The 99-Seat Beat: Marja-Lewis Ryan, Michael Kearns and 'Freud's Last Session'

Sigmund Freud, C.S. Lewis, Michael Kearns, Disney’s “Splash” and the ’80s soap “Dynasty” all factor into this week’s roundup of “The 99-Seat Beat,” our weekly highlights from L.A.’s small-theater scene.

‘Bugaboo & the Silent One’ at the Lounge

The essentials: Playwright-director Marja-Lewis Ryan’s returns to the Lounge Theatre with her empathetic new character-based drama about two misfit cellmates in a women’s prison. They manage to cross lines of alienation, defensiveness and despair and find their way to emotional and spiritual connection.

Why this? The production reunites Ryan with lead actress Heidi Sulzman from their previous collaboration, "One in the Chamber," which won Ryan the 2015 L.A. Drama Critics Circle playwriting award. Ryan remains fiercely committed to live theater despite her rapidly ascendant Hollywood profile: She’s the showrunner for Showtime's forthcoming “L Word” sequel, screenwriter for Disney’s gender-swapped “Splash” remake, and director for the Netflix feature “6 Balloons.”

Details: A Chris Bender production at the Lounge Theater, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays; ends Jan. 27. $34. (800) 838-3006, batso.brownpapertickets.com.

‘Freud’s Last Session’ at the Odyssey

The essentials: In a 1939 meeting of great minds, an ailing Sigmund Freud and rising star C.S. Lewis put their colorful personalities and opposing philosophies on the line. The tension between the grimly rational, secular humanism of Freud (played here by Martin Rayner, who originated the role) and the faith-based optimism of Lewis (British actor Martyn Stanbridge) takes on ominous urgency as the world teeters on the brink of World War II.

Why this? Playwright Mark St. Germain specializes in fictionalized encounters between historical figures, and his witty, insightful and well-researched 2010 off-Broadway hit raises the stakes way beyond merely contrasting celebrity bios. The revival for L.A.’s venerable Odyssey Theatre is staged by Emmy-winner Robert Mandel — and who better to probe metaphysical inquiries amid an existential threat to civilization as we know it than the director of the original “X-Files” pilot?

Details: An Odyssey Theatre Ensemble production, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (see website for additional performances); ends March 4. $30-$35 ($10 on Jan. 24, Feb. 2 and March 1). (310) 477-2055, www.OdysseyTheatre.com

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‘Bloodbound’ at Highways

The essentials: After extensive workshopping at the Skylight Theatre, the official premiere of Michael Kearns’ poetic and unsettling memory play explores the layers of alienation and tortured family bonds between two gay brothers, from their coming-of-age in the closeted 1950s through the present. Their late-in-life confessions play out against incarnations of their younger wayward selves through fragmentary narrative elements the playwright considers “autobiographical … to an extent.”

Why this? As Hollywood’s first openly gay and later first openly HIV-positive actor, playwright-actor-activist Kearns has long been pushing boundaries. Where many gay-themed plays focus on the anxieties of sexual orientation, for Kearns those are merely the jumping-off point into far deeper psychological quicksand as he gleefully upends theatrical cliches. Gordon Thomson, best known as the suave, dastardly Adam Carrington on the 1980s nighttime serial “Dynasty,” stars as the renegade older brother trying to come to terms with his past misdeeds.

Details: A Moon Mile Run production at Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Performances on various Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Check website for times and dates. $25. www.highwaysperformance.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.

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at latimes.com/arts.

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