Theater in L.A. this week: ‘The Thanksgiving Play,’ a Donna Summer bio-musical and more

Noah Bean, left, Alexandra Henrikson and Samantha Sloyan costar in “The Thanksgiving Play” at the Geffen Playhouse.
(Jeff Lorch)

Here is a list of theater openings, Critics’ Choices, etc., for Nov. 3-10. 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.).


Charlie! The Death of Nancy FullForce A TV reporter probes the purported demise of a punk rock star in this musical mystery. The Cavern Club, Casita Del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. Sun., 7 p.m. $20. (800) 838-3006.

Reverend Tall Tree’s Blues Opera Chris Pierce stars in this musical drama about an itinerant street preacher in Mississippi. Molly Malone’s, 575 S. Fairfax Ave., L.A. Sun., 7:30 p.m. $20; ages 21 and up only.

The Living Room Series Staged reading of Jack Fieldstein’s “The Sparkling City of Omar Mazen.” The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Mon., 8 p.m. $15 suggested donation. (323) 661-9827.


Manifest Pussy Actress and activist Shakina Nayfack uses rock opera, storytelling and spoken word to explore her trans journey. Rockwell Table & Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz. Mon., 8 p.m. $25.

Anastasia A young woman with a mysterious past finds herself in 1920s Paris in this multimedia-enhanced romantic musical with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Tue.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $26 and up. (714) 556-2787.

Singles Jay Duplass, Kelly Marie Tran, et al., take part in a live reading of the screenplay for the Cameron Crowe’s 1992 comedy. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Tue., 7:30 p.m. $50. (310) 746-4000.

A Taylor Made Tapestry Tribute show re-creates a 2009 reunion concert by singer-songwriters Carole King and James Taylor. El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Tue., 7:30 p.m. $35. (866) 811-4111.


The Thanksgiving Play Three white actors must come up with a culturally sensitive Thanksgiving pageant for an elementary school in this satire by Larissa FastHorse. Geffen Playhouse, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 6. $30-$120. (310) 208-5454.

L.A. Theatre Works Celebrates the “Art of Diplomacy” An evening of theater and conversation includes Alfred Molina and Steven Weber in a performance of Lee Blessing’s two-character drama “A Walk in the Woods.” The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Reception and dinner, Wed., 6 p.m.; performance and discussion, 7 p.m. $250 and up. (310) 827-0889.

David Sedaris The author and humorist shares stories. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Wed.-Thu., 8 p.m. $48-$110. (949) 854-4646.

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Tune-filled bio-drama celebrates the life and times of the Queen of Disco. Hollywood Pantages, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $39 and up. (800) 982-2787.


Fruition Four strangers must band together to survive the collapse of civilization in the not-too-distant future in this new drama from Alexis DeLaRosa. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun, 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 7. $20, $25. (323) 856-8611.

La Chute Staged adaptation of this existential fable by Albert Camus; performed in French. Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, 6760 Painter Ave., Whittier. Thu., 7:30 p.m. $5, $15. (562) 907-4203.

La Victima The Latino Theater Company co-presents a locally touring production of El Teatro de la Esperanza’s classic drama that follows two families through several decades beginning during the Great Depression; performed in English. Los Angles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., downtown L.A. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m.; other area venues, Nov. 11-Dec. 8. Free; reservations required. (866) 811-4111.

SkyPilot One-Act Festival Showcase features six original short plays, in two distinct programs, inspired by futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock.” Oh My Ribs! Entertainment, 6468 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun, 5 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $15; passes, $20. (800) 838-3006.


The Tale of Turandot For its inaugural production, Imagine Project uses modern puppetry to retell this traditional Chinese fable; for ages 4-12. The Colony Theatre, 555 N. 3rd St., Burbank. Thu.-Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m., 2 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $17, $25. (818) 558-7000.

Alice in Wonderland Musical version of C.S. Lewis’ classic fantasy tale. Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminster. Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $10-$15. (714) 793-1150.

The Bogeyman Audience members will be blindfolded for this new horror-themed 20-minute theatrical experience; 18 and up only; waiver must be signed before entry. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.Fri.-Sat., 8, 8;30, 9, 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11 and 11:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 23. $16, $20. (818) 202-4120.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time An autistic teen from a working-class British neighborhood attempts to solve a mystery in Simon Stephens’ Tony-winning drama. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $25, $34. (323) 673-0544.


Eight Nights Jennifer Maisel’s new decades-spanning drama follows a German Jewish refugee and her family from 1949 to the present day. Antaeus Theatre Company, Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Broadway, Glendale. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Dec. 16. $35. (818) 506-1983.

God of Carnage The Wayward Artist stages Yasmina Reza’s dark comedy about two sets of parents who meet to discuss a fight between their respective children. Grand Central Arts Center, 125 N. Broadway #E, Santa Ana. Fri.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $15, $25. (657) 205-6273.

HA-M-LET CalArts’ Center for New Performance presents Brazilian performance artist Peter Mark’s multilingual, multimedia-enhanced work inspired by Shakespeare’s revenge tale. Hauser & Wirth, 901 E. 3rd St., downtown L.A. Fri., 7:30 and 9 p.m. $8.

Little Shop of Horrors Long Beach Landmark Theatre Company stages the Howard Ashman-Alan Menken off-Broadway musical comedy based on the 1960 sci-fi B-movie about a mild-mannered florist and a blood-thirsty plant of extraterrestrial origin. First Congregational Church Long Beach, 241 Cedar Ave., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 7 p.m.; ends Nov. 17. $15-$50. (562) 366-0085.


Lost in Yonkers Two teenage boys are sent to live with their grandmother during WWII in Neil Simon’s classic coming-of-age tale. Santa Paula Theater Center’s Main Stage, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula. Nov. 8-Dec. 15. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $18-$24. (805) 525-4645.

Rockin’ in Paradise Broadway’s Eden Espinosa and veteran singer Freda Payne perform in this benefit concert. Fox Pointe Manor, 181 S. Cobblestone Lane, Anaheim. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. $75, $125. (657) 549-0455.

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. 22, Dec. 13. $5.95, $10; no one under 16 admitted.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot Sacred Fools Theater Company presents Dave Hanson’s backstage farce about two understudies on a production of Beckett’s classic absurdist fable. The Broadwater Second Stage, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Dec. 14. $15.


Defenders Pandelia’s Canary Yellow Company stages Cailin Maureen Harrison’s drama about three American G.I.s who must turn to local villagers for help when they become shipwrecked on an island off the coast of Iceland during WWII. The Broadwater Black Box, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun.-Mon., 3 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $30. (323) 960-5770.

An Evening With Rita Moreno The entertainment legend shares songs and stories. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $79 and up. (310) 434-3200.

The Italian in Me Dina Morrone’s solo show about her life as a young actress in Rome. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. W., L.A. Sat. 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $30, $35. (323) 851-7977.


Joey Arias & Sherry Vine: Looking Back at the Future The veteran drag artists share the stage in this cabaret show. The Cavern Club, Casita Del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 7 p.m. $30. (800) 838-3006.

Legally Blonde Jr. Kid-friendly take on the musical based on the 2001 comedy that starred Reese Witherspoon as a sorority girl turned Harvard law student; for ages 10 and up. Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Sat.-next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Dec. 14. (310) 828-7519.

Native Voices Ninth Annual Short Play Festival Readings of short plays by Native American playwrights, presented as part of the American Indian Arts Marketplace art fair. Autry Museum of the American West, Griffith Park, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A. Sat.-next Sun., 1:30 p.m. Free with art fair admission: $6-$15; military and veterans, free. (323) 667-2000.

Our Country Becca Wolff and Annie Saunders’ immersive fable, inspired by Sophocles’ “Antigone” and tales from the Wild West, deconstructs the myth of America. The Broad Stage, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica. Sat., 4 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $39. (310) 434-3200.


Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends Live! The movie and TV star shares anecdotes from his life and career. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Sat., 8 p.m. $45-$85. (805) 449-2787.

Trial on the Potomac: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon Rich Little portrays the former president in a staged reading of George Bugatti’s new drama. Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, 6760 Painter Ave., Whittier. Sat., 1 p.m. Free. (562) 907-4203.

Walking in Dorothy Dandridge’s Shoes: Her Final New Beginning Wanda Ray Willis salutes the African American actress-singer and activist in this solo musical. Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Ave., Studio City. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $20.


The Wrong Kind of People An African American law student in 1940s Los Angeles has a series of misadventures when he checks into a local hotel to study for the bar in this new comedy by George W. Corbin; presented by the Robey Theatre Company. Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre Four, 514 S. Spring St., downtown L.A. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 3 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $35; opening night only, $50. (866) 811-4111.

Chris Perondi’s Stunt Dog Experience Canines cavort in this family-friendly show. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St. Long Beach. Next Sun., 2 and 6 p.m. $15, $25. (562) 985-7000.

Erth’s Prehistoric Aquarium Adventure Multimedia-enhanced show uses actors, puppets, etc., for a kid-friendly exploration of marine paleontology. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, 18000 Park Plaza Drive, Cerritos. Next Sun., 1 and 4 p.m. $10-$20. (562) 916-8500.

The Goodbye Girl Musical Theatre Guild presents a concert performance of this musical, with songs by Marvin Hamlisch, based on the Neil Simon comedy about the unlikely romance between a single mom and a struggling actor. The Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Next Sun., 7 p.m. $45, $49. (818) 243-2539.


The Great Leap An American basketball team becomes embroiled in controversy while on a trip to Beijing in the L.A. premiere of Lauren Yee’s drama; co-presented by Pasadena Playhouse and East West Players. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Next Sun., 5 p.m.; ends Dec. 1. $25 and up. (626) 356-7529.

La Golondrina: A Musical Journey Singer-songwriter Sonia De Los Santos celebrates her Mexican heritage in this family-friendly bilingual show. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Next Sun., 2 p.m. $25, $35. (310) 746-4000.

The Lion in Winter Gregory Harrison and Frances Fisher portray England’s Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in James Goldman’s classic historical comedy-drama; Sheldon Epps directs. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Next Sun., 5:30 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $50-$75; group discounts available. (949) 497-2787.

New American Festival of New One Act Plays Six new short plays. The New American Theatre, 1312 N. Wilton Place, Hollywood. Next Sun., 7:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $15. (310) 424-2980.


Studio: Fall 2019 Quarterly program of new works and works-in-progress by local theater artists, dancers, musicians, etc. REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd St., L.A. Next Sun.-Mon., 8:30 p.m. $13, $16. (213) 237-2800.

Critics’ Choices

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.; Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 24. $25-$34. (310) 822-8392.

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn An intimate environmental staging and stellar performances draw urgent lessons from this 1985 musical adaptation of the Mark Twain slavery-era classic about Huck Finn’s hard-won conquest of his own racial prejudice. (P.B.) Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. Sun., next Sun., 2 p.m.; Wed., 2 and 7 p.m.; Thu., 7 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 10. $29-$74. (804) 667-2900.

Buried Child You can’t go home again, and you can never escape it. With an uncompromising mix of dark humor, menace, and mystery, Sam Shepard’s 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winner shows the remarkable staying power in its deconstructed American dream. (P.B.) A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri. 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 23. $25 and up; student rush, $20; group discounts available. (626) 356-3121.


Department of Dreams Preeminent Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj’s dystopian fable concerns a repressive system in which citizens are forced to “deposit” their dreams at a monolithic government agency in an ongoing campaign of intimidation and terror. The fact that the play is a world premiere represents a real coup for director Frédérique Michel and designer Charles A. Duncombe, the movers and shakers behind City Garage for almost 35 years now. They do full service to Neziraj’s surreal vision, an Orwellian portrait of a mad world in which all individuality is suppressed by a totalitarian state. Sometimes abstruse to the point of the incomprehensible, this is not an easy play. But is in an important play by a world-class playwright who challenges our complacency at every twist and turn. (F.K.F.) City Garage, Bergamot Station, building T1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Dec. 8. $20, $25; Sundays: pay what you want, at the door only. (310) 453-9939.

Elijah Set in a Texas TGI Fridays during raging hurricane Elijah, Judith Leora’s play commences on a deceptively polemical note, as the pro-and-anti death penalty activists who had gathered at a nearby prison for the execution of a notorious serial slayer are forced to shelter in place for the duration. In this case, patience is a virtue. Leora’s initial didacticism deepens into a beautifully realized, classically structured drama that subtly illustrates what can occur when individuals are forced out of their ideologically ossified “tribes” to seek a common humanity. Never striking a false note, director Maria Gobetti takes us on a journey that accelerates to a shattering emotional whirlwind. Among the superlative performers, Molly Gray particularly stands out in her raw portrayal of a woman coping with a sad and shocking legacy that will forever define her. (F.K.F.) The Big Victory Theatre, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $28-$40. (818) 841-5421.

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. Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 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.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Nov. 10. $32-$37; discounts available; $10 tickets on select dates. (310) 477-2055.