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What happens when 1880 Western bandits are brought back to life in Azusa, CA by a space alien? Sam Shepard’s The Unseen Hand joins Odyssey Theatre Ensemble‘s 50th Anniversary “Circa ’69” Season of significant and adventurous plays that premiered around the time of the company’s inception, coupled with Shepard’s gritty and audacious Killer’s Head.
E.T. meets the Old West in The Unseen Hand, Shepard’s hilarious yet foreboding sci-fi Western about a trio of legendary cowboys resurrected to help a mutant extraterrestrial free his people from slavery.
Sam was always prescient, and The Unseen Hand has transformed over the decades,” says director and longtime Shepard collaborator Darrell Larson. “We live in a society that’s always been heavily influenced by the Western mythos. This is a crazy comedy with space freaks, cowboys, cheerleaders and super-fun technical elements. It plays like a cartoon — but it’s also tragic. Underneath, it’s about toxic masculinity and the havoc it causes, and about trying to save the world. Sam explores these ideas deftly and profoundly.”
The Unseen Hand premiered off-off-Broadway at La Mama ETC on December 26, 1969. Revivals include a production in 1970 at New York’s Astor Place Theater in 1977 at New York’s Perry Street Theater and at La Mama in 1982, where The New York Times called it “a sixpack of vintage Shepard… The play is not really extraterrestrial. It is about the depressive state right here on earth, on the loss of innocence and individuality and other matters that have troubled Mr. Shepard since he first began his folklorist investigation of the decline of the American West (and East). The Morphan brothers are outlaws as heroes… For all their shooting and shouting, they are bonded together in a love of the pioneer spirit.”
The evening also includes Killer’s Head, a murderer’s monologue delivered as he awaits electrocution, performed at the Odyssey by a rotating cast of prominent actors including Steve Howey, Dermot Mulroney and more TBA.
Killer’s Head premiered at New York’s American Place Theatre in 1975, starring a then-unknown Richard Gere. In his New York Times review, Clive Barnes wrote that the ten-minute piece “confirm[s] the impression that Mr. Shepard is among the most original voices writing in the theater today.”
Sam Shepard, (1943 – 2017), was an American playwright and actor whose plays adroitly blend images of the American West, pop motifs, science fiction, and other elements of popular and youth culture. His settings are often a kind of nowhere, notionally grounded in the dusty heart of the vast American Plains. His characters are typically loners, drifters caught between a mythical past and the mechanized present his work often concerns deeply troubled families. His career spanned half a century. He began his career as a playwright in New York in 1964 with the Theatre Genesis production of two one-act plays, Cowboys and The Rock Garden, at St. Mark's Church-in-the Bowery. Their lack of conventional structure and the manic language of their long monologues offended critics — but Michael Smith of the Village Voice hailed them as “distinctly American” and “genuinely original,” declaring their author full of promise. By 1980, Mr. Shepard was the most produced playwright in America after Tennessee Williams. All together, he wrote over 45 plays, winning 13 Obie awards for writing and directing, as well as several books of short stories, essays and memoirs. Shepard received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1979 for his play Buried Child and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. In 1986 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1992 he received the Gold Medal for Drama from the Academy. He was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1994. He received the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award as a master American dramatist in 2009. New York magazine described Shepard as “the greatest American playwright of his generation.”
Performances of The Unseen Hand and Killer’s Head take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Jan. 18 through March 8. Additional weeknight performances are scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 5 Thursday, Feb. 20 and Wednesday, March 4, all at 8 p.m. There will also be three preview performances, on Wednesday, Jan. 15 Thursday, Jan. 16 and Friday, Jan. 17, all at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $32 to $37, except previews which are $15 discounts are available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30 call theater for details. There will be three “Tix for $10” performances, on Friday, Jan. 24, Wednesday, Feb. 5 and Sunday, Feb. 16.
The third Friday of each month (Jan. 17 and Feb. 20) is “Wine Night”: enjoy complimentary wine and snacks and mingle with the cast after the show. Post- performance discussions are set for Wednesday, Feb. 5 and Thursday, Feb. 20. Friday, Feb. 21 is “College Night” and includes a pre-performance student reception with themed catering as well as a post-performance discussion: $10 with promo code COLLEGE (student ID checked at door). Friday, Feb. 28 is “LGBTQ Night,” tickets are $20 with promo code LGBTQ.
The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. For reservations and information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to OdysseyTheatre.com.
Presenter / Producer: Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
Theater > Drama
Theater > Theatrical Comedy
Event Phone: 310-477-2055
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
West Los Angeles CA 90025
LA - Hollywood / Westside
Performance Dates: 1/15/2020 - 3/8/2020
Fri., Sat.8:00 pm Sun. 2:00 pm with previews and additional performances 8:00 pm on Wed. 1/15, 2/5/ and3/4 Thurs. 1/16 and2/20
$32-$37 previews $15 $10 available for 1/24 2/5 and 2/16
Web Link for ticketing
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