KPBS AIRDATE: January 21, 2005
Unbridled passion, unchecked emotion, and uncovered secrets. It’s an uncommonly fine week for dramas, old and new.
First, the classic. Renaissance Theatre has done it again – unearthed a wonderful old chestnut and made it burst forth with life. This time, founder/director George Flint has chosen “Of Mice and Men,” John Steinbeck’s heartbreaking tale of Lennie and George, two itinerant workers in Depression-era Northern California. One’s a gentle giant, developmentally delayed; the other is his compassionate caretaker. They travel together in a world of loners and outcasts, repeatedly running from poor Lennie’s unwitting abuse of his emotional weakness and physical strength. The Renaissance production features a stellar cast, headed by Joshua Everett Johnson and Daren Scott as the brains and brawn in this timeless tale of friendship, dreams and a harsh, hardscrabble reality.
At Cygnet Theatre, it’s all about reluctant love, as guest director Kristianne Kurner turns up the heat with a crackerjack cast in Lanford Wilson’s “Burn This.” The performances, by Jessica John and Jeffrey Jones, smolder, but the sexuality doesn’t quite sizzle. This is an offbeat, New York love story, about two people drawn together by lust and disgust; they don’t want this relationship to happen, but it does. Anna is a choreographer trying to find her creative center; Pale is a dangerous rebel with pent-up passions. Comic relief is provided by David McBean as Anna’s sarcastic gay roommate and Manny Fernandes as her rich, vapid boyfriend. But the fire has to roar at the center of this piece, and right now, there are just burning embers. Perhaps they’ll fan the flames as they settle into the run.
Secrets flare up in “Wrinkles,” the world premiere by Rebecca Basham, whose provocative play, “Lot’s Daughters,” also premiered at Diversionary Theatre, in 2002. Gay skeletons keep falling out of the closet in this family of high-powered women. Set in Kentucky in the 1980s, the play explores the experiences of three generations of covert lesbians, and how hard it was for each of them to be true to their natures and desires, given the expectations of their era or milieu. Rosina Reynolds has assembled an outstanding cast and each superbly inhabits these high-spirited, argumentative, multi-dimensional and unpredictable women: Sally Stockton as the feisty septuagenarian, Terri Park as the prissy mother-in-the-middle and Lisel Gorell-Getz especially outstanding as the young professor of Women’s Studies, who’s been pigeonholed just like her forebears. The play gets a tad talky and preachy at times, but its delicious dialogue and galvanic squabbles shine a spotlight on the price paid for going against your own grain.
Emotions are high on San Diego stages… Spend an evening in a different world, and learn a thing or two about your own.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.