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, theactorsgang.com