I like to arrive early when reviewing a play to watch the folks come in. I get a feeling for what's to come. Theatre 68 in NoHo has a history of doing engaging store front theatre. Tonight's world premiere production of "The $5.00 Shakespeare Company" had an appreciative audience. This show has a message that will ring true especially for Los Angeles patrons who understand why doing a show for the love of theatre in a dinky black box is so important.
Chatting with the box office manager, concession guy, greeter, public relations person and producer Matthew Leavitt was a real pleasure. Oh yes.. He's also the playwright and artistic director of The 6th Act, the group that has pulled this all together! The LA theatre community is a small one and we find mutual pals in between the box office/greeting/concessions stuff. The spirit of this play comes from Leavitt's heart. For those who love small theatre, this show will charm your pants off. Really..
|Carolina Espiro, Emerson Collins, Andy Robinson, Natalie Lander, Cindy Nguyen, Liza Seneca and Kenajuan Bentley|
The premise is pretty straight forward: Jacob (Adam J. Smith) is the Artistic Director of a tight little company of players who have opted to put up A Midsummer Night's Dream in midwinter on Theatre Row in Hollywood. I couldn't quite pinpoint exactly where the space was but getting parking on Wilcox was a perk. When Chester (Andy Robinson), recounts having to walk all the way from Vine Street down Santa Monica to the theatre, Theatre Row immediately pops into view and the fact is that as in NoHo, parking can be a problem! Chester rehearses the lines of King Lear as the cast filters in. He is, at once the old cynic and the heart of what truly makes an actor. Fifty years in the business!
The company's staging of Midsummer has the ragtag cast assembled minutes before curtain, which always makes me a little nervous. Randall (Kenajuan Bentley) has a habit of arriving just in time to make his entrance which makes Louis ( Luke McClure) so hot to take Randall's part, hopeful until at last he's disappointed.
Author Leavitt's unfettered love of theatre shines as each of the company members bring their hopes and dreams to light in well crafted exposition.
A spoof of a well known Hollywood "church" factors in to the benefit of bubbly and impatient Spencer (Natalie Lander). She has been in town for a whole six months and has, at last! landed the lead in a new TV sitcom pilot!
Lillian (Liza Seneca) stays in the company to play Hippolata and, of course, other female leads for love though hounded by Everett (busy Emerson Collins) who really really wants to crush the role of Titania just once!
Camille's (Cindy Nguyen) father is an angel helping to financially support the $5.00 company. They appreciate his money and so she's included, but frustrated that she always plays a supernumerary. Hunky Noel (Jamie Zwick) with bouncy pecs action has a slick idea to elevate his Nick Bottom handles it well with Titania slip sliding away in the bower. Peanut oil!
Kenajuan Bently and Carolina Espiro steam up the dressing room with what's supposed to be a 'showmance' while the rumor that the company just MIGHT be in line to land the Shakespeare in the Park summer gig. (ISC, watch out!)
Director Joel Zwick's take is loose and energetic. The dressing room will be familiar to anyone who has ventured into the world of Los Angeles 99 Seat Theatre.
With moments of true pathos, this one is mostly for fun and succeeds.
Will the company survive departures and success? This is a late report, but heading to NoHo for this show is a must for lovers of the local scene. Don't miss it.
THE $5.00 THEATRE COMPANY
A World Premiere
by Matthew Leavitt
5112 Lankershim Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Through March 8, 2020