Coming next weekend, the opening of #Measure4Measure. We hope to see you for the preview, Friday, June 2nd, with free champagne, or the Saturday opening night with a Renaissance-themed buffet. Make your reservations now!
A new version of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure
for City Garage by Charles A. Duncombe
June 2 – July 9, 2023
Vienna is corrupt, brimming with sex and vice. The Duke, lax in enforcing the strict laws, leaves the city in the hands of a puritanical reformer eager to impose moral order. This substitute begins ordering executions but when a beautiful young novice, pleading for the life of her brother, provokes his own lust, he resorts to sexual blackmail. When she threatens to expose him, he mocks her. Who would believe her rather than him? In this version of Shakespeare’s play for City Garage, gender politics, power, and sexuality are examined through a contemporary lens. A cast of seven, playing multiple characters, takes a text from 1604 and creates an intense, darkly comic, biting commentary on our own times. Then, as now, power and sex are inextricably entwined and the question of how to obtain justice remains just as difficult to answer.
CAC Grant—We made it thanks to all of you!
Many thanks to Roger Marheine and Peggy Flood who put us over the top in our final effort to match the grant we got last fall from the California Arts Council. So many of you stepped up to help over the last months. We’re so grateful. Thank you again to all of you for helping to keep the work going at City Garage!
Last Monday, Stage Raw held their annual Awards Ceremony. “The Penelopiad” was awarded “Distinguished Production of the Year.” Congratulations to the cast and everyone who worked on the production. Charles and I also received their “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Steven Leigh Morris, Publisher/ Editor of Stage Raw, and Faye Viviana, Executive Producer of Crimson Square Theatre, presented the award and this is what they said:
Sometime in 1989, maybe it was 1990, but it was a long time ago, I was a lot younger then, and so were the co-founders of City Garage Theatre, who we’re honoring tonight. I don’t remember why exactly, but I was on the Santa Monica Pier, and I noticed this theater putting on a play by Harold Pinter. Let that sink in. Harold Pinter, on the Santa Monica Pier. Outside, it was the sound of calliopes and screaming kids and the smells of popcorn and sunscreen. And inside, on this stage there was a kind of stark terror, absurdist repartee, Pinteresque pauses, I remember slivers of sunlight oozing in through tiny cracks in the building where you could still hear those calliopes and I couldn’t help wonder what the hell is going on here? This was not the first production by City Garage and its co-founders, Frederique Michel and Charles Duncombe, who we’re honoring tonight . The organization started putting on plays 1987 at the off-Main Theater, also in Santa Monica. We’re now in 2023 and the company has never left Santa Monica, though they’ve been in several theaters there.
One of them was tucked in an alley of the Third Street Promenade – the embodiment of consumerism. And of course, many of the plays they put on railed against consumerism. Why not? It’s sort of like putting on a play at the beach that rails against the surf. That’s part of what they do. Defiance. Much of what they defy, and have always defied, is the odds. The odds of sustaining a defiant theater of ideas in a complacent culture.
They’ve done plays from all over the world, plays by Fassbinder, Mueller, Margaret Atwood, Charles Mee, Caryl Churchill, Sarah Kane, and Eugene O’Neill, and plays written by their own Managing Director, Charles Duncombe. Their Artistic Director Frederique Michel is French, which means they’ve also done Moliere, and Ionesco. Moliere and Charles Mee probably sit most comfortably with traditional audiences, But Frederique, who directs all their shows, usually directs her actors to move with a kind of arch, presentational choreography that’s very hard to execute well. But they’ve been at it so long, that they’ve discovered a way to communicate with their actors so that the style looks, well, natural.
They’ve made the unnatural look natural. They’ve made defiance entertaining, for 36 years they’ve provoked and stimulated and offended and done everything that the theater does best, but rarely dares to. And 36 years later, they’re still here, adapting, surviving, and, in moments, thriving. It’s with great pleasure that Stage Raw presents its 2023 Lifeime Achievement Award to Frederique Michel and Charles Duncombe.
So many thanks to you, our loyal audience, for being with us through this journey of 35 years. But there is more to come. Next week we’ll tell you about our next production coming up, our own City Garage version of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.”
It’s the last weekend for “Cardenio.” If you haven’t yet seen it, come join the fun onstage for “Cardenio.” Just four performances left. Make your reservations today!
Top Ten – Recommended!
“In Michel’s propulsive and imaginative staging, the actors, including Jason Pereira, Angela Beyer, Kat Johnston, Loosema Hakverdian, and Andy Kallok, pitch their performances just shy of slapstick. Scene-stealer Dunn, in particular, chews the scenery with brio, but the entire cast is engaging and well-matched. It all makes for a delightful entertainment, to be sure. But dig a bit deeper and you might discover a heartfelt Valentine to the transformative power of the theater, a fitting message not only for this play, but for City Garage’s enduring mandate.”
— Stage Raw
“What’s magical about this moment isn’t simply the transformation of an actor [Tory Dunn] before our eyes (though that’s pretty great). It’s the self-awareness of the play and the production itself. It’s a bit like the play is winking at us and saying — ‘Yes, it’s all been a bit over the top up until now. We know. But it’s part of the magic of theater. And isn’t that really why we’re all here?’….More than a love letter simply to these prior plays, it’s a love letter to theater itself.”
“High paced wit and slapstick comedy….Enjoy this piece and have a great laugh or two in the process!
— Accessibly Live Off-Line
“Mischief and misunderstandings commence, splashed with copious amounts of self-deceit, questioning, art, and that most dangerous of all substances in this world, Truth….Dunn delivers a tour-de-force which nicely portrays how art can impact life for the better.”
— The World Through Night-Tinted Glasses
“Michel has choreographed…a pair of scene changes are absolute delights. There’s also some very good work being done on Charles Duncombe’s Italian countryside set, most notably by Beyer (who delivers some priceless “reaction shots”), real-life couple Duncan and Roberts as a couple of quintessential show people, Johnston’s embittered Doris, and Dunn’s molto spumante Rudi. Best of all is the tall, dark, and handsome Sannazzaro, displaying effortless comedic panache as Anselmo while radiating the kind of charisma that had audiences swooning over Rupert Everett in My Best Friend’s Wedding.”
— StageScene LA
Cardenio by Stephen Greenblatt and Charles L. Mee
February 24 – March 26, 2023
Come and join us in the sunny hills of Italy for a romantic adventure as three mis-matched couples struggle to sort themselves out—even a newly married bride and groom! Noted Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt and Obie Award-winning playwright Charles L. Mee have re-made a “lost” comedy of Shakespeare’s into a contemporary delight. Anselmo, uncertain of his young bride Camila’s love persuades his best man to put her to the test. Her furious reaction, when she finds out, manages to send all three couples into confusion as their own conflicts come out in the open—with results that at first seem disastrous, but of course, end happily. Working from such texts as exist for this “holy grail” of Shakespeare lovers, Greenblatt and Mee have crafted a joyful play with all the hallmarks of Shakespeare’s great comedies: playful, sensual, sexy, filled with exuberant language, an intoxicating affirmation of the power of love—even if it begins in confusion.
Voice From Ukraine 2
Many thanks to all those who came to the reading last week. We raised $900. If you weren’t able to be there, we will post a video soon. For more information on how you can contribute to charities working on the ground in Ukraine, or to buy the book supporting Ukrainian writers, follow this link: Voices from Ukraine 2 Vote For Us!
City Garage is a finalist as one of Santa Monica’s “Most Loved Businesses.”We’re listed under “Live Entertainment Venues” Please vote for us! Here is a link:
It’s the last weekend for “The Penelopiad.” Don’t miss it! We were sold out last weekend so if you haven’t made your reservations, do it now. Critics have been saying some wonderful things:
Top Ten! Recommended!
“To see a cast of 13 women onstage is a delight, and to see 11 of them metamorphose into a raft of ducks, a ship, a group of weavers, a pair of sacrificial animals, and more — feels like a modern yet anciently rooted chorus at its best and is a credit to Frédérique Michel’s choreography and direction.”
—Amanda L. Andrei, Stage Raw
“Yet another amazing and arousing production at City Garage Theatre retelling the story of the Trojan War. With choreography, singing and nudity… plenty of it!”
—Edward Goldman, Art Matters
“What really makes up the beating heart of this production are the twin beats of ritual and theme. In a true echo of Greece’s ancient theatre, much here is made of dance and masks….The way the cast members became ships, became waves, became ghosts, became slaughtered animals, etc. was part of how director Frederique Michel brought a frankly difficult play to life….A wonderful dive into the imagination.”
—David McDowell Blue, The World Through Night Tinted Glasses
“Approaches the “hallelujah” level!”
—Don Shirley, Angeles Stage
“Masterful… The Penelopiad stands out as one of City Garage’s most memorable productions.”
Please note that while masks and proof of COVID-19 vaccination are no longer required at City Garage, both are strongly recommended for the safety of our performers, staff, and other audience members.
Help us make our Match!
Thanks to all who have contributed so far toward our goal of $27,000 to match the new grant we received from the Caflifornia Arts Council. Merci to our new donors of this last week, Elizabeth Oakes, Samuel Goldstein, and Roger Director, So far, thanks to all of you, we’ve raised $11,750.
Ruth Flinkman and Ben Marandy
Kat Adibi (in memory of Bill Moynihan)
Holly and Harold Dunnigan
Michelle and Curt Wittig
Lisa and Bill Gray
Pamela St. Clair Johnson
Berta Finkelstein and Bill Claiborn
Sharon and Chester Graine
Geraldine Fuentes Elizabeth Oakes and Samuel Goldstein
Can you please, please help us get the rest of the way before the end of the month? Make your gift by following this link:
Join us at the beach for sun and fun with our sexy cast for the final weekend of “Beach People.” It’s been a hit with both audiences and critics. Don’t miss your last chance to see it before it leaves the stage.
Top Ten! Recommended!
“Michel’s staging balances the humor and pathos with equal panache and her cast does not equivocate. Beyer and Thompson hold our sympathy as the angst-ridden couple, and they deliver Duncombe’s machine-gun dialogue with skill and flamboyance.”
— Stage Raw
“Impressively acted by a skin-revealing cast of four….Amazing…a hoot!”
— Stage Scene LA
“Who ever heard of an existentialist rom com?….This is a fun idea. More though, it is a funny show….both broad and subtle….Genuinely delightful as well as silly (and painfully true).”
— The World Through Night Tinted Glasses
“A fast paced comical drama…leaning toward a lot of life’s questions that hold no answers. And that’s the best part!”
— Accessibly Live Off-Line
“Where is happiness found if not on a beach? It is that irony that is the center-piece to the theatrical excitement and excellently florid script of Beach People….which sings in the laughable absurdity of being inundated in such a technologically complex world whereby no one has any idea of how any of it all works.”
— Joseph Hazani, A Dilettante
If you haven’t got your tickets yet, get them today!
City Garage Underground: Final two shows of “Somebody Somewhere” by Anthony Sannazzaro
And don’t miss the last two performances of “Somebody Somewhere,” the first in our new City Garage Underground series. Written and directed Anthony Sannazzaro, the piece centers on a young man reliving the defining moments of his life and a man and woman dealing with the grief of loss. Last two shows this Wednesday and Thursday, September 7th and 8th . Here is a link for tickets:
Only two performances left of “The Birthday Party.” If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your last chance!
“My friends, I urge you to see this challenging and inspiring performance of The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter. Superb acting and stage directing in an intimate space with only a few dozen seats. You can still buy tickets for this performance for the month of July. I hope you take the time to enjoy it.”
–Edward Goldman, Art Matters
“This production knocked it out of the park.”
–Night Tinted Glasses
“The Birthday Party is open for a lot of interpretations for its real meanings. Even if one doesn’t win in this guessing game, the stage presentation at City Garage makes great theater as viewed on its intimate stage.”
–Accessibility Live Onstage
Top Ten, Recommended!
The Birthday Party was not intended to be a realistic depiction of everyday life among working class Brits; instead, it was meant to relay awareness of the dark oppressive forces that lie beneath the surface of daily living….Much of the humor and pure entertainment in this production is reflected around Flood’s utterly engaging persona, a beacon amidst the baleful shadows and apocalyptic themes…an adept, well-paced production…a tale of authoritarianism run amuck.”
–Deborah Klugman, Stage Raw
“City Garage has revisited The Birthday Party in a splendid production that captures Pinter’s specialty as a playwright: grotesque naturalism wrapped around a core of menace and depravity…. superb acting and directing.”
And merci to our many donors who have added more candles to our cake.
Please join them with your donation of $100 to add another candle. Can we get one for each of our last 35 years? Only twelve more to go. Here’s a link you can follow to add yours to the cake:
Coming August 5th “Beach People” by Charles A. Duncombe.
Tickets now on sale!
Close your eyes and listen to the sound of the waves, feel the sun on your skin, have a pina colada, smell the coconut oil. A couple baking happily on the sand seem to have found paradise until their life is turned upside down by a beautiful girl in bikini who has a thing for fruit salad and eastern philosophy. And what about the handsome waiter in a speedo? This is how a day at the beach turns into existential panic. Two floundering people struggle to figure it all out—literally—in this new comedy about love, sex, and the meaning of life by award-winning playwright Charles A. Duncombe.
This week on “Animal Farm” Steven talks with Roger Q. Mason, playwright of Lavendar Men, opening next week at Skylight Theatre/Playwrights’ Arena.
It is with great sadness that we share with you that this last week we lost one of our dear friends and long-time company members, the very talented, bright young woman and mother of twins, Liz Hight. Here is one of her great performances, in Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson. She will be missed by her family and friends.
As part of the Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project, a global effort to raise humanitarian aide for the people of Ukraine, more than a hundred theatre companies around the world have presented over 170 readings of 22 plays by Ukrainian playwrights, all of them written since the war began. Here is the reading City Garage presented on May 15th. If you want to support this cause, here are links to some charities on the ground in Ukraine.
Thanks again to the donors who supported the reading:
Chopper Bernet, Nathan Birnbaum, Holly and Harold Dunnigan, Anne Guillen, Lisa and Bill Gray, Jana Hatch, Garv Manocha, Roger Marheine, Graciela Markarian, Myron Meisel, Bottara Kahn Nabaie, Veronique Pascal, Sirpa Raitanen, Laurel Schmidt, Pamela St. Clair-Johnson, Michael Toman, Gustav Vintas.
“Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” This line from Samuel Beckett’s grim yet witty one-act, a classic of the existentialist “Theatre of the Absurd” canon, may best sum up the playwright’s bleak philosophy. Laughter at those less happy than us – at least for now – may be our only solace in the face of the inevitable. What with the pandemic and Putin, what better way to spend an evening?….Director Frédérique Michel has a knack for comic timing, exemplified with Clov’s business with sundry props and the characters’ flippant comments, some of which Beckett uses to teasingly suggest that his characters are in on the bizarre gag. And the ensemble is well matched for its depiction of a dysfunctional family – and world – on its last – whether missing, useless, or damaged – legs.”
“How We Buried Stalin” – Russian dissident playwright Artur Solomonov on “Animal Farm”
Also, this week on a special episode of “Animal Farm,” Steven talks with Russian playwright Artur Solomonov who’s controversial play “How We Buried Josef Stalin” was dropped by the Moscow theater that commissioned it under the pressure of Putin’s regime. Steven has an extended conversation with the playwright about the nightmares taking place in both Ukraine and Russia and how Solomonov’s play explores the recent revival of Stalin worship in Russia and what that might portend. Please watch. Animal Farm
Refugee Support for Ukraine
In 2000 we did a production about human rights abuses in Chechnya called “Atrocities.” Tragically, the same thing is now playing out all over again before the world’s horrified eyes. We thought we would offer the production online for the next few weeks, as well as the text. Please show your support of the millions of displaced citizens of Ukraine by giving directly to UNICEF, Amnesty International, or the charity of your choice. Here are links:
It’s opening weekend at last at City Garage! Eugene O’Neill’s late masterpiece, “Hughie” It’s been long time coming and we’re so grateful that so many of you have shown us so much support during this extended shutdown. But we finally resume live, in-person performance this weekend and we hope to have many of you with us for these three special, limited-seating performances: Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm, and Sunday at 4:00pm–October 8th, 9th and 10th. Proof of vaccination and masks will be required. There are still some seats available, so if you’d like to attend in person please write to us at email@example.com. Let us know which night you’d like to come, and how many seats. We will send you a confirmation along with a link to Paypal for payment in advance. Tickets are $30.
And this weekend we start our new partnership with the nationwide streaming service, Broadway on Demand. “Hughie” opens nationally on the same night as it does here in Santa Monica, Friday, October 8th and it will run through November 14th. Once it opens you can stream it any time you like during those dates. Tickets are $15 and they’re available now. Here is the link:
And of course there is a new episode of our weekly talk show about theater and politics with Steven Leigh Morris, “Animal Farm.” This week Steven talks to Marc Antonio Pritchett, Co-Artistic Director of Sacred Fools, one of LA’s most dynamic theater companies.
This weekend on the City Garage YouTube channel, we’re happy to present “The Ann Bronston Story Project,” a selection of stories written by company member Ann Bronston and performed by Troy Dunn, Lindsay Plake, and Martha Duncan. They are stories of love, loss, sex, and family that unravel the secret longings and conflicts that can both torment and transform us. I hope you will check them out. And on our web series “Animal Farm: Conversations on Theater and Politics with Steven Leigh Morris and Guests,” Steven talks with Gary Grossman, Artistic Director of the Skylight Theater about the continuing lobbying efforts to pass California Senate Bill 805 to help small nonprofits adapt to the requirements of AB5—especially LA’s alternative theaters.
Correction: In last week’s episode we incorrectly identified our guest Angela J. Davis as a prosecutor for the LA County Superior Court. Our apologies. She was formerly a Federal Prosecutor for the Central District of California, and is now serving as a Commissioner for the LA County Superior Court’s Family Division.
And here is a link to “The Ann Bronston Story Project.” It will be showing on our City Garage YouTube channel from 8:00pm this Friday, June 11th, through noon on Friday, June 18th.
We’re also excited to announce a new project we’ve created just for streaming! Four monologues from “10 x 10” by Neil LaBute. LaBute is one of our favorite playwrights, someone who is willing to take an unflinching look at the truth of things. Not afraid to shock or offend. He pulls no punches and is always after the hard truth of what people do and why they do it. Make sure you mark next Friday, June 18th for the debut of our first original streaming project! More information to come in next week’s newsletter.