Malibu Seen

Actor John Goodman and director Gil Cates celebrate the Geffen's big reopening. Photo courtesy of Lee Salem Photography


It was a glorious night at the Geffen as theater buffs and thespians turned out for the venue’s long awaited, much anticipated grand reopening. Geffen Producing Director Gil Cates was eager to show off the 18-month, $17 million facelift and even offered personal tours. “Have you seen the second stage?” he asked, referring to the new Audrey Skirball-Kenis Theater. “That used to be a parking lot.”

Geffen vet Jason Alexander shared in the excitement. The actor was especially elated about the spacious modern dressing rooms. “You should have seen it before,” he recalled. “It was hell down there. This is fantastic, like night and day.”

Jason and pal John Goodman dressed in keeping with the season, both sporting chocolate brown tweeds paired with pumpkin colored shirts. They made the rounds, mixing in with old Geffen pals like Karl Malden as well as civic folk like L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Councilman Jack Weiss.

Dueling chefs, meantime, were busy carving massive slabs of meat, serving prime rib with horseradish on one side and turkey with cranberry sauce on the other. In between bites and sips of champagne, the critics turned in rave reviews.

In addition to the second stage and dressing rooms, Geffen goers were wowed by the plush seats, upgraded acoustics, improved sightlines and shiny, new restrooms. They were also delighted by what hasn’t changed. The playhouse retains its intimate 1920s Spanish colonial revival charm, flower-filled courtyard, gurgling starfish fountain, masonry walls, decorative ironwork and colorful art deco tiles. “I love the fact that it still feels like the old Geffen,” said longtime subscriber Michael Matthews. “To me, it’s just like coming home.”

The season kicks off with Goodman in Tennessee Williams’ classic, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” The Skirball Theater will be used for smaller productions. “This is going to be more of a experimental theater,” explained Development Coordinator Tamara Turoff. “The goal is to have productions we can develop and then move on to the main stage.”

After a sneak peak behind the scenes, the actors took the place out for a test drive. Jason Alexander showed off his singing ability with a few Broadway tunes while virtuoso Hillary Hahn demonstrated the new acoustics with her violin solo.

There was applause all around as Cates thanked his guests for their support in what was described as an amazing experience.

As for his favorite part of experience, the director quipped, “My favorite part is when the bank loan is paid off.”