KPBS AIRDATE: July 25, 2003
Sometimes you just have to step out of the box. See something you wouldn’t normally try. Take the Fritz Blitz. The 10th annual event features new work by California playwrights. This year’s fest is the best in recent memory, and this is the last weekend to catch it… with a full evening’s R-rated parody called “Porn Yesterday,” by Patricia Milton of the Bay Area, directed by Duane Daniels. Then there’s “The Burning Deck,” the work-in-progress by New York writer Sarah Schulman, part of the La Jolla Playhouse’s impressive Page to Stage Project. No reviews allowed, so I can’t say much… but it’s a great opportunity to see a play develop, and even give your input. The script is changing almost nightly, so you can go back and watch it evolve.
New theater companies are also something of a risk. The Ira Aldridge Repertory Players, named for an acclaimed 19th century African American actor, isn’t actually new, founded in 1983 by writer/director Calvin Manson, former member of the S.D. Commission for Arts & Culture. But it was new to me. Manson is trying to establish San Diego’s first black dinner theater, and he’s off to a rousing start. “An Evenin’ with Billie” showcases the songs of Billie Holiday. It’s set in a Vegas nightclub, but held in a downtown restaurant, Caesar Café, which offers a pleasant dinner and a lovely ambiance for a fabulous performance. Song stylist Anasa Johnson is riveting. She presents a few factoids from Lady Day’s life, but mostly, she sings — nearly 20 of Billie’s unforgettable songs, including, of course, “Strange Fruit” and “God Bless the Child.” Johnson isn’t channeling Billie, and that’s fine. She puts her own spectacular spin on these numbers. It’s a great club date (more than a theater piece) and the band is a killer: Harry James Williams on piano, Martin Murphy on alto sax and Ross Renner on electric bass. What a night of glorious bluesy jazz music! Ignore it at your own risk…
Now, if Greek tragedy seems like a stretch for you, extend yourself for “The Children of Heracles” at 6th @ Penn, in Marianne McDonald’s accessible, colloquial, no-nonsense translation. Euripides’ play may be 2500 years old, but it’s an ageless tale of love, war and vengeance, surprisingly timely, with its focus on the death of innocent children, the rights of prisoners and the plight of refugees. Delicia Turner Sonnenberg shepherds an uneven multicultural cast that features two heartbreaking performances: Jack Banning as the aged caregiver of the exiled offspring of Hercules and young Shannon Partrick as the noble daughter who sacrifices herself for family and country.
Thrills and chills all over town… Venture out of your safety zone; you’re likely to end up in a whole new place.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.