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Show Review: Rant & Rave

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The evening's host. Photo courtesy LA Stage.

The Pico Corridor, that unofficial strip of street past Beverwil but before Koreatown, surely has a story to tell. There are the ubiquitous taco spots, auto mechanics, bodegas and crumbling city blocks, the pitted indentations of weather or street warfare, some washed over with waves of spray paint. There are also lots of little gems, like La Maison du Pain, Sky’s Gourmet Tacos, Local’s bar, The Comedy Union, and PiPS, standing proudly nearby and inviting the neighborhood out for a late night chat. It seems like this little up-and-coming slice of Mid City has always had a lot to talk about, and now Rant & Rave has come to help it find its voice.

Rant, as it’s more colloquially known, is a growing player in the booming LA storytelling scene, and is a most welcome one at that. Put on by Rogue Machine in the Theatre/Theater space just west of La Brea, Rant has come to find a voice all its own between the Mortified, Moth, This One Time..., and Sit N’ Spins of the city, letting professional writers take their craft into the moment, and always with a topic in mind. On a recent warm Monday night, LAist was invited to catch the June installment of Rant & Rave, where the theme of the night was Chemicals. As the large, boisterous crowd milled around holding donation-payment refreshments, the soon-to-be performers palmed their printed-out stories and made small talk with a handful of well-known comedians, actors, writers and fans of the arts. Since Rant began nearly a year ago, seating has become a commodity most highly sought, forcing chairs into unique spaces in the main stage Theatre/Theater space that is already three quarters in-the-round. What a testament to the show, before the lights even black out.

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The evening’s host, Ron Bottitta, is an absolute pleasure on the stage, falling effortlessly between tamping down a friendly (if vocal) crowd and giving the show the type of artistic reverence it deserves. As the night moves forward with Parker Mills, Lisa Brenner, Ann Bronston and a host of others all rising from their seats to take in the spotlight and project their own warmth to the crowd, the laughter flows easily and, even in tense moments, the air never feels heavy. At Moth shows in New York, this can be a real issue: cumbersome emotional stories can weigh down a room. Here, Rant combines moments of honesty with seriousness, lightheartedness, and quippy wordplay that emanate so easily from those writers among us. And while not every story is a gem, not all moments intended for higher learning really end up teaching us that much about the world around us, the shining moments gleam that much brighter as a result.

Overall, Rant & Rave is a wonderful way to promote live theater in a city so roundly criticized for having little worth seeing. Shows like this are an inspiration to the born orator in all of us, giving credence to the idea that passion, intelligence and truth make us all look good. Or, maybe Rant is simpler. Maybe it’s just the perfect place to sit back and listen to all those stories this city has to tell.

Rant & Rave
5041 W. Pico Blvd., LA 90019
Reservations recommended: 323.930.0747 or roguemachinetheatre.com