Theater in L.A. this week: ‘What the Constitution Means to Me’ and more

Maria Dizzia in “What the Constitution Means to Me”
Maria Dizzia in “What the Constitution Means to Me” at the Mark Taper Forum.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Here is a list of new plays, Critics’ Choices, etc., in L.A. for Feb. 23-March 1. Capsule reviews are by Charles McNulty (C.M.), Philip Brandes (P.B.), F. Kathleen Foley (F.K.F.), Margaret Gray (M.G.), Daryl H. Miller (D.H.M.) and Nikki Munoz (N.M).


Georgia On My Mind: A Celebration of Ray Charles and His Music With vocal group Take 6, saxophonist Kirk Whalum, et al. Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Sun., 7 p.m. $45-$75. (949) 854-4646.

Show Me a Hero Write Act Rep stages Willard Manus’ new drama about famed Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci and Greek freedom-fighter Alexander Panagoulis. Brickhouse Theater, 10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Sat., 8 p.m.; next ends March 29. $20. (800) 838-3006.

Theatre 40 Musical Matinee Company members perform classic show tunes. Theatre 40, Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Sun., 2 p.m. $25. (310) 364-3606. Website:


Barrett Foa Has Friends! The Broadway veteran performs with special guests. Catalina Bar & Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. Mon., 8 p.m. $25-$40; food and drink minimums apply. (866) 466-2210.

The Black Version Improv show celebrates Black History Month; with Phil LaMarr, Cedric Yarbrough. The Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A. Mon., 8 p.m. (310) 855-0350.

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

Neil Hamburger: Benefit for Australian Wildlife Relief The comic presents special guests in a night of stand-up, magic, music and more; for ages 21 and up. Zebulon, 2478 Fletcher Drive, L.A. Wed., 8 p.m. $20, $25.

Dixie’s Never Wear a Tube Top While Riding a Mechanical Bull Drag artist Dixie Longate shares comedic anecdotes. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Scherr Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Thu.-Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $39, $49. (805) 449-2787.

Unitard — Badassy! The sketch-comedy trio returns with this adult-themed show. Cavern Club Celebrity Theater @ Casita Del Campo, 1920 Hyperion Ave., L.A. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m. $20, $25. (800) 838-3006.


Bonnie & Clyde Mid-World Players stage this musical about the Depression-era outlaw couple. The Found Theatre, 599 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends March 8. $30.

Chicanas, Cholas, y Chisme’s Womxn in Herstory: A Festival of Short Plays Showcase for new works by Latina playwrights. Casa 0101 Theater, 2102 E. 1st St., Boyle Heights. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 5 p.m.; ends March 29. $20-$25. (323) 263-7684.

Dead Man’s Cell Phone A woman becomes enmeshed in the life of a recently deceased stranger in Sarah Ruhl’s comedy-drama. Little Fish Theatre, 777 S. Centre St., San Pedro. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends March 22. $15-$28. (310) 512-6030.

An Evening with Christine Ebersole The two-time Tony winner sings show tunes, standards and more. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $39-$125. (310) 746-4000.

Frankenstein L.A. Theatre Works records Kate McAll’s new adaptation of the classic Mary Shelley novel about a mad doctor and his monstrous creation; with Stacy Keach. James Bridges Theater, UCLA, 235 Charles E. Young Drive, Westwood. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 4 p.m. $15-$65. (310) 827-0889.

Hamlet The Long Beach Shakespeare Company stages the Bard’s tragedy of the melancholy Dane. Helen Borgers Theatre, 4250 Atlantic Ave., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends March 21. $12.50, $22.50. (562) 997-1494.


Hot Tragic Dead Thing Two teens forge a connection that leads them down a dark path in Ashley Rose Wellman’s new drama. The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends April 4. $15, $25. (323) 871-8018.

Lying with Badgers Native Voices at the Autry presents Jason Grasl’s new dark comedy about two estranged brothers locked in a debate over issues faced by Native peoples today. Autry Museum of the American West, Wells Fargo Theater, 4700 Western Heritage Way, L.A. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat.-next Sun., 2 p.m.; ends March 15. $15, $25. (323) 495-4354.

Short Play Showcase New original comedies, dramas, etc., by local playwrights. Long Beach Playhouse, Studio Theatre (upstairs), 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. $10. (562) 494-1014.

One Night of Queen Tribute band re-creates a concert by the legendary British rock group. Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St. Long Beach. Fri., 8 p.m. Sold out. (562) 985-7000.

Showstoppers The Young Americans perform show tunes, pop favorites and more. La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; next Sun., 2 p.m. $17-$50. (562) 944-9801.

Among Us — UCLA Interactive guided audio experience created by theater artist Marike Splint invites audience members to explore the tension between individuality and community. Royce Hall, UCLA, 10745 Dickson Court, Westwood. Sat.-next Sun., 1 and 4 p.m.; ends May 10. $18 and up. (310) 825-2101.

And on the 366th Day Sibling musical-theater duo jackbenny returns with this Leap Day show. The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Intimate Theatre, Cal State LA, 5151 University Drive, L.A. Sat., 8 p.m. $25. (323) 343-6600.

Choice Staged reading of “Wicked” co-creator Winnie Holzman’s drama about a veteran journalist who finds herself caught up in a controversy; with Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, Tony Shalhoub, et al. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Bram Goldsmith Theater, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $25, $35. (310) 746-4000.

Perla Batalla: In the House of Cohen The vocalist shares songs and stories about the late singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen; singer Maria Muldaur also performs. Soka Performing Arts Center, 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo. Sat., 8 p.m. $22-$50. (949) 480-4278.

Barefoot in the Park Neil Simon’s classic comedy about young newlyweds in NYC; with Rita Rudner and Paul Rodriguez in supporting roles. Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Next Sun., 5:30 p.m.; ends March 22. $61-$101. (949) 497-2787.

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live: Neighbor Day Stage show based on the animated children’s TV series. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Fred Kavli Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Next Sun., 2 and 5:30 p.m. $30.25-$81.50. (805) 449-2787.


Critics’ Choices

Disposable Necessities Neil McGowan’s play is set in the not-so-distant future, when society’s privileged have become essentially immortal, able to download their identities into new “modules” — i.e., bodies of the recently deceased — while have-nots must content themselves with providing premium carcasses for the affluent. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos and a lively cast nail down the laughs – or, conversely, the pathos — in this richly imaginative world premiere, which challenges our expectations at every twist of its deliciously disturbing plot. Just don’t lay bets on where the story ends up. You’ll lose. (F.K.F.) Rogue Machine Theatre, Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. Sun., 7 p.m.; Sat., 4 p.m.; ends Feb. 29. $25, $40. (855) 585-5185.

The $5 Shakespeare Company A love letter to small theater and to theater goers, Matthew Leavitt’s comedy is sharp and cleverly crafted. It follows a small local theater troupe in the midst of a struggling run of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and hoping to grab the recently opened slot for Shakespeare in the Park. The ensemble shines in their respective roles, each vivid and distinct, depicting both the company’s backstage antics and various scenes from “Midsummer.” (N.M.) The 6th Act, Theatre 68, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Sun., next Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends March 8. $35.

Fun Home A stranger lived in Alison Bechdel’s home. He happened to be her father. Her search through childhood memories to piece together the mysteries of her walled-off, tempestuous late father is the subject of a 2006 memoir and the Tony-winning musical made from it. The story is built of nuances best appreciated in a small theater like the Chance. The characters are electrically alive in this production, even if, here and there, singing voices aren’t all that one might wish. (D.H.M.) Chance Theater, Cripe Stage, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Thu., 7:30 p.m.; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; ends March 1. $25-$49. (888) 455-4212.

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 cap 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.) The Old Globe, 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego. Ends Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. $30 and up. (619) 234-5623.

Never Not Once Guaranteed to spark debate, Carey Crim’s visceral #MeToo-era drama presciently explores the psychological, professional and moral consequences of a rape allegation that surfaces long after the event in question. (P.B.) Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura. Ends Sun., 2 p.m. $29-$64; discounts available. (805) 667-2900.

Red Ink In a beleaguered newsroom, the top editor huddles under a desk, shuddering with fear. Declining revenues, corporate consolidation and staff cuts are just a few of the factors that have sent him there. The waking nightmare of journalists across America is given bleakly humorous expression in Steven Leigh Morris’ new play, in which shifting realities are a vivid metaphor for media’s changing circumstances. Nike Doukas directs some of L.A.’s premier actors. (D.H.M.) Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., L.A. Sun., 4 p.m.; ends Mon., 8 p.m. $30, $40. (800) 838-3006.


The Unseen Hand / Killer’s Head Resurrected Old West gunslingers, extraterrestrials, and other outcasts take absurdist aim at midcentury American conformity in these neglected, often hilarious chestnuts from Sam Shepard’s early career, showcasing the underground playwright at his gleefully irreverent best. (P.B.) Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Sun., next Sun., 2 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; ends March 8. $32-$37. (310) 477-2055.

West Adams If this play had been produced three or so years ago, it might have been dismissed as overwrought. Now, however, playwright Penelope Lowder has her finger firmly on the faltering pulse of American culture, and the patient is in dire need of resuscitation. What starts out as a comical send-up of the effects of gentrification on the inner city takes a dark turn, as two initially genial couples go to increasingly extreme measures to insinuate themselves into the mainstream of their newly adopted neighborhood. Suffice to say, genial though they may seem at first, monsters are at large on West Adams. Multiple award-winning director Michael A. Shepperd and a wonderful cast lift the rock off Lowder’s dishearteningly perfect play and let the creepy-crawlies squiggle freely. There are plenty of laughs to be had here — before the horror sets in. (F.K.F.) Skylight Theatre, 1816 N. Vermont Ave., Los Feliz. Sun., next Sun., 3 p.m.; Thu., 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; ends March 8. $20 and up; discounts available. (866) 811-4111.

What the Constitution Means to Me At a time when the Constitution is being assailed by those who have sworn an oath to defend it, this buoyant and often-stirring civics lesson is the theatrical curriculum Americans desperately need now. As much a play as a performance piece, this category transcending offering by Heidi Schreck took Broadway by storm last spring. Schreck is no longer performing in the work, which reveals with courageous poignancy the way our nation’s founding legal document intersects with the choices, opportunities, relationships and destinies of those who have had to fight for their foothold in our imperfect democracy. For the L.A. premiere, Maria Dizzia takes over the role of Heidi. Schreck’s autobiographical confidences about her family history and reproductive choices may not have the same emotional rawness in Dizzia’s portrayal, but the larger story about the ongoing legal struggle for gender equality is powerfully served. (C.M.). Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. Sun., 1 and 6:30 p.m.; Wed.-Fri., 8 p.m.; ends Feb. 28. $25 and up. (213) 628-2772.