Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

La Jolla Playhouse

Elizabeth Stanley and Max von Essen
There are things that really can't be enjoyed until you surrender to them.  Things like people dressed up in tacky costumes on Halloween, the silly games that you play at baby showers, and discos.  In particular, roller discos.

Which brings up Xanadu, now playing through December 31 at the La Jolla Playhouse.  I mean, how could one person's vision of artistic bliss be a place where everyone is dressed in short shorts, clingy tops, and the women are wearing leg warmers?  Wait, I know, surrender to it.

But, what's all this stuff about Greek mythology?  This is hard to wrap your head around—Zeus, goddesses, demi-gods, muses, all of them with strange and difficult names.  And it makes no sense that Clio (Elizabeth Stanley) has come to Earth, calling herself Kira, to inspire a dim-bulb chalk artist (Max von Essen) just like she appeared years earlier to another aspiring artist (Larry Marshall) who took up being a hard-hearted businessman after Clio suddenly vanished on him (oh, but he still has his clarinet sitting around just in case).  And then there are these other muses who are supposed to be women but some of them (Jason Michael Snow and Julius Thomas III) are actually men dressed up in silly costumes (by David Zinn) and are flitting about.  And two of these muses, Melpomene (Sharon Wilkins) and Calliope (Joanna Glushak) are jealous of Clio's favor with Zeus (Marshall again—these people keep popping up in different roles!) and plot her comeuppance by cursing her to fall in love with the chalk artist.  So, when is falling in love a curse or a comeuppance?  Don't ask, don't tell, just surrender.

Oh, and they sing, too—pretty well, in fact.  Ms. Stanley, Mr. von Essen, and Mr. Marshall all have terrific voices and know how to sell a song.  And it probably helps that what they're singing is old stuff that's lodged deep in my subconscious (like "You've got to believe it's magic," "Have you ever been mellow?" and "E-evil woman, da duh da duh da duh duh duh").  And that band—soooo tight!

Deep subconscious.  Fantasies of youth, beauty and having legs that look great on top of roller blades.  Surrender.  You'll love it.

Xanadu, Tuesdays through Sundays until December 31 at La Jolla Playhouse.  Box office: (858) 550-1010, or online at the Playhouse's website.

Xanadu, presented by La Jolla Playhouse, Christopher Ashley, Artistic Director, Joan Cumming, Interim Managing Director.  Book by Douglas Carter Beane, Directed by Christopher Ashley, Music & Lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, Choreography by Dan Knechtges, Musical Supervision by Eric Stern, Music Direction by Jesse Vargas, Set Design by David Gallo, Costume Design by David Zinn, Lighting Design by Howell Binkley, Associate Choreographer DJ Gray, Wig and Hair Design by Charles La Pointe, Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier, Dramaturgy by Shirley Fishman, Associate Director Dana I. Harrel, Production Manager Allen McMullen, Projection Designer Zachary Borovay.

With Elizabeth Stanley (Kira), Max von Essen (Sonny), Larry Marshall (Danny), Joanna Glushak (Calliope), Sharon Wilkins (Melpomene), and an ensemble consisting of Jason Michael Snow, JB Wing, Tallia Brinson, Julius Thomas, Tiffany Topol, Vincent Rodriguez III, Kristofer L. Stock, and Amy Goldberger.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

See the current theatre season schedule for the San Diego area.

- Bill Eadie

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