'Car Plays' deliver in-your-face theater
The undisputed hit at last year's Off Center Festival was "The Car Plays." The lucky few who could snag tickets lined up in pairs to see short scenes performed in cars parked on the Arts Plaza beside Costa Mesa's Segerstrom Hall. Most seemed to agree that there's nothing like witnessing sex, death, love, hate and screaming arguments, the juicy gist of theater, two inches in front of your nose.
This year they're back: 15 plays in all (there are three series of five, each performed in its own line of cars), including seven world premieres, four of them co-commissioned by South Coast Repertory and the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
"The Car Plays" were conceived by Paul Stein, artistic director of L.A.'s Moving Arts theater company, as an inventive way to keep his ensemble going after the loss of their venue. Most feature two actors, but configurations vary. In one car, the audience might sit in the front seats and watch the drama unfold behind them. In another, you might both squeeze into the back seat with an actor who converses with someone in the front.
What sticks with you is the immediacy and intimacy of the experience. You feel as if you're part of the story, either as an invisible observer or (in one play) a mute member of the ensemble. And there's an undeniable realism in watching a wrenching drama unfold in a humdrum place where we spend many mundane hours. Even outlandish situations carry a spooky sense of truth in such an environment.
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