The 99-Seat Beat: Lost superheroes, a mother-daughter reunion, 'Cabaret' and more
By Margaret Gray
Jun 01, 2018 | 6:00 AM
Plays about people struggling with their roles in society abound this week, as our look at L.A.’s small stages includes the New American Theatre comedy “Meanwhile, Back at the Super Lair…,” the Boston Court Pasadena family drama “Her Portmanteau,” Celebration Theatre’s take on “Cabaret” and opening weekend at Theatricum Botanicum with “Coriolanus” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
‘Super Lair’ at the New American
The essentials: Without crime, city life would be idyllic for everyone — except, of course, the superheroes. This dark comedy by Greg Kalleres finds the Human Fly, Silver Streak, Leopard Woman and Rhino Man as unemployed and on the dole, searching for meaning in a society that no longer values them.
Why this? Kalleres displayed his gift for punchy comedy in “Honky,” a satire of race and advertising, which was an L.A. Times Critic’s Choice in 2016. Jack Stehlin, the artistic director of the New American Theatre, takes the helm of this premiere at his company’s new home in Hollywood.
Details: New American Theatre, 1312 N. Wilton Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays; ends June 23. $15-$30. NewAmericanTheatre.com
‘Her Portmanteau’ at Boston Court
The essentials: Playwright Mfoniso Udofia has been telling the story of a Nigerian American family, loosely based on her own, in a cycle of connected dramas. In “Her Portmanteau,” the second play of a projected nine, a Nigerian American woman and her two adult daughters — one raised in Nigeria, the other in the United States — have an emotional reunion.
Why this? Although it’s a conventional family drama in structure, according to New York Times critic Jesse Green, “Her Portmanteau” builds emotional power with specific details, infusing “tired, tempest-tossed old forms with new blood.” The director for the play’s West Coast premiere is Gregg T. Daniel, who has a reputation for provocative material, fierce staging and memorable casts.
Details: Boston Court Pasadena, 70 N. Mentor Ave. In previews now, opens Saturday, ends June 30. Performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. $20-$39. (626) 683-6801 or BostonCourtPasadena.org
The essentials: “Cabaret” was first staged in 1966, but its bleak vision of giddy decadence succumbing to fascism doesn’t really get old. And even if you’ve seen the musical, you haven’t seen it done the Celebration way.
Why this? When director Michael Matthews and choreographer Janet Roston put their heads together on Celebration’s “The Color Purple,” the result was a raucous production.
Details: Celebration Theatre @ the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays; ends July 15. $35 and up. (323) 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com
‘Coriolanus’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’
The essentials: Back in the 1950s, Will Geer built a theatrical haven for his fellow blacklisted actors and singers on his rustic property in Topanga. The outdoor amphitheater is still a refuge for city dwellers and theater fans — and Geer’s family members still run the show. Every summer Botanicum offers five plays in repertory, and this weekend it opens the first two offerings, “Coriolanus” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (the latter the one constant from season to season).
Why this? There may not be anything more fun than Botanicum in the summer. Shakespeare couldn’t have asked for a better set designer — especially for “Midsummer” — than leafy Topanga, or better lighting than the filtered afternoon sunshine or the woodsy darkness. Take kids, grandparents, friends and tourists, along with a picnic and some cushions (because the seats are kind of hard).
Details: Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. “Coriolanus” opens at 8 p.m. Saturday, “Midsummer” opens at 4 p.m. Sunday. See website for repertory schedule. $25-$38.50. (310) 455-3723 or www.theatricum.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 atlatimes.com/arts.