Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
November 18, 2011
From the ridiculous to the sublime: a light-hearted, frivolous musical and two deeply intense dramas.
The buoyant production is “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” the nasty-funny-clever, double-crossing David Yazbek musical that premiered at the Old Globe in 2004, then moved on to Broadway and 11 Tony nominations. It’s a massive undertaking, but director Eric Bishop, Performing Arts chair at Mira Costa College, is definitely up to the task, summoning first-rate talent that delivers the goods.
Suave Patrick McBride, too long gone from local stages, and hilariously zhlubby Tom Andrew, star as two competitive conmen who prey on wealthy women on the French Riviera. Their ‘marks’ are deliciously played by Virginia Gregg, Deborah Dodaro and Meg Johnson, with Bernie Kopsho offering ‘ froggy ’ fun as the crooked chief of police. The dancing is variable, and the music is recorded, but the set, costumes, lighting and sound are superb.
Another college production that shouldn’t be missed is the magical UCSD mounting of “The Dybbuk,” the mystical 1914 play by S. Ansky , set in a 19th century Polish shtetl . The other-worldly classic concerns the mysteries of Kabbalah which, before it was popularized by Madonna, was a secret and powerful spiritual study available only to the most fervent and learned scholars . In Ansky’s story, a young student is obsessed with Kabbalah, and with his beloved, Leah. When her father arranges a marriage to someone else, Khonen dies of grief. Then, on the eve of her wedding, he inhabits her body as a dybbuk , a dislocated spirit, possessing her so they can be together forever. The mesmerizing second act features a breath-holding exorcism.
Directed by graduate student Joshua Kahan Brody, with colorblind and cross-gender casting, the ghostly, supernatural events are spectacularly conveyed, with eerie lighting, imaginative costumes and several thrilling performances. This unearthly experience is likely to haunt your dreams.
That may also be true for “The Diary of Anne Frank.” First published in 1947, it’s one of the most poignant, heartbreaking and enduring stories from the Holocaust, about a groups of Dutch Jews in hiding for two years. After Anne’s father died in 1980, a new version of the book was published, including parts he’d omitted, about her budding sexuality and conflicts with her mother. That led to a new adaptation of the play in 1997, and it’s that version which is getting an outstanding presentation at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. The excellent direction, by Kym Pappas, keeps the action aptly claustrophobic. At the center of a strong ensemble is a spectacular performance by 13 year-old Lucia Vecchio , who flawlessly captures the ebullience and intelligence of young Anne.
Theater can stimulate your brain or blindly entertain. You don’t have to choose; at these reasonable prices, you can see ‘ em all.
“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” runs through November 20 At Mira Costa College in Oceanside.
“The Dybbuk” p lays through November 20, in the Shank Theatre on the campus of UCSD.
“The Diary of Anne Frank” continues through December 4, at Onstage Playhouse in Chula Vista.
©2011 PAT LAUNER