Theater in L.A. this week: ‘Jitney,’ ‘Love Actually Live’ and more

August Wilson's “Jitney"
John Douglas Thompson, left, Michael Potts and Anthony Chisholm in the August Wilson drama “Jitney,” coming to the Mark Taper Forum.
(Joan Marcus)

Here is a list of theater openings, Critics’ Choices, etc., for Nov. 24-Dec. 1. 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.).


Hot Off the Press Staged readings of excerpts from new solo works by female writer-performers; presented by Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival. Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Sun., 7 p.m. $10. (818) 760-0408.

Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Diaries The film, TV and Broadway star sings show tunes, standards and more. Musco Center for the Arts, Chapman University, 415 N. Glassell, Orange. Sun., 4 p.m. $63-$113. (844) 626-8726.

The Legend of Georgia McBride Crown City Theatre Company stages the Matthew Lopez comedy about a struggling Elvis impersonator who loses his spot to a drag show. Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 W. Magnolia St., North Hollywood. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Feb. 9. (818) 605-5685.


Breaking Habits Readings of short plays and works in progress. Son of Semele Theater, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A. Mon., 7 p.m. $10. (213) 351-3507.

Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show Family-friendly parody puts a local spin on Dickens’ tale of the miserable miser. The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego. Tue.-Wed., Fri., 7 p.m.; Sat.-next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 29. $30 and up. (619) 234-5623.

Love Actually Live For the Record’s musical celebration of the holiday-themed 2003 romantic comedy returns; with Rex Smith. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Wed., Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 29. p.m. $39-$125. (310) 746-4000.

The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever! An LGBTQ+ community theater struggles to stage its annual holiday show in Joe Marshall’s comedy. Loft Ensemble, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 22. $10, $20. (818) 452-3153.


See You at the Funeral! Writer-performer Tova Katz portrays three different women coping with intersectional traumas in this dark solo comedy with music. The Broadwater Main Stage, 1078 Lillian Way, Hollywood. Nov. 29-30. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. $15.

Another Night in the Catskills — A New Borscht Belt Variety Show Hosted by ventriloquist Michael Paul (“America’s Got Talent”). El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Sat., 3 and 8 p.m. $25-$35. (866) 811-4111.

Bob Baker’s Nutcracker Marionettes reenact the fantastical holiday tale in this family-friendly show. Pasadena Playhouse, Carrie Hamilton Theatre, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Sat.-next Sun., 2:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 29. $20 and up. (626) 356-7529.


Bunny the Elf Live! A musical theater nerd gets a job as a Christmas elf at a toy store in writer-performer Christi Pedigo’s holiday comedy; for ages 10 and up. Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonweatlth Ave., Fullerton. Sat., and Dec. 7, 4:30 p.m. Also at Theatre Asylum’s Studio C, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. Next Sun. and Dec. 8, 4 p.m. $20.

George Bernard Shaw One Acts Double bill pairs the playwright’s short comedies “Augustus Does His Bit” and “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets.” West Valley Playhouse, 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Woodland Hills. Sat., 8 p.m.; next 2:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 22. $28, $30. (818) 884-1907.

Safe Harbor Three woman caught up in the shadowy world of sex trafficking strive to make better futures for themselves in Tira Palmquist’s new drama. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 3 and 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $20, $29. (951) 566-6413.

Storm Large: Holiday Ordeal The Pink Martini vocalist performs seasonal favorites and more in this show for adults. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Sat., 8 p.m. $38-$100. (949) 854-4646.


Church Discipline: Christmas It’s Santa vs. Krampus in a holiday edition of this comedy show; for ages 16 and up. Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group. 4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Next Sun., 8:30 p.m. $16. (818) 202-4120.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas The musical group returns with its annual holiday celebration. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Next Sun., 7 p.m. $59 and up. (714) 556-2787.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella Classic musical based on the beloved fairy tale. Rose Center Theater, 14140 All American Way, Westminster. Next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $20-$27. (714) 793-1150.

An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas Evan Tyrone Martin pays tribute to the legendary entertainer. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Next Sun., 3 p.m. $15-$47. (562) 944-9801.


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., 3 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $25-$34. (310) 822-8392.

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.

Eight Nights Sharply written, expertly performed and staged with breathtaking emotional impact, Jennifer Maisel’s new play explores the refugee experience and its repercussions through the deeply personal story of a concentration camp survivor and her descendants. (P.B.) 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.

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. Sun., next Sun., 4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends Dec. 15. $28-$40. (818) 841-5421.


The Great Leap BD Wong, who starred in two previous productions of Lauren Yee’s exhilarating, witty, heartbreaking play about Chinese-American relations seen through the lens of basketball, directs its L.A. premiere at the Pasadena Playhouse. Unbeknownst to many Americans, basketball is huge in China, and Yee uses this shared affinity between our otherwise clashing cultures as a mutual way in. This lavish coproduction with East West Players features four dazzling performers, including James Eckhouse (of “Beverly Hills 90210”) as you’ve never seen him before. (M.G.) Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Sun., 2 p.m.; Tue.-Wed., Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; ends Dec. 1. $25 and up. (626) 356-7529.

Jitney Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Tony-winning revival of August Wilson’s “Jitney,” a triumphant melding of acting and drama, puts the audience in the unique position of eavesdroppers on the colloquial music of life. This early Wilson play, the first to be written in his 10-play cycle exploring the 20th century African American experience, takes place in the 1970s at a gypsy cab station threatened by the city’s urban renewal program. Wilson takes us inside the drivers’ lives to reveal the way history has challenged and changed their destinies. What was once dismissed as a minor Wilson drama is now considered major. And it’s not because our standards have plummeted. Rather, it’s that the play, when fully realized by a company of actors working in communal concord, satisfies our growing hunger for complex and compassionate character truth. (C.M.) Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. Sun., 6:30 p.m.; Tue.-Wed., -Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 2:30 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; ends Dec. 29. $25-$110. (213) 628-2772.

Key Largo A stage version of John Huston’s 1948 classic film noir starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson, is asking for trouble. To begin with, who can compete with the soul-weary charisma of Bogie and Bacall? But this world premiere adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher and actor Andy Garcia, sensationally directed by Doug Hughes, takes a different route to success. Garcia’s high voltage portrayal of mobster Johnny Rocco infuses the play with crackling vitality. Taking on the role that Robinson played with his imitable tough guy swagger, Garcia paints a gangster portrait more along the lines of those created over the years by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Garcia’s performance, a strong supporting cast and a topnotch design team allow “Key Largo” to live anew. (C.M.) Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. Sun., next Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.; Tue.-Wed., Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; ends Dec. 10. $30-$145. (310) 208-5454.