September means back to school—and that might even include all of us. As the kids head off, we start to look back on our own schooldays, sometimes recalling long-forgotten texts, sometimes wishing we’d paid more attention in class. September’s local theatrical offerings seem to transport us back to school, with plays bringing to life history, social studies and literature. A modern retelling of an Ancient Greek legend; the story of two great legal minds who come together for the good of the nation; a look at Americans across the country; a scouring of our history books in search of even one Latinx hero; and a scholarly, admiring, humorous examination of one of literature’s greats—these five September productions provide mighty good schoolin’ for their audiences. That’s why we bet these shows, listed in order of closing date, will be worth your theatergoing time and money this month.
Getty Villa, Sept 5–28
At the time of the Trojan War, Philoctetes was a gifted archer and a relatively faithful soldier. But he was wounded in his heel (thus the pun of this play’s title). The wound festered and stank. And so, despite his immense skill and the fact that he was a fellow human being, the Greeks dumped him on the Isle of Lemnos, stranding him alone there, until they realized they needed him for battle again. Aaron Posner, a gifted adaptor who skillfully turns the classics upside down and sideways, adapted and directs this work, based on the Sophocles original, about wounds and healing. Music by Cliff Eberhardt.
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades (310-440-7300). Thu–Sat at 8pm. $25–$48.
Sisters in Law
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Sept 18–Oct 6
Of different generations, differing politics and distinct personalities, U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor had one interest in common: making sure we remained a nation of laws and not of only men. Jonathan Shapiro penned this script, based on Linda Hirshman’s nonfiction bestseller. Patricia McGregor (Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole, Skeleton Crew) directs this West Coast premiere, starring Tovah Feldshuh and Stephanie Faracy, with an all-female design team.
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills (310-746-4000). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2:30, 8pm; Sun at 2:30, 7:30pm. $60, prices subject to change.
A Play Is a Poem
Mark Taper Forum, Sept 11–Oct 13
As with your best classes in school, expect to be engaged and challenged by the co-writer of such films as The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men. Ethan Coen, one-half of the filmmaking Coen brothers, penned this world premiere of one-acts, each set in a different region of the United States: New York, Hollywood, Mississippi and Appalachia. Neil Pepe directs. Live music by Nellie McKay.
135 N Grand Ave, Downtown Los Angeles (213-972-4400). Tue-Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2:30, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm (no 2:30pm performance Sat, Sept 21). $40–$110.
Latin History for Morons
Ahmanson Theatre, Sept 8–Oct 20
We’ve heard of the Mayans, we’ve heard of Marco Rubio, but what happened in Latinx history between their times? Playwright, filmmaker, actor and wry guy John Leguizamo noticed that his son’s American history books made little mention of any such topics. Tony Taccone directs this solo show, which takes us along as Leguizamo searches for a hero—for himself and as a topic for his son’s homework.
135 N Grand Ave (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm, subject to change (see theater website for full schedule). $30–$135.
Kirk Douglas Theatre, Sept 13–Oct 27
Longtime actor and clown Bill Irwin offers this master class on the works of legendary writer Samuel Beckett, relishing Beckett’s absurdism and humanity, ever more so as Irwin enters his own burnished theatrical maturity. Speaking the words of Beckett’s canon including Waiting for Godot and enacting the action of Texts for Nothing, Irwin also shares with us his long-simmering insights into the revered, intimidating, ultimately inspiring writer.
9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City (213-628-2772). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. (no shows Sept 18, Sept 20, and 2pm Sept 22.) $25–$72.