The theatre community in the San Diego area is particularly rich, with productions playing at the Old Globe, San Diego Rep, the La Jolla Playhouse, Sledgehammer, Spreckles Theatre, San Diego Civic Theatre, Copley Hall and many others at any one time.
For our San Diego-area members, here is your chance to try your hand at theatre reviewing -- and to let theatre fans around the world know what's happening in your city. If you've seen a drama, comedy or musical that aroused strong feeling pro or con, please take a few minutes to type your feelings in a review. Make sure to include the title, author, theatre and end date.
E-mail your review to Playbill On-Line managing editor Robert Viagas
Please include your town and state, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course.
Here are the results so far. Playbill thanks all those who took the time to respond. From Robert T. Hitchcox:
"Roast Mother Goose" Pacific Coast Center for the Arts, thru May 24th, 738-7068
With a company titled "Pacific Coast Center for the Arts", I expected that they would perform at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. The instructions, however, were to go The Valley Rose Plaza, formerly the Vineyard Shopping Center, just east of the FedCo, formerly Sears, on Valley Parkway. Now drive past the entrance along the side of the center. Just before you exit the back of the center park. Twenty-five years ago this mall was thriving, active, and quaint. Now it a shopping center in search of a mission. It is, however, the only shopping center in San Diego County, that I know of, hosting two live theatres. Up a long flight of stairs in the very popular Patio Playhouse, a theatre known for taking chances and producing much enjoyable entertainment.
Oh yes, continuing with our instructions. Walk past the pond and you can't miss it. The main reason you can't miss it is that it is the one of the few store fronts in the vicinity that is not empty. Suddenly we are presented with a pearl in the collection of barren shells. We paid the reasonable fee ($10 adults, $8 kids and old folks). Tucked away beyond the box office is real theatre tastefully decorated with a snack bar, ample seating, and a light/sound booth tucked back in a corner next to the box office. The postage stamp size stage was a glitter with tiny twinkle lights, metallic drapery, and fanciful cutouts. I have seen larger stages in homes in Toluca Lake, near LA, and in La Mesa.
"Roast Mother Goose" could very well be an inspiration for Verbivore Richard Lederer's next book. It could be squeezed in between "A Play of Words" and "Nothing Risque, Nothing Gained". Playwright, Director, Theatre entrepreneur, composer, lyricist, musician, set constructionist, and general factotum Stephen Storc has delightful comedic feel for our childhood favorites. Subtitled "A Musical Rampage through Mother Goose Land", "Roast Mother Goose" wastes little time setting straight with Jody Graham's "Prologue".
Little Red Riding Hood has been transformed into "Big Red" (Kat Vaughan), a free thinking, free swinging sequined Big Red who flirts with the audience, attempts the blatant seduction of several males ending up handing out a collection of condoms. The males in the audience were delighted with her attempts. Kate Hewitt laments about her problems of proliferating progeny much too snugly crammed into her "shoe" in "Love One. Love Many." Her children aptly accuse her of less than restricted morals. Marry Forrest also laments in her "Name" song "Miss Muffet's Lament" about her constant spider smashings and her lack of understanding of curds and whey.
What Mother Goose tail (I really think the spelling IS correct!) would be complete without the Four Jacks; Jack (as with Jill), Jack (as with candlestick), Jack (Horner in the corner), Jack, (the fatless one), ably played by Russ Noel, Don Harmon, Jody Graham and Danforce France. Their quartet proves that they are truly "Four Jacks in Search of a Full Deck". Tenth Grader Megan Lopez comes closest to a show stopper with her gutsy "Guystuff". Theatre goers watch this young lady. She can belt a song with the best of them. I wonder if she is a pint sized reincarnation of Ethel Merman? Well, that's the cast! And what a cast it is! Actors all. Singers all. Talent all. Energy to burn.
This fun filled evening includes song titles such as "Whatsamatah for You?", "Guys Aren't As Big", "The Kitchen Sink Waltz" and "The Rest of the Crap" - well, you get the idea. Marry Forrest's "Choices" is a delight. Even the lusty "A Treasure for the Heart" sung by Kat Vaughan was edged in pathos. Russ Noel's rendition of "I Don't Say I Love You" is a good message for all of us.
"Roast Mother Goose", more review than story, has the feel of a grand Broadway show. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings at the theatre that Nancy and I have had in months. Writer/Director Stephen Storc is a very talented man who knows how to cast for talent. So follow those elusive directions to the backdoor of the back of the shopping center somewhere in the back of Escondido. Find that darkly shrouded doorway, whisper your need for a seat, slide a saw buck through the slot, and have a wonderful laugh. (4/26/97)
From Robert T. Hitchcox:
"Vigil" Hahn Cosmopolitan Theatre, through May 18th, Wednesday thru Sunday, 237 1756
Vancouver, B.C. based playwright Morris Panych has created a very amusing dark comedy about a nephew's visit to his dying aunt's bedside. "Vigil" had its U.S. premier at The Fritz Theater last year.
Kemp, Ron Choularton, moves into his aunt's digs when she informed him of her failing health. What he had thought would be a short stay moves well past a year with her health quite stable. What transpires in a series of short scenes is both amusing and darkly revealing about Kemp and his relationship with just about everybody.
Ron Choularton, one of my favorite actors, commands Kemp completely. His convincing portrayal of Kemp traversing through his many moods is brilliant. The dark side of Kemp, articulated through out the play, and Kemp's weaknesses, well defined in the second act, hold the audience as we wait to see what further will be revealed.
Katherine Faulconer as the allegedly dying Grace proves beyond all doubt that acting is reacting. Even I could have memorized her line load in one sitting. Her reactions, though, are pure magic as she listens to Kemp's tirades. Her portrayal range from a subtly raised eyebrow to hiding under the covers in her bed. For the most part her bed is her stage.
Scenic Designer Christopher Rynne created a delightful bedroom set on a circular platform tilted, aiding the audience's sight lines immeasurably. Ginger Harris did her usual creatively theatrical lighting design which required many changes and mood shifts. Suzan Bennett provided amusingly believable costumes. Michael Shapiro's Sound Design was up to his usual high standards.
Playwright Panych includes a few surprises you'll not want to miss. Director Rosina Reynolds had a complete command of the play, her actors, and their environment. Call for reservations today! You will have an opportunity to see the best in acting and the best in reacting. (4/28/97)
From Robert T. Hitchcock:
From Robert T. Hitchcox
"Blithe Spirit", Lamplighters, La Mesa, thru May 18th, 464-4598
One of Noel Coward's more whimsical pieces, "Blithe Spirit" plays well, albeit, a bit longish. We've seen quite a few offerings from the British lately. They have a common talent for being overly wordy. In the case of Coward, the words are a joy.
The cast was a delight, once again proving that the art of direction depends greatly on the art of casting. I am worried, though, that poor Robin Jane Christ as ghost and first wife Elvira to Charles Condomine is quickly being type cast as a member of the hereafter. It seems like only yesterday she was a reincarnate Charlie in "Goodbye Charlie". She was a vision in her white-on- white make up, silver wig, and flowing gown.
Put upon former husband Charles Condomine, Jerry Rude, was a perfect foil. Although I thought that Mr. Rude's Charles was more Eighteenth Century than Twentieth Century in interpretation, still he gave a convincing performance of a man torn between two beautiful women in a completely unacceptable situation. Doreen Deschamps, as Charles' distraught wife Ruth, proved to us quickly that she is a no nonsense actress capable of a strong portrayal. Her moods were a delight to watch. Joan Kearns', medium Madame Arcati, took complete command of the stage. The flamboyant Madame Arcati was convincingly theatrical. We see Joan's ability blossom when she reveals more and more of her character.
Doctor and Miss Bradman, Gary Seger and Ginny Fraebel, added a nice balance as the stable friends of the Condomines. Seeing Gary after fifteen years was a pleasant surprise. Mr. Seger was known, and probably still is, in the film and television community here and in Hollywood as the man of a thousand voices. Edith the maid was a delight. The last time I saw Laureen A. Keltz she was a very proper young lady in "Par For the Corps". As Edith she is a nervous, hyperactive bit of strangeness sure to amuse you when she is on stage. She got more laughs with less lines than anybody in the cast.
We have to thank Mr. Coward for an amusing bit of dialog and give a very special thanks to director Pat Smith for her directions. On the technical side, lighting and sound design and operation seemed to work quite well. There should be an Aubrey nomination for Rick Bruce's special effects. Without giving away the gag, be sure to watch the typewriter at the end of the play. Set and costumes were very good.
This is an evening of fun theatre. Don't let the dearly departed scare you away. They are delightful ghosts. (4/18/97)
"Dracula", Old Globe, thru April 20th, 239-2255
Looking for a theatrical spectacular? This interpretation by Playwright Steven Dietz of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" director by Steven Dietz is certainly that incorporating David Jenkins' Scenic Design, Michael Gilliam's Lighting, and Michael Roth's Music and Sound Design. Staging included a large metal cage, approximately a 30 foot cube, much flying of set pieces as well as wagons coming in and out of the wings, extensive use of elevators bring caskets, people, and set pieces up to floor level, and much more.
The production is a sound and light show. It appears that the Old Globe must have used every available circuit for their lighting and, probably, created a few new ones. The house lights dimmed slowly for the opening act, lights played from floor level onto the show curtain, the audience quieted down, and then we were hit with 80 decibel cords opening the show shocking us to full alertness. Even the two kids sitting next to me quieted down.
Enrico Colantoni (Renfield), recently on Broadway in"The Merry Wives of Windsor", demonstrated his madness immediately. Lovely Nina Landley (Mina) and Julie Fain Lawrence (Lucy), both with many Off Broadway credits, were strikingly beautiful and so convincing as victims of Count Dracula. Reg Rogers (Dracula), also with many Manhattan credits, brought a passion to his performance as well as sensuality we come to expect from Dracula. The cast included Michael Eric Strickland, Joshua Fardon, Richard Easton, David Prentiss, James Wallert, Henny Russell, Andrea Cirie, and Michelle Cordero all of which were excellent.
There was an interesting juxtaposition of language that was at first disconcerting, but soon became acceptable and even amusing. While the primary dialog was a standard English of the period, turn of the century, an occasional aside in modern slang crept in at odd moments. There were a few moments of unevenness, but certainly not a major fault.
The moody music, sometimes shatteringly loud and other times underpinning dialog almost imperceptibly, created a very special flavor. Lighting accented, at times, by volumes fog created a foreboding mood. While not flying huge chandeliers or helicopters, this is still a visual and aural theatrical experience, a delightful telling of an old tale. Mr. Dietz's writing is worth your witnessing. I am sure that Stage Manager Peter Van Dyke and his assistant, Joel Rosen, are having very busy nights. Kudos to the production staff for a technically flawless production. (4/7/97)
From Nasli Heeramaneck (XHHJ99B@prodigy.com):
Pride's Crossing . What more can I say? Everyone's said it all. It is a brilliant production. Cherry Jones. What a wonderful actress. Any performer who has the chance to perform with an acotr of Jones' calibur should count his lucky stars.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ IN SAN DIEGO? I've heard about two upcoming productions that seem to be very interesting. "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Howard Brubeck Theatre and "Fame" at the David H. Thompson Performing Arts Center. I don't know too much about each production, but they're both opening next weekend and I've heard that San Diego audiences are in for a treat. (2/28/97)
"The Deadly Game", Scripps Ranch Community Theatre, weekends thru March 8th, 578 SRCT
Walking into SRCT's theatre you are immediately struck by a set that extends the set walls into the auditorium. You will also be witness to the first non-realistic set that wasn't a black box in recent theatre history. The checkerboard pattern on the walls and floor was also anti-geometric with lines akimbo. Other than the chairs and a couple of wall pieces, even the "tables" were geometric forms. The drapes took on a bizarre look each tied at a different point. Set Designer Russ Orr with Artistic Designer Mary Ann McKay created a mood to set the audience's nerves on edge. Include Producer/Lighting Designer Ben Godfrey's strange lighting scheme and Sound Designer extra ordinaire Danny Williams clashing themes and you have the audience ready for Playwright James Yaffe's strange tale of "Justice" run amok.
But all of this would be to naught if it weren't for the outstanding direction provided by Linda Orr. This is an ensemble piece for the retired legal minds: Judge Emile Carpeau, William Savage; Defense Attorney Bernard Laroque, David Gallagher; Prosecutor Gustave Kummer, David Rethoret and hangman Joseph Pillet, Andy Andrews. Add to the mix cocky arrogant defendent Howard Trapp, Ed Mobley supported by Maid Nicole, Anne Tran; mute Bailiff Pierre, awesomely played by Mark McCoy, and a very special visitor with a secret, Janet Kelly. Whatta cast!
It was pure pleasure to watch aging hangman Joseph Pillet fall asleep as the trial progressed. I have never witnessed such a perfect example of boredom except in some audiences in other plays. It was a pleasure to watch as audience members caught his act during vital points in the trial of poor Mr. Trapp. David Rethoret's light Germanic accent set his strong prosecutor's character well. David Gallagher's asides, sputterings, and stops and starts were absolutely perfect.
Bill Savage was good, but could have been better commanding the whole charade of a trial. He seemed a bit forced at times. This was the second time I've seen Ed Mobley. He has improved greatly from "Dinner" and I expect to see more of him. While he was the weakest of the leads, he had the most difficult role beginning as a friendly sort of chap, showing his true arrogant colors, and, finally, the absolute terror he was experiencing. If Ed had internalized Howard Trapp just a bit more he would have been great. The audience loved him. Janet Kelly had exactly eleven basically one-line speeches, at the very end of the play. I assure you that she won the hearts of the audience.
Thank you, Linda Orr for bringing to SRCT one of the best shows in the last four years. If you have not seen "The Deadly Game" see it immediately. Laugh with Bernard, live in terror with Howard, learn to dislike Gustave, you won't fall asleep with Joseph, fear Pierre, make your own assessment of host Emile and his lovely maid Nicole, and have compassion for "The Visitor." Remember, it closes Saturday, March 8th.
SRCT's next offering is "Play On" a play within a play. Reviews coming up: "Bodacious and Black Swallow" a new play by local playwright Kit Lavell. "Fame" at La Costa Canyon High School, "Kiss Them and Wish Them Goodbye" - a first revision of a new musical, and "12th Night" at Scripps Ranch High School. (3/3/97)
Pride's Crossing, Old Globe, Thru March 2.
Playwright Tina Howe certainly has an interesting taste for words. She consistently chooses just the right phrase for the occasion. Pride's Crossings two-act, ten-scene format switching from contemporary times to 1915, 1920, 1927, 1937, and 1928, respectively worked well paralleling English Channel swimmer Mabel Tidings Bigelow's life from 10-year-old to 90.
During the interval I overheard two couples talking about the play, always a favorite hobby of mine. A wife couldn't get over the fact that the plays changed costume, most notably Cherry Jones as Mabel. Her husband was equally amazed to see the set change before his eyes.
Pride's Crossing is a celebration of Mabel. Tony winning Cherry Jones' deserves another award as she shifted scene after scene from a ninety year old eccentric to 10, 15, 22, 32, and 23. The transitions were flawless and each new age totally convincing. The supporting cast of six also had a challenge playing 18 different roles.
Ralph Funicello's design was an interesting mix of reality and abstract. Robert Morgan's challenge was to design costumes both authentic and designed for quick changes. On the technical side Michael Gilliam's lighting and Jeff Ladman's sound worked well. And, as expected, Jack O'Brien's direction was top notch.
This is a not-to-miss production just to enjoy Cherry Jones challenge meeting performance. (2/17/97)