Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“Golden Boy” – New Village Arts
“The Listener” – Moxie Theatre
AIRDATE: JUNE 27, 2008
Whether you’re trapped by the Great Depression or the post-Apocalypse, what you most want is change.
In an old drama and a new one, folks get what they ask for – but it comes at a formidable price. A thinker and a listener, both filled with hope and promise, both destined for disaster.
“The Listener,” by the wildly inventive New York playwright Liz Duffy Adams, is her third piece to be produced by Moxie Theatre, a sensibility match made in heaven. Following in the steps of her brilliant “Dog Act,” Adams goes back to the future. We’re in Junk City , a large, sparsely populated garbage-dump dystopia several generations from now. These are the last survivors, after earth was destroyed by human neglect and Nature’s revenge. In their tightly controlled society, everyone has a strictly assigned role and no one deviates from the rules. The Listener’s job is to keep reaching out, by means of a “sacred” short-wave radio, trying to detect signs of life from fellow survivors. When a man from New Earth, what used to be called the Moon, lands in a spaceship to rescue the populace, everyone is in for a very bumpy ride. Adams delivers another striking new world and another delightful new lingo; she plays with and manipulates language like it’s just so much silly putty. Another startling Adams creation, another spectacular Moxie show, with Delicia Turner Sonnenberg directing a superb cast on a fantastic set.
Production values are high at New Village Arts, too, in a stunning production of “Golden Boy,” a 1937 American classic by social activist Clifford Odets. It’s widely believed that the story reflects the playwright’s own conflict about selling out to Hollywood .
In the play, cross-eyed New York underdog Joe Bonaparte is a consummate violinist. But what he really wants is escape from poverty to a life of fame and fortune. He bucks his artistic nature and his father’s wishes, to pursue a career in boxing. And he gets pretty much everything he wants. But the Faustian tradeoff for his material wealth is spiritual bankruptcy. Joshua Everett Johnson ’s razor-sharp direction teases masterful performances from his large ensemble. Johnson himself is deliciously demonic in a pivotal role, and Amanda Sitton is exquisite as a beautiful, hard-boiled moll. The stakes and emotions run high, and we’re yanked along till the final one-two punch.
Both these tragic narratives knock the wind out of us, take us by surprise and touch us to the core. Each can be viewed as a cautionary tale, about what we’re doing and where we’re headed, as individuals and a society. Both dramas can be a tad heavy-handed in delivering their message, but that doesn’t diminish their potency. Thematically and dramatically, “Golden Boy” is a knockout, and “The Listener” must be heard.
“The Listener” runs through June 29 in the Lyceum Space in Horton Plaza .
“Golden Boy” continues through July 13 at New Village Arts in Carlsbad .
©2008 PAT LAUNER