Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
February 7, 2014
Everybody has an agenda. And when motives clash, bad things can happen to pretty good people. One reckless turn, and the rest of the road can be studded with briars and brambles, blood and tears – even “murder most foul.”
Whether protecting a child, acquiring a crown or trying to maintain a forbidden relationship, passion can be a power for good… or evil.
In the compelling drama, “Bethany,” by Laura Marks, Crystal lost her job. Then her house. Then they took away her daughter. She’ll do anything to get the little girl back. That includes lying, squatting in a foreclosed house, giving away her body, even becoming violent. It’s 2009, the peak of the Great Recession, and desperation is epidemic. Despite a few implausible plot-points, with angel-faced Jennifer Ferrin playing anguished but indomitable Crystal, it’s hard not to feel sympathy, empathy and compassion. Gaye Taylor Upchurch, who directed the New York premiere last year, marshals an excellent cast of six, including three locals, who acquit themselves with aplomb in small but crucial roles. At the Old Globe, the design work is outstanding, the characters sharply etched. This is one intense, edge-of-your-seat, 90-minute, morally slippery cautionary tale.
At Moxie Theatre, director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg brings a light touch and a bit of whimsy to “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” an early work by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage . Irresistible 18 year-old Jada Temple is the narrator of this coming-of-age memory play about a struggling African American family. The recently widowed, newly religious father and his two teenage daughters relocate from Florida to Brooklyn, to be closer to Father Divine, the real-life, controversial spiritual guru. Soon, a sassy, communist/activist aunt moves in, preaching black empowerment. And then the father unexpectedly brings home a new bride – who’s white and German. It being 1950, havoc ensues, inside and outside the home. The costumes are period-perfect, and as Aunt Lily, Cashae Monya gives a killer performance.
Speaking of killers, Intrepid Shakespeare Company is reprising “Macbeth,” which was their first show four years ago. Now, the historically spooked tragedy is their 13th production. It’s very dark – in every way. The costumes are mostly black; the lighting is dim. The audience flanks the central action, which features some odd directorial choices, most notably, the character Seyton , played as a jocular Satan (his announcement of Lady Macbeth’s death elicits an unnerving laugh from the audience). There’s too much screaming throughout; the half-masked, howling witches are virtually unintelligible. Macbeth and his Lady have no sexual chemistry, which usually heightens their bloody resolve. Sean Yael-Cox and Sandy Campbell are at their best in their madness. The fight scenes are potent, as are the sound design and Banquo’s ghostly appearances.
All three productions show that maintaining moral equilibrium can be hazardous to the health.
Intrepid Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” runs through February 16 at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.
“Bethany” plays through February 23 in The Old Globe’s White Theatre.
“Crumbs From The Table Of Joy” continues through March 2 at Moxie Theatre.
©2014 PAT LAUNER