The 99-Seat Beat: 'Bingo Hall,' 'Proof,' Pat Kinevane and women fighting back
By Margaret Gray
Mar 09, 2018 | 6:00 AM
Theater can be a powerful art form to give communities that have been silenced, underrepresented or ignored the opportunity to speak. For this week’s picks from Southern California’s smaller stages, we look at “Bingo Hall,” a world premiere by a Native American playwright; “The Madres,” about women fighting human rights violations in 1970s Argentina; a trilogy of solo shows about marginalized people, performed by the Irish writer Pat Kinevane; and the return of an old theater company with a new name, offering “Proof" that L.A. theater is still alive and kicking.
‘Bingo Hall’ at the Autry
The essentials: In this comedy by Native American playwright Dillon Chitto, a senior center’s teenage bingo caller worries about leaving his pueblo for college in the outside world.
Why this? The theater company Native Voices at the Autry produces new work by Native American artists. L.A. theater mainstay Jon Lawrence Rivera, founding artistic director of Playwright’s Arena, directs this world premiere; the team includes crack designers John Nobori (sound), Tom Ontiveros (video) and E.B. Brooks (costumes). The show is family friendly, and the ticket price includes admission to the Autry Museum of the American West. Add a picnic and you’ve got a day of entertainment.
Details: Wells Fargo Center, Autry Museum, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends March 25. $25. (323) 495-4354 or TheAutry.org/NativeVoices.
‘The Madres’ at Skylight
The essentials: Stephanie Alison Walker’s work, selected for the National New Play Network’s Rolling World Premiere program, starts a four-stop national tour here. The story is set in 1970s Buenos Aires, during the junta’s infamous Dirty War against its own citizens. In this atmosphere of terror and tyranny, three generations of women in a family fight back with love, courage and compassion.
Why this? Skylight Theatre Company, next door to Skylight Books in Los Feliz, has been a home for provocative theater for more than 30 years. Its most recent production, “Rotterdam,” a transgender romantic comedy, earned five nominations from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. One of the stars of “The Madres,” Arianna Ortiz, calls it “a funny, moving play that speaks beautifully to the strength and resistance of women."
Details: Skylight Theatre, 1816 1/2 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Opens 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Performances 8:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays; ends April 29. $15-$41. (213) 761-7061, (866) 811-4111 or SkylightTix.com.
‘3 Plays by Pat Kinevane’
The essentials: Pat Kinevane is an Irish writer-actor whose solo work “specializes in giving voice to the voiceless,” as New York Times critic Ben Brantley has said. At the Odyssey, Kinevane will perform his three highly regarded one-man shows about marginalized people in repertory. “Underneath,” about a horribly disfigured woman, is on this weekend; “Silent,” about homelessness, is up next week; and “Forgotten,” in which Kinevane plays four elderly nursing home residents, will run the weekend after that. (For the fourth and final weekend, Kinevane will do all three shows back to back.)
Why this? Kinevane has won an Olivier Award. Two of these three plays have appeared at the Odyssey before, both L.A. Times critics’ choices. The reviewers acknowledged that Kinevane’s subject matter could be challenging, but Philip Brandes admired the “psychological insight, compassion and darkly comic wit” in “Underneath” in 2016; F. Kathleen Foley found the gallows humor of “Forgotten” in 2011 to be “uproarious.”
Details: Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends April 1. $30 per play or $75 for all three. (310) 477-2055 Ext. 2 or www.OdysseyTheatre.com.
‘Proof’ returns to L.A.
The essentials: Back in 2015, L.A.’s beloved Elephant Theatre had to give up its space on Santa Monica Boulevard because of a real-estate sale; some feared this loss was the beginning of the end for the 99-seat scene. But now the company is back at the New American Theatre, with a new handle befitting its rise from the ashes: Revenant Stage Club. Artistic director David Fofi celebrates this comeback with a revival of David Auburn’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play from 2000, “Proof.”
Why this? “Proof,” about a woman who has inherited her late father's mathematical brilliance and possibly his mental illness, is a touching drama with rewarding roles, here played by real-life father and daughter Jerry Michaels and Morgan Michaels.
Details: Revenant Stage Club at the New American Theatre, 1312 N. Wilton Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays; ends April 1. $25. Plays411.com/Proof
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our team of reviewers — people with more than 75 years of combined experience tracking local theater — shortlists offerings with an emphasis on 99-seat theaters and other smaller venues. Some (but not all) recommendations are shows we've seen; others have caught our attention because of the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. You can find more comprehensive theater listings posted every Sunday at latimes.com/arts.