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
— Theatre in LAOn Stage Los Angeles
“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:
Proof of vaccination and masks required for all performances at City Garage.
Merci, and see you soon at City Garage!
“Voices From Ukraine” – The Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project
To support humanitarian aid for Ukraine, please visit our page, “Voices From Ukraine.”
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.”
–Will Manus, Total Theater
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.
Watch The Lesson
Merci, and see you soon at City Garage
“Voices From Ukraine” – The Worldwide Ukrainian Play Readings Project
To support humanitarian aid for Ukraine, please visit our page, “Voices From Ukraine.”
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.
Ukrainian Emergency Performing Arts Fund (https://www.uepaf.org.ua/)
Children’s stories (https://voices.org.ua/en/childrens-stories/)
Humanitarian aid for Ukraine (https://www.lphr.org/en/humanitaere-hilfe-ukraine/)
Here’s the video of the reading:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
If you’d like a little taste of the show, here is a trailer on YouTube.
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.
Be a Patreon! Your support means so much and can start as low as just $2 a month! Help keep us going!
Here’s the link to our Patreon Page.
Stay safe, get vaccinated, and we look forward to seeing you for “Hughie”—either through streaming or at City Garage!
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.
Here is a link to talk show:
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.
It’s free to view but we ask people to make a donation if they can through our Chuffed page or at “Support Us” on our website:
SAVE THE DATE!
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.
“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.”
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.
New Play Reading
War in the Times of Love
by Jeton Neziraj
Sunday, May 19 @ 7:00pm
Directed by Ann Bronson
City Garage is excited to begin introducing its audience to the work of one of Europe’s most important new playwrights, Jeton Neziraj.
This play, set in an imaginary beauty parlor—within an insane asylum—is the scene of mesmerizing confessions, as four “odd” women evade the traumas of their past by escaping to a shared imaginary world in which they take refuge as in a dream. Neziraj creates a disturbing and cathartic play, blending the mundane and the fantastic, to wrestle with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia.
Neziraj, author of more than twenty-five plays that have been performed all over the world, was voted “European of the Year” in 2018” for his promotion of progressive ideas and values, and has been called “the Kafka of the Balkans.”
Join us for this special reading, the first in a series of readings of new plays this year, and an introduction to our production of Neziraj’s newest work “Department of Dreams” coming to City Garage this fall.
Please let us know you’re coming! Call 310-453-9939 or email email@example.com to RSVP (not required, but much appreciated).
“Exit the King” by Eugène Ionesco
Translated by Frederique Michel &
Champagne Preview May 31
Opening Saturday June 1
A deluded king. A failing kingdom. Two squabbling queens vying for his attention. An obsequious doctor. A dim-witted but loyal guard and a mouthy servant.
In Eugene Ionesco’s darkly comic masterpiece we witness the final hours of megalomaniac King Berenger the First. His monstrous ego has kept him alive for four centuries, but now, Queen Marguerite calmly informs him, the time has come to die. Berenger fights tooth and nail. He rages, pleads, denies, bargains, supported by the lovely and loyal Queen Marie. But Queen Marguerite, coolly efficient, aided by her henchman, the doctor, draws the king relentlessly closer to his final moment on earth.
At once broadly comic and deeply unsettling, the play alternates between Monty Python-style slapstick and haunting echoes of Shakespearean tragedy. In this, the most Beckett-like of all Ionesco’s work, we follow an existential journey into the most terrifying landscape of all: our own mortality.
In a new translation by City Garage founders Frederique Michel and Charles Duncombe.
“Why this? A once powerful, now collapsing civilization in the grip of a deranged megalomaniac? Obviously, it’s a scenario so implausible today, so far beyond the imaginative capacity of contemporary American audiences that we must treat it as a historical curiosity rather than, say, an urgent and eerily relevant warning.” — Read Margaret Gray’s “essential” listing in the Los Angeles Times
“Such a wild emotional roller coaster works, even amid the absurd details … because the cast under the direction of Frederique Michel breathes vivid life into what might easily have come across as utter chaos. Every detail makes sense.” — Read Zahir Blue’s full review at Night Tinted Glasses
“City Garage impressively pulls off a metaphysical play without any special effects other than Michel’s staging. Her direction is simple yet stylized, with a sprinkling of heightened movement and gesture. And while Exit the King’s technical design is minimal throughout the show, its final image is arresting and haunting thanks to Duncombe’s lighting.” — Read Taylor Kass’s full review at Stage Raw
“The final scene between the resonant Dunn and cool, elegant, swan-necked Natasha St. Clair Johnson … is one of those theatrical moments that … leave[s] audiences holding their collective breath before a well-deserved exhale and wild applause.” — Read Ravi Narasimhan’s full review at Backscatter.
“Their new translation (and adaptation) is crisp and colloquial, easy on the ear. And they have mounted the play in equally vibrant fashion… As performed with heart-breaking power by Troy Dunn, The King is vain, confused, self-centered, yet all too human and likable…” —Will Manus’s full review atTotal Theater
November 10 – December 17, 2017
World premiere by the author of the international bestseller “The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters.”
Irene awakes from a cryogenic chamber into a future where her terminal cancer has been cured but the world as she knew it no longer exists. She is welcomed by curious humans who command and are commanded by “Platform,” a vast computer network which appears to have replaced all known reality. Has the Singularity occurred? Is there still a recognizable planet where earth once was? In Wake Dahlquist examines society and sociability when lives are long, wants are met, and no need for cooperation beyond the response to solitude.
Reality Bites — If You Can Even Call It Reality — In This Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Satire
Bill Raden | November 20, 2017 | 8:05am
Accorrding to the dictionary, “wake” can mean different things: It can be the vigil held over a corpse on the eve of burial; it can describe the waves trailing a passing ship or left by an extinct civilization; or it can signify the state of being aroused or made aware. According to Wake, Gordon Dahlquist’s rousing sci-fi satire about the ultimate fate of humankind, currently getting a sleek world premiere at City Garage, it also can mordantly embrace all of the above.
The time-leaping tale begins with a venerable science fiction premise: Heroine Irene Suarez (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson), a New York immunologist racked with metastasized pancreatic cancer in 2017, is placed in a cryogenic capsule in Mamaroneck, New York, to be thawed and resuscitated in a hermetic and inconceivably remote future.
In production designer Charles Duncombe’s minimalist arrangement of tiers and ramps, that future is represented as a blandly featureless room without windows or doors. It’s where Irene is greeted by May (Alicia Rose Ivanhoe), a friendly and curious if somewhat linguistically maladroit denizen whose silvery Lycra bodysuit (courtesy of costumer Josephine Poinsot), together with the ever-present visage of an identically coiffed and clothed figure (Megan Kim) projected on the upstage wall, are the first hints that something Orwellian and technologically dystopian might have transpired during Irene’s eons of sleep.
Much of the fun comes from Irene’s attempt to reconstruct the lost years. While May proves maddeningly vague at filling in the whens, wheres and hows, the fragmented hints at the planet’s fate that begin to emerge only increase Irene’s disquiet over her dire predicament. It seems that the Holocene is part of a distant and dimly understood past, whose end came via some sort of climate change–triggered environmental cataclysm. In the desperate hope that one day the species could be reconstituted from its archived DNA, a survivor population designed a global computerized omniscience called the Platform. Embodied by City Garage regular Kim as an affable and accommodating “construct” of the same name, the Platform now regulates the “sentient environment” as well as the society by which Irene finds herself welcomed as a sort of living natural history museum exhibit.
By eliminating the human middleman, society is finally one with the spectacle.
If that all sounds vaguely Matrix-like, the similarity is strictly ironic. Wake trades in — and frustrates — a raft of familiar sci-fi clichés and genre expectations in a wry pastiche that sets the stage for what Polish sci-fi master Stanislaw Lem once called “the drama of cognizance.” By dropping Irene into the Platform, where she is stripped of the taken-for-granted assumptions that ground identity and differentiate the real from the merely represented, Dahlquist lampoons the collective solipsism of all institutionalized systems of belief while underscoring the philosophical problem of agreement on any kind of shared reality.
Irene does not connect with other remnants of humanity in order, say, to organize a revolt and take back the planet from authoritarian oppressors, a trope dating back to H.G. Wells’ The Sleeper Awakes (1910), the grandaddy of Matrix-like political fantasies. Instead Dahlquist closes off that possibility by eliminating not only the distinction between the real and the virtual but also the urgent need to distinguish it. The Platform proves the most hospitable and accommodating of hosts. Far from a prison, its environment is a constantly morphing place of endless choice and instantaneous gratification — a kind of otherworldly shopping mall from which everything unpleasant has been expelled except for loneliness. Its virtually generated inhabitants, like May and her daft friend Sen (Jeffrey Gardner), are left to contentedly while away their existence with trivial preoccupations around satisfying their every whim and appetite. By eliminating the human middleman, society is finally one with the spectacle.
The only exception proves to be Sarah (Sandy Mansson), another cryogenic survivor from Earth’s 21st-century past — or, more accurately, the Platform-generated memory of what 40 years ago had been Sarah. A middle-aged horse breeder from Pennsylvania, Sarah tells Irene about the 60 additional years she lived among the Platform before boredom finally drove her from its protected, Platonic environs and into the nonexistence of the outside world. What happened then, or what kind of creatures might live there, the Platform cannot say, although Duncombe’s evocative projections of pristine, primordial landscapes slyly suggest an Earth that has returned to the fecund grandeur of a pre-human natural state.
Director Frédérique Michel’s tightly composed staging cannily extends the script’s mechanistic absurdities, both through wittily synchronized movement between Kim and the constructs and with touches like returning “offstage” characters to visible seats in the wings, where they await their next scenes like powered-down cyborgs set to sleep mode. Ivanhoe and Gardner are delightfully deranged as bubbly, wide-eyed human simulacra, but Ivanhoe is especially funny massacring Dahlquist’s fractured, almost aphasic diction. For her part, St. Clair-Johnson nimbly anchors the comedy as an exasperated, disoriented and finally resigned “straight man,” while Mansson contributes poignant notes of human warmth.
Although the ensemble is clearly still fine-tuning its timing, and Wake is consequently guilty of what sometimes feel like overly austere intellectual stretches, the evening’s momentum rarely flags. More importantly, at a moment when headlines seem to trumpet the potential calamities of debasing public policy with alternative facts, the play comes as a timely reminder that the confrontation with the other is ultimately always a confrontation with the self.
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave., Bldg. T1, Santa Monica. (310) 453-9939, citygarage.org.
Bill Raden is an award-winning reporter and theater critic who reviewed his first play for L.A. Weekly on a typewriter. He still keeps his manual Olivetti inked and oiled, just in case.
Audience expectations tend to be tricky things. To some degree this depends upon genre.
Wake by Gordon Dahlquist, if not science fiction, certainly begins and explores a pretty clear and well precedented science fiction trope. Someone wakes from cryogenic sleep far into the future and must adjust. Buck Rogers essentially.
Irene (Natasha St. Clair-Johnson) had advanced pancreatic cancer and used her resources on a wild chance, that someone frozen in liquid nitrogen just might be revived in later centuries. When she wakes in a strange room to the greetings of May (Alicia Rose Ivanhoe), a cheerful young woman with a strange vocabulary, the truth dawns on her pretty quickly. It worked. Behold the future!
At this point many a science fiction tale would begin describing the future world, if in fact the story turns out to be some kind of social commentary on the trends of human society. Or it may become some kind of adventure in which the awakened person will prove crucial to history or some such (this was the story of the second JJ Abrams Star Trek movie). I never thought the latter very likely here, but wondered how the first part of that expectation might play out. That at first May seems reluctant to tell Irene much heightened that expectation. At first. But increasingly, as we get to know more about this future, the less terribly important that became. Details all proved important, but not what the story was about.
Irene began and remained the story’s focus, for every moment, and she remained the only character on stage the entire play. All seventy minutes with no intermission. Even as we meet the sentient computer (or something like that) called The Platform (Megan Kim) that both runs and enables, nurtures and learns from the lives of those like May and her would be boyfriend Sen (Jeffrey Gardner), the more we share Irene’s curiosity and frustration. When is this? How much time has passed? Hints given early prove disturbing. Her capsule? Found in sea water. People have very odd beliefs about her own time, not least the amount of violence. No one, not even The Platform, knows what she’s talking about when Irene mentions ancient Egypt or the Pyramids.
Her world is gone. Her context has vanished, evaporated over time. Hardly anyone else was ever found frozen and with enough left to be revived. That was Sarah (Sandy Mansson) who died decades ago.
With us, Irene endures this loss — the realization of being utterly alone, not physically nor literally, but robbed of every single detail that made life make sense. Not by anyone, just by chance. This then proves the exploration, the odyssey of this work — not a revelation of plot or world-building, but of human courage in the face of tremendous loss. All in all, Wake does an astounding almost Haiku-esque job of giving us the heart, the soul of the story and very nearly nothing else.
We see someone find courage to go on. To trust the supremely unfamiliar. To begin to let go of what after all can never come again — the past.
Wake runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm (pay-what-you-can at the door only) until Sunday, December 17, 2017 at the City Garage, Building T1, Bergamont Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica CA 90404.
A pair of Christmas tree salesmen secretly wreak havoc in NYC. A pair of detectives are bent on catching a serial killer. A young woman finds herself drawn into a cat-and-mouse game and transformed in ways she could never have imagined. Well, maybe she could’ve. Meanwhile, wild animals have been sighted in the vacant lot across the street. Are they dogs? Raccoons? Or something more ferocious?
This project is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Santa Monica Arts Commission.