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Entertainment & Arts

New in L.A. theater: The struggles of women, as seen through the Armenian genocide

Travis Laughlin and Jade Hykush in Vista Players’ “Constantinople” at Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood.
Travis Laughlin and Jade Hykush in Vista Players’ “Constantinople” at Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood.
(Armineh Hovanesian)

L.A.'s theater scene is loaded with premieres this week, with new plays centered on the Armenian genocide (“Constantinople” in North Hollywood), family discord (“Last Swallows” in West Hollywood), CIA intrigue (“The Surveillance Trilogy” in Beverly Hills) and the fallout of a political sex scandal (“Representative Behavior” in Burbank).

‘Constantinople’ at the Secret Rose

The essentials: In 1919 Constantinople, an Armenian women’s rights activist and an intrepid guerrilla fighter join forces to smuggle weapons and supplies into their ravaged homeland while spiriting out women and children abducted during the genocide. Other characters — a dying poet rushing to complete his magnum opus, a young feminist rescued from abduction, a rape victim forced to bear her assailant’s child— strive for some semblance of normalcy.

Why this? Playwright Aram Kouyoumdjian, who also directs, clarifies the historical intricacies of a turbulent period. Kouyoumdjian intends his strikingly contemporary play not as a period piece, but as a reflection of our current geopolitical climate. “A century later, we find ourselves contending with the same struggles as the play’s protagonists,” he says. “Displacement, anti-immigrant sentiment, populism, demagoguery and a struggle for women’s rights.”

Details: Vista Players at Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Nov. 2. $20-$40. (818) 538-4911. itsmyseat.com/constantinople

Leilani Smith and Ty Mayberry in “Last Swallows” at the Other Space @ The Actors Company.
Leilani Smith and Ty Mayberry in “Last Swallows” at the Other Space @ The Actors Company.
(Ed Krieger)
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‘Last Swallows’ at the Other Space

The essentials: A woman, convinced that her husband is dying, tries to bring her far-flung children together for one last send-off, but family obligations and old grievances make that seemingly impossible.

Why this? Playwright Cailin Maureen Harrison’s overlapping dialogue and intricately intermeshed scenes occurring simultaneously in different locales capture the randomness and discord of family life. The bickering siblings alternate between genuine concern for their failing parents and monstrous selfishness — loving, lacerating interactions with the ring of truth. The puzzle-piece scenes pose a daunting challenge for any director, but Kiff Scholl is a savvy hand who should be able to corral Harrison’s challenging cacophony into a comprehensible format.

Details: Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company at the Other Space @ The Actors Company, 916 A N. Formosa Ave., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 20. $30. (323) 960-5770. onstage411.com/swallows

Sequoia Granger, left, Max Pescherine and Charlotte Evelyn Williams in “Are You Listening?” a one-act in Leda Siskind’s “The Surveillance Trilogy” at Theatre 40.
Sequoia Granger, left, Max Pescherine and Charlotte Evelyn Williams in “Are You Listening?” a one-act in Leda Siskind’s “The Surveillance Trilogy” at Theatre 40.
(Ed Krieger)

‘The Surveillance Trilogy’ at Theatre 40

The essentials: Playwright Leda Siskind’s evening of one-acts, directed by Amanda Conlon, commences with a touching two-hander between a closeted McCarthy-era professor who is more fearful of being outed as gay than he is of having his subversive associations revealed. The second play revolves around the mysterious internal injuries suffered by American diplomats stationed at the Cuban embassy in Havana, as a CIA doctor tries to convince one of the sufferers that her symptoms are psychosomatic. And lastly, a comically intrusive Alexa-like virtual assistant plays mind games on a colorfully unstable family.

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Why this? Whether playfully or poignantly rendered, Siskind’s characters share a pervasive and justifiable paranoia. The fearful professor and his yearning wife start things off on a serious note, yet Siskind also has a knack for the lighthearted, as demonstrated by her closing play’s scathing sendup of our tech-dependent society. Most fascinating, however, is her rigorously fact-based account of the Havana Syndrome, ailments the State Department still attributes to “high-pitched crickets.”

Details: Theatre 40, Reuben Cordova Theatre on the campus of Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive., Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays, through Oct. 14. $35. (310) 364-0535. theatre40.org

‘Representative Misbehavior’ at Grove Center

The essentials: When the gubernatorial front-runner is discovered in a brothel — in a Captain America costume, no less — obscure state Representative Steven Chase becomes his party’s presumptive nominee. That’s the only good news in Steven’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, as a series of wacky characters and surreal circumstances threaten to plunge his campaign into scandal.

Why this? For those in the mood for a purely escapist farce that won’t strain the brain, Tom Walla’s over-the-top caper should fill the bill. The play requires the kind of keen pacing that seasoned director L. Flint Esquerra should be well equipped to supply.

Details: Neo Ensemble Theatre at Grove Center Theatre, 1111 W. Olive Ave., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 20. $30. (213) 533-9982. neoensembletheatre.org

The 99-Seat Beat
This column appears every Friday. Our reviewers shortlist offerings with an emphasis on smaller venues. Some recommendations are shows we’ve seen; others are based on the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast.

You always can find our latest theater news and reviews at latimes.com/theater. Recent coverage includes “Little Shop of Horrors” at Pasadena Playhouse, “A Play Is A Poem” at the Mark Taper Forum, “Deadly” at Sacred Fools, “On Beckett” at the Kirk Douglas, “American Mariachi” at South Coast Rep, “The Solid Life of Sugar Water” at Deaf West, “In Circles” at the Odyssey and “Always Running” at Casa 0101.


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