The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Tomlin and Wagner Theatricalz present Lily Tomlin in
a kate west review
Produced by Lily Tomlin, Directed by Jane Wagner
Running May 13 – July 6, 2003

In association with The Seattle Repertory Theatre and McCarter Theatre Center, now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Los Angeles Music Center (Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director/Producer, Charles Dillingham, Managing Director, Center Theater Group/Ahmanson Theatre).

Lily Tomlin once again proves herself to be one of the wittiest and most versatile comedic performers today. In the recent revival of “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, she and writer/director Jane Wagner create a delicious smorgasbord variety of delightful characters ranging from Trudy, the bag lady who communes with extraterrestrials to Agnus Angst, the rebellious pink-haired punk rocker teenager. She portrays prostitutes, society ladies, feminists and even men. Each of her personas is fully articulated and funny as hell. Although the material is at times a bit dated, we relish the unfolding of plot and mayhem with each story and the clever way every character is connected with each other. Most of the stories had the audience howling with laughter but sometimes there are poignantly dramatic moments which left us deeply moved.

The night I attended, billed as opening night, the audience was fairly throbbing with excitement and anticipation and many celebrities were in sight. I knew it was a special evening when Tomlin broke character after a short coughing spell, delighting the audience with her ad-libs. Her incredible stamina in sustaining several high energy characters was wonderful to watch. She is a true professional and her performance truly inspired. The show was about two hours long with the intermission but I was sure left wanting more.

I also need to mention the amazing technical crew, especially the sound designers, Tom Clark and Mark Bennett. Tomlin uses no props and makes no costume or set changes and yet we are awestruck by the reality of each character’s atmosphere. When she mimes pulling tissues out of a box, the sound is perfectly synchronized as it is when she is putting on mascara, zipping up her punk rock “costume,” answering the phone, opening and closing a sensory deprivation tank, and on and on.

No wonder the show has always been such a hit, was also nominated for Best Revival of a Play on Broadway and the hardcover edition of the play stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for months (the first play in 20 years to earn that distinction). This is a definite must must must see. Kudos to Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director/Producer of the Center Theatre Group, for having the foresight to share this production with Los Angeles.

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