By Pat Launer
There was plenty of theater to wow us and slay us
In this Birthday week of Amadeus:
The Barber of Seville gave amorous tips
While Eveoke praised mothers and their kid-bearing Hips.
THE SHOW: Hips, the latest docu -dance from social activist/choreographer Gina Angelique and her Eveoke Dance Theatre
THE STORY: In the model of “Women Rebels” and “Mothers,” this new dance piece is based on interviews that are woven into a sound tapestry including a range of music. Angelique is highlighting more unheard voices, this time the intimate stories of single mothers. Photographs of the Moms (taken by Maria Teresa Fernandez) hang in the lavender lobby, and during the production, artist/dancer Araceli Carrera creates live visual art – provocative sketches of women’s heads and torsos.
THE PRODUCTION/ THE PLAYERS: The brand new space is a terrific addition to the San Diego theater landscape, especially in the Wake of the demise of St. Cecilia’s. And bonus! Sledgehammer will be moving into the Tenth Avenue Theatre as well. All their lighting equipment is stored and ready to roll in the four-story building, which has been remarkably restored in only two months, by Chris Hall and his team of devoted and gifted cohorts. The large, flexible performance space can accommodate up to 125 seats. On two upper floors, there are 7000 square feet of rental area, ideal for dance or theater rehearsals, or perhaps organizations. The rooftop overlooks the city, and Eveoke plans to use it for performances, too… starting this summer with “Hip Hop is Everywhere .”
Meanwhile, speaking of hip (hop), back to the Mothers and their hips, which are their built-in baby-carriers. The interviewed women range from a Palestinian in exile to a late-life lesbian; from an Irish-Catholic from a drunken home to a Mexican bilingual. The stories are heartbreaking and harrowing, filled with tenderness, sadness, regret, spirit, passion and hope. Ericka Moore created the inspiring sound design, laced with music from “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” David Lang, Devendra Banhart and Bobby McFerrin (big month for him; his work courses through Halpern and Johnson at North Coast Rep, too).
Some of the stage pictures are gorgeous, particularly the opening, with the six white-clad performers crowded around a cradle. There are birthing scenes with anguished faces and outstretched legs, and many moves centered around ironing boards. These are whimsical and humorous, the women tangled up in them, laid out on them, smothered by them (though some audience members with kids in tow said their children had no idea what those boards were!). The recurrent phrase of feeling ‘boxed-in’ gave rise to several scenes staged in, on and around large open boxes, one for each dancer, like a lineup of weary, overworked jane -in-the-boxes. Perhaps more than ever, Angelique makes excellent use here of white-faced butoh artist Charlene Penner, who does her slow, vermiform moves, making herself small and vulnerable, or cavorting with the others with consternation or abandon. The performers are all outstanding, with Eveoke stalwarts Nikki Dunnan and Ericka Moore particularly compelling in their solos; endearing Erika Malone and intense Yvonne Hernandez also do gripping solo work. The flailing or stylized arm movements and rolling, whirling freneticism of anxiety and distress represent Angelique’s familiar dance vocabulary, but here, they are not overused, and are especially well suited to the work. It isn’t possible to listen to and watch these tense, playful, funny/sad expressions of sentiment and survival without feeling deep respect for the job these women are doing – fearlessly, courageously, to the best of their ability in the face of social, emotional and financial stress and strain. Fearlessly, too, Angelique has once again fulfilled her mission: cultivating compassionate social action through evocative performance.
THE LOCATION: Eveoke’s new Tenth Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave. , through February 19.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet
THE WILY (but not Demon) BARBER
THE SHOW : Gioachino Rossini’s beloved comic opera, The Barber of Seville, set in the 17th century (premiered in Rome , 1816). Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
THE BACKSTORY and STORY : The opera is based on a French play by Pierre Beaumarchais, written in 1775. The story of The Barber of Seville is continued in Beaumarchais’s play The Marriage of Figaro and the Mozart opera based on it, which was composed in 1786. Although the Beaumarchais piece was a biting social satire, the opera is more often seen as a broad comedy. It was famously parodied in animations starring Woody Woodpecker (The Barber of Seville, 1944) and Bugs Bunny (Rabbit of Seville, 1950).
In the wild, whirlwind story, the lovely Rosina is kept under lock and key by her crusty old guardian, Dr. Bartolo , who intends to marry her with the aid of the unscrupulous priest Don Basilio , Rosina’s music teacher. Meanwhile, Count Almaviva , disguised as the poor student Lindoro , woos her with the help of Figaro, the delightfully cunning local barber, matchmaker and general busybody. Almaviva gains entry to the house to see Rosina, first as a drunken soldier and later as a priest, managing to create havoc and confusion each time. Figaro and Almaviva plan Rosina’s escape and after various mix-ups and misunderstandings, the lovers are united in bliss.
THE PLAYERS, THE PRODUCTION: The elaborate, attractive sets and costumes were created by the New York City Opera. The music, which sparkles with wit and fancy, is robust and energizing as played by the San Diego Symphony, under the assured baton of the Opera’s principal guest conductor, Edoardo Müller. The direction of Lotfi Mansouri leaves no moment unadorned. There’s a great deal of comic business onstage, some hilarious and some seriously overblown. But it’s all in good fun, and the cast rises to the comic/dramatic occasion. The comedy often verges on slapstick (and beyond), but the performers make their precise characterizations credible – even though their ludicrous actions may not be. The physical shtick and facial expressions are frequently priceless, especially in the case of bass-baritone Eduardo Chama as the blowhard Bartolo . He’s highly amusing, but not always sufficiently vigorous vocally; he was often overpowered by the orchestra. Not so for the much-admired Ferruccio Furlanetto ; his basso is profundo, though why he carries his perpetually limp-wristed hands extended and suspended like ‘the undead’ was beyond me. Mezzo Judith Christin makes for a strong vocal and physical presence as the maid Berta , though her counterpart, Ambrogio (J. Sherwood Montgomery), is enigmatically either mugging, posing or sleeping throughout the proceedings. Diminutive tenor Lawrence Brownlee manages his vocal and acting duties admirably, but he’s a visual mismatch with the beautifully statuesque Kirstin Chávez , whose voice is stunning (but whose costumes are less than flattering). As the impish Figaro, Christopher Maltman is thoroughly adorable and irresistible. His rich baritone, agile articulation and playful, puckish moves capture the character in all his nimble, antic, self-aggrandizing glory. The opera’s intricate coloratura passages are particularly well executed by Chávez , and in the extra aria added to this production (“ Cessa di più resistere ,” usually removed, or sung by Rosina, but restored for this particular Almaviva ), Brownlee. Despite a surprising breakage onstage the night I was there (during the delectable music-lesson in Act II, the ornate, gilded piano bench lost a leg and collapsed beneath him), Brownlee maintained his charm and composure and deftly moved the offending furnishing out of the way, while at the same time singing, wooing and deceiving. Commendable and consummate professionalism.
THE LOCATION: The San Diego Opera at the Civic Theatre, through February 8. If you miss it, the production will be broadcast on KPBS radio on Sunday, April 23 at 7pm.
BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet (for the light-hearted and comic-minded)
LET THE BIRTHDAY BASH BEGIN….
…It was a treat to join Mainly Mozart on Amadeus’ actual 250th birthday (January 27) for a lively, energetic, outstanding performance at Sherwood Auditorium in La Jolla . The weekend kicked off San Diego ’s year-long birthday celebrations, the largest in North America , involving nearly 70 local arts organizations and educational institutions, with more than 270 binational presentations/performances. This is a first for the region and an awesome undertaking for Mainly Mozart, helmed by executive director Nancy Laturno Bojanic , who was radiant at this Spotlight Series event. As an extra attraction, and to mark the auspicious occasion, the Mainly Mozart Orchestra donned stately, ruffled, earth-toned 18th century attire (created by San Diego State University ). Maestro David Atherton was beaming and exuberant, and led the orchestra in a sprightly, energetic Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade in G Major, K. 525). The other three, lesser-known pieces, especially the moving Symphony No. 30 in D, K. 202, were inspiring. The evening concluded with a chocoholic’s fantasy of desserts, and an incredible (edible?), three-tiered cake that featured pictures, music and compositions of the beloved composer. A totally satisfying time was had by all. Be sure to soothe your soul and celebrate the musical genius some time during this celebrational year.
In case you missed it, and want a less-than-instant replay, you can watch the 9th Annual Patté Awards for Theater Excellence online. Go to www.patteproductions.com ), and click where it says “ The show can be seen HERE.’
PUT YOURSELF IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Don’t forget that StoryCorps , a multi-year project sponsored by NPR, CPB and the Saturn Corp., will be in San Diego this month. You can sign up to interview a friend, family or loved one, with help from a trained facilitator. At the end of your 45-minute session, you’ll get a CD of your interaction, and a copy will be sent to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, where it becomes part of a digital archive. KPBS and SDSU are co-sponsoring the local visit, and KPBS will air a selection of the local stories, some of which may also air on NPR. The StoryCorps Mobile Booth will be at SDSU from Feb. 9-20, and will move to Balboa Park Feb. 23-March 5. To make a reservation to record an interview, go to kpbs.org.
COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU…..
… This is (for) our youth: The La Jolla Playhouse is hosting ‘Performance & Cocktails’ for its Young Professionals Group, to lure the youthful crowd to its doors and into its seats. For $30 – half off a regularly priced theater ticket, young patrons can enjoy an all-inclusive night of drinks, gourmet eats and a performance. The next event is this Saturday, February 4, and begins at the Estancia Hotel (named, by Condé Nast Traveler, one of the world’s hottest new hotels for 2005-2006), where mingling and networking is the activity du jour, before heading over to catch the ‘60s spy-themed production of Much Ado About Nothing, replete with its bowler hats and pleather catsuits , courtesy of Aquila Theatre. Then, dessert, drinks and more mingling on the VIP terrace at the Playhouse. Oh, what a night! Tell the young folks you know this is being billed as a “theater fix for the culturati .” They are the future of the theater. 858-228-3092.
… Carlsbad Playreaders is gearing up for the new year , with a reading of Brooklyn Boy, the latest creation by Donald Margulies, It’s about midlife crisis, the price of success, going home again. But mostly, it’s a father-son story. And taking on the role of the son is UCSD Provost (and Theatre Dept. faculty-member) Steven Adler, while his father will be played by UCSD Theatre Dept. founder Arthur Wagner. Should be a hoot, made deeper and richer by some of the play’s very poignant moments. Monday, Feb. 6 at 7:30pm at the Carlsbad Library.
…A Moxie Theatre presentation of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues will benefit the Community Resource Center ’s Domestic Violence Program. Monday, February 27 at the La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas. For tix and info, contact the Community Resource Center ; 760-753-1156, ext. 304.
.. Speaking of V-Day (the original one), Schroeder’s Club and Cabaret at the Westin Horton Plaza is presenting three Valentine’s- themed performances: On Friday, Feb. 10, Ric Henry and Eileen Bowman will sing their hearts out, with Rayme Sciaroni at the keyboard. Sat. Feb. 11 features a ‘Happy Valentine’s Gay’ celebration, with the Needemann Brothers, Rayme Sciaroni and the Sue Palmer Trio; and Tuesday, Feb. 14 features Baruti and Anthony Bollotta with accompanist Jim Guerin. Tickets include a bottle of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. Bring your sweetie ( www.schroeders.cc ; 858-794-9044).
… and for a different kind of romantic interlude, check out Shakespeare’s Sonnets, performed by the San Diego Ballet, February 10-12 at the Lyceum; 619-544-1000.
… Next week, Laura Bozanich uses her nights off from Biedermann and the Firebugs to reprise her hilarious solo show, Eve’s Tale, Feb. 6 and 7 at Cygnet Theatre.
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!‘ (Critic’s Picks);
(For full text of all past reviews, use the Search engine at www.patteproductions.com)
Hips – political and whimsical, a moving dance tribute to single motherhood
A t Eveoke’s new Tenth Avenue Theatre, through February 12.
The Barber of Seville – it’s silly, often slapstick, but the singing is marvelous, the characterizations are amusingly adept, and the set and costumes are beautiful counterparts to Rossini’s splendid music
At the Civic Theatre, through February 8.
Halpern and Johnson – poignant story; perfectly paired, finely nuanced performances
A t North Coast Repertory Theatre, through February 19.
The Exonerated — dark stories, killer performances
At Lynx Performance Space in the Rose Canyon area, through February 9.
Beautiful Thing — excellent acting, accents and direction; flawed play, but the production is a beautiful thing.
At Diversionary Theatre, through February 5.
Biedermann and the Firebugs – wacky satire, deadly/fiery subject, hilarious performances.
At Cygnet Theatre, through February 12.
Ajax – 2500 year-old war-time play that’s still politically relevant
At 6th @ Penn Theatre, through February 5.
Too Old for the Chorus, But Not Too Old To Be a Star – Lively, funny, extremely well executed.
At The Theatre in Old Town , EXTENDED through March 19.
It’s February — Time to come out of hibernation – and into a theater!
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.