- Greggory Moore
By most any measure, the Little Fish Theatre is small. It’s a true black box, with only 65 seats. It’s located in a community whose 12 square miles has the lowest population density of any part of Los Angeles.
But this little theatre company isn’t allowing such limitations to minimize its vision for 2016, as the Little Fish Theatre will stage nine full-length plays, along with a pair of collections of shorts that will bookend its busy year.
Opening 2016 will be a Little Fish tradition, “Pick of the Vine,” the company’s annual selection of short plays. Culled from over 650 submissions received from multiple countries, patrons will be treated to 10 very short plays (between seven and 15 minutes each) that the company promises will answer some of life’s rarely-asked, fascinating questions, such as: How far will we go to make sure our children have every advantage in life? What is the kindest way to handle road-kill? How to cope if one simply can’t engage in small talk?
The season’s first full-length offering will be the West Coast premiere of Rich Orloff’s Domestic Tranquility, a comedy about a nice, normal suburban, 1950s family whose lives are turned upside down by three escaped convicts with bad table manners. Think Desperate Hours, but funny. And while you’re thinking about film (which you are if you’ve seen the Humphrey Bogart film just referenced), next up is Sleuth, Anthony Shaffer’s 1971 Tony Award-winner that a year later was adapted into the Michael Caine/Laurence Olivier whodunit you’ve inevitably stumbled across on TV sometime in the last quarter-century.
Speaking of the Tonys, then comes Table Manners, one-third of the tripartite farce about “aristocrats behaving badly” during an ill-planned adulterous weekend at a country house whose 2008 Broadway adaptation won the Tony for Best Revival of a Play. And the Tony-winners keep coming with The 39 Steps, which captured two Tonys for its Monty Pythonesque adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller.
Okay, so Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House didn’t win a Tony. All this comedy about an aspiring comedian from Brazil more interested in coming up with the perfect joke than in house-cleaning for two married doctors (a story the New York Times calls, “Fresh, funny [and] imbued with a melancholy but somehow comforting philosophy”) did was become Pulitzer finalist. Then comes another Pulitzer finalist, Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn, a 2012 play about two women who covet each other’s live that the New York Times says “illuminates how hard it can be to forge both a satisfying career and a fulfilling personal life in an era that seems to demand superhuman achievement from everyone.”
Then comes The How and the Why, another play focusing on a pair of women, in this case two brilliant, driven biologists confronting issues of womanhood in science and in nature. The How and the Why is written Sarah Treem, an Emmy-nominated writer/producer of House of Cards and The Affair.
Little Fish kicks fall off by staging Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a brilliant reimagining of the lives and careers of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and fellow composer Antonio Salieri, a less gifted contemporary driven to destroy Mozart as a way to strike out at God for bestowing such genius on a man so boorishly undeserving. Three years before Amadeus won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, it won the Tony for Best Play. But you’ve never seen it on stage, right?
Onetime Academy Award nominee Michael Weller’s What the Night Is For, about a pair of ex-lovers meeting for dinner after 11 years, caps off the full-length plays for the season, but Little Fish closes out the year with A Very Special Holiday Special, a comedic collection of holiday shorts by Mark Harvey Levine, whose work has been chosen for several “Pick of the Vines,” including among those slated for 2016.
Associate Artistic Director Suzanne Dean says the season is heavy on comedy because that’s what Little Fish patrons tend to prefer, but that all of this season’s offerings explore “our common humanity and provide the opportunity to see ourselves in new light.” She also notes that, as a pendulum swing from a male-dominated 2015 season, the 2016 season features three full-length plays written by women and driven by female characters, while additional works have women as central characters. Dean says the season also “taps into stories that embrace the perspectives of multiple generations.”
The Little Fish Theatre is located at 777 Centre St., San Pedro, CA 90731. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at (310) 512-6030, or by text (424) 226-6030. Visit at www.littlefishtheatre.org for more information, including season subscription packages of “anytime tickets” and a dinner-and-a-show combo with The Whale & Ale, San Pedro’s superb British pub.