Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
August 9, 2013
Double-dealers and triple threats. A homey place where everyone can be trusted – and a dark world where no one can.
James M. Cain’s novel, “Double Indemnity,” and its famous 1944 film adaptation, make an uneasy transition to the stage, in a theatrical version created in 2010 by David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright, now playing at the Old Globe, under the direction of John Gould Rubin.
The arena stage of the White Theatre poses challenges for any production, but this one, with its square cage-match design and repeatedly rising scrims, only serves to generate distance in what should be an intimate, in-your-face setting. The movie worked mainly because it had stone-faced Fred MacMurray as the hard-boiled noir insurance agent who falls for a wealthy femme fatale, flawlessly portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck . Murder, of course, ensues.
This version changes the setup and ending, and features fine performances, but there are few revelations, and with the tonal inconsistencies, much of the drama is played for laughs, though the noir film was “straight down the line,” with no humor to speak of.
The dim lighting and terrific projections catapult the production to a higher plane than the script itself.
No external enhancement necessary for the Tony Award-winning “In the Heights” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. The energy is so electrifying it could power all of Horton Plaza.
In its fourth collaboration with the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts, the Rep has a solid-gold, surefire hit on its hands.
The highly-charged show, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes , is set in multi-cultural Washington Heights in uptown Manhattan. Sean Fanning’s glorious set perfectly captures the run-down, robust ‘hood, with a gorgeous view of the George Washington Bridge in the background.
At the center is Usnavi , named by his immigrant parents, for a passing U.S. Navy ship. Jai Rodriguez is phenomenal in the role, a warm, winning, galvanic performer, gifted at handling Miranda’s superfast raps and rhymes.
The ensemble is vocally strong and dances like crazy, thanks to Javier Velasco’s fantastic, energetic choreography, a delicious mix of Latin and hip hop. One standout is SCPA alum Spencer Smith who, as Graffiti Pete, busts some amazing moves.
It’s all about finding your place in the world. Most of the denizens of this tight-knit locality are from elsewhere: Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic. Over the course of two sweltering, incendiary days in 2008, some are forced to move their businesses and move on. But all realize that this interdependent community really is home.
The show is hot and sexy, but also sentimental and affecting. The dancing sizzles, and the all-student 13-piece band is a knockout. Director Sam Woodhouse kicks off his 38th season with a spectacular “ Carnaval del Barrio.”
“IN THE HEIGHTS” runs through August 25 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.
“DOUBLE INDEMNITY” continues through September 1 in the Old Globe’s White Theatre.
©2013 PAT LAUNER