One of Australia's most-produced plays, the hopeful '7 Stages of Grieving,' hits L.A.
With fire burning across the region, we would direct your attention to the cooler-headed offerings at L.A.’s small theaters this weekend. But the thing is, theater is often inspired by outrage, controversy and incendiary revelations. We’ll have to fight fire with fire: the American premiere of “The 7 Stages of Grieving,” a landmark play that gives voice to indigenous Australians; Judith Leora’s dramedy “Elijah,” in which strangers debate the death penalty during a storm; and the political fireworks of “The Best Man,” Gore Vidal’s 1960 election satire. For some juice to counteract all the heat, we suggest “Orry,” a show based on the dishy autobiography of 1930s Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly.
‘The 7 Stages of Grieving’ at the Skylight
The essentials: Written in 1994 by Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman, “The 7 Stages of Grieving” has become one of Australia’s most produced plays. In poetic, poignant and humorous monologues, one woman — played here by Chenoa Deemal — sums up the history of the Aboriginal peoples of Australia: the way they lived before the British arrived, and their ongoing struggle for recognition and equality.
Why this? America, like Australia, was founded upon conquest, the displacement of a real, rich and complex culture. The tone of “The 7 Stages of Grieving” isn’t so much accusatory as hopeful, a step toward acknowledgment and reconciliation. According to Time Out Sydney, “There is a remarkable generosity at the heart of this ferocious yet tender story of institutional and historical suffering.”
Details: Skylight Theatre, 1816½ N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Thursdays, through Nov. 24. $20-$35. (866) 811-4111, skylighttheatre.org or ovationtix.com.
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‘Elijah’ at the Victory
The essentials: Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny, artistic directors of Burbank’s Victory Theatre Center, produced the premiere of Judith Leora’s workplace comedy “Showpony” last year. They’re following up that success with the West Coast premiere of Leora’s “Elijah,” a play about six people stranded by bad weather (the fictional Hurricane Elijah) in a TGI Fridays outside Houston. A serial killer is scheduled for execution in a nearby prison, and these strangers have nothing but time to hash out their views.
Why this? The scenario may sound more like an existential hell than uproarious fun, but Leora has a light touch with heavy issues. “We try to pick material that reflects our complicated times and still entertains,” Ormeny says. Of “Showpony,” Times reviewer F. Kathleen Foley wrote, “It’s rollicking entertainment that addresses the current political climate from a fiercely feminist perspective.”
Details: Victory Theatre Center, 3226 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 15. $28-$40. (818) 841-5421, thevictorytheatrecenter.org.
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‘The Best Man’ at the Lounge
The essentials: What would Gore Vidal, who died in 2012, have had to say about the upcoming presidential election? Probably a lot. An intellectual and political commentator who ran twice (unsuccessfully) for office, Vidal once declared, “There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.” He also wrote the quintessential American presidential-election satire “The Best Man,” which is being revived at the Lounge.
Why this? Intended — and received, at its 1960 Broadway premiere — as a thinly veiled attack on the Kennedys and Nixon, an endorsement of Adlai Stevenson and a warning about the effects of television on how we choose candidates, “The Best Man” hasn’t lost its insider-ish allure. Compared to what we are used to now, of course, its behind-the-scenes scheming is bound to feel a bit tame. But its elegant plotting, uncanny prophecies and (relatively) gentlemanly candidates serve as a provocative reminder of how quickly things can change, on the theatrical stage as well as the political one.
Details: The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. Opens Saturday. Performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 8. $30. (323) 960-7787, onstage411.com/bestman.
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‘Orry’ at the Lee Strasberg
The essentials: The Australian-born Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly won three Oscars and created the most glorious gowns of golden age movies. His memoir, “Women I’ve Undressed,” ended up inside a pillowcase in a laundry room in suburban Sydney, where it was discovered 51 years later. Actor, producer and now writer Nick Hardcastle has spun its delicious revelations into this new show, directed by Wayne Harrison, former artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company.
Why this? A better question might be “Why not this?” If humor is tragedy plus time, as Mark Twain suggested, then history could be described as tawdry gossip plus time. “No, thank you, I’m not interested in a cheeky Australian’s 1930s dressing-room tales about Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe and romantic adventures with Cary Grant,” said no one ever.
Details: Lee Strasberg Theatre, Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, 7936 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Opens Saturday. Performances 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays, through Nov. 11. (See website for additional performances.) $35. (855) 326-9945, Gentleman-George.com.
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You always can find our latest theater coverage at latimes.com/theater. Recent news and reviews have focused on “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Hollywood Pantages, “Aubergine” at South Coast Rep, “Ravenswood Manor” from Celebration, “Urban Death” at Zombie Joe’s, Mike Birbiglia’s “The New One” at the Ahmanson, “Buried Child” at A Noise Within, “1984″ from Actors’ Gang, “Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Fountain, “The Abuelas” at Antaeus and “Gem of the Ocean” at A Noise Within.
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