KPBS AIRDATE: December 7, 2001
In this difficult year, at this time of sad tidings, isn’t it nice to think about new beginnings? The economy may be flagging, but not the San Diego theater community. Three brand new theater companies are bravely opening their doors. Now THAT’s cause for celebration. All together, they’ve got us covered — from East County to La Jolla, mid-City to North County. A hearty welcome to the Women’s Repertory Theatre, opening “Carol, A Christmas Comedy,” this weekend; Stone Soup Theatre Company, presenting “Death and the Maiden” next month, and the focus of today: Epic Risk Theatre Company and New Village Arts. There are fine performances in both inaugural productions, but one’s a bit too silly and one’s not quite silly enough.
Epik Risk is headed up by director Robert May, a recent transplant who’s gathered together a bevy of local comic favorites — including Don Loper and Fred Harlow –and he’s teased considerable humor out of Lisel Gorell, Anne Tran and Chad Sakamoto, among others. The vehicle is an over-the-top, updated version of “The Misanthrope,” Molière’s 1666 classic about a pathologically honest (but hypocritical) hater of society’s flatterers and phonies. Hewing fairly close to the original, Chicago adapters Andrew Gall and Megan Powell set the piece in the current rock music world, where everyone fawns and toadies in lame couplets replete with curse-words. It works for awhile, but it does wear thin at times. Loper, Gorell and Tran are especially good. But a little less — of almost everything — would be more. Nonetheless, here’s to more from Epic Risk.
It you’re looking for site-specific simplicity, look no further than New Village Arts, founded by Francis Gercke and his wife, Kristianne Kurner, both graduates of the acclaimed Actors Studio Drama School in New York. Their premiere, “Brilliant Traces,” a 1989 one-act by Cindy Lou Johnson, is set in a remote Alaskan cabin in the midst of a blinding whiteout. The production is staged in a tiny space called the Granary, in Carlsbad’s Magee Park. It feels cold and claustrophobic, and kinda gives you cabin fever. Perfect for this gripping little play and its themes of isolation and alienation, numbing memories and spiritual searches. An addled bride shows up in the middle of nowhere, at the retreat of a recluse. Both are emotionally scarred, but there should be funny moments in their dance of delusion and deliverance. The humor isn’t sufficiently mined under Mark Stephan’s taut, but earnest direction. At times, these two just seem like nutcases: she an anxious manic-depressive, he an obsessive-compulsive. But when they get beyond the stage business and into the business of burrowing deep into each other, the actors soar, and carry us along on this unnerving odyssey of mutual discovery. At its best, the production left behind a few brilliant traces.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.