Is Los Angeles theatre big enough for three simultaneous productions of work by Stephen Adly Guirgis? The answer is a resounding "yes." Irreverent, topical, and explosive, each production examines contemporary issues filtered through a religious prism. Or is it the other way around? Staged in three intimate settings, Guirgis' zeitgeist resonates loud and clear, ranging from a tale of a saintly mother who endured abuse as a child, continuing to an ecclesiastical trial that takes place in Purgatory, and concluding with a case of a missing nun.
WHAT: The Little Flower of East Orange by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by David Fofi
WHERE: The Elephant Theatre Company, Hollywood, California
WHEN: November 12 -- December 19, 2010
An elderly woman is found near death and brought to a New York hospital. She feigns amnesia hoping, without success, to elude an ugly family secret. When her son arrives, she must face, not just the secret, but also its impact on her children as well as the possibility that conferred grace may not be worth the effort.
WHAT: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Jeremy Aluma, presented by Urban Theatre Movement
WHERE: Company of Angels, Los Angeles
WHEN: November 19 -- December 12, 2010
When Judas Iscariot goes to trial in a case set in Purgatory, notable witnesses (Freud, Satan, and Mother Teresa) make us question whether what we hold to be true, sacred and just may, in the larger picture, just be relative terms.
WHAT: Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Edgar Landa
WHERE: Players Theatre, California State University Long Beach
WHEN: November 12 -- December 5, 2010
The body of a community activist nun gets stolen from the viewing room of a funeral home. Waiting - hoping - for its return, twelve colorful apostles, I mean, neighbors try to make sense of their own dysfunctional lives.
All The World's a Stage, a regular feature exclusive for The Huffington Post, will span the globe, from San Diego to New Brunswick, from London to Tel Aviv and down to Sydney, covering everything from regional repertory to national theatre companies. In no way encyclopedic, it will function a voltage tester: what's going on here, what's up over there. In process more a soupcon, in content usually grouped thematically, it will remind those who already know -- and proselytize those who don't -- that live theatre is as much a source of higher truth as it is a font of entertainment. Even if you don't live near the particular productions cited, it is the aim of this monthly digital lintel planted over the HuffPost's Arts portal to pique your interest, to suggest, politely but adamantly, that, to quote John Lennon, while life might be what happens when you're making other plans, live theatre is what happens when you buy a ticket.
Whether your tastes run from Shakespearean tragedy to barroom melodrama, from Ibsen to Durang, from decked-out, strike up the band productions in lavish musical halls to the evisceration of the psyche in bare bones black box venues; whether you want to have your heart tugged, your spirits lifted, your prospect on the human condition darkened or at least twittered, you can find it in live theatre. There's a troop and a trope for every taste, for every wallet, for every age, for every cause.
James Scarborough is an art, theatre, and film critic. He's a former member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. He studied art history at Berkeley and the Courtauld Institute at the University of London and has published essays and art criticism for such publications as Apollo, Frieze, Art in America, Flash Art, art+text, New Art Examiner, Art Monthly, and Art Press and has written numerous exhibition catalogue essays. His recent collected writings can be found at http://perhapsperhapsperhaps.typepad.com and at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-scarborough/.