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Dark, funny and violent ‘Backyard’ has world premiere at Atwater Village Theatre

Ian Bamberg and Adan Martin Rocha.
Ian Bamberg and Adan Martin Rocha.
Jeff Galfer Photography

The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of “an outrageously violent, seriously dark and surprisingly funny new play about backyard wrestling.” Written by Mickey Birnbaum and directed by Larry Biederman “Backyard” opens Saturday, May 31, 2014 at the Echo’s new home, Atwater Village Theatre.

Birnbaum’s new offering is described as a “full-contact dark comedy explores the walls that separate families and the walls that separate countries. In a backyard in suburban San Diego, three teenagers (Ian Bamberg, Esmer Kazvinova and Adan Martin Rocha) prepare for a backyard wrestling match, while a wife (Jacqueline Wright) welcomes back her absent husband (Hugo Armstrong) with her own brand of violence. Meanwhile, at the border fence separating the U.S. and Mexico, a Mexican wrestler (Richard Azurdia) waits for his son to come home.”

An activity neither sanctioned nor involving professionals, backyard wrestling is a term applied to underground matches in which untrained fans as young as 12 emulate professional wrestling.

“Like Mickey’s other plays, ‘Backyard’ reflects his urgent interest in disenfranchised youth and the outlets they find to cope,” says Biederman, who previously directed the playwright’s “Big Death and Little Death.”

“While the phenomenon of backyard wrestling is scary on the one hand, it’s also a fascinating representation of American individualism,” Birnbaum notes. “The idea of the self-made man that keeps these kids setting pretty intense standards for themselves – to keep doing it bigger and better. These kids have turned this institutionalized form of violence into their own form of theater. In the play, the family dynamics are acted out in the wrestling scenarios.”

The Echo Theater Company is a group of actors, writers, directors and producers dedicated to developing and presenting the work of playwrights on all levels. Under the leadership of artistic director Chris Fields, the Echo has produced 50 plays, 36 of them premieres and 22 of them commissioned, and is the company that introduced Los Angeles to playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp and Sarah Ruhl, among many others.

Backyard” previews 8 p.m. Friday, May 30, opens 8 p.m. Saturday, May 31 and performs 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday through July 13. (dark July 4, 5, 6). Tickets are $25 on Fridays and Sundays, and $30 on Saturdays. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, Call 310-307-3753 or visit

This play is recommended for mature audiences.

Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039.

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