Los Angeles boasts hundreds of theaters, where thousands of skilled actors perform works that range from ancient through to hot-off-the-press, imaginatively directed and designed by artists whom Broadway and the West End haven’t snagged yet. Here, listed in order of closing dates, are five shows we’re betting are worth your theatergoing time and money this month.
Casa Valentina at Pasadena Playhouse, March 20–April 10
A group of men gather at a retreat in the Catskill Mountains, where they safely engage in a secret passion: dressing as women. Playwright Harvey Fierstein’s ending isn’t the most skilled, but his dialogue is crisp and his basic premise—about what it takes for any of us to be our authentic selves—is inspired. A solid cast, well-directed by David Lee, spends the play inside a spectacularly charming onstage house that revolves as the characters walk through it. Stars Christian Clemenson, Robert Mammana, and John Vickery. 39 S. El Molino Ave, Pasadena. Tue–Fri 8pm, Sat 4 & 8pm, Sun 2 & 7pm. $25–$125. 626-356-7529.
Cloud 9 at Antaeus Theatre Company, March 10-April 24
The thoughtful (and not overly sensitive) theatergoer with respect for the great craft of acting might appreciate this black-box production of Caryl Churchill’s 1979 play about sex, gender, race, power, politics and family. The action begins in 19th-century colonial Africa and ends in 1970s London, though the same characters appear in both, having aged a mere 25 years, the actors playing them swap roles between acts. Directed by Casey Stangl. 5112 Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood. Thu-Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm, Sun 2pm. $30-$34. 818-506-1983.
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the Ahmanson Theatre, March 22-May 1
Like the film Kind Hearts and Coronets it’s based on, this musical follows a British noble family’s outcast as he bumps off its heirs until he can inherit the title and wealth. And as in the film, one actor plays all eight (or so) heirs. The score, by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, is surprisingly lovely and beautifully sung, and director Darko Tresnjak uses classic humor and state-of-the-art staging for a hilariously rollicking ride at the theater. Stars Kevin Massey and John Rapson. 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown Los Angeles. Tue-Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm, Sun 1pm & 6:30pm. $45–$130. 213-972-4400.
Stage Kiss at Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, April 13–May 15
Considering it’s a play about theater actors and acting—written by contemporary playwright Sarah Ruhl and directed by Bart DeLorenzo, who has done marvelous work with her other plays—all should be perfect. Well, perhaps not so perfect for the two main characters, who are former lovers now headlining in an old melodrama. Stars Barry Del Sherman and Glenne Headly. (Stage Kiss includes strong language and mature content.) 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles. Tue–Fri 8pm, Sat 3 & 8pm, Sun 2 & 7pm. $32–$76. 310-208-5454.
Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) at Mark Taper Forum, April 17-May 15
In 2006, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks managed to write one play every day. Apparently that wasn’t a big enough challenge, so here she blends and bends the ancient Greek Odyssey into the American Civil War—at least in these three parts. Hopefully, parts 4 through 9 will show up in Los Angeles soon. This West Coast premiere imports the show’s Off-Broadway director, Jo Bonney, and star, Sterling K. Brown. 135 N. Grand Ave., Downtown Los Angeles. Tue-Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm, Sun 1 & 6:30pm. $25–$85. 213-972-4400.