KPBS AIRDATE: November 18, 2005
There’s a price to be paid for flouting authority or bucking the status quo. But the cost is even greater if you just go along, remain silent, or avoid being true to yourself. In these disquieting times of lemmings and firebrands, this theme is quite pertinently popping up on numerous San Diego stages.
There’s the gorgeous production of “The Winslow Boy” at Lamb’s Players Theatre, in which an ordinary citizen takes on the legal system and the government to right a wrong done to his young son. Based on a real incident, the 1946 play by Terence Rattigan is an old-fashioned, heart-warming David-and Goliath story that skewers lawyers and the media and stands up for women, even though it’s set before the first World War. The drama is beautifully restored by director Deborah Gilmour Smyth, a killer design team and a marvelous cast, stunningly costumed by Jeanne Reith.
In the touching chamber musical, “A Man of No Importance,” a Dublin bus conductor so believes in the power of art to transform lives, he stands up to his boss, the clergy and the community. He stays true to his values, even when he’s outed – and ousted from the church where he directs a feisty community theater, staging sometimes provocative plays. Under the direction of Dr. Rick Simas, the SDSU musical theater students make this little gem sparkle. Written by the team that gave us the glorious “Ragtime” – Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and playwright Terrence McNally, the musical is based on the 1994 film of the same name. It’s a journey of self-discovery and a lovely, tuneful plea for acceptance of every artist and outsider.
Speaking of artists and outsiders, a gaggle of them gather in the apartment of a jittery, ambivalent actress in Berlin, 1932 in “A Bright Room Called Day.” They laugh, play games, joke about the “terrible wind blowing through” the country. They make their art, but mostly they sermonize and philosophize, until the time to change the future has passed. The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner wrote the play in 1988, as a kind of political call-to-arms during the Reagan years, which he was comparing to the Nazi regime. But that era looks like child’s play compared to what’s going on in America now. So, adding to Kushner’s own revisions, director Brendon Fox has updated the piece to modern times; Bush, Cheney and Rove headlines parallel the projections of the encroaching Nazi takeover. Once again, Kushner was frighteningly prophetic. As usual, he laces his polemic with poetry and humor. Fox has assembled a magnificent ensemble for this dazzling collaboration between Backyard Productions and Diversionary Theatre.
So, if you want to be entertained and educated, inspired, energized, even stirred to action or activism, the theater is the place for you.
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.