The Chairs

Bonjour City,

This week marks our 10th anniversary at Bergamot! In 2010 we packed up and moved out of our longtime space in an alley off the Third Street Promenade — which decades before really had served as a municipal garage for official City of Santa Monica vehicles. We then took up residence in a new neighborhood and started working in a completely new space. Some things definitely changed!

But what remained the same were so many of the things you love about City Garage — the challenging new texts; fun, invigorating takes on classic plays; and a relentless engagement with the biggest issues of the day.

We promise that as soon as we’re able to re-open, we’ll quickly return to producing the kind of work that only City Garage can create! Please enjoy this brief look back at some of our history:
History of City Garage (10 Years at Bergamot Station)-Happy Anniversary

For this week’s “City Garage Classic” we’re very happy to bring you one of our last productions in the alley space — “The Chairs” by Eugene Ionesco, which I adapted in 2009. Here is how we described the show then:

After a lifetime of preparation, Monsieur le Concierge will at last deliver his ‘message’ to a select audience. As he and Semiramis prepare for the event, the couple gets as lost in their memories of the past as they are consumed by their dreams of a future that seems increasingly unlikely to arrive. As so often in Ionesco, we laugh at the same time as we wince with pain, recognizing ourselves.

KCRW’s review said, “Michel delivers a vision of The Chairs that is clear and accessible… an absurdist play that remains both daring and timeless.” The review in Backstage lauded the actors, saying that thanks to their strong performances, “we are graced with the production’s surprising emotional impact—a rare treat in an increasingly absurd world.”

“The Chairs” will be showing on our City Garage YouTube channel from Friday through midnight Wednesday. Please share the link with your friends:
The Chairs-CG Classic Series

It is free to view, but if you enjoy it can you make a donation through our Chuffed page to support City Garage?

Merci to our kind contributors from this last week:

Roger Director
Ravi Narasimhan
Eva Peel from Spec Script Marketplace
Peggy Flood

Stay safe and wear a mask!



“The Chairs”, by Eugène Ionesco (translated by Frédérique Michel), originally ran at City Garage in 2009. It was directed by Frédérique Michel and with Production Design by Charles Duncombe.

The cast was Cynthia Mance, Bo Roberts, and Garth Whitten.

What the Critics Said in 2009:

“Michel delivers a vision of The Chairs that is clear and accessible. The director needs no gimmicks since the two lead actors, Cynthia Mance and Bo Roberts, play Ionesco’s Husband and Wife (and their many guests, ranging five decades in age) with both focus and dedication….a sober presentation of an absurdist play that remains both daring and timeless.”

“As with the best of couples, Mance is the physical comedian—turning the wife into a lively, clowning companion—while Roberts makes the husband the true romantic, fully real in his quiet adoration of his wife and a former flame….we are graced with the production’s surprising emotional impact—a rare treat in an increasingly absurd world.”

From our original press release:
Welcome to the magical world of Semiramis and Monsieur le Concierge, Marchal of the building. They are preparing for an evening event at which, after a lifetime of preparation, Monsieur le Concierge will at last deliver his “message” to a select audience. As they fetch and carry, fuss and fight, the couple gets as lost in their memories of the past as they are consumed by their dreams of a future that seems increasingly unlikely to arrive.

The empty room slowly fills with a ballet of chairs and visitors while the couple get more and more nervous in anticipation of the “Orator”—the man they expect to actually speak on his behalf.

This absorbing fable hauntingly explores the ideas of love, loss, frustrated ambition, and the fear of death that so permeates the work of one of the great masters and innovators of 20th century drama. As so often in Ionesco, we laugh at the same time as we wince with pain, recognizing ourselves.

(Left to right): Cynthia Mance. Bo Roberts photo: Paul Rubenstein

(Left to right): Cynthia Mance. Bo Roberts photo: Paul Rubenstein
(Left to right): Bo Roberts, Cynthia Mance photo: Paul Rubenstein

“Largo Desolato” by Vaclav Havel

Largo Desolato

by Vaclav Havel
January 24 – March 1, 2020

“The Consulate General of the Czech Republic highly recommends the Václav Havel’s semi-autobiographical play Largo Desolato… at the City Garage Theatre.”
Invitation posted on Consulate Cultural News & Events page

“An eerie, atmospheric staging at City Garage in Santa Monica revisits Havel’s absurdist 1986 portrait of Iron Curtain paranoia…The material is well suited to the stylish City Garage aesthetic, as director Frédérique Michel and designer Charles A. Duncombe lean into Havel’s extensive use of repetition to evoke a visceral sense of Leopold’s paralysis…. in an authoritarian state, the only thing worse than being a perceived threat is to become irrelevant.” — By Philip Brandes, LA Times

“As ever, City Garage surprises and haunts. Every cast member of Largo Desolato is a veteran of the company now, and deliver performances with power as well as precision. The direction continues to use the (seemingly) simple presence of being in the same room with another human being to vast effect. The result feels raw, and terribly honest.” — Zahir Blue, Night Tinted Glasses

City Garage stages a timely revival of Havel’s classic piece about totalitarian regimes, censorship, and the price of integrity. In this semi-autobiographical play, translated by Czech-born playwright Tom Stoppard, a dissident intellectual, Leopold Nettles, is dogged by the secret police, pressured by his friends, and nagged by his housemate to just shut up and go along. Shadowy figures arrive to offer him a deal to stay out of prison but Nettles can’t get himself to accept. His world starts to dissolve in a hallucinatory battle of conscience but will he ultimately have the courage of his convictions?

Havel wrote the play when he had just emerged from prison in 1984. He went on to play a major role in the Velvet Revolution that toppled communism in Eastern Europe, as well as serving as the first President of the Czech Republic. What would he make of the frightening resurgence of so many of the ideas he sacrificed so much to eradicate?

Fourth Sunday Q&A
After the Sunday, February 16 matinee, please join us for an informal discussion with the director, producer, and cast of Largo Desolato.

“Department of Dreams” by Jeton Neziraj

“Department of Dreams” by Jeton Neziraj

Translated by Alexandra Channer

October 25 – December 8, 2019

Fridays, Saturdays 8:00pm: Sundays 3:00pm

Critic’s Choice! — Los Angeles Times

The world premiere of Kosovar playwright Jeton Neziraj’s nightmarish, Orwellian comedy of an autocratic government that demands its citizens deposit their dreams in a central, bureaucratic depository so that it can exert the fullest possible control of their imaginations. In this vast, underground complex, civil servants like Dan, a new hire for the prized job of Interpreter, sift patiently through the nation’s dreams looking for threats to the government’s authority and its version of “truth.” If order is to be maintained, deviance must be extinguished and imagination co-opted. Dan works hard and tries stubbornly to survive in this strange dream world but finds nothing is as it seems to be except the authority that rules it. Don’t miss the world premiere of this new play from one of Europe’s most remarkable playwrights.

“Theatre should side with the victims” feature on Jeton Neziraj — Stage | The Guardian

“The premiere represents a coup for City Garage’s founders, artistic director Frédérique Michel and producing director Charles A. Duncombe, whose company has been presenting edgy theater for more than 30 years. Michel, who also directs, and Duncombe, whose typically stunning production design is a highlight, do full service to Neziraj’s savagely topical, darkly funny piece.” — F. Kathleen Foley, Los Angeles Times

Read Stage Raw’s interview with Jeton Neziraj: Kosovo’s Molière: Mocking Hypocrites and Autocrats

“The cast entire does the fine job I frankly have come to expect from City Garage, with Frederique Michel’s direction showing wonderful insight…” — David MacDowell Blue, Night Tinted Glasses

Special Events: Weekend of November 8 – 10th, 2019

City Garage is thrilled to announce that playwright Jeton Neziraj will be traveling from Kosovo to join us for a weekend of special events around this world premiere. Support City Garage and help us meet our goal of $25,000 for this fall by being part of this exciting weekend. Tickets for all events are $50 each. Or pick a performance of your choice, then attend as many of the after-show events as you like—up to all three—for $100. Book your tickets through this link:

Night(s) Attending

Friday, 11/8: Champagne Reception and Book Signing: Meet the author, mingle with cast and crew, and have your script signed (copies of “Department of Dreams” available at $25).

Saturday, 11/9: Catered Reception: Join us for dinner after the show, along with the playwright and other special guests of honor.

Sunday, 11/10: Panel* Discussion: Steven Leigh Morris, editor of Stage Raw, will moderate a discussion on “Theatre and Politics.” How can—or should—theatre address the urgent political realities of its moment? The particular focus is on the rise of autocracies in Europe, the Balkans, and the west in general, and the role of the arts in contemporary politics. Q&A with the playwright and panelists to follow.

*Panelists: Steven Leigh Morris, Moderator, Editor Stage Raw; Dr. Mietek Boduszynski, Assistant Professor of Politics at Pomona College; Viktorija Lejko-Lacan, Department of Slavic East-European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures UCLA; Lauren Murphy Yeoman, Assistant Professor of Theatre, USC School of Dramatic Arts.

Limited Seating! Get your tickets now!

“Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl

“Macbett” by Ionesco

There will be a reading of “Macbett” by Ionesco on Sunday, August 25 at 6:00pm.
Directed by Ann Bronston. Free.

“Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl

Champagne Preview August 9
Opening Saturday August 10

Pulitzer-prize nominee Sarah Ruhl stands the Orpheus myth on its head and retells it from Eurydice’s point of view. Comic, tragic, silly and poetic in turns, this inventive play follows Eurydice as she does her best to adapt to life in the underworld.

Abandoned by her self-absorbed poet-lover, she rides elevators, has long conversations with stones, defends herself against suspicious men, and finds comfort in the companionship of the ghost of her dead father, though, to his sorrow, she cannot remember who he is. She struggles to recall what it was to be alive and who she was. At last, her easily distracted lover arrives to deliver her. Or will he?

“There’s a sort of beautiful simplicity to the production which makes it feel like a story of a couple who just happen to be dealing with the underworld. Rather than epic, it feels oddly, awkwardly human. It’s a Greek myth scaled down to human proportions. Instead of an all too perfect tragic love story between an untouchable young couple, it becomes the story of a woman who has a creepy guy hit on her on her wedding day. It’s simple, it’s quiet, it’s deeply personal. While this “Eurydice” sidesteps the grand gestures what it gains is simpler story of a woman who’s facing a hostile world with a husband who’s distracted, a man who keeps harassing her, and a world filled with rules to keep her life small. City Garage’s take…lets you hear the play and taps into a vein that feels honest and a bit raw.” — Anthony Byrnes, “Opening The Curtain” KCRW

“What Ruhl does, and this wonderful cast does under the direction of Frederique Michel, is focus not upon Orpheus but what this story means from Eurydice’s point of view….Words alone by a playwright rarely haunt or move. They are meant to be acted out, and this cast captures the eerie and quietly human voyage of these characters. City Garage can and often does perform outrageously stylized works. They do these so very well. But my favorites have always been when the simple life of the characters shine through, the decisions and consequences and experience of what is happening. Eurydice counts as one of my favorites from this company, because even a Stone, even a God, still seem somehow human. The humans meanwhile make me ache for them. Especially the title character, due in larger part to the actor who portrays her.” — David MacDowell Blue, Night Tinted Glasses

“Director Frederique Michel, designer Charles A. Duncombe, and videographer Anthony Sannazzaro—and of course the gifted cast—work considerable stage magic with Ruhl’s slight, whimsical, but (at times) charming play. I came away feeling glad I had seen it.” Will Manus, Total Theatre

Eurydice is a whimsical, often thoughtful exploration of memory as life and loss of memory as death. There’s much more than a tragic love story here. Ruhl’s combination of Becket and Alice in Wonderland leaves a stream of thoughts trickling through your brain long after the flood of images has subsided.”
-Oakland Tribune

Fourth Weekend Q&A: Informal discussion with the cast, crew and director Sunday, September 1st, after the 3:00pm performance.

This project is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the California Arts Council, and by the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Arts Commission.

“The Bourgeois Gentleman” by Molière

“Winter Solstice” by Roland Schimmelpfenig

“The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” by Bertolt Brecht

“The School for Wives” by Molière

“Carmen Disruption” by Simon Stephens

“≈ [Almost Equal To]” by Jonas Hassen Khemiri