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Theater Review: Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble: Picks Play About Forging Ahead in Tough Times

If you want to see how people muscle through an economic downturn, head to the Powerhouse Theatre in the next three weeks to take in “Adeline’s Play.” The tidy space on 2nd Street has been transformed into a Depression Era theatre, complete with singing ushers, free popcorn, and a Vaudevillian pre-show. The script centers on a play that chugs along like the little engine that could, unifying otherwise disparate people who are searching for a bright spot amidst soul-crushing financial turmoil. If it’s not a play for the times, I don’t know what is.

It’s this art-imitating-life factor that has the creative team extra excited and eager to spread the word about the show. Of course, any creative team aims to pull in maximum audience numbers, but a recent conversation with director Amanda Glaze and producer/sound designer Corwin Evans left me with the impression that this gang of artists is going for something particularly special.

“I had a lot of conversations with the playwright about the Depression, and we looked at how our grandparent’s faced it and got through it,” Glaze said. “You have to have some way to uplift the spirit, and the six characters in this play find that by being involved in the theatre community…by working on the play, these people are able to just get through the day.”

The titular character is a failed actress who returns home from Los Angeles to her little Midwestern town, slightly broken but determined to continue working on her dream. She brings together a group of unlikely people to mount a show despite the downturn. The group is forced to rehearse during the wee hours of the morning because of wildly conflicting schedules.

“You have all kinds of characters involved, from a city councilmember to a skirt factory worker,” Evans said. “It’s really a great piece for seeing how people come together when they are down-and-out. The character of the playwright is a newspaper writer who never expects to get pulled into the production, but he has to…you begin to see how people are forced to function in this kind of world, how people pitch in.”

The real-life playwright, Kit Steinkellner, is no stranger to penning characters stuck in a state of disillusionment and world-weariness. She is the creative mind behind The Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble’s hit play “Quixotic,” which garnered critical acclaim last year. Steinkellner, whose work has garnered multiple awards, has been produced nationally, with productions Off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego. Glaze, who also directed “Quixotic,” has worked with Steinkellner on five productions.

So, the creative team working on “Adeline’s Play” has been together for a while, and they’re plugging away much like the creative team portrayed within the play they’re mounting. They’re working on a shoestring budget to bring us a piece of theatre in Santa Monica about what happens when people refuse to give up.

“Adeline’s Play” runs through September 5 at The Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. For tickets, visit www.latensemble.com. Tickets are $15 at the door, $20 on line; August 21 is pay-what-you-can.

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