Critics’ Forum Article – 6.9.07

Critics’ Forum
Clair de Luna
By Aram Kouyoumdjian

The light of the moon has been shining a little brighter ever since
the Luna Playhouse opened its doors in September, traditionally the
start of the theater season. As the season formally ends with the
onset of summer, the time is opportune to take a look at Luna’s
first "year" in existence.

The intimate, 49-seat venue in Glendale is run, synergistically, by
Aramazd Stepanian, Lilly Thomassian, and Maro Parian, who share
directing and producing duties. They created the Luna space after
clearing a daunting number of financial and legal hurdles – and they
operate it at tremendous personal sacrifice.

Thomassian is a playwright, and "Thirst," her intriguing rumination
on war, written in the style of Greek tragedy, was the premier
production at the new theater. Parian directed that piece and has
since designed sets and costumes for nearly all Luna shows. The
playhouse further benefits from the talents of resident designers
like Henrik Mansourian (lights) and Shahen Hagobian (sound).

Since "Thirst," three full-scale productions have been mounted at
Luna. Stepanian directed "Hanoon Hayreniki yev Zhoghovrdi" (In the
Name of the People and the Fatherland) – a contemporary satire by
Gevorg Sargsyan – with inventive panache. Earlier, he had helmed
Aghasi Ayvazyan’s "Zhangark" (Twilight) while heading the Armenian
Theater Company, which has now been absorbed into the Luna ensemble.

To date, I have seen almost all Luna fare with an Armenian
connection, but the venue has offered an eclectic, cross-cultural
selection of plays, including the Irish-themed "Bailegangaire" and
the upcoming "Chinatown Correspondent."

Currently serving up laughs, under Thomassian’s direction, is "The
Lady in Question," a parody of film noir. Although no masterwork of
comedy, "Lady," set in Germany circa 1940, revolves around a femme
fatale, the internationally renowned pianist Gertrude Garnet, and her
efforts to help a fellow artist escape from Nazi capture. The
tickler in this piece of theatrical camp by "drag legend" Charles
Busch is that Gertrude gets played by a man. At Luna, R. Christofer
Sands shines in the role, amidst a gifted cast.

On the quieter side, solo performances have found a supportive venue
at Luna. Earlier this year, "On the Couch with Nora Armani" enjoyed
a brief run there. The question of ethnic identity was a key theme
for the Egypt-born Armenian actress, just as it is for Anahid
Aramouni Keshishian in "Ka yev Chka" (There Is and There Isn’t),
which is now playing (in repertory). In this Armenian-language
piece, Keshishian regales her audience with astutely observed
stories – both funny and poignant – of her childhood in Iran. Later
on this summer, Arpie Dadoyan will take the stage for a triptych of
sorts, presenting three separate solo works in quick succession.

While welcoming established artists, Luna has afforded opportunities
for emerging talents as well, showcasing Jacklyn Narian’s "Stuffed
Grape Leaves" this spring. That modest piece attested to Luna’s
nurturing embrace of neophyte efforts.

Not all is perfect at the playhouse. Some of its productions have
suffered the lack of a well-trained stage crew – always a challenge
in theaters struggling to achieve high production values on limited
budgets. Staffing its control booth with experienced board operators
needs to become a priority in Luna’s second season.

And what a season that promises to be. The playhouse has already
announced a William Saroyan double-bill (including the rarely-
staged "Hello Out There"), to be followed by a production of Harold
Pinter’s "The Lover" … in Armenian! That translation alone – by
Artashes Emin and Aramazd Stepanian – will mark a significant
contribution to Armenian theater. Now, if only the rumor that an
Armenian version of Arthur Miller’s "All My Sons" is forthcoming
would turn out to be true …

In the span of a single season, Luna has proven itself a serious
player on the theatrical scene. Hopefully, the Armenian community
will recognize – and revel in – its sparkle.

All Rights Reserved: Critics’ Forum, 2007

Aram Kouyoumdjian is the winner of Elly Awards for both playwriting
("The Farewells") and directing ("Three Hotels"). His latest work
is "Velvet Revolution."

You can reach him or any of the other contributors to Critics’ Forum
at [email protected] This and all other articles published
in this series are available online at To sign
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Critics’ Forum is a group created to
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