According to Cornerstone Theater Company, "Zones" is "part play, part community forum" in which audiences can "share their thoughts and experiences as the action unfolds around them." It is "a new theatrical construction, built at the intersection of performance and community dialogue."
And, as zoning variance hearings go, it's fairly intriguing.
The audience members enter the performance as concerned citizens from a specific neighborhood. In last Saturday's performance, the audience "played" residents of Hacienda Heights; the performance took place at a meeting room in the Hacienda Heights Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple.
The hearing, run by Judith Tetley-Stone (Amy Hill), addresses a proposed house of worship, the Center for Exquisite Balance. Many in the area don't want this vaguely cult-y "alternative faith group" building a new home here. One opposition voice comes from a local Christian minister, Pastor Thomas (Shishir Kurup). He doesn't like any religion worshiping two gods instead of one.
One of the pastor's parishioners, Monica (Barbara Roberts), has "lost" a daughter, Renee (Diana Elizabeth Jordan), to the religion in question. Both Monica and Renee have decided to attend the hearing. As "Zones" unfolds, playwright Peter Howard attempts to personalize and localize his larger theological debate--deliberately open-ended--by way of this mother-daughter conflict.
Are those opposed to the building acting out of religious intolerance? That's one question among many. The audience interaction segments include a brainstorming session on the subject of why the temple might be a good thing. Two suggestions born of the Saturday audience were "promotes diversity" and "nice-looking design."
At one point, audience members form two circles and share memories of religious worship. As a wrap-up, audience members are encouraged to talk about what faith means. The show's subtitle asks a question of its own: "Where does your soul live, and is there sufficient parking?"
Playwright Howard and director Bill Rauch conceived "Zones" as part of Cornerstone's ongoing "Festival of Faith." The show will play various L.A.-area houses of worship. Reviewing it, frankly, is pretty strange--like reviewing a planning commission hearing that turns into group therapy, followed by a group hug.
But you know? It got people talking. Which isn't the worst thing right now.
"Zones," Cornerstone Theater Company. Sunday, 3 p.m., Los Angeles Baha'i Center, 5755 Rodeo Road, Baldwin Hills; Oct. 28, 4 p.m., Faith United Methodist Church, 1713 W. 108th St., South-Central L.A.; Nov. 1, 7:30 p.m., Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, 815 E. 1st St., L.A.; Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m., Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills; Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m., New Horizon School, 651 N. Orange Grove Blvd., Pasadena. Ends Nov. 9. Pay what you can. Reservations required: (213) 613-1740. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Donald Bishop: Keeper
Amy Hill: Judith Tetley-Stone
Diana Elizabeth Jordan: Renee Lark
Shishir Kurup: Pastor Thomas
Armando Molina: Byron Bannerstamm
Barbara Roberts: Monica Lark
Written by Peter Howard. Directed by Bill Rauch. Creative and dialogue consultant Dani Bedau. Costumes by Christopher Acebo. Set and lighting design by Geoff Korf. Sound by Paul James Predergast. Production managers Geoff Korf and Amy Hiett.