John Kolvenbach’s new play, produced by Vs. Theatre Co, and Circle X, is a deceptively thoughtful, participatory piece, and at 70 minutes it is also short! As a result, I can safely say that audiences will be outside, down the street, and perhaps driving home before the impact of it will hit.
Titled Stand Up If You’re Here Tonight, one’s first response may be “duh”! But the novelty of sitting in “pods” in the tiny Atwater Village Theatre is not the ultimate take-away of the night. Guiding us through our paces (literally!), Jim Ortlieb seems anxious for us to succeed and impatient if it takes too long for us to follow his instructions. All the while that audience members are put through the hoops, they (we) have no time to contemplate whether all this has any meaning. But we might be gratified to learn that Ortlieb’s Mom has come to observe. Is she for real or just a cypher? We can only speculate as an audience member (Peggy Goss) comes onstage to impersonate her, and it is in this turn of events that we (they) begin to understand that there is more to this exercise than meets the eye.
As a director, playwright Kolvenbach lays a light hand on the proceedings. One might discount the jumbled backstage area beyond the forestage that backs the spot-lighted Ortlieb, but the artful chaos bespeaks the practiced hand of Danny Cistone’s set design, along with indispensable lighting by Derrick McDaniel.
Stand Up if you’re Here Tonight performs through September 25th on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 90039. Tickets ($20) available online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stand-up-if-youre-here-tonight-tickets-161947454195. Participants must show proof of vaccination to attend.