Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
April 8, 2011
I see a lot of plays — more than 200 a year. And sometimes, I just sit back and wonder: Why on earth was this piece chosen? Who could have thought it would be entertaining for San Diego audiences?
I thought that twice this past week, during two plodding productions, one large-scale, one small. They share a well-worn dramatic theme: sons who are disappointments to their fathers. There might be some new vein to mine on the subject – but it doesn’t surface in “ Rafta Rafta ” at the Old Globe, or Diversionary Theatre’s “…And Then I Wrote a Song About It.”
“ Rafta ” isn’t deep or incisive or particularly funny, as it aims for low-end sex and fart humor. Like any sitcom, it should be played at a brisk clip. But director Jonathan Silverstein evidently took the play’s title literally; in Hindi, it means, ‘slowly, slowly.’ His capable, if not stellar, cast lumbers along, dragging out a one-joke setup: the unconsummated marriage of a newlywed couple forced to live in the bustling, thin-walled house of the groom’s parents.
Originally written about English class distinctions, the play was adapted by Ayub Khan-Din to apply to Indians living in London . It made a big splash on the West End ; it barely causes a ripple here.
Same thing at Diversionary Theatre, where “…And Then I Wrote a Song About it” is billed as a “one-man musical whirlwind.” Talk about your false advertising! Nick Cearley , an amiable performer, is being asked to carry an entire show on his back. Obviously trying super-hard, he sags under the burden, even though the piece is feather-light, a rehash of gay life in the early Age of AIDS. The songs, by Daniel Acquisto and Sammy Buck, are pleasant if not memorable, but Cearley just doesn’t have the chops for 80 minutes of singing, dancing and solo storytelling.
Fortunately, there were a couple of sweet highlights that took the bitter taste from my theatergoing mouth.
Moonlight Stage is presenting a charming production of “Foxfire,” set in Appalachia and featuring a live bluegrass band. Co-written in 1982 by acclaimed actor Hume Cronyn , for his equally celebrated wife, Jessica Tandy, it’s all about aging, longevity, roots and moving on. A skillful ensemble is sensitively directed by Kathy Brombacher .
But the capper of the week was witnessing the rise of a genuine local superstar. In the Playwrights Project’s 26th annual Plays by Young Writers, Dylan Hoffinger starred in the clever and whimsical comedy, “Trevor,” by Carlsbad native Ben Kelly, expertly directed by Ruff Yeager , with hilarious slides by Tom Christ. Fifteen year-old Hoffinger is a knockout – adorable, charismatic, rubber-faced funny and absolutely irresistible. Catch him at the Lyceum through Saturday; he’ll knock your socks off – and make your week a better one, too!
Moonlight’s production of “Foxfire” plays through April 10 at the Avo Theatre in Vista .
“And Then I Wrote A Song About It” also runs through April 10, at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights .
“ Rafta Rafta ” continues through April 24 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park .
©2011 PAT LAUNER