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Entertainment & Arts

New in L.A. theater: ‘The End of Sex,’ plus plays responding to #MeToo and homelessness

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In “The End of Sex” at the Victory Theatre, Chad Coe and Austin Highsmith portray a couple prompted to analyze their relationship while her parents, married 36 years, are renegotiating sex.
(Tim Sullens)

Notions of family figure into the shows in this week’s 99-Seat Beat up-close look at Los Angeles’ smaller theaters. Families of the traditional, nuclear kind find themselves plunged into quandaries in “The End of Sex” at Victory Theatre Center and “Boxing Lessons” at the New American Theatre. The larger, social “family” is invoked in “In Response: Year of the Woman … Still,” a Towne Street Theatre presentation focusing on women, and the citywide Homeward L.A. project about homelessness.

‘The End of Sex’ at Victory Theatre Center

The essentials: It’s Mom’s birthday, and everyone in the family wants to help her celebrate. But when her husband of 36 years announces that his plans involve Viagra, she replies that she’d prefer they not have sex anymore. A dinner get-together exposes the divide between their daughter and son-in-law, as well.

Why this? Evolution is a natural part of any relationship, emotionally and sexually, yet it’s something we tend not to talk about, says Maria Gobetti, artistic co-director of the Victory Theatre Center and director of Gay Walch’s “The End of Sex.” The play “poses a lot of questions about people’s drives and needs for intimacy and affection,” Gobetti says, as well as speaking up for oneself and being heard. “The End of Sex” was a semifinalist for the 2016 Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference. Walch, an Angeleno, has also written for TV, with producing credits for such shows as “Summerland.” The 39-year-old Victory’s record of finding and presenting intriguing new plays is among the city’s best. Look no further than the recent “Showpony” and “Resolving Hedda.”

Details: Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 2. $26-$40. (818) 841-5421, thevictorytheatrecenter.org

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‘Boxing Lessons’ at New American

The essentials: Just how honestly can we know another person, even if he or she is family? In John Bunzel’s “Boxing Lessons,” family members gather to box up the Washington state cabin of their recently deceased patriarch, a famous writer who resisted emotional closeness. As the clutter is cleared, secrets are uncovered.

Why this? From such plays as “Delirious” and “Death of a Buick,” L.A. writer Bunzel is known as a specialist in bad behavior. Or, as Jack Stehlin, artistic director of the New American Theatre, prefers to characterize it: “He has a knack for putting desperate, troubled people in powerful conflicts with each other.” Stehlin has known Bunzel since student acting days at Juilliard and has presented many of Bunzel’s plays with his company, previously known as Circus Theatricals. As members of the “Lessons” family discover the patriarch’s secrets, they begin to confront their own. “That’s really the theme: Truth is freedom, freedom is truth,” says Stehlin, who directs the production. “And forgiveness can’t come without truth.”

Details: New American Theatre, 1312 N. Wilton Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. some Sundays, through June 2. $15-$35. (310) 424-2980, newamericantheatre.com

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Gathered for housecleaning in "Boxing Lessons" are, from left, Eve Danzeisen, Luke McClure, Stephen Tyler Howell and Bruce Nozick.
(Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin)

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‘Year of the Woman’ by Towne Street

The essentials: As the #MeToo movement emboldened women to speak out about abuses and injustices, the Towne Street Theatre’s artistic producing director, Nancy Cheryll Davis-Bellamy, sought a way to keep the conversation going. The result: 23 scenes, monologues and poems written by 10 women. Sexual abuse is a subject in a couple of pieces, but the program more broadly explores infertility, aging, politics, sisterhood, spousal incompatibility and access to unbiased pregnancy counseling and abortion.

Why this? “We are all of these people,” Davis-Bellamy says. “We are strong, we are vulnerable. Our lives, our choices are important; a lot of our rights are still at risk.” Towne Street formed after L.A.’s 1992 riots to create work that reflects the African American experience. A similar omnibus 2015 program, called “In Response,” sifted through American history and homed in on the sorts of injustices that had galvanized into the Black Lives Matter movement. The current program, introduced last fall, has been substantially reworked and is presented as “In Response: Year of the Woman … Still.”

Details: Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. $15-$20. (213) 712-6944, townestreetla.org

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"Smallest Seed," written by Starina Johnson, is one of the short pieces in "In Response: Year of the Woman ... Still." With, from left: Jason C. Daniels, Teressa Taylor and Allen Miller III.
(Anthony Johnson)

Homeward L.A. across the city

The essentials: The citywide Homeward L.A. project has organized houses of worship, theater companies and other groups to present a program of 11 monologues that recount the experiences of Angelenos who have been homeless, such as a woman who loses everything when illness strikes or a mother taking her children for a Christmas barbecue in a park, the only treat she can afford. But the stories aren’t all about homelessness, per se.

Why this? “People who are homeless are more than just their homelessness,” says Homeward L.A. founder Jason Lesner. Whether a story of siblings separated in foster care or of a man who finally feels authentic the first time he does drag, the pieces are a reminder of the lives that pulse around us every day. More than 50 groups have signed on to present the stories as a fundraiser for the Midnight Mission, which has been aiding homeless or otherwise struggling Angelenos since 1914. This is the program’s second year. The all-new stories emerged from interviews with people who’ve received Midnight Mission’s services.

Details: Through May 5. For locations, go to homewardla.org. Among the participating theaters is Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 2 p.m. Sunday. $20. (310) 364-3606, theatre40.org

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One of last year's Homeward L.A. presentations, held at the Smell.
(Keri Kilgo)
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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.

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