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Stories by Jeff Smith

La Jolla Playhouse gets Indecent

Immigration assimilation

The biggest problem with Indecent may be that there's too little of it.

The Oldest Boy demands a parent reconcile East versus West in herself

San Diego Rep's solid show wrestles with how a woman can "think bigger than a mother"

In chapter one of his majestic In Exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon must prove that a two-and-a-half-year-old boy, a thousand miles east of Lhasa, Tibet, is the reincarnation of the 13th ...

The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence puts non-linearity first

Moxie Theatre production gives noble attempt but characters, concision, and coherence suffer

You can almost hear Eliza Merrick sing, “why can’t a man, be more like my robot?” She worked on IBM’s famous WATSON, the supercomputer that beat two past champions on Jeopardy (before the first match, ...

My Acting Bucket List: Jo Anne Glover

Language and relationships pull in the award-winning actor and Development Director at Moxie Theatre

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Eileen Bowman's superb Judy Garland stands out amid excellent performances

Intrepid Theatre stages The End of the Rainbow

"You gotta see the whole picture,” Judy Garland tells fiancé Mickey Deans in Peter Quilter’s End of the Rainbow. “Everything just comes to me at once and crashes from one thing to another. I can’t ...

Precious Little inaugurates fitting space

Small, intimate production from InnerMission speaks to language as life

Diversionary Theatre has converted its old rehearsal space into an intimate blackbox theater. There are still some bugs to work out, sightlines in particular. But hey: any new performing space in San Diego’s a cause ...

Tragicomic Chapatti at North Coast Rep overly simple but executed with skill

A gentle exorcism

By their pets, ye shall know them. If so, then Dan and Betty, in Christian O’Reilly’s Chapatti, are worlds apart. She’s a cat lover with “19 and counting.” Although her marriage was brutal, she somehow ...

The Rep goes national with Honky

New PBS series Onstage in America kicks off with noted local production

At 10 p.m., November 6, a filmed version of the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Honky will air on PBS’s “OnStage in America.” This is a huge deal. In the new series, PBS will use inventive ...

No fat villains?

Falstaff ruined it for the bad guys

In the mid-to-late 19th century, touring theater companies had specific types. Along with the Leading Man and Woman — i.e. the headline performers — there were: First Old Man and Old Woman Juveniles: needed large ...

Spirits and true-life ghosts abide in The Weir

New Village Arts offers warmth but with a chill at the edges

Jack just picked a winner at the track. He and Jim meet up at Brendan’s pub on a desolate, Irish country road. Life’s a mite bleary for these lonely blokes. But as a westerly howls ...

Rough and inventive, world-premiere Oz comes to Coronado

Lamb's Players Theatre takes on the three scariest words in the English language

The Wizard of Oz may be one of the few things Americans have in common. Much more than the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards, or even “I cannot tell a lie.” “Auntie Em!!! Auntie Em!” ...

Serve up the suffering

The Trip's inventive, clever Three Sisters takes it to a new place — Torrey Mesa

In Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters (1900), Lieutenant Vershinin wonders what the world will be like in 200 years. I wonder if Chekhov could imagine that, 115 years after it opened, a company would mount his ...

Two by Noël Coward in repertory at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town

Jazz-age behavior

Cygnet Theatre offers a “double bill” of Noël Coward’s The Vortex (1924) and Hay Fever (1925). Staging his early plays in repertory has advantages. The dark, brittle Vortex is almost a photographic negative of the ...

Pride and precarity

Excellence in work and fragility of position explored in earnest My Mañana Comes at San Diego Rep

If the new manager of a posh, Madison Avenue restaurant could watch his busboys work in the “back of the house” he’d never cut their “shift pay.” Or would only do it to save his ...

My Acting Bucket List: Colleen Kollar Smith

The new Executive Director of San Diego Musical Theatre directs, choreographs, acts, sings, and creates

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Style and substance run Full Gallop at the Globe

Diana Vreeland adores artifice, even vulgarity

“...It’s a way of life. Without it you’re nobody. And I’m not talking about a lot of clothes.”

Last Call: La Cage Aux Folles and Without Walls Festival

Two events must close this Sunday, plus a tribute to Arthur Wagner, giant of local theater

La Cage Aux Folles at San Diego Musical Theatre. You have until Sunday, says our guest reviewer Jon Reimer, to “throw on a wig, put on your best pair of heels, and head on down ...

Talking walls

La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls Festival steps outside for a "three-day arts party"

The La Jolla Playhouse’s popular Without Walls Festival begins Friday, October 9 and runs through October 11. That’s 22 events in three days, and all are “site-specific.” “The Playhouse has four theaters,” says artistic director ...

Poetical approach to life, death, identity, and government lies

Moxie's Orange Julius packs a lot in a little in this world premiere

“None of us is who we are when we’re at home,” observes orange-haired Nut, recalling a childhood where she distrusted her father, a war hero, and didn’t fit into a young woman’s traditional identity. As ...

Teaching moments with the maestro

Ion Theatre's Master Class takes on Maria Callas

It’s 1971. We’re on a stage at the Juilliard School of Music, where Maria Callas will teach a master class on “The Lyric Tradition” to aspiring young singers. Callas is past her prime in art ...

Frustrating delight

In Your Arms at the Old Globe presents variations on the theme of star-crossed lovers

2015 may be one of the gutsiest years ever in San Diego theater. I can’t ever remember so many world premieres. Even though the word on staging them is: do not. They’re too risky, can ...

The soul force of Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin

Successful world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse gives a hero his due

Roll the credits! Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) performed on Broadway with Paul Robeson in John Henry. As a student, his rich tenor sang blues and gospel in nightclubs to make ends meet. An exceptional athlete, he ...

Tribute to Arthur Wagner by Jefferson Mays

UCSD's indefatigable champion of the theater has passed away

Arthur Wagner, indefatigable champion of the theater, passed away yesterday morning. He was 92. I asked Jefferson Mays, one of his most devoted and accomplished students — and Tony Award-winner for I Am My Own ...

Light comedy lite

The Fox on the Fairway at North Coast Rep has no redeeming social value, and that's fine

It’s tournament weekend at Quail Valley Country Club. They have their annual match with a dreaded — albeit evil — opponent. Crouching Squirrel C.C. has better golfers and just absconded with Quail Valley’s only decent ...

My Acting Bucket List: Geno Carr

The versatile actor-performer shares his ambition

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Shrill, grotesque love

Amazons and Their Men at Diversionary Theatre is good and could be great

Hitler called Leni Riefenstahl “my perfect German woman.” The first time she saw him, in 1932, she said “I feel very happy that such a man has come.” Riefenstahl opened the movie camera’s eye. In ...

Last Call: Violet

Catch the exceptional performances before the San Diego Rep show closes this Sunday

The perfect theatrical storm’s a seamless combination of a great production of a great play or musical. The audience goes to unforeseen places and becomes so attuned, as T. S. Eliot wrote, that they “are ...

The Rep plays Violet fast and loose and the Globe plays a thin Comedy of Errors

Bus ride to salvation

Violet studies faces. She even sketches their features in a book. For her own, she’d like a composite: Rita Hayworth’s skin, Ingrid Bergman’s cheekbones, and Grace Kelly’s petite nose. Violet’s obsessed with facial features. When ...

Bill Virchis knows what the theater community needs right now

San Diego theater needs an Incubator, says accomplished, devoted local

If there were a San Diego Theater Hall of Fame, William Virchis would be a first ballot honoree. He has acted, directed, and produced theater almost since his birth, in 1944. He’s also taught thousands ...

Last Call: West Side Story, Parlour Song

Two quality shows must close this Sunday. One enjoyed an extended run. The other deserved one.

West Side Story. “Here come the Jets like a bat out of hell, someone gets in our way, someone don’t feel so well!” Lamb’s Players excellent show has enjoyed an extended run with good reason: ...

No buffer zones

In Parlour Song at Backyard Renaissance, sea beasts lurk and rove below a mirror-still surface

Toward the end of Jez Butterworth’s eerie, Pinteresque Parlour Song, Dale ruminates. What if you find a door in your house you never knew was there before. “Would you open it?” Ned blows up buildings ...

My Acting Bucket List: Francis Gercke

The Craig Noel Award-winner puts a twist on his list and selects stories instead of roles

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Cirque du Chaotic

Too much crammed into too little at the Playhouse's Up Here

Long before the dancing cacti showed up or Audrey III flapped mastic jaws in a pile of laundry, I began to wonder if Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez’s romantic-comedy musical, Up Here, was actually a ...

Absurdist inquisition

The Birthday Party at New Fortune Theatre is funny, until it isn't.

When a young actor, Harold Pinter needed a place to stay at a rainy, seaside town. A man in a pub suggested a nearby boarding house, but couldn’t vouch for its cleanliness. Pinter lodged in ...

My acting bucket list: Allison Spratt Pearce

Strong, classic, versatile roles attract the veteran actor

I’m asking veteran 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 that ...

Last Call: Kiss Me, Kate, and the Fringe winners are...

The Old Globe’s mega hit must close Sunday and the most Fringelicious selections for 2015

Kiss Me Kate. The Old Globe’s mega hit must close Sunday. No if’s, and’s, or could we start again please’s. In 2013, Darko Trasnjak, former artistic director at the Globe, brought us a gem of ...

Two-act magic show

Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery at the Old Globe Theatre is not about the mind or mystery, but the execution itself

How to characterize Ken Ludwig’s take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous mystery? It’s not an all-out spoof, since it wades through pages and pages of exposition about the monster hound haunting the moors of ...

Eve of destruction

Cygnet stages Dogfight; New Village Arts explores Forbidden Planet

Did Eddie spend four years in Vietnam? Or did it just seem that way?

Little man with a big gun

The Strange Case of Mr. Wallace Leach, Part Two

Wallace Leach barged into the Occidental Hotel bar with a broken nose and a powerful thirst. He was in San Francisco on business, he said, but was out for revenge. He came to hire a ...

Last Call: The Quality of Life & Fringe Fest best

The Fringe Festival ends this Sunday. As does one of San Diego’s best dramatic productions in years. The Quality of Life. Intrepid Theatre Company mounted Jane Anderson’s heart-wrenching, gut-busting play at the Carlsbad Village Theatre, ...

The Strange Case of Mr. Wallace Leach

Part One: “Circular Insanity”

The sun over Coronado said 3 p.m. Wallace Leach bumbled out the side door of the Horton House bar and shielded his eyes from the glare. Though a snappy dresser — he was one of ...

San Diego Fringe: Big Kitchen: A Counter Culture Musical

Big Kitchen: A Counter Culture Musical. San Diego should confer the equivalent of knighthood on its special ones — those who have devoted decades to making some part of “America’s Finest City” approach that inflated ...

San Diego Fringe: ¿Y Tú Qué?

¿Y Tú Qué? When the prima ballerina couldn’t use her legs, she created a “dance on wheels.” Rossana Penaloza performed in Peru (her home country), Havana, Cuba, and Mexico City, always to robust applause. For ...

San Diego Fringe: 84 Gradini and Jay & Charlie Get Drunk

84 Gradini. Kinetic Giuseppi Mortelliti tells his story as much with his body as his words. His character, Fabrizio, learns that “life is made of stairs, of obstacles, of ups and downs.” But he has ...

San Diego Fringe: Tears of the Knife and My Mother’s in the Audience

Tears of the Knife. Ah, the Fringe Festival! Where else in San Diego can you walk into a theater and see a hanged man, his head in a gunny sack, looming above the stage? And ...

Hurlers and the behind in Lockling Square

Boys of summer, 1880 edition

Bay City’s taking on The Resolutes today at Lockling Square. As the players warm up, some shout encouragement, but most stand stiff. They toss and catch the ball with affected grace, as if posing for ...

Bust those eyeballs!

11 days, 430 events: the third-annual San Diego International Fringe Festival is here

There’s that eyeball-buster logo again! The third annual San Diego International Fringe Festival begins Thursday, July 23 and runs through August 2. That’s eleven days. As fans of the first two found out, they go ...

Kiss Me, Kate's brassy, unfettered swagger

Wunderbar!

When Patricia Morrison and Alfred Drake began rehearsing Cole Porter’s latest effort, they weren’t impressed. “We were using just a piano,” she recalled. “It was so disjointed we didn’t think we had a hit.” Then ...

My acting bucket list: Randall Dodge

The Craig Noel Award-winning actor talks about roles he can't wait to take on

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 ...

Girls will be boys in the Old Globe's Twelfth Night

Energy's external

Production takes Shakespeare’s night of revels out of doors.

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