Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith is the senior writer at the Reader; he began reviewing theater in 1980. He also writes a local history column. He has a Ph.D. in literature and critical theory from the University of California, Irvine, and wrote his doctoral dissertation on Shakespeare. He was the original writing director of two University of California freshman composition programs: the Humanities Core Course, at Irvine, and the Revelle Humanities/Writing Program at UCSD. Over the years, Jeff has dramaturged dozens of shows. Favorites include Sam Shepard’s Tooth of Crime, Peter Barnes’s Red Noses (both at the San Diego Rep), Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (North Coast Rep), Things May Disimprove: Samuel Becket One-Acts (L&L Productions), and Shakespeare’s Hamlet (New Village Arts).

Articles by Jeff Smith

The decision resonates like few in Shakespeare

Caught between avenging “high wrongs” or choosing the “rarer action” of virtue

Prospero has every reason to be furious. When he was Duke of Milan, he was a passive ruler, one who would much rather study “white magic” than enact an edict. Then, twelve years before Shakespeare’s ...

The Squirrels has the makings

But it plays more like notes for a second draft

The ancient philosopher Epicurus said, “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” Scurius is the patriarch of the squirrels on his tree. He’s a Gray squirrel and lives square in ...

A mind overthrown

You could almost call the play Inside of Our Heads

During its early scenes, a play makes a kind of pact with the audience: “Here is tonight’s theatrical world.” It could be cartoony absurd or Victorian Gingerbread Age ornate. But this is default mode, how ...

The tangled -isms of Native Gardens

Each year sees several plays about two couples who begin amicably and end up as flying body parts

Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall" contains a character who repeats the line “good fences make good neighbors” like it's a kind of mantra. Karen Zacharias’ Native Gardens begs to differ. Most of the 90-minute comedy ...

Cherchez la femme in Afghanistan

Both on stage and in the story, the women are directed

When they first meet, Mariam can’t stand young Laila. With good reason: in her early 30s, Mariam’s the dutiful wife of Rasheed, an abusive control freak. To him, she’s lower than a house cat. Now ...

Controlled chaos

The dashes become madder, the hand-offs quicker, and the stage becomes a whirling kaleidoscope.

Noises from backstage during a performance — i.e. “noises off” — are one of the great bugaboos of live theater. They could be anything: flubbed costume changes, microphone left on, missing prop. They yank us ...

The Wanderers: a play that unfolds like a book

It even has “Chapters.” “Marriage,” “Children,” “Boredom,” “Destruction.”

A divorced friend on a collision course with #2 confessed: “I don’t choose well. Maybe someone should pick ex- #3 for me, like an arranged marriage.” Anna Ziegler’s The Wanderers, in a world premiere at ...

Plays and actors to look out for in San Diego

Not overwhelmed, but definitely whelmed

Director in demand — Christopher Ashley The La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director Christopher Ashley won the 2017 Tony Award for best director of a musical, the playhouse’s Broadway hit Come From Away. So, what’s he ...

It’s true what they say about Hamilton

Faster and deeper

Art can alter life, literally. In 2015, the Treasury Department planned to take Alexander Hamilton’s portrait off the ten-dollar bill. The indefatigable Founding Father was too controversial (he came close to advocating dictatorship and a ...

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