Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
April 19, 2013
Passion can take many forms: spiritual, musical or sexual.
Nowhere is the fervor more steamy, erotic and surreal than in “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot,” José Rivera’s magical, sensual 2000 love story about a military wife in the Mojave Desert, awaiting the return of her soulmate, and in her dreams and fitful waking hours, trying to cope with his Middle East deployment and its effect on their marriage. Her dreamscape parallels human behavior and the natural world. She has philosophical conversations with the moon; her flirtatious cat runs off with an oversexed coyote; the pubescent neighbor lusts after her.
Rivera’s language is juicy and voluptuous, and the production at Moxie Theatre is very hot, indeed. Dana Harell , associate producer at the La Jolla Playhouse, teases the anguish, sensuality and poetry from a terrific cast, centered by the sizzle of Jacqueline Grace Lopez and Jorge Rodriguez, guaranteed to elevate your body temp.
Poetic language also courses through “Federal Jazz Project,” a world premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, the collaborative brainchild of Culture Clash co-founder Richard Montoya and renowned trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. It’s electrifying when their personal passions collide, when Montoya pours forth his image-laden poetic musings on San Diego’s jazz, military and Latino past, while Castellanos and his killer band provide riffs, wails and laments of their own.
As a play, though, the effort leaves a good deal to be desired; there’s a flimsy storyline that falls apart in the second act, caricatures rather than fully fleshed characters, and too many of Montoya’s campy characterizations. Joe Hernandez- Kolski gives an excellent performance as Kidd, a bright-eyed would-be impresario who gets caught up in the jazz underground and noir Latino underworld. Mark Pinter is fine in several roles, though Lawrence Welk really has no place here. The history is too didactic, the focus too far-flung. But oh, the passion of the music…
It was religious passion that drove Father Damien de Veuster to serve his mission in Moloka’i , the Hawaiian island of ultimate outcasts: victims of leprosy. Arriving in 1872, he spent 16 years there, finally succumbing to the degenerative bacterial affliction himself.
In “Damien,” Aldyth Morris’ 1976 one-man play, we see the sainted cleric as a flawed man, quick of temper and sharp of tongue, but fiercely dedicated to the community everyone else seemed happy to forget.
At Lamb’s Players Theatre, producing artistic director Robert Smyth has played the role four times over the past three decades. The current portrayal is his deepest, richest and most satisfying, despite some weaknesses in the play itself. Under the direction of his wife, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Robert’s intensity, focus and commitment to the man are palpable.
Passion is what makes good theater. And when it fires up an audience, it can give you goosebumps or make you sweat.
“References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” runs through May 5 at Moxie Theatre, near SDSU.
Damien” plays through May 5 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
“Federal Jazz Project” continues through May 5 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2013 PAT LAUNER