María Irene Fornés' Groundbreaking FEFU AND HER FRIENDS Continues Odyssey's 50th Anniversary Season
"Life is theater. Theater is life." Odyssey Theatre Ensemblecontinues its "Circa '69!" season of significant and adventurous plays that premiered around the time of the Odyssey's 1969 inception with the signature work of early feminist giant of the avant-garde María Irene Fornés. Denise Blasordirects Fefu and Her Friends for an Aug. 3 opening, with performances continuing through Sept. 29.In this splendidly surreal comedy-drama, a group of eight women gathers at the country home of the brilliant and eccentric Fefu to plan an event for their do-gooding educational work. As multiple conflicts unfold between the old friends, they struggle to define who they are and what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated world. In a format that was groundbreaking for its time, the play is divided into three parts. The first part takes place in the living room of the house with the full audience. The second part is set in four different areas of the house: the lawn, the study, the bedroom and the kitchen. Fornés deconstructed the familiar stage, removing the fourth wall, and scenes are played in multiple locations simultaneously. The audience is divided into groups to watch each scene, then they rotate to the next set as the scene is repeated, until each group has seen all four scenes. The play concludes in the living room with the full audience. "This is a play about female empowerment and about all aspects of femininity," says Blasor. "With only a small number of audience members present for each scene, they become part of the characters' most intimate reflections about their relationships to men, to each other, to Eve and 'original sin.' It's about the volumes of sadness that we, as women, carry, and how, sometimes, we are the enemies to ourselves instead of being sisters. It's a play about awakening and not surrendering. It's set in 1935, a wonderfully historic era full of jazz, art, poetry and politics." Tiffany Cole (Punch and Judy at Hollywood Fringe Very Still and Hard to See at the Lex) takes on the title role of Fefu. Tanya Gorlow (NYC productions of Wounded at the SoHo Playhouse, Children of Camelot at Connelly Theatre) and Dominique Corona (A Seat at the Table and Upspoken Woman, commissioned, respectively, by USC Institute for Theatre and Social Change and California Wellness Foundation) play Cindy and Christina, good friends who, arriving early, don't quite know how to deal with their intense and unpredictable host. Sandy Duarte (Canadian Dora Award for Blood by Tom Walmsley) portrays the haunted Julia, in a wheelchair following a mysterious hunting accident. Sydney A. Mason(Lysistrata Unbound at the Odyssey) is funny, lively, worldly Emma. Cynthia Yelle (Kiss andLysistrata Unbound at the Odyssey) and Jennifer Lee Laks (Homeward LA 2019 and 26Pebbles at Theatre 40) play former lovers Paula and Cecilia. Alexis B. Santiago (The Tragic Ecstasy of Girlhood at Third Culture Theatre) is the innocent yet perceptive Sue. In addition to directing, Denise Blasor designs costumes together with Josh La Cour. The rest of the creative team includes set designer Frederica Nascimento, lighting designerKatelan Braymer, sound designer Christopher Moscatiello and prop designer Mateo Rudich. The stage manager is Jacob Price. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble produces in association with Gloria Levy. Cuban American playwright María Irene Fornés, the winner of nine Obie Awards including the award for sustained achievement, has been called "the most important American playwright you've never heard of," and "influential beyond measure." She is considered by many to be the mother of U.S. Latinx Theatre. Playwright Paula Vogel said, "In the work of every American playwright at the end of the 20th century, there are only two stages: before she has read María Irene Fornés and after." Founded in 1969 when Ron Sossi decided to demonstrate that experiment-oriented theater could have populist appeal and be fiscally solvent while maintaining the highest artistic standards, the Odyssey continues to explore, produce and present works on the forefront of contemporary theater art in its three-theater complex in West Los Angeles. The 2019-20, 50th anniversary "Circa '69" season is an exciting retrospective of seminal theater works that inspired the Odyssey at the time of its inception, a rich time of experimentation and exploration when the theatrical soil was fertile both here and abroad. Performances of Fefu and Her Friends take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Aug. 3 through Sept. 29. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, Sept. 11; Thursday, Sept. 19, and Wednesday, Sept. 25; all at 8 p.m. There will be three preview performances, on Wednesday, July 31; Thursday,Aug. 1, and Friday, Aug.2, also at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $37. Tickets to previews are $10; in addition, there will be three "Tix for $10" performances, on Friday,Aug. 9; Sunday, Sept. 1; and Thursday, Sept. 19. Post-performance discussions are scheduled on Friday, Aug. 16; Friday, Sept. 13; and Sunday, Sept 15, and are included in ticket price. Friday, Aug. 16 is "Wine Night": enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. Friday, Sept. 13 is "College Night" and includes a pre-performance student reception with themed catering as well as a post-performance discussion: $10 with valid student ID (use promo code COLLEGE). Additional discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.