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Entertainment & Arts

The 99-Seat Beat: ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ with familiar TV faces, plus three tales of complicated love

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Michael Learned (“The Waltons”) and Lance E. Nichols (“Treme”) go for a ride in the Laguna Playhouse production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
(Ed Krieger)

The holidays are over, and we’ve gotten the memo: For the next 11 months, SUVs may not wear reindeer horns and people must coexist without eggnog. L.A. theaters have packed away the Dickensian props and turned their attention back to the eternal human quandary: How are we supposed to get along?

This week’s picks from the small-theater scene include three new plays (“Stockholm,” “A Misunderstanding,” “Smart Love”) and one old favorite (“Driving Miss Daisy”). They explore various relationships — between lovers, friends, family members, employers, employees. The dramatic scenarios may not necessarily fix whatever’s troubling you at the start of 2019, but they’ll sure distract you for a while. Or at least get you out of the house.

For the record:
8:35 AM, Jan. 12, 2019 An earlier version of this article erroneously said “Smart Love” playwright Brian Letscher’s acting credits include the sci-fi movie “Her.” Letscher did not appear in that film; his brother Matt Letscher did.

‘Stockholm’ at the Pico

The essentials: Todd and Kali are the perfect couple, so in love that everything they do together — even unpacking the groceries — becomes a joyous pas de deux. British playwright Bryony Lavery portrays the rapture of romance not only in words but through dance, choreographed by Stephen Buescher for this West Coast premiere.

Why this? Played by the charismatic performers Jamie Wollrab and Kimberly Alexander, and directed by the award-winning Kim Rubinstein, these lovers seem to have it all. But before you get too envious: Remember that Stockholm isn’t just a city in Sweden. It’s also the name of a psychological condition in which a hostage falls in love with her — or his — captor.

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Details: The Pico (formerly the Pico Playhouse), 10508 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays; 7 p.m. Mondays. Ends Jan 28. $25-$35. stockholmla.brownpapertickets.com

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Jamie Wollrab and Kimberly Alexander in the West Coast premiere of Bryony Lavery's “Stockholm” at the Pico.
(Jordan Horowitz)

REVIEW: “Culture Clash (Still) in America” at South Coast Rep »

‘A Misunderstanding’ at the Complex

The essentials: Can two people keep loving each other even if they disagree about something major, like religion or politics? In “A Misunderstanding,” playwright Matt Chait brings back characters from his previous play, “Disinherit the Wind,” to continue a debate about whether there is room for God in Darwinian evolutionary theory. This family’s passion for ideas may be admirable — but it doesn’t make getting dinner on the table any easier.

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Why this? The director, Elina de Santos, isn’t afraid of a world premiere: For decades she has been regularly introducing significant new dramatic voices and visions to L.A. audiences. Nor does she seem to mind multitasking. She’s also directing “Smart Love” at Pacific Resident Theatre (see below) while continuing to serve as co-artistic director of Rogue Machine Theatre.

Details: Ruby Theatre at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 3. $30. (323) 960-4418 or plays411.com/misunderstanding

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Dennis Renard and Amy-Helene Carlson star in Matt Chait’s new play, “A Misunderstanding,” at the Complex.
(Ed Krieger)

INTERVIEW: Tracy Letts on “Linda Vista” at the Mark Taper Forum »

‘Smart Love’ at Pacific Resident

The essentials: Playwright Brian Letscher is also an actor, known for his role on TV’s “Scandal.” His play “Smart Love,” getting its West Coast premiere, centers on the question of human-AI romance.

Why this? Artificial intelligence has supplied writers with seemingly endless material for dystopian dramas. What if machines get so good at pretending to be people that we can no longer tell them apart? Will the machines then be human? Or will the humans be machines? Is it OK for them to date?

Details: Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice. Opens 8 p.m. Saturday. Performances 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 24. $25-$34. (310) 822-8392 or pacificresidenttheatre.com

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Melissa Weber Bales and Zachary Grant play a mother and son with some surprises for each other in Brian Letscher’s dark comedy “Smart Love” at Pacific Resident Theatre.
(Jeff Lorch)
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‘Driving Miss Daisy’ at Laguna Playhouse

The essentials: Alfred Uhry won a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award for his play and adapted screenplay about the rapport between a spiky, rich Jewish widow and her black chauffeur in 1950s Georgia. Michael Learned (“The Waltons”) and Lance E. Nichols (“Treme”) take on the roles made famous by Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman in the movie.

Why this? If an intimate evening with two veteran actors — Olivia Walton and Dr. Larry Williams, people! — and a gorgeously written script about bigotry vanquished by friendship can’t convince you to go, well, I’m out of ammo. Also: The lovely Laguna Playhouse is celebrating its 98th season.

Details: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Drive, Laguna Beach. Opens 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Performances 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays. (See website for additional performances.) Ends Jan. 27. $55-$85. (949) 497-2787 or lagunaplayhouse.com

INTERVIEW: Why Danai Gurira plans to write for the screen, not the stage »

The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our reviewers 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.

See all of our latest arts news and reviews at latimes.com/arts.


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