By Gina V. Ramsey
Nothing beats the delight of seeing live theater!
On any given day, the talent in Long Beach is on display for anyone to appreciate. No need to battle the traffic into Hollywood when within a 10-minute drive you can enjoy a play and be transported into another place, another time. Long Beach is home to about a dozen small-to-medium size performing arts centers putting on classic, musical, and contemporary productions year-round.
One such location is the Long Beach Playhouse, the city’s oldest community theater. This little gem was founded in 1929 by a group of art supporters and is the ‘longest continuously operating community theater west of the Mississippi.’
A recent production of the play, You Can’t Take It With You, was staged with cast, crew, and volunteers from Long Beach as well as from surrounding areas. The classic 1936 comedy’s overarching plot of family love and support, differences and acceptance, remains relevant in today’s world.
The performing space itself is technically not pedestaled on a stage but arranged out on the floor level with audience seating on three sides of it in a U-shape. There is a small lobby and bar area with tables and chairs to enjoy refreshments from Brian’s Bar, so named after a young Playhouse thespian who passed away. In the bar and lobby area, contemporary art by local artists hangs on display for sale. To signal the end of intermission, a staff member walked around the lobby playing a small xylophone.
Long time city resident Trish Mahoney-Ivory attended the show on a Sunday afternoon with her friend. And although Trish has been to shows at other local theaters, enjoyed plenty of free summer concerts in the park, and has driven past the Long Beach Playhouse numerous times, this was her first show here.
“I liked how cozy it was,” she said. “A bit old fashioned, in a cool way. It was a nice escape for a few hours. It was nice to be out without feeling too crowded.”
Community theater is truly a labor of love -- from the actors to the crew, to the members and donors, to the guy stepping away from ticket sales to walk around with the xylophone perched on his arm – it’s all hands-on deck, because, as a character in the show pointed out, “Love is all that is left in the world.”
May 21 - June 18 Intimate Apparel
July 2 - August 6 Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY
June 11 - July 9 The Motherf**ker with the Hat
July 23 - August 20 The Cripple of Inishmaan
Sept. 3 - Oct 1 Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika