BARBARA AND LAWRENCE FLEISCHMAN THEATER,
A visually stunning production of Euripides' "Hippolytos" inaugurated this magnificent outdoor 450-seat theater last season. Set in the hills of Malibu, the theater has an air of enchantment that could rival anything in the mythological world. The well-heeled neighbors aren't exactly thrilled to have audiences clogging up their pretty streets, but in time they may take pride in their proximity to a venue that seems destined to become the foremost center of Greek theater in America. Up next for the alfresco theater: "Tug of War," director Meryl Friedman's adaptation of Plautus' comedy "Rudens" ("The Rope"), from an original translation by Amy Richlin (Sept. 6 to 22).
Simon Abkarian's Actors' Gang production of Shakespeare's tricky comedy "Love's Labor's Lost" in July was widely praised, not least for its visual delights. At the heart was a strong contribution from up-and-coming young designer Francois-Pierre Couture, whose lights and curtain-swathed set were indicative of the UCLA-educated, Montreal transplant's European aesthetic. Reflecting such inspirations as Theatre du Soleil and avant-garde French-Canadian theater, film and opera director Robert Lepage, Couture's work has been increasingly seen in L.A.'s small theaters since 2005. He'll be at the Geffen Playhouse next, as set designer for Jeffrey Hatcher's psychological drama "A Picasso," in the Geffen's Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater (Feb. 11 to March 25).
A singular voice, tough subject matter: "Gifted" is a word often applied to Christopher Shinn. The New York-based playwright continues to up his profile as an emerging force in contemporary theater, some eight years after his first play, "Four," won accolades at London's prestigious Royal Court Theatre when Shinn was only 23. A commission for South Coast Repertory, "On the Mountain" -- it featured both an Apple iPod as a plot device and the ghost of Kurt Cobain -- followed in 2005. Shinn's fifth play, "Dying City," opens Feb. 26 at the Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater after its Royal Court premiere earlier this year. In it, a young woman, whose husband is reported killed accidentally while on military duty in Iraq, is confronted by his distraught twin brother.