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Past lives are in motion at L.A. Theatre Works

A new season of 'The Play's the Thing' spans centuries, with takes on

September 08, 2009|Mike Boehm

L.A. Theatre Works' 2009-10 "The Play's the Thing" season at the Skirball Cultural Center, with performances recorded for radio broadcast on KPCC-FM (89.3), will include an 18th century comedy of manners, a troika of plays from the 1920s and '30s, and a couple of works having their world premieres in 2010 -- one a documentary drama about Bobby Kennedy commissioned by L.A. Theatre Works.

As usual, the series will offer an assortment of familiar faces (for the live audience) and voices (for radio listeners). Among them are Edie Falco reprising her role as a jazz musician's wife in Warren Leight's 1999 Tony-winning drama, "Side Man" (May 12-16). It's a part Falco originated off-Broadway before gaining fame via HBO as Mafia wife Carmela Soprano. Frank Wood rejoins her as the trumpet player more devoted to his horn than his family, a role that won him a Tony.

Another cast reunion brings together Mark Ruffalo and Lauren Ambrose in Clifford Odets' Depression-era drama, "Awake and Sing!" (Jan. 13-17) -- the two having starred in a 2006 Broadway production of the show that won a Tony for best revival under director Bartlett Sher, who'll also be back for this radio version.

The two comic oldies, from the Depression and the Roaring '20s, are George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Hollywood spoof, "Once in a Lifetime" (Oct. 21-25), with Edward Asner in the cast and Hart's son, Christopher, directing; and W. Somerset Maugham's "The Constant Wife" (April 14-18), with Kate Burton back in the proto-feminist title role she played on Broadway in 2005.

For an even older example of British-accented humor there's Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops to Conquer" (June 16-20), which premiered in London in 1773. The downfall of a great comic playwright of the 19th century is the subject of Moises Kaufman's "Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" (Nov. 18-22).

Lynn Nottage, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for drama for "Ruined," her play about women war refugees in Africa, depicts an African American family in 1950s Brooklyn in her early '90s play, "Crumbs From the Table of Joy" (Dec. 9-13), with Charlayne Woodard as a flamboyant aunt who's a committed Communist.

"The Savannah Disputation" (Feb. 17-21), by Evan Smith, is a comic face-off between an evangelical Christian and a trio of Catholics, including a priest, she wants to convert to Protestantism.

One of the season's new works is a docudrama, "RFK: The Journey to Justice" (March 17-21) by Murray Horwitz and Jonathan Estrin. It traces Robert F. Kennedy's transformation from an attorney general who authorized an FBI wiretap of Martin Luther King's telephone in 1963 to a presidential candidate who championed civil rights and famously eulogized King during an Indianapolis campaign stop in 1968, two months before his own assassination. L.A. Theatre Works co-commissioned the show with campus-based performance venues at Notre Dame, the University of Maryland, Stanford and the University of Richmond, which will host the play before its arrival in L.A.

The other fresh script is about flights into fantasy: "Doctor Cerberus" (July 14-18), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's comedy about a 1980s teenager who escapes from his troubles by watching black-and-white horror films and idolizing the host of his favorite Saturday night fright-fest. Adam Arkin and JoBeth Williams are in the cast; Bart DeLorenzo directs, repeating the assignment he'll have when "Doctor Cerberus" premieres in April at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa.

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mike.boehm@latimes.com

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