Los Angeles is the place to be for up and coming plays and playwrights, as five world premieres are opening within the next month. Here is a brief description of upcoming plays you can see that have never, or almost never been staged before:
Rambo Lights Up House
Opening Jan. 16 is a world premiere by David Rambo, There's No Place Like House . Rambo began work as an actor and writer off-Broadway, and then moved to LA where he became one of the city's hottest real estate agents, a job that provided the material for House. House exposes the voracious real estate agents of a pricey neighborhood called Trinity Park, along with their voracious clients.
The play was a semi-finalist in South Coast Rep's California Playwrights Competition, a finalist in the Chesterfield Film Company Fellowships Competition, and was presented in a reading by A.S.K. Theatre Projects.
The play is directed by Marcia Rodd, who starred on Broadway and received a Tony Award nomination for her work in Shelter. She has more recently become a director.
No Place Like House runs Jan. 16-Feb. 16 at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by calling (213) 660 8587. Tom Tom and Betty
Opening Jan. 17 is Tom Tom on a Rooftop, a new romantic comedy written and directed by Chicago native Daniel Keough, starring Betty Garret. The show is being produced for Theatre West by Farrell Hirsch.
The plot reveals the residents of an apartment building, one older couple and one younger, who congregate on the rooftop and discover that some things in life never change.
Ms. Garrett made her Broadway debut in Danton's Death in 1938, amd starred in musicals such as Call Me Mister and Bells Are Ringing. Her film appearances include Words and Music, On the Town and My Sister Eileen. She has been on numerous TV shows, and won the 1995 L.A. Drama Critic's Circle Lifetime Achievement Award.
Tom Tom on a Rooftop marks the first production of the 35th Anniversary Season of Theatre West. It runs through Mar. 2. Tickets are $15, for tickets or more information, call (213) 851-7977.
"There are so many wonderful stories about our way of life and our history that is not seen on the international level-I want to bring that excitement to American Film and theatre." This is what director/producer/ actress Angeliki Giannakopoulos recently had to say about Greek culture and the world premiere of A Greek Wedding, opening at the Gascon Theatre in Los Angeles, on Jan. 18.
The play, based on a true story about one of the most important events to take place in a Greek Village, is adapted by Giannakopoulos from the novel by Vasa Solomou-Xanthaki. Set in the 1930's, it involves a young bride and groom who suffer the superstitions of their parents and must find a way to survive their inherited "evil".
A Greek Wedding hosts mostly Greek actors and theatre technicians. It is produced by Artemis Productions, with the help of performer, director, and choreographer Athan Karras, who is internationally known for his Greek Folk dances. Karras will stage Wedding's dances.
Karras says, "Often American audiences confuse the presence of Greek music and dance as being limited to such examples seen in "Never on Sunday," and "Zorba the Greek" yet there is so much more." Karras appeared on Broadway in "Most Happy Fella," "Pal Joey," and "Caesar and Cleopatra, " and on television and in numerous motion pictures.
Giannakopoulos also stars in the production, replacing Dimitria Arlys who was unable to play the part of the bride who has grown older and reveals her story through flashback. Giannakopoulos recently completed filming and starring in "A Greek Woman," a docudrama on her mother's life. Giannakopoulos received a Drama-Logue Award for her direction of Illya Darling.
Charlie Peters' dark-biting comedy, Playback, originally scheduled to have its world premiere Jan. 31 at the Court Theatre, will now open a week earlier on Jan. 24, with one preview on Jan. 23.
Playback features a popular professor who has a lot on his plate: He is running for deanship of his college, his messy divorce continues along with his affair with an ambitious young female grad student, he is defending an arrogant student artist whose mural has disrupted campus peace, and to top it off, a video version of his alter-ego pops in for an extended visit-- creating a mid-life crisis gone haywire.
A workshop version of Playback was conducted this past summer at Carnegie-Mellon University. Peters received an M.F.A. from the school in 1977, spent a few years in New York producing his plays at several Off Broadway venues, and then moved to Los Angeles, where he wrote several films, including Paternity, Blame it on Rio, Passed Away and the upcoming Kippendorf Tribe starring Richard Dreyfuss.
Playback stars Fred Sanders as the professor, who has been in TV shows such as "Seinfeld" and "Murphy Brown," as well as on Broadway in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, and Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons and Manhattan Punch Line. Playback runs Jan 23 -Feb 23. Tickets are $20 For more information call (213) 660-TKTS.
Good to the Last Drop.
Although not quite a world premiere, East West Players, Los Angeles' Asian Pacific American theatre, presents the "mainland premiere" of The Taste of Kona Coffee, which was first produced at the Kumu Kahua theatre on the island of Honolulu.
Edward Sakamoto's tenth comedy-drama is spoken in Hawaiian Pidgin English. The play revolves around two Nisei Brothers fighting to free themselves from old world traditions and poverty, but finding themselves bound by the constraints of Neo-colonialism.
Coffee marks the return of EWP's funding artistic director, Mako, who has appeared in over 40 plays and earned an Academy Award nomination for the film Sand Pebbles, and a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in Pacific Overtures. Mako served as artistic director at EWP for 24 years, during which time he earned two Best Director awards, the Margaret Hareford Award from the L.A. Drama Critics Circle, five Best Director awards from Drama-Logue, and directed David Henry Hwang's first play,F.O.B.
The Taste of Kona Coffee runs Jan. 30- Mar. 9. Tickets are $23, for tickets or more information, call (213) 660-0366.
Beltway LA in association with Island Park Productions and Michael O'Hagan will present the world premiere of Rubicon by Gene Franklin Smith.
This political play finds the American presidency in a highly chaotic state. The president has mysteriously died, and the vice president who takes his place is gay, though few people know it. One of the few people is the widowed first lady, who wants the presidency for herself. The plot thickens with a racist senator and his Southern Belle wife with agendas of their own.
Smith says, "Rubicon tries to alert the people to what I think is part of the problem" and has "gut issues that push a person's button, so that they will sit up and take notice, and then try to make a change."
Rubicon stars Michael Kearns, who has been 25 years producing/directing/ performing in L.A., and is one of the nations first openly gay and HIV positive actors. A compilation of his AIDS monologues "T Cells & Sympathy," were recently published. Myron, his first multiple character play, has been produced in LA, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC.
Denise Crosby, Star Trek's original Lt. Tasha Yar, also stars. Crosby made her theatrical debut with the L.A. Women's Shakespeare Company in Richard III, playing the Duke of Clarence.
Jenny Sullivan, who received the Connecticut Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Direction for The Baby Dance, which moved to Off Broadway, directs.
Passing Through the Towne
Celebrating both Black History month and Women's History month is the Towne Street Theatre, presenting the world premiere of Passing, adapted by Sheri Bailey from a novel by Nella Larson, to be directed by Sy Richardson. Passing opens Friday Feb. 21.
During the Harlem Renaissance in 1927, two black women who were once childhood friends find each other again and reunite, discovering that they both pass easily for white. One of them is a "passer" who marries a white racist who doesn't know of her heritage. She is determined to spend social time with her friend, who lives a rich life openly as a black woman, despite her friend's severe warning of the explosive possibilities of being discovered.
The Towne Street Theatre is the only African-American company in L.A., founded in 1993 and dedicated to works by Los Angeles playwrights , female playwrights and Black Classics.
Passing marks the Towne Street's first commissioned play and the opening of their fourth season.
--By Blair Glaser