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Entertainment & Arts

9 L.A. theater recommendations for the holiday weekend

Ray Anthony Thomas and Nija Okoro in August Wilson’s “Jitney” at the Mark Taper Forum.
Ray Anthony Thomas and Nija Okoro in August Wilson’s “Jitney” at the Mark Taper Forum.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

So you cannot possibly endure more Black Friday spam, another battle for mall parking or the passive-aggressive visiting family member asking, “What fun do we have lined up for today?”

We’re here to help. Set aside the screens, the keys and the Googling, and consider the advice of Times critic Charles McNulty and his cohort of theater reviewers. They have recommended the following nine productions, all of which have tickets available for this weekend as of late Wednesday.

“Jitney” at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown L.A. The Tony Award-winning 2017 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s drama has made its way to Los Angeles with a stellar cast and expert direction by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. As McNulty writes in his review, “This supposedly lesser Wilson work is a masterpiece by any other standard.” Performances Friday-Sunday. Review

“Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood. One of L.A.'s brightest theater lights has extended the L.A. premiere of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which centers on a former cop shot while off duty by a white officer. The character’s journey, McNulty writes, “has all the hallmarks of Guirgis’ body of work: loud and bruising on the outside, sorrowful and soulful on the inside.” Review

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“The Great Leap” at Pasadena Playhouse. Director BD Wong sat down for an interview with staff writer Ashley Lee to discuss Lauren Yee’s play, which uses a shared love of basketball as the source of understanding between American and Chinese cultures. In her review, Margaret Gray writes: “The title refers, yes, to Mao Tse-tung’s Great Leap Forward, a disastrous economic reform of the late 1950s, but it also calls to mind a gravity-defying dunk. And it works just as well as a metaphor for Yee’s bold playwriting approach.” Performances Friday-Sunday. Review and feature

“Eight Nights” by Antaeus Theatre in Glendale. Jennifer Maisel’s moving new play opens in 1949 with a 19-year-old Holocaust survivor and proceeds to unfurl the decades of a life being forged in the United State. Reviewer Philip Brandes notes parallels to today’s headlines, writing, “Director Emily Chase and her cast bring the human reality of persecuted refugees to life with breathtaking emotional impact.” At last check, the play was sold out Friday and Sunday but tickets were available for Saturday. Review

“Waiting for Waiting for Godot” by Sacred Fools in Hollywood. Reviewer F. Kathleen Foley notes how this play, having its West Coast premiere, not only pays homage to Samuel Beckett but also serves as a lovely tribute to actors — “those intrepid aspirants who forgo an easy path for the strenuous and oft thankless service of art.” Performances Friday-Sunday. Review

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“Key Largo” at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. John Huston’s 1948 classic film noir starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson gets a tense, churning stage adaptation that has proved a hit in Westwood. Star Andy Garcia, writes McNulty, delivers a “high voltage portrayal of mobster Johnny Rocco [that] infuses the play with crackling vitality.” Performances Friday-Sunday are nearly — but not quite nearly — sold out. Review

“The Mother ... With the Hat” at Theatre 68 in North Hollywood. So maybe this one’s not for sweet ol’ Aunt Mitzi? The Stephen Adly Guirgis play whose expletive-loaded title must be ellipse-ied here has a strong cast that delivers the laughs, according to reviewer Nikki Munoz. The premise: A recovering addict is trying to figure out if his girlfriend is cheating on him — and if so, with whom, based on a hat he finds in their apartment. Performances Friday-Sunday. Review

“Elijah” by Big Victory Theatre in Burbank. Hurricane Elijah is bearing down on Texas, and inside a TGI Fridays restaurant the patrons include people who have come to demonstrate — for and against — the execution of a serial killer in a local prison. Let the storm begin. Foley calls the drama an “emotional whirlwind.” Performance Saturday-Sunday. Review

“Department of Dreams” at City Garage in Santa Monica. This surreal, dystopian fable centers on citizens forced to “deposit” their dreams at a monolithic governmental bureaucracy as part of a campaign of intimidation and terror. At last check, tickets were available for Saturday and Sunday. Review



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