Horns honk. Headlights flash. Drivers yell. Just another day on the L.A. freeway? Nope, it’s a very untypical night at the theater. At the Drive-In Drama company’s production of Mayhem at Mayfield Mall, staged Friday and Saturday nights in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot, culture mavens never have to leave their cars. “It’s somewhere between TV, movies and theater,” says codirector Karen Schleifer, 28, dressed in ’50s-style garb to greet customers. “People are tailgating, eating fried chicken and watching a funny play.”
Like a driver seeking a parking space, Mayhem is actually coming around the block a second time. In 1986, Joel Bloom, 50, now a local store owner, wrote the play—a campy, Little Shop of Horrors-style melodrama about a greedy mall developer and a monster spawned from toxic waste—and gave it a three-month run. The return engagement was sparked when producer Rick Hudson, 36, house manager for the original production (“I helped park the cars,” he explains), asked Bloom to give the script a tune-up for a neighborhood arts fair.
Since opening July 11, the “truly L.A. experience,” in the words of local reviewer Paul Cohen, has been a hit, with performances selling out at $40 a ticket for four-door cars, $30 for two doors. “We’re not trying to change people’s lives—we’re just having a blast,” says actress Tamar Fortgang. “It’s why we got into theater in the first place.”