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Sarah Rosenberg, Joyce F. Liu and Tohoru Masamune in Henry Ong’s “Seppuku!”.

Photo by Gary Leonard found on LA Downtown News.

There’s no place like home for Company of Angels. For their second year of LA VIEWS, eight members of their Playwrights Group explore the legacy of the silent era movie stars who held their secret rendez-vous and opulent parties at the Alexandria Hotel, where Company Of Angels’ black box theater is located. The hotel hasn’t been restored to its 1920’s glory; no face lift for this aging star so don’t be put off by the wrinkles on its floors and walls and please don’t leave without taking  a peek into the retired ballroom, with its lights on and off.

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The Palm Court ballroom found on Bryan Arnett’s web page: “Alexandria Hotel Then and Now.”

Company of Angels’ playhouse is on the hotel’s 3rd floor.  Since most of LA VIEWS II’s 8 one-act plays take place at the Alexandria, I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of being turned into a voyeur and watching from a peephole.  The chemistry between 2 perfectly cheerful bellhops, Joshua Lamont and Juanita Chase, “your hosts for the night,” definitely add to the excitement.  The playful duo speaks to us as if we were in the heydays of the hotel then suddenly asks us to “please turn off any noisy device” using their back-and-forth banter to blur the lines between past and present.

True to CoA’s mission, the playwrights don’t linger in the shallow side of the celebrity pool and instead give us a broad view into the silent screen era from the stars’ personal (Henry Ong’s “Seppuku!”) and/or political point of view (Jamison Newlander’s “Goodbye, Mary Pickford”) to their racial makeup and sexual preferences. But what makes the show unique is that the stories are told in the present. The silver screen’s gods and goddesses are evoked in spirit by men and women who share our 21st century’s quirks, obsessions and longings: extras on the set of “The Sheik”s remake (Leon Martell’s “Do You Not Know?”,) security guards in the hotel’s lobby (Damon Chua’s “Fresh Cream Pie”,) lovers and loners hiding in hotel rooms and movie theaters.

The comedic sketches outnumber and may overshadow the more subtle or darker pieces, but it does make this joyful evening a perfect remedy to fight our current state of depression. Credit goes to the sensitive direction and the high-power ensemble’s comic timing which keeps us on our toes during even the most predictable one-act.

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Marco Tazioli and Brian Rohan in Lilly Thomassian’s deliciously surreal  “Pan Troglodytes”

At the end of the show, in the theater’s lobby, portraits of Pola Negri, Enrico Caruso, Mary Pickford, Sessue Hayakawa and their peers called out to me when I hadn’t even noticed them upon my arrival. I smiled at them in new found appreciation and they smiled back.

Through May 10th. For venue address, schedule of performances, and cast/crew information, go to http://www.companyofangels.org.

Click here for my interview with CoA member Xavi Moreno.

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