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

A hard sit

You can escape Nazis, but you can’t escape family

Sometimes novelists tell a story backward, from finish to start. In theater, “reverse chronology” is rare. Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, one of the few successes, begins after the end of an affair and backpedals seven years ...

The cast could do much more

Doug’s ghost practically taunts Mike with forgiveness

Clint Black, country music star, produced his sixth studio album in 1995. Looking for Christmas explores the feelings the holidays generate, from standing “Under the Mistletoe,” to the wise, self-deprecating, “Slow as Christmas”: “Every Christmas ...

Shock space

Nora and Torvald end up on the bare wooden floor.

Lucas Hnath’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 begins where Henrik Ibsen’s masterpiece A Doll’s House ends. After 15 years on her own in the world, Nora Helmer returns to the door she slammed on her ...

Pessimistic, paralyzed, and sexy

By comparison, happiness looks like a sweaty pig.

Act one, scene two, of Hamlet begins with jubilation. King Claudius and Queen Gertrude celebrate their marriage. Rhinish wine spills from gleaming goblets. Bright colors swirl around the stage. Over in a corner — usually ...

Dickens for a day

Drood became the first Broadway musical using audience participation for the ending.

Young Charles Dickens worked as a law clerk. He delivered documents and ran errands and was bored beyond tears. He wanted to be a court stenographer – record an entire trial verbatim – but it ...

Not so black-and-white

“Actually is about rape, but also The Title IX system which some accuse of making snap judgements.”

A friend compares history – i.e. what actually happened – to the Big Bang. He’s studied the JFK assassination for decades and says he can put three shooters in position: one in the Book Depository, ...

Trauma so intense

If she ever falls in love, her mate will die in a hundred days.

In “Hungry Heart,” Bruce Springstein sings: “We fell in love, I knew it had to end.” Wait! Hold up there, Boss. Zero to 60 and back, like that? What about love is love and not ...

Call it the Hamilton Effect

Contemporary slang and F-bombs feel too linguistically liberated

“I am a revolution!” shouts Mary Woolley in Bryna Turner’s Bull in a China Shop, based on the famous teacher, activist, and President of Mount Holyoke College. She wants to convert the college from a ...

The Heart of Rock & Roll goes flat line

“They have not only crammed the songs into a formulaic story, they have Broadway-ized the music.”

The Heart of Rock & Roll goes flat line

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