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Theater Review: No Place Like Gandersheim

Jamey Hood,Lauren Gaw, and Shannon Holt in No Place Like Gandersheim. Photo by Jenny Graham.

The world premiere No Place Like Gandersheim, by Elizabeth Dement, is exactly the show we need right now. It’s so timely that it feels like the characters came right off the Writers Guild picket lines. Dement and her all-female production team are part of Skylight Theatre’s 40th anniversary season, with the theme “Her Vision, her Voice.” They indeed make a clear, cogent statement about artistic integrity and female empowerment, wrapped in a whimsical cocoon of humor.

Top-notch on every level, Gandersheim wows with clever writing, strong direction (by Randee Trabitz) and heartfelt acting. The complex production, involving time travel-related special effects and quick costume and set changes, runs flawlessly.

The play opens in tenth-century Germany, where Roz (Jamey Hood), a playwriting nun, quotes Aristotle on character development and presses Mother Superior Berga (Shannon Holt) to allow her show to go on. With an audience that includes Berga’s brother, who happens to be Holy Roman Emperor Otto the Great, and his Greek wife Theophanu (Charrell Mack), the play’s edgy content raises concerns.

Charrell Mack and Jamey Hood in No Place Like Gandersheim. Photo by Jenny Graham.

The main one: “What if men could see that women could do things?”

Humorless Sister Madlen (Lauren Gaw)  is agitated about being in the play, which she calls a trial. “A trial?” Roz exclaims. “It’s a comedy!” When Berga offers to play the role in her place, Madlen comes around.

Lauren Gaw, Jamey Hood, and Shannon Holt in No Place Like Gandersheim. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Of course, the production is not a satisfying experience for either HRE Otto or a medieval nun seeking creative fulfillment. Roz grabs the keys to the nunnery and time travels to the current day and beyond, in search of a time where her writerly skills will be appreciated.

The plot twists are too delicious to reveal, but suffice it to say that the rotating roles of the non-Roz characters take the story in innovative directions. Mother Superior Berga gets the last word, sharing the play’s ultimate advice to “Look in the mirror and be at peace.”

No Place Like Gandersheim runs through June 25 at Skylight Theatre Company, 1816 ½ N. Vermont Ave. in Los Feliz. Showtimes are Saturdays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3:00pm and Mondays at 7:30pm; tickets are available here for $38. A limited number of pay-what-you-can tickets are available for performances through June 18; use Promo Code ACCESS to activate.

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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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