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“It was a populist, culturally diverse piece — practically a musical version of the Rep’s mission statement.”

It opened at the Sixth Avenue Playhouse, then moved to the Old Lyceum Theatre (316 F Street) in 1982. “In those days, there wasn’t much theater south of Broadway. Working proved you could produce a show there and people would come.”

King Lear (directed by Todd Salovey, 2005). Woodhouse played Lear. “The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Every night the mountain that is Lear stands in front of you. You launch into the climb knowing you will never reach the peak.

“You must try to harness the power of nature to crack the world in half — you plead, threaten, beg, assault, and then you must go mad. But it’s not over yet. You emerge on the other side of madness with an open heart and the safety of the one daughter you trust. Then she is killed and you wail at the heavens as you carry her corpse in your arms.

“The character and the actor are both exhausted emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Both are so grateful to finally die. Gielgud, Laughton, Olivier — all said they never could find ‘all of Lear.’ The character’s just too massive.

“I never got it right. I never made it to the top of the mountain. I wiped myself out each night on the climb and would say, ‘Thank God it’s over. Thank God I get to climb again tomorrow night.’” ■

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Comments

Twister Nov. 4, 2011 @ 8:30 a.m.

Yeah, Woodhouse is a gol-durned JEWEL, inadequately appreciated in and by San Diego, and "Working" was one of his best productions. If the rather "lame," overproduced PBS-TV version resembled the Broadway production, no wonder it closed after a mere 24 performances.

The Rep's simple staging and the band (and the intimacy of the set-up) had a lot to do with its magic, but the acting (and no doubt the directing) had a lot to do with the special spark of the San Diego production.

We dragged friends to it four times. I could have gone for at least six.

Yes, more of this sort of thing, PLEASE! I find I can trust few critics, but knowing how Woodhouse thinks about the best is another very valuable cut on how to position my paltry theater budget most wisely.

Of course, this kind of article tends to boost Smith's credibility as a "critic" too . . .

And yes, if you produce a show like "Working," just about anywhere, people will come--provided the word gets out fast enough. Shows like this should have a budget adequate for taking it past the point where the curve goes exponential. Up or down. What more noble gamble could a fat cat make and get fatter with less risk than to keep underestimating the taste of the American public. (It IS improving!)

But like poetry, there are too many bs plays unloaded along with the ponies. We, the Great Unwashed, need people like Smith and Woodhouse to cry havoc--and publications like the Reader to provide the trumpets.

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jzwatches Nov. 12, 2012 @ 10:52 p.m.

San Diego Repertory Theater has, indeed, gone a long way – a successful one at that. I remember watching its shows, and they really bring words to life. Of course, it is not only about the actors, but the concept, direction and everything that goes into a good or great play. I would definitely watch more of their plays and productions when I go back to the area for a vacation.

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