The 99-Seat Beat: Aaron Posner, Anna Ziegler and the return of Tim Dang
By Margaret Gray
Jan 19, 2018 | 5:20 PM
Los Angeles' smaller stages return to full swing this week, offering area premieres of work by established and emerging playwrights: Anna Ziegler’s “A Delicate Ship” at the Road, Aaron Posner’s “The Chosen” at the Fountain, “The Last Wife” at Theatre 40 and “Nothing Is the Same” at the Sierra Madre Theatre.
‘Delicate Ship’ at Road on Magnolia
The essentials: Andre Barron directs the West Coast premiere of “A Delicate Ship,” a drama by the rising playwright Anna Ziegler about a love triangle among thirtysomethings.
Why this? Ziegler’s nuanced explorations of hot-button issues are getting produced all over the world. “Actually,” about a rape accusation on an Ivy League campus, ran here at the Geffen Playhouse last spring. Nicole Kidman starred in “Photograph 51,” about sexism in science, in London in 2015. “I have a lot of sympathy for my characters,” Ziegler said in a New York Times profile. “The people I write are people who are really trying to do their best.”
Details: The Road on Magnolia, 19747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends March 11. $17.50-$34. (818) 761-8838, www.roadtheatre.org
The essentials: Aaron Posner first adapted Chaim Potok’s novel for the stage in 1999 (with help from Potok, who died in 2002). Last year, for a revival at Connecticut’s Long Wharf Theatre, Posner took another look at his work, turning it into what he has described as “a more dynamic, more streamlined play.” Simon Levy directs the West Coast premiere of this new version at the intimate Fountain.
Why this? Posner created faithful literary adaptations for years before his breakout play “Stupid … Bird,” an irreverent contemporary take on Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” which L.A. Times theater critic Charles McNulty called a “bright, jocular, not at all offensive modernization.” “The Chosen,” Potok’s beloved first novel about two fathers and their sons, is sometimes called “the Jewish ‘Catcher in the Rye.’”
The essentials: “King Henry VIII. To six wives he was wedded. One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded,” goes a jaunty old rhyme about the much-married British monarch. The sole survivor, Catherine Parr, is the heroine of this first play by the Canadian actress Kate Hennig. It debuted at England’s Stratford Festival in 2015.
Why this? It’s always heartening to learn more about those who got away from history’s most lethal tyrants. Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune called “The Last Wife” a “fresh take on this bloody stretch of English history, and a very smart piece of writing.”
The essentials: As an artist in residence at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, playwright Y York interviewed elderly Hawaiians who had lived through Pearl Harbor as children, inspiring this play about four 11-year-old Hawaiian friends whose lives and relationships are upended by World War II.
Why this? Tim Dang was the longtime artistic director of East West Players until 2016. Here he’s flexing his directing muscles again at the helm of this double-cast show, which is written in Hawaiian Creole and explores the complexities of Asian American identity.
Details: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; ends March 4. $20-$30. (626) 355-4318, www.sierramadreplayhouse.org
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our team of reviewers — people with more than 75 years of combined experience tracking local theater — shortlist current offerings at 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.