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Our Critic Picks The Best of San Diego Theater in 2018

A scene from "A Thousand Splendid Suns"
Share This Article:A scene from "A Thousand Splendid Suns"A scene from “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at The Previous Globe.

By Pat Launer

Scorching-button subjects took middle stage in San Diego theater in 2018. From campus rape to the plight of immigrants, from racism, sexism and homophobia to the subjugation — and self-assertion — of ladies, this yr has been a dramatic doozy.

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And, whether or not instantly or not directly, by identify or by inference, President Trump was a palpable presence, as was the collective nervousness of most of the nation in the fraught yr all of us simply survived.

My prime 10 plus one have been all potent performs and productions — provocative, masterfully written, and excellently carried out and directed. I record them right here in no specific order — apart from the primary two.

1. “Hamilton.” The nationwide tour of the blockbuster Pulitzer Prize and 11-Tony Award-winning musical kicked off the yr, and was spectacular in each means, displaying all of the genius of this well-deserved phenomenon about our near-forgotten Founding Father. (Mockingly, the founder of the U.S. Treasury was about to have his identify faraway from the 10-dollar invoice, till a humongous public outcry of Hamil-fans helped scrap that ill-conceived concept). The sensible integration of the terrific, word-drunk rating (by the genius Lin Manuel Miranda) was matched by the astounding ingenuity of the path, costumes, choreography, staging and performances. A completely unforgettable expertise (I’ve already seen it twice, and would catch it once more, in a New York minute). On the Civic Theatre, courtesy of Broadway San Diego.

2. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” at The Previous Globe. The Afghanistan-set story, based mostly on the marvelous 2007 novel by Kabul-born Californian Khalid Hosseini, might have been harrowing (as a result of of the abuse and denigration of ladies it portrayed), however the manufacturing was mind-boggling, and highlighted the resilience, defiance and unflagging spirit of two indomitable females. This knockout co-production of The Previous Globe, the American Conservatory Theatre and Theatre Calgary, was as splendid as its poetic title, beneath the magnificent path of Carey Perloff (who prolonged her San Diego keep to direct an outstanding manufacturing of “Queens” on the La Jolla Playhouse proper after this one; see under). “Splendid Suns’” lovely imagistic set, pretty rating (a lot of it performed on the musical noticed) and evocative lighting and sound added as much as a unprecedented night that underscored, even in the very worst of circumstances, the enduring hope for a greater, freer life.

three. “A Doll’s House, Part 2” on the San Diego Repertory Theatre. An audacious enterprise by Lucas Hnath that gained the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play, this sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 basic was a wildly imaginative continuation of the story students typically cite as the primary stirrings of feminine empowerment (and, by extension, feminism). From a 21st century perspective, Hnath re-ignited the controversy the unique sparked: What’s a lady’s obligation to her husband? Her youngsters? Her residence? Herself? Fifteen years earlier than this new drama begins, Nora Helmer walked out and slammed the door. Her sudden return to her husband’s home launched twists and surprises, with a number of viewpoints resonating in each the 19th and the present century. The Rep manufacturing, sensitively and astutely directed by Sam Woodhouse, featured arguably the most effective efficiency of the yr, from Sofia Jean Gomez as Nora.

four. “Queens” on the La Jolla Playhouse. Martyna Majok’s title refers to each the New York borough and, with tongue in cheek, the struggling, cautious, tough-as-nails immigrant ladies (from a variety of nations) who uneasily co-habit a subterranean condominium, flying beneath the radar of authorities, typically unable to contact the households they agonizingly left behind to discover a higher life. The scenic and lighting design have been creative and imaginative. A terrific ensemble of six was exquisitely directed by Carey Perloff. After two dazzling productions in one yr, she’ll be welcome again to San Diego any time. 

5. “Vietgone” on the San Diego Rep. One other immigrant story (see “Hamilton” and “Queens” above), with poignant — and hilariously comical — overtones. Playwright Qui Nguyen took us from ninja to rap, satire to slapstick, to convey a touching love story set, in Vietnam and the U.S., towards an aching political backdrop. Jesca Prudencia, a stellar director, balanced the comedy and drama with appreciable experience and dynamic pacing, as she did in one other Rep present, “Actually” (see under). We’re so lucky that she’s now an area, educating at SDSU. Hopefully, we’ll see much more of her impeccable path in the close to future. Her manufacturing of this 2016 semi-autobiographical play featured two excellent performances: hunky Ben Levin because the romantic lead, and an area who’s turn out to be an appearing chameleon, Shaun Tuazon, who malleably performed 5 disparate characters (and was additionally notable in a number of humorous roles in “The Loneliest Girl in the World,” at Diversionary Theatre).

 6. “Once” at Lamb’s Gamers Theatre. This small-scale 2012 musical, an eight-time Tony Award winner based mostly on the quirky 2007 movie, couldn’t have gotten a greater, hotter, extra intimate manufacturing than the one beneath the superlative course of Kerry Meads, showcasing an outstanding 12-member ensemble that doubled because the present’s mega-talented band, with devices starting from cello (attempt doing choreography carrying that round!), violin, accordion and a lot extra. Musical director G. Scott Lacy made a welcome return to San Diego for the present, which was flawlessly designed by our native scenic whiz, Sean Fanning, together with a working bar for all to make the most of absolutely throughout intermission. A sensational central efficiency by Caitie Grady, with an entirely credible Czech accent and an idiosyncratic demeanor, anchored this gorgeously performed and sung present about taking possibilities, making commitments and honoring obligations.

7. “Fun Home” on the San Diego Rep. One other profitable manufacturing from inventive director Sam Woodhouse, who forged and directed splendidly — from the younger individuals to the divine leads enjoying daughter and father (Amanda Naughton and Jim Stanek, each veterans of the musical), to convey the dysfunctional household story (is there some other sort?) that Alison Bechdel first introduced in a 2006 graphic novel. Strikingly informed in reminiscence flashbacks, it’s about Alison’s popping out, discovering her father was additionally homosexual, and coping with his premature dying (most probably by suicide) shortly after she revealed her sexuality to her mother and father. As college-age Alison, Claire Adams gave a memorable efficiency. Impressively and minimally designed by the ever present Sean Fanning, the present was unforgettable (and in my opinion, superior to the L.A. manufacturing).

eight. “Fade,” a co-production of Moxie Theatre and TuYo. A humorous and typically intense exploration of enculturation and assimilation, this 2016 comedian drama by acclaimed playwright/TV author Tanya Saracho paints a captivating image of what it’s wish to be Latinx (particularly Mexican) in present-day America. In 95 fleet minutes, the two-hander, directed by Patrice Amon (co-founder of TuYo, a burgeoning new firm dedicated to Latinx theater productions), coated a large swath of topics:  race, class, id, authenticity — and buying and selling ethnic solidarity for profession alternative. Buenos Aires-born Sofia Sassone was divine because the manic Lucia —  self-involved and upwardly-mobile-at-any-cost, enjoying superbly off the remarkably real, unaffected  Javier Guerrero, because the American-born Mexican janitor who will get left behind. A humorous and fiery manufacturing from a gifted author and director.

My listing is rounded out by three chic musical productions — oldies (no less than in two instances) however unequivocally goodies:

9. “Disney’s Newsies” at Moonlight Stage Productions. The most up-to-date of the three musicals (2012), based mostly on the 1992 Disney musical movie of the identical identify, was impressed by the real-life New York Metropolis Newsboys Strike of 1899. With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and a e-book by Harvey Fierstein, the present obtained an excellent manufacturing at Moonlight final summer time. Galvanizing path (Larry Raben) and choreography (Karl Warden) introduced this David/Goliath story to life: a story of the impoverished, younger underdog newsboys triumphing over the prosperous, detached industrialist Joseph Pulitzer, who tried to cheat them by reducing their already meager pay (26 cents a day) for the sake of his personal backside line. Dillon Klena headlined a shocking forged — nice singers and dancers all — with a radiant efficiency by a bit of native professional (who already has Broadway credit): Noah Baird.

10. “Chicago” at Moonlight Stage Productions. One other Moonlight winner this yr, the timeless Kander & Ebb musical, 22 years and relying on Broadway, has come to city on tour a number of occasions. However beneath the invigorating co-direction of James Vásquez and Terra C. MacLeod, two Broadway veterans of the present — co-director MacLeod and San Diegan Roxane Corrasco — have been electrifying, in their singing, dancing and comedian turns. An entirely satisfying manufacturing, however these two actually made it sing.

11. “A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum” at North Coast Repertory Theatre. Inventive director David Ellenstein, who had a wonderful yr (he additionally directed, the deliciously unpredictable thriller, “Holmes & Watson;” the extreme drama, “The Father,” about dementia; the idiosyncratic philosophical contemplation, “This Random World;” and the darkly comedian “A Jewish Joke” for The Roustabouts Theatre Co.), pulled out all of the casting stops to current a  stupendous manufacturing of this basic (the Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 1962) with a celebrity pedigree: music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, e-book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. The terribly humorous and gifted forged — the most important ever on the cozy theater: 13 actors, ten of them members of Actors Fairness —  included side-splitting Omri Schein because the wily slave, Pseudolus; bodily ultra-agile Kevin Hafso Koppman because the frenetic, aptly-named slave, Hysterium; and buff Jason Maddy because the bloviating, bombastic captain, Miles Gloriosus. Farce at its best.

Honorable Point out

The uproarious “Xanadu” at OnStage Productions, triumphantly directed, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, by outgoing, massively profitable inventive director Teri Brown

“Romeo, Romeo and Juliet,” a sensible, new, gay-friendly riff on Shakespeare, written by Roustabouts co-founder Ruff Yeager, with a killer efficiency by Michelle Marie Trestor because the clueless, titular heroine

“The Great Leap,” a brand new China-and-sports-oriented play by UCSD MFA alum Lauren Yee. Humorous and political, as all her works are, this was introduced as a studying at The Previous Globe, and will make a totally staged return quickly (it has already been produced Off Broadway)

“Actually,” on the San Diego Rep, helmed by our latest star-director, Jesca Prudencia, turned a laser-beam on campus rape and sexual consent, with exhilarating performances by two different UCSD alumni, DeLeon Dallas and Emily Shain

The touring productions of “On Your Feet,” “School of Rock” and “Waitress” on the Civic Theatre. The first two have been rousing and dance-happy; the third was full of coronary heart — and life-changing pie

Performances Worthy of Notice

Jay O. Sanders, in a delectably intimate flip as Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” at The Previous Globe

James Sutorius because the heart-breakingly confused however belligerent title character in “The Father” at North Coast Repertory Theatre

Kate Burton, splendidly potent and maternal as Prospera in The Globe’s superb outside manufacturing of “The Tempest,” with amusing inebriates Stephano and Trinculo carried out as gut-busting vaudevillians by Robert Dorfman and Andrew Weems

Riveting Wrekless Watson, who took probably the most ravaging emotional journey in “Cardboard Piano” at Diversionary Theatre

Versatile actor/author/director Hannah Logan gave a exceptional efficiency in InnerMission’s “Melancholy Play,” an element that required her to shift emotional states on a dime

Tom Stephenson as soon as once more utterly inhabited the position of Ebenezer Scrooge in Cygnet Theatre’s “Christmas Carol,” making a convincing and tear-jerking transition from miserly grump to munificent grandpa

DeAnna Driscoll, a whirlwind of skillful Monster Momism in “HIR” at Cygnet Theatre  — a seeming continuation of her transfixing flip final yr in “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds”

Particular point out goes to Cygnet affiliate inventive director Rob Lutfy, who directed each the aforementioned productions. He makes the edgiest play decisions in city, and shepherds them with wit and intelligence. This yr, he additionally helmed “The Wind and the Breeze,” “Every Brilliant Thing,” and “The Last Wife,” all to wonderful impact

See how a lot implausible stuff you missed? Don’t let it occur once more. See tons of equally enchanting and thought-provoking theater in the New Yr…. And make sure to make it a cheerful one.

Our Critic Picks The Best of San Diego Theater in 2018 was final modified: December 26th, 2018 by Editor

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