When I went to Lamb’s Players, I’d already seen at least three productions of Margaret Edson’s Wit. I’d also read the play several times and wrote a feature about Jerry Patch, dramaturge extraordinaire. When he was at the South Coast Rep (before he came to the Old Globe), he helped Edson shape the play. Typical Patch, he took no credit. But the original script was a rambling two hours, fifty-something minutes; when it premiered it as a tight, unforgettable 90.
So I knew the play fairly well. But for me, watching the Lamb’s production, one of their finest ever, was like seeing the Pulitzer Prize-winner for the first time.
Wit is a tough, unflinching drama. Vivian Bearing, a John Donne scholar, brags she knows all about life and death (she’d have to: in almost every line of his poems and sermons, Donne sees the skull beneath the skin).
Vivian has fourth-stage, ovarian cancer. There is no fifth. In easily one of the year’s most outstanding performances, Deborah Gilmour Smyth doesn’t “act” for a second. She literally is Vivian. Cocky, egocentric, impregnable at first. Then in deftly managed stages, she strips away layers and barriers. She slowly gains wisdom as the pain increases. In the end, her “acceptance” is almost angelic.
I’ve been yelling at friends to see Wit. Some even went back for seconds. They say it has “really grown.”
From the spirit to the flesh.
Ion Theatre has turned its tiny playing space into a wrestling ring, where the titan of professional wrestling – Chad Deity – fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and gonzo TV ratings.
Kristoffer Diaz’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity starkly satirizes the sport of grunts and grappling. At the same time, it pays homage to the unseen artists among us.
Macedonio “Mace” Guerra (a terrific Stephen Lone) is a world-class wrestler. He could take on anyone in THE Wrestling — a hyper-popular TV show reminiscent of WWE’s Monday Night Raw — and take them down.
But you’d never know it. Mace, who narrates his story, is “charisma-challenged.” He’ll never play the lead. Problem is: Chad Deity can’t wrestle a whit. So Mace is paid to lose, to make the star “star.” He has to “sell” blows that wouldn’t harm a flea. And, with the help of his friend V.P., he learns he’s selling an American Dream he no longer believes.
The play goes far beyond wrestling. But to make the matches work, the production needs a convincing physicality. Actors, buffed enough to be credible, must execute the moves like pros: clotheslines and choke-slams that bomb the the mat with a human being.
In San Diego, more often than not, “fight choreography” is an oxymoron. It usually resembles a dance, the moves telegraphed so far in advance you wonder why the opponent doesn’t just duck them and get down to business.
In the program, Ion thanks Southern California Wrestling for some of the most realistic fight choreography San Diego theater has ever seen.