Gentrification Nation: “West Adams” Play Review

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West Adams has all of the classic trappings of a Michael Sheppard show, slick transitions, exquisite scene design, and expert timing when it comes to stage management. Michael and his team are master craftsmen of intimate theatre. Skylight Theatre Company located at 1816 1/2 N Vermont Ave does an admirable job making 99 seat theatre an event. Nestled in a cozy alley and amongst a burgeoning neighborhood Skylight Theatre reflects the central theme of its latest production. 

Jenny Soo, Clayton Farris, Allison Blaize, Andrés M. Baggs in “West Adams”

The new and the old converge and West Adams explores what happens when individuals lay claim to things that everyone should share. Penelope Lowder has written a play that questions the motives behind gentrification and imagines a worst-case scenario. Our diverse set of main characters have descended upon the neighborhood of West Adams like Spanish Conquistadors. They plot and scheme to overthrow the established hierarchy and reform the area in their image.

Andrés M. Baggs, Allison Blaize

Her play bursts out of the gate with an overwhelming show of flagrant patriotism as the characters rehearse performing the national anthem. Their enthusiasm for developing the neighborhood is at first infectious. Michael (Clayton Farris) exudes the passion and joy of an improv comedy troupe leader. He does a fantastic job tiptoeing the line between charming and smarmy. He is the type of guy you would love to have a beer with but your wife would be afraid to invite to your wedding. 
Thanks to Lowder’s crafting, as we get to know each member of our multi-ethnic couples we can’t help but find them relatable. Julie (Jenny Soo) and Michael butt heads but in a way that shows they would still do anything for each other. Sarah (Allison Blaize) and Edward (Andres M Baggs) are as sweet together as any expecting couple could be. We are led to root for them as they pursue a seemingly benign goal. That is until a new addition to their neighborhood throws a monkey wrench in their plans.

Allison Blaize, Jenny Soo

West Adams is quick to go down the rabbit hole in fact, the play is quick in general. The run time is listed as 90 min but the breakneck pacing of the show makes it feel like 55. So many things happen that our society needs to sit down and have conversations about that, as an audience member, you can barely keep track of all of the important moments. Sarah and Julie are able to capture our ear as they each have a monologue where they expose who they really are. Their monologues are shocking and unsettling and show the lengths we can go to in the interest of ourselves. 

Andrés M. Baggs, Clayton Farris

I commend Skylight Theatre for their efforts to produce relevant productions and make sure they get in front of audiences immediately. As residents of LA, we owe it to society to explore areas outside of our comfort zone. West Adams is a cautionary tale that made me go see for myself what’s actually happening in that neighborhood. If that was the goal then this play achieved its objective. I also want to give a little shout out to whoever designed the program cover. This clever piece of artwork speaks volumes. “West Adams” is a smart, powerful play. Go see it for yourself – and then go see West Adams. You might just learn a little something.

When: 8:00pm onThursdays, 8:30pm on Fridays & Saturdays, 3:00pm on Sundays.

Closing: March 8, 2020

Where: 2020Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Tickets: Start at $20

Information and reservations: (213) 761-7061 or (866) 811-4111. Online ticketing: http://SkylightTix.org

Photos by Ed Krieger