By Pat Launer
The Merry Widow , Miss Witherspoon, had plenty of cause for alarm:
She met The Wiz while Movin’ Out of her sludge-and Pig-filled Farm.
THE BUMPY BRICK ROAD
THE SHOW: The Wiz, the much-hyped, long-awaited Des McAnuff revival of the musical that was a groundbreaking, all-black, hip, urban, rockin’, mind-blowing experience in 1975 on Broadway. Book by William F. Brown, who did some updates for this new version; music by Charlie Smalls
THE STORY/THE BACKSTORY: Well, everybody knows the story, more or less. In this version, there is no foreshadowing of things to come: no wicked neighbor woman or three friendly farmhands before Dorothy is blown away by that fateful Kansas tornado. Staged at the peak of the black empowerment movement, the show focuses on not growing up too fast, believing in yourself and finding in that belief your Home. Now it’s trying to be so hip hop (but ends up being more hip hop than hip). There are a few extra characters that weren’t in the Wizard of Oz, like Annaperle, the fourth witch (kind of scatter-brained here), and the Winkies, who work for Evillene, the shrill, shrieking, annoying WWW (Wicked Witch of the West, i.e., She Who Shall Not Be Named – because if you mention her moniker, she appears somewhere – above, behind, within the action– and screeches ear-piercingly, then mercifully disappears. We dislike her for all the wrong reasons). Oh, and she’s dirty/filthy, as is everyone in her evil kingdom, because of her well-known fear of H2O. Everything else is pretty much as you know it from the beloved L. Frank Baum book and its various incarnations. Surprisingly, given all the great talent and intentions involved, this revival is more like the overblown 1978 movie than the exciting 1975 play, not to mention the immortal 1939 film.
THE PRODUCTION: Instead of Over the Rainbow, it’s over the top. Not many moments of subtlety – or respite. The visual motion and effects are relentless (one theatergoing friend said “Stop the set, I wanna get off!”). But while the show is visually and aurally overstimulating, it’s understimulating emotionally and intellectually. And somewhere along the road to Oz, it lost its heart and soul. God knows the production tries for soul, what with its multi-culti energy and main characters who represent black music icons, divas and posers. And it tries to be oh, so 21st century. But all the references to GPS and oil shortages don’t make this retro-feeling musical any more modern. And despite the orchestrations of the legendary Harold Wheeler, new incidental music by Ron Melrose and a skilled 9-piece band, there’s a decidedly hollow, synthesized sound to the whole affair.
The set, created by the inventive Robert Brill, a Broadway regular who got his start here at UCSD and as a co-founder of Sledgehammer Theatre, continues the three-show McAnuff trend of metal girder Erector sets, which were far more suitable to Jersey Boys than to Zhivago or The Wiz. The fly-space alone is a three-ring circus, metal halos that rotate, lower, spark, crackle, and bestow multiple mirror balls. In the center of the stage, reconfigured as an arena, surrounded by audience, is another ring, which also raises and lowers, becomes solid or cavernous, and is generally used to excellent effect. There’s catwalk scaffolding above, reached by winding staircases, and the yellow brick road winds through the theater seats (not very yellow, but decked out with flashing lights). There is so much activity that when some of the costumes are brought on (the sexy club scene in the first act, for instance, with its wild array of out-there outfits), they’re gone before we get a good look at them. Fortunately, those getups are brought back for the final number.
This Oz is not the beautiful place Dorothy ogles; it’s hard, metallic and cold, and thoroughly mercenary, its logo sparkling rhinestones (pins available at the gift shop), its denizens bedecked in bling, feathers and fur. Costume designer Paul Tazewell’s best work is for the Poppies, which are truly gorgeous, red and sensuously undulating. The Tin Man’s suit of music’s metal detritus is imaginative, too, though the Scarecrow and the Lion are surprisingly underdone. The fat cat, in fact, is a fey, vain, streaked-hair DJ/MC decked out in an oversized fur coat. Glinda’s diaphanous peachy gown is lovely and delicate. Addaperle, more addled than pearl (note the ADD, she says, in another gratuitous update) looks like a multi-hued, mismatched gypsy/psychic. Several of the huge decorative collars and wings are oddly askew. Baggy pants and hazmat suits reign; most of this isn’t particularly attractive attire. But the wig and hair work is terrific (Chuck LaPointe). Howell Binkley’s lighting is as garish as Peter Fitzgerald’s sound is piercing. The tornado is loud but exciting, what with the noise, confetti and projections of clouds (projections by Michael Clark). At the end, Evillene’s death happens way too quickly to appreciate the effects. The large-screen closeups of the performers (rock concert-style) don’t really add anything, except visibility to those onstage who see mostly the backs of the lead singers playing to the preponderance of the audience. The choreography (Sergio Trujillo) is often pedestrian, even with all the funky, R&B moves (which get repetitive) and the Cirque du Soleil aerial acrobatics.
Although it might well have been a fluke, it bears mentioning that, on press night, there were technical difficulties and a 30-minute delay, before both acts. One has to wonder in these situations, whether the show is too technically complex for its own good.
THE PLAYERS: Everyone is talented; the singing is fine. But there are no star turns here, and no bona fide show-stoppers. Nikki M. James has a pleasing mien and a powerful voice, but not a powerhouse presence. She’s sweet, but we don’t really get any sense of who this Dorothy really is. That goes pretty much for all the principals. They prance and dance, they put over their songs. But the acting, the depth of character, is the weak link. Not until the final few farewell moments do we come to care about the sensible Scarecrow (Rashad Naylor), heartful Tinman (Michael Benjamin Washington) and swishy Lion (Tituss Burgess). Each does a competent job on his solo, but the fact is that this score isn’t as memorable or thrilling as that for the classic 1939 movie. David Alan Grier, perhaps the best-known member of the cast, does a serviceable but not stellar turn as the Wiz, here a fairly likable, not nefarious kind of guy. Albert Blaise Cattafi is adorable as the sneaker-skating Toto, but many of his canine antics are strongly reminiscent of Young Max the dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His killer breakdance solo is a high point of the show. E. Faye Butler is loud and grating as Evillene, feared and despised more for her next unwelcome entrance than for her fiendish ways. She and her Winkies do well with “No Bad News,” the show’s other big number (“Ease on Down the Road” is the most energetic and familiar). The final two ballads (Glinda’s “If You Believe” and Dorothy’s poignant “Home”) are the slow-song pinnacles.
The musical gets off to a sluggish start, but McAnuff wisely sends the audience out boppin’ and singin’ (thanks to another “Ease on Down” reprise), and the ushers hand out green glasses in the lobby. So folks go home happy. But I can’t imagine that they feel fulfilled. Even the lessons of the story are buried under the overblown onslaught.
THE LOCATION: La Jolla Playhouse, through November 12
IS THERE LIFE AFTER LIFE?
THE SHOW: Miss Witherspoon, the surprisingly agreeable new comedy by the acerbic Christopher Durang. Like his incomparable Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, it’s about religion (ALL religions this time), but it comes from a decidedly kinder, gentler (though no less amusing) Durang. Named one of the top ten plays of 2005, by New York Newsday and Time Magazine
THE STORY: She’s middle-aged, lonely, depressive, misanthropic and curmudgeonly. And pieces of Skylab, the 1990s space station, are falling to earth around her. She just can’t cope with the horrors of modern civilization. She’s even ” anti-depressant resistant.” It’s time to check out. So she ends it all. Next thing she knows, she’s in the Bardo, an afterlife limbo which is the doorway to incarnation, something Miss Witherspoon (a name she’s given because her “brown-tweed aura” makes her seem like a dreary character in an English mystery novel) stubbornly and vociferously resists. Still, she’s forced to go back – as a baby, an abused teen, even a dog – until she and her soul learn the lessons that will improve and perfect them. Through her “aura cleansing,” she’ll help make those still living on earth more tolerant and peaceful. She demands to see Gandhi or St. Peter. Instead, she’s visited by Gandalf and the Son of God, in the guise of a feisty, preachifyin’ black woman, who urges her to carry the beatitudes back to Earth in her next reincarnation. Ultimately, she learns that we all make our own heaven and hell, that we’re all “one collective human soul,” irrespective of religion, and sometimes, we do get second, even third chances.
THE PRODUCTION/ THE PLAYERS: The cast is a winner, some of San Diego ’s finest, under the direction of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, who mines the piece for its humor and humanity. The actors seem to be having one helluva time, though they’re clearly working hard, what with the steep, bi-level set (Nick Fouch) and the quick-change characters and costumes (Jennifer Brown Gittings). Melinda Glib magically manages to make the cranky, kvetchy sourpuss of the title endearing – if only she wouldn’t scream so much. She is especially funny as a baby, thanks to an ingenious cradle design. The perfect antidote to any irascibility is lovely Jo Anne Glover, positively beatific as the saffron-sari-clad Maryamma, Miss Witherspoon’s guide in the nether regions. Glover is ever-patient, ever-smiling and deliciously calm through all the mayhem around her, in this world and the other. Steve Gunderson, DeAnna Driscoll and Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson morph into a range of hilarious incarnations. Gunderson is particularly good as the bearded, mystical Gandalf and the drug-addicted trailer-trash father of Miss W’s reincarnated baby. As his low-life mate, Driscoll is a hoot. Thompson fares best as a fire and brimstone, gospel-preaching Jesus, who makes perhaps the most politically pointed statements:
“I mean I said ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ right? That’s clear, right? I didn’t say ‘Blessed are those who proclaim themselves holier than others and read the Book of Revelations as if it’s an instruction booklet, and sit around waiting for the Rapture, when they think that I’m going to bring all those holy folk up to heaven, and we’re gonna sit up there together and watch Jews and atheists and non-Christians writhe about in agony for years and years.’ And we’ll watch that as what? – Entertainment? Enjoyable revenge?”
That’s good old Durang, deliciously wicked. Sometimes, his text devolves into farcical inanity, but mostly, the 90-minute comedy is charming and incisive, liberally sprinkled with an all-inclusive philosophy of tolerance and harmony.
THE LOCATION: San Diego Repertory Theatre, through October 29
BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet
THE SHOW: Pig Farm, the latest effort by two-time Tony Award-winner Greg Kotis (for the book and lyrics of 2002’s Urinetown, The Musical). This is a bicoastal world premiere, a co-production with New York ’s Roundabout Theatre, where it opened (to mixed-to-negative reviews) in June 2006
THE STORY: There seems to be a trend here. Kotis had a thing for urine in his first big success. And now it’s fecal sludge. Can this guy get away from excretions already? On the titular farm somewhere in America, we meet a pack of people with T names (sounds like The Music Man: “We got Trouble – with a capital T”): Tina and Tom are married, Tim’s their hired hand and Teddy is the G-man (an officer of the Environmental Protection Agency) who’s come to inspect the dubious operation. Before the evening is over, Tim will bed Tina, who wishes Tom would give her a child, and sprawls herself out spread-eagle on the kitchen table to prove it; Teddy will want to bed Tina, and will briefly even want to get back to the land and take over the farm. Tim, fresh from Juvie Hall, trying to take off, will destroy trust, property and Tina’s nightgown. Meanwhile, Tom has been dumping sludge into the river, which is washing up in Washington . At first, it seems like there might be some real political edge here, with the kind of cynical commentary embedded in every moment of the hilarious Urinetown. But that isn’t where this goes; it’s basically a sketch comedy, a goofy spoof of Sam Shepard plays that isn’t all that amusing, doesn’t really go anywhere, fails to make any political statements (despite massive potential for same) and doesn’t give us characters we particularly care about, one way or the other.
THE PLAYERS/PRODUCTION: Matt August has directed his cast to speak the stilted, repetitive lines in stylized fashion. That’s funny for awhile, but not for long. (“Tim?” “Tom.” “Tina?” “ Teddy., ” and so forth, throughout the play). The cast is game and competent, but they don’t manage to get us to laugh or to engage. Ted Koch is great as an earthy, committed (if immoral) farmer, and Ken Land is fine as his stodgy, governmental nemesis. Ian White is aptly edgy as young Tim (“I’m a man now!”) and Colleen Quinlan looks bedraggled (but not quite sexy/appealing enough to be so desperately desired by all these men) as the lonely, love-starved Tina. Takeshi Kata’s scenic design is wonderfully grungy, wooden, distressed, cluttered. Chris Rynne’s lighting provides just the right light and shadow onstage and projections of a changing Big Sky on all sides of the arena stage, rife with “pot-belly clouds.” The redundancies and reiterations in the text become tiresome. So does the evening.
THE LOCATION: The Old Globe’s Cassius Carter Centre Stage, through October 15
THE WALTZING, WELL-HEELED WIDOW
THE SHOW: The Merry Widow, the lighthearted, melodic, romantic operetta written by the Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The original librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story on an 1861 French comedy, The Ambassador’s Attaché. The operetta was first performed in 1905; in 1907, it was a sensation in London and on Broadway. Now it opens the second season of Lyric opera San Diego in their new North Park home
STORY/THE BACKSTORY: The action is set in Pontevedro, a fictional Eastern European kingdom reminiscent of the Balkan kingdom of Mentenegro . But the German character names offended officials in the real Montenegro . So, for the London premiere, the country was re-christened Marsovia, and many of the characters were diplomatically renamed, since the Montenegran royal family’s surname was Njegus, the crown prince was Danilo and Zeta was the founding state.
Now, the Marsovian Embassy in Paris is the setting for most of the action, where foolish husbands are cuckolded, and the ambassador tries to get the wealthy widow Hanna Glavari to wed a Marsovian, so her millions will bolster the ailing finances of the Fatherland. The handsome Count Danilo, who is usually found carousing at decadent, world-famous Maxim’s, re-meets Hanna (years ago, before she married the rich banker, Danilo’s aristocratic family would not allow him to marry her, because she was a poor farmer’s daughter). Now she’s wary of fortune-hunting suitors (of which there are many) and he’s leery of being taken for a golddigger. After many machinations, the Ambassador’s wife returns from her flirting fling, and Danilo and Hanna are united in marriage.
THE PLAYERS/THE PRODUCTION: The show’s witty dialogue, clever plot and vibrant characters blur the boundaries between operetta and musical comedy. The delightful Lyric Opera production is directed and designed by Lyric Opera’s artistic director, J. Sherwood Montgomery. The sets are serviceable, and give the appearance of opulence. The costumes (rented from Toronto ) are stunning: elegant and colorful and all Ascot-Gavotte black-and-white for the ball. Hanna wears a number of dazzling outfits (her entrance looks like the buildup to Dolly’s arrival at the Harmonia Gardens ). Stacey Stofferahn Uthe is excellent in the title role. Her soaring soprano is strong and supple, her movements nimble and her acting beyond reproach. She makes a fine connection with Chris Thompson’s Count Danilo, but she vocally overpowers him. Soprano Laura Portune is enchanting as the flirtatious Valencienne (a role she created for Lyric Opera several years ago), and voice is powerful and pleasing. As the object of her affection, Count Camille de Rosillon, Chad Johnson cuts a handsome figure, but his voice is on the weak side. Joseph Grienenberger is in fine vocal form, highly amusing as the bombastic ambassador, Baron Zeta; Andy Collins also provides comic relief as the finagling Embassy Adjutant, Njegus. As a musical theater performer, he may be a tad out of his vocal element in operetta, but he acquits himself well. Thanks to choreographer David Brannen, the Grisettes, those dancing can-can girls, are entrancing. And the famous “Merry Widow Waltz” is as lovely and romantic as it should be. Under the assured baton of Leon Natker, the 32-piece orchestra sounds full-bodied and robust. And the vocal/ensemble work is impressive throughout. In all, a light and lilting, attractive and appealing evening of entertainment.
THE LOCATION: Birch North Park Theatre, through October 21
BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet
PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG ..
THE SHOW: Movin’ Out, the music of Billy Joel and the choreography of Twyla Tharp; a match made in heaven
THE PLAYERS/PRODUCTION: Seeing this knockout show again made it even clearer how weak and unintegrated the Tharp/Dylan piece, The Times They are a-Changin’, which premiered at the Globe last fall and opens on Broadway this winter, really was. This show is just so much fun, the choreography and the dancing are so electrifying, and the storyline has heightened relevance now, though it perfectly reflects all of Joel’s classic, Vietnam-era songs. Brash young men are going off to war again, leaving their sweethearts behind, and never coming back. Without any dialogue and with minimal histrionics (see The Wiz, above), this dansical tells a tale of friendship, anger, loss and healing. It’s more powerful than ever. And I was thrilled that Darren Holden, fresh from the Broadway production, with his superb voice and piano-playing, was our musical host of the evening (he alternates with James Fox). Holden nails Joel’s timbre, tonality and rhythm, replicating his best-known and beloved songs, but adding just a little of his own pizzazz, too (sometimes even sounding a bit like Elton John). With a fabulous backup band up above the action, the evening is thoroughly satisfying musically. And choreographically, too. The leaps and whirls, and acrobatics, especially among the men, are nothing short of breathtaking.
As Eddie, the “angry young man” who can’t reconcile his post-war survival with his close friend’s death, Brendan King is spectacular in his highly athletic solos and dream sequences (“Captain Jack,” “Angry Young Man,” Innocent Man”). As his buddies, Tony and James, David Gomez and Sean Maurice Kelly (the dance captain, standing in for the featured dancer) are also potent and compelling. On the distaff side, Brenda (Holly Cruickshank) was Eddie’s steady in the good old pre-war days; for awhile, she was Tony’s main squeeze. But then she became a “Big Shot,” an “Uptown Girl” who went with lots of guys. Cruikshank, a long, lanky beauty, could bend her body in amazing ways, her sky-high kicks and leg extensions that defy gravity. Lithe and sexy and sporting heels throughout, she towers over most of the men, but she carries herself beautifully. As James’ grieving widow, Judy, ballet dancer Laura Feig (the only performer on point), fails to capture convincingly the emotional essence of her character, though her dance moves are very well executed; she’s joyful in her early love duets (“Just the Way You Are”) but less credible in her grief. Tharp’s balletic choreography is also less interesting than her pop, rock, acrobatic and Motown moves. Nonetheless, she proves herself to be a master of many styles, a creator of electrifying dance in a show that’s relentlessly energetic and energizing (and also, for us Boomers, wistfully nostalgic). If you missed it when it was here in 2004, do NOT make that mistake again!
THE LOCATION: Civic Theatre (courtesy of Broadway San Diego) through Oct. 15
BOTTOM LINE: Best Bet
Shine on, Harvest Moon
The Fall Harvest Moon Festival, hosted by the San Diego Asian American Repertory Theatre, was a smash-hit. There were more than 200 people in attendance, and all the Asian organizations in town were represented. The benefit earned $10K after expenses. The sumptuous banquet, celebrating the Chinese holiday and the company’s 10th anniversary, featured a terrific dinner, music by Bridget Brigitte, a tribute to Marianne McDonald (I had the pleasure of introducing her – poetically) and the talented and inspiring playwright Velina Hasu Houston, whose play, House of Chaos, will be produced by AART at New World Stage next spring, directed by SDSU’s Peter Cirino. A wonderful time was had by all. And guess who won the raffle—for two tix on Northwest Airlines to anywhere they fly in the world? Marianne McDonald.
NEWS AND VIEWS
… LAST CHANCE to see the fabulous and hilarious Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit. This cast is sooo great, the humor is amazing. But the show is closing on Oct. 29. So catch it fast! www.theatreinoldtown.com
… ion theatre is gearing up for its NATion Project, a kind of American trilogy. First up is Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, directed by Glenn Paris (Oct. 28-Nov. 12); then it’s John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, directed by Claudio Raygoza (Nov. 22-Dec. 10). And Part 3 will be a benefit staged reading of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, directed by Glenn Paris (date and time TBA). A historical triple-header.
… Vote for your fave. It’s time for the annual Best Of… poll by signonsandiego. So go to www.bestof.signonsandiego.com and check out the section on Best Live Theater Company under the heading of Arts, Music and Movies. So show your support for local theater. The following are in the running: Cygnet Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Starlight Theatre, Broadway San Diego, Diversionary Theatre, Lamb’s Players Theatre, Christian Community Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe and the Lollipop Girls (a scantily-clad burlesque ‘dance’ group). SignonSanDiego.com will post the winners on October 25th.
.. Playwright, director and now actor. Jim Caputo can be seen in front of the stage this time, in Scripps Ranch Theatre’s upcoming production of the wildly farcical Inspecting Carol. Think Christmas Carol meets Noises Off while Waiting for Guffman. And oh yes, Caputo is designing the set, too. Nov. 10-Dec. 9 on the campus of Alliant International University (formerly USIU).
.. Another multi-talented multi-tasker is Ruff Yeager, who’s about to appear with his son, Geoffrey Yeager, in The Rocky Horror Show at Southwestern College . Ruff is puttin’ on the fishnet stockings to play that sweet transvestite, Frank N. Furter. Should be a Halloween howl. The musical, which runs Oct. 27, 28, 31, Nov. 2-4, is really asking for it – audience participation, that is. You can sit in the Splash Zone, the Caution Zone or the Safety Zone. 619-482-6367. Let’s do the Time Warp again!
.. Playin’ at his namesake… Pianist nonpareil Todd Schroeder will be inaugurating the 2nd season at Schroeder’s Cabaret on Friday, Oct. 27 at 8pm. http://www.eventbrite.com/event/38449002 . And coming up next at Schroeder’s: Sandy Campbell with G. Scott Lacy (Nov. 3) and Angelo D’Agostino with G. Scott Lacy (Nov. 4). Remember, as producer Sher Krieger always says, “Life is a cabaret.”
… On the subject of killer singers, don’t miss the incomparable Brian Stokes Mitchell. The Broadway baritone heartthrob is doing a benefit performance for his alma mater (of sorts), San Diego Junior Theatre. The price is steep, but he’s worth it. At Casa del Prado in Balboa Park, Nov. 18. For tix and info: 619-239-8355; www.juniortheatre.com .
… In other youth news, I just got an update from the talented Lerner family (about whom I wrote a feature in last month’s issue of the San Diego Jewish Journal). Here’s what they’re up to: Ari Lerner has been cast as Danny Who, marking his fourth year with The Grinch at the Globe. Zev Lerner, ready for his Bar Mitzvah this Saturday, will be part of the teen ensemble of The Grinch (he played Danny Who in 2002 and was in the kids’ ensemble in 2001). So, this marks six family years with the holiday perennial. Meanwhile, older sister Jessica Lerner, a senior at Coronado School for the Arts who tutored Zev for his Bar Mitzvah, will be opening in a school production of Starting Here, Starting Now. She’ll also be working with Bill Virchis on La Pastorela, the Máscara Mágica holiday special that plays on the Cassius Carter Stage every year. Meanwhile, Jessica’s busy in the recording studio, preparing her original songs for a national talent contest for high school seniors. Quelle famille!
…Cue the ‘Q’: As part of its summer season 2007, the Old Globe is producing the West Coast premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q, which features “full puppet nudity.” Plan ahead, so you don’t miss this fabulously funny show. This will be a fun companion to the Globe’s summer Shakespeare offerings: Hamlet, Measure for Measure and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Get thee to the Spreckels Theatre, to remind yourself, among other thing (in case the Foley news didn’t hammer this home, in a much less humorous fashion) that “The Internet is for Porn’. June 20-August 5.
.. Sushi heats up: The 4×4 Monthly Performance Series got off to a rousing start last week; the next one, at the Bluefoot Bar & Lounge, 30th & Upas) is 8pm on Nov. an exciting new concept: ten-minute performances on a 4×4 floor space — music, dance, spoken word, whatever. And next weekend, Sushi presents The Myth Project, (Oct. 20-22), conceived and directed by UCSD profs Patricia Rincon and Liam Clancy (who did a turn on the 4×4 floor last week). Performed outdoors, at dusk, around the NTC barracks buildings, the site-specific piece, combining dance, theater, circus and spectacle, examines storytelling as “a charter for social action.” After the San Diego premiere, The Myth Project will travel to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico . And, coming up Nov. 2-4, Wrestling Dostoevsky, inspired by the master’s novel, “Crime and Punishment,” performed in the round by the Slovenian theater-dance group, Betontac. 8pm in the Wagner Dance Building (Studio 3) on the campus of UCSD.
… Celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month with the Mojalet Dance Collective, when they premiere four new works created by Faith Jensen-Ismay, danced to Bach, Mozart and African tribal music. I’ve seen short forms of this work: splendid! October 20-22 in the ENS-200 Studio Theatre on the SDSU campus. 619-594-1696. For more info about National Arts & Humanities Month, go to www.americansforthearts.org/nahm
… New Hall of Famers… As a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, I get to vote on the annual inductees into the Theater Hall of Fame. This year’s winners include the late, great playwrights August Wilson and Wendy Wasserstein, as well as actors Patti LuPone, Elizabeth Wilson and George Hearn and designers Willa Kim (costumes) and Eugene Lee (sets).
…Speaking of August Wilson , don’t forget the next installment of the San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre/Cygnet Theatre collaboration on staged readings of the master’s works. Seven Guitars, directed by Rhys Green, is at Cygnet Oct 23-24 (7:30pm) and at Horace Mann Middle School on Oct. 30. That’s a busy week: Monday 10/23, 6th @ Penn is hosting a reading of D.H. Lawrence’s The Daughter-in-Law, and USD opens a production of the provocative Arthur Miller classic, The Crucible, which couldn’t come at a better time, politically. 10/24-29. and on 10/24-25, NCRT presents The Life and Loves of Dinah Washington, the songs and story of the great jazz singer, performed (as it was in New York ) by Yvette Freeman, best known as Nurse Haleh Adams on “ER.”
… Remembering Kurt… On October 30, the Chronos group (formerly Grassroots Greeks), now headed by Celeste Innocenti, presents a reading of Agamemnon on the New World Stage as a memorial for the late, much-missed actor/social worker Kurt Reichert. Donations will go to the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Scripps. Linda Castro will be in town to reprise her role as Clytemnestra, and many of the original ‘Greek Geeks’ will be on hand too, including David Cohen, Walter Ritter, Trina Kaplan and Sally Stockton, along with many other friends and admirers of our beloved Kurt.
‘NOT TO BE MISSED!’ (Critic’s Picks)
(For full text of all past reviews, use the Search engine at www.patteproductions.com)
Movin’ Out – jaw-dropping choreography and dance; Twyla Tharp at her best, rousing a stellar company to the rockin’ rhythms of Billy Joel
At the Civic Theatre, through October 15
The Merry Widow – gorgeously costumed, beautifully sung
At the Birch North Park Theatre, through October 21
Miss Witherspoon – screamy and silly at times, but very well acted and metaphysically magical and intriguing
At the San Diego Repertory Theatre, through October 29
Four Queens – No Trump – a delightful quartet of African American women you’ll enjoy spending an evening with
Common Ground Theatre at New World Stage, through October 15
Hemingway’s Rose – more a showcase than a fully fleshed-out play, but the comic, chameleon performance of Ted Reis is absolutely worth seeing
Late night Fridays (10:30) and mid-afternoons (4pm) Saturdays at 6th @ Penn Theatre, through October 28
Middle-Aged White Guys – fanciful and fantastical, but biting and satirical, too; very well acted and directed
Weekends at 6th @ Penn Theatre, through November 8
Culture Clash’s Zorro in Hell – they’re wild and wacky, but their crazy/antic/silly agit-prop theater has a lot to say
At the La Jolla Playhouse, through October 29
George Gershwin Alone – a rhapsody of melodies, fantastically played (and you find out a few things about George, too, by George!)
At the Old Globe, through October 22.
Ella – some great singing and playing; wonderful performance, excellent band
At the San Diego Repertory Theatre, through October 15
Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit – hilarious spoofs, now featuring an all-San Diego cast (all multi-talented alums of the SDSU MFA program in musical theatre). Get ‘em while they’re hot!
At the Theatre in Old Town , through October 29
The weather’s cooling down; so warm up inside a theater.
© 2006 PATTÉ PRODUCTIONS, INC.