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The 99-Seat Beat: Del Shores, Molière and 'A Raisin in the Sun'

The 99-Seat Beat: Del Shores, Molière and 'A Raisin in the Sun'
Saundra McClain is Lena Younger, left, and Toya Turner is Ruth Younger in A Noise Within's production of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun." (Craig Schwartz)

This week’s picks from L.A.’s small-theater scene come courtesy of Del Shores, Molière, Wendy Graf and Lorraine Hansberry. Here’s a quick rundown of Celebration theater’s “Six Characters in Search of a Play,” City Garage’s “The School for Wives,” Little Victory’s “Unemployed Elephants” and A Noise Within’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”


‘Six Characters’ at Celebration

The essentials: “Six Characters in Search of a Play” is an off-night offering at the theater where “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” is packing ’em in. Veteran playwright Del Shores frames six characters he has met in real life into a vivid gallery of eccentrics, including an anti-vegetarian Dallas waitress and a “monkey-hating lesbian with COPD.”

Why this? From uproarious comedies about trashy Texas clans in crisis (“Daddy’s Dyin’ Who’s Got the Will?” and “Sordid Lives”) to more serious material about domestic abuse (“The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife”), Shores’ works are miracles of regional specificity that seldom strike a false note. Shores gets to stretch his wings as a performer as well as a writer in this solo show, which should be a treat.

Details: A Celebration presentation at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; ends March 27. Dark March 5, additional show 7 p.m. March 25. $25. (323) 957-1884, www.celebrationtheatre.com

Del Shores in "Six Characters in Search of Play"
Del Shores performs in Celebration theater's "Six Characters in Search of Play," playing at the Lex. Mat Hayes

‘School for Wives’ at City Garage

The essentials: This comedy, considered by many to be Molire’s greatest, concerns a controlling guardian who has carefully cloistered his decades-younger ward in the hope of transforming her into the “perfect” (and perfectly ignorant) wife who will never stray. Controversial in its day, the premise seems abhorrently timely now.

Why this? Dedicated avant-gardists Frédérique Michel and Charles Duncombe have devoted their theatrical careers to defiantly alternative theater. Their well-regarded translation of “Wives,” first produced at their theater in 2009, brings an invigoratingly revisionist perspective to Moliére’s classic.

Details: City Garage, Building T1, 2525 Michigan Ave. Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; ends April 1. $25. (310) 453-9939. www.citygarage.org

"The School for Wives"
Claire Pida and Buddy Brown in front, Bo Roberts in back, in "School for Wives." Paul M. Rubenstein

Little Victory’s ‘Unemployed Elephants’

The essentials: Set in 2015 in Myanmar, Wendy Graf’s play was written two years before the ethnic cleansing of the country’s indigenous Rohingya, although it does touch peripherally on that issue. Mainly, however, “Elephants” concerns two colorfully offbeat characters whose chance meeting on vacation results in unlikely romance.

Why this? Graf is a prolific playwright most notable for drama, including 2016’s “Please Don’t Ask About Becket,” about a family destroyed by an off-the-rails adolescent. She tries to demonstrate her knack for lighter fare in this whimsical world premiere. Director Maria Gobetti’s own comedic ability has been amply demonstrated over the years, most recently with “Resolving Hedda,” “Pie in the Sky” and “The Engine of Our Ruin” — all Times Critic’s Choices.

Details: The Little Victory Theatre at the Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. In previews; opens March 9. Performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; ends April 15. $24-$34. (818) 841-5422. www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org

"Unemployed Elephants"
Marshall McCabe and Brea Bee Tim Sullens

A Noise Within’s ‘Raisin’

The essentials: Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, first produced on the cusp of the civil rights era, focuses on the struggles of an African American family to purchase a home in a white neighborhood — a dream deferred because of racist resistance from residents there.

Why this? Hansberry’s richly humanistic portrait of the hard-working Younger family emphasizes commonalities of the American experience, a message that bears repeating given the country’s enduring racial ruptures and divisions.

Details: A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Plays in repertory; call for dates and times. Tickets from $25. (626) 356-3100, www.anoisewithin.org

A Noise Within's "A Raisin in the Sun"
Ben Cain as Walter and Toya Turner as Ruth in A Noise Within's "A Raisin in the Sun." Craig Schwartz

The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our team of reviewers — people with more than 75 years of combined experience tracking local theater — shortlists offerings with an emphasis on 99-seat theaters and other smaller venues. Some (but not all) recommendations are shows we've seen; others have caught our attention because of the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. You can find more comprehensive theater listings posted every Sunday at latimes.com/arts.

See all of our latest articles at latimes.com/arts.

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