A little-known workshop that teams disabled actors with the mainstream theatrical community is staging an inventive show of original scenes loosely inspired by "King Lear" in the Gallery Theatre at Barnsdall Art Park.
"Available Light," developed by the Available Light Writing Workshop, was written by people with disabilities, and about two-thirds of the 20-member cast is disabled. The cast's greatest strength is its deliberate mix of actors in wheelchairs and, in one case, a blind actor, interacting with able-bodied performers. Ultimately, you don't respond to the disabled as disabled but as dramatic characters.
The brainchild of playwright Irene Oppenheim, with most scenes directed by Roxanne Rogers, the production's unifying concept is "Lear." But the only traditional "Lear" imagery in the show is in the introductory "Wake Me Up When It's a Musical," with a regal lady who's never acted before, Ethel Rush (who lost her leg in a Red Car accident when L.A. had streetcars), playing the King from her wheelchair/throne.
In other scenes, contemporary versions of Lear's daughters battle one another. A beautifully rendered and playful "The Fool and His King," by Judith Wolffe, features singer O-lan Jones, Mark Fite as a scrawny, lame Fool and Sam Anderson as the King represented by a gigantic set of lips chewing up his domain.
Outrageous and scary is playwright Lynn Manning's "Shoot." Manning (blinded by a bullet fired into his eye during a barroom brawl when he was 23) spins off Gloucester's blindness by playing a blind man who buys a gun(!) to protect himself on the L.A. streets.
"Available Light" illuminates.
\o7 "Available Light," Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2 p.m. Ends Sunday. $7; (213) 659-6744. Running time: 2 hours.\f7