When it comes to theater, Los Angeles has always suffered in comparison to NYC. A lot of virtual ink was spilled on that subject last summer thanks in part to a celebrity panel that was held at the time (my somewhat caustic response to the hubbub can be read here.)
But one very compelling theatrical event happened in L.A. this past weekend that doesn’t seem like it could have happened anywhere else. A reading of the play “8,” a dramatization of the Prop 8 gay marriage trial in California, featured some of the A-listiest of A-list movie stars. You can see the reading in its entirety on YouTube. I think this is an awesome use of old school theater, modern media, and convenient location to create a truly unique event…that’s also pretty entertaining. I haven’t watched the whole thing but there are some definitely funny bits near the beginning. I wish the event had received a little more coverage but hopefully friends will continue to tell friends about this as time goes on (and perhaps as so-called “lifestyle” issues come into play later on in the presidential campaign.)
I also had L.A. on my mind this weekend because of seeing “God of Carnage” at the Barksdale on Thursday. I saw this show with its original Broadway cast out in L.A. last summer. As much as I try to approach each production without baggage from previous stagings of the same show, this one was hard. I had a good time at the Barksdale and my lovely wife liked the production quite a lot. But while very entertaining, this production didn’t rock my world. As much as I have adored Bo Wilson’s direction of other shows, aspects of this one felt rushed to me with some of the swings in dynamics between the foursome of characters happening too quickly for my tastes. I wondered about other choices as well; e.g., Michael’s wearing of the wall-hanging was more awkward that revealing to me.
Still, the comedy is sharp in this show and all of the actors had their moments to shine. In general, I ended up liking the women better than the men but it probably isn’t fair because Dan Stearns and Jay Millman were competing with the echoes of Jeff Daniels and James Gandolfini in my memory. Susan Sanford rarely disappoints and she certainly doesn’t in this show, showing the most skill in navigating the wide range of emotions spanned in just over 70 minutes. Jan Guarino’s bitingly insightful commentary delivered as a genial drunken rant was one of the highlights.
You have to applaud Barksdale for mounting this production and challenging Richmond audiences to come out for some adult humor with a distinct edge. I hope they’ve been getting good houses and the tepid response the screen adaptation of the show received hasn’t adversely affected public sentiment about checking it out.