Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
January 21, 2011
An intriguing theme runs through three provocative productions on local stages: What would you do or give — or give up — for your art? A sculptor abandons her daughter; two piano prodigies forfeit their childhoods; and a single-mom supports her music as a porn star.
Since the porn star probably grabbed your attention most, I’ll start with “The Toughest Girl Alive,” the “99.9 percent true, stranger-than-fiction- story” of Candye Kane, a powerhouse blues singer who was once a gang member, an unwed teen mother, a Mormon, and yes, a pornographic poster-child for plus-sized, ultra-buxom women. All that and triumphing over a deadly cancer has made Ms. Kane a strong survivor, and a dogged proponent of being true to yourself and being proud of your body – no matter what it looks like. Her message is compelling but the world premiere musical play of her life, adapted and directed by Javier Velasco, still needs, please pardon me, Candye, significant trimming. With its wild tales, knockout band and eclectic mix of pop, country, gospel and blues, it’d make for a killer 90-minute show. There are two fine performers portraying the various dysfunctional folk in Candye’s life, but there’s just too much narrative, repetition and time-shifting. Less talking, more singing. And when Candye belts ‘em out, wow!
Music is a major force in the production at North Coast Repertory Theatre, too. “Two Pianos Four Hands” is largely autobiographical, created by two piano prodigies who gave up their youth to grueling practice under pressuring parents and taskmaster teachers, only to find that, though they were good, they weren’t good enough. There isn’t quite enough made of how that impacted their later lives, but there’s no quibble with the performances, or the show’s relevance to sports or any other obsessive, perfectionistic pursuit. The writers, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt, have moved on, after presenting the show around the world. But Mark Anders and Carl Danielsen, who have been doing the piece on and off for 10 years, under the direction of Bruce Sevy, are superb. It’s not every day you see two actors delectably adept at accents, dialects, comic timing and dramatic breakdowns as well as playing punishing piano pieces by Mozart, Bach, Beethoven – even Billy Joel! These are spectacular performances you must not miss.
There’s fascinating drama at New Village Arts, too, where “Waving Goodbye” considers two impassioned artists and one ardent mountaineer in the same crumbling family. When her father dies on Mt. Everest, 17 year-old Lily is forced to confront, and live with, the sculptor-mother who abandoned her to pursue her art. Wonderful, lyrical play, by Jamie Pachino, and a stunning production, under the direction of Dana Case.
So why are you just sitting there? Get up and get tickets! There’s lots of good theater to see … and hear.
“The Toughest Girl Alive” runs through February 6 at Moxie Theatre in Rolando.
“Waving Goodbye” continues at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, through February 6.
“Two Pianos Four Hands” has been extended, to February 13, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
©2011 PAT LAUNER