Aired on KSDS-FM on 12/30/16
Politically, 2016 was an unprecedented year. It’s hard for theaters to react to immediate events, since productions and seasons are planned long in advance.
But a handful of new works, including “The Bitter Game” and “Miss You Like Hell” at the La Jolla Playhouse, and “Manifest Destinitis” at the San Diego Rep, spoke to issues of immigration and the killing of African American men. In the most directly political act, the Playhouse brought in monologist Mike Daisey, to present his touring cautionary tale, “The Trump Card.” It proved to be prescient.
Other theaters offered provocative dramas that spoke to racial and gender issues, and corporate greed. Because of the fraught, highly-charged political climate, they seemed to hit especially hard. And of course, there was some just plain fun, serving the need for theatrical escape.
But for the most part, it was business as usual in San Diego theaters: many new plays and several New Works Festivals; a bevy of musical premieres, most not quite living up to expectations. One of the most satisfying new musical works was an intimate one, “The Boy Who Danced on Air” at Diversionary Theatre.
Excellent productions of time-tested musicals included “The Drowsy Chaperone” at SDSU, a scaled-down “Big River” at New Village Arts, and ion theatre’s gutsy production of “Sunday in the Park with George,” 32 years old but still, shockingly, a San Diego premiere. Broadway San Diego brought us stellar touring productions of “Beautiful” and “Newsies.” And, the most gorgeous-looking productions? “Junk” at the Playhouse and “Love’s Labor’s Lost” at the Old Globe.
A few dramas I can’t get out of my mind: Intrepid Theatre’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “When the Rain Stops Falling” and the two August Wilson pays at Cygnet Theatre, “Way Downriver” at North Coast Rep, and “Lydia” and “The Normal Heart” at ion.
It was a pretty strong theater year overall – and I’m hoping that the new year will even more potently reflect the country’s diversities and anxieties.
Here’s to a peaceful and peaceable 2017.
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews