BETWEEN the crowds, street performers and preachers, it's easy to miss the Promenade Playhouse, tucked behind a nondescript door along the Third Street Promenade. That's a shame, because on Fridays and Saturdays one of the quirkier offerings on L.A.'s late-night theater scene -- "Money & Run: Episode 1" -- is unfolding before a packed house.
Written and directed by Wayne Rawley, the play began life in Seattle's Theater Schmeater in the summer of '99 as both parody and homage to Rawley's childhood love of the over-the-top action of "Dukes of Hazzard" and "Knight Rider." And, like TV, he wrote in serial form -- there are eight more episodes, each self-contained plays.
"I wanted to write something short and funny that didn't try to say too much -- the opposite of my first play ... a 3 1/2 -hour rock 'n' roll musical about the end of the world," says Rawley, 37, a bear of a man who brought the play to L.A. after a post-Seattle stint at Berkeley's Impact Theater.
The action begins as our lead couple meet cute -- they're trying to rob the same convenience store. Love, mayhem and bad dialogue (it's intended) ensue. The vibe is loose with free beer and wine iced down in a tub. The theater itself is tiny -- 60 seats. The audience is a mix of hipsters, aspiring actors and older hard-core theater fans. Others stumble upon the performance by accident.
"People are out and looking for something to do," said Rawley, "and the energy out there is just amazing." For now, that energy is all Rawley needs to keep "Money" running.
"Money & Run: Episode 1," 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays,Promenade Playhouse, 1404 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. Through June 6. $15. For info: moneyandrun.net or (323) 960-5774.