Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
October 12, 2012
It may focus on the poor, but it’s an embarrassment of riches. You can calculate the week in theater by the numbers: the 99%, the 47%, and yes, even the 1% show up, in four searing productions.
At the heart of “Good People” is the question of what constitutes a good person. Everyone says Margie, from blue-collar South Boston, is “too nice,” but by the end of her story, she’s managed to wreck a marriage, and maybe two lives. Desperate, out of work, and unable to provide for her developmentally disabled daughter, Margie pays an unexpected visit to an old boyfriend, now a successful doctor. Things don’t go well across the class divide.
At the Old Globe, David Lindsay- Abaire’s sharp-tongued, sharp-witted 2011 comedy, under the direction of Paul Mullins, features outstanding performances. The accents may come and go, but the play is unshakably smart and thought-provoking.
At ion theatre, the class divide is also breached; this time, the upper echelon reaches down and toys with the underlings. Claudio Raygoza’s world premiere, “Julia,” his best creation yet, was inspired by August Strindberg’s masterwork, “Miss Julie.” Also centering on a frustrated wealthy woman and two servants, Raygoza set his piece in 1970s San Diego, with a Spanish-language spin. Julia seduces her subordinates with power, money, and lust. This superb, intense, 90-minute drama boasts lyrical language and meticulous direction, also by Raygoza, with a marvelous cast and design.
In “Kita y Fernanda,” the daughter of a wealthy Mexican family in bordertown Texas grows up with the daughter of her mother’s maid. The spoiled Fernanda can’t understand why Kita might want more in her life – freedom, citizenship and something of her own. The action flips between the 1980s and 2006, when they meet again, after a long separation. Much of the dialogue in this bittersweet comic drama is in Spanish. We’re meant to feel the immigrant frustration, but it’s a tricky gambit. Still, playwright Tanya Saracho captures the essence of two generations and classes. The Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company production features pitch-perfect performances and outstanding co-direction by Seema Sueko and Robert Castro.
At Moxie Theatre, Naomi Wallace’s poetic and provocative work, “The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek,” is less linear, more symbolic. At the tail-end of the Great Depression, in a depressed Kentucky town, folks have lost factories, jobs and their sense of self. One indomitable 17 year-old tomboy encourages a hesitant, pubescent 15 year-old guy to race a train on the narrow tracks 100 feet above the dry creekbed – just to prove they’re alive. Amid lush language and imagery, repressed sexuality pulsates in the young people and their parents. The ingeniously constructed play hopscotches from present to past, circling around the fateful event. Director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg skillfully shepherds a wonderful, convincing cast.
In this election season, class, race, sex, poverty and power are on everyone’s minds.
Mo’olelo’s “Kita y Fernanda” are at the 10th Theatre downtown, through October 21.
“Julia” plays through October 27 at ion theatre, on the edge of Hillcrest.
“Good People” runs through October 28 at The Old Globe in Balboa Park.
“The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek” continues through October 28 at Moxie Theatre near SDSU.
©2012 PAT LAUNER