The Black Dahlia Theatre is one of the smallest theatres in Los Angeles (39 seats) but also one of the best. Since its beginning this little gem has produced award-winning shows such as the Los Angeles premiere of Austin Pendleton’s Orson’s Shadow (in which I was privileged to play Orson Welles) and Jonathan Tolin’s Secrets of the Trade which recently played at Primary Stages in New York and was just published by Samuel French.
The theatre, the directors, the actors and the creative staff have won numerous awards and the theatre itself was named “Best Small Theatre by LA Magazine, as “a local treasure” by LA Weekly, and one of “a dozen young American companies you need to know” by American Theatre Magazine. Under the skilled leadership of Artistic Director Matt Shakman, the theatre has specialized in the production and development of new plays by established and emerging writers. The current offering, Hey, Morgan, in no exception. The show is a departure in that it is the first musical to be produced at the theatre. Matt Shakman is the director.
Hey, Morgan is a pleasant piece with some winning performances. The book and lyrics are by Matthew Fogel and Isaac Laskin, the music by Fogel, Laskin, and David Richman. The choreography—yes, even in this small space there is choreography—is by Courtney Miller Jr. The story involves the life and loves of Morgan Farcas, a Jewish girl from Brentwood, California. It follows her through summer camp, college, her first job, a trip to Italy, her marriage, and eventually her old age.
The plot is the show’s weakest aspect. Morgan is just an ordinary girl, nothing special. The music is jaunty with some very risqué lyrics, some bordering on the sophomoric but other very funny. The performers are all excellent. Martha Marion, an accomplished actor and standup comedienne, plays Morgan. Isaac Laskin acts as the storyteller and troubadour. He has a very winning and sardonic manner and a pleasant voice. Megan English, who is a triple threat, actor, dancer, and singer, plays all the other female parts. The delightfully funny Adam Shapiro plays all the other male roles. He has terrific comedic timing as well as a good voice.
Shakman, as usual, directs with ease and great imagination for such a small space. Hey, Morgan will play at the Black Dahlia Theatre until Nov 19th but I wouldn’t be surprised if it extends.