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Theater Reviews

Recreating ‘Fats’: Harlem circa 1940

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

Many years ago at the interval of what was likely the regional theater premiere of the 1978 Tony Award-winner for Best Musical, “Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Musical Show,” I overheard this remark, one of my favorites of all time: “They’re all black, and there’s no plot. What kind of musical is this?”

Lest there be any doubt as to the genre, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” is a musical revue for the most part, comprising pianist/composer Fats Waller’s spicy, jazzy, bluesy oeuvre.

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The spoils of war

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review Opened June 25 at the Old Globe’s outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Brian Kulick’s production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is set in a World War I psychiatric hospital for PTSD wounded (Kulick is longtime artistic director of New York’s Classic Stage Company). Somewhere in Scotland, the pristine, white ward contains eight beds in which patients sleep, suffering both physical wounds and what was then, I believe, termed battle fatigue. Perhaps they […]

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Ion scores with ‘Lydia’

By Charlene Baldridge Located in a mini-mall at Sixth and Pennsylvania avenues in Hillcrest, ion theatre is a veritable vortex of activity and excellence. Currently playing through July 2, Octavio Solis’ “Lydia” is yet another visceral production, almost too powerful, too affecting and wondrous to be contained by theater walls.

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A ‘sort of’ adaptation at Cygnet

By Charlene Baldridge

When the Cygnet usher cautions you to read the synopsis (an insert sheet in the program), it is cause for concern, especially when it is not a synopsis of the play you’re about to see but of the play it’s based upon.

Now I have to write about the stupid f**king play, the title of which is “Stupid F**king Bird,” playing at Cygnet Theatre through June 19. Never got around to reading the script. I seldom read reviews of other productions.

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‘Hollywood’ not as expected

By Charlene Baldridge The world premiere of Joe DiPietro’s “Hollywood,” which opened May 18 at La Jolla Playhouse, lacks nothing. Directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, it is grand to look at, has a faultless cast, clever staging, and an imaginative text based on a real, unsolved 1922 murder. With all those virtues, a theater critic would expect to sing the play’s praises, especially one who in childhood had to be pried loose from […]

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Riveting ‘Dinner With Marlene’

Based on actual events, play is Lambs’ 47th world premiere By Charlene Baldridge Look who’s proving its mettle (guts) now: Lamb’s Players Theatre, that’s who. Artistic Director Robert Smyth directs his wife, the splendid Deborah Gilmour Smyth, as Marlene Dietrich, along with eight other wondrously cast actors in the world premiere of “Dinner With Marlene” by San Diego playwright Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey.

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ion scores again

Prepare for ‘tighty whiteys’ and bawdy language

By Charlene Baldridge

Hardly anyone makes a big deal of its consistent excellence and ion theatre at Sixth and Pennsylvania avenues just keeps turning out splendid little miracles in the dark.

A case in point is Wayne Lemon’s “Jesus Hates Me,” a dark comedy so wacky and off the wall it might have been written with ion co-directors Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza in mind. “Jesus Hates Me” continues at the Hillcrest theater through May 14.

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Teaching Helen Keller

Telling this story never gets old By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review Playwright William Gibson (1914 – 2008) never claimed credit for the huge success of “The Miracle Worker,” the play/film for which he is best known. It was the original story, written by a woman named Anne Sullivan, the one who taught a “deaf, dumb and blind” teenager named Helen Keller to speak.

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A simple play that will ‘rock you’

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

Beth Henley received the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for a little ditty titled “Crimes of the Heart” back in 1981. Three sisters get together to have a little chat right after one of them has just shot her husband. Some of us were still singing “Charley’s Aunt” in high school. Beth Henley has been setting fire to stage conventions using poor white trash as grist ever since.

Set in 1964, in Henley’s Southern Gothic Jackson, Mississippi, Henley’s new play, which premiered in 2012 at the Geffen Playhouse and then moved off-Broadway, is “The Jacksonian,” which follows her Southern Gothic vein. The edifice is a motel tending toward seedy, not too far from downtown.

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Morrow bows with ‘Now or Later’

By Charlene Baldridge The striking introduction to Diversionary Theatre’s West Coast premiere of Christopher Shinn’s “Now or Later” (through March 13) is Sean Fanning’s beautiful set. It’s a hotel room, late on the night of a presidential election. The skyline of an unspecified southern city lies in the background. John, the president-elect’s son, watches election results with a friend from his Ivy League college. John has been in a committed relationship and his lover, who […]

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‘Whatever love wants’

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Theater Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Charlene Baldridge

Playwright Edward Albee (b. 1928) once said, “I don’t think that it is the responsibility of a playwright to present a dilemma and then give its solution.”

That surely applies to Albee’s entire body of work and most especially to his 1962 Broadway play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” seen now through Feb. 28 at The Horton Grand Theatre, in Intrepid Theater’s guest residency at the Gaslamp Quarter venue maintained by Lamb’s Players Theatre. Longtime Lamb’s artistic leaders, Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Robert Smyth, take the leading roles.

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Lamb’s flashback

Posted: February 5th, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Theater Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Charlene Baldridge | Theater Review

There are many reasons to resurrect a play, among them the performance of a beloved actor and the enduring quality of the play itself.

Larry Shue’s 1982 Broadway comedy, “The Nerd,” was exceptionally popular in its day. Shue, also an actor, wrote another hit comedy, “The Foreigner,” before his tragic death at age 39 in the crash of a small airplane.

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Holmes goes to Nome

Posted: January 22nd, 2016 | Arts & Entertainment, Theater Reviews, Top Story | No Comments

By Charlene Baldridge

In Solana Beach Saturday, Jan. 16, North Coast Repertory Theatre presented the world premiere of a thoroughly mysterious and original play with music. It’s titled “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush.”

Written lock, stock and gun barrel by Joseph Vass (“Words by Ira Gershwin”), directed by Artistic Director David Ellenstein, and featuring a company of fine actors mostly of the area, the wild and wooly work concerns connected murders, one in London, England, and the other in Nome, Alaska. Each was committed to obtain the deed to the same gold mine at the time of the Nome Gold Rush circa 1900.

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