KPBS AIRDATE: October 5, 2001
Timing is everything. What in some other month would be conceived as silly trifles become hilarious diversions in these tenuous, post-disaster days. The Globe Theatres are presenting a triple-header of Theater Fluff, and audiences are eating it up. People seem ready for a laugh, or at least for some mindless escape. So they’re enthralled by “Enter the Guardsman,” the frothy 1996 musicalization of Ferenc Molnar’s 1910 comedy of marital discord and distrust. It’s cute and sometimes clever, but not half as clever or musically marvelous as Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me, Kate,” which also concerns a play-within-a-play and a bickering onstage/offstage couple. There are a few wonderful things about the production, including the Gustav Klimt-inspired set and James Barbour, recently so dashing at La Jolla Playhouse and on Broadway in “Jane Eyre.” Here, he gets to show off his dramatic and comedic versatility, as well as his mellifluous voice. Fred Applegate is solid and credible as The Playwright, but his presence is an unnecessary conceit.
Speaking of conceit, next door, on the small Cassius Carter Centre Stage, a tiny romantic dramedy tries to think Big Thoughts, to unsatisfying effect. Craig Wright’s script for “The Pavilion” is pretentious, loaded with cosmological musings and overwritten reflections on Time and The Universe, which weigh down the flimsy story. Two former lovers meet again at their 20th high school reunion, and lament the Path Not Taken. The three performances are serviceable but not memorable. The design-work is aptly evocative. But by far the best thing about this presentation is the fact that Craig Noel, age 86, directed it — his 226th production at the Globe. That alone is cause for celebration. At his age and with his longevity at the theater, Craig can be forgiven his penchant for small, sentimental shows. He’s to be commended, as always, for his sensitivity, wit and perspicacity.
Finally, at the Globe Theatre itself, there’s Shakespeare’s most romantic comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” And a delightful romp it is. Director Kyle Donnelly, head of UCSD’s Actor Training Program, has scored again, with her fine sense of the comic and the ridiculous. Her production sharply underscores ‘what fools these mortals be,’ the young lovers appearing as goofy, fickle guys and ditsy but aggressive gals. Her conception of the mechanicals as mechanics, complete with drive-on VW Beetle, is nothing short of inspired. And the “Pyramus and Thisbe” play-within-a-play is nothing short of uproarious. Also noteworthy is the eye-popping Aloysius Gigl, as Theseus and Oberon. So maybe the Athenians’ costumes look like bathrobes, and the faeries are less than magical. The overall experience is entrancing.
©2001 Patté Productions Inc.