The rumor persists that Los Angeles is a town without theatre. This outdated sentiment is clearly disproved by the presence of the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre, The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, the Pantages Theatre and the Geffen Playhouse.
The Geffen Playhouse is a mid-sized theatre located on Westwood Boulevard, just outside the UCLA campus. Originally named the Westwood Playhouse, the building was one of the first twelve structures built in Westwood Village in 1929. In 1933, UCLA purchased the property. The theatre was renamed after media mogul David Geffen donated five million dollars. His donation was one of the largest philanthropic donations ever made to an already constructed theatre. After a 17 million dollar renovation that preserved the romanticism of the building design while adapting the space to the needs of its audience and theatre company, the Geffen Playhouse reopened in 2002.
The renovated theatre boasts improved acoustics, sight lines, and a new elevated section of seats with premiere views. The new seats are wider and the main stage has new side wings to accommodate full-size sets and scene changes. The new three-story Audrey Skirball Kenis Theatre, with 117 seats, is adjacent to the 522-seat main theatre.
Now hailed as on of the crown jewels of Los Angeles, the Geffen Playhouse offers five plays per season on the main stage, and three to four plays on the second, smaller stage. Known for having well-known film and television actors in their productions (and in the audience as well), the 2007-2008 season shares moving performances by actors such as Christine Lahti and Laurie Metcalf. This season’s line up of Third, the Quality of Life, Atlanta, Emergence-See, Female of the Species and the Elephant in the Room is comprised of a West Coast premiere, an American premiere and no less than three World premieres. The selection of plays represents a season as distinct and diverse as the city the Geffen Playhouse calls home.
With ample garage parking nearby, there is often time for a pleasant pre-show dinner. Most local restaurants will do their best to get you out on time if you let them know in advance that you have to make a curtain. Two particularly interesting places to try are Tanino Ristorante and Bar and Napa Valley Grille.
Tanino Ristorante and Bar is an Italian restaurant housed in a building whose design is based on the mythical architecture of Florence’s Pitti Palace. The food is influenced by Chef Tanino Drago’s family recipes including carpaccios of smoked swordfish and tuna, fresh marinated anchovy salad, risotto with squid, chicken with lemon and couscous, pumpkin sage lasagna and a panna cotta dessert.
Napa Valley Grille serves everything from beef, chicken and fish to salads and soups, while offering excellent service and an extensive wine collection featuring hard-to-find varietals from highly regarded Napa Valley wineries. Appetizers include crispy crab cakes, seared ahi tuna; entrees include Half-Moon artichoke ravioli, Maine lobster and shrimp gnocchi, steaks, short ribs, and more.
What & Where:
Geffen Playhouse/ Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater (10886 Le Conte Avenue; 310-208-5454)
Tanino Ristorante Bar (1043 Westwood Blvd.; 310-208-0444)
Napa Valley Grille (1100 Glendon Avenue, Suite 100 ; 310-824-3322)