'Happy Days' and Revolution

'Happy Days' and Revolution

Wayne Brady, Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams headline the local theater season’s top shows

By Jana J. Monji 09/04/2014

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Theatrical bounty abounds this fall with premieres, new adaptations, and classics re-imagined on local stages and through live-capture performances from abroad. 


One might not want to leave the sunny West Coast for New York City, but you can get a bit of Broadway in Los Angeles. Cicely Tyson will reprise her Tony Award-winning performance in “Trip to Bountiful” with Vanessa Williams and Blair Underwood at The Ahmanson (135 N. Grand Ave., downtown LA. (213) 628-2772. centertheatregroup.org) Sept. 17-Nov. 2.


From Sept. 16 through Oct. 12, there’ll be a lot of kissing going on at the Pasadena Playhouse, when Wayne Brady stars in the classic musical “Kiss Me, Kate.” 


“I am thrilled to be adding Cole Porter’s great masterpiece, one of the true classics of the American musical theater canon, to our upcoming season,” said director Sheldon Epps, who is also the Playhouse’s artistic director.


Starting Nov. 4, the Playhouse will take a more serious look at love and prejudice in the new drama “Stop Kiss,” about how a simple public display of affection between two women can cause a hate crime. The play will run through Nov. 30.


The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 274-7342, or visit pasadenaplayhouse.org.


A more abstract view of love as doom and gloom will be offered at Boston Court with the Sept. 4-Oct. 12 production of Samuel Beckett’s “Happy Days,” starring real-life married couple Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams


“I love working with Brooke,” Shalhoub said. “I’ve had two wonderful working experiences doing Beckett under Andrei Belgrader’s direction. This play is rarely done and presents a tremendous challenge and is relevant and timeless.”


Adams had a different take. 


“When Andrei asked me to do this play I couldn’t imagine why. I didn’t understand it and I didn’t see myself in it. But I knew it was a great challenge so I said yes. It was only after starting to learn the lines that the play came alive for me slowly, and now I’m hooked,” she said. “Our marriage perfectly parallels the twisted, tragic and deeply co-dependent relationship that imprisons Winnie and Willie.”


Boston Court is located at 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 683-6883, or visit bostoncourt.com/the-theatre-at-boston-court.


Roads to ruin via lust are the topics of two separate one-night stands: “Wuthering Heights” on Nov. 14 at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium and Tennessee Williams’ Southern gothic tragedy “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which will be broadcast from London to local theaters on Sept. 16. 


Caltech is located at 1200 E. California Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 395-4652, or visit caltech.edu/calendar/public-events.


For more heat and humidity, Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” will be set in Florida at A Noise Within Sept. 7-Nov. 22. Producing Artistic Director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott commented that “our seasonal theme, revolution, couldn’t be timelier.” The revolution will start with a woman, Deborah Strang, playing Prospero — and continue with Oscar Wilde’s witty “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Sept. 21-Nov. 22) and Conor McPherson’s new version of August Strindberg’s “The Dance of Death” (Oct. 12-Nov. 23).


A Noise Within is at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 356-3100, or visit anoisewithin.org.

Prospero won’t be the only role to challenge our ideas of gender. The East West Players will bring a production about the famous all-female Japanese musical theater group, “Takarazuka!!!,” to the stage of the David Henry Hwang Theatre Nov. 6-Dec. 7. The theater is located at 120 Judge John Aiso St., downtown LA. Call (213) 625-7000, or visit eastwestplayers.org. 


Pasadena has long been a destination for some of the world’s most eclectic movers and shakers, thanks to the Distinguished Speaker Series held annually at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. This fall will be no exception, as famed undersea explorer and environmentalist Fabien Cousteau offers his insights on the world’s oceans on Oct. 22 to kick off the seven-speaker season of talks. Meanwhile, bestselling author and “visionary observer” Malcolm Gladwell discusses some of the themes that have made his books including “The Tipping Point” and “Outliers” such intriguing hits on Nov. 19, with the series’ remaining guests appearing between January and May. The Distinguished Speaker Series takes place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. Tickets are sold in subscription packages ranging from $420 for all seven presentations in the best seats to $250 for a mini-package of four talks. Call (310) 546-6222 or visit either speakersla.com <http://www.speakersla.com/>  or Pasadena Civic Box Office. 


Parson’s Nose Theater celebrates its 15th year with “The Merchant of Venice” Oct. 18-19, followed by “The Pied Piper of Hamlin (A Musical)” Nov. 1-23 and “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 20-21. The company keeps things going in January with “The Barber of Seville,” “The Madwoman of Caillot” and from March 28 to April 19 “Our American Cousin,” the play President Lincoln was watching when he was mortally wounded by assassin John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Pay what you can at all performances, which are at Lineage Performing Arts Center, 89 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. Visit parsonsnose.com.


For some spookiness in your October calendar, walk the grounds of the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery (2300 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena. (323) 332-2065. wickedlit.org) and stay for three one-acts that will introduce you to “Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest,” “The Monk” and a murderous mother, “La Llorona.” The Wicked Lit productions will be staged Oct. 2-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, Oct. 29-Nov. 2 and Nov. 5-8. 


The Fremont Centre (1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. (866) 811-4111. fremontcentretheatre.com) will open its Raymond Hill Mortuary Haunted House for some interactive fun, Oct. 18-Nov. 1.


Those who don’t want to get in touch with the dead can enjoy the chills of Bela Bartok’s one-act opera about the infamous “Bluebeard’s Castle” at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (135 N. Grand Ave., downtown LA. musiccenter.org), Oct. 25-Nov. 15.


While you might think it’s too early for department stores to be putting out Christmas fare, it’s not too early to get tickets to holiday productions such as A Noise Within’s “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 1-23) or “Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight” at the Pasadena Playhouse (Dec. 10-Jan. 4). The Sierra Madre Playhouse will present “A Little House Christmas,” homey holiday tales adapted from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories, Nov. 28-Dec. 28.


The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Call (626) 355-4318, or visit sierramadreplayhouse.org. 

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