Published in Décor & Style Magazine

Ahhhh, V-Day. A time for hearts and flowers and chocolates… and vaginas. Okay, hold on a minute, before you jump to any conclusions. There are two V-Days this month — the traditional Hallmark-inspired one, and the one that relates to The Vagina Monologues.


Every February, playwright Eve Ensler makes available to colleges and theaters, at no cost whatsoever, her acclaimed, provocative theater piece, The Vagina Monologues, the show based on her interviews with hundreds of women of different ages and nationalities, about body image and body parts. It started three years ago as a one-woman performance piece and expanded to multiple, 3-person international productions, with ever-changing celeb casts in New York, L.A. and London. Ensler has reshaped her frequently funny, direct, often brutal and harrowing piece into a V-Day Worldwide Campaign to raise awareness and funding for the prevention of violence against women and children.

There are professional, for-profit touring companies, two of which have come to San Diego, and last year, Sledgehammer Theatre mounted the first local production of the Vagina Monologues. Ensler’s once-yearly gratis offering to the world theater community is for non-profits only, and it comes with several stipulations: the piece can include any number of women, but none can be paid; it must be played in 90-100 minutes, without intermission; there can only be one performance, some time between February 8 and March 8; and all proceeds must go to organizations that help women in crisis. This time, she’s added the strong suggestion that productions give a percentage of their take to the cause of the Women of Afghanistan. She’s also added a new monologue from an Afghani woman.

So, well-respected local actors Linda Castro and Linda Libby jumped at the opportunity. They’re producing and directing the show, which appears at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza on February 19 only (619-544-1000). The wide-ranging cast of 20 includes several actors, a costume designer, a theater managing director, a restaurant owner, a writer, a professor, a pre-adolescent and a critic (that would be me). Castro and Libby felt that more women onstage would more graphically demonstrate the full spectrum of age, culture and opinion about gender, sex and violence against women. Proceeds will go to the YWCA Domestic Abuse Shelter, the Rape Crisis Center, the Sexual Assault Response Team, and the Worldwide V-Day Campaign, in support of the women of Afghanistan.

Still female but a lot less provocative and political, the long-running, girl-group musical, Beehive, makes a return visit to the Theatre in Old Town (beginning 2/1, with an open-ended run; 619-688-2494 ). A little like a feminine Forever Plaid, this ’60s musical revue is, however, less nerdy and makes no attempt at a plotline. Basically, it celebrates a decade of gal-rock and female harmony (of musical and other varieties).

Moving on from hairdos to more heady concerns… the Globe is mounting Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, which probes the depths of a love relationship, though the lovers are married to other people. Groundbreaking when it first appeared, the incisive, disturbing play moves backward in time, exploring how the couple came together and came apart (on the Cassius Carter Centre Stage, February 3-March 16; 619-239-2255).

Next door, in the Globe itself, is the California premiere of the plucky, award-winning, two-person comedy, Stones in His Pockets. The Marie Jones play is set in a small Irish village which is overrun by a Hollywood film crew; dozens of locals (all played by two performers) try to get in on the act (February 3-March 16; 619-239-2255). We’re pretty lucky to get the current London cast, Bronson Pinchot and Christopher Burns, guided by the show’s original director, Ian McElhinney. Nice little coup (and season opener) for the Globe.

From Brits getting a handle on Americans, we move to San Diegans getting a handle on Handel. The San Diego Opera is presenting its first-ever opera by George Frederic Handel, most familiar for his oratorio, Messiah. But the prolific 18th century composer wrote 46 operas, including Ariodante, a Baroque spectacle about love on the rocks. It’s a rather international affair — written by a German, sung in Italian, with English supertitles — that features elaborate arias and an elaborate setting, a fairy-tale medieval Scottish kingdom. The title character is a prince in love with the princess of Scotland. A jealous rival plots to besmirch her reputation, and after a neck-snapping series of plot-twists, duels, feigned assignations and mistaken identities, the princess’ honor is reinstated and love blooms eternal. Playing the title (male) role is acclaimed mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux, who last wowed local audiences in The Barber of Seville and The Italian Girl in Algiers.. Fresh from Covent Garden and the Met, John Copley directs (February 9-17; 619-232-7636).

Speaking of extravaganzas, Sledgehammer Theatre is mounting another of its

monstrously huge, world premiere collaborative creations, its fourth in as many years. The Universal Monster Show was conceived by designer David Lee Cuthbert, written by Tim West and directed by Kirsten Brandt. It takes us back to Hartford, 1944, when 10,000 people were crowded into a circus tent (Ringling Bros was, at that time, called the United Monster Show). The tent, which was waterproofed with an unfortunate concoction of paraffin and gasoline, caught fire and burned to the ground in less than ten minutes. The exits were blocked by chutes for the lions, trapping thousands of people. Miraculously, only 167 were killed, but it was a horrific event which prompted the country’s first class action lawsuit. The event seems more relevant than ever, a portrait of heroism during disaster. Non-linear and presentational in its structure (the actors are obviously telling a story to the audience), the piece jumps forward and backward (“in and out of time,” as the writer puts it) and will challenge viewers with its “progressive esthetic.” Sledgehammer productions are ever-inventive, always unpredictable, and definitely worth a look-see (February 16-March 17; 619-544-1484).

Also worth considering are the theater events on college campuses.

Last year, UCSD had some of the strongest offerings of any company. This month,

the Department of Theatre and Dance has a prodigious schedule, including three productions: 2 By Shepard, a pair of early one-acts by the prolific actor/writer Sam Shepard (Icarus’ Mother and Action,), whose imaginative work has mapped the interior and exterior landscape of American society (February 6-16; 858-534-4574). Director Les Waters is, thankfully, back after his knockout productions of bash [NOTE: typically written in lower case] last year and Big Love, which went on to a successful New York run. The Marriage of Figaro is a contemporary adaptation (by humorous playwright Richard Nelson) of Pierre Beaumarchais’ 18th century comic masterpiece about love, lust, jealousy, masters and servants, disguises and happily-ever-after. New York Public Theatre associate artist Loretta Greco directs what the Village Voice called “…a pleasure to see, to talk about, to remember” (February 13-23). On the dark side, there’s John Webster’s 17th century revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi (February 20-March 2), a suspenseful tale of obsession, love, deceit and death.

SDSU is staying on the sunny side of the street this month, with Anything Goes, a hugely popular and entertaining boy meets/loses/gets girl 1930s musical, replete with unforgettable music and lyrics by Cole Porter. You’ll surely recognize terrific tunes like “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely” and the title song. Mishaps, mayhem and romance aboard the SS American; goofy but lovable (February 22-March 1; 619-594-6884).

While we’re on the subject of love (this is February, after all), you might want to wallow in Lovesickness at Sushi Performance & Visual Art, a heartfelt dance theater work inspired by the parallel beginnings of psychoanalysis and cinema. Under the direction of Rosanna Gamson, ten dancers, actors, musicians and visual artists create what the L.A. Times called “a neat little valentine to desire — to constantly thwarted desire…inventive and rhapsodic.” (February 14-16; 619-235-8468).

I recently gave my own little valentine to the theater community, with the 5th annual KPBS Patté [Note: accent over the ‘e’] Awards for Theater Excellence “cause you ain’t chopped liver”). It’s my payback to local theatermakers for their year-long labor of love. At a gala event on January 14, in the KPBS Shiley studios, I presented my Best of the Best, a total of 27 awards in 8 categories, culled from the 120 productions I’d seen in San Diego in 2001.

Herewith are some of the highlights of a memorable year of theater.

2001 KPBS Patté Awards

Outstanding Ensemble

The Beauty Queen of Leenane

San Diego Repertory Theatre

The Laramie Project

La Jolla Playhouse


Diversionary Theatre

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

San Diego Repertory Theatre

Outstanding Performance

Ron Choularton

Breaking the Code

Diversionary Theatre

Robert Dahey

Amelia Earhart, Lost and Found

6th @ Penn Theatre

Jefferson Mays

I Am My Own Wife

La Jolla Playhouse

Sean Murray

Man of La Mancha

North Coast Repertory Theatre

Rosina Reynolds

Long Day’s Journey into Night

Renaissance Theatre Company

Outstanding Direction

Suzanne Agins

Life’s a Dream

UCSD Theatre & Dance

Tim Irving


Diversionary Theatre

Des McAnuff & Kate Whoriskey

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid

La Jolla Playhouse

Charlie Oates

10 Human Beings

UCSD Theatre & Dance

Outstanding Production


       UCSD Theatre & Dance

Lot’s Daughters

Diversionary Theatre

The Mad Dancers

San Diego Repertory Theatre

Twelfth Night

The Globe Theatres

I also presented three well-deserved Special Awards:

Theater Angel Award: Judith Harris & Robert Singer

McDonald Playwriting Award: Annie Weisman (whose funny and wildly inventive Be Aggressive premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse)

Shiley Lifetime Achievement Award: Jack O’Brien, who recently celebrated his 20th year at the Globe Theatres

Here’s hoping 2002 is as wide-ranging and entertaining. Let’s compare notes at the end of the year!


©2002 Patté Productions Inc.