Sometimes, with their unfathomable creativity, playwrights can weave entire stories straight out of their imaginations. But this month, theaters seem to have been attracted to stories playwrights built from a real-life source—whether current or historical events, or perhaps from well-known material other authors have penned. A chaplain’s recollections of a months-long ordeal, an acting troupe’s attempts to turn a classic novel into a play, a production about a play whose artists fought to keep it onstage when it “upset” American audiences, the story of history’s most poignant diary and a true story involving fiction’s greatest detective—they all make up this month’s theatrical best bets, listed in order of closing dates.
From the Words and Writings of Dana H.
Center Theatre Group at Kirk Douglas Theatre, through June 23
Playwright Lucas Hnath (The Christians, Red Speedo) tells a real-life story about his mother, Dana Higginbotham, based on her recollections of her years as a nondenominational hospice chaplain. Most memorably, most life-alteringly, she helped a mentally ill ex-convict turn his life around. But then, for five months, he held her completely captive. Les Waters (The Christians) directs this world premiere, which stars Deirdre O’Connell.
9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City (213-628-2772). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30 pm. $25–$70.
Ahmanson Theatre, June 4–July 7
In her 2015 play, playwright Paula Vogel shines a light on a production of Sholom Asch’s 1906 play Yiddish drama God of Vengeance, which told of a Jewish brothel owner and his daughter who fell in love with one of his prostitutes. Asch’s play, hugely successful in Europe, was forced to shutter on Broadway because of its “immorality.” Vogel uses the play’s history to reflect those times and ours, and the continuing battles artists face in depicting reality. Rebecca Taichman, a Tony winner for this production, directs.
135 N Grand Ave, Downtown L.A. (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. (Added perf July 3 at 2pm. No perf July 4.) $30–$149.
Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, June 11–July 14
There once lived a real-life Sherlock Holmes scholar, reputedly “the world’s foremost” one, named Richard Lancelyn Green. He, reportedly, was found dead in his London apartment in a case only Holmes could have solved. Intrigued by a real-life New Yorker article “Mysterious Circumstances: The Strange Death of a Sherlock Holmes Fanatic” by David Grann, the Geffen commissioned this world-premiere play by Michael Mitnick. Matt Shakman directs a stellar cast of Hugo Armstrong, Austin Durant, Leo Marks, Ramiz Monsef and Helen Sadler, plus Alan Tudyk as Richard Lancelyn Green and Sherlock Holmes.
10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood (310-208-5454). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 3, 8pm; Sun at 2, 7pm. $30–$120.
Museum of Tolerance, June 5–July 22
Teenager Anne Frank rose to unfortunate immortality when, living in rooms behind a bookcase to hide from the Nazis, she kept a diary, which was recovered after her death at age 15. Her diary has become an inspiration and a source for writers the world over. Now, Dutch playwrights Jessica Durlacher and Leon de Winter have created this play, here in its U.S. premiere, in which 13-year-old Anne imagines her life as a young woman, safe in a postwar world, looking back on her two years of that unspeakable immuring that must still be spoken about.
9786 W Pico Blvd, Pico-Robertson (310-772-2505). Sun at 3, 7pm; Mon at 8pm. $20–$100. Free parking in the underground structure. Appropriate for ages 8 and up.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, June 8–Sept 29
For his source material, legendary director Orson Welles looked to the great American novel Moby-Dick, then imagined an acting company turning it into a stage play. His play premiered in London in 1955, starring British legends of the day. Though it concerns an American group of theatermakers, the meta-play didn’t open on Broadway until 1962. And lest you think you’ll see giant waves crashing onstage, know that your imagination will be called upon, as the actors use minimal props and wear contemporary dress. Ellen Geer directs.
1419 N Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga (310-455-3723). Repertory schedule. $10–$38.50. (The theater is outdoors, cushions available for rent.)