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Stories by Jeff Smith

Last call

When the Rain Stops Falling concludes Sunday

I love it when I walk out of a theater, deeply moved, and can’t put my reaction into words. It’s a sign that the play and production were so engrossing they put the brain on ...

Verse crazy

“You have ewes, I have rams. Should we not couple flocks — in epigrams?”

The Metromaniacs wax poetic at Old Globe; Moxie stages Brownsville Song.

Craig Noel Award Winners for 2015

And they are...

Musical Direction: Elan McMahan, Big Fish, Moonlight Stage Productions Choreography: Colleen Kollar Smith, West Side Story, Lamb’s Players Original Score: Irene Sankoff, David Hein, Come From Away, La Jolla Playhouse Ensemble: Come From Away, La ...

Last call for death row

OnStage Playhouse's Coyote on a Fence closes this weekend

“Goddamn madhouse tonight,” says Shawna, a prison guard, as she talks to a reporter and sips the upscale beer he paid for. “Never seen it like that — never! All them TV trucks? Never seen ...

The theater scene has rhythms

Most companies open every eight weeks or so. Their routines are often the same, at times almost identical: what people wear, where they cluster before the show and intermission, levels of excitement (the more intimate ...

Irish February

Outside Mullingar at San Diego Repertory Theatre

The Rep has already extended its run of John Patrick Shanley’s Irish love story, and with good reason. The play and the production are a treat. Mullingar’s a bit reminiscent of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly. ...

When the Rain Stops Falling at Cygnet; Lamb’s stages The Nerd

Sins of the father

“It will take more than a spot of bad weather to silence the human mind.”

You, too, will be frisked

Coyote on a Fence at OnStage Playhouse

You don’t just walk into OnStage Playhouse’s theater. You must stop and spread your arms out wide. A prison guard (Twila Burnett) frisks you with a metal detector and points if it makes a noise. ...

Langtry Comes to San Diego

Part two of two | Read part one

The first time her acting company toured the West Coast, Lillie Langtry skipped San Diego. That flea-bit Podunk wasn’t up to snuff. In 1888, she booked May 4 and 5, at the Louis Opera House, ...

The Jersey Lily comes to San Diego

Part one of two: Becoming an actor

When the world’s most beautiful woman came to town.

My acting bucket list: Melissa Fernandes

"Judas is one of those roles that can easily be female."

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 ...

Performance artist glue

23rd annual Star Award honorees for 2015

Every year the San Diego Performing Arts League honors volunteers from 30 local arts organizations for “the indispensable role they play in the arts community.” These are the behind-the-scenes self-starters, the pitch-inners, often the glue ...

To share or not to share?

That is the dramaturgical question, directors of Hamlet

“To be or not to be,” asks Hamlet. But to whom is he speaking? Let’s say you’re directing Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. An entire production can hang on another question: Does your actor speak only to ...

Craig Noel Award Nominees for 2015

Ceremony to be held on Monday, February 6

Outstanding Musical Direction Kris Kukul, Kiss Me Kate, Old Globe Theatre Elan McMahan, The Music Man, Moonlight Stage Productions Elan McMahan, Big Fish, Moonlight Stage Productions Terry O’Donnell, Dogfight, Cygnet Theatre Ian Eisendrath, Come From ...

San Diego theater year in review

Practically every theater in the county produced a world premiere in 2015

Back in September I remarked that “2015 may be one of the gutsiest years ever in San Diego theater. I can’t remember so many world premieres.” The final three months kept pace. Call it the ...

A Scrooge is born

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea...”

Charles Dickens wrote at top speed, in part because of gifts that didn’t seem so at the time. In his youth, he was a court stenographer. He learned the intricate Gurney system of shorthand in ...

Viewpoints ricochet in The Cherry Orchard

Schtick abounds, unfortunately, in UCSD Theatre's take on Chekhov classic

How many plays have the rent past due, foreclosure banging down the door, a way of life on the ropes? Hundreds? Thousands? Ah, but how many display the event through countless pairs of eyes, and ...

My Acting Bucket List: Jorge Rodriguez

Versatile actor Jorge Rodriguez shares his aspirations, some of which seem destined

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 ...

The Aliens is just part-time work

Slacker tale an uneven experience at Ion Theatre

“This is important,” playwright Annie Baker writes in a note for The Aliens, “at least a third – if not half – of this play is silence. Pauses should be at least three full seconds ...

La Jolla Playhouse gets Indecent

Immigration assimilation

The biggest problem with Indecent may be that there's too little of it.

The Oldest Boy demands a parent reconcile East versus West in herself

San Diego Rep's solid show wrestles with how a woman can "think bigger than a mother"

In chapter one of his majestic In Exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon must prove that a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, a thousand miles east of Lhasa, Tibet, is the reincarnation of the 13th ...

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence puts non-linearity first

Moxie Theatre production gives noble attempt but characters, concision, and coherence suffer

You can almost hear Eliza Merrick sing, “why can’t a man, be more like my robot?” She worked on IBM’s famous WATSON, the supercomputer that beat two past champions on Jeopardy (before the first match, ...

My Acting Bucket List: Jo Anne Glover

Language and relationships pull in the award-winning actor and Development Director at Moxie Theatre

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 ...

Eileen Bowman's superb Judy Garland stands out amid excellent performances

Intrepid Theatre stages The End of the Rainbow

"You gotta see the whole picture,” Judy Garland tells fiancé Mickey Deans in Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow. “Everything just comes to me at once and crashes from one thing to another. I can’t ...

Precious Little inaugurates fitting space

Small, intimate production from InnerMission speaks to language as life

Diversionary Theatre has converted its old rehearsal space into an intimate blackbox theater. There are still some bugs to work out, sightlines in particular. But hey: any new performing space in San Diego’s a cause ...

Tragicomic Chapatti at North Coast Rep overly simple but executed with skill

A gentle exorcism

By their pets, ye shall know them. If so, then Dan and Betty, in Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti, are worlds apart. She’s a cat lover with “19 and counting.” Although her marriage was brutal, she somehow ...

The Rep goes national with Honky

New PBS series Onstage in America kicks off with noted local production

At 10 p.m., November 6, a filmed version of the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Honky will air on PBS’s “OnStage in America.” This is a huge deal. In the new series, PBS will use inventive ...

No fat villains?

Falstaff ruined it for the bad guys

In the mid-to-late 19th century, touring theater companies had specific types. Along with the Leading Man and Woman — i.e. the headline performers — there were: First Old Man and Old Woman Juveniles: needed large ...

Spirits and true-life ghosts abide in The Weir

New Village Arts offers warmth but with a chill at the edges

Jack just picked a winner at the track. He and Jim meet up at Brendan’s pub on a desolate, Irish country road. Life’s a mite bleary for these lonely blokes. But as a westerly howls ...

Rough and inventive, world-premiere Oz comes to Coronado

Lamb's Players Theatre takes on the three scariest words in the English language

The Wizard of Oz may be one of the few things Americans have in common. Much more than the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, or even “I cannot tell a lie.” “Auntie Em!!! Auntie Em!” ...

Serve up the suffering

The Trip's inventive, clever Three Sisters takes it to a new place — Torrey Mesa

In Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1900), Lieutenant Vershinin wonders what the world will be like in 200 years. I wonder if Chekhov could imagine that, 115 years after it opened, a company would mount his ...

Two by Noël Coward in repertory at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town

Jazz-age behavior

Cygnet Theatre offers a “double bill” of Noël Coward’s The Vortex (1924) and Hay Fever (1925). Staging his early plays in repertory has advantages. The dark, brittle Vortex is almost a photographic negative of the ...

Pride and precarity

Excellence in work and fragility of position explored in earnest My Mañana Comes at San Diego Rep

If the new manager of a posh, Madison Avenue restaurant could watch his busboys work in the “back of the house” he’d never cut their “shift pay.” Or would only do it to save his ...

My Acting Bucket List: Colleen Kollar Smith

The new Executive Director of San Diego Musical Theatre directs, choreographs, acts, sings, and 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 ...

Style and substance run Full Gallop at the Globe

Diana Vreeland adores artifice, even vulgarity

“...It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. And I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.”

Last Call: La Cage Aux Folles and Without Walls Festival

Two events must close this Sunday, plus a tribute to Arthur Wagner, giant of local theater

La Cage Aux Folles at San Diego Musical Theatre. You have until Sunday, says our guest reviewer Jon Reimer, to “throw on a wig, put on your best pair of heels, and head on down ...

Talking walls

La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival steps outside for a "three-day arts party"

The La Jolla Playhouse’s popular Without Walls Festival begins Friday, October 9 and runs through October 11. That’s 22 events in three days, and all are “site-specific.” “The Playhouse has four theaters,” says artistic director ...

Poetical approach to life, death, identity, and government lies

Moxie's Orange Julius packs a lot in a little in this world premiere

“None of us is who we are when we’re at home,” observes orange-haired Nut, recalling a childhood where she distrusted her father, a war hero, and didn’t fit into a young woman’s traditional identity. As ...

Teaching moments with the maestro

Ion Theatre's Master Class takes on Maria Callas

It’s 1971. We’re on a stage at the Juilliard School of Music, where Maria Callas will teach a master class on “The Lyric Tradition” to aspiring young singers. Callas is past her prime in art ...

Frustrating delight

In Your Arms at the Old Globe presents variations on the theme of star-crossed lovers

2015 may be one of the gutsiest years ever in San Diego theater. I can’t ever remember so many world premieres. Even though the word on staging them is: do not. They’re too risky, can ...

The soul force of Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin

Successful world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse gives a hero his due

Roll the credits! Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) performed on Broadway with Paul Robeson in John Henry. As a student, his rich tenor sang blues and gospel in nightclubs to make ends meet. An exceptional athlete, he ...

Tribute to Arthur Wagner by Jefferson Mays

UCSD's indefatigable champion of the theater has passed away

Arthur Wagner, indefatigable champion of the theater, passed away yesterday morning. He was 92. I asked Jefferson Mays, one of his most devoted and accomplished students — and Tony Award-winner for I Am My Own ...

Light comedy lite

The Fox on the Fairway at North Coast Rep has no redeeming social value, and that's fine

It’s tournament weekend at Quail Valley Country Club. They have their annual match with a dreaded — albeit evil — opponent. Crouching Squirrel C.C. has better golfers and just absconded with Quail Valley’s only decent ...

My Acting Bucket List: Geno Carr

The versatile actor-performer shares his ambition

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 ...

Shrill, grotesque love

Amazons and Their Men at Diversionary Theatre is good and could be great

Hitler called Leni Riefenstahl “my perfect German woman.” The first time she saw him, in 1932, she said “I feel very happy that such a man has come.” Riefenstahl opened the movie camera’s eye. In ...

Last Call: Violet

Catch the exceptional performances before the San Diego Rep show closes this Sunday

The perfect theatrical storm’s a seamless combination of a great production of a great play or musical. The audience goes to unforeseen places and becomes so attuned, as T. S. Eliot wrote, that they “are ...

The Rep plays Violet fast and loose and the Globe plays a thin Comedy of Errors

Bus ride to salvation

Violet studies faces. She even sketches their features in a book. For her own, she’d like a composite: Rita Hayworth’s skin, Ingrid Bergman’s cheekbones, and Grace Kelly’s petite nose. Violet’s obsessed with facial features. When ...

Bill Virchis knows what the theater community needs right now

San Diego theater needs an Incubator, says accomplished, devoted local

If there were a San Diego Theater Hall of Fame, William Virchis would be a first ballot honoree. He has acted, directed, and produced theater almost since his birth, in 1944. He’s also taught thousands ...

Last Call: West Side Story, Parlour Song

Two quality shows must close this Sunday. One enjoyed an extended run. The other deserved one.

West Side Story. “Here come the Jets like a bat out of hell, someone gets in our way, someone don’t feel so well!” Lamb’s Players excellent show has enjoyed an extended run with good reason: ...

No buffer zones

In Parlour Song at Backyard Renaissance, sea beasts lurk and rove below a mirror-still surface

Toward the end of Jez Butterworth’s eerie, Pinteresque Parlour Song, Dale ruminates. What if you find a door in your house you never knew was there before. “Would you open it?” Ned blows up buildings ...

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