To paraphrase the Real Estate Agent’s Handbook, it all depends on location. And so it is with THE ZIP CODE PLAYS. A series of six original audio plays from the well-known Antaeus Theatre Company, THE ZIP CODE PLAYS podcasts tell some little known tales of Los Angeles’s different neighborhoods, each penned by different members of the Antaeus Playwrights Lab and featuring a cast of acclaimed Antaeus actors. Often loosely based on real-life events, this sextet is as informative as it is entertaining. Kudos to co-artistic directors Bill Brochtrup and Kitty Swink, who successfully answer the call for theater during this deadly pandemic. And let’s not forget sound designer and foley artist Jeff Gardner, whose talents helped put this project together so effectively.
Los Angeles snapshots begin with “Speakeasy,” written by Khari Wyatt, starring Bernard K. Addison, Lloyd Roberson II, and Marlow Wyatt, and directed by Bernadette Speakes. Set in 1956, African-American author Leon Ivy returns home to South Central LA (zip code 9011). He’s been in Paris for the past year finishing his novel, now slated for publication. Leon’s life in Paris has been an eye-opener, a fulfilling journey into a world he only dreamed of. But the world in LA didn’t stand still while he was gone. His wife and her new business partner have made plans of their own which may not include Leon. Leon must face a critical decision: Do you seek the perfect life – or do you fight to change and improve the life you’ve got?
Next we journey to the Pacific Palisades (zip code 90272). Written by Alex Goldberg and starring Nike Doukas, Harry Groener, and Adrian LaTourelle with direction by Ann Noble, “Annexing the Palisades” is based on a true LA story few people know about. The year is 1939, and talented craftsman Joseph Kurtz has been called to the Murphy Ranch to carve an ornate balustrade in a mansion slated to be the summer residence of none other than Adolph Hitler (after World War II, of course). A simple job just became very complicated for the Jewish artist.
The third in the six part series takes place in Santa Monica (zip code 90403). It seems that the Pluckers outnumber the Harvesters – and that just isn’t right. Mina has plucked a piece of fruit from her neighbor’s tree, which just happens to overhang her property. Now she is on trial by the Flora and Fauna Committee. The biggest surprise of all is that this tale of an ESL teacher/fruit thief is a true story. The satire “Plucker” was written by Nayna Agrawal, directed by Jonathan Munoz-Proulx, and stars Veralyn Jones, Kavi Ramachandran Ladnier, and Marcelo Tubert.
The fourth LA story takes place in Westwood (zip code 90024). Author Deb Hiett examines just how hard it is to protest in the modern world. Directed by Carolyn Ratteray and starring Dawn Didawick, Bo Foxworth, and Catia Ojeda, “All Information Herein is Classified” tells what happens when the FBI decides to investigate an 80-year-old retiree who has just been bitten by the street protest bug.
The fifth tale in the group takes the audience to a junk yard in Sun Valley (zip code 91352). “Salvage” is written by Steve Serpas, directed by Julia Fletcher, and stars Gigi Bermingham and Jon Chaffin. When a nearly blind former music teacher requests a volunteer helper to buy a used part for her broken-down 1998 Subaru, the pair never expect that they have a lot more in common than a geographic appointment. Perhaps the tides that change a life are difficult to pin down.
Finally, the last entry into the series happens at the Los Angeles Civic Center in downtown LA (zip code 90012). Inspired by true events, this fantasy serio-comedy posits what might have happened if a comet awakened a pair of downtown statues (activist attorney Clara and Fra. Junipero Serra) and Arcturas, a long-gone bear from the La Brea Tar Pits. “Clara and Serra and the Talking Bear” blends history and today’s world in a clever and creative mix. Authored by Angela J. Davis, directed by Steven Robman, and starring Tony Amendola, Luis Kelly-Duarte, and Abby Marks, 90012 has never been quite so exciting.
Hosted by Ramon de Ocampo and featuring original music by Ellen Mandel, THE ZIP CODE PLAYS first aired on Thursday, November 12, 2020, and remains available at www.antaeus.org or wherever audience members get their podcasts. The audio presentation is free.