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War of the Worlds as It's Meant to Be

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Anticipation was high last night as crowds gathered in the gorgeously restored lobby of the new Los Angeles Theater Center downtown. The just-re-opened theater complex, which now houses five separate theaters, is in the throes of a rebirth after much politicking and red tape left the theater complex sitting nearly silent for years.

Although the Opening festival features many excellent companies, we were beyond thrilled to learn that the New York-based SITI Company would be performing their long-running radio play of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. SITI is well-known for its rigorous physical training courses and its theory of Viewpoints - training that focuses on movement and how each actor can make movement choices that allow them to work dynamically with an ensemble.

This training was on full display last night: on a fairly empty stage (short of microphones, a piano and a few chairs) actors made bold movement choices throughout the performance. Sitting down wasn't just sitting down, it was lynx-like, legs crossed sexily, taut. When several actors turned their backs to the audience during a particularly tense scene, the movement of their necks and heads and shoulders, even as they uttered no lines, pulled us in, made the supposed Martian landing all the more real. When script pages are dropped by each actor as they progress through the radio-play, they are not merely dropped; they are simultaneously let go, pages fluttering to the floor, creating their own movement, their own controlled chaos. The stage, littered with more and more pages as the play races forward, signifies not only the play's progression but the unity of the actors, the frantic pace with which they must work to keep up with the newly scribbled lines that, once read, are cast to the ground in favor of the next lines that must be read.