Geffen season plucks from the small stage

Times Staff Writer

Geffen Playhouse will present its first play taken directly from L.A.'s smaller theater scene when it produces “War Music” as part of its 2003-2004 season, producing director Gilbert Cates has announced.

It will be part of a season that also will feature a Steve Martin adaptation of a 1910 play, a solo by Sandra Tsing Loh and a British play set in the Mississippi Delta.

Bryan Davidson’s “War Music” (Jan. 21-Feb. 22) was first produced last year by Playwrights’ Arena and the Echo Theatre at Los Angeles Theatre Center’s Theatre 2.

A series of three one-acts involving composers Frank Bridge, Anton Webern and Olivier Messiaen and their encounters with war, it will be directed by Jessica Kubzansky, who also staged it at LATC.


“We’re besieged by local theater companies” who want to move their shows to the Geffen, Cates said, “and we steadfastly don’t do it, because it’s very important for us to present plays our local audience otherwise could not see.”

However, six members of the Geffen staff “who rarely agree on anything” all thought “War Music” was “the cat’s meow,” said Cates, who did not see the LATC production but decided to make an exception to his usual policy.

“We’re excited by the opportunity to do it again,” said Kubzansky, adding that Davidson may do some minor rewriting. “There used to be a feeling that the big houses paid no attention to the small theaters.”

The Geffen has presented Jon Robin Baitz’s “Mizlansky/Zilinsky” that was introduced in a small Los Angeles theater, but its L.A. productions were 15 years apart, and the play had been expanded and produced in other large theaters in the interim.

British playwright Stephen Jeffreys’ “I Just Stopped By to See the Man” will launch the Geffen season Sept. 17-Oct. 19, staged by Geffen artistic director Randall Arney, who also staged its American premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago last year.

It’s about the confrontation of a mid-'70s English rocker and one of his inspirations, a Mississippi blues legend.

Loh’s “Sugar Plum Fairy,” a monologue about a 12-year-old girl’s shattered dream of “Nutcracker” glory, is slated for Nov. 19-Dec. 21. It premiered last fall in Seattle.

Martin’s “The Underpants” (March 17-April 18), an adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s farce “Die Hose,” is about a woman who inadvertently reveals her underwear at a royal parade. It played off-Broadway.


Cates will direct a yet-to-be-decided new play to close the season.