April 02, 1998


Triple Play

Actors' Gang and Cornerstone Theatre Co. join forces for a royal threesome in "Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella."


"We've got Cinderella coming in, and Burnham Wood--did you see the cypress trees we have? The image is of the trees all hiding. And then the blood is revealed."


Say what? That's director Bill Rauch in a rehearsal room upstairs from the Actors' Gang's second stage, talking to his cast. In the theatre below him, swordfights are being staged; in the Gang's adjacent mainstage earlier that day actors were singing showtunes at the music rehearsal. And in a narrow hallway, director Tracy Young is doing "physicalization snapshots" with a pair of actresses playing Medea's nurse and tutor.


No, it's not the repertory company from hell: It's members of Actors' Gang and the Cornerstone Theater Company as they embark on the ambitious project of mounting Euripides' Medea, Shakespeare's Macbeth, and Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella all at once, on the same stage, at the same time.


"At the first read-through, our heads almost exploded," said Page Leong, who plays Medea. Since then, co-directors Rauch and Young (he a founding member of Cornerstone, she an inveterate Gangster) have parsed and spliced the tri-partite script, cut and pasted into three horizontal columns, into an intercut collage with shifting focal points that Young compared to a "lazy Susan. Sometimes it's about the parallels between the texts, other times it's about the sum total, almost like it's all one speech."


The first Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella--M/M/C for short--was a Harvard experiment of Rauch's, who mounted all three together to investigate resonances of "storytelling in Western culture." This M/M/C, which opens Apr. 10 on the Gang's mainstage, has a $30,000 Flintridge Foundation grant and the approval of the Rodgers & Hammerstein estate behind it, and employs a cast of 29 and a crew of 15. Can Cornerstone and the Gang pull off this ambitious triple play, or will audiences' heads explode?


With two of L.A.'s best and brightest companies behind it, to borrow a line from Cinderella's fairy godmother, it's possible.


--Rob Kendt