The 99-Seat Beat: Tim Robbins aids an injured soldier in 'Johnny Got His Gun'; a theater revisits a tale that inspired Hitchcock; and more
The cast of “Johnny Got His Gun” is led by Nathan Woodworth, center, as an injured soldier reviewing his life in his mind. (Ashley Randall)

Think of them this weekend as mental gymnasiums. In Los Angeles’ smaller theaters you can work out with an injured soldier dreaming of social revolution in “Johnny Got His Gun,” a colorful character from Los Angeles history spinning stories in “Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta,” a bullied youth seeking guidance in “Baby Eyes” and two rash young men turning morality upside down in “Rope.”

‘Johnny Got His Gun’ by the Actors’ Gang

What: His is the strangled cry of the voiceless. A shell ripped a soldier apart, leaving his mind a prisoner in a barely functioning body. He wants the world to know the true cost of war, but without a face, arms or legs, how can he communicate? Dalton Trumbo wrote “Johnny Got His Gun” as a novel, published in 1939, when he was a fledgling screenwriter.

Why this? The novel, which Trumbo turned into a 1971 movie, is generally labeled antiwar. But Tim Robbins, the Actors’ Gang’s artistic director, counters by saying, “I think it’s a pro-humanity play. It celebrates life.” Despair can’t defeat this soldier, even when he’s ignored once he finds a way to convey his desire to be publicly displayed as a caution about war. The reason to tell this story now: Robbins says, “What Trumbo has written is something that will inspire us to hold strong in our demands for human decency and truth and life — and the joys of life.” Robbins, who directs Bradley Rand Smith’s 1982 stage adaptation, believes that the full scope of Trumbo’s output — beyond such screenplays as “Spartacus” and “Exodus” — deserves to be better recognized. “His writing is so human; it’s so beautifully poetic and so full of truth.”

Details: Actors’ Gang Theatre, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. Previews Friday; opens Saturday. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends Nov. 10. $25-$35; Thursdays pay what you can. (310) 838-4264,