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Stories by Jeff Smith

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 ...

Last Call: Black Sunday

Some fine productions, including one of the city's all-time best, must close November 2.

These shows must close this Sunday, November 2 — aka “Black Sunday,” given their high quality. The Royale, Old Globe Theatre One of the year’s best directed shows is so well done you’d think Marco ...

Phil Johnson's acting bucket list

Craig Noel Award-winning actor shares his 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 some ...

The question of God, carefully

Static but interesting Freud’s Last Session at North Coast Repertory Theatre

On the verge of suicide, Prince Hamlet wonders if he should live or leave. And if he chooses to go, what awaits? Endless sleep? Or the dread of “the undiscovered country,” from where no travelers ...

Last call: The Clean House

Despite its deserved hit-show status, NVA's show about "invisible stuff" must close soon.

Theaters run on such tight schedules, few can extend the run of a hit show. NVA has one — a hit that is, not the run. Their excellent The Clean House must close this Sunday. ...

Deanna Driscoll's acting bucket list

Local veteran presents her top-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 ...

Emotional gamesmanship

Shepard seeks to convey "what it feels like to be two-sided."

Cygnet Theatre Shep-reps, staging True West and Fool for Love

All in transition in The Clean House

"If it were not for dust, I think I would die."

Charles just performed a mastectomy on Ana and fell in love with her. When his wife Lane asks how it could happen, he says Ana is his “Beshert,” which is Hebrew for soul mate. But, ...

New translations, New Fortune

Upstart company of young veterans seeks to make the classics new and the new into classics, starting with Henry V.

Ritualized conjuration

Knockout theatricality saves Old Globe's The Royale.

Take away the spectacular theatricality and Marco Ramirez’s The Royale would be a thin-ish script that makes some important points. The characters stand as much for a position in a debate as for themselves. But ...

What you see is not what you thought

Fool for Love at Cygnet Theatre honors the spirit and the anarchy.

Cygnet Theatre is running two of Sam Shepard’s plays in repertory: True West and Fool for Love. In Cygnet’s opening day/night double bill last Sunday, True West came off the stronger [to be reviewed 10/15]. ...

Southern woe

Bright Star may be too sweeping for its own good.

Billy Cane is home from World War II. He wants to follow his “bright star” and write for the prestigious Asheville Southern Journal. The editor, Alice Murphy, works with the Southern Renaissance headliners: Faulkner, Eudora ...

Last call: The Pianist of Willesden Lane and Next to Normal

Two remarkable shows are set to close October 12; don't miss them.

These shows must close this Sunday, October 12. The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the San Diego Rep. Mona Golabek’s “concert drama” is one of 2014’s best. She tells the story of Lisa Jura, a ...

Next to Normal's epic emotions

San Diego Music Theatre does a stellar job with the most unlikely of opera concepts.

When potential backers first heard a proposal for Next to Normal, they probably replied: “A musical about bipolar disorder? Like, huh?” Either that or, with voice lowered, “riiight.” Yes, and a rock musical at that. ...

Moxie witchcraft

A raucous opening night makes an all-around odd Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World.

Fierce tragedy

Intricate but uneven Scott Joplin’s New Rag at Mo`olelo

Now in its world premiere, Robert Barry Fleming’s 75-minute, “fierce tragedy in one act” pays a multi-media tribute to one of the greats of American music. The complex form uses different kinds of storytelling, from ...

My Acting Bucket List: Jeffrey Jones

The Craig Noel Award winner talks "back-pocket 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 some ...

Where's the monster?

Red Planet Respite 's appealing premise falls mostly flat.

GlobalCom Venture Capital’s “first interactive resort on Mars” is still a work in progress. So is the script for Circle Circle dot dot’s slow, spotty tale of corruption and greed in far-away places. The premise ...

Familiar story, homegrown feel

Localized The Odd Couple at Teatro Mascara Magica brims with life.

During his pre-show remarks, artistic director William Virchis joked with the audience, “If you don’t enjoy it, I’ll call Neil Simon to re-write it.” Actually, Teatro Mascara Magica has taken a major, often-hilarious, liberty with ...

My Acting Bucket List: Rosina Reynolds

Five dream roles from 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 some ...

Culture-war questions

The teens wear “purity rings” and know that “true love waits” until marriage.

Now, this was more than 50 years ago, but maybe times haven’t changed. The wife of one of Mississippi’s largest landowners wanted more culture in education. So, she circulated a petition to have French taught ...

Not everyone can be all right

Ion's This Wide Night brings together two ex-cons who are still doing time.

Like Franz Xavier Kroetz’s Request Concert, in which a woman spends a wordless evening at home, Chloe Moss’s This Wide Night narrows the field of view. Often nothing happens, or Marie’s shabby London studio apartment ...

We must; no, we daren't!

Fallen Angels at North Coast Rep is an apt, skilled Coward performance.

What might seem silly today was deemed “radical” and “obscene” when Noël Coward’s Fallen Angels premiered in 1925. Even T.E. Lawrence — of Arabia — gave it a “humph!” One exchange may sum up what ...

Simply spoken, wonderfully played

The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

A Portrait of the Young Jewish Pianist in World War II. In the 1920s, Lisa Jura’s father was the best tailor in Vienna. But she dreamt of being a concert pianist. She’d debut playing Grieg’s ...

The Two Gents Template

If you didn’t know who wrote it, you’d swear the author of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, currently at the Old Globe, stole every Shakespearean device he could find. Two Gents is “early” Shakespeare. The ...

Theatrical until the pain hits

Bold choices aim to strike a balance in Regrets Only at Diversionary

You’d think Tibby has it all. Husband Jack’s a mover/shaker attorney. They have a posh-plus, Upper East Side apartment (which, in Matt Scott’s fine set for Diversionary, looks down on Manhattan). Daughter Spencer’s an up ...

This is a perfect part for me

Jeff talks to Steve Gunderson for the "My Acting Bucket List" series.

I have always wanted to ask 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 directors and producers ...

Odd lover out

For once, the young characters do an adult thing: they pause and reflect, as if weighing alternatives.

Might have felt like a good news/bad news situation. Renowned director Mark Lamos gets to do Shakespeare at the Old Globe. The bad news? It’s “Two Gents.” The Two Gentlemen of Verona was a popular ...

Robert Landis (1921-2014), rest in peace

A remarkable man, with a remarkable role in San Diego theater, has passed.

If there were a San Diego theater Hall of Fame, Craig Noel would be first on the list. The second, Robert Landis, passed away last week. I still believe the imaginary army must have been ...

Welton's top 10: local show edition

Welton Jones' most vivid show recollections, part two of two

Welton Jones’ top 10 local shows, in chronological order: 1.) Twelfth Night, Old Globe Theatre, directed by Edward Payson Call (1967). “An elegant, legendary stunner.” 2.) Plymouth Rock, written and directed by Scott Busath, Earth ...

Top 10: From a first-hand, encyclopedic knowledge of theater

Welton Jones' most vivid show recollections, part one of two

Welton Jones began writing about theater while a student at Texas A&M, in 1957. He’d been drawn to the arts since childhood, but when he wrote that first review, he’d only seen one play “that ...

Relative harmony

Old Globe Theater stages retiring Quartet

“It must be dreadful to be famous and applauded and acclaimed and not be able to practice your art.”

Last Call: Jade Heart, Les Miserables

One excellent production closes August 10, and the other is the hottest ticket in town.

Long before I became one, a theater critic told me he saw “good productions of good plays, bad productions of bad plays, bad productions of good plays, and good productions of bad plays.” The toughest ...

Extended tease

Half-mast The Full Monty at New Village Arts needs some tightening.

Early in the David Yazbeck/Terrence McNally musical a laid-off steel worker urges his mates to show “who really wears the pants in the family.” So they decide to take them off, together, at a Buffalo ...

Epic! Knock-out!

Intimacy and spectacle combine to make Les Miserables at Lamb’s something very special

I think it was my second or third week on the job. I went to a small theater in National City — Lamb’s Players — in a former church, I found out, after I got ...

Always competent, sometimes sparkling Much Ado

Interesting choices by skilled players set one of the Bard's most dramatic comedies on edge.

Toward the end of Shakespeare’s comedy, Benedick tells Beatrice they are “too wise to woo peaceably.” Up to this point they’ve fought a “merry war”: a Taming of the Shrew of the mind, minus the ...

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