “Doubt” and also an Oscar winner for “Moonstruck,” delivers a dramedy about the unlikely romance between two troubled souls, bonding over beer in the Bronx.

Why this? "Rocky" actor Carl Weathers is directing. The stars, Robert Standley and Tanna Frederick, have won Times praise in other L.A. stage productions.

Details: Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, ends Sept. 10. $20-$25. (310) 392-7327, www.edgemarcenter.org.

Tanna Frederick and Robert Standley in "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea."
Tanna Frederick and Robert Standley in "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea." (Ed Krieger)

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