Starting in November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks wrote one play a day for every day of the year. After considerable coordination, more than 600 theater companies will present these plays over the next year in what’s being called the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history. Los Angeles, Parks’ home, is represented by 50 local companies, from Theater@Boston Court to Geffen Playhouse, presenting the plays until November 2007. Opening night for the L.A. premiere of “365 Days/365 Plays” was a memorable al fresco production at the Music Center Plaza, where a talented cast, a game audience of 300-plus and Bart DeLorenzo’s amiably loose direction combined to create a piece of low-key magic.
The seven plays and three “constants” — pieces that may be performed with each producing company’s selection of plays — were mostly humorous or philosophical. A couple touched upon dramatic issues.
The first constant was notable mainly for the spectacle of hundreds of people watching a woman brush her teeth leaning over the Taper pool, street theater at its simplest. The second constant was so subtle that most of the aud probably missed it, but the third, where the actors try to complete a huge number of tasks in too short a time, was hilarious and spotlighted the performers’ admirable improv abilities.
The accurately titled “Start Here,” concerning a young man’s fear of the future, kicked things off with an optimistic outlook. DeLorenzo made good use of a metal door sculpture in the plaza, and Patrick Breen scored as the positive, encouraging Krishna.
“Father Comes Home From the Wars (Pt. 1)” is a darkly comic vignette, as a wife greets her returning husband with, “I wasn’t expecting you. Ever.” Adina Porter was sharp as the dubious spouse, and Jesse Borrego was quietly threatening as the titular veteran.
Barry Shabaka Henley gave a nicely blustery perf as a barker displaying a genuine “Good-for-Nothing,” and Leonardo Nam was bitingly funny as an arrogant messenger in “Here Comes the Message.”
The Center Theater Group production was for one night only, but in coming weeks, Open Fist Theater Company, Playwrights’ Arena and Elephant Asylum Theater will be presenting further “weeks” or selections of Parks’ plays. This whole thing may be a bit of a stunt, but in terms of connecting artists and audiences, it’s a fascinating one.
For information on upcoming L.A. productions, visit http://www.365inla.com.