BACK STAGE WEST

 

March 28, 2002

 

 

THE WICKED STAGE  

 

by Rob Kendt

           

 

Who'd have predicted a few years ago, when Theatre of NOTE struggled to fill houses in its small Cahuenga Boulevard storefront space, that one day it would be packing 'em in for its distinctive brand of offbeat playmaking? It doesn't hurt that NOTE sits in the midst of a bona fide revival of Hollywood nightlife. Time was, you'd have an obligatory pre-show meal at Chan Dara a few doors down, then wander up Cahuenga to the creepily dim Burgundy Room or browse World Book and News. Now Chan Dara has expanded in both directions, adding a bar, and the street has added such indispensible hangouts as Hotel Café and, just across Sunset, the vinylophile's wet dream Amoeba Records. The show up at NOTE for another weekend, Dennis Miles' peculiarly affecting Destronelli, is another exemplar of what NOTE does well: smart, weird, economical, sneakily bold plays, often in their world premiere. This is Miles' most accessible work yet; he's an incorrigible mind-gamer whose queasy Rosa Mundy and shocking Middle Savage were previous NOTE high points, but Destronelli finds him in a calmer, more urbane, but no less searching vein; the play's combination of provocation, puzzlement, perversity, and unsentimental tenderness reminded me of Albee. And NOTE's bisected seating arrangement allowed me to sit about a foot from Pamela Gordon's exquisitely frayed turn as a lonely widow; I've never seen this ageless pixie better or sexier. What with the buzz on the street and the offhandedly edgy work inside, NOTE and its neighbors are proving that Hollywood may be L.A.'s real downtown.

 

• Or is it Silverlake? That's where a new space called the Salvation Theatre (at Griffith Park and Sunset, near the old Glaxa space) will open with a pair of plays by former NOTEster Hank Bunker. I missed his Futon Dialogues when it premiered at NOTE a few years ago, but the program's other one-act, The Interview, was my happy introduction to NOTE, in 1995; it featured Bunker himself as the play's unctuous, passive-aggressive sports writer. There are other NOTE associations—the casts include Sarah Phemister and Trace Turville, both memorable in NOTE's The Duchess of Malfi and Self-Portrait Nude, and the director is Malfi and Middle Savage's Peter Konerko. Indeed, this Bunker double bill marks Konerko and Turville's farewell project, as the couple plans a June move to the Big Apple. They'll be missed.

 

• Already departed for the East a few years back was Bunker's ex, the brilliant NOTE vet Denise Poirier, who now has a house in Hallowell, Maine's smallest city. She hasn't given up acting: She's appearing in Fuddy Meers at the Public Theatre of Lewiston, Maine; will then do Anne of Green Gables in Monmouth, then in the fall will go north to Madison Rep to work with another L.A. associate, Diane Robinson (who directed Poirier at NOTE in a definitive perf as Lady Macbeth), possibly on Blithe Spirit. Said Poirier: "Seems now that I moved away I'm getting more theatre work. Funny that." We're not exactly shocked.

 

• We were shocked by one trend at our recent Garland Awards at the Alex Theatre. The show ran a mere 2 hours, 3 minutes—but we had honorees who picked up statuettes and bailed at the one-hour mark, for Pete's sake. Myself, I'd rather soak in boiling oil than watch a long awards show (I skipped the one on ABC last weekend). On the other hand, there have been few projects I've been involved with that felt more depressingly pointless than putting together this evening to celebrate a so-called theatre "community"—and to discover there's no there there.

 

• Del Shores returns with his hit Southern Baptist Sissies, Apr. 10-June 9 at the Zephyr Theatre. Now who will write a play about conflicted gay Catholics? Paging Terrence McNally… Mead Hunter, longtime director of Literary Programs for Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theater, leaves his post this week. We wish him well… Damon Intrabartolo (bare) and Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) are reportedly working on a rock opera about murdered gay icon Harvey Milk… The irrepressible Jef Bek is at work on a rock opera, too. I've sworn not to tell what it's about—but I can assure you it's no stunt… Jennifer Taub, a delight in last year's Servant to Two Masters at International City Theatre, is opening this weekend in Claudia Shear's Mae West show Dirty Blonde at Portland Center Stage in Oregon. Great casting, except for the hair color… The Attic Theatre, after a brief stay over the hill in NoHo, has returned to Hollywood 'hood, calling the Jewel Box Theatre on Cahuenga home for the present.