Theater in L.A. this week: Mike Birbiglia, ‘Department of Dreams’ and more


Here is a list of new plays, Critics’ Choices, etc. for Oct. 20-27. Capsule reviews are by Charles McNulty (C.M.), Philip Brandes (P.B.), F. Kathleen Foley (F.K.F.), Margaret Gray (M.G.) and Daryl H. Miller (D.H.M.).


Gene Kelly: The Legacy Patricia Ward Kelly, the entertainer’s widow, shares stories from his life and career. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Sun., 2 p.m. $25-$46. (562) 944-9801.

The Living Room Series Staged reading of Adrienne Dawes’ “Teen Dad.” The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Mon., 8 p.m. $15 suggested donation. (323) 661-9827.

Silent Sky Staged reading of Lauren Gunderson’s bio-drama about a female astronomer at Harvard in the early 1900s. Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Mon., 7 p.m. $5 suggested donation. (626) 355-4318.


Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin The showbiz veterans discuss their lives and careers. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Tue., 8 p.m. $89. (805) 449-2787.

Perla Batalla in the House of Cohen The vocalist pays tribute to her friend and mentor, the late singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Wed., 8 p.m. $22-$27. (949) 854-4646.

Shorts by Shanley Short+Sweet Hollywood presents two new short plays by “Doubt” playwright John Patrick Shanley. Marilyn Monroe Theatre, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Wed., 7 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $20.

What If? — A Musical Revue Updated version of this send-up of classic show tunes. The Group Rep, Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. Wed.-Thu., 8 p.m. $25. (818) 763-5990.

Aliens, Immigrants and Other Evil Doers Writer-performer Jose Torres-Tama explores the immigration debate in this sci-fi-tinged satire. The Latino Theater Company, Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown L.A. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m.; ends Nov. 3. $38. (866) 811-4111.

A Dream Within a Dream: The Spectre of Edgar Allan Poe Travis Rhett Wilson portrays the poet and author and gives dramatic readings from Poe’s “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave, Fullerton. Thu., 7:30 p.m. $20, $30.


The Ojai Storytelling Festival Professional storytellers from around the world share adventure tales, humorous anecdotes, personal stories and more. Libbey Bowl, 210 S. Signal St., and Ojai Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery St., Ojai. Starts Thu.; ends next Sun. $10 and up; passes available.

Risk! “Matilda’s” Mara Wilson is among the performers in a Halloween-themed edition of this storytelling series. Dynasty Typewriter at The Hayworth, 2511 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Thu., 9 p.m. $12, $15. (657) 222-6147.

Crazy Talented Asians Variety show features music and comedy with the Filharmonic, Mama Bares and others. East West Players, David Henry Hwang Theater, 120 Judge John Aiso St., L.A. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. $30-$50. (213) 625-7000.

The Double V Carole Eglash-Kosoff’s drama about a campaign for racial equality for African Americans during WWII. Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., L.A. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 3 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $20-$50. (323) 960-7776

An Excuse to Behave Badly: The Variety Show! One-hour mix of stand-up, sketch comedy and a Halloween-themed short play. The Flight Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-next Sun., 8 p.m. $10.

Gravity and Other Myths The Australian contemporary circus troupe performs. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m. $59 and up. (310) 434-3200.

The New One Comic Mike Birbiglia explores the highs and lows of fatherhood in his latest solo show. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $35-$145. (213) 972-4400.

Milkcrate Monologues: pulling from the stacks of life Towne Street Theatre presents by RJ Wayne’s fusion of hip-hop and theater as part of its “Autumn Nights” series. Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m. $10; packages available.

Sylus 2020 Jeff Ahern sends up the political process in this solo show mixing comedy and improv. ACME Comedy, 5124 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri., 8 p.m.; also Nov. 8 & 22, Dec. 13. $5.95, $10; no one under 16 admitted.

War of the Worlds Re-creation of Orson Welles’ classic 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Martian-invasion thriller. Long Beach Shakespeare Company, Helen Borgers Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Blvd., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $12.50. (562) 997-1494.

The Art of Dining A couple open an upscale restaurant in 1970s New Jersey in a double-cast production of Tina Howe’s comedy. Gloria Gifford Conservatory, 6502 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 7:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $30, $50 (includes meal). (800) 838-3006.

Aubergine A Korean American chef deals with a terminally ill father, an ex-girlfriend and others in Julia Cho’s drama; contains adult language; for ages 14 and up. South Coast Repertory, Segerstrom Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; ends Nov. 16. $24 and up. (714) 708-5555.

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Tony-winning musical based on Mark Twain’s classic American novel and featuring songs by Roger Miller. Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. Sat., 7 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Nov. 10. $35-$74; opening night only, $150. (804) 667-2900.

BOO-tanicum Family-friendly Halloween event features ghost stories, a haunted house and more. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. Sat., 4 to 10 p.m. $10-$24; 4 and under, free. (310) 455-2322.

Department of Dreams A totalitarian regime goes to extreme lengths to clamp down on subversive thought in Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj’s Orwellian comedy. City Garage, Bergamot Station, building T1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 3 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $20, $25; Sundays: pay what you want, at the door only. (310) 453-9939.

Impresario of Castro Street Event celebrating artist-activist Marc Huestis’ memoir includes a salute to actress Carol Lynley featuring Teri Hatcher; Bruce Vilanch hosts. The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Sat., 2 p.m. Free; reservations recommended.

Living After Jewish Women’s Theatre celebrates former company member Abby Freeman, who died from breast cancer in 2014, in this storytelling event. The Braid, 2912 Colorado Ave., #102, Santa Monica. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $35, $45.

Love in Bloom Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie’s musical comedy salutes some of Shakespeare’s most colorful characters. Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. Sat., 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 3:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $35. (310) 974-9779.

Mandy Gonzalez: From Stephen Schwartz to Lin-Manuel Miranda The Broadway veteran sings show tunes from “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and more; with special guest “Hamilton’s” Javier Muñoz. Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge. Sat., 8 p.m. $39 and up. (818) 677-3000 Also at Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Next Sun., 7 p.m. $48-$110. (949) 854-4646.

Matilda, The Musical A young schoolgirl with a vivid imagination rebels against authority in this musical adapted from Roald Dahl’s children’s book; for ages 5 and up. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $15-$89; discounts available. (562) 944-9801.

Rachel Fuller’s Animal Requiem Pete Townshend, Jane Lynch, et al., join British singer-songwriter Fuller for a musical celebration of pets loved and lost. Royce Hall, UCLA, 10745 Dickson Ct., Westwood. Sat., 8 p.m. $22-$99. (310) 825-2101.

The Rainbow Fish Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia presents this family-friendly fable with puppets. Smothers Theatre, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu. Sat., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. $10, $18. (310) 506-4522.

Paul Reiser The veteran comic, actor and author performs. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts PlazaScherr Forum Theatre,, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $49. (800) 745-3000.

Ghost Light Night Benefit for Ensemble Theatre Company includes the one-man show “No Actors Allowed” with Tim Bagley. Santa Barbara Club, 1105 Chapala St., Santa Barbara. Next Sun., 5 p.m. $250. (805) 965-5400 or

Lila Downs’ Día De Muertos: Al Chile The Grammy winner is joined by Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company and Mariachi Feminil Flores Mexicanas for a cross-border celebration of Mexico’s Day of the Dead. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Next Sun., 7 p.m. $39 and up. (714) 556-2787.

Critics’ Choices

Almost Famous Spun from Cameron Crowe’s autobiographically inspired 2000 film about a teenage rock journalist’s freewheeling sentimental education while on the road with an up-and-coming band, this new musical (with original music by Tony winner Tom Kitt complementing the selection of 1970s rock classics) is as shimmering as a stadium of lighters during a Led Zeppelin encore. Crowe has adapted his Oscar-winning screenplay into the musical’s book, which preserves much of what was so appealing about the film without insisting on perfect fidelity. What is perfectly distilled is the chaotic, communal spirit of ’70s rock in a musical that seems destined to conquer Broadway. (C.M.) The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego. Sun., next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; Tue.-Wed., 7 p.m.; Thu.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; ends Oct. 27. $70 and up. (619) 234-5623.

Andy Warhol’s Tomato In this deftly staged debut, Vince Melocchi’s two-hander imagines an encounter in 1946 Pittsburgh between 18-year old Warhol (only an aspiring commercial artist at that point) and a blue-collar barkeep harboring secret dreams of becoming a writer. Carefully researched factual accuracy notwithstanding, the play isn’t so much a biographical portrait as a touching exploration of cultural division bridged by a fundamental human need to create. (P.B.) Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Oct. 27. $25-$34. (310) 822-8392.

Gem of the Ocean Arguably the most mystical offering in August Wilson’s monumental Century Cycle, the play is set in 1904 Pittsburgh in the home of apparently deathless “soul cleanser” Aunt Ester, who remembers all too well the scourge of slavery. The richly digressive plot defies easy recapitulation, but a dream cast evokes our fascination and compassion, never reducing the characters to obvious villainy, or conversely, tin-plaster saintliness. In a beautifully designed staging that is alternately leisurely, suspenseful, funny and poignant, director Gregg T. Daniel never misses a beat of the possibilities in Wilson’s text. His is an optimum production — a ritualistically purifying immersion that is clarifying, terrifying and cathartic. (F.K.F.) A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 16. $25 and up; student rush, $20; group discounts available. (626) 356-3121.

In Circles David Schweizer directs a tantalizing revival of this 1967 work created by composer Al Carmines, a seminal figure in the off-off-Broadway movement, from Gertrude Stein’s 1920 “A Circular Play.” The austerity of this playful collage of wordplay is unusually amiable when set to music: Imagine Dr. Seuss as a cubist poet with a taste for avant-garde performance and a love for old-fashioned musical showmanship. The game cast and sharp design keep us in the eternal present, which was Stein’s theatrical goal in jettisoning all that we’ve come to expect from theater: definable character, linear dialogue and developing plot. What’s left is a shimmering sensibility that gambols freely in a new age. (C.M.) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Sun., next Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 10. $32-$37; discounts available; $10 tickets on select dates. (310) 477-2055.

Little Shop of Horrors If “Sweeney Todd” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” mated, the offspring would look something like “Little Shop of Horrors,” the off-off-Broadway camp-thriller musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken that became a long-running off-Broadway hit in the 1980s. This new revival, directed by Mike Donahue, finds more realism than usual in this over-the-top doo-wop-infused tale about a clerk at a flower shop who makes a pact with a carnivorous, talking plant (powerfully voiced by “Glee’s” Amber Riley) that promises fame, fortune and romantic bliss for the price of his soul and flora world domination. The touching leads, George Salazar as Seymour, the nerdy flower shop drone with an unusual horticultural flair, and Mj Rodriguez (“Pose”) as Audrey, the delicate co-worker he would like to rescue from a malignant relationship, draw out the full humanity of their characters. (C.M.)The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Ends Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. $25 and up. (626) 356-7529.