Yearning to Breathe in Great Theater? Come to Lady Liberty


Those of us seeking out rare theatrical gems in the vastness of LA will find a gleaming reward at 6128 Wilshire Blvd: the world premiere of Lady Liberty, a sparkling drama-comedy that may one day add a lustrous bead to Broadway’s necklace.

Lady Liberty is intimate theater. You won’t have to imagine the ceiling of the New York apartment that serves as the setting for four highly engaging characters. That’s because you’ll be in an apartment (converted), albeit with comfortable tiered seating and a friendly reception area. (However, you will have to imagine the Statue of Liberty being barely glimpsed from one of the windows.)

LA playwright LAURA RICHARDSON presents us with four wonderfully drawn characters. Apartment manager Rhea Zombrano (JUDITH SCARPONE) mother hens her fragile new tenant Violet Hanson (DEANA BARONE) and periodically ruffles her feathers at the impish take-out deliverer John (RICHARD OGAWA).  Soon, Rhea is trying to spark Violet’s interest in love struck doctor Tom Leary (MATTHEW HORNE), who knows something of Violet’s haunted past. Director HILLARY SIX keeps the action flowing, compelling and organic.

Especially impressive are the performers. In settings as intimate as the Actors Art Theatre, even slight acting missteps can be magnified: a wayward glance here, an out-of-character moment there. But Lady Liberty’s cast wear their characters like a pair of favorite old shoes, and make the words dance like Astaire and Rogers.

There is an old story about heaven and hell. In hell, emaciated people sit at a long table, tormented by the sights and smells of the delicious food before them. Their arms are held in a rigid cast; they cannot feed themselves. In heaven, everyone sits at a rich banquet, and their arms are also in a rigid cast. But, these people are well fed and happy. In heaven, the people feed each other. The engaging Lady Liberty reminds us that we can do the same here on the troubled Earth, in spite of our limitations.

Lady Liberty would well repay exposure in larger, more familiar venues, where its torch of theater brilliance could shine more visibly.

Lady Liberty runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through November 20 at Actors Art Theatre, 6128 Wilshire Blvd. (between Fairfax and Crescent Heights), Unit No. 110. Shows are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays. Reservations required. Tickets are $20, cash only at the door. Call (818) 988-5070 for tickets.

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