Do you prefer theater that confronts the urgent sociopolitical questions of the world around you, or are you in the market for an escape? Or a little of both? L.A.’s small theater openings this weekend offer something for every taste, with Brecht’s antifascist pastiche “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui”; “Dead Boys,” a new two-person play about tolerance; the romantic comedy “Desperately Seeking Love”; and an immersive, site-specific take on Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus.”
‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ at City Garage
The essentials: Bertolt Brecht’s 1941 satire, which he wrote while in exile from Germany and waiting for an American visa, has been described as “the American gangster movie meets Richard III.” The play’s account of a buffoonish, small-time Chicago racketeer who takes over the city’s cauliflower market is a thinly veiled and often savage parody of Hitler’s rise to power.
Why this? As Charles Isherwood wrote in Variety about a 2002 New York production, “ ‘Arturo Ui’ paints a blunt picture of a smug society easily corrupted and ultimately overtaken by a low-level hoodlum and his gang of thugs.” Does this sound at all familiar? Is it too soon? Or maybe too late? City Garage, known for daring, highly stylized sociopolitical theater, is the ideal local company to revive this infrequently done, disturbingly timely play.
Details: City Garage, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Building T1, San Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 12. $20 and $25. (310) 453-9939 or www.citygarage.org
‘Dead Boys’ at Celebration Theatre
The essentials: Matthew Scott Montgomery wrote and stars in “Dead Boys,” a hit of the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, which he has expanded into a full-length play for Celebration. An unnamed apocalypse has left two survivors who happen to know each other. Back when they were in high school, they were the gay kid and the guy who bullied him. Now they have to find a way to get along.
Why this? Montgomery is one of those ineffably appealing actors who can steal a show even in a small role — he was a delight in Sarah Ruhl’s “Stage Kiss” at the Geffen in 2016 — and the play is a whimsical confection of comedy, bromance and horror, with unexpected twists.
Details: Celebration Theatre at the Lex, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood. 7 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays. Ends July 10. $25. (323) 957-1884 or www.CelebrationTheatre.com
‘Desperately Seeking Love’ at the Whitefire
The essentials: Kate Linder, who is both a TV star (Esther Valentine on CBS’ “The Young and the Restless”) and a working United Airlines flight attendant, adds another job to her busy schedule with a role in Ryan Paul James’ lighthearted frolic about six lonely characters and the strange places they go in quest of love.
Why this? Besides Linder, the cast includes another “The Young and the Restless” alum, Thomas F. Evans, as well as Keith Coogan from “Adventures in Babysitting.” James’ script promises to put its seasoned cast through heartwarming romantic misadventures.
Details: Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8 p.m. Fridays. Ends Aug. 3. $30. bit.ly/DesperatelySeekingLove
An immersive ‘Faustus’
The essentials: Archway Theatre has been experimenting with site-specific productions this season. This adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus,” based on the legend of the scholar who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge, is appropriately set in a library.
Why this? You can’t beat Shakespeare’s contemporary Marlowe for ambitious, overreaching protagonists and their gory, detailed, Elizabethan comeuppances. After making his infamous bargain with Mephistopheles, Marlowe has to contend with the seven deadly sins, here embodied by seven actresses. Director Steven Sabel teases, “Our production is not for the faint of heart. … Once the Seven Deadly Sins are unleashed, things get very real, very fast.”
Details: Woodbury University Library, 7500 N. Glenoaks Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends July 14. (818) 980-PLAY, www.archwayla.com
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday, shortlisting theater offerings with an emphasis on 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.
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