Monday, May 10, 2010

A test of faith

Theatre is about taking risks. Often directors, producers, cast members and crew sign on to a project with little clue what the the final outcome will be and how they will pull it off.

Such is the case with Filament Theatre Co.'s LA premiere of "second." In this dark comedy written by Neal Utterback, six New Yorkers have their beliefs put to the test after a mysterious event takes place. (Photo credit: Joe LaRue)

The six are paired into three groups, so essentially, the audience is following three sets of stories - concurrently. That is the way the play was written. For director Joe LaRue, that is also the experience he wanted to achieve. While the play was written for the stage, this LA premiere will be performed in a home in Silver Lake.

The choice to produce a show at a private residence was primarily a financial decision. Producer Celeste Den also felt (through hosting past fundraiser events at her home) a certain kind of energy could be created by bringing theatre into a home environment. Think of it as attending a party at a friend's house, and a bunch of your friends are going to perform for you (btw, audiences are invited to come early and hang out afterward in this casual setting). And before you write this off as a bunch of theatre geeks indulging themselves, think about the luxuries a group is afforded when they perform in a blackbox theatre.

With this decision came several technical challenges. How do you tell three stories in a restricted space simultaneously? You tell them all at once in three different rooms. With television monitors in each room. So the audience in one room can see what's going on in the other two rooms. Ok, now that's answered. What about sound, light, and filming?

The production proved to be a monumental task that the entire cast of 7+ were up for, lending individual experiences, and learning their way together through the technical challenges. There were moments throughout rehearsal where Den admits that the team wondered, "What are we doing? What if it doesn't work?"

Fortunately, time was on the company's side, as well as a willing cast and experienced director. LaRue, who is no stranger to the play having directed the original production in 2005, saw an opportunity to create a whole new environment.

"It wouldn't be as exciting or be challenging enough just to remount it in a traditional way," Den recalls LaRue's encouraging words.

"second" is Filament's re-introduction to the LA theatre scene, and is also LaRue's induction into the company. The troupe prides itself in bringing unique theatre experiences. "Our goal is to explode people's expectations of theatre," Den claims.

The pair offer some tips for how to make the most of your "second" viewing:
  1. If you're going with a group of friends, split yourselves up among the three different rooms. That way, you'll have different perspectives of the play, but also be able to share your experiences.
  2. Expect a fast-paced, intense and humorous play.
  3. Leave plenty of time to find parking (most parking is residential and may be challenging).
And lastly, considering that the play is about faith, it may be appropriate to say that one can expect to witness a miracle in the play, as well as in the pulling-off of the production. If nothing else, I'm curious to see how it all comes together.

"second" runs every Thursday-Saturday now through May 29th, with performances at 8PM. Two additional shows will also be presented on Wednesday, May 19th and May 26th. Pay-What-You-Can on Thursday, May 13th. Additional details can be found at


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