Odyssey Revives Gertrude Stein Musical IN CIRCLES
"Papa Dozes, Mama Blows Her Noses." That's just one of the delightfully quirky musical numbers from In Circles, the Obie award-winning musical romp adapted by composer Al Carmines from A Circular Play by Gertrude Stein. Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is reviving the 1968 off-Broadway hit as part of its 50th Anniversary "Circa '69" Season of significant and adventurous plays that premiered around the time of the company's 1969 inception. The run commences on Sept. 14, with renowned director David Schweizer, musical directorKenneth J. Grimes and choreographer Kate Coleman at the helm. Performances will continue through Nov. 10 at the Odyssey Theatre in West L.A.
In Circles takes Stein's nonlinear prose, based solely on her pleasure at the way certain words sounded together, and sets them to a splendid musical score featuring ragtime, tango, waltz, opera, barbershop quartet, jazz and other musical styles. A landmark in the "over the top" gay scene in New York of the late '60s, the play was described by the Burns Mantle Yearbook as "a complete arrangement of words and song and dance effects, each one conceived as if describing its own circle, without convention, story or subject line." The result, wrote Jack Kroll in Newsweek, is "a madly meaningful tea party which composer Al Carmines has turned into a gemlike operetta."
The versatile ensemble features original 1968 off-Broadway cast member Jacque Lynn Colton,along with Henry Arber, Shelby Corley, Ashlee Dutson, Kyle Fuller, Chloe Haven, Aaron Jung and P.T. Mahoney.
Colton is thrilled to be part of this revival at the Odyssey, where she's been appearing in productions such as The Threepenny Opera, Mother Courage and Her Children, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Little Murders, Rhinoceros, Kvetch and Arsenic and Old Lace for over four of the company's five decades
"For me, it is truly a 'circular' experience to be reunited with Gertrude Stein, Al Carmines and my wonderful memories of the New York production," says Colton. "The original was a unique collaboration between Al, director Lawrence Kornfeld and the cast. We gathered in Al's living room with just 12 typewritten pages. We were encouraged to develop our own characters and to take any line we liked - if another cast member felt attached to that line, they could repeat it. We did it at the Judson Poet's Theater for a while, then moved to the Cherry Lane Theatre where we ran for nearly a year. Everyone who does the show has to reinvent it according to who's in it and what the relationships are. This production is very creative, just as much so as the original. We have a very young, talented well-trained cast and they sing and dance deliciously. And this time, I get to play Gertrude Stein."
In Circles premiered at the famous Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, where Carmines, a key figure in the expansion of off-off-Broadway theater in the 1960s, was an associate pastor. Beginning in the 1950s, the church was led by a radical arts ministry that offered space to visual and performance artists so they could experiment in their work without fear of censorship. Cutting edge performers including Judson Dance Theater and the Judson Poets called the church their home. Experimental plays and musicals by later-famous authors and directors, including Sam Shepherd, Lanford Wilson and Tom O'Horgan, were presented in the church's main meeting room. Starting in the late 1960s, Carmines began writing and producing his own musicals, and later, "oratorios" that used large volunteer choruses. In Circleswas the second of six operas by Carmines that were based on works of Stein, including What Happened (1963), The Making of Americans (1972), Listen to Me (1974), A Manoir (1977) and Dr. Fautus Lights the Lights (1979).
The Odyssey's creative team includes set designer Mark Guirguis, lighting designer Chu-Hsuan Chang and costume designer Ann Closs-Farley. Assistants to the director are Marissa DuBois and Bo Powell, and the stage manager is Owen Panno. Beth Hogan produces. Presented by Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, under the leadership of artistic director Ron Sossi.
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 In Circles take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Sept. 14 through Nov. 10. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled onThursday, Sept. 26; Wednesday, Oct. 16; and Wednesday, Oct. 23, all at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $37; discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater for details.There will be three "Tix for $10" performances, onFriday, Sept. 20, Wednesday, Oct. 16 and Friday, Nov. 1.
The third Friday of each month (Sept. 20 and Oct. 18) is "Wine Night": enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. Post- performance discussions are set for Thursday, Sept. 26 and Friday, Oct. 4. Friday, Oct. 11 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).
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.