This week’s offerings on the 99-Seat Beat, our weekly look at Southern California’s theater scene, leads with “Moby Dick — Rehearsed,” Orson Welles’ 1955 adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel, at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, the capacious outdoor space in Topanga. Elsewhere around L.A. you also catch Jason Robert Brown’s semiautobiographical two-person musical, “The Last Five Years,” which receives a “multisensory” production by the After Hours Theatre Company; Joe Orton’s seminal, subversive comedy “Loot,” which launches the Odyssey Theatre’s 50th-anniversary season; and the Blank Theatre’s 27th Young Playwrights Festival.
‘Moby Dick — Rehearsed’ at Theatricum Botanicum
The essentials: Actors grouse when their manager announces that they will be performing “Moby Dick” instead of the scheduled “King Lear.” However, the ensemble, clad in contemporary attire and using found objects for props, warms to its imaginatively impromptu performance of Melville’s classic tale about a one-legged sea captain whose obsessive pursuit of a demonic white whale dooms his crew.
Why this? Typically performed on an indoor stage with just a few performers, Welles’ obscure piece has been resurrected by director Ellen Geer and recalibrated for a large cast at the Theatricum. Geer’s actors will use “every object available” to create “benches and ropes and crashing masts” — all part of the stripped-down but atmospheric staging. The result should be an amusing exhibition under the stars.
Details: Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. In repertory through Sept. 29. $26-$42. (310) 455-3723. theatricum.com
The Blank’s Young Playwrights Festival
The essentials: Twelve playwrights, ages 14 to 19 and selected in a nationwide search, are represented in a diverse program of original works.
Why this? Professional actors, directors and mentors are supporting the efforts of these young artists. “The Young Playwrights Festival was founded to create a safe, nurturing space for incredibly talented young writers,” Daniel Henning, founding artistic director of the Blank, said of the long-running program. Past selections have included Tony Award-winner Stephen Karam and the prolifically produced Lauren Yee.
Details: The Blank’s YPF Pop-Up Playhouse, 6520 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through June 30. $12-$25 per show; festival passes $40-$80. (323) 661-9827. TheBlank.com
‘Loot’ at the Odyssey
The essentials: Young thief Hal and his accomplice Dennis rob a bank and hide the cash in the coffin of Hal’s just-deceased mother. The dead woman’s caretaker, Nurse McMahon, a Catholic zealot whose many husbands have died mysteriously, is now wooing Hal’s father as her next husband/victim. When corrupt police Inspector Truscott arrives on the scene, the plot segues from the outlandish to the surreal.
Why this? First produced in the mid-’60s, “Loot” was met with outrage, for obvious reasons. Orton gleefully slaughtered society’s most sacred cows in his freewheeling farce. Veteran director Bart DeLorenzo, whose taste has always run to the cutting-edge, should put a contemporary spin on Orton’s vintage outrageousness. For DeLorenzo, a longtime Orton fan, it’s a labor of love. “I don’t know why I’ve never directed one of his plays until now,” he said. “Luckily his plays haven’t aged — and unluckily, his targets haven’t either.”
Details: Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. (Dark July 19, 20 and 21). Ends Aug. 10. $32-$37. (310) 477-2055 ext. 2. OdysseyTheatre.com
‘The Last Five Years’ in WeHo
The essentials: The disintegrating marriage between up-and-coming novelist Jamie and struggling actress Cathy is told from different chronological perspectives. Jamie’s starts at the couple’s first meeting, Cathy’s from the end of their marriage. From the first flush of romance to infidelity, betrayal and bitterness, the gap between the two widens into a gulf.
Why this? The After Hours Theatre Company received considerable acclaim for last season’s immersive production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Jason Robert Brown’s two-person musical — an intensely personal outpouring that prompted a lawsuit from Brown’s ex-wife — obviously presents less opportunity for sprawl and spectacle. However, director Kari Hayter and producer Graham Wetterhahn promise to put After Hours’ distinctive spin on this story.
“The concept of using something like taste or scent to help heighten the emotion of a moment is really no more radical than having lighting design or musical underscoring,” Wetterhahn said. “It’s just not currently part of the traditional theatrical vocabulary. … We are hoping to help audience members more effectively connect to the story by using senses beyond just sight and sound.”
Details: After Hours production at the Other Space theater of the Actors Company, 916A N. Formosa Ave., West Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays, through July 14. (Dark July 4.) $75; $125 for full multisensory experience including cocktails. afterhours15y.eventbrite.com
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our writers shortlist offerings with an emphasis on smaller venues. Some recommendations are shows we've seen; others are based on the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast.