Open Fist Revives Hilarious Production of Shakespeare Musical deLEARious
Tragedy meets hilarity and King Lear gets a happy ending in a madcap musical romp à la Mel Brooks and Monty Python. Open Fist Theatre Company revives its smash hit production of deLEARious, an award-winning play-within-a-play by Second City's Ron West and composer Phil Swann. West directs for a Nov. 10opening at Atwater Village Theatre, where performances will continue throughDec. 16. Pay-what-you-want previews begin Nov. 3.There's a new king in town. Queen Elizabeth is dead - all hail King James! IndeLEARious, Ron and Phil are writing about King James I and Shakespeare - who in turn are writing about the legendary King Lear. Phil gets sick of Ron's peculiar work habits; King James gets sick of Shakespeare and demotes him to working on the Bible; and King Lear gets sick of everyone and goes crazy. Great songs, a clever story and lots of laughs!A cast of 17 actors - Rachel Addington,Lane Allison, George Pete Caleodis,Kiley Eberhardt, Chris Farah, Ramón Garcia, Brendan Hunt, Conor Lane,Gina Manziello, Scott Mosenson, Jason Paige, Jan Roper, Robyn Roth, Chase Studinski, Rama Vallury, Micah Watterson, Amanda Weier and playwright West - play all the characters in Lear, plus the roles of Shakespeare, King James, Sir Francis Bacon (who some believe authored Shakespeare's plays), Reverend Lancelot Andrewes (who oversaw the translation of the King James Bible), Richard Burbage (who, in 1606, originated the title role in Lear), co-authors West and Swann, and numerous courtiers, scholars and modern day auditioning actors. The King James version of the Bible - the translation of the Christian Bible into English for the Church of England - was printed in 1611. Some people believe that Psalm 46 may have been translated by Shakespeare."Phil and I had read that conspiracy theorists believe Shakespeare may have contributed to the King James Bible," says West. "Lear and the King James Bible came out around the same time, so it was fun to combine the two works in the same play."Open Fist first produced deLEARious in 2008. The production received two Backstage Garland Awards, for "Best Adaptation" and "Best Score," and three Ovation nominations, including "Best Book, Music and Lyrics," "Best Small Musical" and the "Franklin R. Levy Memorial Award for Musical in an Intimate Theater.""We decided to revive this remarkably clever production because it's so in tune with our time: a comedic examination of a powerful yet narcissistic King who will only believe what he wants to hear," explains Open Fist artistic directorMartha Demson. "In addition, more than just being a musical treatment of Lear with all its machinations and betrayals, deLEARious seeks to examine the very nature of collaboration, a subject dear to the heart of Open Fist and embedded in our mission. King James wants to collaborate with Shakespeare on King Lear; he wants Shakespeare to collaborate with the Bible translators; and the present day composers, Ron and Phil, wrestle over the creation of the musical as well as Ron's womanizing. The three parallel stories are told with breath-taking swiftness. Hilarity ensues, but so do countless moments of cringe-worthy recognition - of ourselves, of our theatrical community and of our country." The creative team for deLEARious includes musical director Jan Roper, scenic designer Jim Spencer, lighting designer Ellen Monocroussos and graphics designer Liam Carl. Jennifer Palumbo is the stage manager, Amanda Weier is the production manager, and Martha Demson produces for Open Fist Theatre Company.Writer/director Ron West and composer Phil Swann also co-authored the musicals The People Vs. Friar Laurence, which debuted at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and Musical Fools, based on the play by Neil Simon; both are now available from Samuel French. West's recent directing credits include Welcome to Your Alternative Reality, which he co-wrote with Catherine Butterfield, for Open Fist Theatre Company at Atwater Village; Life Expectancy for the Hollywood Fringe; The 39 Steps at the Malibu Playhouse; and Twist Your Dickens at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where he also appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge, and at the Portland Center Stage. West has also written and directed many shows for The Second City including the Jeff Award-winning Curious George Goes to War, Sex and the Second City and Disgruntled Employee Picnic, which toured internationally. His adaptation for Chicago Shakespeare of The Comedy of Errors, set in London during the Battle of Britain, won Jeff Awards for Best Adaptation and Best Production. West was a consultant to the improvisation TV series Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, a writer for Politically Incorrect and a producer for the syndicated KwikWitz. He occasionally appears on television in shows like Third Rock from the Sun, King of Queens and Key & Peele. The Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company's name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination and even force, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.deLEARious runs Nov. 10 through Dec. 16 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. (dark Nov. 24). Preview performances take place Nov. 3, Nov. 4, and Nov. 5 on the same schedule, with one additional preview on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 for all performances, except previews which are Pay-What-You-Want.Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.