Electrifying entertainment

Electrifying entertainment

Local theaters fill the weekend with stories about geniuses, misfits and scoundrels

By Carl Kozlowski 05/02/2013

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With the summer movie season fast approaching, virtually all available entertainment will either be packed with spectacular action and special effects or shockingly memorable gross-out gags. So local live-performance lovers should make sure they get out of the house this weekend and see a surprising array of interesting shows at four area theaters.

The Pasadena Playhouse is on a hot streak following its record-breaking success with the musical “One Night with Janis Joplin.” At 6 p.m. Saturday, the Playhouse artistic team works with The Experimental Performance Laboratory at Caltech to present a one-night-only staged reading of “TESLA, a Radio Play for the Stage,” featuring the intriguing star combo of veteran sitcom star French Stewart (“Third Rock from the Sun”) and popular KPCC radio host and author Sandra Tsing Loh.

Director Michael Arabian and writer Dan Duling team up with sound effects expert Tony Palermo to tell the true story of Nikola Tesla’s life as a brilliant but controversial inventor and futurist during the late-19th and early-20th century. Tesla’s volatile relationship with Thomas Edison, his allegiance with George Westinghouse and his confrontation with the power brokers of American business are recounted from the perspective of the possible implications of his work on national security. A post-show conversation and reception with the playwright, actors and director will follow, with a portion of the event’s proceeds directly supporting Theater Arts at Caltech.

“Pasadena is the city of arts and science,” Playhouse Executive Director Elizabeth Doran says about the show in a prepared statement. “How better to celebrate this fact than through a partnership between the Pasadena Playhouse and Caltech?  Stories about science are exquisitely matched to theater — science is dramatic, bold, exciting, daring, miraculous, and these are the qualities we look for in creating great theater.”

“This project is unique because it features actors from the multi-talented Caltech/JPL community alongside professional actors from the theater and film world,” says Theater Arts at Caltech Director Brian Brophy. “The staging will be intriguing to Pasadena audiences, as it is a rare opportunity to see a radio drama with multiple voices, archival footage and live sound effects.”

“TESLA, A Radio Play for the Stage” will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Single ticket prices are $20 in advance for general admission, or pay what you can at the door on the evening of the performance. Tickets are available by calling the Pasadena Playhouse Box Office at (626) 356-7529 or visiting pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Across town, A Noise Within presents “The Beaux Strategem,” the story of two penniless gentlemen who travel the English countryside searching for wealthy women to seduce into marriage. The ruse takes a twist when they actually do fall in love with a beautiful young woman. The play runs through May 26. A Noise Within is at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Tickets are $40 to $52. Call (626) 356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org for more information.

Those looking for laughs should enjoy the Sierra Madre Playhouse’s production of “God’s Man in Texas,” the story of a Houston mega-church’s search to replace its aging pastor and the sins of the past coming back to haunt the man chosen as the liaison in the hunt for a younger replacement. It continues through May 18 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Tickets are $25 general, $22 for seniors, $15 for youth 13 to 21 and $12 for children 12 and under. Call (626) 355-4318 or visit sierramadreplayhouse.org.

Another play that mines laughs but also has its serious and touching moments is the classic “True West” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Sam Shepard. It offers a spin on sibling rivalry, exploring the conflict between screenwriter Austin, on the verge of a big break, and his shifty older brother, Lee, who wants in on his brother’s imagined glamorous lifestyle. The play continues through May 25 at Stages of Grey Theatre, 299 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena. Tickets are $30 general admission, $27 for seniors and military personnel. Call (866) 811-4111 or visit stagesofgray.com.

Finally, The Theatre @ Boston Court presents the Dan Dietz play “American Misfit,” the post-Revolutionary War story of the Harpe brothers, who launched a murderous counter-revolution against the new democracy. The play, set to rockabilly music, explores our addiction to revolution, skewering the American idea of change. It continues at 8 p.m. May 12 with an additional performance May 8. The Theatre @ Boston Court is at 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $34. Call (626) 683-6883 or visit bostoncourt.com.

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