Playwright’s Works Find an Untraditional Venue

Ava Burton and Mark Miller in “Short plays and monologues on the theme of love and romance,” 7:30 p.m., May 15 &16, BC Space. $15-$25. RSVP:
Ava Burton and Mark Miller in “Short plays and monologues on the theme of love and romance,” 7:30 p.m., May 15 &16, BC Space. $15-$25. RSVP: [email protected]

Sitting at a little desk, a young woman peers expectantly into the distance. Wearing pink cat’s-eye glasses, she mutters, “Yenta Nudel, at your service,” into a corded phone set off by a wrong number. Freshly divorced, she had been at a loss what to do next. Blessed with innate chutzpah, she hung out her shingle as a matchmaker intent on guiding lonely Jewish men and women to marital bliss.

On her first day as a yenta, Rick O. Robbins wanders into her storefront after being ejected from a deli. Hilarity begins as a befuddled Robbins tries to prove to Nudel that he’s not Irish.

Since nothing is ever what it seems, Robbins is neither. In turns not to be revealed here, the novice yenta shows the tongue-tied schlep that hunger can be quelled in myriad ways.

Such is the premise of “An Appetite for Love,” written, produced and directed by local resident Lojo Simon, who will produce “Short plays and monologues on the theme of love and romance” on May 15 and 16.

They are to be performed at 7:30 p.m. at Laguna Beach’s BC Space Gallery, 235 Forest Ave., which hosted her previous production, “Love Letters.”

While the latter was comprised of a series of monologues, this recent series is set in scenes, but again spotlights the acting talents of Ava Burton and Mark Miller.

Local audiences may also remember Burton for taking on the role of female characters in “Shakespeare’s Fool,” a production created by rocker husband Jason Feddy and local poet John Gardiner.

Miller’s day job is development director of Friendship Shelter.

“I was looking for a variety of short pieces for Ava and Mark that involve scene work to showcase their great stage chemistry,” said Simon, who works as artistic associate and literary manager of Laguna Playhouse, where she is known as Lauren Simon.

The duo will portray characters of various ages in “Beyond Tucumcari,” “In Fine Feathers” and “Appetite…,” along with two snippets from other plays.

“Beyond Tucumcari” deals with the awkwardness of young people navigating relationships without in-depth conversations but instead rely on texts and tweets.

“Feathers” takes place in a bedroom.

A flyer advertising the works shows the backsides of a slightly bandy-legged man in khaki shorts and a woman wearing flowered ones, apropos for a summer day at Walmart. They are apt illustrations of modern-day everyman and woman who remain focused on themes that Simon has put into humorous, and one might guess personal context. “All costume changes will happen right on stage with Ava and Mark wearing shorts as a gag,” quipped Simon.

Joining a growing cadre of artists stepping outside traditional venues, Simon has established Art WoW, art without walls. “I am interested in bringing theater into the community, into galleries, coffee houses, museums or parks,” said Simon. “Like a lot of artists now, we market ourselves by networking, not waiting for outside funding to share our work,” she said.

A trained journalist, Simon took her first playwriting workshop in Idyllwild, Calif., where she created “Sis,” a 10-minute play inspired by her former mother-in-law. Her inspiration comes from people she meets and places she visits, from historical events and copious research.

She earned an undergraduate degree at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and a master’s degree in dramatic writing at the University of Idaho.

The playwright’s other works include “Moscow,” “The Stranger,” “J’oy Vey” and the acclaimed “Adoration of Dora,” based on photographer Dora Maar, a mistress of Picasso and the subject of his “Weeping Woman.”

Still in development is “Sour’d Milk,” a play about a married couple, with the husband shooting big animals for fun and profit and his wife, by contrast, nurturing smaller ones. It was shown at this year’s Fullerton College Playwrights Festival.

Since starting at the Playhouse, Simon also nurtured fledgling playwrights tell their stories by teaching playwriting workshops at the theater, culminating in 10-minute showcases.

For this production, Simon’s even consigned her garage, providing a rehearsal space for Burton and Miller since March. “This way of working brings me a lot of joy, seeing my words brought to life,” she said.

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