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Stories by Jeff Smith

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, ...

The Warrior’s Duet: Backstory

One of the hottest shows of the recent San Diego Fringe Festival will have an all-too brief return run this weekend. The two-character story, by Charlene Baldridge, and the staging by Circle Circle dot dot’s ...

La Jolla Playhouse presents Detained in the Desert

It’s always a relief when license plates with Saguaro cacti exodus east this time of year. Our roads thin out, like arteries purged of cholesterol. But Teatro Mascara Magica’s staging a play all Zonies should ...

On the Trail of San Diego History: The Box Canyon That Got Away, Part Two.

Field Notes: Fifty, 100, even 200 years after a historical event, you can get the feel of a place just by being there. Stand at the ruins on Presidio Hill, for example. Erase all the ...

On the Trail of San Diego History: The Canyon That Got Away, Part One.

Somewhere in the Cuyamacas there’s a box canyon wide enough to include 50 armed men on horseback and tall enough to conceal at least 200 Kumeyaay warriors lying in wait around the rim. But try ...

Young Frankenstein at Moonlight Stage

No comedian gets to his inner child faster, or stays longer, than Mel Brooks. “There are no rules,” says the self-annointed psychiatrist in Brooks’s 2000-Year-old Man album. “A hundred years from now, they’ll decide what ...

Objects in Motion at Lamb’s Players Theatre

Okay. The stage will be bare. We’ll need a leather-like club chair: classy but mobile and able to take a pounding, since it’ll roll on and off often. Also, it must have wide and tall ...

Last Call

Three local productions must close this Sunday and should not go gently to that final curtain.

In the Heights at San Diego Rep Sam Woodhouse (director), Javier Velasco (choreographer) and at least half of San Diego – or so it would seem – have turned the San Diego Rep’s Lyceum Stage ...

The 39 Steps at Lamb's Players; Burn This at Different Stages

Except for two tall, A-frame ladders, two small balconies, and a solitary light bulb, the stage for Lamb’s Players is bare. Even the coal-black rear wall is exposed. Take away the balconies and Michael McKeon’s ...

POETiCAL, Not to be Played on the Radio at Ira Aldridge Repertory

For seven years, Calvin Manson, artistic director of the Ira Aldridge Repertory, interviewed people unused to tape recorders and probing questions: the homeless, the bullied, the racially profiled. To enter their world he disguised himself ...

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 ...

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