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Now Hitting Downtown's Stages

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, May 21, 2010, at 04:22PM
Bardot Ed Fuentes

Lighting designer Dan Reed lit this Arts District warehouse for Padua Playwrights' "Hotel Bardot" earlier this May.

So far this year, ensemble work from small theater companies are a bigger contrast to the big budget operas that are a cultural marathon for audiences. It makes for a year, that so far, has Downtown Los Angeles' stages filled with a wide range of performances.

RING CYCLE: While the controversy and backstage drama is worthy of a Wagner opera, the real thing known as The Ring begins. The four-opera "Ring" cycle, a 19-hour epic, is the centerpiece for the Ring Festival L.A. from May 29 to June 26. Also, classical music radio station KUSC will broadcast, in pre-recorded form, the massive undertaking during "LA Opera on Air."

COMPANY OF ANGELS: At the Black Box Theater, CoA offers "Ballad of Sad Young Man" by Jerome A. Parker, with rap lyrics by Cornell C. Parker, and directed by Marlene Forte. In this CoA Wings Project, a soldier named Joe revisits a childhood haunt on the eve of returning to war. Without direction and bent on personal destruction, his childhood friends help him work through his personal battles before shipping out. Performances are May 24 through May 30 at the Black Box Theater, located on the 3rd Floor of the Alexandria Hotel.

Also, Company of Angels travels out of Downtown for their World Premiere of "Chasing Monsters." Friday, May 21th is Student Night, and features a Talk Back with the playwright, director, cast and crew. Runs until June 30 at the Son of Semele Theater, located at 3301 Beverly Boulevard.

LATC: Latino Theater Company at Los Angeles Theatre Center takes on "Dementia," which was awarded the 2002 GLAAD Award for Outstanding Theater production in Los Angeles. The story of a dying man inviting his closested friends for a 'going-away-for-good party' leads to the letting out of demented fantasies through his alter ego, a torch-singing drag queen. The L.A. Times writes that "Director José Luis Valenzuela stages this Latino Theater Company production with unerring tonal control, and his ensemble could not be better. López is hilarious and heartbreaking as Moe, while Cole carries the house from his first rendition of 'My Life'".

Also at LATC is "1951-2006," a romance between a war veteran confined in a wheelchair and a woman who moves in across the hall. With American pop culture and history as the background soundtrack, we follow the recurring romance until its poignant end in 2006.

Los Angeles Theatre Center is located at 514 S. Spring St. "Dementia" closes May 30. "1951-2006" runs until June 13.

CORNERSTONE THEATER COMPANY: Grand Performances will open Cornerstone Theater Company's "3 Truths" on June 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12. The Arts District-based theater company converts California Plaza into a judicial arena where "fates are decided and lives hang in the balance." The quest is "to uncover three truths: your truth, my truth, and the truth." "3 Truths" is written by Naomi Iizuka and Directed by Micheal John Garcés.

XRT: Another Arts District entry, X Repertory Company winds down a run of one-act comedies by Christopher Durang. Durang Durang closes this weekend, on May 23. XRT is located at 1581 Industrial St.

PEE-WEE SENT PACKING: New York is showing some excitement for a production that made its debut in Downtown L.A. earlier this year. The New York Times and Playbill started spreading the news that "The Pee-wee Herman Show" will be mounted at Broadway's Stephan Sondheim Theater for a six-week Holiday run beginning October 26. A bulk of the cast that appeared in the production held at Club NOKIA will follow the man-child to the Great White Way. If all goes well, the secret word can become a secret phrase: Extended-Run.

CENTER THEATER GROUP: It will be no surprise if "Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo" finds its way to Broadway. It debuted at the Center Theater Group's Kirk Douglas Theater before its current incarnation at the Mark Taper Forum. The The New York Times reviewed the play that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama: "Mr. [Rajiv] Joseph’s play is wonderfully daring in its imaginative scope, convincingly evoking the fraught relationships between the occupying American soldiers and the frightened, suspicious Iraqi civilians." It runs until May 30.

Add: The National Touring company of the Lincoln Center Production of "South Pacific opens at the Ahmanson Theater May 27.

LAST CALL: A solid 44th season winds down at East West Players who are now closing this years theme "Art Is..." with the world premiere of "Road to Saigon,", developed and directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. Runs until June 13.

FEW DAYS LEFT: REDCAT winds down its 2009-2010 Sharon Disney Lund Dance Series with the L.A. premiere of "There Is An Elephant In This Dance." Beginning in New York and Washington DC, Los Angeles dance artist Lionel Popkin brings the original ensemble of Carolyn Hall, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Peggy Piacenza, Popkin, and a trio of musicians including composer Robert Een to REDCAT. It becomes a humorous evening of movement and music playing off a plush pachyderm that is plodding along with grace, allowing the ensemble to explore cultural identities. Only until May 23.

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