When celebrities start doing theater in Los Angeles, you can bet it’s a labor of love. And that’s absolutely true of the rarely produced Tennessee Williams play Orpheus Descending taking place at Theater/Theater until February 21st. Starring Gale Harold (Queer as Folk), Denise Crosby (Star Trek TNG), and cover girl-turned-actress Claudia Mason (Vogue, Elle, W, Cosmopolitan), the play is Tennessee Williams’ take on Orpheus and Eurydice as set in the South, the perfect American equivalent for emotional repression and alienation. It was his ultimate ode to his youth and took him a laborious 17 years to complete to his satisfaction.
The production itself was also a carefully constructed labor, born out of a collective of artists with director Lou Pepe leading the way. I had the opportunity to speak with Claudia Mason, who takes on the role of the Greek Chorus as the outsider Carol Cutrere, about the process of bringing this play to life. There was a great deal of artistic luxury with role playing to fill in the subtexts and events that directly affect what takes place on stage. It was that intense commitment to exploration that Claudia shared as her favorite part of the rehearsal process.
Orpheus Descending opened last week to mixed reviews. The play is a snapshot in time and very weighty in theme. In a time when so many people are still struggling in the hard hit Los Angeles economy, it’s not the kind of escapism many are seeking. But, from what I can gather, watching Denise Crosby run the gamut of emotional range from one end of the spectrum to the other with a dizzying ease is worth the price of admission. It’s the value of any celebrity driven theater – getting to see these people who are at the top of their game work just a few feet away from you. Even if it isn’t award winning, it’s still incredible to witness. If you go with that perspective, you won’t leave disappointed.
Orpheus Descending runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, January 15 through February 21. General admission is $25. Theatre/Theater is located at 5041 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90019 (two blocks west of La Brea, ample street parking available), For reservations and information, call (800) 838-3006 or go to www.BrownPaperTickets.com/event/92508 .