Having trouble recognizing the world you thought you were living in? Take a number. Echoing W.B. Yeats’ prophetic poem in which “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” the plays in this week’s roundup from the small theater scene reflect a sense of unraveling norms and ethical free fall — historical, political, sexual, economic and criminal.
‘The Tragedie of Macbeth: An Immersive Experience’ at Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
The essentials: If Shakespeare were alive today, would he be writing for theme park attractions? The idea might not seem all that far-fetched, considering Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles’ immersive, fast-paced take on “Macbeth” and its bloody tale of a kingdom’s natural order upended by regicide and betrayal. Nine actors playing all the roles conduct audiences through multiple playing spaces in and around the company’s expansive downtown building. Further paring the Bard’s shortest play down to 70 minutes, this limited-run production intensifies the spookiness of the original text and plotlines with illusions that combine state-of-the-art stage technology and centuries-old magic techniques.
Why this? In pursuit of its mission to bring Shakespeare appreciation to wider audiences, SCLA has a long track record of lively, engaging productions (most recently with the company’s sold-out “Henry IV” featuring Tom Hanks as Falstaff). Director Kenn Sabberton, an alumnus of the UK’s Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company, enlists former Disney Imagineer Chris Runco’s design wizardry in this project, which looks to be insightful, inventive and fun. Note: includes walking and use of stairs and ramps.
Details: A Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production at Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, 1238 W. 1st St., Los Angeles. 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, ends Nov. 3. $39. (866) 710-8942, www.shakespearecenter.org.
‘Winter Solstice’ at City Garage
The essentials: In the West Coast premiere of German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig’s 2017 comedy of deepening dread, a complacent bourgeois couple find their naïve assumptions about the stability of their Western democracy challenged by an unexpected dinner guest with impeccably suave manners and a monstrously malevolent political agenda. Though set in Germany, the broader cautionary message is urgent and compelling as the play explores the seductive power of far right extremism and the seeming impotence of intellectual liberalism to combat it.
Why this?: A longtime presenter of avant-garde European theater, City Garage specializes in provocative, challenging material that would rarely be attempted elsewhere in L.A. This production incorporates live video with the company’s typically artful design sensibility, a visual style well-suited to the play’s sharp pivots between naturalistic dialogue and surreal narration.
Details: A City Garage production at City Garage at Bergamot, 2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1, Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, ends Nov. 25. $25 (Sundays pay-what-you-can at the door). (310) 453-9939,www.citygarage.org.
‘Sell/Buy/Date’ at Los Angeles LGBT Center
The essentials: In a return engagement of her acclaimed solo show, Sarah Jones demonstrates her astonishing powers of self-transformation with 17 vividly realized characters based on interviews with people whose lives have been touched— and often disrupted — by the sex industry. Her multicultural parade of men and women, all struggling to navigate a shifting social landscape, is by turns hilarious, insightful, moving and ultimately inspiring.
Why this? Jones is a worthy successor to Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters in her seemingly limitless ability to instantly adopt the dialect, vocabulary, physical mannerisms and psychological sensibilities of thoroughly believable people drawn from far-flung corners of our melting pot society. Using her performance artistry in the service of social activism, her intimate, engaging manner helps us to identify with them, in the process slyly bridging their otherness. About the show’s previous sold-out run at the Geffen Playhouse, critic Margaret Gray wrote in The Times: “The intelligence, humor, empathy, fierce criticism and even fiercer optimism of Jones' solo work make it a must-see.”
Details: An Andrew Carlberg and Foment Productions presentation at the Los Angeles LGBT Center Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. Nov. 1, ends Nov. 3. $20-$75. (323) 860-7300,www.lalgbtcenter.org/theatre
‘Radiant Vermin’ at Odyssey Theatre
The essentials: Conscience can be terribly inconvenient when it comes to doing whatever it takes to realize our dreams, but that obstacle proves surprisingly easy to overcome in British playwright Philip Ridley’s savage black comedy. Courtesy of a mysterious government gentrification program, a perky, upwardly mobile young couple are given a bare-bones starter house free of charge; they soon discover that a magical force enables them to make desired home renovations — but only at the expense of those less fortunate. The more they acquire, the easier it becomes to rationalize the relative worth of the have-nots.
Why this?: Fans of the 1985 movie “Eating Raoul” will recognize the territory, though Ridley’s sharply written satire is definitely of the moment. An ambitious new company of transplanted artists from the theater scene in Portland, Ore., Door Number 3 hits the ground running with the split-second timing and increasingly frenetic pacing required for this edgy piece. Almost imperceptibly, the audience becomes complicit in the slippery slope that drives the neighborhood slogan: “Enough is never enough.” Words to live by — as so many do nowadays.