The live stage is back. Here are 11 SoCal shows on our theater critic’s radar
The upcoming fall theater season can be summed up in one word: tentative.
Will Delta or another variant upend the best-laid plans? Will the vaccines hold? Will audiences feel safe enough to return?
Fully vaccinated and well-stocked in masks, I’m ready to test the waters.
I wish there were more outdoor events of note. Southern California has a climate advantage that ought to be more exploited in these lingering pandemic times. But I’m glad that my first official outing of the new season will be “Lizastrata,” the Troubadour Theater Company’s take on Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” performed at the Getty Villa’s open-air theater.
Indoors, there’s an enticing (and no doubt eccentric) new play by Richard Greenberg about an actor returning from self-imposed seclusion. There’s also the chance to see another of the brutally authentic social dramas in Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Project” series. And there’s a newish version of “A Christmas Carol” that somehow managed to seduce the theater cognoscenti in London and New York.
For those who question if they ever want to leave the house again, there’s the musical “Head Over Heels,” with the mood-elevating music of the Go-Go’s. If “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Vacation” don’t raise your spirits, it’s time to seek medical intervention.
But what I’m most looking forward to is the reverberating crackle of applause. So what if our bravos are slightly muffled by masks?
Sept. 9-Oct. 2
That’s “Lizastrata” with a “z,” not “Lysistrata” with an “s” — which can only mean that Troubadour Theater Company is back at the Getty Villa. The company’s latest preposterous mashup involves Liza Minnelli and Aristophanes, for a reworking of the ancient Greek playwright’s comedy in which the women go on a sex strike to stop the war between Athens and Sparta. The Troubies vow that not a sequin will be spared in this production, which is intended for mature audiences with a highly developed sense of camp. Getty Villa’s Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater, 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades. $25-$48. getty.edu
Sept. 14-Oct. 30
Last year, Geffen Playhouse presented crossword puzzle constructor David Kwong’s digital show “Inside the Box,” which challenged audiences’ mental dexterity while delivering some arcane puzzle history. “The Enigmatist,” an earlier show that revealed a close affinity between crossword lovers and theater aficionados, will give theatergoers the full, in-person experience of Kwong’s brain-twisting magic. Geffen Playhouse, Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. $30-$150. geffenplayhouse.org
Sept. 18-Oct 9
“It’s alive, it’s ALIVE!”
The one and only solo artist John Fleck — a ribald satirist with a delightful streak of pop-cultural madness — is unveiling a new musical cabaret at the Odyssey Theatre on Saturday nights. Directed by David Schweizer, this work-in-progress takes humorous aim at our panoply of fears, which COVID-19 has ratcheted up to apocalyptic proportions. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. $25. odysseytheatre.com
Sept. 24-Oct. 24
“Our Man in Santiago”
Described as both a “comic spy thriller” and a “political farce,” this world premiere play by two-time Emmy nominee and Writers Guild Award winner Mark Wilding (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) hints at a geopolitical “Ted Lasso"-ish premise: “The CIA enlists an inexperienced, unsuspecting agent to follow up with a last-ditch, poorly conceived and wildly dangerous effort to hasten the 1973 Chilean coup d'état.” Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West., L.A. $15-$30. theatrewest.org
Oct. 2-Nov 6
“A Shot Rang Out”
Playwright Richard Greenberg (“Three Days of Rain,” “Take Me Out”) has written a play expressly for South Coast Repertory Artistic Director David Ivers, who takes on the role of an actor returning to the stage after a long period of isolation. Tony Taccone directs this world premiere, ensuring Greenberg’s filigreed eloquence will be in the most dexterous directorial hands. South Coast Repertory, Segerstrom Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $26-$93. scr.org
Oct. 20-Nov. 29
Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson stars in this play by Chiara Atik, who offers an unapologetically modern take on Saint Clare of Assisi. The setting is 13th century Italy, but the tone might suggest 21st century Beverly Hills or Calabasas. As this is an Echo Theater Company production, it’s safe to assume the questions raised about social justice will slyly speak to our own age. Echo Theater Company, Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village. $34; previews are pay what you want, $5 minimum; Mondays are $20 in advance or pay what you want at the door ($15 minimum and subject to availability). echotheatercompany.com
Nov. 9-Dec. 12
“Head Over Heels”
A festive comedy of antique provenance, adapted from Philip Sidney’s “The Arcadia,” might seem like rarefied fare. But this waggish show, which enjoyed a cult moment on Broadway, is borne aloft on vintage music from the Go-Go’s. Pasadena Playhouse is transforming the theater to accommodate a gender-broadening musical that has the energy of a block party. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. $30 and up. pasadenaplayhouse.org
Nov. 9-Dec. 12
Part of playwright Dominique Morisseau’s “Detroit Project,” a three-play cycle of standalone works set in her hometown, “Paradise Blue” takes place in 1949 in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood. The subjects of gentrification and urban renewal are glimpsed through the fate of a jazz joint in this West Coast premiere. Geffen audiences who caught “Skeleton Crew,” another in the Detroit series, will be familiar with the power of Morisseau’s writing to bring a city’s daily grind to symphonic life. Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. $30-$129. geffenplayhouse.org
Nov. 12-21 (streaming)
“RE: Encuentro: A National Latina/o/x Theater Festival Celebrating Contemporary Latina/o/x Theatre in the U.S.”
Latino Theater Company presents a diverse array of companies and performers in digital residence at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in a festival celebrating the richness of contemporary Latinx theater and culture. In addition to performances, there will be public conversations about the work and collaborative methodologies as well as discussions about the unique challenges and opportunities of creating material for the digital stage. Free. latinotheaterco.org
Yo-Yo Ma reprises his Bach marathon, the Ojai festival returns at long last and San Diego gathers at the new Rady Shell. Let the season begin.
Nov. 30-Dec. 19, March 22-April 3
“The Band’s Visit”
I’ve been waiting for this inventive and deeply affecting musical to arrive in Los Angeles since it opened on Broadway in 2017. Based on Eran Kolirin’s screenplay for his 2007 film, the show (with a book by Itamar Moses and haunting score by David Yazbek) beautifully translates to the stage the tale of Egyptian musicians who have no choice but to depend on the hospitality of Israeli strangers when their tour hits logistical chaos. The universal language of music may not be able to settle Middle Eastern differences, but the melancholy lyricism of common humanity makes connection fleetingly possible. Dolby Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Prices to be announced. broadwayinhollywood.com
Also at Segerstrom Center, Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. $26 and up. scfta.org
Nov. 30-Jan. 1
“A Christmas Carol”
Stage versions of Charles Dickens’ holiday chestnut have become part of the seasonal bric-a-brac. The Ahmanson is playing it safe by reopening with this family favorite. But the production, from London’s Old Vic, impressed with its artistry when it landed on Broadway where it received five Tony nominations. Playwright Jack Thorne (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and director Matthew Warchus (“Matilda”) have been credited with theatrically reinvigorating this Christmas morality tale. Ahmanson Theatre, the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. $40-$150. centertheatregroup.org
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