Published in Décor & Style Magazine
June is… A Goddess of Flowers. A Feast of Fools. A Smash. A Blitz. A smorgasbord month of theater offerings — and each of the poetic descriptions above is one of them.
Let’s start with a “Smash.” No, it’s not a killer tennis play. The title refers to a British term for things going haywire (as in, ‘the best-laid plan go smash’). Anglophile/playwright Jeffrey Hatcher (who hails from Minneapolis) penned this adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s 1883 comic novel, “The Unsocial Socialist.” The silly, satirical story concerns a wealthy young man who marries a wealthy young woman, and 20 minutes later dumps his beautiful bride so he can sow the seeds of socialism and proletarian revolt among the wealthy young girls in a prestigious women’s college. His abandoned wife, in the meantime, does not passively accept his desertion — or his political ideology. Many epigrams later, the guy gets his comeuppance and the woman has her day. Hatcher, the Globe Theatres’ first Shiley Playwright-in-Residence, is flush from his provocative (and raunchy/sexy) world premiere, “Compleat Female Stage Beauty.” Here (sans nudity and swear-words), he riffs on Shaw with a volley of potshots at aristocracy and several isms, while probing issues of gender, politics and love. (through 7/6 at The Globe Theatres, 619-239-2255).
When it comes to the satirical/political, it doesn’t get much more interesting or stimulating than the work of Don DeLillo. Sledgehammer Theatre, punch-drunk on edgy ideas, happily presents DeLillo’s 1999 play, “Valparaiso.” In this wickedly funny examination of marriage, media and modern life, a man who takes the wrong plane to the wrong destination, winds up in a mysterious place where he is the obsessive focus of a media blitz. As the playwright himself has explained it, “there is a Valparaiso in Indiana, in Florida and in Chile. Does it matter in which of these Valparaisos the man in the play ends up? Everything melts repeatedly into something else, as if guided by a finger on a TV remote. The man is making the most modern journey possible, witnessed by millions, into the secret places of identity and transcendence.” As he explores the contrast between reality and media reality, DeLillo is offering a parable for contemporary America. If you’re intrigued, you won’t want to miss this one, directed by the highly inventive UCSD alumnus Matthew Wilder. (6/8-7/7 at Sledgehammer Theatre; 619-544-1484).
Sticking with satires and societal skewerings, there’s a delicious double bill at North Coast Repertory Theatre: “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “Travesties.” Oscar Wilde’s clever 1895 classic is being paired with Tom Stoppard’s hilarious 1974 absurdist farce, a wild concoction of pastiche, paradox and political history. In “Travesties,” set in 1917 Zurich, Lenin, James Joyce and the dadaist artist Tristan Tzara, are juxtaposed with a spoof of, of all things, “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Delicious fun, in tandem. (6/23-9/8 at North Coast Repertory Theatre; 888-776-NCRT).
Speaking of twisted classics, the Women’s Repertory Theatre of San Diego is gender-bending the Bard with an all-female production of “Othello.” Not only that, but it’s re-set in the 1950s. According to director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, “I wanted to find a time when the division between genders and races was very distinct. It was a time when men were men and women were dames, and blacks and whites were completely separate. “The Moor and his evil henchman, Iago, are played by beloved local actress M’Lafi Thompson and Women’s Rep founder/artistic director Gayle Feldman. Should be something to see. (6/13-7/20 at Actor’s Asylum; 619-282-3277).
If all this seems too intense and politically loaded, and you just want to kick back and get silly, how about “A Feast of Fools”? The endlessly imaginative, rubber-limbed New Vaudevillian Geoff Hoyle brings his comic genius to a world premiere solo performance at La Jolla Playhouse. As the Chaplin/Keaton clown takes to the stage, he’ll be accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Gina Leishman. Hoyle, a veteran of Cirque du Soleil and Broadway (he was the original Zazu in “The Lion King”), is sure to delight the whole family. (6/11-7/14 at La Jolla Playhouse; 858-550-1010).
Kids and parents also love the perennial musical favorite, “Bye Bye Birdie,” the 1960 teen-telephone ‘Going Steady’, ‘Ed Sullivan’ romp that’s all over town this month. You can catch the Moonlight Youth Theatre production in Vista (6/26-6/30; 760-724-2110), or the Coronado Playhouse presentation, starring yours truly as the laugh-a-minute Mama in the seal coat and space-shoes (6/7-7/14; 619-435-4856).
If you’d rather sing than laugh, musicals are your thing. Broadway/San Diego is bringing in two of the best of the best this month. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s immortal “South Pacific” stars Robert Goulet as Emile de Becque, the romantic French planter living on an island paradise, where “Some Enchanted Evening,” he meets naïve Navy nurse Nellie Forbush “across a crowded room.” The landmark musical won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Book and Score. In 1950, it was only the second musical ever to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama. The show may be set in WWII, but the melodies linger on: “There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame,” “Bali Hai”, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “Honey Bun” and more. (6/26-30 at the Civic Theatre; 619-570-1100 or 619-220-TIXS).
Another hit-filled, beloved musical coming to the Civic Theatre is Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” set in River City, Iowa, where a fast-talking con-man promises to teach the local kids to play in a marching band that’ll rival the once-mammoth parade featuring “Seventy-Six Trombones.” Of course, “Marian the Librarian” changes his mind, his tune…. and his life. (6/11-16 at the Civic Theatre; 619-570-1100, 619-220-TIXS).
While you’re filling in your summer musical-theater calendar, don’t forget “Fiddler on the Roof,” in Christian Community Theatre’s glorious open-air amphitheater atop Mt. Helix. Tevye the Milkman confronts his God, his wife and his five daughters in the town of Anatevka, Russia, 1905. It’s all there: yentas, czars, nightmares, matchmakers, weddings, and “Tradition.” (6/20-7/6; 619-588-0206).
It’s not yet the 4th of July, but Diversionary Theatre is presenting “5th of July,” Lanford Wilson’s funny, poignant 1978 chronicle of two days in the life of eight eccentric characters gathered at the Talley family homestead in Lebanon, Missouri. Ken Talley, a gay, disabled Vietnam veteran, tries to put his life back together with the help of his partner and his wacky friends and relatives. (6/8-7/27 at Diversionary Theatre; 619-220-0097).
Small-town life doesn’t get any smaller — or loopier — than in Tuna, Texas, where the Lions Club is too liberal and Patsy Cline never dies. The Tuna spinoffs (“Tuna Christmas” and “Red, White and Tuna”) were never quite as hilarious as the nut-cake original, “Greater Tuna,” which is back in a 20th anniversary production starring its creators and original cast members, master comedians and chameleons Jaston Williams and Joe Sears. The two take on the entire town, in all its big-hearted, small-minded glory, portraying men, women, children and animals in 40 neck-snapping costume changes that bring back Vera Carp and the Smut Snatchers of the New Order (trying to clear the library shelves of dirty books like ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’) and Elmer Watkins defending the KKK.. Twenty years old? Sounds like Texas today. (6/4-23 at the Lyceum Theatre; 619-544-1000).
Had enough of the Old Stuff? In the New Play department, there are lots of choices this month. First, there’s Asian American Repertory Theatre’s “Goddess of Flowers,” by local playwright Thelma Virata De Castro. Here we meet Flora, the pride of her Filipino American family, the high school valedictorian on her way to an engineering degree at UCLA. But the whole perfect plan is disrupted by dreams of a flying man, whose haunting presence threatens to unravel her life. (6/1-30, AART at MMPAC; 888-568-2278 or 619-563-0233
And of course, there’s the local Granddad of premieres, the 9th annual Fritz Blitz
of New Plays, featuring two new works by California Playwrights every week. Take a chance… sample the new, the weird, the wild, the woolly, the sometimes-wonderful… and the up-and-comers. The special “Kid’s Night Out” program, sponsored by the Dr. Seuss Fund, includes two performances of the amazing “Theatrical Fantastical,” the funny “Space Cadet,” and the mime and puppetry of “Imagination Express.” The kids’ shows are free to students under 18. Extra bonus of the Blitz: Auntie Myra’s Killer Cookies, baked daily from scratch, with love, by actress Myra McWethy. (6/27-7/27 at the Lyceum Space in Horton Plaza; 619-640-3900 or 619-233-7505).
Well, if all that doesn’t chase away the June Gloom, nothing will. Happy Summer… I’ll look for you at the theater!
©2002 Patté Productions Inc.