Spring is abloom with plays classical, classical-adjacent and modern. Whether your taste runs to Shakespeare and Ancient Greeks or tales about vintage fashion, helicopter parents and Lebron James, get your calendar out and start planning because there’s something for you in LA this theater season.
Shakespeare and Shakespeare-Adjacent
Closing Sunday is Classic Couples Counseling by Lloyd J. Schwartz at Theatre West on Cahuenga. It imagines Shakespearean couples seeking treatment from a counselor. How do these couples—Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia, Othello and Desdemona, Petruchio and Kate, and the Macbeths—settle those pesky relationship problems?
Opening May 10 is Joe Morton as King Lear at the Wallis, which describes it as a “radical reinvention of Shakespeare’s greatest play.” Joe Morton leads a cast of seven in a return to the Wallis. His masterful solo show on the life of Dick Gregory, Turn Me Loose, played there pre-Covid.
Antaeus Theatre Company returns to in-person performances on May 20 with another contender for the title of Shakespeare’s greatest. A new production of Hamlet, directed by Shakespearean expert Elizabeth Swain and featuring long-time company member Ramón de Ocampo in the title role, continues through June 20 at the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center in Glendale.
Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon is a long-time home for Shakespeare. The outdoor theater’s summer season includes The Merry Wives of Windsor, from June 11-October 2 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from June 12-October 1.
And speaking of Hamlet, in Act 3, Scene 1, Shakespeare speaks of death as “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.” According to Larry Davidson, writer/performer of The Undiscovered Country: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Afterlife, Shakespeare was wrong. He explains in three performances as part of the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. (More on the Fringe in a later article.)
Set in and around an onstage pool—yes, an actual pool of water—Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses tells tales of Midas, Orpheus, Aphrodite with a modern sensibility. At A Noise Within, from May 8 through June 5.
A Noise Within also presents External Forces, a collection of short plays inspired by the Ancient Greeks and retold by African-American theater company Towne Street Theatre. The stories are set in times spanning from the Civil War to modern-day America.
Slightly (and Significantly) More Modern:
Tambo & Bones are two characters trapped in a minstrel show. Through May 29 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, which describes the play as a “roast of America’s past, present, and future at the intersection of racism and capitalism.”
Local legend The Groundlings continue to put up original and timely shows, including The Gale on Monday, May 9, in which an LGBTQ cast invites you to sail the gay seas for an evening of long-form improv. And don’t miss The Completely Different Late Show, Fridays and Saturdays at 9:30pm. It’s an 80-minute improv experience that gets more outrageous the closer it gets to midnight.
The Play’s the Thing by P.G. Wodehouse gets a revival from Theatre 40 on the campus of Beverly Hills High School May 12-June 12.
Set in 1963, My Life’s Journey, at Actors Co-Op in Hollywood May 13-22, is a solo show about C.S. Lewis. The British author is regaling a group of American writers about the people and events that inspired his life: his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, why he nearly abandoned the Narnia Chronicles, how he came to embrace Christianity, and the American woman who turned his life upside down.
Shareen Mitchell, owner of the iconic Los Angeles store Shareen Vintage, explores the pain and reward of surrendering a personal agenda a life’s purpose in the world premiere of Who Are You. Playing May 13 through June 19 at Greenway Court Theatre on the campus of Fairfax High School.
May 13 through May 29 at Odyssey Theatre on Sepulveda. Brooklyn parents meet to resolve a matter of bullying in God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. Rum flows, tensions emerge, and the gloves come off, destroying more than just the couples’ liberal principles.
Basketball great “King” LeBron James’ impact on Cleveland is the subject of King James. Two unlikely friends navigate their turbulent relationship through their shared love of basketball and the prism of James. This new play from Cleveland native Rajiv Joseph was co-produced with Steppenwolf Theatre Company and runs June 1 through July 3 at the Mark Taper Forum.
Written and performed by Amy Simon at Theatre West on Sunday, June 5, She Is History asks the logical question, Why do we know more about Kim Kardashian than Abigail Adams? Simon chronicles the struggles and accomplishments of well-known and forgotten heroines whose courage and strength inspire her as she raises two daughters.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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