Before David Rouda became a stage director and writer, he was an internationally ranked rower who placed 17th in the 1999 World Rowing Championships. Rouda, who started training as a sculler at 13, won six Gold Medals at the Maccabee Games and just missed qualifying for the 2000 Olympics.
The discipline he brought to rowing informed his years as a lawyer and his current work as a dramatist, whose plays “Pomp & Circumstance” and “Sperm Warfare” are being staged at the Matrix Theater. While these two one-acts do seem to go on a bit long, they both feature a great deal of humor and revolve around the issues of 30-something men as they attempt to make it in the worlds of law and business.
The set of “Pomp & Circumstance” is a courtroom, surrounded by two law offices. Like David E. Kelley and many lawyers before him, Rouda knows his way around a trial scene, but he also knows his way around the Bible and Jewish law. Perhaps the funniest part of “Pomp & Circumstance” is the denouement when an Orthodox Jew who has been victimized by Viagra becomes entranced by the Song of Songs, which he recites for his sex-starved wife.
Rouda says he grew up “Reform, meaning I had a Christmas tree,” but he understands the Talmudic distinctions regarding a Jewish marriage. He also understands what it’s like being a single guy dating older women in San Francisco, where he lives as a fourth-generation San Franciscan.
“Sperm Warfare” focuses on a couple seeking in-vitro fertilization. Like “Pomp & Circumstance,” it deals with phallic concerns. At one point, the lead refers to himself as “an emasculated hermaphro-dad.”
Rouda might overdo it on occasion when his characters complete each others’ sentences with a flourish of alliteration, but he will make you laugh with lines like, “You’re not just a sperm dispenser to me.”
The 40-year-old playwright, who has a degree in rhetoric from UC Berkeley and a law degree from the University of San Francisco, says that one of his frustrations with law was spending “two years of drudgery” and then “right before the premiere” the other side settles out of court and “you don’t get to show” your work to anyone.
Rouda is now based in Los Angeles and the Matrix shows mark his Hollywood premiere. He still has a home in San Francisco but he says that being a writer isn’t so easy in the Bay Area: “In San Francisco, it’s outside the scope of what other people are doing.”
“Pomp & Circumstance” and “Sperm Warfare” play through April 15 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. For reservations, call (800) 838-3006. For more information, visit the Matrix Theatre