KPBS AIRDATE: April 14, 2006
Insider talk can sometimes feel exclusionary. If you’re not a member of ‘the club,’ all the in-jokes and jargon can leave you baffled and bewildered. But when insider theater is done well, it makes you feel right at home. And if you’re attentive, you can learn a lot. Right now, on local stages, don’t be afraid to dive right in to a dark drama or a hilarious comic spoof. You’ll be the better, and the wiser, for it.
The drama is the winner of the 1999 Tony Award for Best Play, Warren Leight’s “Side Man,” having its local premiere at San Diego State University . The compelling production is excellently directed by faculty member C.J. Keith. The plot was inspired by the playwright’s life – his father was a jazz musician or side-man, hired to play for various groups in diverse styles. The play simultaneously traces the decline of a marriage and the big band era, as jazz gave way to rock and roll. The narrator, Clifford, moves in and out of the story, even retelling events that happened before he was born, before his mother became an alcoholic and his trumpet-playing father became an irresponsible obsessive, oblivious to everything but his music. Jumping back and forth from 1953-1985, the play chronicles a time, a place (New York City), the musicians’ life and the disastrous effects it can have on an already dysfunctional family. A cast of talented undergraduate actors brings this touching and tender story to vibrant life. Adam Parker is endearing as 29 year-old Clifford, who at 10 is already the full-time caregiver for his wacko mother, humorously and angrily portrayed by Katie Hunt. Brendan Cavalier has just the right tone as the trumpeting, adolescent father, with Brittany Fenison and Lloyd Roberson II particularly potent as his cohorts. This Pulitzer Prize finalist is having far too short a run. Catch it fast, before the music fades.
Now, speaking of music, there’s no way to stifle the hilarity that has rocked The Great White Way for two dozen years of “Forbidden Broadway,” an ever-changing revue that features side-splitting parodies of New York shows and show-people. Writer/creator/director Gerard Alessandrini calls his latest edition “Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit,” since it takes aim at the current crimes being committed against the American theater scene. Get ready to roar at spoofs of recent shows like “Jersey Boys,” “Avenue Q” and “Spamalot,” as well as perennials such as “Beauty and the Beast,” “Les Miz” and “The Lion King.” The script may be the cleverest ever, featuring the mind-blowing, multi-talented Off Broadway cast of four with their dead-on impersonations and a zillion zany costumes . Do NOT miss this limited-run show. Guffaws galore guaranteed.
©2006 Patté Productions Inc.