KPBS AIRDATE: April 01, 2005
There’s a certain danger in certainty. With intractable, authoritative assurance, a quartet of provocative stage characters risk love, life, family and faith.
In “King Lear,” two obstinate fathers are dazzled by fawning falsehoods and blind to the simple honesty of a faithful child. Only despair brings vision and clarity. In the San Diego Repertory Theatre production, directed by Todd Salovey, you can hear the gears grinding. From Sam Woodhouse as Lear on through the large cast, everybody is working — independently; nothing seems organic or integrated. The multiple acting styles and distracting hodgepodge of costumes make the piece feel unfinished and inchoate.
But up in Carlsbad, at New Village Arts, the ensemble work is outstanding. In “The Waverly Gallery,” everyone is certain they know what’s best for Gladys, an aging matriarch who was once a social and political powerhouse, but is now losing her memory and her marbles. All she wants is to be listened to and respected, but her family can barely cope with her dementia and decline. Kenneth Lonergan’s gut-wrenching play of memory and regret was a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize. Under the direction of New Village co-founder Kristianne Kurner, the overlapped conversations are impeccably timed and the performances are spectacular. The play couldn’t be more provocative or relevant. Miss it at your own risk.
Same could be said for “Doubt,” which is, surprisingly, having its West coast premiere while the Off Broadway venture is opening on Broadway. Hailed in New York as the best play of the season, this thought-provoking drama by John Patrick Shanley concerns a nun and a priest, and her suspicions of his intentions toward the altar boys. She’s as rigid in her conviction as she is in her religious beliefs. It’s a tightly wrapped mystery that remains brilliantly unresolved at the end, a contemplation of the fine line between faith and justice, paranoia and pedophilia. The Pasadena Playhouse production, directed by Claudia Weill and starring Linda Hunt, seems far more black and white than the many shades of gray in the wonderful text. This one’s the Tony Award talk of the Town. See it here first.
Now, speaking of firsts, the Old Globe is premiering a new musical about a legendary literary figure. “Himself and Nora” concerns Irish author James Joyce and his muse, Nora Barnacle, a chambermaid who inspired him with her colorful language and lusty ways. There’s nothing certain in their lives except his genius, drinking and impending blindness – and their enduring love. This is Joyce and Ireland Lite, but the word-drunk musical evokes a place and a period, the five performers are sheer delight and the passion is palpable.
One thing’s certain. You, too, can have your reservations confirmed at the theater.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.