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Stories by Jeff Smith

Red threads of connection

Jade Heart at Moxie

I doubt that Jade Heart playwright Will Cooper could ask for a better production than Moxie’s. The play, about a Chinese orphan adopted by an American mother, is relentlessly nonlinear and needlessly convoluted. The fits ...

A beauty contest with a twist

Pageant: the Beauty Pageant Musical at Cygnet Theatre

From the fluffy curtains to the large G hovering over the faux marble floor, everything’s an ardent pink — the signature color of Glamouresse, whose beauty products include an aerosol that protects the ozone layer ...

The Old Globe ventures back Into the Woods

The Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical Into the Woods world-premiered at the Old Globe in 1986. The set had three structures, fixed, and a “woods” behind. Along with fairy tale characters — Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk ...

Sacrificial stands

La Jolla Playhouse stages The Orphan of Zhao

The stylized piece stresses not the gore but the fierce resolve that led to it.

SD Fringe: 146 Point Flame and word-of-mouth last calls

Hasty, vivid reflections that struggle to be heard and a unique set of recommendations for last-call shows.

146 Point Flame They called a snake in Vietnam “Two-step Charlie.” A rock asp — get bit and you went down in two steps. So you had maybe 10 or 15 seconds to curse or ...

SD Fringe: Ceremony and Nightbird

Entwinement and separation at play in two fine Fringe pieces.

Ceremony, by Michael Kass “Michael,” she said, “it’s not going to work out.” Michael Kass was a 35-year-old white male who, along with other “First World problems,” looked to go zero-for-eternity in relationships. He had ...

From blushing bridegroom back to cold-blooded killer

Iago plays on Othello’s fears like a maestro on a Stradivarius.

Iago: “Men should be what they seem. Or those that be not, would they might seem none.” Othello: “Certain, men should be what they seem.” I was re-reading Shakespeare’s Othello recently, and the obvious poked ...

SD Fringe: Getting word of mouth out

The Fringe has been a work-in-progress for everyone, reviewers as well.

Some discoveries: 1 — No non-bionic reviewer can cover everything. Maybe not even a team of pundits, since each day has nine time-slots and usually five shows on at once. That’s 45 shows per day, ...

SD Fringe: The Hideout

Haste delivers a must-see from the "boudoir of Dionysus."

It’s too bad San Diego can’t just adopt the Haste Theatre. Give them a nice, intimate space and let them showcase their fantastical (sometimes tragical) tales. Not only that, the London-based group would give locals ...

SD Fringe: Red, White, and Blacklisted

Tale of the Weavers' exile on Main Street brings out an icon and highlights the power of a space.

Ever hear of the Weavers? No? Well for over a decade the government wanted to keep it that way. The Weavers were a folk music group long before it became popular. They composed and sang ...

SD Fringe: Red Shoes Revamped and other works and Long Way to Midnight

Red Shoes Revamped and other works Though I used to do a mean James Brown (“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”) and a so-so “Electric Slide,” I’m no expert on dance. I can appreciate the ...

SD Fringe: Fire in the Meth Lab and Ray’s Last Case

One-off spellbinder from Jon Bennett and a shallow look at Mr. CHON-dluh from Scripps

Fire in the Meth Lab A Fringe frustration: when a group from France cancelled their appearance, the Lyceum Theatre had an open slot. For one hour only, on Saturday Jon Bennett performed a work-in-progress, knocked ...

SD Fringe: Nothing With Nobody, Vucciria Teatro

Passion, tragedy, isolation in one act

Rosaria: “Then I’ll take him by his hand and we’ll jump straight down into the blue sea. He will think it’s a game.” Three characters. Sicily, 1980s. The uncredited lighting for this one-act tragedy from ...

SD Fringe: 7 Deadly Sins

Rare staging of the terse, bitter masterpiece makes the case for the Fringe fest itself.

Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s 1933 “Ballet chante” — sung ballet — encapsulates many of Brecht’s themes in a short, spare piece. The full title’s “The Seven Deadly Sins of the Petty Bourgeoise.” In nine ...

SD Fringe: Dr. Frankenstein’s Traveling Freakshow and The Peacock and the Nightingale

Freako-centric Vaudeville done right, Marilyn and Edith done wrong

Dr. Frankenstein’s Traveling Freakshow, Tin Shed Theatre Company The Fringe’s “Off Broadway” space is the stage of the Spreckels Theatre. Tiers of folding chairs, their backs to the house seats, provide an intimate atmosphere. Tin ...

The many trials of Madame Tingley, part five of five

“I saw very plainly that [Katherine Tingley] had impure intentions,” said Henry Reuthling from his seat in the witness box. “What do you mean by impure?” Reuthling: “I mean that her suggestions were of a ...

Barrymore yanks down the bars

I Hate Hamlet at Intrepid Shakespeare Company is an often-silly but always-funny sitcom-tribute to "The Great Profile."

Acting always has a passle of do’s and don’t-you-ever’s. The rules build the cage within which the lion roars. Over the centuries and even over decades, the cage has shrunk. And it must be tempting ...

Streetcorner to Spreckels and back

Internationalized SD Fringe Fest an update on the international arts scene

The first San Diego Fringe Festival was such a hit last summer, this year’s has doubled in size. It now runs eleven days, and offers over 80 entrants. Most will give five performances instead of ...

Last Call: El Henry, Milvotchkee, Visconsin, Miss Firecracker Contest, Spamalot!

Hate to see these go. But they will, come Sunday.

El Henry, Herbert Siguenza, of Culture Clash fame, has written a rousing, funny, and eloquent script based on Shakespeare’s history play, Henry IV, Part one. We’re at Aztlan City — i.e. post-apocalyptic San Diego in ...

Life and death in Aztlan City

El Henry at Maker’s Quarter is a masterful tapestry

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part one, Prince Hal hangs out with Sir John Falstaff and various lowlifes at the Boar’s Head Tavern in Eastcheap, a street in central London. They swill sack. It is 1399. ...

Spamalot is nuts — and wonderful

Moonlight Theatre joins Monty Python's war against pretension

And now for something completely…SPECTACULAR! Moonlight has opened its outdoor summer season with a production so smart, polished, and accurate you’d think they’ve assembled an all-star team. And in a way, they have. Brad Bradley ...

Menacing and comical Journey

Teatro Máscara Mágica offers three angels against a god and his jaguar.

Memo died five years ago. He wants to visit with his living relatives on “the Day of the Dead.” To do so, he must trek through the Underworld, where Mictlantecuhtil, the cruelest of the Aztec ...

Last Call: The Motherfer With the Hat at Cygnet

Standout production is set to close June 22.

Cygnet’s excellent production of the Show We Cannot Fully Name, The Motherf--er With the Hat, must close this Sunday, June 22. The title’s both a warning (there will be untoward language) and an assertion: like ...

The Many Trials of Madame Tingley, part four

Lomaland, a “vile spookery”? Balderdash!

The Allegations In his later years, Harrison Gray Otis rode in an armor-plated, 1910 Franklin Model H. The headlights protruded like cannons; a bronze horn stretching across the molded, deep-green hood resembled an elephant gun. ...

Twelve days of license

The 12th night resembles Fat Tuesday at Mardi Gras: last call to paint Orange Avenue red.

At Lamb’s Players, Mike Buckley’s set hits you first. You’ve come to see Shakespeare’s “festive” comedy, Twelfth Night. It’s set in Illyria. Illyria? Yeah — ancient country on the Adriatic seacoast. But instead, the set’s ...

Words and ideas trickle away in Milvotchkee, Visconsin

A devastating portrait of dementia from Mo`olelo

If you’ve seen that look, that frozen Alzheimer’s stare, on the face of a loved one, you have to wonder what’s inside. If, that is, you can get past the unthinkable horrors a.) of no ...

Gumption rules

Gonzo Miss Firecracker Contest at New Village Arts crackles and pops

Daren Scott’s directed how many shows? Less than a handful? His staging of Beth Henley’s gonzo comedy feels like the work of a seasoned pro. Not only has he served the play well, his cast ...

Sharp minors are the key

Slow start, fab finish in world premiere Dog and Pony at the Old Globe

Rick Elice and Michael Patrick Walker are the multi-talented, mega-award-winning creators of Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher, and Altar Boyz. Their world premiere musical isn’t a dog. But, even with a top flight cast, ...

Last Call: Book of Mormon, Happy Days, Mud Blue Sky

Three high quality shows must close this Sunday, June 8.

The Book of Mormon Maybe THE most hype-heavy show ever to come to the San Diego Civic lives up to all the accolades. Witten by the creators of South Park, the musical is guaranteed to ...

The many trials of Madame Tingley, part three

The siege of Point loma goes global

Tingle, tingle, little star / Oft I wonder who you are. / What you do that isn’t right, / Every blessed, spooky night. In mid-October, 1901, as Madame Katherine Tingley’s Universal Brotherhood gained popularity, the ...

Odd Couple times 40

Crackle and conflict for The Sunshine Boys

Lewis and Clark were trailblazers — the comedy team, that is, of Al Lewis and Willie Clark. Vaudeville headliners back in the 1930s, they were together 43 years and “retired” 11 years ago. Why the ...

Equal opportunity offender and uplifter

The Book of Mormon a striking success at the Civic Theatre

First things first. A word to every theater lover in San Diego who can’t afford a full-priced ticket to this truly remarkable event: two-and-a-half hours before every performance of The Book of Mormon, Broadway/San Diego ...

Chekhoviana hodgepodge

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Old Globe is much more comedy than tragedy

The first three names come from Anton Chekhov: Vanya and niece Sonia from Uncle Vanya; Masha from Three Sisters. And Spike? From the imagination of Christopher Durang which, he says, tossed the Chekhovian trio “into ...

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 ...

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