Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: FEBRUARY 20, 2009
Dark days are high times for humor – and San Diego theaters are serving it up in acid-laced slabs and dollops of frothy slapstick.
If you like your comedy on the tragic side, you’ll swoon from Adam Rapp’s “Red Light Winter,” which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2006. The local premiere is presented by Triad Productions, a fledgling company dedicated to attracting young people to the theater. And this is the perfect vehicle, a tough-talking story – with a nude scene! – about disaffected youth reeling from unrequited love.
Matt, a blocked writer, is depressed. And inept; he can’t even succeed at suicide. Then his supposed best friend brings home a hooker from the Red Light district in Amsterdam , where they’re vacationing. It’s a cheer-up gift. Christina has a pert little French accent, and other appealing elements. Even though the ensuing interaction is brief, it isn’t soon forgotten. Matt can’t get her out of his head. A year later, she shows up at his grungy Greenwich Village apartment. Only she’s been obsessed with Matt’s friend all this time. And the malevolent Davis does some nasty things to both his love-besotted buddies. No one winds up happy. They all don’t get what they want. Doesn’t sound very funny, but there’s some bracing, stinging dialogue, and under the crisp direction of Scott Andrew Amiotte , it soars. All three actors are excellent, even if their pathetic characters are less than likable. Davis is actually pretty much of a monster, but the play leaves us with the disturbingly comforting thought that his so-called friends may have the last laugh after all.
It’s clear who gets the last laugh in ” Room Service” – the audience. Prepare to howl at some of the onstage antics, as a wheeler-dealer producer tries to get his new show up and running, while he’s run out of money. The madcap comedy, by Allen Boretz and John Murray, was made into a Marx Brothers movie, and Lamb’s Players Theatre goes for broke with the wacky pandemonium, rat-a-tat talk and constantly-slamming doors. The 1937 play was a big hit at the height of the Depression, which explains why it works so well now. Everyone’s looking for a little comic relief. And this is the place to get it.
Robert Smyth directs his crackerjack cast at a brisk clip; the ridiculous situations fly by so fast you barely have time to notice their inanity. But you do get a sense of how crazy it is to try to make theater, in good times or bad. The performances, accents and stage business are frequently side-splitting.
So this is no time to be sitting at home and bemoaning your state. Get off your duff and hie thee to the theater. It’s the Great Escape.
“Red Light Winter” runs through March 1, at the 10th Avenue Theatre downtown.
“Room Service” continues through March 22, at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado .
©2009 PAT LAUNER