The third play in repertory this summer at Theatricum Botanicum is contemporary playwright Ernest Thompson’s THE WEST SIDE WALTZ, directed by Mary Jo DuPrey.
This play premiered at the Ahmanson Theatre forty-one years ago. Now, revised by the author to reflect the way our society has evolved in the past four decades, this production features the talents of the Geer family – the core of Theatricum’s theater company.
Artistic director Ellen Geer performs as Margaret Mary Elderdice, an aging concert pianist living alone on New York’s Upper West Side. Geer’s sister, Melora Marshall, takes on the role of Margaret’s spinster, violin-playing neighbor Cara Varnum, and her daughter, Willow Geer, plays Robin Bird, the would-be actress who comes into their lives. Also in the cast are Miguel Pérez as the building’s super, and Charles Lin as Glen, a young attorney with eyes for Robin. (When I saw the play last weekend, A.M. Sannazzaro performed as the building’s super, and he did a wonderful job at it.)
In my opinion, more than anything seen before at Theatricum, this play shows just how talented the Geer family is. The smooth, honest interaction between the three women must result from their unique circumstance of not only being related, but of having worked together on stage for years.
In an interview, Thompson said that it’s always his goal to add “the three H’s” to his work – heart, hope, and humor. THE WEST SIDE WALTZ is, in fact, a fun play that entertains the audience. It also sends it home thinking about the importance of accepting love from others and learning to co-exist. The best I’ve seen at Theatricum lately, I highly recommend it.
Some of the magic of theater at Theatricum is the venue itself. This is a gorgeous outdoor amphitheater terraced into the hillside of Topanga Canyon. It cools down in the evening, even when the day is warm, so bring along a jacket or even a blanket. Dress casually, these are wooden benches and/or concrete seats. Outside the theater there’s a lovely garden. You are welcome to arrive early with a picnic and enjoy it before the performance. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., in Topanga CA 90290 (midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway).
THE WEST SIDE WALTZ will be in repertory with three other plays- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, and TROUBLE THE WATER, through October 2, 2022.
Tickets are $42 (lower tier/assigned seating); $26 (upper tier/general seating) / Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers: $25/$15 / Children (5-15): $10 / Children 4 and under: Free / Tickets are available by calling (310) 455-3723 or at theatricum.com. There will be one Pay-What-You-Will performance (cash only at the door) on Friday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.
The exact performance dates for THE WEST SIDE WALTZ follow:
• Saturday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, July 2 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 21 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7:30 p.m.*
• Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 11 at 3:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.
*Prologue (pre-show discussion):Saturday, Aug. 27 from 6:30 p.m.–7 p.m. (included in ticket price)