‘The Collected Plays of Justin Tanner’


Eight plays by Justin Tanner are going up at the Cast Theatre in the next two weeks--seven revivals and the brand-new “The Tent Show,” under the umbrella title “The Collected Plays of Justin Tanner.” Here are descriptions and schedules:

Still Life With Vacuum Salesman (formerly “Barbie and Ken at Home”) (1989). Former high school royalty choose an unfortunate salesman as their method of returning to the top. Tanner calls it his “high school revenge play” and his homage to Edward Albee’s “Virginia Woolf” but adds, “Thank goodness I’ve moved past all that insulting anger.” Opens Sept. 28. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 p.m.

Zombie Attack! (1989, still running). Co-written with Andy Daley. Three young couples confront the living dead. A spoof of horror flicks and the “thirtysomething” crowd. It’s Tanner’s longest-running play, but it’s also his least characteristic in that it strays far from realism. Saturdays, 10:30 p.m.


Happytime Xmas (1989, revived in 1991). A waitress targets “Wheel of Fortune” as her escape hatch from the overbearing demands of her immature adult children and her ex-husband. Tanner and producer Diana Gibson consider this extensive reworking of his first play, “Changing Channels,” his best-structured work, and Tanner says that overall it’s his favorite. Opens next Sunday. Sundays, 7 p.m.

Party Mix (1990). A single woman decides to cut out on her own party, and the guests take over her apartment. First working title: “Party Slut.” It was Tanner’s first L.A. play, and like its characters, it had a hang-loose structure that provoked some debate among critics. Fridays, 10:30 p.m.

Teen Girl (1992). While her mother is away in Las Vegas, a Salinas girl faces peer pressure head on. This play was the one that made assorted critics, industry producers and colleagues take notice, and Gibson still considers it Tanner’s best. Tanner says its halfway-happy ending reflects the fact that until this period, he had never had a “positive” love relationship. Thursdays, 8 p.m.

Bitter Women (1993). A naive young woman, new to L.A., is put through the mental wringer by her disdainful roomie, a scary neighbor and a crusty landlady. Tanner considered this one his most personal play, though he now says it’s not as good as “Teen Girl.” Gibson actually appeared in this one, replacing Ellen Ratner as the landlady. Wednesdays, 8 p.m.

Pot Mom (1994). A family situation not unlike that of “Happytime Xmas,” but this mom’s TV icon is Lucy Ricardo, not “Wheel of Fortune.” Though less resourceful than the mother in the earlier play, she is ultimately more reconciled to her family. Tanner considers this his best writing yet, the most satisfying experience for an audience of all his plays, “the closest example of what my life was like” and an indication of how his plays are becoming more hopeful. But a bitter undercurrent remains. Saturdays, 8 p.m.

The Tent Show (1994). A group of men who work at an L.A. title insurance company go camping together in Big Bear, bringing the office to the wilderness. It’s Tanner’s first attempt to focus on men more than women (“Most of my men characters so far have been idiots or pigs or really ineffectual”), though his original intent to keep it all male was abandoned. So was the original setting in the desert. Opens Sept. 30. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 3 p.m.


* All performances at the Cast Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood, (213) 462-9872. Single tickets, $15. Double features, $25. Eight-show package, $75.