Aside from giving thanks and celebrating our veterans, in November our nation participates in a centuries-old tradition. Through our votes in a variety of forums, each of us—as we’re finding out—can make a difference in our lives and our history. So, in theater this month, we’re celebrating what a single individual can do. In these five solo (or mostly solo) shows, a character, enacted by a widely respected performer, changes himself or herself for the better, or changes the planet. That’s why we’re betting these five shows, listed in order of closing date, are worth your theatergoing time and money this month.
The Bitter Game
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Nov 14–17
“Keep your head up. Keep your eyes forward. Keep your ego down.” That’s advice from the mother of young Jamel Smith, who witnesses a violent act in his inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood and must learn how to interact with the police there. Playwright-actor Keith A. Wallace plays both characters and more as he brings his 55-minute, utterly compelling solo show to the outdoor terrace at the Wallis. The early word suggests that Wallace specifically crafts each show to bring in issues of the day. Deborah Stein co-created, Malika Oyetimein directs. A note from the Wallis: “Wear warm attire and comfortable shoes, expect strong language.” ASL performance November 17.
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills (310-746-4000). Wed–Sat at 7:30pm; $40.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, through Dec 9
Visions of what his life has been and could be scare the dickens out of Ebenezer Scrooge in perhaps the most famous Christmas-themed story ever written—besides, you know, the story of Christmas. Here, Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) brings the world premiere of his adaptation to the Geffen stage—and plays all of the parts, based on a version the wannabe actor Charles Dickens performed throughout his own life.
Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave (310-208-5454). Tue–Fri 8pm; Sat at 3, 8pm; Sun at 2, 7pm. $30–$120.
Blacktop Highway: a gothic horror screenplay’d on one man’s body
Odyssey Theatre, Nov 9–Dec 15
John Fleck is a force—as a performance artist and as a political artist. He brings to the stage the equivalent of a gothic horror film, and plays all of the roles, both human and animal, with the assistance of video and puppets, as well as narrates his self-penned tale, including screenplay slug lines. Who onstage—indeed, who in this country?—can distinguish the real from the not real these days? Randee Trabitz directs.
2055 S Sepulveda Blvd (310-477-2055). Fri, Sat at 8pm; Sun at 2pm (no performances Thanksgiving weekend; additional shows Wed at 8pm, Dec 5 and 12); $17–$30.
The legendary Brian Dennehy takes on two legendary (mostly) solo roles in an evening of two one-acts. He’ll play Erie Smith, who blames the world for his bad luck, in Eugene O’Neill’s 1942 Hughie. Then he’ll take on titular figure Krapp in Samuel Beckett’s 1958 Krapp’s Last Tape. They’re not the most cheerful of pieces, but if Dennehy is in true form, they’ll inspire awe. Steven Robman directs. Joining Dennehy in Hughie are Joe Grifasi through November 25, then Armin Shimerman through December 16.
Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave (310-208-5454). Tue–Fri 8pm; Sat at 3, 8pm; Sun at 2pm. $30–$120.
Sugar Plum Fairy
Skylight Theatre, Nov 24–Dec 23
The 12-year-old Sandra Tsing Loh had unrealistic dreams of dancing the role of young Clara in her local Nutcracker ballet. But what she might have not known then, and what we very well know now, is that Loh grew up to be a masterful storyteller whose spots on NPR are lively and unique. Here, with comedy and poignancy, she tells of her tween years trying to blossom. Audiences are encouraged to come in tutus and ugly sweaters to join in the fun. Bart DeLorenzo directs, and Tony Abatemarco and Shannon Holt join Loh onstage.
1816-½ N Vermont Ave (213-761-7061). Fri at 8:30pm; Sat at 3, 8:30pm; Sun at 3pm. $15–$43.