Throughout the past year, theatre company Theatre Unleashed (TU) has presented an engaging, thought-provoking, and extraordinarily relevant season of theatre to the audiences of Los Angles.  With incredible shows like Boy Gets Girl, Ligature Marks, and Sleeping Around (Hollywood Fringe 2015), the company tackled gender politics and normative societal dynamics head on, providing a reminder of the ingrained issues that exist between men and women, while also inciting a meaningful dialogue about why change is imminently necessary.  With this stunning and mature season of theatre under its belt, Theatre Unleased has launched their 2015-2016 Main Stage season with a bit of icing on the "cake," serving audiences with a sweet and humorous helping of Cake, a world premiere comedy by Wendy Gough Soroka under the direction of Lisa K Wyatt.  Bringing together a stellar ensemble of characters set within a Love Actually-style relational construct, the proof is in the pudding . . . er . . . batter that TU's Cake is a light and enjoyable way to transition into the company's new season.

"Look, in one hundred, two hundred years, there will be people who look back and laugh at us, because we lived our lives so foolishly and tastelessly.  Maybe those people will have found a way to be happy."  This line from Anton Chekov's classic play, Uncle Vanya, keenly invites audiences to be introspective: to compare themselves with those of the past; to find the parallels; and to fully realize why even the differences that separate us can easily be identified with or understood.  It is this sense of perspective that permeates Annie Baker's translation of Uncle Vanya, which recently launched its West Coast premiere with The Antaeus Theatre Company in North Hollywood, CA.  In a masterful production that flawlessly unites Baker's vital rendition of the work with an impeccable and passionate cast, Antaeus' Uncle Vanya imparts audiences with an opportunity to examine their lives, if only to provide a comfort (no matter how melancholy) that we are not so different from our ancestors, nor from each other in today's chaotic and fast-paced world.

Throughout LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed's (TU) 2015 season, I have been in awe of the company's daring and exemplary mission to tackle the state of modern gender politics.  It comes as no surprise that their annual foray into the Hollywood Fringe Festival (an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community of Los Angeles, CA) would continue to inspire anything less than a phenomenally intriguing performance that delves deeper into the intricately complicated dynamics of 21st century sexual relationships.  Using technology as a through line to connect the relationships and roles of several men and women, Theatre Unleashed's one-act, Sleeping Around, imparts its commentary on today's approach to intimacy - and the lack thereof - with a snapshot into the lives of those at their most vulnerable moments.

For those unfamiliar with the unique and exciting, Los Angeles-based one-act festival known as Sci-Fest LA, this is the second year of the production. Composed of two separate “evenings” of theatre (Program A and Program B), each version of the show includes five fascinating, yet unconnected, stories from the sci-fi and horror genres. In addition, Sci-Fest LA is known for casting well-known actors from the genre (Casts have included Tim Russ of Star Trek: Voyager, Veronica Cartwright of Alien, Armin Shimerman of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dean Haglund of The X-Files, and many more.), as well as adapting the works of revered and respected contributors to science fiction (such as Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, and others).

MINOR SPOILERS BELOW

In the second show of LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed's (TU) 2015 season, Boy Gets Girl continues the company's necessary and noteworthy campaign to push the conversation of gender politics forward, and it excels at that mission in spades.  While the inaugural play of TU's 2015 season, Ligature Marks, enveloped audiences into a visceral and dynamic display of codependent relationships, Boy Gets Girl is, instead, a conversation starter, serving audiences with a veritable feast of literal, real-world manifestations of our society's assigned gender roles and the damage that their furtherance and adherence can have, allowing viewers to deal with the contemplative issues in their own way.  As with Ligature Marks, I will again caution readers that the subject matter of the show may be unsettling for some and inappropriate for younger viewers, yet it is the extremely unsettling response that viewers will undoubtedly have to Boy Gets Girl that emphasizes and illustrates the damaging societal norms that are ingrained in today's world.

LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed (TU) recently launched its 2015 season with the premiere of Ligature Marks, a play that examines a dysfunctional and destructive co-dependent relationship, but with it - and more importantly - TU has initiated a campaign to push the conversation of gender politics forward.  According to Theatre Unleashed Artistic Director Jenn Scuderi Crafts, "Ligature Marks is the beginning of a season that joins a global conversation about men and women.  The phrases 'rape culture,' 'yes all women,' 'he for she,' 'feminism,' 'anti-feminism,' and so many other heated phrases are commonplace today, and I feel our season fits well into that discussion.  We are consciously making an effort to add our artistic voice into a poignant and relevant global conversation."  While I will caution readers that the subject matter and content of Ligature Marks may be unsettling for some and inappropriate for younger viewers, it is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful performance that will leave audiences deeply affected and compelled to contemplate the dynamics of human relationships. 

What comes to your mind when you think, “An evening of poetry?”

Is it a bunch of hipsters or goth kids gathering in a dimly lit coffee house to pour out their souls into a microphone for an audience of other hipsters and goth kids, not listening, only waiting to pour out THEIR souls into the same mic?

An atheist walks into a Catholic-themed musical . . . Am I remembering this joke correctly? What is a gal to anticipate from a show about a boy named Pope whose only dream in life is to be the Pope? Well, if the show is written by Justin Moran (The Spidey Project) and produced by LA-based theatre company Theatre Unleashed, you should only expect hilarity to ensue.

Through the theatre, new and magical worlds can be unlocked for the audience, providing them with the opportunity to experience the fantastical, the frightening, the ferocious, and the funny.  In 'Twas Brillig - The Nonsense of Lewis Carroll, an original play that is currently playing at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group in North Hollywood, CA, the realms of fantasy and madness are at play in a fast-paced collage of Lewis Carroll's works.

Ray Bradbury said, “Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself . . . Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done.”  And, in the first annual Sci-Fest, this important literary genre is celebrated on stage throughout the month of May.  Initially funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Sci-Fest boasts two full evenings (which alternate week to week) of mostly original one-act plays written, designed, directed, and starring many luminaries of some of the biggest science fiction properties on television.  Unique and engaging, Sci-Fest is not to be missed.  I was fortunate enough to see Program A, which featured 3 original one-acts pre-intermission and a longer Rad Bradbury story called "Kaleidoscope" afterwards. 

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