‘This’ opens in Culver City with Kirk Douglas watching

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Kirk and Anne Douglas sat front row, center, at Sunday’s opening night performance of ‘This,’ Melissa James Gibson’s play about changing relationships, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. ‘I come to everything,’ said Douglas. ‘Of course I do.’

Of course, no one told the cast, consisting of Saffron Burrows, Eisa Davis, Glenn Fitzgerald, Gilles Marini and Darren Pettie. At least not in advance. And while other actors often turn up on opening nights, including on this night Ricki Lake, whose new talk show premieres in September, and Camryn Manheim of “The Practice,” the presence of a Hollywood legend is something else.

At a post-performance party in the lobby, most cast members said they hadn’t noticed Douglas until they took their bows. But not Gilles Marini, of ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Brothers & Sisters’ and ‘Dancing With the Stars.’

Marini said he spotted the theater’s namesake, now 94, during an early scene, when he stepped to the edge of the stage. ‘This’ was his first venture into live theater and a challenge he felt as an actor he had to meet.


‘I always thought that this could be difficult to do, but I love to confront my fears,” he said.

On seeing Douglas (who did not stick around for the party), he recalled thinking, ' ‘Holy moly, it’s Kirk Douglas. He’s right in front of me.’ That was to me the cherry icing on the cake,” and then added, “It was the entire cake.’

“I think I would have been very nervous if I had known,” admitted Burrows, adding that she was pleased at the discovery and especially pleased to be in this play. She said she first heard of “This” after reading a review of the 2009 New York production. “It intrigued me so much that I cut it out and put it on my fridge. I said I want to track that playwright down and read that play,” she said. Gibson’s play centers on Burrows’ character Jane, a single mother recovering from the death of her husband as her close friends good-humoredly try to help her move on, by, among other things, introducing her to a handsome French doctor, played by Marini. Yet the friends, played by Davis, Fitzgerald and Pettie, are struggling with issues their own: parenthood, a fading relationship and approaching middle age chief among them.

Cast members and director Daniel Aukin remained for refreshments and the chance to discuss the play’s thought-provoking issues with party-goers, who also included the Center Theatre Group’s artistic director, Michael Ritchie, managing director Edward Rada and producing director Douglas Baker, and actors Gillian Zinser of “90210” and Terri Ivens of “All My Children.”


Darren Criss will perform for L.A.'s new musicals festival

— Ellen Olivier

Top photo: The cast of ‘This, ' from left, Darren Pettie, Gilles Marini, Saffron Burrows, Glenn Fitzgerald and Eisa Davis pose after the opening night performance at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.

Center: Anne and Kirk Douglas. Credit: Ellen Olivier/Special to the Los Angeles Times.

Bottom: Ricki Lake and Camryn-Manheim. Credit: Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging.