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Stories by Jeff Smith

...and a set in crisp black-and-white soaked in bourbon

A designer's bucket list: Sean Fanning

I’ve been asking veteran actors to name five dream roles and say why. It’s time to expand the category and ask theater designers and directors their dream projects. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they ...

Broken niceties and skewerings

Ruthless at Moxie Theatre

I love Forbidden Broadway and Forbidden Hollywood. Gerard Alessandrini’s revue/parodies of popular shows used to come to San Diego. They hit hard, fast, and deep. His latest, Spamilton: An American Parody, promises to be “$800 ...

Fly-on-the-wall invasion

Sense and Sensibility at Old Globe Theatre

Ardent lovers of Jane Austen’s novels are in for a shock when they arrive for the Old Globe’s Sense and Sensibility. They won’t see the fog-shrouded southeastern coast of Sussex or the milder clime of ...

Last call: Sunday in the Park with George

Dot lover

Between 1884 and 1886 (and briefly in 1889) the young, practically unknown painter Georges Seurat applied tiny dots of pure color to a canvas, knowing that clusters would form a different color in the eye ...

Daring and daunting authenticity in The Last Tiger in Haiti

Haitian folklore

In French, “rester avec” sounds pleasant. It means to “stay with.” In Haiti, a “restavek” is a child from a family so poor they cannot support it. Haiti is the poorest country in the Caribbean ...

Hard-rock score

Jesus Christ Superstar at Welk Resort Theatre

The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera may be “loosely” based on the last days of Jesus, but the Welk Resort Theatre’s dazzling JC Superstar is tight as a tourniquet. All elements cohere. All the ...

If you are afraid, do it

My acting bucket list: Kevin Hafso-Koppman

I’m asking veteran actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices that ...

Chaos of fragments

Sunday in the Park with George at Ion Theatre

For his masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat chose a fairly remote island on the Seine about four and a half miles from Notre Dame Cathedral. He studied, sketched, and painted between ...

The Old Globe arrests the dead butcher Macbeth and his fiend-like queen

Evil aflame

Macbeth knows how to kill, but he has never committed murder and fears the consequences.

SD Fringe: Recommendations for final days

Highly recommended and word-of-mouth

The San Diego International Festival closes this Sunday, July 3. Ninety-four acts (one canceled) will have performed five shows each by then. And some of the best, like Le Moana’s unforgettable 1918, about the influenza ...

SD Fringe: Witness to Gettysburg and Ozombie bin Laden: in 3D!

Owing to havoc and sub-atomic, proto-nuclear-ish hegemony

Witness to Gettysburg Have you ever been to Gettysburg? Maybe it’s ghosts, or just how the winds swirl across empty fields. If you didn’t know that during the first three days of July 1863 nearly ...

SD Fringe: Phantom of the Empire and Bin Laden: The One Man Show

Mind openers

Phantom of the Empire: Return of the Opera At last year’s Fringe Festival, Turning Tydes Theatre Company performed Les Midge: An Unexpected Journey of Hobbit Proportions — i.e., a mash-up of the musical Les Miserables ...

San Diego Fringe: Embers and I Got Guns

Outs: Through the air and via gun collecting

Embers At one point during Lighthouse Circus Theatre’s often breathtaking performance, as two women did an aerial stunt one should not try at home, the young woman next to me muttered, “Oh my g…” and ...

SD Fringe: 1918

Joy shimmers, then...visitors

Word-of-mouth moved fast for Le Moana’s amazing dance-theater piece about the outbreak of Spanish Influenza in Samoa, 1918. The Saturday afternoon show was packed. The troupe from New Zealand performs only two more times at ...

SD Fringe: Cocooned in Kazan and Letters from the Wall

Comical and real sacrifices

Cocooned in Kazan Nikolai Gogol, Russian-Ukrainian novelist and short-story writer, wrote about a young rake in 19th-century St. Petersburg. He could win his deceased mother’s wall-safe-bulging inheritance; all he has to do is mend his ...

SD Fringe: Mythos and Caffeine

Choices between being/not being and being happy

MYTHOS Astraeus Aerial Dance Theatre won a “Best of Fringe, 2015” award for their Save My Soul. They’re back at this year’s festival and are blazing once again. But, wait. Who first had the profoundly ...

Starkly real to poetically hallucinatory

Lydia at Ion Theatre BLKBOX

Two mysteries drive Octavio Solis’ family drama. The first: what caused the Floreses to implode? We know that three days before Ceci’s quinceañera (15th birthday, coming of age) she was in an auto accident. Now ...

Frogs must be kissed

San Diego International Fringe Festival #4

Can a marathon be a sprint? Instead of 26-plus miles straight on, attending the popular San Diego International Fringe Festival can resemble wanting to run in five directions at once. That’s because for 11 days ...

Ibsen's law

Hedda Gabler longs for swashbuckling conquest

“A man must live in his own times, but he can try to make the times worth living in.”

Retract the talons

Last Call: Stupid F**kin g Bird

Cygnet Theatre’s wacko, over the woods, and through the river Stupid Fking Bird must close this Sunday. It’s a sad comment on these times that usually when one of Anton Chekhov or Henrik Ibsen’s plays ...

Save Starlight

Weed-pulling party June 25

I first went to the Starlight Bowl in 1980 with two pieces of advice: arrive early and try to put up with the planes booming down to Lindbergh Field. I got to Balboa Park early ...

Majestic bias

Tokyo Fish Story at Old Globe Theatre

For 35 years, from morning to midnight, Koji has prepared sushi on a “dingy side-street ” in Tokyo. His may have been “the best in a generation,” in fact, and he’s done it without throwing ...

Storm on the horizon

They Don't Talk Back at La Jolla Playhouse

Native Voices at the Autry — aka the Autry Museum of the American West — is the only equity company in America devoted to work by Native Americans. As part of this year’s Resident Theatre ...

Fractal edgy

Stupid F---ing Bird at Cygnet Theatre

In Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull (1896), the characters wonder how people will think about them in 100 years. Boy, if they only knew! They’ve been revised, relocated, remixed, and, in Aaron Posner’s comic tribute/diatribe, Stupid ...

The book is better

Camp David at the Old Globe Theatre

Lawrence Wright’s Camp David is an “important” play, but not a well-written one. In 90 minutes it recreates the 13 days of vein-bulged negotiations that led to the historic Camp David Accords. On September 17, ...

To call Hollywood “noir” is misleading

Fade out

Before the police arrived, many of Taylor’s friends ransacked the bungalow — and not for souvenirs.

Ben Vereen Awards

Camp Broadway awaits

On Sunday, May 29,, the Balboa Theatre hosts the 2016 Ben Vereen Awards. Ten male and ten female nominees, chosen for their leading roles in local high school musicals, vie for the chance to represent ...

Last Call: Our Lady of Kibeho

Candle held to a poor, shoeless girl from Gisaka

Moxie Theatre’s excellent Our Lady of Kibeho must close next Sunday (May 29). Here’s some background: Katori Hall’s drama retells the story of the seven Rwandan schoolchildren who witnessed visions of the Virgin Mary (“Our ...

Lady of the Word

How can Anathale’s father sell bananas if his daughter is a witch?

On November 28, 1981, 17-year-old Alphonsine Mumureke was serving lunch to classmates at the Kibeho school for girls in Rwanda. She heard a woman’s soft voice call, “My daughter.” “Here I am,” Alphonsine replied. She ...

At a certain point, the Cupeño stopped looking back.

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part four of four

The wagons came at sunrise. Over 40 teams passed through the barb-wired gate and lurched up the dirt road to Kupa like a giant snake. They came to drive the Cupeño from their land. Stacked ...

Prospect High: Brooklyn rolls in to SD

World Premiere at San Diego School of Performing Arts

The Roundabout Theatre Company of New York is staging the world premiere of Prospect High: Brooklyn, on 23 stages around the country — throughout the school year. Theaters began “rolling premieres” with the national New ...

Against the Inevitable

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part three of four

Tents and campfire smoke signaled the end for the Cupeño.

Last Call: Rocky Horror, Way Downriver

Explorations of the satisfaction in time-warping and doing time

The Rocky Horror Show at Cygnet “It’s astounding. Time is fleeting. Madness takes its toll…” Riffraff sings these lines as he invites Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, innocents both, to do the “Time Warp” in ...

Rogue river

North Coast Rep's Way Downriver, set in Louisiana, 1927

Though most had "lived within the shadow of the levee," some "had never even seen the river."

Beekeeper meets physicist

Constellations at Old Globe Theatre

Beekeeper meets physicist at a party. Neither is adept at romance. Roland (the beekeeper) says the wrong thing. Marianne (the physicist who studies “theoretical early universe cosmology”) backs out. Blackout. Lights up — same scenario: ...

When Victorian propriety fell apart

Notes for The Elephant Man

I won’t be able to review, and therefore shouldn’t comment, on Backyard Renaissance/Oceanside Theatre Company’s production of The Elephant Man. I dramaturged the play twice before and, when asked, did a talk for the cast ...

Rain falls on the Old Globe stage

We all want new lives

“She’ll be starved and tortured...I want her to accept the punishment of man as a sacrifice to God.”

In search of the unwanted

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part two of four

U.S. government didn’t fool Cecilio Blacktooth.

My Acting Bucket List: Bets Malone

"I want to walk in the shoes of everyone Sondheim creates."

I’m asking veteran actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices that ...

Last Call: Virginia, Godot, Bucky

Three quality shows conclude their runs this Sunday, April 10

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? From the big picture to the small details, this is an outstanding production of Edward Albee’s masterpiece. George and Martha’s off-hours, young-faculty-initiation party devolves into a Walpurgisnacht of exorcisms and ...

The blackest of crimes committed against Warner Ranch Indians.

This land is mine: The Cupeño removal of 1903, part one of four

Visitors to the Indian village at Kupa were often struck by the silence. No loud voices, no sudden shouts. Even children played quietly. A stillness spread from the bowl-shaped Valle de San Jose below, past ...

Mr. G. will come

Waiting for Godot at Fruitlessmoon Theatreworks

Two tramps (today they’d be called “homeless”) wait by a leafless tree for a mysterious man. He told Vladimir he’d come yesterday. But didn’t. Then he said today. Nope. So, they wait and try to ...

Guinea Pig Bucky: Truth speaker, future seer

R. Buckminster Fuller revisited at San Diego Rep

“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.”

Trashy enough? Yes.

Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show at Cygnet

Talk about gumption: Sean Murray, artistic director of a major local theater company, cavorts on stage in layers of splotchy make-up, a black leather bustier, fishnet stockings, with holes, and, for the final “floor show,” ...

Shredded hopes and egos

Seminar at InnerMission Productions

Here’s Leonard, award-winning novelist: “Am I creating a living, breathing cosmos with language, or am I just scratching at the wall of a cave?” Ostensibly he’s teaching a seminar on the craft of fiction, held ...

I can't play crazy

Maggie Carney's bucket list of acting roles

I’m asking veteran actors to name five dream roles and say why. The answers not only reveal aspirations, they may put an idea in the minds of artistic directors and producers — even choices that ...

Tribute to Al from Spaceship Earth

"He knew about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask anyone."

As part of its 40th anniversary season, the San Diego Rep is remounting Douglas Jacobs’s R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe. The show, which opens Wednesday, March 16, premiered in 2000 ...

Flecks of gold

The Jacksonian at Ion Theatre

When Mississippi put its only gas chamber at Parchman Penitentiary, says Fred in Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian, “there was a good deal of opposition from the people of Sunflower County. They did not want all ...

A salute to Swedenborgian Hall

Final curtain

On Sunday, February 7, parishioners lost their church, and local theater lost a space. After a farewell service in the sanctuary, where each member signed the paper of dissolution, the Swedenborgian Church of San Diego ...

25 kinds of lout

Now You See It at North Coast Rep

Best of Show: director Bruce Turk devised an inspired curtain call. In the spirit of farceur Georges Feydeau, Turk pulls the equivalent of rabbits out of hats. Four of his five-member cast seek the fifth, ...

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