To turn Los Angeles from a backwater town known only for its proximity to Hollywood to an international site of architectural and technological wonder, the powerhouses in aerospace, the automobile industry, the Los Angeles Times, and the Examiner united to push for sweeping new projects in the early to mid-20th Century. Fortunately, we have theatrical renditions of their escapades through the 50s and 60s, such as Culture Clashes’ Chavez Ravine, to document how east-side populations came to be displaced in the face of “progress.”
And now, Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles, by Matthew Paul Olmos, provides us with another tragic event associated with this push. Perhaps not directly involved in the struggle between residents and contractors, the play, produced by Echo Theatre Company and directed by Michael Alvarez, brings that time-period to life in an interactive and involving way. When audiences sign in online, they have a brief introduction by “LA Times Journalist” Elie Kovner (Amy Harmon) before they are spirited into a series of investigation rooms to confront five suspects in the murder of two lovers early in the morning of May 20, 1960 at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights. It is an unlikely mix: DeeDee (Gloria Ines), a young artist, was painting early in the morning at the park. Mrs. Shima (Mia Ando) lived nearby and heard nothing. James Rouser (Darrett Sanders), project manager for the freeway construction, was there early, too. Because she is a prominent protester, Lucretia Jacobs (Morgan Danielle Day) is suspected as well; and finally, Efren (Roland Ruiz), described as a drifter, may or may not have seen everything.
For all-involving fun, Underneath The Freeways of LA tops many an online event offered in the waning days (we hope) of COVID. Best of all, the show’s magic ingredient is you! Don’t miss it.“Underneath the Freeways of Los Angeles” continues through the end of April: Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 4 pm. How? Buy tickets (from $15 to 25) at http://www.echotheatercompany.com/underneath. Study your interrogations sheet, and off you go.