Saturday, February 17, 2024


 “The Age Of Innocence” Edith Wharton ‘s 1920 Pulitzer Prize winning novel as commissioned by The Old Globe, adapted by Karen Zacarias and directed by Chay Yew, is currently showing on The Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage through March 10th. 

Wharton was a woman, quite well ahead of time in progressive thinking. She was critical of the upper class Jones’ or ‘The Gilded Age’ of Upstate New York society at the turn of the century and her novel “Age of Innocence” brings that to the fore in spades.

Callum Adams and Delphi Borich

Her story focuses on upper class wealthy lawyer Newland Archer (Callum Adams) and his newly engaged, shy and sly to a fault  and proper as an upper class member of the elite society has to be, Mae Welland (Borich Delphi.) All well and good, until the exotic looking Ellen Orlenska (Shereen Ahmed) a former member of that society and May’s cousin, escapes from the throw of a disastrous marriage from a Polish nobleman, and returns to N.Y. where all bets are off; Newland can’t seem to stay away from Ellen as she is the complete opposite of May. Ellen grew up in Europe; is outspoken, bold and wants more in life than what New York high society expects from women.

The cast boasts of about a dozen actors, some playing multiple roles (Mike Sears). All are dressed to the nines (Susan E. Mickey) on Arnulfo Maldonado’s  modern set which is somewhat at odds with the times in which they live. The one exception in the set that stands out is the beautiful chandelier ever present with changing background colors on a screen in the background.(Lee Fiskness, lighting)

The only person not dressed in turn of the century garb is the narrator (Eva Kaminsky) who is on stage filling in the blanks of what’s to come and what was and adding a bit of some much needed humor and wit. Why director Yew chose that form of story -telling is somewhat of a puzzle and  makes the inconsistencies even more confusing. 

Delphi Borich, Callum Adams, Shereen 

Taking nothing away from the acting which is top notch, Shereen Ahmid’s Ellen is the most provocative in her bright red gown and lower than acceptable decolletage as she allows Newland to woo her knowing he will never break with tradition although all roads lead to that. 

Ellen knows she is in the spotlight and savors every moment especially when she and Newland share a  carriage ride together and sparks fly. She meets him at appointed times and allows him some closeness. Adams’ Newland, on the other hand, declares his desires for her, but there is absolutely no chemistry between them. In fact, as gracious and stately and in love as May might be, again, no sparks at all, just a casualness; almost a disinterest on Adams' part.

Shereen Ahmed and Callum Adams

Herself a feminist, Wharton has no trouble bringing out the suffocating environment living with all the social restrictions of the upper class. She is realistic, bringing about this historical fiction during the “Gilded Age” as seen through her eyes. Unfortunately, while the acting, scape and costumes are a feast for the eyes, two and a hours of  humdrum storytelling leaves much to be desired. 

As for Ellen and May, it remains for you to see what their fate brings them.

See you at the theatre.


When: 7 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through March 10

Where: The Old Globe Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego

Tickets: $35-$118

Photo: Jim Cox

Saturday, May 28, 2022

“Turning Off The Morning News” At OnStage Should Make You Squirm in Your Seats.

 While writing “Turning Off The Morning News” playwright Christopher Durang (“Beyond Therapy”, “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You”), explains, in a series of notes at the end of his script: “I wanted the play the be unusual, comic, upsetting, serious, and I wanted to make the ending somewhat hopeful.” Let’s just say he achieved all of the above and then some. 

Some years before “Turning Off The Morning News” in 2018 Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” was the talk of the theatre, picking up a Tony, a Drama Desk Award, and New York Drama Crirics’ Circle Award. It was one of the most produced plays during the 2014- 15 season having played here in San Diego at the Old Globe in 2014. Will the same happen with “Turning Off The Morning News? ” That remains to be seen.

Eddy Lukovic, Salomon Maya, Carla Navarro, Ray-Anna Young and Jaden Juerro as Timmy

As it happens executive director of OnStage, James Darvas toiled over whether or not to produce this play; it was so far off the tracks, and too much had happened in our world between the time he read the play and decided to produce it that it might be too absurd in the face of reality to resonate anything but sick!

In the time span of three weeks, one school shooting of 19 children in Uvalde, TX, and a week before another mass murder in Buffalo, New York aimed at mostly African Americans shocked this country to its core. Darvas said that projection manager, Salomón Maya ‘had to update his work three times in the last three weeks to keep the content as current as possible. The show opens with a series of projections on a TV blurting out the killings.

Heather Warren and Carla Navarro

Durang’s cast of characters staged adeptly by director Adam Parker include Jimmy (Salomon Maya) a middle aged depressed suburbanite who has thoughts of committing mass murder at the mall and then turning the gun on himself. Or maybe he’ll write a book. This is a reoccurring theme for Jimmy. If he’s not threatening to kill in the Mall, then he threatens to kill his wife and son and then turn the gun on himself. 

His wife Polly (Carla Navarro), thinks everyone is wonderful and knows what her husband is about, but her thoughts are more concernd for her precious potted plant than her husband’s mental health. Jimmy has not spoken to his wife in three weeks. Probably because he can’t get a word in edgewise.  She talks too much because she finds life overwhelming.

Yes, mental health does rear its head. Thank goodness at least that’s acknowledged. (If nothing else, mental illness is at the core of this play.) They have a son Timmy (Jaden Guerrero) who shares a note with the audience, to HELP ME! He’s shy, and not very popular at school. Polly decides to home school him by giving him an assignment to review ‘The View ‘on TV.

Across the street neighbors Clifford and Salena (Eddie Lukovic and Ray-Anna Young) are sharing a house, as friends. He’s white and she, African American, And yes, race figures into the mix as well. He relaxes by doing some form of meditation listening to Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. (remember her?)

Clifford’s wife and child were killed by a drunken driver and Selena is recently divorced. They can’t help notice the strangeness of their across the street neighbors. The first clue they get about ‘something rotten’ across the street, is seeing Timmy leave the house wearing a pig mask carrying a large trash bag and a gun strapped over his shoulder.  

Jaden Guerrero and Carla Navarro

Rounding out the cast is Rosalind (Heather Warren, a bit off the wall). Rosalind wears a pillowcase over her head to prevent the sun from causing any damage to her face. She has already had twenty four basal cells removed from her face. 

Bazar? Scathing? Satirical? Cutting? Cartoonish? Painful? Toxic? Shocking? Unnerving? Caustic? Yes to all of the above! But funny? Not so much. Unfortunately, the characters in this recent play are acting out what, in reality, is happening on the streets, in churches, grocery stores and synagogues. The gun culture is taking over any sound thinking. One of the most bazar interpretations of the Second Amendment this country covets is the right to bear arms. 

Salomon Maya

Durang just has his own way of getting to the point. Even the clips of the morning news at the opening of the play are interrupted several times because these crimes are happening so fast the news can barely keep up. And rather than trusting the audience to laugh, there is a laugh track that kicks in every now and then. 

Scenic Designer Kristen Flores almost bare bones set can be rearranged easily but making sure the ‘plant’ has its own space. Brad Dubious costumes fit the characters well. Dylan Carter designed the lighting and Estefanía Ricalde sound design was a bit too loud for yours truly. 

OnStage has taken on a big challenge with Durang’s recent play. To come see it or not is the question. While bazar, it does deal with the casualties of a broken political system in denial of its treatment of gun laws, mental health issues, racial prejudice and a bevy of issues that no one seems to address because we have short memories and the morning news, which we should turn off, kind of sets the mood for the day.

The one thing Durang did promise and we got was some glimmer of hope in the final scenes. At least he tried. 

Congrats to OnStage Playhouse for taking on this challenging project.

See you at the theatre.  

Dates: Through June 19th

Organization: OnStage Playhouse 

Phone: 619.422.7787

Production Type: Black Comedy

Where: 291 Third Ave., Chula Vista

Ticket Prices: $22. To $25.00


Photo: Daren Scott

Saturday, April 30, 2022

They Danced All Night in Bob Fosse's "Dancin'" at The Old Globe

 If it’s dancing you want just hop down to the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park and get your tickets to the Broadway Bound “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’’. It’s stopping here on its way to New York where, my guess is the audiences will go as gaga over it as they did on opening night here where a talented, no…super talented company of nimble, double jointed and precisely timed dancers with enough endurance to perform for at least two + hours of dancing from tap to modern ballet is on tap through May 29th.

According to Fosse, “I have no interest wasting my time or energy doing traditional musicals. I like fooling with new forms, seeing what rules I can break if I push a little harder in different directions. (1978). Of course, he did do many traditional musicals, but this was his thinking for “Dancin’.

(from left) Nando Morland, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Ron Todorwoski, Ioana Alfonso, Kolton Krouse, Mattie Love, Jōvan Dansberry, Manuel Herrera, and Ida Saki.

This is not Fosse’s first rodeo. “Dancin’” first premiered on Broadway in 1978 and closed on June 27th in 1982 after 1744 performances. Additional choreography by Christopher Chadman was added. It’s strictly a musical show. There is no story even though I kept looking for one. But what do I know, it won a Tony for Best direction of a Musical; a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography (Bob Fosse). In all, Fosse picked up nine Tony’s for his choreography in “Chicago”, “Sweet Charity”, “Pippin”, “Liza with a Z” and “Cabaret” to name a few. 

Kolton Krouse (from left), Ida Saki, Khori Michelle Petinaud, Jacob Guzman, and Yani Marin in “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”. 

The production at the Old Globe is the first ever revival of the 1978 show. It is directed with musical staging by Wayne Cilento. The reproduction of Fosse’s choreography is by Christine Colby Jacques.  According to Fosse ‘the entire company is made up of principal dancers’, all twenty or so of them.  For the most part the principals have performed in several Broadway shows. They include among others: Manuel Herrera, Yeman Brown, Ioana Alfonso, Jacob Guzman, Karli Dinardo,  Yani Marin, Kolton Krouse, Mattie Love Ron Todorowski, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and Jovan Dansberry. 

Manuel Herrera offers a prologue where he tells us in no uncertain terms that ‘there is no story’, no props, or themes, so just believe. From there we snap into “Crunchy Granola Suite”  from Neil Diamond as part of Fosse’s 1978 Broadway revue “Dancin’” by the company and then roll right into my all -time favorite “Mr. Bojangles (Yeman Brown, Jacob Guzman and Manuel Herrra) from “Recollections of An Old Dancer”. 

Jacob Guzman

The music under the musical direction of Darryl Archibald is about eclectic as one can get including a long stint of jazz and a few from some of Fosse’s musical hits, “Big Spender”, (“Sweet Charity”) “Let Me Entertain You” (Gypsy”) and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries”, (An old, 1931, favorite), an American segment in Act 2, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” and “Stars and Stripes Forever”. 

There is so much to see that my describing it doesn’t do the show justice. It’s one of those seeing is believing phenomenon, do trust. There is no story line per say, as mentioned above but there are, in some of the dance numbers suggestions of  injustice of a history past and a future not yet ready to accept full responsibility.

Jovan Dansberry

However, there is more to flying through the air in this flashy production than “All That Jazz” on the dance floor. Robert Brill’s industrialized floor to ceiling mega set is pretty overwhelming. The performers are up and down and swinging through bars and metal steps. Finn Ross’ video design is the best I’ve seen with projections (a 30 foot high wall) filling the entire stage and lit by David Grill in breathtaking colors. Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung’s costume design are some of the best seen, with Peter Hylenski’s sound, though loud, is effective. 

While I hesitate to call the show overtly provocative, sexy and seductive (a nice way to say filled with sexual innuendos) it has lots of groin grinding, and raunchy implications. I’m no prude and I’m not suggesting that it should be rated but I wouldn’t recommend it for say, pre- teens. 

Jacob Guzman, Ron Todorowski, Karli Dinardo, and Peter Chursin 

From jazz to tap to ballet to marches to a four part solo percussion starring Ron Todorowski, the Fosse show is a dancer’s paradise and a dreamer’s fantasy.


When: Through May 29. 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays. 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Where: Old Globe Theatre, 1313 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, San Diego

Tickets: $52 and up

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Phone: (619) 234-5623


COVID protocol: Proof of vaccine is no longer required, masks strongly recommended indoors but not required.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two For the Holidays: “A Christmas Carol” and “The 1940’s Radio Hour”

Jacob Marley is dead. Scrooge is alive and well surrounded by friends and well -wishers. Sounds like turnabout is fair play but it took some doing to get to that point. Cygnet Theatre has extended good cheer with its original, heartfelt and foolproof production of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol… The Classic Holiday Musical” now playing at the Theatre in Old Town through Dec. 24th.

Credit artistic director Sean Murray for the adaptation and Billy Thompson, original score and Tom Stephenson’s amazing acting as he weaves his way through the bitter and icy cold persona Ebenezer Scrooge to the smiling (ear to ear) gentle, almost Santa looking picture with Tiny Tim on his lap at show’s end. 

Charles Evans, JR., Melissa Fernandes, Maggie Carney, David McBean, Melinda Gilb and Patrick McBride
Be prepared to expect an already ongoing Carol fest as you enter the theatre. All the fixin’s and soon to be characters are there but getting into the mood is the first order of business with Maggie Carney, Charles Evans, JR., Melissa Fernandes, Melinda Gilb, Patrick McBride and David McBean. Songs and corny jokes are the business at hand before the story (that most know begins to play out).

Dickens tale is just as you remembered. It was like old times once again watching Tom Stephenson(in excellent form) morph back into his past when as a child left alone at boarding schools during the holidays began his descent into his dark outlook on life. From his falling in love with Belle (Melissa Fernandes) to his choosing money over love to his final redemption, the story plays out like a well-oiled machine. “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause”.

Cygnet’s production is charming with just the right amount of fright factor. David McBean is terrific as The Ghost of Jacob Marley as well as the undertaker. Well…so much for that.

David McBean and Tom Stephenson
Ms. Fernandes is always a delight as she takes on about seven or eight characters as do the rest of the cast. Melinda Gilb, Maggie Carney and Charles Evans, J. and Patrick McBride change characters with the blink of an eye. I was particularly impressed with the puppets and the way the actors handled them. It gives the show a very different and genuinely warm quality.

Consider Jeanne Reith’s 18th century costumes (based on original design by Shirley Pierson), Andrew Hull’s multi purpose set, Kyle Montgomery’s lighting design (based on original design by R. Craig Wolf), Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound and Michael McKeon, Lynne Jennings and Rachel Hengst wonderful puppets have them merged together with a well seasoned cast and for the season this makes for one very fine holiday choice

Dates: Through Dec. 24th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Phone: 619-337-1525
Where: 4040 Twiggs Street in Old Town
Ticket Prices: Start at $37.00
Venue: Theatre in Old Town
Photo: Ken Jacques


Just North on the 5 in Carlsbad, New Village Arts Theatre is mounting Walton Jones “The 1940’s Radio Hour…Rejuvenated” through Dec. 31st and it’s well worth the trip to Carlsbad. This is the real thing, a radio-play with all the onstage shenanigans happening right before our eyes.  

Dana Case directs another well oiled production set out to entertain, draw you in to the private and personal lives of the radio performers. There are the 20 + songs from the past that hold a dear place in my heart. It’s fun but oft times too many shticks going on and an uneven cast gets a bit distracting. Sad to say there about as many commercials aired on radio as we now see on TV and BOY are they corny. (The one for constipation should be left on the cutting room floor). 

Kelly Derouin, Zackary Scot Wolfe and Marlene Montes
The place is the recording studio of WOV and it is set in 1942, New York during the war. There are references to the war effort; in particular one of the regulars BJ Gibson (Zackary Scot Wolfe), dressed in his Army uniform (Kate Bishop) is part of the ensemble. He’s getting ready to ship overseas so when his “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” solo was finished I was mince- meat, and I don’t even celebrate Christmas.

The show opens with the cast straggling into the studio weathering a huge snow storm outside. By the time everyone gathered, said their hello’s and got warmed up, gave their looks of approval's to each other and confirmed that one of the regulars was not going to show, we kinda sorta knew what to expect. 

There is the big shot star Johnnie Cantone (Eric M. Casalini) who thought he was the last word in leading men. He has the hot’s (for the moment) for Kelly Derouin (Ann “After You’ve Gone” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” Collier) and Marlene Montes (Ginger “Blues In The Night” and “Daddy” Brooks).

Connie Miller (Danielle “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Five O’clock Whistle” Levas) is the one who has captured Gibson’s heart. Levas also choreographs the show. She was my standout star as she and Gibson did a snappy jitterbug that brought the house down. She also came out dressed in red, white and blue spangles and tapped her way into the audience’s hearts.

Trevor Mulvey, Danielle Levas, Zackary Scot Wolfe, AJ Knox, Kelly Derouin Eric M. Casalini and Marlene Montes
Others complementing the show and working together as an ensemble include Kevane La’Marr Coleman (he seemed to be in charge of the station a la Clifton A. Faddington), A.J. Knox, Jake Bradford, Li-Anne Roswell and Jack Missett. Musical director Tony Houck at the keys (he also plays a mean horn) and Trevor Mulvey on bass were sufficient for the musical accompaniment. Both talented in their own right, they also become part of the show.

Danielle Levas, Eric M. Casalini, Kelly Derouin and Marlene Montes
For yours truly the show was a trip down memory lane with numbers like “(I’ve Got a Gal In) Kalamazoo”, Pepsi Cola”, “Daddy”, “I’ll Never Smile Again”, “Strike Up The Band”, “Blue Moon”, and “Love is Here to Stay”.

Kelly Kissinger designed the set with most all of the bells and whistles used as sound affects for these shows. Mounting radio shows seems to be a now thing. They are fun and easy and that’s just what it looked like on the set of “The 194’s Radio Hour”.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Dec. 31st
Organization: New Village Arts Theatre
Phone: 760-433-3245
Production Type: Musical
Where: 2787 State Street, Carlsbad Village.
Ticket Prices: Start at $45.00

Photo: Shaun Hagen

Saturday, December 10, 2016

“Mystery of Love and Sex”, another winner for Diversionary Theatre.

Mike Sears is over six feet tall. So when he’s invited to come to his daughter Charlotte’s (Rachael Van Wormer) stripped down of all necessities college apartment for dinner, one that is served on the coffee table (with a flannel sheet for a table cloth) with pillows arranged on the floor Sears, who plays Howard Charlotte’s dad, goes through some pretty weird gyrations to get his lean, tall body settled in. He has a bad back and that complicates matters. BTW dinner consists of salad, bread and wine. Howard is none too happy!
John W. Wells III, Marci Anne Wuebben, Mike Sears
That’s just one of the funny rituals that pretty much brings the house down in this otherwise thought provoking play. Another is the practice that Lucinda (Marci Anne Wuebben his wife and Charlotte’s mother) goes through every time she craves a smoke of anything she can inhale. She snaps her fingers in some choreographed motions, takes a deep breath and still craves one. She went through hypnosis for her addiction.

So what does all this have to do with Diversionary Theatres Regional premiere of Bathsheba Doran’s comedy/drama “The Mystery of Love and Sex”? Not too much, but it does make for some unexpected fun in this fast moving discussion/production.

Executive director Matt M. Morrow takes us on Doran’s somewhat convoluted and exploratory journey into the why’s and wherefores of what makes our choices of partners, friends and lovers click, don’t click, work, don’t work, last, don’t last or never get started at all.    

The good news in this relatively new (and somewhat long 21/2 hours) play is that the audience has the opportunity to follow the friendship of Charlotte and Jonny (John W. Wells III), her best friend from childhood to roommate to almost lovers to almost married to parental approval to maturity and then some.

Mike Sears and John W. Wells III
More good news is that the relationship between Howard and Charlotte softens and at the end of the day in one of the final Kumbaya moments, “Hallelujah” Leonard Cohen’s musical poem could be heard (Blair Nelson) in the background touching a soft spot in my gut. That’s just me, but father and daughter relationships that are stretched to the limits of parental embrace move me.

On fathers: Howard is a mystery writer of some fame. His life style suggests it and if that were not enough, he let you know. He is also Jewish, homophobic, racist and full of himself as Mr. Right. If you point these traits out to him as is done throughout, he denies them ferociously. The one positive he has going for him is the unconditional love he has for his daughter Charlotte.

As for the mystery… as the title of the play suggests he’s completely in the dark regarding his daughter and the close friendship she and Jonny have for each other. The fun of watching the play unfold is watching their relationship evolve and in turn watching Howard’s thinking develop and change. And the mystery? That's for each of us to work on.  

Rachael VanWormer and John W.Wells III
Sears plays Howard like a Stradivarius. He wears his concern for Charlotte on his sleeve and never wavers in his love for her regardless of her changing attitudes vis-à-vis her own sexuality. On the other hand, he is like a moving target as his attitudes change from situation to situation; and there are many of those.

Not wanting to sound too much like a Jewish observer, but I do have some insight into the makings of Jewish fathers and the way they treat their daughters. Till the time of my Dads death and he was in his nineties, he called me his his Princess. Take that for what it’s worth.

On mothers: Lucinda is a Southern Baptist. She converted, somewhat but still manages to play the Southern Bell card when needed. The fact is that she is more socially open, more Bohemian and accepting to the goings and comings of her daughter than Howard. She has her own secret agenda to reveal as the play digs in.

As for her concern about her daughter’s feelings as they change (from sex interest to sex interest), it appears she blows off more than she holds on to. Loyal to a fault, she doesn’t have the same close relationship with her daughter, as does her husband. She’s more concerned at gotcha moments with Howard and always defiant in the face of adversity. Wububen seems available and believable for this role.

On daughters: Rachael VanWormer is made for the role of daughter Charlotte. She is fidgety, quirky, smart, questioning, possessive, pushy, loving and demanding. She strives attention whether she’s worthy of it or not. She plays the good daughter and friend against the bad daughter and friend with perfection depending on the mood, circumstance or whose she’s with at the time. She knows her father loves her, but backs away in spite of herself. 

John W. Wells III and Rachael VanWormer
She loves Jonny more as a friend but she is attracted to her butch college friend, this bald dude. She will have a serious relationship with her later on. In order to prove she’s not a lesbian, just attracted to another woman she challenges Jonny to have sex with her. This pattern of same sexual attractions unnerves her as it does her parents.

They want to accept her for who she is, but would be happier if she ended up with her African-American best friend Jonny rather tan another woman, whom happens to be (ready for this one) Jewish. They always thought the best friends would get married never imagining each had their own journey to decode into the mystery of sex and love.

On Jonny: John W. Wells III Jonny is the perfect foil as Charlotte tries to seduce him. He’s the right race, gender and close family friend/outsider to bring the real Howard to light when it comes to the truths of racism, sexism and every other ism associated with his mystery novels.

He’s also is the last man standing to admit his own secret trappings. Wells’ timing, body language and standing in the center of this little foursome’s universe completes Doran’s search for our true sexual identities. Wells is charming, beautiful and in the right place at the right time.  

Doran’s play fresh off the pages from successful runs at Lincoln Center, Manhattan Theatre Club and The Taper in Los Angeles is a winner for Diversionary. So far their season has been top notch. Sean Fanning’s set design is southern whimsical, Karin Filijan’s lighting perfect, Elisa Benzoni’s costumes current trendy, and Blair Nelson’s sound, yes!

Rachael VanWormer, Mike Sears, MarciAnne Wuebben and John W. Wells III
See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Dec. 24th
Organization: Diversionary Theatre
Phone: Through Dec. 24th
Production Type: Comedy/Drama
Where:  4545 Park Blvd. 92116
Ticket Prices: $15.00-$45.00

Photo: Simpatika