• THEATRE REVIEW

      Species Native to California (Photo - Dean Cechvala).

      Species Native to California (Photo – Dean Cechvala).

      In case you haven’t discovered Atwater Village Theater, it is a convenient 20-minute drive out the 134 to the 2, with several small theater spaces within, a parking lot (also plenty of street parking), various dining choices nearby, including Momed next door, and a reputation for excellent productions from the various acting companies in residence at the theater at any given time.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      There are currently three productions at the theater and I highly recommend all of them.

      Species Native to California

      Species Native to California (Photo - iamatheatre.com).

      Species Native to California (Photo – iamatheatre.com).

      From the press release: “For a decade, two families—one white and progressive, one undocumented—have lived together on a Northern California wine country estate in something like harmony. But political changes and financial mishaps leave them both suddenly facing uncertain futures. As everyone clamors to save the estate, a vengeful ghost haunts the fruitless vineyard intent on breaking the balance. Mexican folklore meets Mendocino County in this homage to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Performed in English with a liberal sprinkling of Español. Mexican folklore meets Mendocino County in Dorothy Fortenberry’s homage to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.”

      Somewhat subtly and hauntingly, the story steadily unfolds throughout the intimate theater space – the withering vineyard on one side, the dining table and interior of the home on the elevated stage area, outdoor areas in the center, giving the the viewer the feeling of being part of the family rather than observing from the other side of the theater.

      It seems to be a simple story, but throughout the production you can sense the different points of view, beliefs, and experiences of the various characters, feel the tension building as truths come out and decisions have to be made. Having the undocumented mother and son fluctuate between Spanish and English was particularly effective, and even if you didn’t know a word of Spanish you knew every word they were saying. The appearance and influence of La Llarona of Hispanic legend brought an other-worldly aspect that was left vague enough that everyone could infer their own understanding of her purpose based on their knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of her story. It had the air of “things aren’t always as they seem,” but there was no final right or wrong, no ultimate conclusion, just a melding of the various perspectives, needs, untold truths, and interactions of the characters.

      Intriguing characters, very evenly talented actors, all perfect for their parts. Good story, good acting and directing, and a set that puts you right in the story.

      Species Native to California
      • Written by Dorothy Fortenberry
      • Directed by Eli Gonda
      • Starring Tom Amandes, Carlos E. Campos, Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, Eileen Galindo, Tim Rock, Melissa Stephens, Margaux Susi, Murielle Zuker
      • Produced by Laura Mann
      • Associate Producer Tom DeTrinis
      • Presented by IAMA Theatre Company
      Atwater Village Theatre
      3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
      • Performances:
      Friday 6/9 and Saturday 6/10 at 8 p.m.; Sunday 6/11 at 7 pm
      • General Admission: $30
      • Buy tickets here.

      Ο Ο Ο

      The Gary Plays

      The Gary Plays (Photo - Darrett Sanders).

      The Gary Plays (Photo – Darrett Sanders).

      “The Gary Plays” follow Gary through six periods in his life, all following the random murder of his son. Each of the three parts of this series has two plays, and each of the six plays stands on its own. I saw Part III, “DaddyO Dies Well” and “Charles’ Story,” and am hoping to take the last chance this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to see Parts I and II. Any one of the two-play arts will be satisfying on its own, you will not miss anything if you can’t make all three parts.

      The Gary Plays (Photo - openfist.org),

      The Gary Plays (Photo – openfist.org),

      In “DaddyO Dies Well,” Gary and Gloria (Gary’s ex-wife and the mother of Danny, their murdered son), finally purge the ghosts of their past, somewhat, and come to terms with the tragedy via an ayahuasca ceremony – an herbal drug induced journey for the soul (which ironically I had just learned about on an episode of Law&Order Special Victims Unit the day before). Daddy0 was a larger than life, perfectly unhinged leader of the ceremony, bringing some comedy as well as intense emotion and introspection for Gary and Gloria, fascinating to watch. The final play of the series, “Charles’ Story,” finds Gary using his acting skills as a performance therapist at a rehab center in Malibu, where he encounters his ex-agent as well as a father dealing with the death of his daughter Laura (who was introduced in one of the earlier plays in the series). You can feel that Gary is still tethered to his sorrow to a certain extent but see him progress to a point where he can help others heal by drawing on his past and coordinating what he has learned with what his patients need.

      Again, another excellent acting company, Open Fist Theatre Company, graces a stage at Atwater Village Theatre with tight acting, directing, writing, and production.

      The Gary Plays
      • Written by Murray Mednick
      • Directed by Guy Zimmerman
      • Starring Peggy Ann Blow, Sandra Kate Burck, Phillip Curry, Carl J. Johnson, Elizabeth Lande, Darrell Larson, Jeff LeBeau, Laura Liguori, Derek Manson, Roderick Menzies, Laura Richardson, Barbara Schofield, Josh Trant, Kelly Van Kirk, Amanda Weier, Norbert Weisser
      • Produced by Martha Demson and Laura Hill
      • Presented by Open Fist Theatre Company
      Atwater Village Theatre
      3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90039.
      • Performances extended through June 10:
      Part 1 – 6/8 at 8 pm (Tirade for Three, Girl on a Bed), Part 2 – 6/9 at 8 pm (Gary’s Walk, Out of the Blue) and Part 3 – 6/10 at 2 pm (DaddyO Dies Well, Charles’ Story) perform on a rotating basis on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with all three parts performed on Sundays.
      • General Admission: $29.99
      • Buy tickets here.


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