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Stories by Jeff Smith

Abounding mercies

There’s “sadness after intimate sexual intercourse,” Winnie tells Willie in Happy Days. “You would concur with Aristotle there, I fancy.” Samuel Beckett’s been accused of being so bleak he’s the Dracula of world theater. What ...

Full, vivid authenticity

Surprises, double standards, and reversals in The Motherf**ker With the Hat at Cygnet Theatre

It’s a snappy chapeau: reddish with a narrow brim and wide band. The question for Jackie, on parole after 26 months in stir for dealing drugs, is “who’s the motherf--k who owns this motherf--ker?” Jackie ...

Outside the comfort zone

Circle Circle dot dot takes a leap with the charming, uneven No Place Like Home

There should be a law in theater: don’t cubbyhole. Don’t typecast actors; don’t hogtie a company with a reductive label. Call it the Tennessee Williams Statute. Once he became a success, critics and audiences demanded ...

Who torched All the Rooms of the House?

Actor, character, stage melt together in the must-see, multi-level piece from The Trip

Last Call: Tom Dugdale and the Trip’s world premiere must close this weekend. This inventive, intriguing, multi-leveled show is a definite must-see. The stage, part of a barracks at Liberty Station, looks strange. Rectangular cinder ...

Return to what’s inside

The Trip drifts in and out of All the Rooms of the House in world premiere

Beginning this Thursday, May 22, and running only through Sunday — that’s all the rent they can afford — The Trip presents the world premiere of Tom Dugdale’s All the Rooms of the House. It’s ...

Lamb’s did it!

Lamb’s Players broke the world record for longest running continuous performance

The old: a group in India read Bible stories non-stop for 72 hours. The new, Guinness Book record: 76 hours, 18 minutes: from Thursday, May 8 at 6:00 p.m. through Sunday, May 11 at 10:17 ...

The many trials of Madame Tingley, part two

The siege of Point Loma begins.

Human lemmings trundling up the steep cliffs of Point Loma? A mass exodus? Never had so many San Diegans been on the move at the same time. Until February 23, 1897, occasional visitors went either ...

Survival in service

Mud Blue Sky capably explores the battle-fatigue of those who wait on others

Marisa Wegrzyn’s serio-comedy takes a behind-the-scenes look at off-duty “people persons.” The scene, done in vivid, stereotypical detail by Maria Bane, is room 208 of a, let’s be kind, modestly priced hotel next door to ...

No author better served

Beckett, Schneider, Sledgehammer, and San Diego

On May 15, Scott Feldsher and Sledgehammer Theatre mount their first production in several years — and IT’S ABOUT TIME! Their choice, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, has a legendary San Diego connection. In 1962, Alan ...

Love without reason

Ion gets heartbeat-close for Passion

Fosca blazes with such fervor that her fierce, unconditional devotion appears grotesque.

From innocence to evil

Thrill Me at Diversionary a solid effort with a tricky piece

Leopold and Loeb: the dark-eyed, slick-haired, “thrill killers” of 1924 could have posed for Arrow shirt ads. Nathan Leopold, 19, and Richard Loeb, 18, were intelligent lawyers-to-be. Leopold had a 210 IQ and claimed to ...

100 Hours of Stories IN A ROW!

"This is turning out to be more work than we first envisioned.”

The Guinness Book of Records for staying awake is 264 hours. Whoever did that must be cutting out paper dolls in an institution. The oldest person in the world is 116, sayeth the G-Book, and ...

Boundary-free with a nostalgia rinse

Old Jews Telling Jokes mostly hits at Lyceum

“I must’ve looked pretty awful,” says a character in one of Peter Devries’ novels. “When I asked the bartender if he served Zombies, he said, ‘sure, what’ll you have?’” Ya gotta love the old ones! ...

Acting is doing

Annie Hinton’s list of objectives for casting Circle Mirror Transformation

I wanted to interview Annie Hinton because she made her first “professional” directorial debut at New Village Arts earlier this year. And Annie Baker’s spare, almost voiceless collage, Circle Mirror Transformation, called for major directorial ...

Last Call: Red and Spring Awakening

Two quality shows must close this Sunday; now you see ‘em, or you won’t

Mark Rothko and his fellow Abstract Expressionists (though they didn’t like the name) battered the Cubists to pulp. Now, as Rothko contemplates what could be his masterpiece — and the place to showcase his special ...

Dance on a minefield

The Old Globe serves Water by the Spoonful.

He’s so addicted to alienation, he wouldn’t march in his “own parade.”

Enchantment and injustice

To Kill a Mockingbird at New Village Arts succeeds more often than not

It’s impossible to measure these things, but surely the book (1960), by Harper Lee, and the Oscar-winning movie (1962) must have had an impact on the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s. Along with an ...

Human faces on a rarely told story

Mandate Memories at North Coast Rep

Lionel Goldstein’s world-premiere drama has some creaky dramaturgy and overuses a trick so much that, in the first 30 or so minutes, it was tempting to phase out and do character studies of various spectators. ...

Last Call: All My Sons at Intrepid in Encinitas

Karma not instant, but inevitable

If I had a penny for every time I heard someone say “I wanted to see that show. Now I hear it closed,” I could start my own theater — and have a permanent tee-time ...

Rothko is extremes

The stage picture seems to move.

When courting his second wife-to-be, Mark Rothko gave her a copy of The Trial. In Franz Kafka’s uncompleted novel, an unnamed accuser arrests Josef K for an unnamed crime. According to his biographer, James E.B. ...

Time and the Conways at the Old Globe

J.B. Priestley’s 1937 drama is not a great play. But it’s a haunter. The Old Globe’s excellent cast probably won’t have too many standing ovations because the spell doesn’t break until long after the curtain ...

The Liar at Scripps Ranch Theatre

"Make it cohere, and they’ll follow you anywhere.”

“The thing I’m not will make me live.” San Diego’s David Ives Victory Tour continues at Scripps Ranch Theatre with his re-invigoration of Pierre Corneille’s 1643 comedy. As with Venus in Fur at San Diego ...

All My Sons at Intrepid Shakespeare Company

Okay, it isn’t Death of a Salesman, to which it will forever be compared. And its form lies just this side of calculated. But Arthur Miller’s earlier play, written during World War II, still packs ...

The many trials of Madame Tingley, part one

What Theosophists found in San Diego.

On January 8, 1903, just before his final remarks as attorney for the defense, Samuel Shortridge paused. He seemed to stare through the floor, as he struggled to find the crucial words. Then he rose ...

Quilters at Lamb’s Players

Uniting pioneering women

Sarah McKendree Bonham, who came west in a covered wagon, hasn’t long to live. Aware that, as the bible says, most of a woman’s work “perishes in the using,” she decides to make a “legacy ...

Stomp holes in the floor

Spring Awakening's lovely/evil

This idea for a musical sounds doomed from the start: base the story on a 100-plus-year-old play so controversial several countries banned it, which closed after one night on Broadway; talk and sing openly about ...

Robert May: Out on a limb

Budding playwrights used to ask Robert May why their scripts weren’t being produced. Some had a staged reading, but nothing beyond that. May kept his “flip answer” to himself: “Write a better play.” “Now I ...

Last Call

Two shows must close this weekend, and that’s a crying shame

The North Coast Rep’s The School for Lies had that rare, mega-hit show feel from the start. David Ives set his take on Moliere’s The Misanthrope in 1666, and the dialogue’s rhymed couplets. So, like, ...

The Trip’s Macbeth

I don’t like reviewing a show after it closed. If I enjoyed it, people ask why didn’t I review it sooner; if not, why hurl barbs after the fact? I’m also wary of promos that ...

Dancin’ in the Street at Ira Aldridge Repertory Players

Artistic Director Calvin Manson fills the Educational Cultural Complex, almost literally, with a tribute to Soul Music. Seven singers, finalists in a contest, dig deep into 20 songs, from Otis’s “Respect,” to Al Green’s “Let’s ...

How Cashae got the gig

Lynn Nottage’s Crumbs from the Table of Joy, recently in a highly praised production at Moxie Theatre, has two roles for teenage women. Ernestine, the oldest, tells how she, her father and younger sister moved ...

Far Away at Ion Theatre

Ion Theatre’s double bill — Sam Holcroft’s Edgar & Annabel and Caryl Churchill’s Far Away — combines one-acts that have so much in common they feel like deliberate companion pieces. In Edgar & Annabel rebels ...

Edgar & Annabel at Ion Theatre

Edgar and Annabel are “the perfect couple.” They’re economically viable, eat healthy foods, and never utter a discouraging word about the government, which also makes them perfect citizens in a hard-core totalitarian state. Trouble is: ...

Boys and Girls at Diversionary Theatre

Tom Donaghy’s comedy-drama asks: can people change? And will that change be for the better? Boys and Girls (2002) puts a relatively new social phenomenon on stage: same-sex couples having children. In the process differences ...

San Diego Rep visits Detroit...or is it Kansas City, maybe Denver?

Truth fall

They have trod the proscribed path: college, marriage, no beer-drinking in the front yard.

The School for Lies at North Coast Rep

These days, in order to function, theaters must run on tight schedules — open a show, run four weeks, open another — even though word of mouth takes three to four weeks to take hold. ...

Oliver Goldsmith: the “Inspired Idiot”?

Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer plays in a wonderful production through this weekend at UCSD. The 18th century comedy has such a light and tender spirit you’d think the author knew only sunny days. Not ...

What beliefs

The Critic’s Code says we can’t talk about endings. But the final scene of Ayad Akhtar’s otherwise involving comedy-drama, The Who & The What, doesn’t feel right at all. Up to that point the play ...

She Stoops to Conquer at UCSD

Oliver Goldsmith is proof that writers come in all shapes, sizes, and temperaments. His detractors said he couldn’t hold his life together. Their proof: he wrote thousands of pages of hackwork to pay for gambling ...

The Stars come out

The San Diego Performing Arts League is an umbrella organization dedicated to promoting local arts groups. The SDPL operates the Arts Tix booth at Horton Plaza (selling discount and full-price tickets) and the ArtsTix website. ...

Forgiveness reigns

Time is a destroyer that will “come and take my love away.”

Why does Leontes go stark raving mad in The Winter’s Tale? The King of Sicilia looks to have it all. His beautiful wife, Hermione, is pregnant with their second child. His son, Mamillius, is a ...

Extremes: The Final Days of Father Zalvidea, Part Two

As young Santiago entered the dark room, morning sunlight speared the old, crippled padre on the cot. He lay on his back where, to himself, he’d performed nightly baptisms, heard confessions, joined neophytes in wedlock ...

Circle Mirror Transformation at New Village Arts

Actors stand in a circle. One waves both hands up and down. The others mimic the movements. Someone says “transform.” Another actor initiates a new gesture, maybe grunts something. The others follow suit in the ...

Three decades of San Diego theater

Our venerable theater writer Jeff Smith offers his thoughts on the San Diego theater scene he's observed for more than three decades.

Ramona returns to Old Town

Saturday, February 15, the Save Our Heritage Organization offers two screenings of D. W. Griffith’s silent film, Ramona. Griffith based the 1910 movie on Helen Hunt Jackson’s best seller about star-crossed lovers in 1850, the ...

Craig Noel Award Winners for 2013

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: ...

Crumbs from the Table of Joy at Moxie Theatre

In 1995, Crumbs was Lynn Nottage’s breakout play. She went on to write Intimate Apparel (2003) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined (2007). Moxie Theatre’s fine production has breakout written all over it as well. Under ...

Macbeth at Intrepid Shakespeare Company

In his excellent book, How to Do Shakespeare, Adrian Noble says “the golden rule is to make the audience listen.” Noble lists several ways. I would add one more: when you “do” Shakespeare, or theater ...

Downsized dreams

Old Globe stages Laura Marks’s Bethany in the round

Bethany, by Laura Marks Old Globe Theatre, Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park Directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch; cast: Carlo Alban, DeAnna Driscoll, Jennifer Ferrin, Amanda Naughton, James Shanklin, Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson; scenic design ...

The Foreigner at Lamb’s Players

Though unlike in countless ways, Joe Orton and Larry Shue shared two things in common: one comic, the other tragic. They wrote two of the funniest plays in the English language, and both died young. ...

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