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

Theater Review: (Our) Last, Best Small Town


Theater is staggering back to a not-quite-post-COVID reality. All theater companies must find their own way: inside, outside and/or virtual. A full season or one special event. They have a lot to consider.

Then there’s 70-year-old Theatricum Botanicum. Its legendary Topanga Canyon location features a large stage in a forest setting, picnic areas, and what can only be called a great vibe. Ellen Geer, daughter of the founders, keeps things running as they have for decades.

This summer, Geer directs not only Julius Caesar, part of the theater’s long Shakespearean tradition, but the world premiere of The Last, Best Small Town by local playwright John Guerra.

Guerra describes himself as “A half-Mexican southern-Californian who came of age in the height of the housing crisis.” He taps into all those facets in Last Best. He also pays homage to Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. A narrator called the Playwright (Leandro Cano) leads the audience through the story.


Leandro Cano (“The Playwright”) and Jordan Tyler Kessler (Maya) Photo by Ian Flanders


The small town is Ventura County’s Fillmore; the time 2005-2009. It’s 3,000 miles and 100 years away from the fictional Grover’s Corners. But neighbors are still neighbors, and kids will be kids.

Chuy (Miguel Pérez) makes life harder for his son Benny (Richard Azurdia). Photo by Ian Flanders

Willow and Hank Miller (Christine Breihan and Christopher Wallinger) live next door to Della and Benny Gonzalez (Katia Gomez and Richard Azurdia). Willow is a stay-at-home mom with a penchant for Tae Bo; Hank edits the local paper. Della cleans hotel rooms; Benny repairs cars and keeps an eye on his hard-drinking father Chuy (Miguel Pérez). It feels familiar, if a little uncomfortable, when Hank calls Della by her first name while she calls him Mr. Miller.

The Gonzalezes have high hopes for their valedictorian son Elliot Gonzalez (Kelvin Morales). The Millers’ daughter Maya (Jordan Tyler Kessler) is also college-bound. Maya and Elliot begin a romance. It seems that both families are on track for the American Dream, where the children do better than their parents. But the financial crisis looms and the story becomes more “our world” than “our town,” where having a house is no sure thing.

Della (Katia Gomez) and her son Elliot (Kelvin Morales). Photo by Ian Flanders

The acting is uniformly excellent. The character of Chuy, who moved to the U.S. for greater opportunity, adds an important layer and Miguel Perez is particularly engaging.

Despite its timeframe and inspiration, the show is timely. Race and class are handled with nuance and sensitivity, and the economic forces out of the control of the “little people” continue to have an enormous impact.

The Last, Best Small Town runs about 1 hour 50 minutes. Performances are Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 7. Tickets are $26-60 for adults, $15-25 for seniors and students. All patrons must remain masked for the duration of the show. Bring (or rent) a cushion: the seats are famously hard.


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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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