Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Senior Moments

They strategize like young soldiers, forgetting that they’re almost immobile.

Back in the ’60s, Robert Anderson wrote a one-act called I’m Herbert. Depending on how old you are, it could be a comedy or a tragedy. In the play, a man and a woman, senior citizens, try to communicate. But senility warps their words into an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine. If you’re young, the old geezers’ inability to connect makes for hilarious theater of the absurd. If you’re beyond a certain age, however, they become chilling previews of coming attractions.

Gerald Sibleyras’s Heroes at North Coast Rep uses a similar device. Henri, Philippe, and Gustave, veterans of World War I, were heroes 41 years ago. Now it’s 1959 and they’re patients at an old-soldiers’ home in rural France. And they’re stuck. Henri lost a leg in battle; Philippe has a piece of shrapnel in his head and passes out every ten minutes; and the aristocratic Gustave — who won medals in both World Wars — finds safety inside the walls and doesn’t dare venture out.

The play combines traces of I’m Herbert with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (where “hell is other people”). Because most days are identical and ruled by devastating boredom, the trio does, and does not, get along. The walled-in terrace where they spend their days (nicely replicated by Marty Burnett for NCRT) feels more and more like a prison, from which they plan an unlikely escape.

It’s actually a campaign: they want to climb to a stand of poplar trees on a far-off hill. They strategize like young soldiers, all the while forgetting that they’re almost immobile. The gap between the two — fading memories of youth, diminishment of old age — creates both humor and pathos.

Tom Stoppard’s impressionistic translation leaves out basic information. We learn snippets about the trio, but concrete explanations are few. We’re never told why Gustave is agoraphobic (or even that he is; we deduce it from his behavior) or how Henri lost his leg. Or when Philippe is having a spell or just faking one for laughs. The play’s more a painting by Claude Monet than, say, Cezanne.

In effect, Heroes frames the story through the lens of an octogenarian. It’s probably not unique, but the point of view is striking. The playwright doesn’t have all the facts. His characters exist in a wavering now, four decades from their battlefield heroics. Our sense of their pasts is as vague as theirs. The script has “senior moments” by design.

The North Coast Repertory Theatre has cast three heroes of regional theater: Ken Ruta (Gustave) is cofounder of the Guthrie Theatre and associate artist at the Old Globe; Ray Reinhardt (Henri) is cofounder of ACT in San Francisco; and San Diego’s own Jonathan McMurtry (Philippe) won a Craig Noel Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s a dream cast, but the night I caught the show, the performances felt under-rehearsed with many line troubles. As a result, their rhythms were off and the pace lagged. One often had the sense that each was waiting on the others.

Directed by David Ellenstein, the overall production felt heavy-handed, while the play calls for the lightest of touches. Some scenes struck chords, as when the trio practiced roping themselves for the climb with a fire hose. Their frustrated entanglement was both farcical and sad. But too often lulls intruded and momentum was lost.

**

When Ion Theatre announced it would stage Gypsy, one of the greatest musicals of all time, in its small space, I said, “Huh?” When I saw the results, all I could say was, “Oh, my!” Ion has shrunk the piece to fit a two-car garage. If you’re expecting production numbers with a cast of thousands, steer clear. But on its own terms, the Ion downsizing works — even works wonders — on a human scale.

In Cygnet Theatre’s Glass Menagerie, Amanda Sitton plays fragile Laura Wingfield as if born for the role. At Ion, Linda Libby exudes the same aura as Mama Rose, the stage mother from Hell. The librettist Arthur Laurents wrote about Rose: “If you try to live your childrens’ lives, you’ll destroy yourself.”

“You’ll be swell,” Libby/Rose sings to daughter Louise, “you’ll be GREAT!” In no time the words evolve from Broadway dream to a formal, military command, and then to Rose trying to will success in her daughter, practically shoving it down her throat. Libby commands the stage throughout, but her unfettered desperation gains magnitude from the intimate Ion Theatre space. Rose will not be defeated again.

Gypsy is a backstage musical. Designer Karin Filijan’s somber, “worklight” effects give the songs a personal, behind-the-scenes touch: the characters sing just to each other, not past the footlights to the back of the house (when Libby does sing out, in the dynamite “Rose’s Turn,” it’s to an imaginary audience, and Rose almost loses her mind). Another unexpected bonus: the singers aren’t miked! These are actual voices — for once.

Backed by Wendy Thompson’s precise, indefatigable piano, the cast obviously relishes this enterprise. Katie Whalley (remember the name) gives young Louise a sweeping arc from pageboy shyness to bombastic Gypsy Rose Lee. Andy Collins is just right as Herbie, the husband drained of devotion. As June, the daughter meant to be the star, Helena Marie Woods has a horse laugh that’s priceless.

Gypsy broke a lot of ground when first produced in 1959. Along with a difficult central character, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics favored the vernacular. Sondheim also summed up the theme: “Gypsy says something fairly hard to take: that every child eventually has to become responsible for his parents.” ■

Heroes, by Gerald Sibleyras, adapted by Tom Stoppard

North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987-D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Directed by David Ellenstein: cast: Jonathan McMurtry, Ray Reinhardt, Ken Ruta; scenic design, Marty Burnett; costumes, Renetta Lloyd; lighting, Matt Novotny; sound, Chris Luessmann

Playing through November 13; Sunday and Wednesday at 7:00 Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 858-481-1055

Gypsy, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents

Ion Theatre, 3704 Sixth Avenue, Hillcrest

Co-directed by Claudio Raygoza and Kim Strassburger; cast: Linda Libby, Katie Whalley, Helena Marie Woods, Eric Hellmers, Gracie Lee Brown, Jordan Bunshaft, Gigi Coddington, Andy Collins, Betsy Dunbar, Emily Gordon, Ralph Johnson, Justin Warren Martin, Ben Shaffer; scenic and sound design, Raygoza; costumes, Joan Hanselman-Wong; lighting, Karin Filijan; choreographer, Ali Whitman

Playing through November 27; Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-600-5020

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Hancock Street to get sharrows

"This area will be the next Little Italy"

Back in the ’60s, Robert Anderson wrote a one-act called I’m Herbert. Depending on how old you are, it could be a comedy or a tragedy. In the play, a man and a woman, senior citizens, try to communicate. But senility warps their words into an Abbott and Costello “Who’s on first?” routine. If you’re young, the old geezers’ inability to connect makes for hilarious theater of the absurd. If you’re beyond a certain age, however, they become chilling previews of coming attractions.

Gerald Sibleyras’s Heroes at North Coast Rep uses a similar device. Henri, Philippe, and Gustave, veterans of World War I, were heroes 41 years ago. Now it’s 1959 and they’re patients at an old-soldiers’ home in rural France. And they’re stuck. Henri lost a leg in battle; Philippe has a piece of shrapnel in his head and passes out every ten minutes; and the aristocratic Gustave — who won medals in both World Wars — finds safety inside the walls and doesn’t dare venture out.

The play combines traces of I’m Herbert with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit (where “hell is other people”). Because most days are identical and ruled by devastating boredom, the trio does, and does not, get along. The walled-in terrace where they spend their days (nicely replicated by Marty Burnett for NCRT) feels more and more like a prison, from which they plan an unlikely escape.

It’s actually a campaign: they want to climb to a stand of poplar trees on a far-off hill. They strategize like young soldiers, all the while forgetting that they’re almost immobile. The gap between the two — fading memories of youth, diminishment of old age — creates both humor and pathos.

Tom Stoppard’s impressionistic translation leaves out basic information. We learn snippets about the trio, but concrete explanations are few. We’re never told why Gustave is agoraphobic (or even that he is; we deduce it from his behavior) or how Henri lost his leg. Or when Philippe is having a spell or just faking one for laughs. The play’s more a painting by Claude Monet than, say, Cezanne.

In effect, Heroes frames the story through the lens of an octogenarian. It’s probably not unique, but the point of view is striking. The playwright doesn’t have all the facts. His characters exist in a wavering now, four decades from their battlefield heroics. Our sense of their pasts is as vague as theirs. The script has “senior moments” by design.

The North Coast Repertory Theatre has cast three heroes of regional theater: Ken Ruta (Gustave) is cofounder of the Guthrie Theatre and associate artist at the Old Globe; Ray Reinhardt (Henri) is cofounder of ACT in San Francisco; and San Diego’s own Jonathan McMurtry (Philippe) won a Craig Noel Lifetime Achievement Award. It’s a dream cast, but the night I caught the show, the performances felt under-rehearsed with many line troubles. As a result, their rhythms were off and the pace lagged. One often had the sense that each was waiting on the others.

Directed by David Ellenstein, the overall production felt heavy-handed, while the play calls for the lightest of touches. Some scenes struck chords, as when the trio practiced roping themselves for the climb with a fire hose. Their frustrated entanglement was both farcical and sad. But too often lulls intruded and momentum was lost.

**

When Ion Theatre announced it would stage Gypsy, one of the greatest musicals of all time, in its small space, I said, “Huh?” When I saw the results, all I could say was, “Oh, my!” Ion has shrunk the piece to fit a two-car garage. If you’re expecting production numbers with a cast of thousands, steer clear. But on its own terms, the Ion downsizing works — even works wonders — on a human scale.

In Cygnet Theatre’s Glass Menagerie, Amanda Sitton plays fragile Laura Wingfield as if born for the role. At Ion, Linda Libby exudes the same aura as Mama Rose, the stage mother from Hell. The librettist Arthur Laurents wrote about Rose: “If you try to live your childrens’ lives, you’ll destroy yourself.”

“You’ll be swell,” Libby/Rose sings to daughter Louise, “you’ll be GREAT!” In no time the words evolve from Broadway dream to a formal, military command, and then to Rose trying to will success in her daughter, practically shoving it down her throat. Libby commands the stage throughout, but her unfettered desperation gains magnitude from the intimate Ion Theatre space. Rose will not be defeated again.

Gypsy is a backstage musical. Designer Karin Filijan’s somber, “worklight” effects give the songs a personal, behind-the-scenes touch: the characters sing just to each other, not past the footlights to the back of the house (when Libby does sing out, in the dynamite “Rose’s Turn,” it’s to an imaginary audience, and Rose almost loses her mind). Another unexpected bonus: the singers aren’t miked! These are actual voices — for once.

Backed by Wendy Thompson’s precise, indefatigable piano, the cast obviously relishes this enterprise. Katie Whalley (remember the name) gives young Louise a sweeping arc from pageboy shyness to bombastic Gypsy Rose Lee. Andy Collins is just right as Herbie, the husband drained of devotion. As June, the daughter meant to be the star, Helena Marie Woods has a horse laugh that’s priceless.

Gypsy broke a lot of ground when first produced in 1959. Along with a difficult central character, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics favored the vernacular. Sondheim also summed up the theme: “Gypsy says something fairly hard to take: that every child eventually has to become responsible for his parents.” ■

Heroes, by Gerald Sibleyras, adapted by Tom Stoppard

North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987-D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach

Directed by David Ellenstein: cast: Jonathan McMurtry, Ray Reinhardt, Ken Ruta; scenic design, Marty Burnett; costumes, Renetta Lloyd; lighting, Matt Novotny; sound, Chris Luessmann

Playing through November 13; Sunday and Wednesday at 7:00 Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 858-481-1055

Gypsy, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents

Ion Theatre, 3704 Sixth Avenue, Hillcrest

Co-directed by Claudio Raygoza and Kim Strassburger; cast: Linda Libby, Katie Whalley, Helena Marie Woods, Eric Hellmers, Gracie Lee Brown, Jordan Bunshaft, Gigi Coddington, Andy Collins, Betsy Dunbar, Emily Gordon, Ralph Johnson, Justin Warren Martin, Ben Shaffer; scenic and sound design, Raygoza; costumes, Joan Hanselman-Wong; lighting, Karin Filijan; choreographer, Ali Whitman

Playing through November 27; Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 619-600-5020

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Floating Outdoor Cinema on the Bay, Toy Piano Festival

Events September 27-September 30, 2020
Next Article

Nathan Fletcher, wife Lorena Gonzalez, and Ben Hueso roll in dough

Faulconer turns off police access to hidden cameras
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close