KPBS AIRDATE: March 04, 2005
How do you like your comedy? – Leaning more to the sitcom or the Britcom? The farcically silly or the darkly satiric? A big, brash extravaganza or a tiny, intimate tête à tête? Well, choose your comedic poison – or knock yourself out and see both.
The La Jolla Playhouse is inaugurating its new Potiker Theatre with a sparklingly screwy adaptation of “Private Fittings,” the first full-length play written by the 19th century father of French farce, Georges Feydeau. Thanks to the adaptation of Mark O’Donnell, a former writer for ‘Saturday Night Live’ and librettist for the musical, “Hairspray,” the show is re-set in San Diego, among the well-heeled with too much time on their hands. Eric is a spiritual coach; his new wife is a dimwitted clothes-horse and his shrewish mother-in-law, who has a robotic dog, is a writer of pop-psych self-help screeds like “How to Hate Your Mate.” Eric is hungrily pursuing one of his patients, who’s married to an ex- Navy SEAL who has a mistress, who happens to be a former hooker-friend of Eric’s, and she’s also the long-lost wife of Eric’s boring buddy, Drew. In place of the indispensable servant of Feydeau’s day, we get Steve, the surfer-dude pool-guy who’s Eric’s personal assistant. Inane intrigue and hyperactive hijinks ensue, as everyone converges on a Pacific Beach condo that’s supposed to be a trysting place for several amorous adulterers. The set is beautiful, and magically changed by the hi-tech wonders of the spiffy new theater – and a bunch of cute-looking stagehands on roller skates. Director Des McAnuff is having a field day with his new playpen and his cast – which is quite amusing, and exceedingly good at high-speed shenanigans. Farce isn’t everyone’s cup of froth, but if you go for lusty frivolity that skewers our society with soap opera deception and infidelity, the La Jolla Playhouse is set on the right channel for you.
Now, if you prefer snickering cynicism, you’ll snuggle up to the Fritz Theatre’s production of “Vigil.” This deliciously nasty little trifle, by Canadian Morris Panych, was a Fritz success almost a decade ago, and it thrived at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Now, Ron Choularton reprises his bravura performance as the colorless loser who comes to the bedside of his ailing auntie, so he can get the inheritance and go. But much to his mounting dismay, the old bat just hangs on. We watch him erupt and disintegrate as the elderly woman watches, wide-eyed and mute. Under Rosina Reynolds’ unfussy direction, Pat DiMeo does a great deal with her silences, while Choularton natters on, both hilarious and heartbreaking.
So, what’s it gonna be? The puff pastry or the strychnine? Either way, you’ll get a bellyful of laughs.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.