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Stories by Jeff Smith

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.

She-Rantulas from Outer Space in 3D! at Diversionary

It’s a “fartire.” That’s what Phil Johnson and Ruff Yeager call their “unique combination of farce and satire.” It’s based on the B-movies of the Fifties, where monsters from who knows where threaten to obliterate ...

Geyser murders, part 1

Double murder up on Otay Mesa, 1892. An old Indian laborer is blamed.

Sunday, October 16, 1892Thomas Smallcomb got the news around 11:00 p.m. Trouble up at the Geyser’s. A double murder. The deputy constable flicked the reins and steered his two-horse buckboard east on Otay Valley Road. ...

Wit at Lamb's Players Theatre

Salvation anxiety

“It is not my intention to give away the plot, but I think I die in the end.”

The Tallest Tree in the Forest at La Jolla Playhouse

When I see the name Moises Kaufman linked to a project I circle the date at once. He’s been involved with some of the most thorough, serious, and moving pieces in recent years: The Laramie ...

The Last Goodbye at the Old Globe

First things first. Barry Edelstein, the Old Globe’s new artistic director, has begun his tenure with what amounts to a position statement: do not expect the safe, commercial fare of the previous administration. Though the ...

The Few at the Old Globe

John Donne said “no man is an island.” Playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s world premiere disagrees. Matthew, QZ, and Bryan live sealed-off, isolated lives, though a thousand miles from any ocean. More to the point, they’re ...

Thinking Flashes in the Sky (Part 4)

When normally responsible persons report UFOs.

After an announcement by Roswell Army Air Field commander Col. William Blanchard that a “flying saucer” had been “captured,” there was immediate rebuke by his superiors. The press followed in discrediting the existence of UFOs. Quickly, reports of UFOs dropped off; those that were reported were ridiculed.

Meet John Donne

Lamb’s Players is currently staging Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit. A major character never comes on stage. But he hovers over it like a severe, yet benevolent angel. Before Vivian Bearing was diagnosed with stage-four ...

The importance of seeing Travesties at Cygnet

Social revolution.

“Unaccompanied women smoking at the opera, that sort of thing?”

Thinking Flashes in the Sky (Part 3)

UFO vapor trails in San Marcos

A look back on the Fourth of July weekend of 1947, when reports of UFOs went viral!

Wait Until Dark at New Village Arts

I know people who’ve vowed never to see the 1967 movie again. Even though they know what’s coming: just when you think it’s safe at 27B Grogan Street, Greenwich Village, Alan Arkin’s full profile dives ...

Without Walls Festival: Cornerstone and The Myth Project: Altar

Cornerstone We’ve been hired to work at the world’s most important power plant, in the center of civilization. We will be responsible not just for providing energy to the masses but also for the air ...

Without Walls Festival: Seafoam Sleepwalk and Hedda-ing

Seafoam Sleepwalk. The Scripps Institute of Oceanography has catalogued countless species of marine life. But they have never - and will never again after this coming Sunday - witnessed who emerges from the whitewater at ...

Thinking Flashes in the Sky (Part 2)

On 1947’s Fourth of July weekend, 500 people per day reported seeing UFOs…and we’re talking all over the country, not just flaky-nutty Southern California.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ at San Diego Musical Theatre

Some definitions: Harlem Renaissance: a flourishing of African-American art centered on, but not exclusive to, Harlem. Begun in the 1920s, it included writing by Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, and innovative music by Duke ...

The Importance of Being Earnest at Cygnet Theatre

There are probably plays as funny, though I doubt there’s one funnier than Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people.” The jokes flow like ocean waves, in sets of three, with the third the capper. ...

“Let’s invent where theater happens!”

When he was a “little kid, maybe five or six,” Christopher Ashley watched a man on ice skates at Rockefeller Center. As he skated, the man recited a poem and the blades clacked out the ...

Without Walls Festival: Counterweight at La Jolla Playhouse

Counterweight, An Elevator Love Play.

A preview of coming attractions at the La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival (October 3-6). You could almost say the festival stages plays anywhere but in a theater. The plays are one-acts. Most run less ...

Logan Heights at OnStage Productions

It’s too bad they don’t give a Craig Noel Award for Audience of the Year. I sat in a sure nominee recently at OnStage. High school students packed the house. They hung on every word ...

Trunk Tunes

They tell writers never talk about an idea or what you’re working on. The superstition, a favorite of Hemingway’s: some writing only happens once. And not even at a computer or in a notebook. Voice ...

A Weekend with Pablo Picasso at San Diego Rep.

I’ve always been wary of theatrical biographies of famous people. Too often they assume you already know, say, James Joyce or Ludwig Van B., Ty Cobb or Rosa Parks. So the bios skip past the ...

Dead air reigns in The Shining City

Conor McPherson’s The Shining City takes some amazing theatrical risks. No, wait, make that anti-theatrical. Imagine the exact opposite of a blockbuster movie: frantic cuts, pulse-drubbing pace, blaring sounds that belt you daffy. Shining City ...

Lettice & Lovage at Scripps Ranch Theatre

According to tour guide Lettice Douffet, Fustian House is inaptly named. “Fustian” means “turgid,” “bombastic,” and “pretentious” speech or writing. Lettice says it’s the blandest, gloomiest, 16th century building in Britain. So she decides to ...

Man With a Load of Mischief at North Coast Rep.

One of the most frustrating parts of my job is watching a top notch cast, backed by a polished trio of musicians, performing on an inventive set – and the material doesn’t come near their ...

Back to the Border.

Teatro Mascara Magica’s Detained in the Desert runs through this weekend. The compelling play is about undocumented immigrants, a subject so vital they say the only way to see it fully is to be there. ...

Thinking Flashes in the Sky (Part 1)

Newfangled aircraft or UFOs?

On June 23, 1947, pilot Richard Rankin saw a fleet of ten aircraft that became known as the first “flying saucers.”

Marry Me a Little at Diversionary: a P(review)

A composer hands a chorus line dancer a box full of musical scores – most of them rejects – and says, “do what you can.” The songs have something to do with love: longing for, ...

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