Pat Launer: Spotlight on Theater
By Pat Launer , SDNN
Thursday, April 30, 2009
READ REVIEWS OF: “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” “Zanna, Don’t!,”
Mini Reviews of : “Dear Harvey ,” “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” “Anna in the Tropics,” “The Complete History of America (Abridged),” the San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival
The Wearin’ o’ the Green
THE SHOW: “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” a black comedy by Martin McDonagh, presented by ion theatre company
He’s the king of gory Irish gothic. Martin McDonagh, who was born in London to Irish parents, spent the summers of his youth in Galway, in western Ireland . The area and its people never left him, and he’s set two series of plays (the Leenane and Aran Islands trilogies) in the environs.
Inishmaan (“ Middle Island ”), just 3.5 miles long, with a population of about 200, is the second largest of the three Aran Islands situated 30 miles off Ireland ’s west coast. Windswept, craggy, isolated and insular, Inishmaan is a place of harsh weather and hardscrabble people. Life is limited, inward-focused and mind-numbingly dull. In McDonagh’s play, one of the townspeople spends his time looking at cows; another talks to rocks. A third is obsessed with telescopes, though he doesn’t own one. A young woman lobs eggs at presumptuous men; another charges a fee of foodstuffs to dispense local gossip. In 1934, the juiciest piece of news is a Hollywood crew that’s set up shop in nearby Inishmore (“ Big Island ”) to film the documentary, “Man of Aran.”
Cripple Billy, an outcast in an inbred community, sees this as his escape from a stultifying life. An orphan whose parents drowned just after his death (under uncertain circumstances), he’s been raised by two dotty, doting aunts (the droll duo of Dana Hooley and D’Ann Paton). He hankers after Slippy Helen (she of the smashed eggs, which she aims at Billy as well as at the lusty local priest), but she resists his advances with a shocking array of swear words and heartless rebuffs. When Helen (Morgan Trant) and her doofus, telescope-loving brother (Morgan Hollingsworth) arrange for a boat ride to the film set with taciturn Babbybobby (compelling Rich Carrillo), Billy wrangles passage, too.
To everyone’s dismay and disgust, it’s Billy who snags the Hollywood screen test. He’s shipped off to Los Angeles and presumably, a new life. But things don’t turn out as expected, which is pretty much the case for all of McDonagh’s eccentric islanders. Just when we think we’ve got a handle on a character, he or she makes a precipitous shift from nasty to nice, or kindly to violent.
The aging, alcoholic, wheelchair-bound Mammy (convincing Trina Kaplan) trades acrid barbs with her blabbermouth son (Walter Ritter), who helps her to more booze and wishes her dead. But years ago, he performed an act of impressive altruism. The grieving, soft-hearted boatman (Carrillo) unleashes a murderous vengeance. The no-nonsense Doctor (stalwart Charlie Riendeau) tries to rise above the shenanigans. But that’s no mean feat, what with the tall tales told by everyone including seemingly simple Billy, and with busybody Johnnypateenmike spreading gossip all over town. This maddening unpredictability is exactly what keeps the play and its inhabitants captivating. At bottom, what’s desired by most of these trapped, unfortunate and insecure folks (the running joke is “ Ireland must not be so bad if…”) is to belong, to feel accepted, to be acknowledged.
The ion theatre production, under the astute direction of co-founder and producing artistic director Glenn Paris, effectively balances the layered humor and desperation of the piece. An excellent ensemble captures the coarse feckin’ dialect and casual cruelties that mask an underlying mutual affection of a sort. Every performance is admirable, but the spotlight shines brightest on Jason Connors’ shambling, wheezing and heartrending performance as physically and mentally twisted Billy; Morgan Trant, sheer delight as foul-mouthed Helen; and Walter Ritter’s aggressively intrusive gossipmonger, Johnnypateenmike.
The drab palette of the weather-worn, rotating set (Claudio Raygoza and Matt Scott) and dowdy costumes (Jennifer Brawn Gittings) perfectly conveys desolation and desperation. The laughs come frequently, but there’s always a dark undertone in a McDonagh play, and all the shadings and shadows are here for the taking.
THE LOCATION: ion theatre company at the Lyceum Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego . (619) 544-1000; www.iontheatre.com
THE DETAILS: Tickets: $16-24. Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m ., through May 10. Not recommended for children under 13 years of age.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BEST BET
Glitter and Be Gay
THE SHOW: “Zanna, Don’t!” the San Diego premiere of the “musical fairy tale” by Tim Acito (book, music and lyrics, with additional book and lyrics by Alexander Dinelaris), presented under the banner of Ariel Performing Arts, a company formed by San Diego architect Ron Tov exclusively for this production.
Don’t let the title fool you. This show has more to do with “High School Musical” than “Xanadu.” And you can toss in “Grease,” “Hairspray,” “Yank!” and the H.G. Wells story, “The Country of the Blind,” while you’re at it. This is every underdog, outcast or minority’s fantasy: a land where their way is the dominant one, and the old majority is at a disadvantage. A 2003 nominee for Outstanding Off Broadway Musical (Outer Critics Circle), “Zanna, Don’t!” is set in a mythical school where everyone is gay and has two same-sex parents.
At Heartsville High, the sexy guy is the chess champ, the couples are strictly queer, and intolerance for heterosexuals is rampant. The risky, controversial school musical is about whether heterosexuals should be allowed in the military. Flitting around the neighborhood, waving his magical love-wand is Zanna, the queeny, glitter-wearing Cupid who wants everyone to be matched up and happy, though he forgets himself in the mix. The big conflict comes when a guy and girl fall in love. Horrors! They’re at first shunned and rejected by all, but with a magic spell, Zanna changes the world – into something more like the kind of kids and attitudes one would find in a Disney musical high school. The basic messages are the same as in HSM and its interminable offshoots: Be Yourself. Reach out beyond your own group. Don’t ‘Stick to the Status Quo.’ Etcetera. But with its candy colors and quirky spin, this show is a whole lot less cloying and more satisfying. And not just HSM is referenced; musical classics from Sondheim to Lloyd Webber get a winking nod, and sometimes a drubbing.
The musical’s high school ambiance is heightened by being staged in an actual school auditorium (Roosevelt JHS, on the edge of Balboa Park ) dressed up with Heartsville High posters. All told, it’s an evening of glitzy, ditsy fun. The director, Ira Spector, a talented MFA student in musical theater at SDSU (with an emphasis on directing), performed the title role in the Chicago premiere of “Zanna, Don’t!” at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. An appealing actor/singer (he was excellent as the lead in last year’s SDSU production of “A Class Act”), he’s brought his experience, and some of his fellow students, to this production. This isn’t always a good thing, since the ensemble of ten is quite variable, and few of the singers can project throughout the 245-seat theater. This would’ve been an excellent time to employ amplification, though the house doesn’t really seem large enough to require it. Note to SDSU faculty: Emphasize vocal projection!
That said, the energy is high, some of the dancers are quite good, and given the infectious enthusiasm, it’s easy to gloss over the less professional performances. At the center is charming and adorable Shaun Tuazon as Zanna, an irresistible performer (who could use more projection training). As chess star and dumped boyfriend Mike, Ritchie Diego Valenzuela is great, a pro trained at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York who teaches dance for the City of San Diego and dances wonderfully himself (he even does splits!). Sonia Balanay has an endearing presence and appealing voice as Kate, who falls for the jock Steve (Zachary Bryant); their solo, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is lovely. Trevor Bowles and Cashaé Monya bring a lot of comic relief (though she could tone down the volume). Other musical highlights among the 17 songs are: Mike and Steve’s duet, “I Think We Got Love”; the girls’ Country Western, mechanical-bull song, “Ride ‘Em”; the very gay military spoof, “Be a Man”; Mike’s ballad, “I Could Write Books”; and the appealing quartet “Do You Know What It’s Like?”
Pitch-perfect backup is provided by the candy-colored mobile set pieces (designed by Tuazon) and costumes (Josh Hyatt), and the ace onstage band (music direction/keyboards by Patrick Marion; Jim Mooney on guitar and banjo; Oliver Shirley on bass, with drums and percussion by David Rumley).
If you leave your left-brain critic and your intellectualizing at home, this show is a fine, fluffy escape. Maybe it’ll even make you think about your own little prejudices. Everyone’s an outsider at some time. We just don’t all wear sparkles.
THE LOCATION: Ariel Performing Arts at the Roosevelt Theatre, Roosevelt Junior High, 3366 Park Blvd. (619) 692-1875; www.zannasd.com
THE DETAILS: Tickets: $ 25-$28 . Friday-Sunday at 7:30 p.m., through 5/10
THE BOTTOM LINE: BEST BET
… Got Milk? This may just be Harvey ’s year. On the heels of the Oscar-winning film, “Milk,” in the 30th year after his assassination, there’s a state bill, SB 572, being sent to the Governor, to make May 22, Harvey ’s birthday, Harvey Milk Day in California . At the same time, Diversionary Theatre commissioned its own tribute to the civil rights activist. “Dear Harvey,” a world premiere conceived long before the film was released, honors the impassioned, inspirational visionary, the first openly gay elected official in California , who championed all human rights. On November 27, 1978, ten months after he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Milk, age 48, and Mayor George Moscone, 49, were gunned down by conservative city supervisor Dan White. White got off lightly on the ‘Twinkie Defense,’ served five years in prison and killed himself shortly after his release.
“Dear Harvey ” was based on local playwright Patricia Loughrey’s interviews with those who knew Milk, from politicos and activists to local politicians Toni Atkins and Christine Kehoe. Interspersed with the touching letters, testimonials and remembrances are historical/archival materials, including Harvey ’s own speeches and photos by San Francisco LGBT photographer Daniel Nicoletta, whose character featured prominently in the film. San Diego playwright/actor/musician/composer Thomas Hodges created music for the production, which he played live on piano at each performance. Nimbly directed by Diversionary’s executive/artistic director, Dan Kirsch, the first-rate cast – John Garcia, Tony Houck, Aaron Marcotte, Jerusha Matsen Neal, Carla Nell, Kim Strassburger and Scott Striegel – persuasively represented a range of people and voices.
It all added up to an inspiring, edifying, enlightening and sometimes amusing evening, one that really should have a future, which has already begun. The Lambda Players of Sacramento will present the piece from May 7-31. Theater students from SDSU will kick off the fall semester with their production (Sept. 24-Oct. 4). Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles has also expressed interest, and two of the lesbian activists featured in the play, Dottie Wine and Ivy Bottini, attended a performance and said they want to mount readings in Long Beach and West Hollywood . In the meantime, excerpts of the play will be posted on the Facebook page Hodges created, Put LGBT History in Schools. And on May 22, what would be Harvey ’s 79th birthday, a petition will be delivered to the Governor, who vetoed the proposed Harvey Milk Day last year. Perhaps this year, the tide has turned.
Here at home, the first annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast, hosted by the LGBT Community Center, will be held on May 22, at the Holiday Inn by the Bay (7:30-9:00 a.m.), 1355 North Harbor Drive. In the tradition of the Martin Luther King and César Chavez Breakfasts, the event is intended to “honor the memory of an American hero” and “strengthen coalitions among the many diverse social justice groups that work toward equality in San Diego .” Information on the petition at: www.eqca.org/harveymilkday . Tickets ($35) and sponsorships for the Breakfast at: http://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/ECommerce/Catalog.asp?ievent=308540&en=ghKHLSMCKhKLJYOMKdIGKYMLJkJKJ0MJJgILL2PQLvH&CategoryID=249973
… They’re wild, they’re wacky and they’re mega-talented. The Reduced Shakespeare Company (whose abbreviated name, RSC, is the same as the venerable Royal Shakespeare Company) was back again at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, for the third time. In the past, they presented “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” and “The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged).” This time, it was “The Complete History of America (Abridged),” a hilarious romp through the best and worst of times in America . More intelligent and political than some of their other insane/inane inventions, this is also one of their smartest, created by the guys who performed it here: Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor; Dominic Conti also appeared. Their crackerjack comic skills and rat-a-tat timing are nonpareil. And they haven’t lost their improvisational chops: they had a field-day with a little kid who fell asleep in the second row, calling it “the highlight of the week,” taking a photo of the tiny napper and Tweeting it during intermission.
In “ America ,” which goes back 50,000 years before it gets to 1492 (“It’s not the length of your history; it’s what you do with it”), the RSC guys say that traditionally, “History is written by the winners. Today it’s our turn.” They consider their whirlwind tour to be “like a Post-It note on the refrigerator of America .” Conti played the women’s roles with aplomb; he’s the youngest and most agile (cool hip hop moves). Tichenor is the glasses-wearing brainy one who sings surprisingly well and is amazingly quick with the ad libs. Cueball-headed Martin makes balloon animals and plays accordion. No ugly chapter of our past gets ignored, from Witch Hunts to conspiracy theories to Betsy Ross’s rejected flag designs. There’s a vaudeville performance from Lewis and Clark , and an Andrews Sisters riff on “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” that pays tribute to “the homophobic boys of Company A.” And a nasty bit about “Great American Woman Trading Cards; collect all three!” A big-eared Barack Obama even makes an appearance. The guys were terrific during the mid-show Q&A, deftly dispatching questions like ‘Who won the Korean War?” (“CBS!”) and “Who was the first American to break the speed of sound?” (“Superman!”). Things took a cynical turn later in the second act, but “In the great tradition of America , [they provided] a happy ending,” presenting the entirety of American history in reverse, at warp-speed. A thoroughly satisfying, and occasionally even instructive, production. The RSC rocks.
… The Reign of the Beatles: It could’ve gone either way: really good or seriously lame. Fortunately, “RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles,” was the former. The guys looked very much like the Fab Four (moreso in their hippier days) and they all played and sang marvelously, occasionally giving a bit of their own spin to the timeless tunes. The Balboa Theatre was packed with nostalgic Baby Boomers, many singing along with every word, and there was plenty of live screaming to complement the archival footage of fainting teens shown on several large screens. Also projected were exact replicas of all the Beatles’ albums, with the cover band, RAIN, carefully reproducing every little nuance of Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper. Other interludes (to allow time for wig and costume changes) included TV commercials of the time — for cigarettes, among other unwholesome products.
With Mark Lewis providing formidable assistance on keyboards and percussion, the quartet was actually able to recreate the big, bold sound of the Beatles, from the first Ed Sullivan appearance, through the hard-rocking and psychedelic ‘60s. Brooklyn-born Joey Curatolo nailed all of Sir Paul’s intonations and cutesy winks to the audience (maybe those were a tad overdone). He was the most talkative; true to form, ‘George’ (Joe Bithorn), said little, though he was an outstanding guitarist. Drummer ‘Ringo’ (moptop-swinging Ralph Castelli) said nothing at all. Steve Landes really came into his John Lennon mojo in the second-act, and he blew the place away.
Imagine. Sometimes, you CAN go home again. All You Need is Love. You may be 64, but you can Get Back, with a Little Help From Your Friends.
Note : The brief “RAIN” visit was so popular, the group is already booked for a return, this time to the 3000-seat Civic Theatre, in May 2010. Tickets for the future date are available at (619) 570-1100 or through Ticketmaster (619) 220-TIXS.
… Tolstoy in the Tropics: In Cuba, the workers in cigar factories hired Lectors to read classic literature while they work. The custom was brought to the States early in the last century, but faded with the mechanization of the factories, though it still exists in the homeland. In Nilo Cruz’s sultry, evocative, Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, ” Anna in the Tropics ,” set in Tampa in 1929, a new lector has just arrived, and he begins reading from “Anna Karenina.” The workers are transported; some of the sexy scenes are played out in their lives, with resulting suspicion, distrust, brawls, even murder. It’s a delicious play, given a stunning production at Mira Costa College , under the expert direction of Eric Bishop, chair of the Performing Arts and Media Department. His very capable cast hailed from many Latin countries: Venezuela , Argentina , Honduras , Puerto Rico . One Anglo student was even from Tampa . None from Cuba , though.
The strains of Latin music wafted through the production, thanks to a superb 7-piece onstage band, headed by faculty member and professional trumpeter Mario Gonzales, whose solos were spectacular. The use of silhouettes, the looming palm trees, the suggestion of a wood-beamed warehouse (set design by Dixon Fish) and the crisp lighting (Paul Canaletti, Jr.) created an aptly steamy feel. The costumes (Caroline Mercier) were elaborate and attractive, especially for the women (very Victorian!). And we were swept away by the story. Anyelid Menses brought her ebullience and telenovela experience to the role of wide-eyed Marela, enthralled by the lector. As her sister, Conchita, Evaleen Bakeman made a lovely transition, becoming radiant as she began her affair with the elegant, educated, seductive lector, Juan (debonair Adam Oliveras). Toni Billante and Melba Novoa made a pair of parents, fighting for their factory and trying to maintain the old ways, while Cheché (Aleks Awad) attempted a takeover and modernization. Sassan Saffari was fine as Conchita’s jealous husband, who is re-awakened to his wife by her blossoming under the influence of Tolstoy – and Juan. The dancing (choreography by MaryBeth Hughes) wasn’t of the highest caliber, and sometimes the accents swallowed the beautifully poetic, lyrical language. But this was a red-hot production, filled with passion and commitment.
… Itty Bitty Bard: The 4th annual San Diego Student Shakespeare Festival, presented by the San Diego Shakespeare Society, was a huge success, with participation from more than 400 local school kids, from 37 public, private and home schools. For two hours, on five stages lined up along the Prado in Balboa Park , there were scads of 15-minute performances. It was wonderful to watch the kids, all costumed and flushed with Shakespearean excitement. Highlights were the 3rd and 4th graders from La Jolla Country Day School in a collage from “Much Ado About Nothing,” re-set in India (they already had the costumes from a school study unit). Directed by Angela Rehn, Arielle Algaze and Malik Power were delightful as the dueling Beatrice and Benedick, as was Spencer Camp as the Governor, Leonato. The scene ended on a decided high note, with a “Slumdog”/Bollywood dance number. The Middle School of La Jolla Country Day set their “Twelfth Night” in the roaring ‘20s (great costumes!), to the accompaniment of “Pink Panther” music. The fencing coach at school helped provide expert sword-play. The Bishop’s School’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (directed by Courtney Flanagan) featured a terrific Titania (Jess Jacobs) and a side-splitting Bottom (Michael Shyman); the Pyramus/Thisbe re-enactment, with its excellent donkey head, was a hoot. Popular local actor Linda Libby, who teaches at High Tech High School and High Tech Media Arts Middle School, entered five scenes, featuring students of various ages. Mara Jacobs (Rosalind in “As You Like It”) and Daniel Myers (Proteus in “Twelfth Night”) were standouts.
Valhalla High School presented the witches’ cauldron scene from “Macbeth” in four alternating languages: English, Spanish, Russian and Arabic. Theater teacher Kirsten Giard chose to spotlight her beginning theater class, in which half the students are non-native speakers of English, and the disabled students include one with cerebral palsy, one who barely speaks and one deaf pupil who uses an electronic communication device. Giard contacted her friend Lynne Jennings, president of the San Diego Puppetry Guild, who spearheaded a puppetry/mask unit for the class, thus involving the non-verbal and non-English-speakers in the Festival, too.
Now the San Diego Shakespeare Society is planning a Celebrity Sonnet event at the Avo Theatre in Vista (May 25), and focusing on its education and outreach projects, the newest of which is the Bard@TheLibrary Program . The new outreach plan follows the format of the Shakespeare Prescription Program, which sends Shakespeare scenes and performers into heath-care facilities, and the Bard@The Mall, which is Shakespeare-in-the-Park for shopping centers. The newest program will off mini-productions at local libraries, both public and academic. These programs were created by Shakespeare Society artistic director Vanessa Dinning and writer-in-residence, David Wiener. http://www.sandiegoshakespearesociety.org.
… Showin’ off at the Showcase: I’d always wondered what the talented MFA acting students from UCSD did for their Showcase presentations. This week, I found out. Each year, the graduating class of eight teams up with the classes of the other two top acting programs in the country, Yale and NYU, and presents 30 minutes of scenes for high-profile casting directors, one group in L.A. and another in New York. This week, there were two semi-public presentations of the showcase scenes, which was surprising. I expected classical works, but instead, the 11 min-scenes were mostly comical, actually rather sit-com-like. Apparently, that’s what these TV and film folks are looking for. I suppose they can extrapolate that these same versatile actors will be able to handle Shakespeare, Shaw and heavy dramatic material. Under the expert direction of Kyle Donnelly, Head of Acting, a new innovation this year was that some of the piece were created by the students: Jihae Park’s “Parallel Universe” had her as some magical, time-traveling sprite; Josh Wade’s “Johnny Bombz” showed off his stand-up comic skills and “The List” was a hilarious riff on bucket lists; in this case, Who would you most like to sleep with? Incredibly, Elmer Fudd showed up on his list and his friend’s. That onstage buddy, Joel Gelman, wrote and performed a funny monologue, “Teev,” about the killer home electronics of a pseudo-cool nerd. Other pieces, performed by Pearl Rhein, Johnny Wu, Lorene Chesley, Rebecca Lawrence and Irungu Mutu, often concerned relationships gone awry; an especially chilling one was by playwright Gina Gionfriddo. It’s been great to watch these actors mature and stretch their wings over the past three years. They’re really ready to fly. To get a glimpse of this year’s class, check out the video at http://johnnywu.tv/blog/ , and watch for news of their next impressive accomplishments. Congrats to all… and knock ‘em dead on both coasts.
NEWS AND VIEWS
…Lofty Lotfi: Iranian-born Lotfi Mansouri, the opera director who’s a frequent guest at the San Diego Opera, is one of five recipients of the 2nd annual Opera Honors bestowed by the National Endowment of the Arts. Mansouri, former general director of San Francisco Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, made his San Diego Opera directing debut in 1973 and has gone on to helm a dozen productions here, most recently, “Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci” in 2008, “Boris Godunov” and “Samson and Delilah” in 2007 and “The Barber of Seville” in 2006. The $25,000 award is intended to “honor those visionary creators… who have made a lasting impact on our national cultural landscape.” This year’s other winners are: composer John Adams, mezzo soprano Marilyn Horne, librettist Frank Corsaro and conductor Julius Rudel. Congratulations to Lotfi, and to SDO general and artistic director Ian Campbell for his vision.
… Father Knows Best: Comic writer/performer Rick Najera presents the latest incarnation of his “ Daddy Diaries ,” a one-man comedy that explores his life as the father of three young children. The San Diego Repertory Theatre has previously hosted four original productions by Najera: “ A Quiet Love,” “Latins Anonymous,” “Latinologues” and “Sweet 15 Quinceañera .” One of the nation’s most produced Latino playwrights, Najera has been listed twice by Hispanic Magazine among the “100 Most Influential Latinos in America .” His TV writing credits include comedy shows such as “MAD TV” and “In Living Color.” The workshop production play May 15-24 at the Lyceum Space Theatre. Tickets are $15-20. (619) 544-1000; http://www.sdrep.org/.
… On Guard for Off Nights: Tuesday Night Comedy is back at North Coast Repertory Theatre. May 12 at 7 p.m., local comic actor Mark Christopher Lawrence, a regular on the TV series, “Chuck,” brings in more of his friends to the North County stage. Tickets (including a special Happy Hour) are $15-20. On Monday, May 18, at 7:30 p.m., NCRT welcomes back ImproTheatre for “Jane Austen Uncscripted,” an improvised play in the style of the beloved satiric/romantic novelist. Tickets at (858) 481-1055, www.northcoastrep.org .
… Tuna Melt: Broadway San Diego brings back Joe Sears and Jaston Williams, the creators of the “Tuna” franchise (“Greater Tuna,” “Tuna Christmas,” “Red, White and Tuna”) for another round of wacky tales from the third smallest town in Texas . “Tuna Does Vegas,” their first new show in a decade, runs at the Balboa Theatre from 5/5-5/10. What happens in Vegas refuses to stay in Vegas. ( 619) 564-3000; www.broadwaysd.com.
… From Baghdad to you: “9 Parts of Desire,” a one-woman show told through the voices of nine Iraqi women, was hailed in London as one of the five best plays of 2003. Written and performed by Heather Raffo, it ran for nine months in New York . A concert version, called “The Sounds of Desire,” was recently performed by Raffo at the Kennedy Center in Washington , in collaboration with jazz trumpeter and Iraqi santoor player Amir El Saffar. That parterning will be reprised this Sunday, May 3 only, at 2 p.m., in the Institute for Peace and Justice on the campus of the University of San Diego . A conversation/Q&A with the performers follows the presentation. Raffo, who received her MFA in 1998 from the USD/Old Globe joint Master’s program, will be honored with the university’s 2009 Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award from the College of Arts and Sciences . A fully staged production of “9 Parts of Desire” will be presented by Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company this fall (Oct. 7-Nov. 1). For $10-15 tickets to this weekend’s performance: (619) 260-2727.
… Answering The Call: “Space for God” is a new play, written and performed by Jerusha Matsen Neal, who just appeared in “Dear Harvey” at Diversionary Theatre. An ordained pastor, Matsen created her one-woman drama to confront the challenges of a “divine call.” Three monologues explore the struggle and joy encountered by all those, especially female artists and scholars, who try to make space for God in their work and lives. Using the Biblical Mary as a conversation partner, Matsen conveys the personal stories of women whose callings have not been honored by their communities. While written from a Christian perspective, the play invites reflection from followers of all faiths. Produced by InnerMission Productions, with a dance performance by Jana Anderson. Two nights only; admission is free. May 19 at Diversionary Theatre and May 22 at La Mesa United Methodist Church . http://www.innermissionproductions.org .
… An updated Odyssey: “Anon(ymous),” by nationally renowned playwright Naomi Iizuka, head of the MFA Playwriting program at UCSD, will receive a short run at USD. Directed by faculty member Monica Stufft and designed by faculty Robin Roberts, the play is an inventive adaptation of Homer’s “Odyssey.” A young refugee named Anon encounters an array of intriguing and unsavory characters as he navigates the unruly landscape of America . In the Studio Theatre at Sacred Heart Hall on the campus of USD, through 5/7. Tickets, $8-11, at (619) 260-7934 ; http://www.sandiego.edu/theatre/ .
PAT’S PICKS: BEST BETS
“The Cripple of Inishmaan” – darkly comic Irish delight, excellently executed
ion theatre at the Lyceum, through 5/10; www.iontheatre.com
“Zanna, Don’t!” – inconsistent production of a fun and fluffy musical
Ariel Performing Arts at Roosevelt Theatre, through 5/10; www.zannasd.com
“The Glass Menagerie” – moving production of a great American classic
Lamb’s Players Theatre, through 5/10; www.lambsplayers.org
“ Mauritius – a gripping cat-and-mouse game, superbly performed
Cygnet Theatre, through 5/10; www.cygnettheatre.com .
“The Hit” – fast-paced, funny mix of murder, mystery and romance
Lamb’s Players at the Horton Grand Theatre, through 5/31; www.lambsplayers.org
Pat Launer is the SDNN theater critic.
To read any of her prior reviews, type ‘Pat Launer’ into the SDNN Search box.