Theatre Lemonade of 2016

Ashley Steed

Non-Registered Critics, Writer

Although I’ve only been the Editor in Chief of the new and improved Better Lemons since November, I’ve been actively seeing (and making) theatre this year. Here are some of my favourites.
1984 by Headlong Theatre at the Broad Stage. I had just moved back to LA from London when this show opened in London and made my husband go see it on my behalf. Needless to say I was delighted when Headlong brought their adaptation of George Orwell’s novel to the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. This brilliantly crafted production highlights the paranoia of what we think we know.
Tempest Redux adapted and directed by John Farmanesh-Bocca at the Odyssey Theatre. Not only does Farmanesh-Bocca highlight the absurd comedy in this piece, he also brings out a deeply human and heart-breaking story of a father’s love for his daughter and what one will do to protect that love. I had the pleasure of interviewing Farmanesh-Bocca where we discussed refining Shakespeare’s language and incorporating heightened physicality.
Ameryka by Nancy Keystone and Critical Mass Performance Group at Shakespeare LA. This 3 hour saga of Polish-American relations since the Revolutionary War is a gargantuan undertaking highlighting the company’s impeccable ensemble work. Although the overall production is flawed, its ambition is strikingly beautiful. I’ll never forget the scene where Gene drags a suitcase full of bricks, unloading each brick as an emblem of deep racial prejudice and hatred that has weighed him down as a black man in America.
Endgame by Samuel Beckett at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Starring Beckett veterans Barry McGovern and Alan Mandell (who also directed), this production perfectly captures the absurdity of the human need to fill the void. It’s dark and bleak, and, to quote Nell, “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.”
My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin at the Fountain Theatre. This fast-paced drama about a group of men working as busboys in a busy restaurant encapsulates the pressures of working in the service industry, especially when their management starts to cut their pay.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson at the Mark Taper Forum. Phylicia Rashad superbly directs this production whose ensemble never lets the pace and poetry drop. With equal parts humor and pathos, this show, although written in 1984 and about the 1920s, still resonates today.
Among Us by Marike Splint as part of the LAX Festival. This site specific piece takes us into Union Station in the morning where we listen on headsets about the nature of people, community, and transience. Then in the afternoon, we gather again in a local park where the same calm voice on the headset guides us through a series of questions.
The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh at the Mark Taper Forum. After directing the dark comedy 20 years ago (and winning a Tony Award) Irish director Garry Hynes revisits the dark relationship between a 40-year-old woman and her ailing and manipulative mother.
I’m looking forward to seeing what shows will happen 2017 – especially in how 99 seat community will move forward with the new plans implemented by AEA.
What have you seen this year that you absolutely loved?

Ashley Steed is a theatre maker, creative producer and writer. In Los Angeles, she’s started a company that devises new works called The Visceral City Project and is also a member of Son of Semele Ensemble. She’s worked on numerous projects as a director, performer or producer here in LA as well as London. She began her writing career with LA Stage Magazine under the mentorship of the late Lee Melville. Ashley holds a BA in Theatre from USC and an MA in Theatre and Performance from Queen Mary, University of London.