Best Community Theater That Doesn't Feel Like Community Theater Orange County 2012 - Long Beach Playhouse
5021 E. Anaheim St.
Long Beach, CA 90804
While other community theaters are programming the umpteenth production of The Odd Couple, there's one that's aiming a little higher. Composed of two theaters, the bowling alley-long Mainstage downstairs and the more adventurous Equity-waiver Studio upstairs, both houses of the Long Beach Playhouse have taken more chances in their programming under the leadership of producing artistic director Andrew Vonderschmitt. While the 200-seat Mainstage still aims to please the bluehairs with musicals and established classics such as Into the Woods, The Glass Menagerie and To Kill a Mockingbird, it also slips in the occasional surprise, such as Rolin Jones' The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow. Upstairs, you'll find even riskier fare, with playwrights as diverse as Euripides, Thomas Middleton, Jose Rivera, David Mamet, Eric Overmyer and Christopher Durang, making for a consistently button-pushing season. Cheers to Vonderschmitt and staff—who have all met with some push-back from the theater's entrenched patrons—and here's hoping for even riskier choices in the future, as well as the new, more youthful audiences who deserve them.