I have two plays to tell you about this week. As different as they could possibly be … both are worthy of your time.

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Cooperstown

Photo by Mathew Caine

From l, Cecil Burroughs, TJ McNeill, and Alexa Shoemaker star in the West Coast Premiere of the Road Theatre Company’s production of “Cooperstown,” written by Brian Golden, directed by Darryl Johnson, and now playing at the Road Theatre Company’s second home, The Road on Magnolia.

This is the first full production presented by the highly regarded “Road Theatre Company,” in their gorgeous second theatrical “home” on Magnolia in NoHo. Having offered countless award winning and thought provoking original plays on Lankershim, above The NoHo Arts Center for two decades … this second theatre space allows them to expand their horizons, and double “our” pleasure. They are now “One Road … two destinations.” Congrats to Co-Artistic Directors, Taylor Gilbert and Sam Anderson! Cooperstown, written with true to life grit, humor, and unbridled passion, by Brian Golden, this is an all American story about baseball … and self worth. Director, Darryl Johnson, inspires his cast to give heartfelt performances, individually as well as in the ensemble effort! Unfolding in a small town diner in Cooperstown, New York, in 1962, Jackie Robinson is soon to be honored as the first negro baseball player inducted into The Baseball Hall of Fame. When it is announced that Robinson will bring his family to the local diner for a meal … the lives of five people are turned upside down. Junior, the underappreciated black diner manager (a gutwrenching Cecil Burroughs) sees this historical event as a way to prove his worth and gain respect, leading to a pay raise. His little sister (a dynamic Jamye Grant), involved with a radical group, is part of a protest to stop Robinson’s visit … and ends up in jail. When a high spirited young minor league baseball player turns up … chasing after his idol (a loveably multi-faceted T.J. McNeill) he falls for a diner waitress named Dylan (a delightfully quirky Alexa Shoemaker). As the communication between her husband who owns the diner and Junior becomes strained, Grace has much more on her mind than baseball! (A heartfelt performance by Ann Hu; visit her IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1124782/.) The multilayered journey and the final outcome here, are compellingly entertaining, and heart touching. As always with this troupe, the “behind the scenes” efforts are magically mood setting. High praise goes out to the incomparable Desma Murphey for a beautifully detailed set design, Jocelyn Hublau Parker for costume design, David B. Marling for sound, and Derrick McDaniel for lighting. Do see this one! The Road Theatre people in my opinion, are one of the most electrifying and innovative theatre troupes in Los Angeles. They never disappoint … and now they have two locations in which to spin their magic! Running through July 20 at The Road on Magnolia located at 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in NoHo. For tickets call (866) 506-1248 or visit RoadTheatre.org.

Fool For Love

Photo by Deverill Weekes

Chad Doreck and Lauren Plaxco in “Fool For Love.”

Written by Sam Shepard, known worldwide for viewing life from the dark side … this disturbingly intense script is no exception. Under the steamy and powerful direction of Gloria Gifford … an excellent cast of four actors held the audience captive with explosively focused depictions, from start to finish. Eddie, a brash rodeo stuntman with an obsession for May, that’s endured for many years, once again bursts into her life … finding her in a seedy motel room in the Mojave Desert. “Off and On” for as long as either of them cares to count, their combative sexual attraction for each other is an uncontrollable and unhealthy state of “affairs.” Chad Doreck as Eddie, and Lauren Plaxco as May, give brilliant and wildly physical performances, as two lost souls whose violently volatile relationship is an ongoing nightmare! Excellent depiction also by Zach Killian, as the “nice guy” May is casually dating, who gets thrown in the middle of their drama. Sitting mysteriously onstage off to the side throughout the play, is an older man. He intermittently shares stories and shocking facts about the undying and unhealthy bond between Eddie and May (a haunting performance by Robert May). Violent, freaky, sex driven and combative … this is not a play for prudish or easily offended theatre goers. If you can handle a dose of harsh reality, on the psychologically unstable and kinky side … this is a powerfully intriguing play. Certainly not a romantic story with a happy, gooey ending … but then Sam Shepard’s claim to fame has never been for writing fairy tales! Technical kudos to: Jeffrey Casciano (set design), Chris Rivera (moody lighting), and Tracey Nelson, and Justin Truesdale (sound design). A pulseatingly powerful theatrical experience! Running through June 23 at T.U. Studios located at 10943 Camarillo St. in North Hollywood (entrance in back). For tickets call (310) 366-5505 or online at tix.com.

 See you next week….

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