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Stories by Jeff Smith

The Good, the Bad, and the I-5 at La Jolla Playhouse

What do the following have in common: Alan Arkin, Melinda Dillon, Barbara Harris, Peter Boyle, Joan Rivers? Can’t say? Okay here’s a clue. What do they have in common with John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan ...

The Old Globe stages Cain classic Double Indemnity

Double calamity

They got caught, the lover got the chair, and Cain got a darn good story.

In the Heights by the San Diego Repertory Theatre

The Rep has opened its 38th season with a spectacular production of the Tony Award-winning musical. The evening seems to grow with every song. In fact, after a while when one tough act to follow ...

Raymond raised Cain

In 1927, Ruth Snyder, a woman in Queens, persuaded her lover, Judd Gray, to kill her husband so they could collect the insurance, which had a double indemnity clause for accidental death. Snyder and Gray ...

A road trip goes Sideways at La Jolla Playhouse

They’re wedded to avoidance behavior, abetted by gallons of vino fino.

The Rainmaker at Old Globe

Okay, N. Richard Nash's pluvicultural comedy has a woman reinventing herself during the Depression on the far side of nowhere. And it premiered during the sexism-clogged McCarthy Era at that. But this is one slight ...

A Midsummer Night's Dream at Old Globe

Maybe the most produced play in San Diego this side of A Christmas Carol. We've seen everything from high-caloric cutsie to Jack O'Brien's magical 1985 staging — David Ogden Stiers and Katherine McGrath as a ...

The Old Globe stages Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Like Hamlet’s father’s ghost, they only exist between the footlights and the proscenium.

Freedom of Speech at Diversionary

Eliza Jane Schneider always had a fascination with dialects and has an impressive list of vocal credits, including many of the female characters on the TV show "South Park" and some of the fish in ...

Thoughts on Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., with Howard Jacobson, Ph.D.

"As a country, we're quite sick," the authors say on page four. Less than 20 pages later I realized that this must be one of the - if not the - most radical books I ...

The Old Globe stages Shakespeare's merry sport, The Merchant of Venice

Miles Anderson does amazing things as Shylock in the Old Globe’s Merchant of Venice, but his most understated choice sets the tone of the play. Bassanio wants to wed Portia, “a lady richly left/ And ...

La Jolla Playhouse stages John Guare's tour de farce His Girl Friday

Ben Hecht was a writer’s writer. He won the first Academy Award for a screenplay (Underworld, 1927). He rewrote the first nine reels of Gone with the Wind in seven days. He wrote 35 books ...

Lamb's Players stage musical drama Fiddler on the Roof

Lamb’s Players’ Fiddler on the Roof is one of the best shows they’ve ever done. Ever. The title comes from a wall painting Marc Chagall did for the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre in 1920. He ...

Be a Good Little Widow at the Old Globe

Miscast melody

She flits about like a sand flea, never in one place, or one state of mind, for long.

Unforgettable: Floating Target, part 2

Tuna clipper becomes troop transporter

YP-346 Goes to WarVincent Battaglia, machinist mate of Yard Patrol boat 346, never wore dog-tags in the engine room. No one did. Tropical heat made them so white hot they’d brand you. But on the ...

Unforgettable: Floating Target, part 1

The edge of a minefield is no place to procrastinate.

A recounting of the WII experiences of YP-346, a San Diego tuna boat known as the the Prospect before it was conscripted into the South Pacific war effort.

Old Globe maps Other Desert Cities

"Families are terrorized by their weakest member,” says a character in Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities. The line’s got that yowza zing to it, as if a fire-spewing profundity. But give it some thought ...

Federal Jazz Project time travels at the Rep

The good news about the Rep’s Federal Jazz Project: music lovers unfamiliar with the name Gilbert Castellanos are in for a surprise, maybe even an epiphany. The San Diegan’s a world-class trumpet player who can ...

End of things behind enemy lines

In the crosshairs of history, part threeYP-289 goes to war Hurry up and wait. San Diego’s tuna clippers conscripted for World War II saw far more downtime than action. Like the much larger Liberty ships ...

The Old Globe stages Ibsen classic A Doll's House

I don’t mean to reduce Ibsen’s drama, but in some ways you could subtitle A Doll’s House “Behind the Scenes with Ken and Barbie.” Torvald and Nora Telmer live in such a profoundly rigid society ...

The Old Globe presents A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

You see a great number in a musical and stop the show with rabid applause. But how many times have you really wanted the show to stop — and have them repeat the number on ...

Tuna boats go to war

Tuna fishermen in San Diego were recruited along with their boats to function as supply vessels and mine-sweepers.

The Mountaintop: The Rep stages Dr. King's last night on Earth

I make it a hard and fast rule when entering a theater: leave expectations at the door. Even if I know the play or the subject, I want as clean a slate as possible. Be ...

San Diego Musical Theatre presents a killer diller Chicago at the Birch in North Park

San Diego Musical Theatre’s knock-out production of Bob Fosse’s Chicago must close Sunday, March 3. If you like your entertainment steamy, decadent — and all that jazz — then sprint, don’t just run, to the ...

Gem of the Ocean docks in Old Town

“What good is freedom if you can’t do nothing with it?”

The Old Globe stages The Brothers Size

They are three African-American males at San Pere, Louisiana, near the Bayou. Ogun Henri Size, a mechanic, prides himself for being a responsible adult. Free-spirited younger brother Oshoosi’s back from two years in prison. Now ...

Beauty goin' down

Sun Beauty crew members were saved after using an asparagus can to signal they needed rescuing.

The Lone Wolf hits a Royal Flush

Tuna for days

Every sport or occupation has a dream scenario: score the winning goal; close the impossible sale. For old-time tuna “bait boats,” it was the Big Catch, a mammoth haul with bamboo poles and lines. In ...

Shaw's back in town — finally! The Old Globe stages Pygmalion

What a treat! George Bernard Shaw’s back at the Old Globe — finally! — with first-class direction, performances, and design work. Even a balky turntable on opening night couldn’t tarnish the luster. For the past ...

Let's catch us some tuna!

The tuna spotters sought jumpers, foamers, and boilers on the water’s surface, an indication of schools below and potential future profits.

Hilarities and incompletions in 2012’s theater productions

THE YEAR IN REVIEW. The world’s most anticipated drama — its end — came and didn’t. Advocates of the apocalypse are probably scrambling for a new Day of Doom so they won’t have to face ...

OnStage Playhouse has Persuasion

Jane Austen’s characters read each other like novels. They inspect qualities, every human chapter and verse, and sum them up in lists of checks and balances. In Persuasion, Austen writes, “Her manners were open, easy, ...

In Sickness and in Health

Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots at La Jolla Playhouse

“It’s almost like the disease has to win in order for her soul to survive. Or something like that.”


The Old Globe's Measure for Measure

“The comic and tragic parts equally border on the hateful.”

Head for the Hills

Presidio Hill, the “Plymouth Rock of the West” is also the “cradle of golf in San Diego.”

Through Pity and Terror

Ira Aldridge Players' The Gospel at Colonus; The Sugar Witch at OnStage.

Unforgettable: The Trail of Torment on Gold Mountain

At midnight, Rufus Porter heard footsteps on the porch, then a knock on his bedroom door. Frightened faces told all.

Good People at the Old Globe; Exit Interview at the Rep

Margie’s lived all her life in blue-collar South Boston. Now 30 years since she was a teen, she recounts the fates of former “Southies.” Sheila Sheen od’d. And Marty McDermott’s doing time in Walpole prison. ...

Sharks in Swampland

La Jolla Playhouse stages David Mamet's blowtorch comedy Glengarry Glen Ross.

Allegiance, an important musical at the Old Globe

Everything became extreme, chaotic, life-threatening for over 120,000 Japanese Americans.

Letters from the End of the World, Part Two

Letters from Tetsuzo “Tets” Hirasaki, an interned Japanese-American at Poston, Arizona, during WWII.

Anything Goes at Moonlight Theatre

The S.S. America sails into Porterland, a place so sacred, the faithful feel like removing their shoes.

Letters from the End of the World, Part One

The letters of Testuzo Hirasaki, a Japanese American interned at the Santa Anita racetrack (dubbed “Santa Japanita”) following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

La Jolla Playhouse stages An Iliad

One of the best features of An Iliad is how contemporary references function like Homer’s similes.

Truth Attack — God of Carnage at the Old Globe

“A mouthful of rum and — bam — the real face appears.”

Before God of Carnage begins at the Old Globe’s White Theatre, Robert Morgan’s set makes a quiet suggestion. Dark objects stand on the perimeter of a circular living room. A small wet bar and sofa ...

Divine Rivalry at the Old Globe; Cygnet Theatre's Man of La Mancha

As a youth, the poet William Wordsworth crossed the Alps. He hiked the Simplon Pass, a “steep and rugged” road over a mile above sea level. When he reached the other side he stopped cold. ...

The Big Noise: The Free Speech Fight of 1912, Part Eight

Three years after San Diego’s free-speech fight began, vigilantes stood at the ready.

The Old Globe stages Richard III

‘NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT MADE GLORIOUS SUMMER BY THIS SON OF YORK...” Jay Whittaker screams his first entrance as Richard III with such strained ferocity you’d think his audience sat across Balboa ...

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