Who: Elizabeth Canavan, Liza Colón-Zayas, Scott Hudson, Russell G. Jones, Portia, Al Roffe, Felix Solis, David Zayas, Bobby Cannavale, John Doman, Laurence Fishburne, Dierdre Friel, David Deblinger, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Stephen Adly Guirgis
What: Live benefit reading of Stephen Adly Guirgis play
Where: LAByrinth Theater Company website
When: Saturday, May 23, free (donations accepted), 8:00
Why: Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Our Lady of 121st Street is timelier than ever in the age of coronavirus. The 2002 play, which was originally presented by the LAByrinth Theater Company in 2002 and revived at the Signature in 2018, takes place in and around a funeral home in Harlem, where the body of the late Sister Rose has gone missing as people from her past experience an odd kind of reunion. During the pandemic, in-person funerals are a rare event for very limited attendees, and bodies pile up in refrigerated trucks and makeshift tent-morgues. (“What kind of fuckin’ world is this?!” a character says early on.) On May 23 at 8:00, the LAByrinth is staging a live Zoom reunion reading of the play, directed by Elizabeth Rodriguez, who recently starred in Guirgis’s latest gem, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven.
The all-star cast features most of the original lineup, along with notable additions. Returning from the 2002 production, which was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, are Elizabeth Canavan as Marcia, Liza Colón-Zayas as Norca, Russell G. Jones as Flip, Portia as Inez, Al Roffe as Pinky, Felix Solis as Balthazar, and David Zayas as Edwin; they are joined by Scott Hudson as Gail from the 2003 iteration at the Union Square Theatre, John Doman as Father Lux and Dierdre Friel as Sonia from the Signature revival, Laurence Fishburne as Rooftop from the 2004 LA debut of the show, and Bobby Cannavale from Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat as Victor. LAByrinth cofounder David Deblinger, who portrayed Gail in the 2002 version, will read the stage directions. As a bonus, Pulitzer Prize winner Guirgis (Jesus Hopped the A Train, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot) will receive the LAByrinth’s Dave Hogue Award. The performance, a benefit for the LAByrinth, will stream live, then be available for twenty-four hours only. “This reading, featuring both original cast members from the LAB company and others whose work we’ve long admired, will help our community come together and hopefully raise some much-needed funds to get us through these unprecedented, tough times,” company artistic director John Ortiz said in a statement. I’ve seen three productions of the play by three different companies, and I was blown away each time; I can’t wait to see it again, amid these challenging times.