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"Top Girls" opens Antaeus season

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This is from a theatrical organization that always, and I mean always delivers.

Politics get personal in the go-getting 1980s of Margaret Thatcher's England when Marlene, who has just been made managing director of the Top Girls Employment Agency, discovers that life above the glass ceiling is not all it's cracked up to be. Antaeus, L.A.’s classical theater ensemble, opens its 2014 season with a fully partner-cast production of Top Girls, the Obie Award-winning comedy by Caryl Churchill. Previews begin March 6, with two opening nights set for March 13 and March 14 at the Antaeus Theater in NoHo. Cameron Watson directs.

Struggling to define what it means to be successful, Marlene and a sisterhood of independent women must decide what matters to them most — personal achievement or domestic fulfillment. In trying to have it all, they risk having nothing to show for their gains. Fiercely unconventional in style, Top Girls is well-known for its opening dreamlike scene featuring famous women from history and literature. The play’s unconventional structure skips back and forth through time, racing headlong to its surprising dénouement as Churchill challenges the consequences of feminism and the emotional toll it takes on individuals as well as on society.

Top Girls is about women who make bold choices and everything they have to sacrifice to do better – and what they lose as a result,” says Watson. “The heart of it is incredibly full, rich, poignant and harrowing. It’s very complex, with all of the actors but one taking on multiple roles, plus the extra layer of double casting. The process has been very fulfilling — these actors understand how to partner, how to help each other figure it out and find that heart.”

In the Antaeus tradition best known as “partner casting,” two actors share every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process to enrich the creative experience for both cast and audience. In Top Girls, many of those roles are doubled and tripled to reveal the connections between the characters. Following her promotion, Marlene (Rebecca Mozo/Sally Hughes) is the guest of honor at a restaurant where legendary women including former courtesan-turned-Buddhist nun Lady Nijo (Kimiko Gelman/Linda Park), Flemish folklore harrower of hell Dull Gret (Etta Devine/Abigail Marks), the infamous Pope Joan (Rhonda Aldrich/Elizabeth Swain), Chaucer’s Patient Griselda (Shannon Lee Clair/Jeanne Syquia) and Victorian-age adventurer Isabella Bird (Karianne Flaathen/Rebekah Tripp), share a celebratory dinner served by waitress Alexandra Goodman/Julia Davis. Returning to the present, Marlene enjoys the support of her female staff, Win (Gelman/Park) and Nell (Clair/Syquia), and returns to her childhood home to visit her estranged sister Joyce (Flaathen/Tripp), niece Angie (Devine/Marks) and Angie’s best friend Kit (Goodman/Davis).

Scenic design for Top Girls is by Stephen Gifford; lighting design is by Jared Sayeg; costume design is by Terri A. Lewis; sound design is by Jeff Gardner; props design is by Alyson Schultz; dialect coach is Nike Doukas; and the production stage manager is Lara E. Nall.

Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members — many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences — regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who rarely see an understudy due to Antaeus’ trademark “partner casting,” frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors.

Performances of Top Girls take place March 13 through May 4 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no matinee performance on Saturday, March 15). There will be six previews, March 6-12: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, all at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets to the Opening Night performances on March 13 and March 14 are $34, after which all tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays; previews are $15. The Antaeus Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Parking is available for $7 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.

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