By Pat Launer
Local theater makes you grin, frown or quiver:
Our theatermakers ‘ain’t chopped liver!’
And many articulately had their say
At the knockout gala, the 9th Patté.
If you missed it, you missed something amazing (that WAS the oft-used epithet of the evening). But don’t worry! You have lots of opportunities to see it in its full, uncut form (online; go to the link at www.patteproductions.com ) or on TV, on Sunday, January 15, at 10:30pm on KPBS (channel 15/cable 11).
It was a packed house, SRO. Craig Noel was there, and nearly 250 others. When we acknowledged Craig and the other Lifetime Achievement Award winners (Bill Virchis, Jack O’Brien, Jonathan McMurtry, Deb and Beeb Salzer), there was a photo of the late, lamented, marvelous Katherine Faulconer, who drew a round of applause and appreciation. Also remembered, quite touchingly, was Jack Banning, to whom George Flint dedicated his Ensemble Award for Of Mice and Men. His story of how Jack struggled with his health throughout the run, but gave a flawless performance every night (finally succumbing two months after the show closed) was heartbreaking.
Other unforgettable moments:
…all the knockout entertainment: Lisa Payton doing Miss Enid, the sexy senior, in “Miss Enid’s Sweet Potato Pie” from the San Diego Rep’s production of Da Kink in My Hair (with Jennifer Harrell and Carmen Taylor tunefully and amusingly backing her up); Jason Heil and David S. Humphrey as the two frustrated princes in “Agony,” from the upcoming production of Into the Woods, opening next month at Lamb’s Players Theatre; the SDSU musical theater students (undergrads, grads and alumni) presenting the droll “Going Up,” from their delightful production of A Man of No Importance; and a cast of 17 from Moonlight Stage Productions’ Big River, singing “River in the Rain” and the rousing “Muddy Water.”
… Heartfelt acceptance speeches… Oh, there were so many of them. But especially from: Jeanne Reith, Esther Emery, DeAnna Driscoll, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Sandra Ellis-Troy and playwright Kim Porter.
… Best of Show: Mike Buckley, who accepted his award with a song (“She Loves Me”) which was downright hilarious. I didn’t know anything about it, but he prepared it in advance with my pianist/musical director Cris O’Bryon. What a hoot!
… Best Ad-libs: Sean Murray, who spontaneously broke into song (riffing on Mike’s acceptance), and did some other very funny stuff when accepting his award for Cygnet’s Outstanding Production of The Little Foxes.
… Both the Gaffneys – Monique and Floyd – getting awards on the same night. Floyd’s acceptance for Lifetime Achievement touchingly chronicled his theatrical development , influential tea with Langston Hughes, and the folks in the audience who’d touched or affected him along the way. Monique’s words were warm and touching, too.
The band was great, as always (Cris O’Bryon with Kevin Cooper on bass, Danny King on drums) and those who got my little musical ‘in-jokes’ that ushered each awardee too and from the stage, really got a laugh. I received emails from New York and Israel (the show streamed live) especially appreciating “The Munchkin Song” for Munched and “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the Mickey Mouse song played in a minor key for Of Mice and Men, Bowies’ “Changes” for Metamorphoses and “Nature Boy” for The Winslow Boy.
And now, after all that buildup, the actual list of awards:
Of Mice and Men – Renaissance Theatre Company
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Cygnet Theatre Company
In Arabia We’d All be Kings – Lynx Performance Theatre
Dog Act – Moxie Theatre
A Bright Room Called Day – Diversionary Theatre/Backyard Productions
Curse of the Starving Class – New Village Arts/Cygnet Theatre Company
Outstanding Scenic Design
Jedediah Ike – Arms and the Man – UCSD Dept. of Theatre and Dance
Mike Buckley- Bad Dates- San Diego Repertory Theatre
Outstanding Sound Design
M. Scott Grabau – Curse of the Starving Class – New Village Arts/Cygnet Theatre Company
Paul Peterson, Chrysalis Rapechild , Esther Emery in Association with Sledgehammer Theatre
Outstanding Lighting Design
Jennifer Setlow, Chrysalis Rapechild – Esther Emery in Association with Sledgehammer Theatre
Brian Shevelenko , Bat Boy – SDSU School of Theatre , Television and Film
Outstanding Costume Design
Naomi Spinak , Bat Boy: The Musical – SDSU School of Theatre , Television and Film
Michelle Hunt, Dog Act – Moxie Theatre; A Bright Room Called Day – Diversionary Theatre/Backyard Productions
Jeanne Reith – Arms and the Man – Moonlight Stage Productions; Metamorphoses – Lamb’s Players Theatre
Joseph Ward, Arms and the Man – UCSD Theatre and Dance
Esther Emery – Chrysalis Rapechild – Esther Emery in Association with Sledgehammer Theatre
Ruff Yeager – Bronze – Sledgehammer Theatre
Mike Auer – The Trial – The Full Circle Theatre Company
Richard Baird, The Merchant of Venice – Poor Players
Randall Dodge, The Pirates of Penzance – Moonlight Stage Productions
DeAnna Driscoll, Bad Dates – San Diego Repertory Theatre
Monique Gaffney, I Have Before Me… a Young Lady from Rwanda – 6th @ Penn Theatre
Sandra Ellis-Troy, The Waverly Gallery – New Village Arts
The Miser – La Jolla Playhouse
The Winter’s Tale – The Old Globe Theatre
The Winslow Boy – Lamb’s Players Theatre
The Little Foxes – Cygnet Theatre Company
McDonald Playwriting Award – Kim Porter, Munched
Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award – Dr. Floyd Gaffney
That two-faced wild man, Jekyll and Hyde, made another appearance in San Diego (he was last scene lurking around Starlight Theatre in 2002). The fearless young California Youth Conservatory (CYC) has taken on another mammoth challenge; last time I checked in with them, it was a commendable production of Ragtime. This fifth production of the fledgling company is Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s Jekyll and Hyde. It’s a difficult piece, very vocally rangy (if repetitive), and though this was an older cast than the last one (average age 19), few were sufficiently up to the task.
On the night I was there, Joseph Ahern was making his theatrical debut as the titular schizophrenic. His bio listed singing experience, but his acting was far more convincing. His transformations from the mild-mannered doctor to the monstrous murderer were impressive (he used the technique of the role’s Broadway originator, Robert Cuccioli : hair tightly pulled back and pony-tailed for Jekyll, loose and untamed for Hyde. His two women – the strong-willed, upper class Emma and the good-hearted whore, Lucy – were well portrayed, by Kezia Liu (nice soprano) and Jennifer Harrell, whose singing and characterization were the strongest in the cast. The other ‘women of the night’ looked far too wholesome and modest, seemingly uncomfortable in their seductive roles and costumes (nicely done but uncredited). The set (Jason Dino) was simple and effective, but the scene changes were long and unnecessarily) slow. Director Shaun T. Evans, a member of Actors Equity, served as the magnificent centerpiece of Ragtime. Here, he plays a lesser role (John Utterson , Jekyll’s friend, attorney and confidant), but he clearly demonstrates to the budding thespians just how effortless acting and singing can be. The company’s mission is to bring young people together onstage with adults and professionals. A better match between the show and the available talent would be preferable. But this is an energetic young company and an admirable effort to attract and train up-and-coming actors.
At the Lyceum Theatre, through January 15.
COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU…..
… Opening Friday, Jan. 13… the 21st annual Plays By Young Writers ’05, featuring five full productions and four readings. These playwrights, age 11-18, winners of the statewide competition, have created characters that range from an obsessed lover to an immature tomato. Six of the nine writers are local. For the first time, the inspiring presentation, produced by Deborah Salzer (the Playwrights Project’s ever-encouraging executive director), will incorporate dance into a couple of the productions. Two alternating programs, through January 22 on the Globe’s Cassius Carter Centre Stage. 619-239-8222; www.playwrightsproject.com.
… Scripps Ranch Theatre presents a special staged reading of John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God, a murder mystery about a naive nun accused of infanticide. The reading, on Jan 13 and 14 at 8pm, is produced by Jill Drexler and directed by Marjorie Mae Treger. The cast features Tiffany Loui , Glynn Bedington and Sandra Ellis-Troy. Not suitable for children or young teens. $5 donation suggested. Talk-back discussion following the performances. On the campus of Alliant International University (formerly USIU). www.scrippsranchtheatre.org ; 858-578-7728.
… A DOUBLE-WHAMMY on January 23… Difficult choices, but it shows how busy Mondays are, how many exciting readings are taking place in San Diego , how much there is to choose from:
….San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre’s tribute to the late, great August Wilson, one of the country’s most admired and prolific playwrights, is a staged reading of Two Trains Running. Set in Pittsburgh in 1968 and filled with rich and colorful characters, the play represents a microcosm of 1960s African American society. The cast includes Monique Gaffney, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Ernie McCray, Kirk Bradley, Dr. Julian Rowe and SDBET’s founders, the inimitable Rhys Green and Walter Murray. Antonio TJ Johnson and Rhys Green direct. Part of the proceeds (suggested donation= $15) will benefit Children’s Hospital’s Ronald McDonald house. At the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza ; Monday, January 23, 7:00 pre-show reception, featuring Dwight Love’s Jazz ensemble. For info: 619-280-5650.
….And on the same night, Jan. 23: The Actors Alliance OnBook/OnStage series resumes with a tribute to last year’s esteemed (and highly political) Nobel Prize-winner, Harold Pinter. His first full-length play, The Birthday Party (1958). An enigmatic “comedy of menace,” the piece is a thrilling, chilling fusion of humor and brutality, punctuated by Pinter’s signature (pregnant) pauses. Directed by George Flint, the presentation features an all-star cast that includes: Ron Choularton, Ralph Elias, Annie Hinton, Joshua Everett Johnson, Lloyd Hartman, Liv Kellgren and Matt Scott. At Diversionary Theatre. Admission is free.
..On the NEXT night, This is Our Youth, the play that established the reputation of playwright/screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan (The Waverly Gallery, Lobby Hero) will be presented as a staged reading by Brandon Walker, Rachael Van Wormer and Tom Zohar, directed by Joey Landwehr . The piece follows three disillusioned young folks on the Upper West Side of New York at the dawn of the Reagan era. Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 7m, at Diversionary Theatre.
… Local playwright Kristina Meek is inviting other aspiring writers to join a new group, Aspire Playwrights Collective, which will meet every second and fourth Thursday at 7pm in University Heights , beginning Jan. 26. As a kickoff event, a staged reading of Meek’s play, Salt, Light & Stars, will be held January 12 at 8pm; the public is welcome. The full-length drama concerns young adults being brainwashed into fundamentalist Christianity. Tyler Hewes directs. Events will be held at the Athenaeum School of the Arts studio, 4441 Park Blvd. Further information: Inheritheearth@netzero.com.
… And for a good laugh, don’t miss Eve’s Tail, Laura Bozanich’s hilarious one-woman show. Back by popular demand for two performances only: February 6 and 7, 8pm at Cygnet Theatre. Ten characters face sex, love, life, loss; it’s all there – and it’s all Laura! Call 619-337-1526, www.cygnettheatre.com.
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!‘ (Critic’s Picks);
(For full text of all past reviews, use the Search engine at www.patteproductions.com)
“The Lion King” – better, and more heartfelt, than the original New York production. Those jaw-dropping costumes still amaze.
At the Civic Theatre, through January 15.
“Pete ‘n’ Keely – A funny, silly revue with knockout performances by Randall Dodge and Kristen Mengelkoch, two of our most delightful and talented musical theater comics.
At the Ramona Mainstage Theatre, through January 22.
“Too Old for the Chorus, But Not Too Old To Be a Star” – if you haven’t had your fill of menopausal musicals, this is great for a date (the guys remind us it’s called MENopause ). Excellent performances , some cute/clever bits and songs.
At The Theatre in Old Town , EXTENDED through March 30 – and maybe beyond.
Start the year off right…. at the theater!
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.