The venue will change as L.A. Theatre Works moves from Brentwood to Westwood for the 2011-12 season that starts in September. But the concept remains the same as it has been since 1987: no sets, costumes or need to memorize lines, but plenty of name actors (such as Stacy Keach, pictured) performing in front of microphones for live audiences that will expand vastly when the recorded results make their way to the airwaves and the Internet.
The series' new home is to be the 278-seat James Bridges Theater at UCLA; since 1998 L.A. Theatre Works had used the 350-seat theater at the Skirball Cultural Center (before that, the venue had been a hotel ballroom in Santa Monica).
In an announcement of the switch and the 10-play season, producing director Susan Loewenberg cited the Bridges' intimacy, its suitability "for integrating multimedia into some of our performances," and the potential for reaching student audiences, enlisting UCLA faculty for panel discussions, and for cross-promotional piggybacking with other campus events.
Productions are to run for six performances each, Thursdays through Sundays, including weekend matinees. The scheduled kickoff is Henrik Ibsen's "A Doll's House," (Sept. 22-25) with Calista Flockhart and JoBeth Williams; other well-known titles are "Copenhagen," Michael Frayn's play about pioneering nuclear physicists Werner Heisenberg and Nils Bohr (Nov. 17-20); Sam Shepard's "Buried Child" with Amy Madigan (Dec. 8-11); "Look Back in Anger" by John Osborne, with Matthew Rhys (March 15-18, 2012); Peter Morgan's "Frost/Nixon," with Keach reprising his national touring role as the disgraced ex-president; "The Browning Version," by Terence Rattigan, with Joanne Whalley (June 21-24, 2012); and Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" (July 19-22, 2012).
Less-familiar plays are Itamar Moses' "Completeness," (Oct. 20-23) a drama about a love affair between two young scientists that premiered in April at South Coast Repertory; "Next Fall," (Jan. 19-22, 2012), Geoffrey Nauffts' Tony-nominated drama about gay lovers, which will have its West Coast premiere in November at the Geffen Playhouse; and "Opus," (May 17-20, 2012), with Sarah Drew cast in Michael Hollinger's comic drama, seen last year at the Fountain Theatre, about a string quartet unraveling under the pressure of an impending White House gig.
KPCC-FM (89.3) remains the Southern California radio outlet for L.A. Theatre Works' nationally syndicated series "The Play's the Thing"; Williams and the late David Dukes star in the current archival offering, Arthur Miller’s “Broken Glass,” which can be heard here; beginning Saturday, the weekly show is "The Importance of Being Earnest," with Charles Busch as Lady Bracknell.
The audio-only "Earnest" is not to be confused with a more recent take on Oscar Wilde's comic classic that stars Brian Bedford and represents L.A. Theatre Works' first venture into the world of satellite-beamed video. The production by New York's Roundabout Theatre Company is being shown Thursday at the James Bridges Theater, and Sunday at the Bridges and the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.
L.A. Theatre Works lends an unlikely hand to "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Is it theater? Is it radio? Does it matter?
Theater review: "Completeness" at South Coast Repertory
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Stacy Keach performs for L.A. Theatre Works. Credit: Derek Hutchison