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SAN DIEGO
Regional Reviews by Bill Eadie

San Diego Fall Theater Preview 2010

The Old Globe
San Diego's Balboa Park from the campus of the Old Globe Theatre
Fall is the briefest of the three distinct theatre seasons in San Diego.  Running officially from the beginning of September to mid-November (though there are increasing exceptions to this rule), fall is a time for more serious work, sometimes riskier work.  Interestingly, only a few companies begin their subscription seasons in the fall, though a school-calendar subscription schedule used to be common practice.  The Old Globe still follows such a rule, however, with a subscription period that begins in September and ends in late May/early June, followed by a summer season that features Shakespeare in its outdoor venue.  Many other companies start their seasons either in the summer or at the first of the year, so fall in some ways becomes a somewhat problematic and awkward time to fill until the holiday performances begin.

Two of the more interesting projects this fall are repertory productions.  Old Town's Cygnet Theatre jumped the fall gun by launching its critically acclaimed productions of the three Norman Conquests plays in late July.  This repertory will run into early November, and then Cygnet will go directly to its annual holiday offering, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, which, by the way, is also being done this season by the Welk Resorts Theatre following its run of The Full Monty.  The other repertory offering, Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound, were slated for Broadway in 2009, though only the Brighton Beach Memoirs segment never saw the stage.  The Old Globe's production stars Karen Ziemba, who may be approaching Associate Artist status as she's appeared at the Globe recently in Six Degrees of Separation and The First Wives Club.  Veteran Neil Simon director Scott Schwartz helms the Globe repertoire, which also runs until it's time for the Globe to pull out Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! once again.

Fall at the La Jolla Playhouse finds two sharply contrasting productions running simultaneously.  Opening first will be the world premiere of Christopher Curtis and Thomas Meehan's musical Limelight:  The Story of Charlie Chaplin, starring Robert McClure (Avenue Q) as Chaplin and Ashley Brown (Broadway's Mary Poppins) as Oona.  Warren Carlyle and Michael Unger co-direct a company of Broadway-caliber performers.  Opening a week later is the Yale Rep production of Notes From Underground, adapted by Robert Woodruff and Bill Camp, directed by Mr. Woodruff and starring Mr. Camp.  La Jolla doesn't do a holiday production, so rounding out its fall season will be Lynn Notage's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Ruined, directed by Liesl Tommy (this production also performs at The Huntington Theatre Company in Boston, and Berkeley Repertory Theatre).  The big event of La Jolla's season comes after the first of the year, however, when the William Finn/James Lapine adaptation of Little Miss Sunshine ambles in for a six-week run.

The smaller theatres have a mixed bag of a fall season upcoming.  North Coast Rep, another company with a school-year season, has already opened with Steven Dietz's play, Becky's New Car.  Critics here found the play to be flawed but admired the production.  North Coast Rep's second fall show is Gee's Bend, the tale of a woman whose life is reflected through the quilts she made.  The company has often staged A Christmas Carol for the holidays, but so far has not announced a return of that production.  If so, it would be the first time in quite a while that no company in town is performing this holiday classic.

San Diego REPertory Theatre feeds its social consciousness mission by staging Athol Fugard's The Road to Mecca.  Its follow-up, running into the holiday season, is Mildred Kayden and Danny Holgate's musical, Storyville.  Broadway veteran Ken Page directs.  Meanwhile, The San Diego Musical Theatre performs Smokey Joe's Café in the REP's other space at downtown's Lyceum.

Elsewhere in downtown, Broadway San Diego brings in the tours of Burn the Floor, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, and The Color Purple this fall (the latter two are repeat appearances), while two first-run hits, West Side Story and Next to Normal, are here in January.

New Village Arts, in the North County town of Carlsbad, stages its first musical, Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, throughout the fall.  James Vasquez, who recently directed Diversionary Theatre's hit production of [title of show], will shoehorn this musical theatre classic into the company's wide and not terribly deep space.  New Village ARts will also stage As You Like It outdoors for a short run and will revive its popular production of The Santaland Diaries for the holidays.

Lamb's Players Theatre shifted about its scheduled offerings to put the '80s music revue MixTape into its tourist space in the heart of downtown's Convention Center district, and are reopening its summer downtown show, Smoke on the Mountain, at the main theatre in Coronado to avoid keeping that space dark.  Lamb's final offering of its 2010 season (it's one of the companies with calendar year seasons) is The Glory Man, a tale of the racially integrated Koinonia Farms, an experimental community trying to survive in the 1940s rural South.  Lamb's stages two different holiday shows each year, one at its Coronado home, and the other up the street at the Hotel Del Coronado.

Of the more specialized companies, Diversionary Theatre, is coming off of its Fringe NYC success with Dear Harvey by staging Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins, a play set in 1977.  Diversionary will also do a couple of short-run bookings: Robin Tyler's one-woman show, Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Groom, and the world premiere of Nicolas Reveles' queer opera, Sextet.  Its holiday offering is Jeffrey Solomon's one-man show, Santa Claus is Coming Out.

Moxie Theatre has already opened its new season with Lee Blessing's Eleemosynary, which generated mixed critical reaction.  Its other fall show will be Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a co-production with Intrepid Shakespeare Company.  Actors Christy Yael and Sean Cox, the driving force behind Intrepid, have managed to land in a permanent home, a theatre on the campus of San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.  Intrepid will also be staging Romeo and Juliet this fall.

Speaking of new homes, ion Theatre has managed to become established at the former 6th and Penn Theatre, which the company remodeled into a much more usable space.  The fall season includes Jack Goes Boating as well as small-space productions of two larger-proportioned shows: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Passage to India.  The company's summer production of Gam3rs also lives on as a special event at the 10th Avenue Playhouse, in the East Village area of downtown.

Finally, Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company will stage David Henry Hwang's Yellow Face, also at the 10th Avenue Playhouse.  And the Old Globe will present Kristopher Diaz's (The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity) hip-hop play Welcome to Arroyo's at both its White Theatre and at Lincoln High School.

Let's give the Old Globe the last word, as it's already announced its summer 2011 season while the summer 2010 season is still on the boards.  Former Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Adrian Noble, who oversaw a splendid summer Shakespeare festival this year, will be back next summer as well.  Mr. Noble will direct The Tempest and Amadeus (and I wouldn't be surprised if Robert Foxworth, this summer's stellar King Lear, will be playing either Prospero or Salieri).  Ron Daniels, Mr. Noble's associate at the RSC who directed a wonderful Taming of the Shrew this summer, will also be back to direct Much Ado About Nothing, and it would be fun to see this summer's Kate and Petruchio, Emily Swallow and Jonno Roberts, return as Beatrice and Benedick.   The summer season also includes a new Hershey Felder one-man play about Leonard Bernstein and Engaging Shaw, a romantic comedy about Charlotte Payne-Townshend's relationship with George Bernard Shaw.  So, no Broadway-bound musical next summer, but lots of delights are in the wings.

For now, though, we have the potpourri that is the fall season and, as usual, San Diego will have a wealth of possibilities awaiting local and visiting theatregoers.  For a complete listing of theatre in San Diego, be sure to visit Talkin' Broadway's San Diego Theatre Schedule.


Photo: Courtesy of The Old Globe  

See the current season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

Follow Bill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SDBillEadie.



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