Curtains Rising: Theatre Roundup

By Sarah Spitz

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Curtains Rising: Theatre Roundup
Photo by Jenna Shelby Kristina Wong’s one-woman play, Kristina Wong: Sweatship Overlord, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. (La Jolla Playhouse)
Live theatre is back, big time, on stages large and small. Here’s a roundup of just a few of the many productions taking place this month and beyond across the LA basin. The Secret Garden Center Theatre Group (downtown’s Ahmanson and Mark Taper Theatres and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City) has multiple openings. The big family-friendly draw at the Ahmanson is a newly-staged production of the Tony Award-winning musical The Secret Garden, opening on Feb. 26. Based on the 1911 children’s book, it has been adapted for movies, TV and stage, and features Marsha Norman’s revival of her lyrics with the iconic score by the late Lucy Simon. Young, orphaned Mary Lennox is sent from her home in India to live with her reclusive uncle on his haunted English country estate. Mary’s unapologetic curiosity and the help of unlikely companions send her on a thrilling quest to untangle the pieces of her family’s past and, most importantly—discover herself. Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord Meanwhile, at the Kirk Douglas theatre, I’m looking forward to seeing Kristina Wong: Sweatshop Overlord, a one-woman show about how Wong began sewing COVID masks out of old bedsheets on her Hello Kitty sewing machine. Soon she was leading the Auntie Sewing Squad, a work-from-home sweatshop of hundreds of volunteers, including children and her own mother. It’s a multiple award-winning play that invites the audience in on Wong’s work building community in isolation, while reflecting on what we’ve all been through and imagining what we want to become. This play made Wong a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. Cardenio I’m speculating about what the wildly experimental City Garage will do with a reputed (and disputed) lost Shakespeare comedy called Cardenio. Set in the sunny hills of Italy, it features three mismatched couples trying to sort themselves out after one man’s test of his partner’s love fails and things spin out of control. Noted Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt and award-winning playwright (and frequent City Garage collaborator) have remade this lost comedy into a contemporary romp. Of course, because it is City Garage, there will be nudity. City Garage is located at Santa Monica’s Bergamot Art Station. And If I Don’t Behave Then What A little farther afield, the Open Fist Theatre Company presents the West Coast premiere of the Eurdram English-language Committee Award-winning And If I Don’t Behave Then What, by Berlin-based Serbian playwright Iva Brdar. It’s a provocative, explosively funny and moving exploration of how being polite, kind and well-behaved in the face of nameless, insidious forces, can shape our lives. It runs through March 4 at Atwater Village Theatre, on the uber-hip East side of town near the LA River, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Let Me In In North Hollywood at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex, Jorge Garcia—best known for his six-year run as Hugo on the hit show Lost—stars in Let Me In, alongside Rachael Meyers (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and St. Louis based actor/director Brian McKinley. Life takes an unpredictable turn for the bride’s best friend and the intended groom when a wedding becomes a funeral. Described as a “dark-ish comedy (most probably) based on true events,” it is written and directed by actor/director/writer Brynn Thayer, whose recent TV appearances have included 911, Suits and NCIS. Let Me In opens Feb. 25 and runs through April 2 at the Rosalie in the Theatre 68 Complex. Norwid’s Return Lastly, there’s a truly unique show coming to the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles, two nights only, March 4 and 5. Polish-American actor Marek Probosz performs in and directs the award-winning monodrama, Norwid’s Return, about Cyprian Kamil Norwid. Considered a romantic, Norwid was born into nobility but orphaned at a young age and fell into a poverty-stricken life of ill health. He’d been exiled, lived in Paris and the U.S. for a few years. Many Poles consider him a symbol of the fate of emigrants. This play, written by Kazimeirz Braun based on Norwid’s texts, is a minimalist contemporary dialogue between an actor and a pianist, based on real events. A keen thinker and fervent moralist, Norwid’s words and thoughts will be punctuated by live music by classical composers, such as his countryman Frederic Chopin. Norwid’s Return was the recipient of Best New York Premiere at New York’s 2022 United Solo Festival. While Marek Probosz’s name may not be immediately familiar to you, he portrayed Roman Polanski in the film Helter Skelter. Opera lovers are accustomed to reading super titles, but that doesn’t happen too often in theatre. Norwid’s Return will be performed in Polish, with super titles. Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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