Maria Gobetti directs world premiere comedy
“Unemployed Elephants – A Love Story”
By Wendy Graf
A chance meeting in an airport lounge leads to a Burmese odyssey and a search for a missing monk… and maybe love. Maria Gobetti directs the world premiere of Unemployed Elephants – A LoveStory, a romantic comedy by Wendy Graf (No Word in Guyanese for Me, Please Don’t Ask About Beckett). Performances begin on March 9 at The Victory Theatre Center in Burbank, where they continue through April 15. Three low-priced previews take place on March 1, 2 and 3.
Two strangers lost, hidden… and found? Brea Bee (Mutual Philanthropy at EST/LA) and Marshall McCabe (Lincoln Center’s Chicago production of Six Degrees of Separation, lifetime member of The Actors Studio) star as Jane and Alex, both on the run from loneliness and the truth. This might be their last chance to find true love — if only they can seize it!
“As soon as I saw a reading of this play, I knew the Victory wanted to produce it,” says Gobetti. “The locations are enchanting and exotic, the dialogue is nimble, and it possesses a lovely, gentle wit. I want audience members to feel they are entering another world when they come into the theater. We need that now. We need to be able to laugh.”
Graf is best known for writing dramas that explore themes of family, identity and home within the context of contemporary politics. Elephants is her first comedy, inspired by a trip she took to Myanmar in 2015.
“The trip highlighted and encapsulated for me our modern sense of feeling adrift, seeking something without knowing quite what, trying to ground oneself in the constant barrage of apps and crazes and shoulds and how-tos,” she says. “I felt as if I had walked headlong into a strange new world, a monsoon, not knowing what would happen next.”
Graf is quick to point out the play was written (and therefore set) nearly two years prior to the flight of more than 400,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh to escape a military counter-insurgency offensive the United Nations has described as “ethnic cleansing.”
“Some people might question a romantic comedy set in a country currently at the heart of what many are calling genocide,” she acknowledges. “Looking back, I now recognize the turmoil roiling beneath the surface during my visit. But at the time, we saw nothing, we heard nothing. The trip was planned because I had just watched a segment on 60 Minutes that was all about hope for democracy in ‘The New Burma’.”
The creative team for Unemployed Elephants includes set designer Evan Bartoletti, projections designer Nick Santiago, lighting designer Carol Doehring, sound designer Noah Andrade, costume designer Meagan Evers, graphic designer Jennifer Logan and photographer Tim Sullens. The dramaturg is Gail Bryson, the stage manager is Sean Spencer, and Tom Ormeny, Maria Gobetti and Katie Witkowski produce for The Victory Theatre Center.
Wendy Graf is an award-winning playwright whose plays include Please Don’t Ask About Beckett, All American Girl (Stage Raw Award nomination for Playwriting, Los Angeles Times Weekend Pick; LA Weekly “GO!”, StageSceneLA 2015 Outstanding Solo Performance Production; Bitter Lemons 2015 Ten Best); Closely Related Keys (directed by Shirley Jo Finney); No Word In Guyanese for Me (GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding L.A. Theater, Bitter Lemons “Top Rated” production); Behind the Gates; Lessons (L.A. production directed by Gordon Davidson); Leipzig (L.A. Drama Critics Circle nomination, Back Stage Garland award, Dorothy Silver Playwriting Competition finalist); The Book of Esther (San Fernando Valley Artistic Director Award nomination for Best Play, ASK Theater Projects Grant Award); and Bethany/Bakol (Attic Theater One Act Winner). Ms. Graf is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA and Pacific Resident Theatre writing units and the Dramatists Guild of America.
Maria Gobetti has directed over 80 productions, including, most recently, the world premieres of Resolving Hedda, The Engine of Our Ruin and Pie in The Sky — all Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice” picks and all Ovation-nominated in several categories. Other directing credits: The Shoplifters; the world premiere of The Miss Firecracker Contest; the West Coast premiere of Ten Cent Night by Melissa Wegrzyn; My Old Friends by Norman Sachs and Mel Mandel; and the majority of BareBones Productions at the Victory. Together with Tom Ormeny, Maria founded and built The Victory Theatre Center. She is the director of the Gobetti-Ormeny Acting Studio, coaches at various major studios, and also teaches at the New York Film Academy. Maria is a member of the Directors’ Guild of America; Women in Film; Women in Theatre, which awarded her its 1992 Outstanding Achievement in Theatre Award as well as, together with Tom Ormeny, its Red Carpet Award for excellence in Theatre; AEA; and SAG/AFTRA. Maria served as chair of the 99-Seat Review Committee until this past year, as well as for the ATLAS organization where she presses onward in support of more, and all theater in Los Angeles. In 2017 Maria received Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre and for Direction. She and Tom Ormeny were honored with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from Stage Raw.
Unemployed Elephants opens for press on March 9 and runs Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m, and Sundays at 4 p.m. through April 15. Three preview performances take place on Thursday, March 1; Friday, March 2; and Saturday, March 3, all at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $24-$34, except previews which are $20. The Victory Theatre Center is located at 3326 W. Victory Blvd in Burbank, CA 91505. For information and to purchase tickets, call 818-841-5422 or go to www.thevictorytheatrecenter.or
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