The 99-Seat Beat: 'ICE," 'Noises Off,' 'Bad Jews' and more
By F. Kathleen Foley
Apr 27, 2018 | 6:00 AM
Comedy and drama, baseball and roller derby, warring relatives and immigrants trying to live the American dream. This week in L.A.'s small-theater scene, our picks consist of “ICE” at 24th Street Theatre, "For the Love Of (Or, the Roller Derby Play)" at Theatre of NOTE, audience favorite "Noises Off" at A Noise Within and "Bad Jews" at the Odyssey.
‘ICE’ at 24th Street
The essentials: Armed only with their aunt’s salsa recipe, two Mexican baseball players arrive in the U.S. in 1988, hoping that a victory as the best food truck at Dodger Stadium will establish their all-Americanism beyond doubt and put them on the path to citizenship.
Why this? In his bilingual play, Leon Martell reassesses the American melting pot through two central characters: a schemer who thinks dishonesty is central to American success, and an uncorrupted naif who still believes in the ideals of honesty and hard work. Under the direction of Debbie Devine, the play overlays Martell’s serious arguments with plenty of cheeky humor suitable for ages 8 and older.
Details: 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., L.A. 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; ends June 10. $10-$24. (213) 745-6516, www.24thstreet.org
‘For the Love Of (Or, the Roller Derby Play)’
The essentials: Set in a women’s roller derby club in Brooklyn, Gina Femia’s behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sport has an operatic sweep that never condescends to its working-class characters.
Why this? At first glance, this West Coast premiere is a lesbian love triangle in which the heroine’s long-standing relationship is torn apart by her new obsession with roller derby. Closer examination, however, reveals deeper significance — namely, the characters’ heroic efforts to incorporate something of passion and significance into their mind-numbing routines. Unvarnished locker room vernacular lends authenticity to Femia’s slice-of-life drama.
Details: Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; ends May 26. $25. (323) 856-8611. www.theatreofnote.com
‘Noises Off’ at A Noise Within
The essentials: Michael Frayn’s uproarious 1982 farce-within-a-farce takes us both behind and in front of the scenes of a third-rate theatrical tour, where titanic egos and tiny talents clash. From dress rehearsal to closing night, we are privy to the lurid backstage and painful onstage antics of extravagant eccentrics who rival one another in sheer hubris, drunkenness and comical degeneracy.
Why this? Co-directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott helm this reprise, an audience favorite that features many of the original cast from the company’s 2009 production. The uproarious show is a send-up of all things theatrical, culminating in a glorious final disaster that brings down the house, reaffirming the wonderful precariousness of live theater.
Details: A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Plays in repertory through May 20. From $25. (626) 356-3121, www.anoisewithin.org
‘Bad Jews’ at the Odyssey
The essentials: A fanatical Jewish ideologue and her more secular but equally vociferous cousin engage in a high-decibel dispute over the ownership of a religious artifact left behind by their recently deceased grandfather, a Holocaust survivor.
Why this? Joshua Harmon’s brilliantly caustic comedy received rave reviews in its 2013 off-Broadway run. Harmon’s “Significant Other,” another off-Broadway hit in 2015, is winning raves at the Geffen, where “Jews” also recently played. The play’s serious examination of Jewish identity is couched in a blitzkrieg of invective as hooty as it is harrowing. Director Dana Resnick observes that when the characters descend to self-righteousness “the gloves come off in the most horrifyingly funny ways.”
Details: Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends June 17. Additional performances 8 p.m. May 9, May 17, May 30 and June 14. $30-$35. (310) 477-2055 Ext. 2, www.OdysseyTheatre.com
The 99-Seat Beat appears every Friday. Our reviewers shortlist offerings with an emphasis on smaller venues. Some (but not all) recommendations are shows we've seen; other picks are based on the track record of the company, playwright, director or cast. Comprehensive theater listings are posted every Sunday at latimes.com/arts.