Pat Launer on San Diego Theater
By Pat Launer , SDNN
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Mini Review of : “The Perfect Daisy”
Dog Eat Dog
THE SHOW: “Four Dogs and a Bone,” John Patrick Shanley’s 1993 comedy, at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad
Woof. Growl. Grrrr. Who let the dogs out? Or, who let ‘em in? They’ve made their mangy way into New Village Arts Theatre, nipping at the heels of “The Little Dog Laughed,” which recently ran at Diversionary Theatre. This Shanley play is yet another comic skewering of Hollywood denizens, not quite as layered or clever as David Lindsay-Abaire’s, but perfectly funny, light summer fare. And NVA gives it a delectable going-over.
The rabid canines of the title are an immoral, obnoxious producer (redundant?), a fading and a rising actress and a first-time screenwriter. The first three are after the fourth; each has a big-time agenda for getting the troubled film to be more personally advantageous. The producer wants fewer scenes, so he has to spend less money. The women want more scenes – with them in ‘em… but not together. They’d easily claw each other’s eyes out. The hapless writer is caught in the middle of them all – threatened, seduced, insulted, and finally, corrupted. By the end, he joins the gleefully nasty fray, becoming as ruthless as the rest of them.
Director Joshua Everett Johnson , who has a great eye for the dramatic moment and ear for comedy, keeps the two-person scenes moving energetically along, building to a crescendo in the final showdown among the quartet of cold-blooded narcissists. It’s delicious fun, though it’s a lightweight effort; there isn’t really much of a plot, and the characters don’t have much of an arc. But for the ‘types’ they are, they’re all terrific.
Johnson is superb as the screenwriter, evolving from wide-eyed, victimized naïf to feral sellout, willing to do anything to get his picture made. Kristianne Kurner is a hoot as the gum-snapping wannabe starlet who seems like a ditz and probably lacks acting talent but not callous political savvy. She plays off Amanda Sitton wonderfully, though Sitton doesn’t look older than Kurner, and she’s supposed to be the fading ingénue, who needs to steal the picture before she’s relegated to character acting. Eric Poppick nails the slimy repulsiveness of the producer, who feels compelled to share all the sickening details of his oozing rectal abscess. Highly symbolic.
Tim Wallace’s multi-folding set works excellently, and is well lit by Justin Hall. The costumes (Sitton) are just right for each character .
Shanley, who’s both a screenwriter (“Moonstruck,” “Joe and the Volcano,” “Doubt”) and playwright (“Sailor’s Song,” “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea ,” “Psychopathis Sexualis,” “Doubt”) goes after both worlds at once by making a good number of the insults about the theater. The worst offense the producer can hurl (and there are many) is to call the star “a theater actress’ and the screenwriter “a playwright.” It’s all great fun, and shouldn’t be missed.
NOTE: While you’re there, check out NVA’s new addition, called The Foundry, which adds 3100 square feet and will house rehearsal space, outreach and education programs, working artists and gallery space. “The City doubled our rent,” founder/executive artistic director Kristianne Kurner laments, with mock dismay. “It went from one dollar to two dollars a year.” The City of Carlsbad has been enormously supportive of the Theatre and what it’s brought to the area. That’s how it should be in every community.
THE LOCATION: New Village Arts Theatre, 2787 State Street , Carlsbad Village. (760) 433-3245 ; www.newvillagearts.org
THE DETAILS: Tickets: $22-30. Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. , through June 28.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BEST BET
Before the Wall Came Down
THE SHOW: “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a reprise of the glam-rock musical, at Cygnet Theatre
Consider them bookends. Cygnet Theatre opened its Rolando theater six years ago, with a gutsy, rock ‘em-sock ‘em production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Now, it’s brought the show back, as the final production in the space that was built with the sweat and passion of the Cygnet founders and their many devoted theater friends. It’s a perfect piece of symmetry, but it does invite contemplation and comparison. As Cygnet took over the Old Town Theatre last fall, the expectation was that they’d operate two venues. But in the economic crunch, that has apparently proven untenable, so until the Rolando lease is up next spring, the space will be rented out to other theater groups. This is the second reprise production of the season (the company recently re-mounted “Bed and Sofa,” also a risky and outside-the-box piece of theater). And that brings us to Hedwig.
The original production was spectacular in every way. Jeremiah Lorenz was stunning in the title role, sad and beautiful, graceful and physical. Rocker Jenn Grinels, with her soaring voice, was edgy and aggressive as the bearded Yitzak, who is denied access to her own sexuality – and Hedwig’s wigs. This time out, Hedwig is inhabited by L.A. actor Matthew Tyler, who recently played Chauvelin in the Welk production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” He’s angrier and more pathetic in the role, much less a hard-line rocker, though his acting is strong and he really nails the ballads. Katie Alexander is vocally powerful as Yitzak, but under the direction of James Vazquez, she, too, goes for the pathos. The band is terrific, with a great, snarling look and clever interactions between spiky/wacky-looking guitarist Erik Enstad and bassist Zach Pyke. What’s missing is flat-out, kill ‘em charisma.
The story of Hedwig, né Hansel Schmidt, will always hover on the border between freakish melodrama and heartrending casualty of Communist constraints and American imperialism. Born in East Germany , Hanzel was a pretty-boy who caught the attention of an American soldier. The G.I. promised to take him home and marry him, if he’d only have a little surgery. The botched sex-change operation left behind that titular ‘angry inch.’ In short order, the new bride is abandoned in the Kansas hinterlands, left penniless in a trailer park. Then Hedwig meets and falls for a 16 year-old Bible-thumper, whom she renames Tommy Gnosis, training him to be a rockstar, grooming him, writing songs for him, preparing him for a long personal and professional relationship. Tommy also abandons Hedwig, and moves on to stardom — if appearing at the SDSU Open Air Theatre is stardom. That’s a cute personalizing of the story; every time Hedwig opens the ‘outer’ door, the stage smoke and big lights pour in, and we can hear Tommy extolling his own virtues, and thanking everyone who made him what he is – except, of course, Hedwig. It’s a pitiful portrait of one of the Big Losers of the world, who’s just looking for a little comfort, love, fame and self/sexual identity. At the end, Hedwig shows a glimmer of progress toward openness and self-realization, for himself and for Yitzak.
The score (music and lyrics by Stephen Trask, with text by John Cameron Mitchell, who performed the role Off Broadway and in the cult film) is high energy, rock ‘n’ roll fun, and the lyrics were more intelligible this time around (the sound, by George Yé, was also better, more balanced and far less ear-piercing). Peter Herman ’s costumes, wigs and hair design are especially strong in the do’s for the musicians. Music director Billy Thompson, part of the SDSU Musical Theatre MFA program, sat in for pianist Michael Alfera on opening night, and did a super job, as did drummer Andrew Hoffman. Hedwig’s big, bold cape entrance is quite dramatic, and the projections (uncredited; part of Eric Lotze’s excellent lighting design?) are more cohesive this time around. In sum, if you’re a cult-fan of the film, if you love sad/loser and/or transsexual stories and raw rock music, this is the show for you.
THE LOCATION: Cygnet Theatre/Rolando, 6663 El Cajon Blvd. , Ste. N. ( 619) 337-1525 ; www.cygnettheatre.com
THE DETAILS: Tickets: $24-40. Wednesday- Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 6 and 10 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m. , through August 9.
THE SHOW: “Bad Night in a Men’s Room off Sunset Boulevard,” a new play by a local playwright, at Compass Theatre
It’s a big month for transsexuals – two openings in a week (see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” above). The time is 1982 (though there are a few 21st century sensibilities). A high-profile actor walks into a notoriously gay men’s room in L.A. and is caught by the police in flagrante. Immediately, he’s ruined. He loses his wife, daughter, houses, agent and manager in one fell swoop. So, he retreats to the hinterlands – an unnamed town and state repeatedly referred to as Podunk. He’s going to help resurrect a dying theater, which happens to be run by his brittle, acerbic mom. And he’s going to co-star in an Irish play with his alcoholic, homophobic dad. A pleasant family reunion (not!), while protesters picket outside, objecting to the “pervert’s” appearance in their town. In the first rehearsal, the actor’s first dramatic act is to urinate on the script. Theater isn’t exactly what he wants to be doing. But what choices does he have at the moment? Besides the new emptiness of his life, he’s also facing 90 days behind bars.
And in the midst of all this, wafting through the proceedings (or swishing, as the case may be) is Jamie, the devoted theater hanger-on and jack of all janitorial trades, who happens to have attended high school with the actor, and is still harboring a terrible crush. Did I mention that Jamie was born a boy, but wants to be a girl, though he also wants to hang onto his masculine equipment? He’s never forgotten a ‘Truth or Dare’ high school moment when Michael was challenged to dance with Jamie, and he did. Midway through the second act, Michael realizes he actually is attracted to Jamie (by this time, transformed in a sexy dress and wig), and that epiphany gives rise to a nude scene which, while sexy, isn’t absolutely necessary. And if that doesn’t attract (or repel) you, the coarse language may. But everyone knows that sex sells. The play’s title alone was enough to draw an over-full house on opening night.
This new dramedy, by Ira Bateman-Gold (non de plume of Compass Theatre founder/producer Dale Morris), has many fascinating moments. The dialogue is forceful, the family interactions intense. Some elements (like the whole Devils and Demons speech) seem unnecessary. But this is a compelling exploration of sexual identity and family dysfunction. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes discussion about how good theater is made, with a big focus on finding the ‘truth’ of the character. And that’s where the production falls short.
Under the direction of J. Marcus Newman, the performances are fine, but there doesn’t seem to be a real plumbing of the characters’ depths. It’s a good, solid reading of the text, with minimal subtext. And it’s subtext that would bring out the anguish and ambivalence of these damaged souls. Only Jamie (Eduard Cao) seems to know who he is, but there isn’t much exploration of the difficulty or conflicts over what that means, especially in 1980s Middle America . Each of the other characters is undergoing an existential crisis, but we don’t see enough of it. The mother (Marilyn Wolfe) is mostly angry and resentful. The father (Morris) is mostly cantankerous and drunk. Michael (Douglas Myers) seems shell-shocked. Morty (O.P. Hadlock), Michael’s pushy/zhlubby Jewish manager, is mostly there for comic/stereotypical relief. Still, there’s a good deal to intrigue the adventurous theatergoer who’s looking for something a little bit off the beaten track.
THE LOCATION: Compass Theatre, corner of 6th & Pennsylvania Aves, Hillcrest. ( 619) 688-9210 ; www.compasstheatre.com
THE DETAILS: Tickets: $10-18. Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. , through June 28.
It’s a delectable combo: Theater and Dance. The department at UC San Diego sports a name that linked the artforms, but productions haven’t always been collaborative. This year, the Department of Theater and Dance inaugurated an MFA in Dance Theatre. And last weekend, it presented the first fruits of that effort, “New Directions – Choreographers’ Showcase.” The evening was directed by dance faculty members Allyson Green , currently the Department chair, and Margaret Marshall, founder and former head of the Dance program. The evening comprised six experimental pieces, three by the new MFA students, Alicia Peterson Baskel (“Neither here nor there”) and Rebecca Salzer (“”Night” and “Frequency”). There were also works by three “top undergraduate choreographers,” according to Green: Trixi Anne Agiao, a third-year student with a dual major in dance and psychology (“Because We Let Them”), Katie Lorge, a graduating senior majoring in dance, who also performed in two of the pieces, in addition to her own (“perch”), and Morgan McGreevey, a third-year dance major (“Perpetuum Mobile”).
Baskel’s “Neither here nor there” purported to be about manic depression, but there was far more of the former than the latter. The piece was underscored by a piercing, shrieking, howling, moaning barking soprano sax, masterfully if ear-splittingly played by Elliot Gattegno (Nicholas Deyoe composed). The dance was similarly minimalist and repetitive, hitting one note over and over. The three white-clad dancers spun in endless circles, and three circles were suspended above them. They often seemed to be in their own worlds, projected upon or in semi-darkness (lighting by Omar Ramos). The man (Matthew Armstrong) looked haunted; the women (Katie Lorge, Ashley Walters), stared vacantly. After an extended period of whirling dervish moves, they stood, panting, silent, immobile, finally experiencing some modicum of emotional rest, as the lights came down.
Salzer, who ran her own dance company in the Bay Area, created two pieces that came closest to the intent: dance theater. “Frequency,” which she performed, concerned the pain resulting from the death of a young teen. The scenic design (Ian Wallace) was provocative: suspended clothes and chair and shoes. “Simone isn’t here any more,” she kept intoning, as she took poses, shook her head wildly and sang, more than actually dancing. Her “Night” was the capper and the high point of the evening. Two actors (Salzer’s husband, Kevin Kelleher; and Rebecca Bruno, a UCSD dance alum), faced each other across a table, but barely looked at each other, as they traced the trajectory of their empty marriage, from the first moments of attraction to the barren, uncommunicative place they are now. The dancers (Matthew Armstrong, a senior biochem major with a minor in dance, and third-year MFA students Jessica Watkins, poised on a table, cautiously intertwining and then separating) perfectly mirrored Harold Pinter’s words, and the moments of inaction perfectly reflected those famous, emotion-filled Pinterian pauses. A heartful and gut-wrenching piece of work.
Choreography on a small elevated space was also apparent in Lorge’s “(perch),” which made it seem like this might have been a class assignment: create a dance in a tiny, restrictive space. Lorge, a riveting performer, stood on an elevated platform, clad in a mixed-media dress made from fabric swatches, crinoline, plastic bags and bubble wrap. Both tragic bride and bird, she flapped her arms, picking and poking at herself, unhappy, unable to fly, rooted in place. Her hand and arm movements were rapid and often astonishing (there was virtually no lower body movement, but her upper body isolations were wonderful). Occasional humor, but a generally somber piece. Nice costume (Eric Geiger, Lorge, Yolande Snaith) and lighting (Omar Ramos).
Agiao’s work, “Because We Let Them” was a dark, disturbing and unsubtle creation about violence toward women. Danced at first to Josh Groban’s version of “Ave Maria,” and later to the equally soothing strains of The Vitamin String Quartet and Ethel String Quartet, the ensemble of five women was alternately dragged, pushed, tied up and strangled by the five men, inventively using large swaths of blood-red cloth. The complicity of the community is here, too, as groups watch a woman being abused and beaten. At the end, a slim glimmer of hope, the women unwrap the ties that bind them.
The only genuinely lighthearted moments of the evening came in McGreevey’s “Perpetuum Mobile,” a whimsical piece, danced to the Penguin Café Orchestra’s creation of the same name. Six dancers (including “Because” choreographer Agiao) conveyed the joyful, perpetual motion of fireflies at dusk. The leaps and lifts were thrilling, and there was a lovely duet, as well as a delightful, flickering pinpoint lightshow (lighting by Sarah Cogan).
All around, a promising beginning to a promising new program.
… Workshop: I attended the postponed reading of “The Perfect Daisy,” Carmen Beaubeaux’s fascinating, epic, nearly 3-hour, 15-actor dramedy about the Jerusalem Syndrome and the Apocalypse (I knew about the former, but had to read about the Red Heifer to bone up on the latter). Directed by Lamb’s Players’ associate artistic director Kerry Meads, who also read the stage directions, the staged reading was produced by the San Diego Playwrights Collective. Since Beaubeaux, one of the co-founders of the Collective (along with Tim West and Jason Connors ) is an emerging playwright, and the mission of the Collective is to showcase works-in-progress, the group has asked that new plays not be reviewed. There was an impressive turnout and the cast was exceptional, including well-respected former San Diegans Linda Castro and D.W. Jacobs, high-profile actor Susanna Thompson (“Kings”), as well as local stalwarts such as Jeffrey Jones, Martin Katz, Don Loper , Morgan Trant, James Pascarella, Kimberly Miller, Ed Hofmeister , Patrick Duffy and Leonard Patton. Many laughs and myriad thought-provoking moments. I look forward to future, streamlined, versions of this intriguing creation.
NEWS AND VIEWS
… TONY Fever: Broadway’s Big Night, the 63rd annual Tony Awards, held at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, proved to be a bigger success than usual. It attracted the largest TV viewing audience in three years, and was watched by nearly 7.5 million people. According to Nielsen Media Research, that’s a 19% increase over last year’s awards show. But it pales in comparison to the Oscars (36 million) and Sunday night’s TV competition, the second game of the NBA Finals (14 million). Still, with stage and small-screen actor/singer Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”) as host, the viewing represented an 18 percent bump among viewers age 18-49. There were three casualties of the evening: one injury, two closures. Bret Michaels , lead singer of the rock band Poison, performed with his bandmates and the cast of “Rock of Ages” during the electrifying opening number of the show. As he was exiting the stage, he was hit on the head by a piece of descending scenery , which descended a little faster than expected. He got away with minor injuries, though AP had reported a broken nose. Michaels remained at the event throughout the evening, laughing at Harris’ joke that the mishap gave “a whole new meaning to headbanging.” The other casualty of the Tonys is the closing of Neil LaBute’s “reasons to be pretty,” which was nominated for Best Play. Sadly, a lack of Tony wins often leads to show closure; this was LaBute’s Broadway debut, though his works are widely presented nationwide (last year, “bash” and “In a Dark Dark House” were presented by ion theater, and “Fat Pig” by InnerMission Productions at Onstage Playhouse). The other closure is former La Jolla Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff’s production of “Guys and Dolls” (the production was reviled by many critics, but was still nominated for Best Musical Revival; a national tour is already in the planning stages). The “G&D” ensemble includes San Diegan Spencer Moses, an alumnus of the SDSU MFA program in Musical Theatre, who appeared in several La Jolla Playhouse productions, and the scenic design was by Robert Brill, UCSD alum, co-founder of Sledgehammer Theatre and frequent designer at the La Jolla Playhouse.
For all the San Diego connections to the Tonys, read my Tony Awards coverage here: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-06-08/things-to-do/tony-awards-honor-former-san-diegans
… ADAM Update: RCA Records and 19 Recordings have announced a record deal with San Diegan Adam Lambert, mega-talent and recent “American Idol” runner-up. 19 Recordings also signed Idol winner Kris Allen, but his CDs have been licensed to Jive Records. Adam’s CD debut is set for release this fall. “I’m thrilled that we’ve come to a creative and collaborative partnership,” the 27 year-old Lambert asserted in a recent interview. “We are 100% on the same page.” The megawatt rocker and former musical theater performer has already had four songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: his surprising adaptations of “Mad World,” “No Boundaries,” “A Change is Gonna Come” and “One.”
Lambert will be recording this summer while on the road with the 50-city American Idol Live Tour. Meanwhile, there’s Rolling Stone Magazine. In the latest issue, Adam finally reveals, unequivocally (as if there were any question) that he’s gay. And he also lets slip that, when he first moved into the show’s Bel Air mansion, he was distracted by “the cute guy,” his roommate Kris Allen, whom he called “nice, nonchalant, pretty and totally my type – except that he has a wife.” Not to worry, Adam quickly realized that Kris was “open-minded and liberal, but he’s definitely 100 percent straight.” Lambert was reportedly open about his sexuality backstage at “Idol,” but he worried that a public announcement would overshadow his singing, so he tried to keep his personal life on the down-low. Until those photos surfaced in March, of Lambert kissing his ex-boyfriend. “Didn’t count on that,” he says. “Wasn’t ready for that.” And he went on to explain, “I’m an entertainer, and who I am and what I do in my personal life is a separate thing. It shouldn’t matter. Except it does.” Still, he doesn’t see himself becoming a gay activist. “I’m trying to be a singer, not a civil rights leader.” But at last, he feels good about who he is. “I’ve finally checked in to my self-worth for the first time in my life,” he says in the RS interview. “And the fact that it has coincided with ‘Idol’ is so sweet. I mean, I still have moments where I think, ‘Oh, my skin is terrible, and I’m a little fat, I should really go to the gym more.’ But for the most part, when I look in the mirror now, I finally see someone who can do something cool.” And so he can.
… Shakespeare is New Again: You might think this is a tricky time to start a new theater company, but actors Sean Cox and Christy Yael are as intrepid as their troupe’s new name. The inaugural production of the Intrepid Shakespeare Company is that embattled Scottish play, “Macbeth.” The founders will play the doomed couple, abetted by a capable cast that includes Jason Maddy, Jesse Mackinnon, Danny Campbell, Eddie Yaroch and Mark C. Petrich. Cox and L.A.-based Jason D. Rennie will co-direct. The two met at the Nevada Shakespeare Festival, when they both appeared in “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by David Ellenstein . They also worked together at the Texas Shakespeare Festival, where Rennie played the title role in “Macbeth.” Beloved local actor and Old Globe Associate Artist Jonathan McMurtry is serving as textual advisor; Cox and Yael have already been working with him for months. The mission of the new company is to “bring the classics to life for a modern audience, by focusing on the text and using Shakespeare’s words and imagery to tell the story.” Their “Macbeth” is “intense, modern, accessible… a shockingly intimate, fast-paced 90-minute telling of Shakespeare’s most misunderstood hero, the poet villain… Macbeth as a man instead of a monster.” The production runs at Compass Theatre in Hillcrest, July 10-August 9, with previews July 3, 4, 5 and 9. www.intrepidshakespeare.com
… Fresh Perspective : The second annual New Perspective Festival takes place once again at the Swedenborg Hall, and includes 24 plays, 17 playwrights and six evenings of performance. Each of three different programs of eight short plays is presented twice. This is an opportunity for actors to flex their muscles as writers and directors, and vice versa. One of the pieces, “Feeding Time at the Human House” by David Wiener (6/20 and 6/28), was recently named Best Play in The 15th Annual New York City 15-Minute Play Festival . The local Festival runs weekends, June 19-28 at 1531 Tyler Ave. Tickets at: http://perspectivefest.com
… Memphis to Broadway: The roof-rattlin’ world premiere musical, “ Memphis ,” that debuted last year at the La Jolla Playhouse, is wending its way to the Great White Way . With music and lyrics by Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan and book/additional lyrics by DePietro, the show, which chronicles the birth of rock ‘n’ roll through the life of the first white DJ to put black music in the center of the radio dial, played to sold-out houses last fall. Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley , who directed the local premiere, will helm the New York version as well; it’s set to open October 18 at the Shubert Theatre. Ashley was slated to direct the fall 2009 production of “The Big Time” at the Playhouse, but now the schedule has been rearranged and the theater will premiere a new musical, “Bonnie and Clyde,” as its final show of the season. Featuring music by Frank Wildhorn (“Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Scarlet Pimpernel”), and lyrics by Tony Award-winner Don Black (“Sunset Boulevard”), with book by Ivan Menchell (“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”), the new show will be directed by Jeff Calhoun, who scored big with Deaf West’s productions of “Big River” and “Pippin.” The new musical tells the story of a troubled Texas teen and a lovesick waitress who became American’s most infamous, Depression-era outlaws. November 10-December 20. www.lajollaplayhouse.org
… Reading Group: The WordsWork Play Reading arm of Moonlight Stage Productions will feature an evening of free play readings, called “Right Here, Right Now.” The producing affiliate is Write Out Loud, a local organization dedicated to reading great literature aloud. All the pieces were written by local writers and will be performed by local actors, including Loretta Haas, who’ll read her own work, “Merry Widow Night.” The other selections will be read by Write Out Loud co-founders Veronica Murphy and Walter Ritter ; and actors Sandra Ellis-Troy, Moonlight Cultural Foundation Education and Community Outreach project director; Sylvia Enrique , Steven Warner and Off Broadway veteran Tess Link. The writers include Ruth Eigner, Pete Hepburn, Charlene Baldridge , Jincy Willett, Winifred Hoy and Wright Smith. Monday, June 22 at 7 p.m. at the Avo Theatre in Vista . Open seating; forum to follow. (760) 630-7650.
… Get Smart: A few months ago, Mat Smart, a talented alumnus of the UCSD MFA program in playwriting, was impressed and disturbed by a reading of “The Good Thief,” a one-man show written by Conor McPherson, whose plays, “The Weir,” “ Shining City ” and “St. Nicholas,” have been seen on local stages. Smart had such a strong reaction to the piece that, as he put it, “I found myself writing a one-woman show that was, in many ways, the opposite of it.” Now, Smart’s company in New York City, Slant Theatre Project, is producing “Beneficiaries” along with McPherson’s play, at The Church Street School Gallery Space in Tribeca (through June 13), in an evening called “Counterpoint.” www.slanttheatreproject.org
… Crowning Glory: Those who remember the production of “Crowns” at the San Diego Repertory Theatre five years ago, the dazzling celebration of African American women, their strength and their headgear, may want to take a little drive up north to see the acclaimed playwright/actor, Regina Taylor (from “The Unit” on CBS), who’ll be appearing at the Pasadena Playhouse in association with their production of “Crowns.” June 20 at 6 p.m. Tickets are free, but must be reserved by email: email@example.com “Crowns” runs July 10-August 16. www.pasadenaplayhouse.org.
… Getting a Handel on Things: The Bach Collegium San Diego, a relatively new vocal and period-instrument ensemble under the leadership of Ruben Valenzuela, is presenting a local premiere of the rarely performed oratorio “Theodora” by George Frideric Handel. The performance will be helmed by guest conductor and early music specialist Richard Egarr, director of the prestigious Academy of Ancient Music . The solos will be sung by soprano Mireille Asselin, mezzo Jennifer Lane , countertenor Darryl Taylor, tenor Robert MacNeil and bass John Polhamus. Handel himself considered this work to be better than his “Messiah.” 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 27 at the Balboa Theatre. A second performance is scheduled for Sunday, June 28 at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica. Tickets at (619) 341-1726; www.bachcollegiumsd.org
… Something old, Something New: In the wake of the regrettable loss of the 73 year-old American Musical Theatre of San Jose, another cultural victim of the economic meltdown, the city of San Jose went on an aggressive search for a Broadway producer to bring in touring shows. They chose the Nederlander Organization, which owns nine Broadway theaters (home to such current shows as “ Wicked,” “West Side Story,” “Disney’s The Lion King” and “In the Heights”) . The organization, which is also behind Broadway San Diego, has 97 years of experience in bringing entertainment to communities across the country. Their latest addition is Broadway San Jose, which will inaugurate its first season in September, with shows that will also be making stops in San Diego: “Monty Python’s Spamalot” and “Legally Blonde, The Musical,” among others. The touring shows will be performed at the Center for the Performing Arts. San Jose will also have an exclusive agreement with Nederlander Concerts, based out of Los Angeles , to present concert events at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.
PAT’S PICKS: BEST BETS
v “Four Dogs and a Bone” – another funny skewering of “ Hollywood types,” wonderfully done
New Village Arts Theatre, through 6/28
v “Good Boys” – intense, thought-provoking play, excellent production
Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company at the La Jolla Playhouse, through 6/14. http://www.electrictemple.net/
Read Review here: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-06-03/things-to-do/pat-launer-on-san-diego-theater-good-boys-tiger
v “Cornelia” – world premiere drama by the creator of “Big Love”; remarkable story, wonderfully enacted
The Old Globe, through 6/21; www.oldglobe.org
Read review here: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-05-27/things-to-do/pat-launer-on-san-diego-theater-cornelia-and-seussical
v “The Price” – Arthur Miller’s poignant family classic, in a sometimes thrilling production
The Old Globe, through 6/14; www.oldglobe.org
Read review here: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-05-20/things-to-do/pat-launer-on-san-diego-theater-price-phoenician
v “The Hit” – fast-paced, funny mix of murder, mystery and romance
Lamb’s Players at the Horton Grand Theatre, extended through 6/14; www.lambsplayers.org
Read review here: http://www.sdnn.com/sandiego/2009-04-02/things-to-do/pat-launer-spotlight-on-theater-2
Pat Launer is the SDNN theater critic.
To read any of her prior reviews, type ‘ Pat Launer ’ into the SDNN Search box.