With this annual list of the finest theatre in Los Angeles, the numbers are missing and for good reason. So many of these remarkable productions are inseparable in terms of writing, directing, performance and stagecraft.
Sell/Buy/Date, Sarah Jones, Geffen Playhouse
Sarah Jones, apparently, can do anything. She has written an ingenious piece, playing all characters, male, female, Jewish, Jamaican and beyond with utter aplomb. And there is much profundity to ponder, as a sociology professor in the future analyzes sex workers and shifting societal attitudes about love versus lust. A monumental accomplishment.
Cost of Living, Martyna Majok, Fountain Theatre
At last, a Pulitzer Prize winning play that completely honors the award’s history. Majok’s heart-rending separate stories of two handicapped people and their relationships members of the opposite sex is sensitively directed by John Vreeke, with the remarkable ensemble of Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Felix Solis and Katy Sullivan.
All Night Long, John O’Keefe, Open Fist Theatre Company
Director Jan Munroe worked theatrical magic with his inventive production of O’Keefe’s surreal, poetic and at times psychosexually disturbing exploration of the nuclear family. It takes bravery and brilliance to stage human beings sucked down kitchen sinks or turned into fragments of light, and kudos to Open Fist and the cast and crew on this stunner.
Our Very Own Carlin McCullough, Amanda Peet, Geffen Playhouse
Actor-playwright Amanda Peet constantly, sharply keeps pulling the rug out from under us with her play about a young female tennis prodigy, her obsessive mother and a coach whose intentions are questioned. Director Tyne Rafaeli has served up an engrossing show, with a faultless cast, as we wonder about the hidden agendas of all characters onstage.
Quack, Eliza Clark, Kirk Douglas Theatre/Center Theatre Group
Neel Keller does impeccable work directing Clark’s often hilarious but also disquieting satire about a TV show therapist who has a former fan go to war with him in the media. Dan Bucatinsky, Jackie Chung, Nicholas D’Agosto, Jessalyn Gilsig and Shoniqua Shandai are a marvelous cast in this scorched earth depiction of political correctness and the dangers of celebrity.
Pigs and Chickens, Marek Glinski, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Los Angeles
Glinski cleverly conceives a daffy, dysfunctional group of workers in the tense, early days of a tech startup to create great humor and ugly, secretive behavior in this well-balanced ensemble comedy-drama. Kevin Comartin directs with an appropriately furious pace, making the audience thrilled by the nastiness and glad that they don’t have the same 12-hour day job.
Alarm Will Sound, Andrew Kupfer, Nigel Maister and Alan Pierson, Royce Hall, UCLA
UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance brought 20-person New York band Alarm Will Sound out to expand the definition of live theatre, with slides, music and theatre. It is a concert, a play, a lecture and spans the work of musical pioneers Bernstein, Berio, Stockhausen, and John Lennon. Director and co-writer Maister has put on a grand and special work, unlike any other.
Screwball Comedy, Norm Foster, Theatre 40
Dying is easy, comedy is hard and screwball comedy is even tougher. Thus, director Howard Storm gets high marks with his guidance of this witty crowd pleaser, set in 1938, as an aspiring female reporter tries to scoop the renowned but vapid male journo she regretfully finds herself attracted to, with bon mots aplenty.
Hothouse, Harold Pinter, Antaeus Theatre Company
Antaeus deserves great credit for producing this lesser known Pinter play, which crackles with dark humor. Nike Doukas directed this large cast peek inside a government-run mental facility where in classic fashion, those in charge are loonier than those being treated. With Pinter’s signature compassion for human justice, this may just be his outright funniest play.
Bad Jews, Joshua Harmon, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Rarely has a revival so effortlessly exceeded a former production as with Harmon’s Bad Jews, directed with delightful intensity by Dana Resnick. The death of a beloved relative sets off a turf war among a family, as issues of Jewish religiosity and intellectual arrogance propel the action into verbal fisticuffs, led by the surprisingly endearing viciousness of Jeanette Deutsch.
Honorable Productions: To Dad with Love: A Tribute to Buddy Ebsen, Kiki Ebsen, Theatre West; Yellow Face, David Henry Hwang, Beverly Hills Playhouse; Keith Moon: The Real Me, Mick Berry, Hudson Theatre; Two Fisted Love, David Sessions, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; Forever Bound, Steve Apostolina, Atwater Village Theatre.