Rumor has it a few big holidays are coming up. And even if you don’t celebrate them, a spirit of good cheer usually pervades December in L.A. Sometimes that’s the result of lighter traffic and balmy pre-winter weather. But this year it’s thanks to local theatermakers who are dipping into the world of the joyful, whether in subject matter or in the fact that they’re presenting gorgeously made productions. As is traditional with us, we’re betting these five shows, listed in order of closing dates, are worth your theatergoing time and money this month.
The Secret in the Wings
Coeurage Theatre Company at Lankershim Arts Center, through Dec 16
Mary Zimmerman, who gave L.A. one of its most beautiful and elegant theatrical depictions ever of Ovid’s myths in 2000’s Metamorphosis, now has done the same for fairy tales. And we learn, once again, that fairy tales are not the best literature for small children. Murder, cannibalization, child abuse and more human evils fill pages and the stage here. Were these ages-old tales meant to reveal what our parents dared not otherwise tell us? Joseph V. Calarco directs this Coeurage Theatre Company production. Again, not recommended for the kiddies.
5108 Lankershim Blvd (323-944-2165). Thu–Sat at 8pm; pay what you want.
The Heart of Robin Hood
Bram Goldsmith Theater at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, through Dec 17
Iceland (a real place) isn’t that far from Sherwood Forest (a real place). But Icelandic theater company Vesturport’s retelling seems far from the English legends we’ve been handed for many generations. As written by David Farr, here Robin and company steal from the rich. Then they keep everything. It takes Marion to step in and set the legend aright. Gisli Örn Gardarsson and Selma Björnsdóttir direct and include an onstage band led by Icelandic pop singer Salka Sól. It stars Luke Forbes as Robin Hood, Christina Bennett Lind as Maid Marion and Daniel Franzese as Pierre. Yep, Pierre.
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills (310-746-4000). Tue–Fri at 7:30pm; Sat, Sun at 2, 7:30pm. $35–$125.
A Christmas Carol
A Noise Within, through Dec 23
Alright, so even the grumpiest of list-makers at yuletide has to include a production of Dickens’s most beloved tale of becoming a better person. Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott direct this production, with costumes by the imaginative Angela Balogh Calin, starring Elliott and his fellow resident artists of A Noise Within theater company—all ranking among L.A.’s best classical actors—staged in ANW’s spacious house with perfect sightlines from every seat, even for the kids.
3352 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena (626-356-3100). See ANW website for schedule. $25–$84.
Ahmanson Theatre, through Dec 31
It’s Renaissance England and Shakespeare is the undoubted rock star (leather-clad Adam Pascal). But the Bottom brothers are desperate theatermakers: Nick (vibrant Rob McClure) and Nigel (velvet-voiced Josh Grisetti) have heard that musicals are the next big thing, so they set out to musicalize Hamlet. Except someone hears it as Omelette. With book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, these are the yolks, folks, but they’re adorable and performed to beyond perfection by the cast, with buttery choreography and frothy direction by Casey Nicholaw.
135 N Grand Ave (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. $30–$140.
Winter Solstice Pagan Holiday Show
The Actors’ Gang at Ivy Substation, through Jan 13
The Actors’ Gang, founded in 1981, seems to mesh experimental theater with classical forms in a style it calls “The Style.” So we expect the unexpected at a show there, but with the show’s feet firmly in theater history. And, as theater has done for centuries, the Gang provides much via topical subjects and community outreach. Unsurprisingly, it describes this holiday show as “a spectacle with acrobats, magicians, aerialists, rude clowns, musicians and freaks,” all “in celebration of Aphrodite, Christmas, Hanukkah, Saturnalia and myths of imagination and wonder.” Written by Rynn Vogel, directed by Adam J. Jefferis and Lee Margaret Hanson, and created by the Actors’ Gang Ensemble.
9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City (310-838-4264). Thu–Sat at 8pm. $20–$34.99; Thu pay-what-you-can.