“ KNOWING CAIRO ” at The Globe Theatres & “ FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE ” at Vantage Theatre & “ DEPORTING THE DIVAS ” at Diversionary Theatre
KPBS AIRDATE: April 11, 2003
In the heart and on the stage, love is a fickle, unpredictable business. At three different theaters, folks of varied ages, customs and cultures battle with their emotions and societal constraints.
At Vantage Theatre, a very funny, poignant production of “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” stars charismatic Daren Scott and Devlin as two lonely midlife lovers, past their prime but surprisingly, not their romantic potential. D.J. Sullivan, long-respected local acting coach, took a risk in casting a plus-sized woman in the often-sexy role of Frankie. But the gamble pays off; Devlin is not only vulnerable and skeptical, but also physically appealing. The antic Scott is irresistible. Terrence McNally’s witty script, with its multiple mentions of a voracious appetite, make the against-type portrayal thoroughly credible. It’s a delightful production, teeming with talent, infused with hope.
Unexpected love emerges at an even later age in “Knowing Cairo,” the compelling new work by UCSD graduate playwriting alumna Andrea Stolowitz. It’s a rare treat for the Globe Theatres to produce a world premiere by a young, untested writer. Stolowitz rises impressively to the occasion, with her unerring ear, depth of insight, and flair for humor and drama. Her intriguing characters are beautifully brought to life — especially Marilyn Chris as Rose, the cantankerous German-Jewish octogenarian who’s driven off all prior caregivers, and Regina Hilliard Bain as her latest, the brittle African American, Winsom. Rose’s daughter Lydia, the envious Iago of the triad (stiffly played by Susan Wands), sabotages the flowering friendship between Rose and Winsom. Or has something much more sinister taken place? Stolowitz leaves the ending ambiguous, as she tackles the conflicts between black and white, mother and daughter, have and have-not, along with the challenges of caring for aging parents. David Ledsinger’s set is a fadingly elegant New York apartment, and Seret Scott’s spare direction reflects the clarity and sensitivity of the play. It’s a beautifully enigmatic, touching and thought-provoking evening of theater.
Love is even more ambivalent at Diversionary Theater, in Guillermo Reyes’ 1996 comedy-fantasy-romance, “Deporting the Divas.” It tells an important story of closeted Latino gays and their ‘inner diva.’ Here, ironically, a married Mexican-American INS officer falls in love with an undocumented immigrant. With all the clever asides and arcane references, silliness overtakes seriousness and trivializes the theme, making the play seem like one more amateurish coming-out saga from the old Diversionary days. Guest director Kirsten Brandt and a game cast stop just short of camp; maybe they should have gone all the way over the top. Even with fine ingredients, including the set, costumes and lighting, love isn’t always a recipe for success.
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.