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Stories by Jeff Smith

Lift-off achieved

Expectations are met with West Side Story at San Diego Musical Theatre

On the difficulty of making a musical, Brooks Atkinson wrote: “No one would undertake the intricate, painful, gargantuan, hysterical task… unless he had more enthusiasm than most people have about anything.” Imagine a musical conceived ...

Samantha Ginn’s acting bucket list

The Craig Noel Award-winner's stage aspirations range from the Bard to Babs

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Richard Baird’s acting bucket list

Multiple Craig Noel Award-winner Richard Baird embraces "wild, mercurial characters who refuse to follow society’s norms"

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Last Call: Trouble in Mind

February 22 is the final day to catch Moxie's outstanding production of an uncompromising classic

Moxie Theatre must close its outstanding production of Trouble in Mind this Sunday, February 22. A big “what if?” hovers over Alice Childress’ 1955 backstage comedy-drama. Trouble won an Obie Award for excellence off-Broadway. Childress ...

No one else on Earth

The Darrell Hammond Project at La Jolla Playhouse is truly a one-man show.

The night I saw his one-person show, Darrell Hammond had a cold. He’d squelch a cough and sniffle enough to warrant a night off. Bundle up, maybe a toddy or twain, and give the understudy ...

Humble charmer

San Diego I Love You 3.0 at Circle Circle dot dot rough around the edges but rewarding

Performed indoors, Catherine Harroff and Circle Circle’s site-specific “walking adventure play for the romantic in us all” might lose something in the translation. Six scenes at a university follow the breakup of two relationships and ...

When is a kiss just a kiss?

Illusions and oxytocin in Stage Kiss at New Village Arts

Sarah Ruhl took her five-year-old daughter to the theater. When her daughter asked if the actors were “real people,” Ruhl realized that “she must have asked because of the profusion of digital images she sees. ...

Craig Noel Award Winners for 2014

San Diego Theater Critics Circle celebrated a heck of a year

The San Diego Theater Critics Circle held its 12th annual awards ceremony last night. Congratulations to the winners, the nominees, and the entire community of theater artists for one heck of a year. Resident Musical: ...

Last call: Sons of the Prophet must close

An outstanding production from Cygnet must close this weekend

Cygnet Theatre must close its outstanding production of Sons of the Prophet this Sunday, February 15. Stephen Karam’s comedy-drama is one of those rare plays that are, often at the same time, extremely funny and ...

A lady in retirement

DJ Sullivan, performer and educator, enters a new phase.

“You know what’s great about acting?” asks D.J. Sullivan. “You can do it from birth to death and never skip a beat. “Okay, I’m skipping a beat and headed into retirement — and I can’t ...

Lightweight, miniature musical

Fluffy, undersized Murder For Two outruns the audience

Murder for Two, a musical/detective story, would be a lot more fun in an intimate, cabaret setting: clinking glasses, lubricated laughter, face-to-face interaction. But on the Old Globe’s Donald and Darlene Shiley mainstage, the two-hander ...

Swallow what you mind

Trouble in Mind is fresh, funny, and urgent despite its age

Some background: Alice Childress’s Trouble in Mind won an Obie Award for best off-Broadway show in 1955. It was scheduled to move to Broadway, which would make Childress the first African-American to have a play ...

My favorite San Diego theater

It’s just a room upstairs, in an old two-story house. They say when it opened, on December 1, 1868, 150 watched the Tanner Troupe perform a song and dance revue at the “Brick Building.” A ...

San Diego theater icons

The art of the play

MVP: Becky Biegelsen Every year the San Diego Performing Arts League honors volunteers for special recognition with a STAR award. These are the workers who devote hours and hours to keep an organization going. There ...

What didn’t he do last year?

Eddie Yaroch earned a Craig Noel Award nomination — Outstanding Featured Performance in a Play, Male — for his raptor-loving Andy Fastow in Moxie Theatre’s Enron. But that’s not all. In 2014 he also: — ...

Yolanda Franklin’s acting bucket list

The Craig Noel Award-winner talks about five of her "dream roles"

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

When the wires show

Scripps Ranch Theatre's Tribute does well by the material's standard.

For all of his 51 years, Scotty Templeton has been allergic to reality. He can’t take anything seriously. Since he could never become an actual performer (because he’d have to take it seriously), he makes ...

Ever-expanding mania

All is not well for the Sons of the Prophet, but at least it's funny

Kahlil Gibran wrote one of the best-selling books of all time. Translated into over 40 languages, The Prophet (1923) records the poetic observations of the Lebanese mystic Almustafa on self-knowledge, good and evil, death, and ...

Noir the joint

Fine production for a weak book at North Coast Rep's Gunmetal Blues: The Musical

“The truth you wouldn’t see,” says crusty gumshoe Sam Gallahad, “‘till you finally saw too much.” An attractive woman “had a mouth that would have sent Shakespeare thumbing through a thesaurus.” Hardboiled fiction’s always been ...

Manny Fernandes’ acting bucket list

The Craig Noel Award-winner shares his five dream roles.

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Jesse will kill herself tonight

Ion Theatre stages the Pulitzer-winning 'night, Mother

No theatrical enterprise is risk-free. But staged readings come close. They’re low-priced, come-as-you-are, one-night-only affairs. And actors can read plays too expensive to mount otherwise. Staged readings also have an added bonus — a “what ...

Stars of 2014

SD Performing Arts League will honor volunteers at a special ceremony.

The San Diego Performing Arts League announced the volunteers it will honor at the 22nd Star Awards Ceremony, on January 26. Every year, 40 arts organizations select a volunteer for special recognition. SCPAL President D. ...

Dana Hooley’s acting bucket list

The veteran actor and Craig Noel Award-winner shares her rebellious aspirations

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Intermittent pleasure

Steal Heaven unrealized, but earnest

Earnest intentions, not fully realized. There’s about 35 minutes of solid entertainment and edification in Herbert Siguenza’s 90-plus minute tribute to Abbie Hoffman, activist, co-founder of the Youth International Party (aka. the “Yippies”), and media ...

Craig Noel Award Nominees for 2014

Selections from the San Diego Theatre Critic’s Circle

San Diego Theatre Critic’s Circle: Craig Noel Award Nominees for 2014: Resident Musical Catch Me If You Can, Moonlight Stage Productions Les Miserables, Lamb’s Players Theatre Mary Poppins, Moonlight Stage Productions Next to Normal, San ...

Year of the Lamb

Year-end views, re-views, and re-reviews

San Diego is finally catching up with the rest of the world, which has been “wall-less” for decades.

David McBean’s Bucket List

The Craig Noel Award-winner shares five "new challenges" he hopes may come his way.

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Different frame

Operated in Tripspace, Orpheus & Eurydice is surprising and funny.

“Tripspace”: 1. theater outside, beyond, sometimes even prior to the box; 2. slang term for “what box?” The “box,” well one of them, is the standard, stage-audience configuration of traditional theater. Actors perform a story ...

Old feels new

Minor reinvention breathes new life into the spirit of A Christmas Carol at Cygnet Theatre.

For several years, Cygnet Theatre did a popular version of A Christmas Carol as a live, 1940s radio show — 100 years removed from the original. Sean Murray’s world premiere script returns the durable Dickens ...

Golden Boy's sweeping punches

A Lost Classic is creaky but still makes contact.

Clifford Odets’ great drama (1937) is staged so rarely, it could qualify as a Lost Classic. As in all of Odets’ work, when it becomes “found,” the story of the rise and fall of a ...

Catalina Maynard’s Bucket List

Dream roles for this Craig Noel-award winner.

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Cursed with the whip

Diversionary stages the toughest act of Capote’s life, Tru

“I’m a writer, and I use everything. Did all those people think I was just there to entertain them?”

Last call for Les Miz at SDSU, Enron, Honky

Three strong shows must close by December 7 — don't miss them.

Before it begins to look a LOT like Christmas, there’s still time to catch three shows that must close Sunday. 1.) Les Miserables in Concert at SDSU. Lamb’s Players did a minimalist version of the ...

Sandy Campbell’s Bucket List

Craig Noel Award-winner shares the "2014 version" of her ever-morphing list of dream roles.

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Rise up, fall down

Exceptional staging and direction pulls together chaotic Absurd Person Singular.

Alan Ayckbourn’s three-act “black farce” (his word for it) takes place on three consecutive Christmas Eves. Each ends up in the kitchen. Over that span of time characters flip-flop and somber shenanigans prevail. Ayckbourn needed ...

Young Keno: The marshal gets his man

Part three of three

Sylvestro Morales swore to get even with Wilson and Castillo. “I will never rest,” he shouted, “until I have squared accounts!”

Spare, direct contact

Language reigns supreme in an "unreviewable," masterful reading of Night, Mother at Ion Theatre.

By definition, staged readings are not reviewable. They have no set, little lighting, few rehearsals. They’re actors seated behind music stands reading a play, maybe a bottled water to one side, maybe a costume that ...

Three-ring circus

Moxie's Enron is a must-tell story that's too absurd for its own good.

Rich Kinder doesn’t appear in Laura Prebble’s satirical, three-ring circus based on the colossal collapse of Enron. From 1990 to 1996, he was President and Chief of Operations. According to Robert Bryce, author of Pipe ...

Tom Stephenson’s Bucket List

The Craig Noel Award winner shares his hopes for future roles, from Red to one that doesn't even exist — yet.

I’m asking veteran local 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 ...

Young Keno: Manhunt

Part two of three

He stayed up to give them the news. When they hadn’t come by 11:00 he went to bed. They woke him around midnight. “Murray surrendered,” Griffin told maybe two dozen men. “Gone to San Diego three hours ago.”

Words as weapons

Honky at San Diego Rep animates a conversation about "demographics."

“Sup now?” Peter wrote an ad for a basketball sneaker, the Sky Max. Told to target “urban” youth from 14 to 24, he assumed that meant young black men and invented the expression “sup now?” ...

Gods don't take sides

UCSD Theatre & Dance's well-done Burial at Thebes pits daughter against father against media.

Sophocles’ Antigone begins with the unthinkable: two brothers kill each other in battle before the gates of Thebes. Their father, Oedipus, prayed they would die this way. Etiocles fought to continue ruling the city; older ...

All surface

Performance and design can't redeem shallow The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Phantom meets Les Miz on the belfry of Notre Dame. Victor Hugo titled his 1831 novel Notre Dame de Paris. When the English translator changed it to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo blew ...

Young Keno

Losing kin to wanton gunfire shapes a lawman some.

Asked if the shot was fatal, Stroud replied, “It could not have been more fatal.”

Partial Monty

Uneven but heartfelt Calendar Girls debut at the Sullivan Players

Somehow D.J. Sullivan wrangled Tim Firth’s script for Calendar Girls from Samuel French — dispensers (and often hoarders) of the rights — and has staged the local premiere. For a “small” theater to land the ...

Antonio TJ Johnson’s Acting Bucket List

Craig Noel Award-winner shares the roles he longs to play. “After 35 years of stage acting, I thought a ‘bucket list’ might be difficult to come up with. It has been a long journey and ...

Henry in transition

He abandoned his sack-swilling, lowlife chums and is now serious royalty.

“Word scenery” rules the day in New Fortune’s Henry V.

The Battle of Agincourt

The New Fortune Theatre Company has opened its doors with an outstanding production of Shakespeare’s Henry V. The play describes one of England’s most illustrious victories: the Battle of Agincourt against the French army, October ...

Linda Libby’s Acting Bucket List

The Craig Noel Award winner can hardly choose just four.

I’m asking veteran local 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 some ...

San Diego’s hotel era ended in flames

Who would burn down the grand hotels of North County?

When the Hotel del Coronado opened in 1888, Oceanside already had two “grand” hotels, the St. Cloud and the South Pacific. They faced each other, just two city blocks apart, separated by the California Southern ...

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