Ventura County Star - Thursday, January 3, 2008

Favre: Columnist looks back at the best Los Angeles had to offer

By Jeff Favre (Contact)
Thursday, January 3, 2008

If 2008 has come on a little too fast, then take a breath and let's revisit 2007 one last time before looking ahead.

The Los Angeles theater scene was — and still is — missing something: the Mark Taper Forum, temporarily closed because of an ongoing $30 million renovation. It's scheduled to reopen in September but, until then, the Taper's season will continue to be folded into the arms of its larger sibling, the Ahmanson.

The art world was happy to see the return of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. The Little Tokyo space, a satellite branch of the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art, reopened in March after being closed for renovation. Its current show, on display through Feb. 11, is called "Murakami" and spotlights the work of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Offerings at other L.A. museums, theaters and entertainment venues were worth the trip down the 101 in 2007 — even in ever-worsening traffic. Here are a few worth remembering:

Best play or musical, large venue

"Twelve Angry Men," Ahmanson Theatre. Even if you had seen the 1956 film version, it didn't lessen the emotional impact and tension of this powerful jury-room drama, with a remarkable ensemble cast led by Richard Thomas in the role made famous on screen by Henry Fonda. Writer Reginald Rose's emotional and logical dissection of a murder case set the tone for such popular TV shows as "Law & Order," and this production didn't miss a beat. Scott Ellis' brilliant direction allowed the audience to fully experience each character's transformation, as all but one juror re-examines a supposed open-and-shut case with fresh eyes.

Runner-up: "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare Festival/LA, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Theatergoers paid huge amounts of money to see Ian McKellen and the Royal Shakespeare Company's "King Lear," which received mixed reviews, but there was no charge for this fresh, joyous rendition of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Shakespeare Festival/LA set its version of the play in the Central Avenue neighborhood of 1930s Los Angeles, then the jazz capital of the West Coast. The production swung like a Lionel Hampton hit and elicited huge laughs.

Best play or musical, small venue

"Love Loves a Pornographer," Inside the Ford at the John Anson Ford Theatre Complex. Veteran playwright Jeff Goode found fancy, funny ways to turn a phrase in his new work that pays homage to mannered drawing-room comedies of the Victorian era. Running through Jan. 20, Goode's play concerns a novelist and his wife, their strange neighbors and the couple's daughter, who brings home an unexpected fiancé. The play moves at a blistering pace, snuggly fitting in double the amount of dialogue that would normally be delivered in two hours. For tickets, call 323-461-3673 or visit

Runner-up: "Love & Other Social Issues," Assistance League Playhouse. Much more than a poetry reading but not exactly a one-man play, this romance between Malcolm-Jamal Warner and words was an unflinching confession by the artist about what drives — and blocks — his goal to be a fully realized person. In 80 powerful, insightful minutes, Warner made it impossible to simply see him as Theo Huxtable from NBC's "The Cosby Show."

Best museum exhibit

"Dalí: Painting & Film," Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Through Sunday, LACMA is showcasing the works of artist Salvador Dalí in the context of his few, but memorable, forays into film. About 100 of the Spanish artist's best paintings and sketches, along with projections of cinema efforts, are featured. The centerpiece is the 1946 Dalí-Walt Disney project "Destino," left unfinished for decades until a couple of years ago when Roy Disney had the animated short completed, using Dalí's drawings as a blueprint. For tickets and more information, call 323-857-6000.

Runner-up: "Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear," California Science Center. Being scared has rarely been more scientific. Visitors were placed in situations that cause fear, and the exhibit showed in fascinating, easy-to-understand detail what happens to the body and mind at those moments. The Fear of Loud Noises room made practically everyone jump, and a video replay showed how faces contort when a loud, unexpected sound blares.

Best event

Jules Verne Adventure Film Festival, Shrine Auditorium and Los Angeles Theatre. Jules Verne, one of the creators of modern science fiction, was the inspiration for this inaugural seven-day celebration of documentary and feature premieres and revivals, including a screening of the new director's cut of "Blade Runner" (now out on DVD), with much of the cast and crew in attendance. Verne's work has inspired filmmakers and artists for more than a century, and likely will continue to do so for years to come.

— E-mail freelance columnist Jeff Favre at