Dial M for Murder, Lonny Chapman Theatre

I’m consistently surprised by the amount of people who tell me they didn’t know there was so much theatre in the Los Angeles area. My theory is they just aren’t looking hard enough or don’t know where to look. With Goldstar, Living Social, and Groupon readily accessible, I find it incredibly easy to discover new theaters around me like the Lonny Chapman Theatre.

This was my first show at the Lonny Chapman and I was impressed by the production value. I have to start with the set. When my best friend sent a snap to our friend of where we were he thought we were at a retired TV set, it’s that convincing. The 1950s home really draws you in with its simplicity. There’s not too much and not too little but every little detail informs the characters as well as the plot as you wonder what will be the next key piece of the puzzle.

I have to confess I have not seen the Hitchcock film adaptation so I had no idea what I was walking into. While it’s clear who the murderer is quite early on the mystery comes from wondering how everything will go wrong. If you watch enough mysteries you catch on that any time someone lays out exactly what their plan is, something will ruin it. Thus the central question emerges — is there a perfect crime?

The story moves at a slow pace made more noticeable by the lengthy scene changes, but is by no means a drag. Credit has to go to this small cast for their energy and charm, anchored by Adam Jonas Segaller as the scheming husband, Tony Wendice. Tony’s character is not nearly as a clever as he believes himself to be but you almost believe he’ll actually get away with it since his plan is so well thought out. One thing I really appreciated about the story was the clever inspector Hubbard. As of late there have been so many portrayals of detectives as dopes who can’t figure anything out but Hubbard really came through to bring more tension and hold Wendice’s feet to the fire.

This is not my favorite show I’ve ever seen but if you’re a fan of the film (and I was very inspired to see it after this show) give this show a chance. Tickets were just over $16 after taxes. My roommate and I took a Lyft and were certainly glad we did so. There is very little parking nearby.  The theater is kind of close to the Cupcake Theater so if you know any secret parking lots near there you could walk from there and grab dinner.

Dial M For Murder is running weekends through August 13th. You can get tickets on Goldstar or through The Group Rep website. Through the theater’s website, tickets run for $25 dollars. The theater is small so arrive early to get good seats.

Constellations, Geffen Playhouse

I couldn’t have asked for a better play to review first. Constellations opens tonight, July 14th, at the intimate Geffen Playhouse a stone’s throw from UCLA to what I hope is the packed house it deserves. I caught the last preview of the play and it more than earned its standing ovation.

Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time) stars opposite Allen Leech (Downton Abbey) in this two-man play from playwright Nick Payne, which explores the concept of string theory and infinite universes and courses our lives may take — but are they truly infinite?

As the play unfolds it seems increasingly clear that while there are infinite possibilities for our lives across infinite universes there may be one clear course our lives will take. Don’t be afraid because I mentioned string theory that this play will be bland or too brainy. Out of its almost 90 minute run time, you’ll have to hear science for about…five minutes of it and that’s a pretty generous estimation. The rest is focused on developing the characters of Marianne, a quantum physics professor at Cambridge, and Roland, a beekeeper, as they struggle in a relationship that brings to mind Jaime and Kathy from The Last Five Years (but without the songs). I don’t want to give anything away, but before you know it this love story will have you emotionally invested and both endeared and devastated for them. These characters are fun and you root for them to have a universe where things go well for them.

The story, told in segments, unfolds out-of-order leaving some in the audience whispering behind me about their confusion but the pieces all come together by the end. Even the confused older ladies behind me had the gist of it before Goodwin and Leech took their bows.

If you’re not a fan of seeing the same scenes played out various ways, you might want to pass on this one, but the subtle differences between each string of the same scene really highlight the level of talent Goodwin and Leech bring to the stage.

I feel something should also be said for the clever, minimalist staging that features beautiful round string lights which my roommate observed help keep track of which string each scene is on.

Constellations - Promo Pic
Photo Credit: Chris Whitaker, courtesy of Geffen Playhouse

If you like your plays to leave you with some food for thought, give this show a shot. I certainly don’t contemplate quantum physics in my normal life but since seeing this play I have started debating all over again whether we truly have free will or if there truly are an infinite array of choices at our feet.

At $28.50 a ticket after taxes on Goldstar (assuming you go for a ticket listed at $21.50) this is a show worth your while. If you factor in the parking a couple minutes’ walk from the theatre which costs $6, you could have a pretty nice night out for under $40.

Here’s a link to purchase tickets on Goldstar if you’re interested:

https://www.goldstar.com/events/los-angeles-ca/constellations-tickets#dates-times