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Stories by Jeff Smith

Insalubrious karma

Lisa Kron’s Well and 2.5 Minute Ride in repertory at the Diversionary

Lisa Kron’s mother Ann has been chronically ill for decades. So why can’t she get better? Come on. Other people do. They have ailments for years then suddenly heal and move on with their lives. ...

Fear of a black-man label

Blue Door closing, but not without revelation

LAST CALL. Moxie Theatre’s excellent production of Tanya Barfield’s Blue Door must close this Sunday. It’s said Moxie is a “women-centered” theater. That’s not completely true. Here’s an exception. In Leo Tolstoy’s novella The Death ...

An Iliad's epic-ness must stop

New Village Arts' production to close Sunday

Last call: Theater in January and February usually begins in slow motion. Not this season. One show must close this Sunday. Two have been reprieved. An Iliad at New Village Arts. Homer’s epic poem in ...

Moxie’s Blue Door confronts evil spirits

Soul family

Moxie Theatre is conjuring African-American history from Tanya Barfield’s healing nightmare Blue Door. When you enter Moxie’s intimate space, you won’t see a door or the color blue. Instead, five pale gray, diaphanous panels stretch ...

An Iliad at New Village Arts

Broomstick as spear, trench coat as armor

She enters through the loading-dock doors at New Village Arts. Behind her, cars gleam under parking-lot lights and music drifts in from a nearby nightspot. She wears a strange coffee-brown helmet and sweat-soaked military togs, ...

Freaky Friday at La Jolla Playhouse

There may be monsters under the bed after all

It may be critic-proof. Bridget Carpenter’s (book), Tom Kitt’s (music), and Brian Yorkey’s (lyrics) new musical comedy is undemanding and thoroughly predictable — even if you haven’t read Mary Rogers’s 1972 novel, seen the 1976 ...

Theater moves at human speed

Go see a show!

San Diego has an international reputation for quality theater. And far too many locals aren’t aware of it. In the past 25 years, we’ve sent at least 45 shows to Broadway. We average around two ...

Congrats, thespians

San Diego Theater Critics Circle awards for 2016

The San Diego Theater Critics Circle held its 12th annual awards ceremony on February 4. Congratulations to the winners, the nominees, and the entire community of theater artists for one heck of a year. Designer ...

San Diego theater awareness month

Awards for it and a whole week of it in February

Craig Noel Awards A reminder: The San Diego Theater Critics Circle will hold its annual awards ceremony on Monday, February 6, at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation at 404 Euclid Street, in Lincoln Park. ...

Bad Jews at Cygnet Theatre

They try to shred each other

The title screams for attention. And through most of Joshua Harmon’s 90-minute comedy/drama, two cousins scream at each other. To each, the other deserves the play’s title. Liam Haber says his cousin Daphna has a ...

New Fortune Theatre risks epic revenge with Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Scandalous discords

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s soaring tragedy, Marc Antony tells Cleopatra: “Now, for the love of Love and her soft hours, let’s not confound the time with conference harsh. There’s not a minute of our ...

My directing/choreographing bucket list: Javier Velasco

"I much prefer to just strip things down and find the humanity."

Says Javier Velasco: “Bucket list. Hmmm... At this point in my life, I would rather do new pieces I create with my collaborators, but there are some existing pieces I would love to explore.” Pajama ...

Beau Jest at Lamb's Players Theatre

Comedy of manners

Bob Schroeder is an actor. Have we seen him in a movie? “That depends on where you sit.” Bob has done shows, even Fiddler. Plus, his new part-time job’s a bit like theater. He works ...

My acting bucket list: Ron Choularton

"Mix this in with race and professional ethics and the pot boils hot."

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

American Hero at Different Stages

Sandwiched between a rock and a corporate place

Three recruits train for a new job. Brash Jamie’s in a custody battle for her three children; timid Sheri works the night shift at El Taco but needs a day-job, too, and sleeps at most ...

How theater folk memorize their lines

"When you own them, then you can really begin to play."

Actors get asked one question more than all the others. Not about a favorite play or character, or actor. Not how they played a certain scene so effectively. It’s much more basic. "How do you ...

Craig Noel Award Nominees for 2016

Musical Direction Charlie Alterman, October Sky, Old Globe Theatre Mark Danisovsky, Sunday in the Park with George, Ion Theatre Tony Houck, Oklahoma! New Village Arts Don LeMaster, Ragtime, San Diego Musical Theatre Elan McMahan, Titanic: ...

Theater year in review: performance

Curtain call of 2016's favorite performers

For San Diego Theater in 2016, I wish everyone could have seen the following: 1918 at the Fringe Festival. La Moana, a dance troupe from New Zealand, arrived with no fanfare and blew audiences to ...

Theater year in review: Design

A good — but not great — year in local theater

I sometimes get asked “Who’s your favorite writer?” “What’s your favorite play?” Well, Shakespeare and Chekhov certainly, Michel de Montaigne, whose wisdom grows as I grow older. But what about Homer or Simone Weil, or ...

Last Call: The Normal Heart at Ion Theatre

Stage and house seats haunted

One of the best, most moving shows of 2016 must close this Sunday, December 23. In many ways, Ion Theatre’s intimate space is the perfect site for Larry Kramer’s bulging epic about the early years ...

My acting bucket list: Karole Foreman

"While I am still crawling around on the planet..."

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

The Wholehearted at La Jolla Playhouse

Today’s story packaged for superficial entertainment and exploitation

Christy Martin wore pink as a boxer and posing for the cover of Sports Illustrated. When her husband and trainer for 20 years thought she was having an affair, he stabbed her three times in ...

Last call: Seven Spots on the Sun and The Kid Thing

War zones and living rooms set the stages

Not quite ready for the holiday barrage? Here are two provocative pieces that must close this weekend. Seven Spots on the Sun, InnerMission Productions An old saying goes, “out of the mud grows the lotus.” ...

Let’s Invade Mexico! Outbreaks of Filibuster Fever: The Flamingo Filibuster

Part two of two

“The appetite grows with eating.” Many in the late 19th Century applied the French proverb to an insatiable urge to filibuster: to conquer foreign territories with private armies. If appetite grows, then Captain John H. ...

Ghost play

The Dybbuk for Hannah and Sam's Wedding at San Diego Rep

In a solo performance, Ron Campbell plays numerous guests at a wedding reception, plus all the characters in The Dybbuk: or Between Two Worlds, S. Ansky’s “realistic play about mystical people.” The task requires a ...

Through the eyes of Judas

Jesus Christ Superstar in Concert at SDSU

In 2014 San Diego State University’s School of Theatre, Television, and Film combined with the School of Music and Dance for an epic concert of Les Miserables. Over 200 musicians, singers, and performers roared into ...

Let’s Invade Mexico! Outbreaks of Filibuster Fever

Part one of two | Jump to Part 2

In the last half of the 19th Century, aliens eagerly crossed the U.S./Mexico border — into Mexico. Burning with what historian William B. Scroggs calls “filibuster fever,” they felt entitled “to swallow up every few ...

The Normal Heart’s fierce drama at Ion Theatre

Birth of a crisis

‘There’s not a good word to be said about anyone’s behavior in this whole mess.” The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s fierce drama about the early years of HIV/AIDS, pulls no punches. Practically everyone was an ...

All kill the same

Seven Spots on the Sun at InnerMission Productions

Moises stopped practicing medicine at San Ysidro, a small, Central American village. Civil war lacerates the region — first the rebels, then forces backed by gringo “advisors.” Then back, then forth. All kill the same. ...

Swordfights? Romance? The nose? I mean, come on!

My acting bucket list: Jason Heil

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

Beyond definition

The Kid Thing at Moxie Theatre

Margot and Nate have dinner at Darcy and Leigh’s condo in Chicago. Before the two lesbian couples have dessert, Leigh wants to “wind down” the conversation — twin tirades about Michael Jackson’s place in American ...

Road-trip musical Miss You Like Hell pulls into La Jolla Playhouse

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself falling into at night.”

Miss You Like Hell, world-premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse, tells the reunion of Beatriz and her estranged daughter Olivia. They ride a beat-up blue Datsun pickup from Philadelphia to Yellowstone National Park. On the ...

Last Call: Disgraced at San Diego Rep

Voices you might not hear otherwise

Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013 and is the most-produced play in America. There’s still time to see why. The San Diego Rep’s top-shelf production must close this Sunday. The ...

Shakespeare's daughter

Equivocation at Lamb’s Players Theatre

One of the characters in Bill Cain’s Equivocation, at Lamb’s Players, is William Shagspere, aka “Shag.” He’s the Bard, with one of his names many different spellings. Another character, Judith, is Shag’s daughter. In the ...

Like a novel you can watch

Last Call: Seven Guitars and King Hedley II at Cygnet

Cygnet Theatre’s commendable achievement, staging August Wilson’s Seven Guitars and King Hedley II in repertory, must close this weekend. One of America’s finest playwrights, Wilson makes rare visits to San Diego. In this sense, Cygnet ...

The American Dream side-slips away in Disgraced

Amir's profile

Donald Trump has no problem with racial profiling. He’d love to stop every Muslim at the border. And, hey, if the police “see somebody that’s suspicious,” he said in a speech, “they will profile. Look ...

Comedy dream team

Laughter on the 23rd Floor at North Coast Rep

In an interview many years after his legendary Your Show of Shows (1950–1954) went off the air, Sid Caesar compared his writing staff to having all the great Impressionist painters collaborating in one room: “all ...

Savage outside world

God of Carnage at New Village Arts

Annette Raleigh: “How many parents standing up for their children become infantile themselves?” The Raleighs and the Novaks meet to solve what seems a minor issue. Not long after these words, their skins thin out. ...

Shag and a freaky hoot

Equivocation at Lamb's Players

In Act Five, scene one, Hamlet tells the Gravedigger, “We must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us.” “By the card” could refer to Matthew 5:37: “Let your yes be yes and your ...

King Hedley II graces the stage at Cygnet

Language matters

Theater critic Jeremy Gerard said August Wilson “writes plays not for Broadway, but which Broadway simply must have — even if it means getting them last.” Those expecting prepackaged emotions and a tidy take-home message ...

My Acting Bucket List: Wendy Waddell

Imagine Glengarry Glen Ross with an all-female cast

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

Death is almost the eighth character on stage

Seven Guitars at Cygnet Theatre

Praise Cygnet Theatre! Without this company’s ongoing efforts, San Diego might not have seen August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, The Piano Lesson, Fences and, currently in repertory, Seven Guitars and King Hedley II. That’s ...

Worth hanging upside down in a cave for

My choreographic bucket list: Michael Mizerany

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

Old Globe’s October Sky is sermon on stick-to-itiveness

Look to the sky

If you decide to see the Old Globe’s October Sky, take your seat early. Kevin Depinet’s set has the composition and texture of a quality painting. A massive half-circle hovers over the stage. It’s what? ...

Dick Enberg: the Call of Calls

Oh, my!

I’m from Northern California. Moved to Orange County in 1969 for graduate school. Didn’t think much of the region: mostly scrub, ragweed, and rabbit hills back then. But — the sportscasters! Vin Scully made Dodger ...

Tuna casserole made funny in Manifest Destinitis

Yankee flu symptoms include “a deep, abiding terror of losing one’s land, family, language, and Spanish culture.”

San Diego sees many world premieres in various stages of readiness. The San Diego Rep’s opening night for Manifest Destinitis didn’t feel new at all. To a person the cast and designers performed as if ...

Act two, scene five alone is worth the money

Humor turns things inside out in The Producers at San Diego Musical Theatre

After he screened a rough cut of A History of the World, Part One to friends, Mel Brooks ran down the aisle yelling, “I can fix it! I can fix it!” He didn’t fix The ...

Professional rookies

“Why didn’t you tell me life would be hard because I’m Asian?”

Jennifer Chen sees a therapist for the first time. And she comes prepared: a list of her phobias, one of her shortcomings, another with her attributes. She can’t simply explore personal issues. She must be ...

Instead of floating daggers...

peerless at Moxie Theatre

Mike Lew’s Tiger Style! at La Jolla Playhouse shows the effects of super-strict parenting on two Chinese-Americans. Jennifer and Albert dove through every academic hoop cum laude but find themselves a few years later without ...

Ascending Mt. Bard

On directing Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew

Carla Nell, artistic director of InnerMission Productions, directed Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, performed last month. It was her initial attempt at the Bard. I asked her how it feels to climb that mountain for ...

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