By Pat Launer
How often does one get the chance
To see Shakespeare, Chekhov, opera and dance,
A musical Bible, two brand new plays:
All of this in just six days!
THE SHOW: Three Sisters, the 1901 Chekhov masterwork, translated/adapted by acclaimed Irish playwright Brian Friel
THE BACKSTORY: Well over a third of Friel’s works have been adapted or inspired by Russian authors. Three Sisters was his first attempt at Chekhov (1981), and it’s a masterful. The two writers have much in common; both penned short stories as well as plays. Both create a sense of an old world dissolving while characters are left behind, mired in their own realities. The two have often been compared for their finesse in intertwining humor and tragedy.
THE STORY: Like many of Chekhov’s works, Three Sisters explores the decay of the privileged class in Russia and the search for meaning in the modern world. Set in the late 1890s, the drama was considered by Chekhov to be “a beautiful play of character, relationship and motivation, exploring the gap between hope and fulfillment in the lives of the Prozorov family and their friends.”
The three sibs of the title are refined and cultured young women, raised in urban Moscow , but for the past 11 years, living in a provincial Russian garrison town. With their parents gone, their long-anticipated return to Moscow comes to represent their aspirations for living a ‘good life,’ while the ordinariness of day-to-day living tightens its stranglehold. The sisters, along with their brother, Andrey, plod on in their dreary existence, only diverted by the town’s military officers, and the elusive dream of returning to Moscow . Andrey, a musician who has professorial aspirations, enters into an unfortunate marriage, adding to his sisters’ woes; his wife becomes a domestic despot and an adulterer. Andrey squanders the family inheritance in gambling debts, the beloved soldiers leave or die, even the doctor-incapable-of-healing departs, and the sisters are stuck with their survival instincts and their frozen hope for a better life. They end in a tableau of solidarity and resignation.
THE PLAYERS /THE PRODUCTION: Under the direction of Francis Gercke, the play becomes a tantalizing mix of humor, sorrow and regret. Though it runs nearly three hours, this production is no lugubrious, dour, plodding Chekhov. It has a great deal of energy, humor and music – thanks to the felicitous piano talent of Tom Zohar (who also composed some of the pieces he plays on the lovely old upright), excellently integrated with the lovely sound design of Adam Brick. The set, designed by Kristianne Kurner, is magically transformed from the tumbledown Mississippi homestead of the McGrath sisters in Crimes of the Heart (with which Three Sisters runs in repertory) to an elegant manor of the Prozorovs, with its heavy wooden furniture, oriental rugs and silver samovars. Jessica John has clothed the sisters beautifully, the depressive Masha in black, the upbeat Irina in white, Olga in sensible skirts and blouses; the shrewish wife, Natasha, starts off more garish, less classy, and becomes better dressed as she takes on upper class airs (and a lover). Kurner, John and Amanda Sitton create an aching sibling trio, each discontented in her own way, each repeatedly making decisions (when each does, on rare occasions, act) that will preclude future happiness. Kurner is the prudent one with the forced smile, trying to put a brave face on the family predicaments. John’s Masha is a mountain range of emotions; depressed and cynical in view of her unhappy marriage and then wildly, desperately in love with a married man; her anger seethes beneath her sullen surface and finally erupts late in the play. Sitton’s Irina starts out airy and optimistic, but descends into marital acquiescence and when that’s lost, despair.
The philosophies of life ramble on throughout the piece, but the translation is delightful; colloquial and colorful, lyrical and often poetic. The language is well delivered by just about all. Zohar seems aptly puzzled and put-upon as poor misguided Andrey and Wendy Waddell is brash and wicked as his wife, more the harridan than the arrogantly unfaithful arriviste. (Waddell gets to play the villain in both plays; if only she had a moustache to twirl!). As the typically energetic, impassioned Colonel Vershinin, Gercke is surprisingly understated, even flat at times. Scruffy-bearded Ron Choularton has the perfect existential apathy as the world-weary Doctor and Manny Fernandes is cluelessly cheerful and relentlessly pedantic as Masha’s tedious husband, who would’ve been a better match for her practical, plain-speaking eldest sister, schoolmarm Olga. Jack Missett is old, gimpy and deaf as the servant Ferapont, though he seems to become less hearing impaired as time goes on. Among the soldiers, John Garcia reads more sinister than cynical as the brooding loner, Solyony; Daren Scott is charming as doomed, lovesick Baron Tusenbach, who pines for Irina but doesn’t live past her reluctant engagement. There may be individual gripes here and there, but there are many wonderfully detailed stage business, striking stage pictures, outstanding ensemble work and unexpected flashes of humor. It’s high time you had a little fun with Chekhov.
THE LOCATION: New Village Arts at the Carlsbad Jazzercise, running in repertory with The Three Sisters, through March 18
BRINGIN’ THE HOUSE DOWN
THE SHOW: Samson and Delilah , by Camille Saint-Saëns, with French libretto by the composer’s cousin, Ferdinand Lemaire, based on the biblical Book of Judges. This is the first time the opera has been heard in San Diego ; the English supertitles are by Francis Rizzo
THE BACKSTORY: Saint-Saëns began composing the work as in 1868, but it wasn’t performed in his own country until 1890, rebuked by the French because it contained biblical subject matter. The piece had shaky beginnings in the English-speaking world as well, receiving the shaft of Shaw (the great playwright/critic left before the third act), bans by the Lord Chamberlain and cries of “oratorio” in New York .
Some Bible interpreters view Samson as a hero, others as a prideful, ruthless killer. He’s been seen as a betrayer of his people and the victim of a seductress. The opera clearly portrays him as a heroic leader of his people, and a servant of his God (though the Bible makes no such claims). Saint-Saëns’ Delilah is the temptress who ensnares Samson with her wiles.
Interesting Side Note: There ‘s some suggestion, in historical records, that Saint-Saëns himself was Jewish.
THE STORY: Historians date the period of The Judges from about 1240-1040 B.C., a time marked by violence, oppression and social disorder. The Philistines entered the land of Canaan at about the same time as the Israelites, and they were in fierce competition for the land. The action is set in Gaza , still rife with conflict and conflagration today. There is a considerable amount of my-god-is-better-than-your-god competition between the two sides. Some things never change….
At the opening of the opera, Samson rallies the Israelites to revolt against the Philistines who have enslaved them. After Samson kills Abimelech, the ruler of Gaza , the High Priest of Dagon encourages one of the priestesses, Delilah, to seduce Samson in order to ascertain the source of his power. Since she and Samson were former lovers, Delilah finds it easy to beguile and bewitch him, wheedling his secret out of him and then cutting off his hair, robbing him of his superhuman strength and allowing him to be captured by the Philistines, who blind and imprison him. Brought to the Temple of Dagon to face execution, Samson is forced to kneel before the statue of Dagon. He calls on his God for justice, vengeance and a final show of strength. As he pulls mightily on the pillars he’s chained to, the whole temple comes crashing down, destroying everyone in it, including Samson and Delilah.
THE PRODUCTION : The ornately decorated proscenium arch is a harbinger of the opulence to come. This production is glorious to behold. The mammoth, sumptuous sets, designed by Douglas Schmidt for the San Francisco Opera, provide an ideally oversized backdrop for this mythic tale of strength and weakness, suffering and superstition, religious fervor and sexual conquest. Each scene provides another jaw-dropping setting, enhanced by the marvelous tonal lighting of Thomas Munn, former lighting director/designer for SF Opera; this is his seventh design for the San Diego Opera, and he’s welcome back any time. The gorgeous, gargantuan, steeply angled Philistine edifice in the public square (Act I) is followed by the sensuous drapes of Delilah’s tented lair (Act II); then, a huge Gaza dungeon (Act III, sc. 1), where Samson strains to turn an enormous millstone, beautifully framed in a circle of light from the ‘ground-level’ opening above. The final and most famous scene, is the Bacchanal, inside the stunning, towering Temple of Dagon , with its massive statuary, orgiastic excess and a dozen sexy dancers (choreography by Kenneth von Heidecke). The magnificent coup de théâtre, the collapse of the building, is brilliantly executed. The costumes (by Tony-nominated theater and opera designer Carrie Robbins) are aptly vibrant, lavish and multi-hued.
THE PLAYERS: The 50-members of the Symphony Orchestra and the magnificent 80-voice chorus sound as lush as their surroundings, under the assured and nuanced direction of resident conductor Karen Keltner. Director Lotfi Mansouri, former general director of the SF Opera, has done a superb job, creating magical stage pictures, with painterly groupings of the outstanding chorus. The liturgical-sounding choral numbers are juxtaposed with the Middle Eastern flavor of the increasingly frenzied Bacchanal. The duets are robust and erotic (even between Delilah and the High Priest, there’s a seething sexuality). Making her company debut as Delilah, a role she’s played around the world, renowned mezzo soprano Denyce Graves brings conviction and sensuality to her performance, revealing her dark notes and the character’s dark soul in her two signature arias, “”Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” (‘My heart opens to your voice’) and “Printemps qui commence” (“Spring begins’), and her dazzling Act II duets with Samson and with the Priest. She demonstrates impressive color and range, notably let loose in the final act; she’s self-assured but she doesn’t sizzle, nor does she exude the stage-dominating charisma of an international superstar. Tenor Clifton Forbis, who has also assayed this role at the Metropolitan Opera, makes for a potent and tragic Samson; his voice seems restrained at times, but his acting and emotional agility are impressive. Baritone Greer Grimsley is especially forceful as the High Priest, his rich, orotund voice bringing authority to this man of intensity, who radiates extreme fervor – for his god, for revenge, and for Delilah.
If you can nab a seat (the short run is a virtual sellout), this is a stunning spectacle. But if you miss it, the production will be broadcast on KPBS-FM, at 7pm on Sunday, April 29.
THE LOCATION: San Diego Opera at the Civic Theatre Theatre, through February 25
THE SHOW: Bridges: Two Love Stories, a pair of brand-new one-acts written and directed by Doug Hoehn (who shepherded a Patté Award-winning ensemble in 2004’s Kiss of the Spider Woman at 6th @ Penn, among other productions). He also has a background as a theater critic and artistic director of a theater company (Bread and Circus Theatre) in Columbus , Ohio . His two previous plays are Little Brown Mice and This Being’s Lease.
THE STORIES/ THE PLAYERS: These two pieces focus on unconventional love relationships. In Fourth Street Bridge, an unlikely twosome comes together under a Midwestern span. He lives in the tucked-away flat; she’s invited in. This brief, 35-minute play considers the contemplation and aftermath of suicide, the perils of self-pity and the rewards of taking responsibility and taking care of others. There are some wonderful moments here, excellently written. It all gets wrapped up a bit too neatly and rapidly, and the two characters, quippy Dirk (Ryan Schulze) and tentative Tasha (Katharine Tremblay) could be played with a little more vitality and variety, to keep the energy up in this fascinating look at both sides of self-destruction.
Sea Change is about an hour long, which gives it a little more room to breathe, and more time for the characters to develop. Ed (Patrick Hubbard) is in a semi-stuporous state, sliding down the slippery slope that is Alzheimer ’s disease. His wife (Joan Westmoreland) gently and repeatedly tries to get him to remember, but all the while there’s something she cannot forget, an indiscretion of his that she cannot overlook, or forgive. When their divorced daughter (Barbara Cole) comes to stay with Ed so his wife can go out, she pushes him to talk, to listen, to be honest, to remember. And things take an interesting turn. Twice during the action, Ed emerges from his blank-faced daze and explains what came before, what really happened. The rest of the time, he’s fairly monosyllabic, sometimes seemingly nonsensical, but he’s more present than one might think, and Hubbard does a outstanding job conveying a great deal of emotion in his face and eyes. Westmoreland is perfect as the seemingly loving wife with a whole lot of pent-up anger and resentment that erupts explosively and uncontrollably at times. Cole is excellent as the straightforward daughter, who has heart and perseverance; she won’t write off her father, but won’t let him off the hook either, until she ferrets out the truth. The truth, it’s said, can set us free. Well, maybe. If you can take it.
Hoehn has a way with situations and dialogue, conceiving and conveying interesting interactions that keep us involved and engrossed. I hope he keeps writing, and getting his work out there.
THE LOCATION: 6th @ Penn Theatre, through March 7
LET THERE BE LITE
THE SHOW: In the Beginning, a screwball Biblical musical, a humorous retelling of the Book of Genesis, by Tony Award-winning composer/lyricist Maury Yeston [Nine, Grand Hotel, Titanic and Phantom (the good one!)]
THE BACKSTORY: One writer said this show has had more title changes than productions. It premiered in 1988 as One Two Three Four Five, with book by Larry Gelbart (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum). Later, David Hahn took over the rewrites and he now bears sole credit for the dialogue, which ranges from clever to corny to foolish to puerile.
THE STORY: Bet you didn’t know that Adam and Eve had neighbors. Well, here they are, and these Biblical bystanders, the unknown ‘little folks,’ suffered all the slings and arrows of the Old Testament’s opening: expulsion from the Garden, the Flood, drought, famine, shlepping through the desert, slavery in Egypt,, crossing the Red Sea, the golden calf, the delivery and breakage of the Ten Commandments. The puns, inside theater jokes (when the Garden’s designated ‘Namer’ dubs one animal a ‘cat,’ he trumpets the Broadway ad copy: “Cats Now and Forever!”), and topical references (thanks to additions by inventive director Rick Simas)
THE PLAYERS /THE PRODUCTION: The show features every shtick in the Book, including Borscht Belt, vaudeville, drag shows and burlesque. Simas plays it to the hilt, backing the action with uproarious clips from old Biblical films, projected on a stretched animal hide upstage. Everything from Cecil B. DeMille’s original (1923) “Ten Commandments” to good ole Chuck Heston’s 1956 version (with a few NRA digs thrown into the dialogue) to a really cheesy, 1968 soft-core Mexican ‘Adam and Eve’ film. Oh yes, and Mel Brooks as Moses, too (dropping one of the tablets as he offers the “fifteen, ooops!… ten commandments). Hilarious stuff, which really adds layers and laughs to the show. With the help of an SDSU musical theater MFA alum, Alison Bretches, Simas stages all the group numbers like full-on vaudeville routines. Some – “When a Baby Gets Born,” “Feet” and “The Nileside Cotillion” – are pretty funny. Others, like “No Women in the Bible,” could have been a lot cleverer. These peppy numbers are offset by a number of romantic ballads, the most pleasant of which are “Is Someone Out There?,” “Till the End of Time” and the sweetly comical “You’re There, Too.” The best – and best known — song from the show (marvelously performed by Brian Stokes Mitchell when he was in town not long ago) is the touching father-son number, “New Words.” The Ferrante and Teicher accompaniment – by twin/facing pianos played by Dr. Terry O’Donnell and Wendy Thomson – is a hoot, well, and often flashily executed.
The cast is variable, and the night I was there, undergrad Amylee Amos was playing the lead female, the ever-hopeful Arielle, for the first time. She has a sweet voice and she acquitted herself well. The two comic females, played by Cheryl Cline and Jessica Knowles, are notable. Brandon Joel Maier is formidable and funny in the various incarnations of Zymah, AKA God. Andrew Smith is appropriately pompous and self-aggrandizing as the tribal leader, Romer; Steve Limones is the most heartful actor as Avi, the good-hearted guy with a dark past; Daniel Hirsch is affable and talented as hen-pecked Ben; and Joseph Almohaya is side-splitting as the very fey pharaoh, attended by his fawning sidekick, Patpateepa (David Armstrong). It isn’t Yeston’s best, and it’s definitely not as clever as it could be, but Simas and company do everything they can to make it sing.
THE LOCATION: SDSU’s Experimental Theatre, through February 25
SWAN SONG (AND DANCE)
I didn’t get to see it in an intimate living room like other spectators, but Eveoke Dance Theatre made their rehearsal space feel warm and welcoming. Several of the 15 performances of Luna – Dances of Love, were presented at their ‘other’ homebase (alas, their lovely new 10th Avenue space lies empty, forlorn and fallow, while the Senior Center across the street battles for 2000-pound gorilla takeover rights).
Modeled after Isadora Duncan’s private performances in the early 20th century, Luna was created as a parlor-style conversation about dance and the power of love. With the broken foot of Nikki Dunnan, Eveoke founder/choreographer/artistic director Gina Angelique stepped in to dance “Serpentine,” which she choreographed in 2003 to one of her favorite singer/songwriters, Ani Difranco. Double bonus, though, the night I was there; Nikki was back on her feet and able to display her expertise in “Luna.” In this farewell to San Diego , Angelique described the three pieces — “Serpentine” (love of country), “Luna” (love of child) and “Trailblazing” (love of partner) — as her “love letters for the Eveoke community.” They displayed all of Angelique’s and Eveoke’s talents and passions.
Gina’s work on “Serpentine,” in which DiFranco sings of “microcosmic melancholy” and “Oval Office clowns,” spoke directly to her political activism. Her moves were subtle and seductive, her facial expressions so intense and heartfelt and evocative that we wept with her for “the slaves on the corporate plantation,” and realized, yet again, what a galvanizing life-force she has been for the dance community and the San Diego community at large, and how very much she will be missed and lamented. Moving on to the whimsical that Eveoke has often used to temper the harsh political realities of its activist mission, Anthony Rodriguez and Erika Malone gleefully, joyfully, in childlike wonder, danced “I Love Color,” to the song of the same name by Nina Simone, celebrating differences and embracing each other, and at the end, embracing multi-colored members of the audience as well.
“Luna,” written to Vladimir Martynov’s “Come In!,” was created by Angelique in 2005, dedicated to her midwife and her new daughter, named Isadora Luna Millay. In long, flowing blue/yellow chiffon, Dunnan was mother and moth, midwife and infant, in fluid, elegant moves, shivering in anguish at times, soaring like a butterfly at others, in this romantic piece about birth, awakening, presentation of self, struggling to be and to fly. As is often the case in Angelique’s work (and, needless to say, in childbirth), the breaths were important, the drawing in, drawing toward, and the opening of the heart.
“Trailblazing” is a far more aggressive, competitive piece, created in 2006 to Arvo Part’s angular “Lamentate.” Throughout this run and this month, the duet was danced in different same-sex partnerships. Angelique saw it first as some two-person combination of her mother, her sister and herself. But it is a potent piece for two males, as performed, the night I was there, by Anthony Rodriguez and Doug Johnson. It’s about having a vision, and pursuing it doggedly despite the response or rejection of others. Being true to oneself is what Gina and Eveoke have always been about. Starting out by stretching themselves to the limit, in a long-held yogic ‘bow’ pose, the dancers come together and apart, conflict and conspire, displaying the physical equivalent of dissonance and harmony. There’s a frequent push-me/pull-you quality to the interactions, a strong sense of approach and avoidance, of moving in tandem and going one’s own way, imitating and repudiating, searching and rejecting, shoving and hugging. It’s a powerful, athletic piece of work, relentless in its struggles, heartrending in its quiet moments of union and understanding.
When the dancers and the audience were spent, Angelique invited everyone back for a hip hop version of the same piece (Rodriguez’ specialty). There were, admittedly, ups and downs of the evening, satisfying and agitating moments. But it felt important to be there, at another turning point in the evolution of the often-faltering local dance community. Dunnan will take over Eveoke. Ericka Moore, another of the long-term stalwarts, will still dance with Eveoke, though she’s also forming her own company, Skin…Muscle… Bone Dance Company, which will debut at the North Park Spring Festival in May. Ericka’s also dancing with the Collette Harding Dance Collective. So the next chapter begins. All good luck to Gina and husband Chris Hall, as they pursue a bucolic, self-sustaining life up north, living off the land and beginning to create exciting new work. Bon chance, and come back soon!
THE LOCATION: At a home in Golden Hill (open to the public) on Feb. 24 and Southeastern San Diego (by invitation) on Feb. 25
AND ANOTHER SWAN SONG…
It was a bittersweet experience to see UCSD’s Twelfth Night, imaginatively directed by Sarah Rasmussen. Some scenes were splendidly conceived, wildly inventive. Others veered over the comic edge into silliness. But the performances were excellent, and it was sad and poignant to have to bid farewell to some of the hugely talented third-year MFA students who will be graduating this spring.
This was the final performance for radiant Rebecca Kaasa, a knockout as lovely Viola, who morphs into the attractive/infatuated young man, Cesario, wooing Olivia (who falls for ‘him’) in the name of the Duke (whom she loves). As the supercilious, love-besotted Duke, mega-talent Scott Drummond was dynamic, tender, jocular and irresistible. Eduardo Placer, always forceful, was for this production, forced to do some pretty goofy things; his haughty, pompous Malvolio not only had to wear yellow stockings, cross-gartered, he had to do it in his underwear. And then appear in a silent, goofball, black-and-white film (directed by undergraduate Oakley Anderson-Moore) that had him falling into buckets of water and suffering even worse humiliations than the play provides (which is, in fact, plenty). As Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Brian Hostenske (with a shock of extra-long front-hair that even seemed annoying to him), was also pushed too far over the top, but he’s shown his skills in other UCSD productions. This marked the final production for all these wonderful third-year actors, and for co-composer/co-musical director Gerardo Jose Ruiz, who has done some remarkable directing for the program (his co-creator on this production was faculty member Linda Vickerman). These soon-to-be alums will be missed. I hope we hear from them soon, on important projects and stages.
Meanwhile, we still have lots of talent in the current classes, and a new batch coming in the fall. Director Rasmussen will be with us another year, and Pearl Rhein, who was an appealing and high-spirited Maria, will be here for two more. In a semi-successful bit of cross-gender casting, second year MFA Liz Jenkins was in and out of credibility, but some scenes were spot-on. The three blues/jazzy musicians (Matt Barrs on guitar, Billy Hopkins on violin and Ruiz on piano) added a great deal to the proceedings. And the first-act storm, with the split of the huge Weiss Studio Forum back wall, was spectacularly dramatic, thanks to scenic designer Steven C. Kemp, lighting designer Tom Ontiveros and sound design Philipp Danzeisen. Ontiveros moves on this spring; the others will have plenty more opportunities to take our breath away.
NEWS AND VIEWS
…VIVA VALDEZ !… Check out “The Legacy of Luis Valdez, Father of Chicano Theater,” the documentary that I wrote and co-produced with City TV’s Rick Bollinger, at the San Diego Latino Film Festival. The film spends time with the mega-talented Valdez family, as well as those Luis has touched and influenced, from Edward James Olmos to locals Sam Woodhouse, Jorge Huerta, Bill Virchis and Todd Salovey. The 20-minute doc screens on March 10 at 3:30pm, at the Ultra-Star Cinemas (screen #6), Hazard Center .
.. ALL HAIL CRAIG! The Old Globe is nominating its beloved Founding Director, Craig Noel, the Father of San Diego theater, for the NEA’s 2007 National Medal of Arts. They’ve been encouraged to mount a populist campaign to support the formal application. So, if you’ve got a message, anecdote or story about Craig’s influence on your life and/or work, please send it to Becky Biegelsen by March 9 ( email@example.com ). It’s easy to do: just click on the following link and fill out the online form: http://apps.nea.gov/Medals/NominationForm.aspx . If you want/need further background info about Craig, see his bio at http://www.theoldglobe.org/people/director_bios.html#craig. We all know Craig richly deserves this honor. Help him be a gold medalist!
… Black to Basics… The 15th annual Kuumba Fest, presented by the African American Council of the San Diego Repertory Theatre, comes to the Rep this weekend, under the artistic direction of Dajahn Blevins. This year’s celebration of African American culture, expression and heritage is called Black to the Beginning: It’s Not a Game, and features drummers, dancers, a royal court, a health and culture marketplace, a dance/step/fitness competition, a tribute to the Apollo Theatre, two spiritually-based dramas, a fashion show, gospel celebration and a salute to community leaders who exemplify the principles of Kwanzaa. That’s a whole lotta happenin’ in one weekend. Feb. 23-25 at the Rep. www.sandiegorep.com
…Altar Boyz Meet Menopausal Gals (well, not literally)… but they’ll all be here at the same time. Altar Boyz, winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical, is a spoof about a fictitious Christian boy-band, singing songs like “Jesus Called Me on My Cellphone.” Brought to us by Broadway San Diego, the show runs at the Civic Theatre March 6-11. And while they’re here, the Altar Boyz will be making a special guest appearance at Trolley Follies of 2007, Diversionary’s gala cabaret, a benefit for the theatre and the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego. The evening centers on a tribute to Kander & Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret, etc.) and features guest artists Ole Kittleson, Victoria Roze and, fresh from his New York appearance in Forbidden Broadway, Matthew Weeden. Now, there’s nothing fictitious about menopause, but Menopause, the Musical has been fanning flames and flaming fans (with hot-flashes) all over the country. It’ll be at the Lyceum from 3/9 to 8/26.
… Devlin rides again: She’s doing a solo show next week, March 3, to benefit her New York cabaret debut (3/24 in the Hideaway Room at Helen’s on 8th Avenue ). In her local performance, she’ll be singing a mixture of jazz, blues, pop and theater tunes, including a Mama Cass tribute and a jazzy James Bond medley. Jim Guerin will be her accompanist. Seating is limited and there’s no advance ticketing ($10 at the door). 7pm at the Fraternal Spiritual Church , 4720 Kensington Drive, SD 92116
…ion is re-charged.. Moving on after the loss of its beloved New World Stage, ion theatre is up and on its feet again, launching its second season with the intensely dramatic Mud, by Maria Irene Fornes, which opens March 9 at the Academy of Performing Arts in Mission Valley, near the Grantville trolley station. The production features resident artist Julie Sachs, along with the talented ion co-founders: producing artistic director Glenn Paris and executive artistic director Claudio Raygoza. Raygoza directs, with assistance from Sara Beth Morgan.
… As an early kickoff to its “Resilience of the Spirit: Human Rights Festival 2007,” 6th @ Penn will screen “God Sleeps in Rwanda ,” the Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Short, this weekend. Made by Kimberlee Acquaro and Stacy Sherman, narrated by Rosario Dawson, the 28-minute film is an inspiring story of loss and redemption among five courageous women, after the 1994 Rwandan Genocide left the country nearly 70% female. Saturday, Feb. 24 at 4pm.
.. All in the family… Gina Angelique’s enormously talented sister, Danielle LoPresti, is helming the third San Diego Indie Music Fest (SMIMF 3), which brings us over 75 acts on 7 stages including, of course, the marvelous Danielle LoPresti and the Masses. The event, presented by Say It Records and Champ Records, runs along University Avenue in North Park , between Ray and Utah Streets, from noon to midnight on Saturday, March 3. Eveoke Dance Theatre will be performing, as will Texas singer/songwriter Michelle Shocked, among many other groups and individuals from all over the country. www.sdindiemusicfest.com
… Odets is back. ion theatre might not have snagged the rights to Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing, but there’s still a chance to see some of the Group Theatre founder’s influential political/socialist work. UCSD is presenting an undergraduate production of the one-act Waiting for Lefty, Odets’ first produced play, about labor, unions and strikes. Directed by Cynthia Stokes. Feb. 28-March 3 (4 performances only) in 157 Galbraith Hall.
… Calling all teachers! The 2007 Student Shakespeare Festival is having its Teachers’ meeting Saturday, Feb. 24 at 9:45 in the Old Globe rehearsal hall off the Alcazar Garden in Balboa Park . It’s not too late to join the fun and festivities of this year’s Festival, and it’s a good time to sign up for a free in-class presentation of the Globe’s “Playing with Shakespeare.” Mike Auer is the festival’s executive director again. Check out the Festival page at www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org .
…In a less enlightening story about youth… Last week, I mentioned a Vagina Monologues production that changed its marquee name to The Hooha Monologues after a passing motorist complained that her young niece would see that nasty word in lights. Now, along comes a children’s book that has the audacity to mention the word “scrotum.” Horrors! Librarians nationwide are up in arms. “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, is this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. And yet…. librarians have already begun to ban the book from elementary school shelves. Maybe they should replace the noxious word with ‘foo-foo’ or ‘woo-wa.’ The author, btw, is a librarian herself. She finds the word fascinating, and has her young heroine say: “It sounded.. like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important.” Indeed. The scrotum part of the story is based on a true incident, relating to exactly where a rattlesnake bit the author’s friend’s dog. One of the offended librarians asserted: ”You won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.” Oh, really?
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!’ (Pat’s Picks)
Samson and Delilah – a jaw-dropping sets and lighting; admirably sung
San Diego Opera at the Civic Theatre, through February 25
Three Sisters – beautifully detailed, well acted production that mines the humor underneath the pathos
New Village Arts at Carlsbad Jazzercise, running in repertory with The Three Sisters, through March 18
Crimes of the Heart – a whole lotta humor and heart, outstandingly directed and performed
New Village Arts at Carlsbad Jazzercise, running in repertory with The Three Sisters, through March 18
The Four of Us – a smart, clever world premiere, extremely well presented
On the Cassius Carter Centre Stage, through March 11
Glengarry Glen Ross – perfect Mamet pacing by a crackerjack ensemble
6th @ Penn Theatre, EXTENDED through March 25
The Secret Garden – the singing trumps everything else; a vocally magical cast
At Lamb’s Players Theatre, through March 11
Fiddler on the Roof – wonderful nostalgia, wonderfully sung
At the Welk Theatre, through April 1
(For full text of all past reviews, use the Search engine at www.patteproductions.com)
March may be coming in like a lion… better pounce on a theater near you!
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