BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now

What made the Hot List? Check out these productions for a look at the vast creativity of theatre makers in action in Los Angeles: FOREVER BOUND at Atwater Village Theatre, PLUNGE: Part 1 of The Ballad of Bimini Baths Trilogy at Son of Semele, SOFT POWER downtown at the Ahmanson, VIOLET at Actors Co-op, THE GIANT VOID IN MY SOUL from Ammunition Theatre Company, WOOD BOY DOG FISH at Garry Marshall Theatre, and Antaeus Theatre Company's NATIVE SON in Glendale. Reviews by BWW Sr. Editor Ellen Dostal, LADCC.

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
Emily Goss and French Stewart. Photo by Kathy Flynn

FOREVER BOUND - Atwater Village Theatre, through June 16
A heist, a surprise, and a moral dilemma turn playwright Steve Apostolina's world premiere dark comedy into the one L.A. play you can't afford to miss. French Stewart stars as a down-and-out bookseller, with cockroaches taped to his walls and increasingly limited options, until his best friend offers an unorthodox solution. The ethical implications of a way-out-of-left-field plot twist bring up a fascinating "what would you do" question in this multi-layered Poe-like examination of human behavior directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky. Tickets:

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
L-R: Gary Patent and Dan Via. Photo courtesy of Son of Semele

PLUNGE - Son of Semele, through June 17
Just when you think you know where this story is going, everything turns on a dime. Tom Jacobson's writing is full of enough twists to rival any popular whodunit with a narrative that includes real characters, and a location prominent in Los Angeles history, unfolding over three separate plays. This is Part 1 of Jacobson's trilogy The Ballad of Bimini Baths and its multiples threads intertwine to reveal a startling tale. A priest (Dan Via) and an art curator (Gary Patent) meet by chance at an elegant party thrown by Harrison Gray Otis, publisher of the L.A. Times in its early days, and agree to continue their attraction at the local Bimini Baths. From there, hold onto your hats. The story you think you're going to see is not the story you ultimately end up seeing as surprising revelations about the two men begin to surface. Via and Patent give stunning performances under Matthew McCray's adroit direction. No spoilers but expect some brief nudity and adult themes. TAR, Part 2 of the trilogy is being presented by Playwrights' Arena, June 9 - July 2, and MEXICAN DAY, Part 3 will run May 26 - July 1 at Rogue Machine at the MET. I've already got my tickets for both. Tickets:

SOFT POWER - Ahmanson Theatre, through June 10
Playwright David Henry Hwang and composer Jeanine Tesori are pushing buttons and challenging conventions with the world premiere of their exciting new work. Tesori's score is a marvelously layered concoction that draws from both east and west influences. Hwang's blistering book and lyrics (additional lyrics by Tesori) are filled with an enviable abundance of zingers that slap you upside the head at every turn. Collectively, the teamwork on this 50th anniversary commission from Center Theatre Group is sharp, on point, and set to stun. Full review HERE. Tickets:

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
Jahmaul Bakare and Claire Adams. Photo by Matthew Gilmore

VIOLET - Actors Co-op, through June 30
Another Jeanine Tesori musical is getting a gorgeous revival in an intimate setting at Actors Co-op. The story of a disfigured young woman who travels across the country to be restored by a faith healer is an emotional journey that strikes at the heart of our innate longing to be loved. Among musical theatre circles, director Richard Israel has a well-deserved reputation for crafting memorable performances by bringing out the rich subtleties in a script and cultivating endless nuances of character. The result is an exquisite audience experience that satisfies on every level. VIOLET, starring a luminous Claire Adams in the title role, is his finest work to date. Nicholas Acciani's resourceful set design puts the audience on the bus along with Violet, two soldiers, and a coterie of quirky Southerners who spring vividly to life from the revolving bus seats. Taylor Stephenson's string-based chamber orchestra delicately envelopes the space with the sound of Tesori's folk and bluegrass-inspired melodies. This is another triumph for the Co-op, one with enough tender wisdom in its interpretation to easily restore your own faith in the almighty power of love. Tickets:

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
L-R: Claudia Doumit, Kim Hamilton, and Karla Mosley, Photo courtesy of ATC

THE GIANT VOID IN MY SOUL - Ammunition Theatre Company, through June 10
Not only is Ammunition Theatre Company shifting the paradigm when it comes to theatre, this young company on the rise believes that speaking out and doing good go hand in hand. Their optimistic goal of creating a better world using theatre as their weapon of choice is radiantly reflected in Bernardo Cubría's world premiere play, a sensitive, penetrating, and delightfully appealing exploration of one of life's most persistent questions, with a wink and a nod to Beckett. The tools of invention are clowns, those ageless, genderless, ethnically ambiguous characters whose ability to represent the full breadth of humanity with unencumbered ease makes them the perfect stand-in for those of us watching. Felix Solís directs a superb 4-member ensemble (Kim Hamilton, Claudia Doumit, Liza Fernandez, and Xochitl Romero at this performance) who move nimbly through the play with a convivial efficacy that gives deafening resonance to Cubría's timeless themes. Tickets:

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
Geppetto (Ben Messmer) and Wood Boy (Rudy Martinez with Mark Royston and
Sarah Kay Peters). Photo by Chelsea Sutton

WOOD BOY DOG FISH - Rogue Artists Ensemble/Garry Marshall Theatre, through June 24
Rogue Artists Ensemble first presented this dark twist on The Adventures of Pinocchio in 2015 at the Bootleg Theater. In this new version of the show, director Sean T. Cawelti and the Rogues have exaggerated the grit and grime, expanded their signature theatrical elements, and added an immersive pre-show carnival that takes over the Garry Marshall Theatre lobby and spills out into the courtyard. Those looking to satisfy their hedonistic tendencies will find a good measure of deliciously cheap fun inside the gates. The show is a pretty spectacular combination of stagecraft and over-the-top theatrics that create an impressive, if at times overwhelming, experience. It's a mood piece with a message and it is right in the Rogues' wheelhouse. Full review HERE. Tickets:

BWW Review: THE HOT LIST! What's Hot on Stage Now
L-R: Brandon Rachal, Mildred Marie Langford and Jon Chaffin. Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

NATIVE SON - Antaeus Theatre Company - through June 3
That sound you hear underneath Jeff Gardner's volatile sound design just might be your own heart beating wildly in your ears. It would be impossible not to have a strong reaction to Nambi E. Kelley's adaptation of Richard Wright's novel and that is certainly intentional. Directed with a calculated willfulness by Andi Chapman, and with the full measure of the classical theatre company's pool of talent behind it, the play bluntly asserts its influence in igniting a conversation about race, class, and oppression, and staunchly remains in your face for its 90-minute duration. Bigger Thomas' (Jon Chaffin) path from cradle to the grave may have been a foregone conclusion in the 1930s but the fact that little has changed is an even more devastating truth that makes his story even more important today. Tickets:

Coming up on the watch list:

Henry IV, June 5 - July 1
Tom Hanks as Falstaff. Need we say more? The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles at The Japanese Garden on the West Los Angeles VA Campus.

Lysistrata Unbound, June 9 - Aug 4
Brenda Strong stars in the world premiere of a provocative new version of Eduardo Machado's classic Greek story inspired by American anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Our Very Own Carlin McCullough, June 19 - July 29
A 10-year old tennis prodigy, a mom, and a coach. Who knows best? Amanda Peet's new play came through the Geffen's New Play Development Program and now makes its world premiere in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater. Geffen Playhouse

Sweet Charity, June 20 - July 1
The reboot of Reprise's popular musical series kicks off with Laura Bell Bundy starring as Charity Hope Valentine directed by Kathleen Marshall. Reprise 2.0 at Freud Playhouse, UCLA.

Arrival and Departure, July 11 - Sept 30
Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray fall hopelessly in love in this modern-day, re-imagined deaf stage adaptation of the classic 1945 British film, Brief Encounter. Fountain Theatre

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From This Author Ellen Dostal

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