Two highly commendable plays to talk about this week… Both starring dedicated and much loved veteran actresses…
Women of Spoon River, Their Voices from the Hill – A World Premiere
This chilling new one-woman play was conceived by its star, Lee Meriwether, and Jim Hesselman, who also artfully directs the production. Continued from the 1915 volume of poems by Edgar Lee Masters… then titled “Spoon River Anthology,” we are privy to the innermost feelings of the ladies who lived there. The original adaption with a full cast, ran here at Theatre West 40 years ago, and then moved to Broadway (starring Betty Garrett and Joyce Van Patten… with Meriwether understudying both roles). This production is gut-wrenchingly performed “solo” by Lee Meriwether, as she reveals the secrets, hearts and souls of 26 of the deceased women who lived in the small Illinois town of Spoon River. Issues including marriage, lust, death, insanity, regrets, passion, childbirth and more… dramatically unfold. Difficult to properly summarize for you- and monumentally challenging for its solo star to enact- this is a worthy and reminiscent, though mind-bendingly complex, journey. She hopes to tour the play on college campuses. You’ll surely recognize the lovely Meriwether (Miss America in 1955) from her illustrious career. She was nominated for both Emmy and Golden Globes for her stint on “Barnaby Jones,” worked on “Mission Impossible,” played Catwoman in “Batman” in 1966, and has been featured in countless stage shows and musicals. She currently plays Ruth Martin on TV’s “All My Children.” Lee is a wonderful actress and a class act! Moody lighting by Yancey Dunham and music by Kenneth Atkins perfectly set the mood for this eerie telling. For a mesmerizingly haunting 60 minutes of compelling “live” theatre, offered by an agelessly stunning respected stage actress of stage and screen… do take the time to meet the soulful and troubled women of “Spoon River”!
Running through February 13th at Theatre West – 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, in Los Angeles (near Studio City). $15 admission; for seats, call (323) 851-7977.
This sounds like fun! Theatre West offers monthly “Musical Bingo” at the Sherman Oaks Women’s Club… kicking off on February 20th from 2pm ‘til 5pm (4808 Kester). Proceeds will benefit their non-profit theatre, so they can continue to offer theatrical excellence. At least $1,100 in cash prizes, in addition to raffle prizes, will be awarded! Also, T.W. members will intermittently perform musically throughout the bingo session. For more information, call (323) 851-4839.
The Trip to Bountiful
This is a flawless production in every aspect of “live” theatre! The heartfelt direction, performances, sets, costumes and storyline… perfectly intertwine, offering a rewarding theatrical experience for the audience. Since their mentor Lonny Chapman’s death in 2007, after 34 years as the group’s beloved and savvy Artistic Director, the members have struggled a bit to “revive” the magic. Many company members have come and gone… and the play “choices” have been inconsistent (some wonderful… and some “not so much”). A case of “too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” I think. Under their recent reign as Co-Artistic Directors, I feel Larry Eisenberg and Chris Winfield will bring Lonny’s vision back to life! This well-produced and deeply-moving current offering strongly feels like the “old days” here. No doubt Lonny is smiling down on them with this one! This marks the first in their exciting season of six offerings this year. The next one will be the chilling “Wait Until Dark,” opening on April 1st.
Written by the brilliant writer Horton Foote, this cerebrally touching and poignantly simple story earned Geraldine Page an Oscar for the film version. Larry Eisenberg (assisted by Drina Durazo) directs his fine cast with simmering passion and remarkable depth. Gwen Van Dam is breathtakingly believable as the elderly Carrie Watts, deeply longing to revisit her hometown of Bountiful, Texas… one last time. Living with her loving, but overly protective, son (a grippingly solid Kent Butler) and his narcissistic wife (a deliciously despicable Gina Yates), her past attempts to return home have been thwarted. Finally, she sneaks out, and makes the trip “home” on a bus. She befriends Thelma, a sweet young bride on the trip (a charmingly effective Liza de Weerd) and the two form a relationship neither will ever forget. In strong supporting roles, Stan Mazin, Bert Emmett and Henry Holden, as bus station employees, offer quirky spot-lit moments, and Patrick Skelton is “small town loveable” as the kindly sheriff. A perfectly selected and skilled cast all around! The phenomenally creative set design by Mark Macauley, attractive 1940’s costumes by Cheryl Butler, lighting by Jazmin Lopez, and sound by Steve Shaw… round out the excellence of this “must see” production. Running through March 6th at the Lonny Chapman Theatre – 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. For seats ($15 through $22), call (818) 700-4878.
Director, Eisenberg, onstage in a preshow chat, made a statement that stuck in my heart that I’d like to share with you. He said, “The audience is the air that we breathe.” Folks… once again, I urge you to support LA Theatre!
Tune in again next week… I have two more productions to see, and share with you.