Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
March 4, 2011
Cousins, colleagues, childhood friends. In three disparate plays, a close relationship is disrupted and transformed – by a crown, a letter, a memory. In each case, familiarity breeds something of a catastrophe.
The royal conflict is in “Richard II,” a rarely seen Shakespeare drama rife with wordplay and luscious language. It’s the chronological sequel to the equally neglected “King John,” which began the Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s presentation of the entire cycle of history plays, in order. Trimmed to a fleet two hours, this many- charactered piece chronicles the downfall of the young, hotheaded King Richard via his deteriorating relationship with his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, who usurps the crown to become Henry IV — next in Shakespeare’s historical lineup.
Under the direction of Christy Yael, the 14-member cast is assured and effective. The verse and emotions are perfectly finessed by Jason Rennie as Bolingbroke and Sean Cox as the titular King. Many of San Diego ’s finest actors give life to an intriguing, modernized and topical tale of hubris and envy, competition, guilt and redemption. An impressive piece of work from a spunky and ambitious company.
Two men are also center stage in the San Diego premiere of “The Drawer Boy,” a 1999 Canadian creation that Time Magazine dubbed a ‘New Classic.’ Michael Healey’s heartfelt comic drama concerns Morgan and Angus, lifelong friends and war buddies who live a quiet farmers’ life, until they’re intruded on by Miles, a wide-eyed young actor who wants to collect information for a play about farmers, which is pretty much what really happened all over Ontario in the 1970s.
A big-city boy from Toronto , Miles is derided by Morgan but fascinated by Angus, who sustained a wartime injury that has severely damaged his memory. Seeing a rehearsal of Miles and company’s play-in-progress, Angus begins to recall incidents in his life, which forces Morgan to recast the myth he’s been telling about them for years. There are many layers in this deceptively simple piece, which nests stories within stories, and reveals how stories frame and define our lives. At North Coast Repertory Theatre, under the sensitive, scrupulous direction of David Ellenstein, the performances are wonderful, by veterans Frank Corrado and Paul Hopper, and 20 year-old rising local star, Kevin Koppman-Gue.
Equally well directed and performed is “Fair Use,” a West coast premiere at Diversionary Theatre. Sarah Gubbins ’ witty, literate comedy riffs on Shakespeare and Cyrano, and makes frequent, humorous forays into film noir dialogue and demeanor. A knockout cast nails the office politics, emotional entanglements and the sticky legal issues of literary license and plagiarism. With all its own flagrant borrowing, the play amusingly practices what it’s preaching. Cleverly written, excellently executed, under the dynamic direction of James Vasquez.
I’d call that a scrumptious week of theater – a bellyful of comedy, tragedy and drama. Totally satisfying.
“Fair Use” runs through March 13 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights .
The Intrepid Shakespeare Company production of “Richard II” plays through March 20 on the campus of San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.
“The Drawer Boy” continues through March 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
©2011 PAT LAUNER