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5 L.A. theater productions you should see this July 2019

Written by
Dany Margolies

And so, our long hot summer begins. Should we try to get cool or should we celebrate the long, searing days that inevitably fade into long evenings? This month, local theater offers us a show full of belly laughs to take our minds off all else, a refreshing trip under the sea, a superb outdoor Shakespeare company in one of the Bard’s great comedies, the promise by a 1940s playwright that we will still continue to survive global calamities and—if you’re looking for yet more depth—a modern retelling of the Exodus story with pointed nods at roiling socio-political issues that still need fixing. We bet these five shows, listed in order of closing date, will be worth your theatergoing time and money this month.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid
Carpenter Performing Arts Center, July 12–28

What would you give up to make your dream a reality? The mermaid in the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale gave up her tongue in exchange for a pair of legs, and the possibility of love, though she would feel unending sharp pains in her feet. Disney made the story cheerier in its 1989 animated film, then again in this 2007 musical—with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater, book by Doug Wright. But we love it, “If Only” to spend an evening “Under the Sea” and in the cool breezes of “The World Above.” Daniel Pelzig directs; Katharine McDonough and David Burnam star.

6200 Atherton St, Long Beach (562-856-1999). Fri, Sat at 8pm, see theater schedule for Sat, Sun matinees. Added performance Thu, July 25 at 8pm. $20–$80.

The Play That Goes Wrong
Ahmanson Theatre, July 9–Aug 11

Sometimes a play’s title is elliptical or metaphoric. Not here. Nope. Writers Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields have written a play about a play that goes wrong, as a college theater troupe puts on a cliché-ridden 1920s murder mystery, and Murphy’s Law inevitably prevails. Missed cues, misplaced props and a disintegrating set are just the beginning, as audiences recognize flubs and foibles from our worst nightmares. Mark Bell directs, as he did for the 2017 Broadway production.

135 N Grand Ave (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. $30–$135.

Pass Over
Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre, July 11–Aug 18

Craving something thoughtful in the midst of summer sweetness? In this West Coast premiere, playwright Antoinette Nwandu mashes up Samuel Beckett’s classic “Waiting for Godot” and the Biblical Exodus saga, as two young black men wait for a promised land. The language may be profane, but the content is truthful and perpetually relevant. Rely on Echo Theater Company to deliver an unusual, charged, meaningful production in the glaring light of summer.

3269 Casitas Ave, Atwater Village (310-307-3753). Fri, Sat at 8pm; Sun at 4pm; Mon at 8pm. $20–$34.

Twelfth Night
Independent Shakespeare Co. at The Old Zoo in Griffith Park, through Sept 1

What could cool us off more than thoughts of Christmas? Well, there are no Christmas-themed plays this month, but Shakespeare reportedly wrote this comedy to entertain Elizabeth I during the formal end of the Christmas season. Plus, the plot thinks cool thoughts with great pourings of ale, shipwrecks, a seashore and Viola dressing as a man (a cool pair of slacks in lieu of heavy skirts). But, best of all, Independent Shakespeare puts on its always-excellent productions outdoors over the summer. Director David Melville sets this version during the Jazz Era.

Griffith Park (818-710-6306). Wed–Sun at 7pm through July 21, then in repertory with Pericles. No perf July 4. Free admission.

The Skin of Our Teeth
Theatricum Botanicum, July 13–Sept 29

George and Maggie Antrobus, married for 5,000 years, have managed to survive apocalypses while propelling mankind forward step by comedic step. Thornton Wilder wrote this imaginative and pointed play when the world was on the brink of disaster in 1942, earning him the Pulitzer Prize. The production returns this summer at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, tucked into the heart of Topanga Canyon, where audiences can picnic before shows and enjoy old and new classics performed outdoors on a hillside under the old oak trees.

1419 N Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga (310-455-3723). Repertory schedule: see theater website for calendar. $10–$38.50. (The theater is outdoors, cushions available for rent.)

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