Theatre Spotlight: Three to See
By Ellen Dostal
Cost of Living
Open Fist Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Anne Kenney’s new play Last Call, a touching semi-autobiographical dramedy about the Vaughn family, whose default coping devices of sarcasm and cutting humor aren’t enough when mom and dad come up with a not-so-funny way to avoid the retirement home. Kenney is a Peabody Award-winning writer best known for her work on Switched at Birth, L.A. Law and, most recently, the first three seasons of Outlander. Lane Allison directs the production, which stars Ben Martin as 85-year-old Walter Vaughn; Lynn Milgrim as Frances, his 83-year-old wife; Laura Richardson as daughter Jill, a successful Hollywood television writer who is as attentive as a daughter can be while living 3,000 miles away; and Art Hall as son Ricky, a recovering addict who’s been caring for his aging parents but must now deal with the return of his “perfect” sister.
“This piece is very close to my heart,” says Kenney. “I watched my parents’ health degenerate as they got into their ’90s and had to come face-to-face with the quality vs. quantity of life question. The only way that my parents and I and my brother got through it was with an abundance of gallows humor and a lot of compassion.” A post-performance talk back with Outlander’s Diana Gabaldon as moderator will take place on Jan. 19. Show runs Jan. 18 – Feb. 23 at Atwater Village Theatre.
The Empty Nesters
Empty nesters play empty nesters in this smart two-hander full of humor and heart by Garret Jon Groenveld. Real life husband and wife John Walker (Greg) and Pamela Gaye Walker (Frances) are a couple at a crossroad on the Skywalk at the Grand Canyon. Their last daughter has just left the nest and Frances is about to drop a bombshell. With the future of their relationship at stake, what happens next could change everything. John Walker is a film producer (The Incredibles, Tomorrowland) and actor, whose extensive theatre background includes 30 stage productions with his wife. Pamela Gaye Walker is an award-winning actress who has appeared in film, television, and on stages in New York, Chicago, and across the country. They return to the stage after a 20-year hiatus. Jan. 17 –Feb. 17 at the Zephyr Theatre.
And, over at the Garry Marshall Theatre, Carolyn Ratteray and Gilbert Glenn Brown star in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, which takes place at the Lorraine Hotel on the night of April 3, 1968. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (Brown) has just given one of his most famous speeches to support sanitation workers during an explosive strike in Memphis. Known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, it is as if he knew what might happen the next day. Ratteray plays a beautiful motel maid named Camae, who is secretly an angel come to call him home, in whom a weary King confides his doubts and fears about the future. Their conversation is a heartfelt and moving exchange about bargaining for more time and the far-reaching power of his legacy.
Hall says, “You cut me, and I’ll probably bleed barbeque sauce. I am Memphis through and through: home of the blues, FedEx, Elvis Presley, Rendezvous Barbeque and hoodoo.” Her mother, nicknamed Camae, lived a block from the Lorraine Hotel and was 15 years old in 1968. Her grandmother, fearing violence, did not let her daughter attend the speech. Feb. 6 – March 10. www.garrymarshalltheatre.org
Ellen Dostal is a longtime west coast editor and reviewer for BroadwayWorld.com, the largest theatre website in the world. A self-professed musical theatre geek, she also publishes two popular Southern California theatre blogs – Musicals in LA and Shakespeare in LA – and has covered jazz and classical events for the KJazz 88.1 FM and K-Mozart 1260 AM Arts and Music Blogs. As a founding member of New Musicals Inc’s repertory company, she has developed roles in countless new works, many of which have been produced regionally and in New York. She also continues to work as an actress, singer, and voiceover artist in Los Angeles.