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Stories by Jeff Smith

Point of no return

The Whale devotes his last days to honesty

Lights come up, dimly, on a dingy brown old couch with a deep sag in the middle. Close by: a laptop, a TV-tray-like table with rollers, a low slung reading lamp, and a small bookcase ...

To the Nationals!

New Group West goes big for its... first show?!

I still don’t believe this story! The New Group West’s first-ever show will represent California, Arizona, Nevada, and Hawaii in a national competition! American Association of Community Theatre has 12 regions. San Diego is in ...

The Famous Shavian “BOO!”

The audience didn't get it.

Like Socrates and Ben Franklin, it’s hard to imagine George Bernard Shaw ever being young — in part because he didn’t become a successful playwright until age 40. When Arms and the Man opened at ...

George Bernard Shaw pays a rare visit to the Old Globe

A Shavian rinse

Arms and the Man succeeds despite an antsy itch to entertain.

Early San Diegans couldn’t celebrate without lots of noise

More unexpected vignettes from San Diego's history — including the Horribles

1.) This photograph, taken in the late 1880s, was rare for its time. No male cradles a wide-brimmed hat in his arm. No one stares up, or dreamily off, as if posing as the person ...

Last Call: Unnecessary Farce at North Coast Rep

Silly and hilarious comedy must close soon

The North Coast Rep’s silly, lunkhead, hilarious Unnecessary Farce must close this Sunday. One of the oddest things about farce: it must as precise as it is frantic. Actors scream “eek,” slam doors, and sprint ...

Just a few more before retirement

Lifelong performer and Craig Noel Award-winner Melinda Gilb’s shares her acting bucket list

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 ...

Familiar sitcom feeling

Competence doesn't save Moxie Theatre's Lesson 443 from feeling like a repeat.

Tatiana Suarez-Pico’s new play is either a drama sabotaged by comedy, or vice versa. When the play builds to an emotional moment, a joke undercuts it. And when a scene starts out funny, things take ...

San Diego Rep explores the Uncanny Valley between you and your replicant

Will you be you?

Robots became so human-like that thoughts of playing God plagued their creators.

Right kind of mindless

The Silence of the Clams at Diversionary Theatre takes the low road, yet moments impress

Clarice Starling: “Most serial killers keep some sort of trophies from their victims.” Hannibal Lecter: “I didn’t.” Clarice: “No. You ate yours.” Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs can be funny, in a ghoulish sort ...

Good, whacko, slamming-doors sense

Unnecessary Farce at North Coast Rep is pointless, silly, and delightful

The North Coast Rep’s current show is a farce! But in the good, whacko, slamming-doors sense. Paul Slade Smith’s two-act script has absolutely no redeeming social value, and he goes for silliness where most comic ...

Ion goes all-out

Hillcrest-based company plans quadruple-header to select NYC-bound work — plus BBQ

The idea could cause vertigo: on Saturday, April 25, Ion Theatre will stage-read four new plays starting at 11:00 a.m. Each script has already been work-shopped with readings and feedback from preview audiences. And it’s ...

Last call: The White Snake and My Fair Lady

The final opportunity to see these notable shows is fast approaching

Two beautifully performed shows must end their runs this Sunday. The White Snake, Old Globe Theatre. Mary Zimmerman does theatrical adaptations of literary works, among them The Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, and The Notebooks of ...

Mark Christopher Lawrence’s acting bucket list

The award-winning actor shares his Shakespearean ambitions, desire for important work, and perhaps some additional bites at the apple.

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 ...

Babs for a day

One-man Buyer & Cellar takes on Barbra and Alex at the same time

Alex Moore, struggling actor, not only works at Disneyland, he’s the “Mayor of Toontown.” He hates it so much he calls the “happiest place” on earth “Mousechwitz.” The drive from his Los Feliz studio apartment, ...

An evening at Villa Montezuma; Coda

Something between a viper and vampire.

(The second in a two-part series. Part one was published March 18.) It’s after midnight, February 15, 1888. The last of the guests are finally leaving Jesse Shepard’s musicale at the Villa Montezuma. One- and ...

Next generation of excellence

The second year of Ben Vereen Awards “celebrates excellence in high school musical theater”

Now in its second year, the Ben Vereen Awards “celebrates excellence in high school musical theater.” On April 26, 20 nominees from the local high schools compete to be in the Top Ten representing San ...

Amanda Sitton’s acting bucket list

The Craig Noel Award-winner manages to whittle dream roles down to five, more or less.

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 ...

Off-beat rainbow

This Land Is Your Land at the White Box Theater walks it out with precision and form

Open stage. Rear wall: five vertical stripes — green, yellow, red, blue, orange — an off-beat rainbow. Six performers walk eight steps forward, turn, and walk eight steps back on invisible aisles for 45 minutes. ...

Leave Tiger alone!

What have the demands of modern sport wrought — even in golf?

The “story” at this week’s Masters is Tiger Woods. Can he make the cut? Can he win? Vegas now says 40-1. In the age of “right this minute” media mania, golf pundits question his “chipping ...

The White Snake slithers into the Old Globe

Believing is seeing

"Sir, you are married to a snake!” the holy man Fa Hai tells bewildered Xu Xian at the Golden Monastery. “You are coiled in the snares of a snake demon.” His wife and her sidekick ...

Brian Mackey’s acting bucket list

Self-discovery, transformation, and charismatic villainy are all enticing to the 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 ...

Last call: Oedipus El Rey, You Can't Take It with You, Baby with the Bathwater

Three very different, beautifully performed shows must end their runs this Sunday.

Oedipus El Rey, San Diego Rep. This isn’t Sophocles’ Oedipus, its playwright Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus Gomez. He rises from prison to become a Scarface-like, L.A. drug lord who has faith only in himself (“God’s ego’s ...

Infectious exuberance

Wonderful My Fair Lady enthralls at Cygnet

“I could’ve donced all night, I could’ve donced all night” — at least half the audience at intermission, it seemed, bounced up the aisles at Cygnet Theatre singing this song, including the accent! And when ...

Divided, disconnected

Made and missed connections in story and on stage in Kin at Ion Theatre

Anna didn’t get her wish. She wanted to write her doctoral dissertation on punctuation in Emily Dickenson’s poems but couldn’t. So she wrote on how John Keats punctuated his. Bathsheba Doran’s Kin begins with Anna’s ...

Not for all their wealth

Pay-to-play stage roles for rich women — but would the manager ever let one play a lead?

I found this in the San Diego Union, July 8, 1887, a reprint from the New York Mail and Daily Express. The best dressed character in the show spoke only ten lines. “Her costume was ...

An evening at Villa Montezuma

A carnivorous smile among the city’s upper crust

Between 1887 and 1889, Jesse Shepard gave musicales at his Villa Montezuma. He had an international reputation as a singer/pianist. Others called him a charlatan. To bring instant culture to the pioneer town, San Diegans ...

Unfolding fatality

SD Rep presents marvelous, tragic version of Oedipus El Rey

A young man and an older woman, both naked, make tender love in silk sheets amid a roseate aura. They haven’t known each other long, but found common goals and dreams. A blazing sense they ...

Harsh and tender

Passion & Honey's choreo-poems share deep feeling at Ira Aldridge Repertory Players

Artistic director Calvin Manson opens the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players 31st season with its 199th production, a choreo-poem, based on his poetry, that begins in innocence and concludes in tragedy — and hope. Ntozsake Shange ...

Jacque Wilke's acting bucket list

Dream roles include characters who run the gamut — quirky, bold, meaty, powerful, and hated

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 ...

Life’s kind of beautiful

Lamb’s Players ensemble takes on Moss Hart’s eccentric Vanderhofs

Mr. De Pinna delivered ice to the Vanderhof home eight years ago, and stayed. When Mr. De Pinna isn’t modeling for one of Penny Sycamore’s paintings, he and her husband Paul experiment with explosives in ...

Genuine horror

Inferior superiors are a scream in Diversionary's Baby with the Bathwater

White bassinet, spot-lit center stage. Surrounding darkness makes it seem whiter, even more innocent. John and Helen, the parents howling over the child, couldn’t be more menacing if they sucked on crack-pipes and wielded chainsaws. ...

Lasting impermanence

3 Plays in a Tattoo Shop a little too lax but not lacking electric moments

The set, Full Circle Tattoo at 2312 30th Street in South Park, couldn’t be more authentic. Maybe 100 pictorial choices are framed on the walls, along with rows of knickknacks suggesting other possible “skin illustrations.” ...

Fred Harlow's acting bucket list

Roles both dramatic and comic appeal to the veteran actor, from Equus to the Tuna

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 ...

The Old Globe stages The Twenty-Seventh Man

Fellow travelers

Their crime: they compose in Yiddish, “from right to left on the page.”

It has been considered a poor week for killing

Unforgettable outtakes: Southern California, back in the day

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT. John Phoenix, San Diego Herald: “Very little news will be found in the San Diego Herald this week. The fact is there never is much news in it ...

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 ...

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