Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: AUGUST 28, 2009
Ah, Family. When you’ve got one, you want to get rid of ‘ em . And when you haven’t had one, that’s all you want. Cases in point: “Leaving Iowa” and “Annie.”
In the 2004 nostalgia comedy, “Leaving Iowa,” by first-time playwrights Tim Clue and Spike Manton, Don is looking back on his family’s car trip vacations. And if you’ve ever been the exasperated parent in the front seat, or the kvetching, squabbling kids in the back, this memory play is likely to spark your own retrospection, too. In my case, it made every hair on my body stand at attention, as I recalled the six harrowing weeks the five of us spent in a cramped car, crossing the country.
But Don has fonder memories, more or less, especially now, when he’s carrying around the urn containing his father’s ashes, trying to find the perfect spot to scatter them. As he revisits those vehicular adventures of his youth, we’re invited along for the ride. “ Mooooommm – Are we there yet?” Tell me you’ve never once in your life intoned those words; I dare you!
Under the light and sensitive direction of Deborah Gilmour Smyth , Lamb’s Players Theatre brings out all the wistfulness and humor in the play. It does get a tad sentimental at the end, but the lively and evocative production will probably send you racing to the phone to reminisce with one of your own family members – the ones you’re still talking to, that is, in the wake of your childhood travel traumas.
Standouts in the cast are Colleen Kollar Smith as the whiny but wily teenage daughter; David Cochran Heath as her stalwart if persnickety dad; and, playing all the eccentrics they meet along the way, the side-splitting Cynthia Gerber and Paul Maley .
Now, if that kind of contemplation is too adult, here’s one for the whole family: “Annie” at Starlight Theatre. The 1977 musical perennial, by Charles Strouse , Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan, is a comic strip come to life. All the cheeky little orphan wants is parents, and she falls into a goldmine when she finds billionaire Daddy Warbucks . Oh, and Sandy . She finds him, too. And here, he’s played by a bona fide orphan from the Helen Woodward Animal Shelter. The hope is that some audience member will want to walk away with the cuddly canine.
It’s a delightful production, though more dance would be better. The show marks the local professional debut of recent transplant Hannah Rose Kornfeld , a petite 15 year-old with a powerhouse voice and a superb onstage presence.
L.A.-based director/choreographer Dan Mojica has marshaled an excellent cast; those cute little orphan kids, ranging in age from 7 to 14, are especially impressive.
Both these shows make a great way to wrap up the summer – with family ties.
“Annie” runs through August 30 at Starlight Bowl in Balboa Park .
“Leaving Iowa ” continues through September 20, at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado .
©2009 PAT LAUNER