Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Theater Review: Drama Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles

A review of one new online performance, and previews of several other upcoming theatrical experiences.


This April is the cruelest month for theater. Not only are physical reopenings still unscheduled, but theater companies are embracing the dark side in their virtual offerings. This month sees the world premieres of murder mystery Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles from the Echo Theater Company, the haunted Someone Else’s House from the Geffen, and the West Coast Jewish Theatre’s Magical Musical Mystery Follies. (OK, that last one actually doesn’t look dark at all, but it did reference mystery. And in the journalism trenches they taught us three was a trend, so I went with it.)

See below for details on all three shows and more theater news.


Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles



Echo’s live interactive murder mystery, Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles, resembles last year’s Citizen Detective from the Geffen. Both use Los Angeles history as jumping off points for drama and audience participation; both send ticketholders advance material on persons of interest and put them on notice that it won’t be a sit-back-and-relax experience. But unlike Citizen Detective, which plays with Hollywood history, Underneath the Freeways delves into the racially charged history of Boyle Heights and the eminent domain that split it in two for the I-5 Freeway.


Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles: The crime scene


The 1960-based show is expertly researched, directed (by Michael Alvarez) and acted. Almost every word spoken by the fully formed characters is in response to an audience question. While there must be a script (by Matthew Paul Olmos), it all feels spontaneous, immediate and authentic. In fact, it’s so real that audience members become passionately invested in getting answers from recalcitrant or untrustworthy witnesses.



The characters appear in black-and-white windows, audience members in color. It’s a clever way to set the noir tone and spotlight the actors.


The audience receives information on the murders prior to the show.


The storyline covers the mystery of two bodies discovered in the lake at Hollenbeck Park, right below the newly built section of the Golden State Freeway. The audience questions witnesses and other persons of interest in a search for the killer.

TV Reporter Elie Kovner (Amy K. Harmon) introduces the five main characters: Boyle Heights resident and artist Dee Dee Echevarria (Gloria Ines); Japanese-American local resident Mrs. Kay Shimo (Mia Ando); “Kill the Freeway Now” protest organizer Lucretia “Lu” Jacobs (Morgan Danielle Day); drifter Efren (Roland Ruiz); and California Division of Highways administrator James Rouser (Darrett Sanders). Then the audience divides into smaller groups to visit the holding cells (breakout rooms) and conduct interviews.

You’ll learn about the fight against the freeway development that spared Beverly Hills, Laurel Canyon and our own Larchmont/Hancock Park neighborhood in favor of a destroying a low-income, multiracial community. You’ll Google character names to see if they are real people because it seems impossible to imagine that they aren’t. Writer Olmos spent time during the pandemic reconnecting with East L.A. and researching its history.

By way of background: The East LA Interchange in Boyle Heights is the busiest freeway interchange in the world. Six freeways converge there: the I-5 (Golden State and Santa Ana Freeways), I-10 (San Bernardino and Santa Monica Freeways), SR 60 east (Pomona Freeway) and US 101 north (Hollywood Freeway). The complex of 30 bridges covers 135 acres of land, including part of Hollenbeck Park, putting it in deep (and loud) shade.

Performances of Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles take place on Zoom through April 26 on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 4:00 pm and Mondays at 7:30 pm.  Each performance is live. Every performance is different. Tickets range from $15-$25 and are available on Echo’s website. You can see a trailer here.


Theater Previews



The world premiere of Someone Else’s House, from the Geffen Stayhouse, runs April 23-June 5. The interactive show, based on a 200-year-old New England haunted house, was written and performed by Jared Mezzocchi, directed by Margot Bordelon. Ticket buyers receive an advance box of artifacts to set the scene and use during the show. More information and tickets are here.




The West Coast Jewish Theatre presents Magical Musical Mystery Follies, an evening of music, magic, comedy and Variety on Saturdays April 24, May 1, or May 8, at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $36 and are available here. Ticket buyers will be sent a Vimeo link to the show.



Neo Ensemble Theatre (where this author is a member) is mounting an original show, SOL: Sex…Obsession…Love, on Saturday, April 17 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, April 18 at 4:00 pm. It’s a collection of short pieces about coping with those natural urgers during the pandemic, and it will be performed live on Zoom. Visit the Neo website for more information.



Check out Audible Theater for a star-studded line-up of audio plays from the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The most recent is the world premiere of Sanaz Toossi’s Wish you Were Here, a coming of age story set against the Iranian Revolution and 14 years’ worth of relentless aftershocks from the political upheaval. A stage production is in the works at New York’s Playwrights Horizons as part of their upcoming season. The other titles in the season on Audible are: A Streetcar Named DesirePhotograph 51AnimalsChonburi International Hotel & Butterfly ClubParadise Blue. You can get access by joining Audible or the Williamstown Theatre Festival here.



Finally, it’s worth noting that the first indoor performance on Broadway happened this weekend. Nathan Lane and Savion Glover performed onstage at the St. James Theatre for an audience of frontline workers affiliated with the Actors Fund and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. It was stripped down yet jubilant…and leaves us all wanting more.


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Laura Foti Cohen
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 Theatre West.

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