THE HAPPIEST SONG PLAYS LAST Completes 'Elliot Trilogy' At The LATC
The search for redemption, humility and one's place in the world continues when the Latino Theater Company presents the final installment of Quiara Alegría Hudes' acclaimed three-play "Elliot cycle." The long-awaited California premiere of The Happiest Song Plays Last, directed by Edward Torres, featuring live music by Grammy Award-winning tres guitar player Nelson González, and starring Vaneh Assadourian; Elisa Bocanegra; Kamal Marayati; Peter Pasco; Al Rodrigo; and John Seda-Pitre, opens on Feb. 22 at The Los Angeles Theatre Center. Low-priced previews begin Feb. 17.Not only will Angelenos be able to experience the completion of Hudes' trilogy for the first time with the opening of this production - audiences will also have a rare chance to see all three plays in succession and in chronological order. The Happiest Song Plays Last will run concurrently with Center Theatre Group productions of the first two plays in the cycle: Pulitzer Prize-finalist Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue (Jan. 27 through Feb. 25 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City) and Pulitzer Prize-winner Water by the Spoonful (Jan. 31 through March 11 at the Mark Taper Forum). Set to the joyful sounds of traditional Puerto Rican folk music, The Happiest Song Plays Last chronicles a year in the life of two kindred souls as they search for love, meaning and a sense of hope in a quickly changing world. At the dawn of the Arab Spring in an ancient Jordanian town, Elliot, an Iraq War veteran, struggles to overcome the traumas of combat by taking on an entirely new and unexpected career: an action-film hero. At the same time, halfway around the world in a cozy North Philadelphia kitchen, his cousin, Yasmin, takes on a heroic new role of her own: as the heart and soul of her crumbling community, providing hot meals and an open door for the needy. "This is a once in a lifetime thing, to be able to see the full story, which is really epic in scope," says Torres, who has a long history with the project: he appeared as an actor in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue, directed the California premiere of Water by the Spoonful at San Diego's Old Globe (called one of the "unforgettable" productions of the last decade by Charles McNulty in a 2016 Los Angeles Times column), and directed the world premiere of Happiest Song at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago. "It's really special to be doing it in Los Angeles because the real Elliot, the person who inspired Quiara to write the plays, lives in L.A." "I am marrow-deep grateful to Elliot Ruiz - my cousin, my muse, my inspiration," wrote Hudes in her acknowledgments. "When he returned from Iraq, that boyish sparkle in his eye had changed, ever so slightly. As his life story continued to unfold, I continued to write and Elliot gave me his blessing and took my creative license in stride." "Each play is intended to stand alone and be its own story, but together, they tell the story of a coming of age of an American young man who is bright and witty and adventuresome, and is also deeply troubled," she explained in an interview. "The Happiest Song Plays Last finds him quite a few years out from his military service, struggling to get back into civilian life, at a moment when he has a wonderful opportunity, which is to go to Jordan and act in a movie. It combines some of his past troubles with a moment when he's really poised to overcome them as a young man, to fully step into his manhood, while also reliving some of his difficult military experiences because the movie he is acting in is in fact dealing with the Marines in Iraq." One aspect of Happiest Song that sets it apart from the other two plays - and a key element that attracted Latino Theater Company artistic director José Luis Valenzuela to the project - is the integration of music, which, according to Hudes, is used to explore the relationship between joyful celebration and social protest that she experienced in the communities where she grew up. "I'm inspired by life and by my everyday life, both its very familiar and also mundane components, and its epic and transcendent components, and I find those things commingling, and that's where I draw my inspiration," she said. The creative team for The Happiest Song Plays Last includes set designer Se Hyun Oh, lighting designer John A Garofalo, sound designer Ivan Robles, projections designer Yee Eun Nam, costume designer Dianne K. Graebner and prop master Eric Babb. The stage manager is Emily Lehrer. The Latino Theater Company is dedicated to providing a world-class arts center for those pursuing artistic excellence; a laboratory where both tradition and innovation are honored and honed; and a place where the convergence of people, cultures and ideas contribute to the future. Now in its 32nd year, LTC has operated The Los Angeles Theatre Center, a landmark building in Downtown's Historic Core, since 2006. The Happiest Song Plays Last opens on Thursday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m., with performances thereafter taking place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. and Mondays at 7:30 p.m. through March 19. Four preview performances take place on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 18 at 3 p.m.; Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m.; and Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $24 - $52. The Los Angeles Theatre Center is located at 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013. Parking is available for $5 with box office validation at Joe's Parking structure, 530 S. Spring St. (immediately south of the theater). For more information and to purchase tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or go to http://thelatc.org/.