Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
May 27, 2011
Onstage this week, it’s fly balls, FOBs and fairies.
The sprites show up in an otherworldly world premiere by veteran playwright Arthur Kopit and his former student, Anton Dudley. The mystery-fantasy is set in modern-day Scotland, with a title that’s nearly impossible to pronounce… “A Dram of Drummhicit ”… Aye, and some of the plot points and meaning are equally difficult to decipher.
The story concerns a damnable American developer who wants to build a golf course in remote Muckle Skerry , where fairies reside. Not only do the superstitious townsfolk believe, the visiting Brits and Americans soon do, too. On top of that, perfectly preserved corpses keep popping up from the bog (which actually DOES happen in Scotland). But why nooses around their necks? Or the ill-defined mystical eroticism? And why on earth does everyone – including a couple of skeptical priests – break into pagan song at the end?
Though the design work is imaginative, the cast is convincing, and director Christopher Ashley provides amusing and whimsical moments, there are too many loose threads. And really, even if it is based on a true story of developers meet fairy-followers, what’s the takeaway? Perhaps the fairies will help with the tightening and shaping this new work needs.
Speaking of revisions, several years ago, playwright David Henry Hwang took on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1958 classic, “Flower Drum Song.” Still timely, it’s about tradition vs. assimilation in new immigrants. The Chinese stereotypes have been removed, but the show, even in ‘Concert’ version, is a formidable challenge for the finale to Asian American Repertory Theatre’s residency year at La Jolla Playhouse. The costumer, Caroline Rousset -Johnson, was certainly up to the task, and choreographer Gina Ma was, too. But director Peter Cirino loves to mix neophytes with pros, so the performance level is widely variable. One standout is David Armstrong, a charismatic actor/singer who plays an Americanized nightclub manager who doesn’t think he wants a naïve FOB – Fresh Off the Boat – until he realizes that’s exactly what he wants. The pace is sluggish, but the show does have a lion dance, a snapping fan dance, colorful costumes and Mr. Armstrong to recommend it.
Now if you want to see a pair of perfectly matched performances, check out Scripps Ranch Theatre’s “Rounding Third,” Richard Dresser’s delightful and occasionally poignant comedy about diametrically opposed Little League coaches – a blue-collar, killer competitor; and a corporate baseball newbie who thinks the kids should just have fun. As this odd couple butts heads, they learn about friendship, tolerance, parenting and life. Crackling dialogue, outstandingly delivered by John Nutten and Walter Murray, under the astute direction of Robert Mays. This production totally knocks it outta the park.
So, a couple of pop flies and foul balls this week – and one solid home run.
“A Dram of Drummhicit ” and Asian American Rep’s “Flower Drum Song” run through June 12 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
“Rounding Third ” continues through June 25 at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
©2011 PAT LAUNER