A new theatre company in town is always something to celebrate.
The Aurora Theater, founded by actor and acting coach Charles Tentindo and named for his mother, opened a little more than a year ago in the Village area off Carson and Lakewood Boulevard in what was previously a saxophone shop. It is now presenting its first major production.
"Divas in Danger" is a monthly staging of real-life stories that involved its three lead actresses. Mariana Williams, Debra Ehrhardt and Brenda Adelman are the talented trio who relate personal tales that skillfully manage to be both harrowing and hilarious, sometimes simultaneously.
Williams opens and closes the show with "Reunion" and "It Sucks to Be Vain and Poor." The first recounts how she bumped into an ex-boyfriend dressed as Jesus Christ outside a dive bar at which she had just started working. The second is about her even funnier (and scarier) effort to undergo budget plastic surgery offered at the private home of a questionable doctor in Park City, Utah. Williams has a winning, personable storytelling style to be sure, but she stumbled over a few words and lines during the April 21 performance I attended. She ought to be able to easily tighten up and improve her reading in the future.
Ehrhardt's "Jamaica Farewell" was the evening's best-written and best-performed piece. She takes the audience on an engaging journey through her childhood and teen years on the title island. Desperate to go to the United States and live a more prosperous life, she fell in with a CIA agent who enlisted Ehrhardt to smuggle $1 million in cash. She successfully did so, but it sure wasn't easy. The actress made her youthful desperation, fear and joy palpable for those in attendance.
Also affecting and the most ambitiously staged of these tales was "My Brooklyn Hamlet," written and performed by Adelman. When Adelman was a young adult, her father shot and killed her mother with little advance warning or subsequent motive. The actress plays her mother and father in addition to her younger self as she illuminates her lifelong struggle to forgive her father. Adelman's diction suffered at times as she transitioned among characters but that didn't diminish the power of her very personal story.
The full house, which included Oscar-winning songwriter and singer Paul Williams, responded enthusiastically to "Divas in Danger." It is scheduled for at least one more performance on May 19. This production and its welcome new venue are well worth checking out. Tickets are $20 at the door. For reservations, which I recommend, send a text message to (562) 279-4181.