Black Cypress Bayou, Ybor City, and Right in the Eye 

Hardly any fishing takes place when Vernita (Kimberly Scott) meets up with her two daughters LadyBird (Brandee Evans) and RaeMeka (Angela Lewis) in Black Cypress Bayou at the Geffen Playhouse. (Photo credit: Jeff Lorch

When I walked into the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, thanks to scenic designer Lawrence E. Moten III’s amazingly authentic Deep East Texas swamp, moodily lit by Donny Jacobson with perfectly matched sound effects designed by Everett Elton Bradman, I entered a world very foreign to this city girl. And during the hot summer night at the start of Black Cypress Bayou, I was introduced to three women very much at home in such a steamy environment, even at the height of the COVID pandemic in August 2020 when families were warned to keep their distance from each other, wear face masks, and keep using lots of hand sanitizer. But I was soon introduced to practices far stranger than those which have taken place on the bayou for generations.

You see, Vernita Manifold (Kimberly Scott) has summoned her two daughters, LadyBird (Brandee Evans) and RaeMeka (Angela Lewis), down there with a secret too big to keep. It seems she may know something about how the richest, meanest man in town died, and soon we learn the Manifold women know more than they’re saying about what really happened. As secrets begin to surface, the bonds between the women, their town, and the legacy of their ancestors all come to a head, especially when Taysha Hunter (Amber Chardae Robinson) shows up to visit – and may know even more than they do! 

Playwright Kristen Adele Calhoun traces her roots back at least seven generations to this place of red clay, big sky, and an illogical hope in bringing better days to pass. But in the middle of everyone being sent indoors to stay away from each other, how could they possibly join together in the swamp to make the world a better place? Her examination of the four women doing just that, speaks to the universal need for teamwork to get the job done.

Directed with heightened sensory awareness by Tiffany Nichole Greene,Black Cypress Bayou is a sometimes hilarious, often suspenseful world premiere play about loyalty, healing, and comeuppance. And I guarantee you will walk out having learned more about the closeknit Deep South bayou culture than you could ever imagine while living in the massive urban environment we call home. 

The world premiere of Black Cypress Bayou continues through March 17, 2024 in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles 90024, with performances on Wednesday – Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 3 and 8 p.m., Sunday 2 and 7 p.m.

Run time is 90 minutes without an intermission. Tickets run $39 – $129, available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at 

This production contains herbal cigarette smoke, strobe lighting effects, theatrical haze, prop arms and profanity. Recommended for ages 12+. All Geffen Playhouse productions are intended for an adult audience; children under 10 years of age will not be admitted.

Scores of immigrants built lives for themselves by making the finest cigars in Ybor City. (Photo courtesy of The Actors’ Gang)

Ybor City in Tampa, Florida which dates from the 1880s, was founded by Vincente Martinez-Ybor, who moved his cigar factory from Cuba to Florida; others followed. Ybor built the community including housing for cigar factory workers, then a highly specialized trade. The area was populated by thousands of Cuban immigrants in addition to immigrants from Spain, Italy, and other countries – and for the next half century, it annually stocked the world with hundreds of millions of cigars. 

The entire enterprise – a town owned and populated by immigrants – was highly successful and had a strikingly multi-racial and multi-ethnic population. Ybor City’s cigar culture flourished until the Great Depression when worldwide demand plummeted following the mechanization of the manufacture of cigars. This modernization led to the eventual abandonment of this formerly vibrant neighborhood.

To both tell the stories of this remarkable community and her own migrant experience, playwright and director Mariana Da Silva has created Ybor City, a sensory rich production that combines music, movement, projections, and language.  It is The Actors’ Gang first fully bilingual production in English and Spanish with larger scale pieces choreographed by Stephanie G. Galindo, set to popular Latin songs. This 90-minute play includes supertitles in both languages, with the cast made up from The Actors’ Gang ensemble.

Ybor City, a new play written and directed by Mariana Da Silva with movement direction by Stephanie G. Galindo, will have thirteen performances from March 7 to March 30 on Thursday-Saturdays at 8 p.m. at The Actors’ Gang Theater, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City 90232, performed in English and Spanish with supertitles in both languages. Tickets are $25, available at, by phone at 310-838-4264, or via email to Pay-What-You-Can on Thursdays at the door. There will be post show talkbacks on Fridays. Doors open one hour before show time for purchase of drinks, refreshments, and snacks. Suitable for ages 13+

Right in the Eye begins its latest tour on 2/28 at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz in West L.A. (Photo courtesy of the production.)

Right in the Eye (En plein dans l’œil) from composer-scenographer Jean-François Alcoléa, is a unique live concert performed to the silent, fantastical films of George Mélièsfeaturing three musicians, 50 instruments, and 11 of Mélièsfilms. Celebrating its 10th anniversary tour, Right in the Eyewill play on Wednesday, February 28 at 8 p.m. at Theatre Raymond Kabbaz, 10361 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles 90064, as one of 14 venues across the United States and Canada, continuing February 29 through March 30, 2024. Tickets starting at $30 are available at

Praised by the great-great-granddaughter of legendary filmmaker and cinematographer Georges Méliès, Jean-François Alcoléa has crafted a magical show where a multi-layered and inventive score highlights Méliès’ iconic films. Featuring a trio of virtuoso musicians, their performance, in and of itself, is a spectacle as they create music from an extraordinary range of instruments: piano, a soundboard, percussion and guitar; aquaphone (marine harp), theremin, melodica, glockenspiel; and objects of everyday life such as stemware, circular saws, whistles, flying plates and takeaway food lids. 

Since its creation in 2014, Right in the Eye has had over 700 performances in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Morocco, Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, at two Avignon festivals and at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. In addition, this 10th anniversary tour features workshops with students of all ages, as well as masterclasses, residencies and special performances for Colleges and Universities across the United States & Canada. For more information, visit