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Stories by Jeff Smith

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 ...

Boosterism, long ago

Boosterism: “the act of ‘boosting’ or promoting a town with the goal of improving public perception of it.” “America’s Finest City” (see what I mean?) has a long, purple-prosy tradition of hyping itself to the ...

Bearded at Circle Circle dot dot

I’ll never forget the time I took a young niece — she was maybe seven or eight — to see Santa Claus. She’d been hearing rumors that there was no such dude, but remained defiant. ...

Good News/Bad News at San Diego Rep.

The Good: the Rep has been chosen as the site for this year’s NNPN National Showcase of New Plays 2013. This is a prestigious deal. Beginning on Friday, December 6, and running through Sunday, 31 ...

How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the Old Globe

FINDING BIGFOOT. “Hi. I’m Matt Moneymaker. We’re here at a Whoville Town Hall meeting. Show of hands: How many’ve seen a big, brown-haired creature? Cindy-Loo Who. “Me! Me! Only his hair wasn’t brown. It was ...

Geyser murders, part 4

The first person executed by the state of California — José Gabriel — might have been an innocent man.

Venus in Fur: #1

How many of the nation's most-produced plays have been on stage in San Diego?

At the San Diego Rep’s opening night, artistic director Sam Woodhouse announced that David Ives’ thought-provoking sex comedy, Venus in Fur, is 2013’s most-produced play. Including the Rep’s top notch effort, there have been 22 ...

Side Show at La Jolla Playhouse

They say that composer Henry Krieger and librettist/lyricist Bill Russell’s 1997 musical has a cult following. If so, the cult deserves better than their “re-imagined” version at the Playhouse. Make that de-imagined. Daisy and Violet ...

Hooked on Vanda

Venus in Fur at the San Diego Rep

“Most women who are 24 these days sound like 6-year-olds on helium.”

Geyser murders, part 3

There was enough evidence to hang Indian Jose Gabriel for the killings of the Geyser family on Otay Mesa in 1892…at least by mob standards.

Last call

Two productions must close this weekend that illustrate the range of subjects and the skills of local theater. And do us proud.

When I went to Lamb’s Players, I’d already seen at least three productions of Margaret Edson’s Wit. I’d also read the play several times and wrote a feature about Jerry Patch, dramaturge extraordinaire. When he ...

Skinless at Moxie Theatre

“You can’t kill mom. We need the money!” Thirty-five years ago, Johnna Adams’ intellectual-horror drama would have had the same fate in academia as the works of Zinnia Wells do in her play Skinless. Not ...

Raw and Chad Deity: When chaos demands a cameo

Ion Theatre’s current production, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity spoofs and critiques The WWE’s Monday Night Raw, the TV wrestling show with ratings through the roof. As the playwright points out, the WWE shamelessly ...

Ion Theatre stages The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Jobber to the stars

The boss screams, “They’ll hate you,” which in pro wrestling is “the best news you can hear.”

Geyser murders, part 2

The quivering mound of crimson-streaked grime would be the prisoner.

Attempted reconstruction of the scene of a double murder on Otay Mesa in the 1890s. They blamed the Indian, José Rafael.

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