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Stories by Jeff Smith

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 ...

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: ...

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 ...

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. ...

Claudio Raygoza: the acting process at Ion Theatre, part two

Read part one of this interview. Claudio Raygoza, artistic director of Ion Theatre, and Glenn Paris, the producing director, stage plays in a 49-seat theater, with obviously special demands. They include others for the plays ...

Claudio Raygoza: the acting process at Ion Theatre, part one

Ion Theatre has earned an impressive reputation — and a number of Craig Noel Awards to back it up — for quality acting. I asked Claudio Raygoza, the artistic director, to provide a behind-the-scenes look ...

Maple & Vine at Cygnet Theatre

There’s good news about Cygnet’s show: Amanda Sitton is back on a stage. She took time off — a decade, it seemed — for maternity leave. She’s in tip-top shape as Jenna, a social-mediated NYC-ite ...

Who Am I This Time? (& other conundrums of love) at North Coast Rep

Tom Newton sounds a lot like the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. He welcomes us to the North Crawford Mask & Wig Club, in Connecticut. With a down-home, folksy voice he says his ...

Bug at Ion Theatre

A rogue male aphid’s dining on Agnes and her new friend Peter? No, he says. Must be a female, a “matriarchal aphid,” and she isn’t just slicing skin, she’s spawning a world-wide infestation from a ...

Anything Goes at Welk Resort Theater

Somebody should write a musical: The Last of the Tap Dancers. There’s only one left and the uniquely American art may vanish. When the Tap Dancer learns he/she’s the end of the line, he/she goes ...

The best acting advice I ever received

I thought it might be interesting to ask some of the nominees for Craig Noel Awards for their best advice. Am so glad I did. Steve Gunderson, Featured Performance in a Play, Male. “The late ...

Deborah Gilmour Smyth blooms

No cupcake

In person, if you didn’t know her, Deborah Gilmour Smyth wouldn’t strike you as a performer. Soft-spoken and humble, she calls little attention to herself. But onstage, Smyth blooms into someone else, literally and figuratively, ...

In the Time of the Butterflies at San Diego Rep

In 1960, Rafael Trujillo, the brutal dictator of the Dominican Republic, confessed to his inner circle: “My only two problems are the church and the Mirabel sisters.” Patria, Minerva, Maria Teresa, and Dede Mirabel grew ...

The Year in Review: But What About?

The trouble with Years in Review: over 300 shows and very few words to sum them up. What, just for instance, about Moxie and Mo'olelo Performing Art’s wonderful co-production of The Bluest Eye? An adaptation ...

Craig Noel Award Nominees

On February 10 at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle will offer awards in the following categories.. RESIDENT MUSICAL. Chicago, San Diego Musical Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof, ...

The theater year in review

We no longer need Broadway to validate our treasures.

For musicals, San Diego must be World Premiere Central. We see all kinds, in varying stages, and send two or three to Broadway each year. But once in a blue moon, one’s produced here that’s ...

Lamb’s Players Festival of Christmas: Catch a Falling Star

You get the feeling Ella Eden wants something to go right, just this once. With good reason: her father no longer recognizes her — Alzheimer’s. All he can recall is the moment, years ago, when ...

Eureka! SD Theater History Gold

I was researching at the San Diego History Center and Jane Kenealy, she of the encyclopedic memory, asked me if I’d ever seen the Temple collection. I hadn’t. She emerged from the archives with two ...

Sticks and stones

“I can yell at the food court...because I don’t know anyone here!”

Neil LaBute’s reasons to be pretty begins, before it starts, with a single word. Asked to compare Steph, his girlfriend of four years, to the new “hottie” at the warehouse, Greg said Steph has a ...

The Humbug Holiday Spectacular at North Coast Rep

Occasional highlights can't raise the Joy-o-Meter for long.

When it is good, Phil Johnson and Omri Schein’s spoof of upbeat, life-affirming Christmas shows is very good. But when it is bad, and it is too often, the the writing flags, the comedy’s too ...

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