This Week in L.A. Theatre

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  • Ron House, co-creator of the monumentally successful farces El Grande de Coca Cola and Bullshot Crummond, passed away Friday, January 29. House had re-created his iconic role of El Grande patriarch Don Pepe Hernandez in Ruskin Group Theatre’s July 2013 revival. He then authored the sequel, El Grande Circus de Coca Cola, which made its successful debut at Skylight Theatre in Hollywood in July 2015, before moving up to the Colony Theatre in Burbank. A full rundown of Ron’s illustrious career can be found here. (On a personal note, one evening in 1973, when the original El Grande ensemble was performing at the Music Hall in New York and I was playing at the Playboy Club, I was sitting at a table at the Improvisation, having a drink with Second City alumnus Peter Boyle. Ron, also a Second City graduate, sat down with us. I don’t remember how they got into it, but Peter took on the persona of baseball legend Yogi Berra and started interviewing Ron as if he were a foreign dignitary who spoke no English. The dignitaries just kept evolving. When I wasn’t convulsed with laughter, I remember being astounded at how Ron could speak utter gibberish while perfectly duplicating almost any language’s accent. A very talented man has left us.)
  • Cabrillo Music Theatre, which proudly proclaims “all of Cabrillo’s productions are locally produced, auditioned and rehearsed in Southern California,” has revealed its 2016-17, four-production season at Bank of America PAC at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, beginning with the Cabrillo debut of the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber Eva Peron bio tuner, Evita (Oct 14-23). The season continues with two film-based stage musicals: Disney’s Tarzan, with music and lyrics by Phil Collins, book by David Henry Hwang (Jan 27-Feb 12, 2017); and Sister Act, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glen Slater (Apr 21-30, 2017). The season ends with Peter Pan (July 14-23, 2017). (Side note: It’s ironic that the perennial Pan has become such a staple of the musical stage. Originally produced by LA Civic Light Opera honcho, Edwin Lester, the 1954 show’s tryout runs at the Curran in San Francisco and LA’s Philharmonic Auditorium were so disastrous that director/choreographer Jerome Robbins was forced to goose up the show with added creative talent. That’s why you’ll see such a plethora of credited contributors—Carolyn Leigh [lyrics], Betty Comden & Adolph Green [additional lyrics], Morris “Moose” Charlap [music], Jule Styne [additional music] and Robbins [adaptation]. The revised show went on to garner Tony Awards for its stars Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard.)


  • DGA Award-winner Charles Haid (ER) helms the American premiere of Charles Dennis’ Altman’s Last Stand, starring Michael Laskin—chronicling the final chapter in one man’s colorful journey through a century. Opens Feb 6 at Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood.
  • City Garage is offering the West Coast premiere of experimental playwright Young Jean Lee’s Leartossing the title character and the other aged menfolk into the wings and focusing instead on Lear’s three daughters and Gloucester’s two sons. Staged by artistic director Frédérique Michel. Opens Feb 5 at City Garage, building T1, Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.


  • When Actors Co-Op—located on the campus of First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood—began a regular run of productions at its 99-seat Crossley Theatre in 1989, there was reluctance from many press outlets to cover the shows due to a concern over “religious proselytizing.” Over time, that concern faded. A 2014 Ovation-winner, the company continues its 24th season with a revival of Tennessee Williams’ 1948 drama, Summer and Smoke, a sojourn within the machinations of suppressed lust, directed by Thom Babbes. Opens Mar 4 at Actors Co-Op’s second space, the David Schall Theatre.
  • John Posey’s solo comedy about sports and parenting, Father, Son & Holy Coach, originally premiered at Santa Monica Playhouse in 1993. Newly workshopped and helmed by Terri Hanauer, the production opens Feb 13 at Odyssey Theatre in West LA.


Playwright/director ELANA VANNONI, artistic director of Theatre Factory Studio, discusses her new work, Etty Hillesum: A Voice Outside the Camp, continuing at Son of Semele Theatre, Feb 10-12, in conjunction with SOS’s 6th Annual Creation Festival.

Alex Bartley and Jazmine Ramay in "Etty Hillesum: A Voice Outside the Camp."
Alex Bartley and Jazmine Ramay in “Etty Hillesum: A Voice Outside the Camp.”

“It was my producer Alessia [Patregnani] who introduced me to Etty. Alessia was reading Etty’s journal, which Etty started in 1941 after Hitler’s armies invaded the Netherlands. She was a Jewish woman living in German-occupied Amsterdam at the time. I read the journals and fell in love with the work. I wrote the Italian version of this play first, based on the more than 900 pages Etty had written over three years. Then I decided I wanted to have this work performed onstage, so I did the English translation. Etty is such a complex personality that she is being played by two actresses [Alex Bartley and Jazmine Ramay]. There is the younger spirit who is full of hope and charisma. Then there is the other Etty who is more focused on the realities of her situation. The two sides are constantly in conflict with one another about how to deal with the fact that she was living at Westerbork, a Nazi transit camp, where eventually she would be transported to Auschwitz. She died there in 1943. The beauty within Etty’s soul was communicated as she wrote about what she experienced and saw—while also working constantly to help other people. There is an amazing quote from her writing: ‘I see no alternative, each of us must turn inward and destroy all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others. And remember that every atom of hate we add to this world makes it still more inhospitable.’ Etty Hillesum needs to be known.”

Julio Martinez-hosted Arts in Review—celebrating the best in theater and cabaret in the Greater Los Angeles area—airs Fridays (2-2:30pm) on KPFK (90.7FM). This Friday, Feb 5, Arts in review welcomes Roger Guenveur Smith, who is staging the LA premiere of Katori Hall’s The Montaintop.

Julio Martinez

Julio Martinez

Julio pens the weekly LA STAGE Insider column for @ This Stage Magazine, as well as the monthly LA STAGE History column. He is a recurring contributor to Written By (the monthly publication of the Writer’s Guild of America) and is the TeleVision columnist for Latin Heat Entertainment. On air, he hosts the weekly Arts in Review program for KPFK 90.7 FM. An active journalist for over 30 years, Julio’s articles and reviews have appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Weekly, Stage Raw, Backstage West, Westways Magazine, and Drama-Logue Magazine, among others.