LOS ANGELES -- Jean-Claude van Itallie, an icon of the New York experimental theatre scene -- his American Hurrah was a watershed Vietnam-era play -- has now become an actor. His first one man performance piece, War, Sex, and Dreams, will play Jan. 21-23 & 28-30 at 8:30 PM at Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica.
It is the first time van Itallie has written specifically about the Holocaust, though he feels its influence has permeated much of his previous work. "You'll find it in the paranoia, the explosive breaking of the fourth wall," he said.
Van Itallie has written more than 30 plays and translations, including versions of Chekhov's major works.
In War, Sex and Dreams, van Itallie recalls how he was awakened in the middle of the night by the German invasion of Brussells two weeks before his fourth birthday.
A coat was hastily thrown over his pajamas and he was bundled into the family car, which sped off for the coast with his mother at the wheel. Meanwhile, van Itallie's father, who was in the Belgian army, escaped by swimming out to the British ships at Dunkirk. The family reunited in France, then fled from Spain to Portugal to the United States.
Van Itallie began improvising War, Sex, and Dreams about two years ago, around the time of his father's death. In a way, he said, the piece is another rebellion "against the childhood denial of my Jewishness and the horrors of the Holocaust."
For tickets to War, Sex and Dreams call (323) 660-TKTS.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent