Tuesday, July 3, 2012


“The Man Who Came to Dinner”—Classic Comedy Comes to Coronado!
By Kristen Fogle

Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner” dishes up lots of laughs at the Coronado Playhouse, featuring local favorite Phil Johnson, along with 21 other talented cast members.

With so many persons populating the stage so often, one would think that “Man” would amass too many plot points for your average audience, however, “Man” is delightfully simple: Upon accepting a dinner invitation to the Stanley family’s home in Ohio, radio personality Sheridan Whiteside has suffered an accident that has rendered him to a wheelchair—and consequently made Whiteside a “prisoner “inside the Stanley household. (Really though, with a long list of demands, an outrageous entourage, and a blasphemous temper, Whiteside is the one holding everyone else hostage!) When a journalist (and budding playwright) comes to interview him and holds Whiteside’s right-hand-girl Maggie captive, Whiteside invites a conniving, part-hungry actress into the mix to separate the pair.

Ruff Yeager, who has directed all around town—for Playwrights Project, Scripps Ranch, Compass, Diversionary—tackles this lengthy comedy (three hours with two intermissions) expertly. Yeager makes a memorable appearance in the show as well and blends well with other notable cast members, including Phil Johnson as Sheridan Whiteside (a talent, he has, for wielding the perfectly written insult), Kim Straussburger as the secretary-to-Sheridan-to-be-reckoned with Maggie Cutler, and the dynamic, incredibly talented Frances Anita Rivera who played self obsession skillfully and humorously as actress Loraine Sheldon.

A first timer to Coronado Playhouse, I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding production value at this venue; “The Man Who Came to Dinner” is of top quality, however. The mint and salmon colored set is delightfully period appropriate, the blocking well rehearsed and entirely logical, and the audience seemed enraptured—chucking and clapping their way through the entire time. Come for a brunch and take in the gorgeous bay, which the Playhouse has unobstructed views of. I adamantly recommend the current production, but also stay tuned for the next: Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is up next August 31-Septmber 23.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner”
Coronado Playhouse
1835 Strand Way, Coronado


The Odd Couple (Female Version): Staged at North Park Vaudeville Words By Kristen Fogle

The original “The Odd Couple,” by Neil Simon, is widely known not only because of the 1965 Broadway play but for its successful film and TV adaptations. And in 1985, “The Odd Couple” was redesigned for a female cast. The play features the same mismatched roommates, now called Florence Unger and Olive Madison, and in lieu of a poker game, the women play Trivial Pursuit with their friends Mickie, Sylvie, Vera, and Renee. The Pigeon sisters (from the male version) became the Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus. “The Female Odd Couple” opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on June 11, 1985 and ran for 295 performances and nine previews. The cast starred Sally_Struthers and Rita Moreno as Florence (Felix) and Olive(Oscar).

North Park Vaudeville (NPV), which does only one royalty show per year, took up the task of delivering Florence and Olive to San Diego audiences. The 35 seat playhouse doesn’t allow for an extensive set on its smallish stage, but the director managed to scale back the original three room set to one, making due without the audience knowing otherwise. (The transformation from sloppy sty to lovely living quarters from scene one to two is quite impressive.) Clean freak, hypochondriac Florence is played capably by Summer Golden (who owns NPV with director Jeff Bushnell), and messy Olive’s witty one liners are tackled with panache by Loie Gail. Each of the girlfriends (Christine McCoy, Jennifer Berry, Peggy Daly, and Lynda Bell) add a dash of humor during their well choreographed games (and sport cute costumes that give each character their own flair). The Spanish suitors bumble through the English language and keep us cackling—Manolo is played by Ary Hernandez, Jesus by Haig Koshkarian.

Take a trip to Vaudeville (quite possibly SD’s tiniest theater) for quaint productions and its charming appeal. Next up is the tenth year of the North Park Playwright Festival which runs October 5-28th (Fri/Sat nights, Sun matinee)with a different program running each weekend (a total of 24-26 new works being presented). For details, please visit the NPV website.

North Park Vaudeville and Candy Shoppe
2031 El Cajon Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92104



An Interview with Jerry Pilato
The newest (and only) producer of plays in Ocean Beach sits down to talk with Kristen Fogle about the new Ocean Beach Playhouse at Electric Ladyland, “Somewhere in Between,” and where the company will go from here.
Kristen Fogle: Tell me a bit about your background in theater.
Jerry Pilato: I studied theatre at University of The Incarnate Word in San Antonio and San Antonio College where I gained valuable experience. In 1982, I gave birth to The Actors Theatre of San Antonio (in Texas), which I managed until 2005. Over the years, I have directed or produced over two hundred productions and won numerous awards with the Alamo Theater Arts Council in San Antonio. Locally, I have directed at The Broadway Theatre in Vista, The Sunshine Brooks Theatre in Oceanside, and at 6th at Penn (Compass Theatre, now ION) in San Diego.
KF: You also currently work with Broadway San Diego.
JP: I have been with BSD since 2005 and am currently the phone room supervisor handling subscription services for three markets in California and one in Tucson. I enjoy this job tremendously, and the people I work with are terrific. Being able to be part of a company that brings so much theatre to town is a great experience.
KF: When did you decide to create Different Stages? Why the name?
JP: This has been my goal since moving to San Diego in 2005, having my own theatrical group. Different Stages was created in 2011 with the idea in mind that I didn’t have a “home” and would be producing at different venues in the county. Our first production opened at The Sunshine Brooks in October 2010 which was “Star on the Door,” and our second, “The Dixie Swim Club,” opened at The AVO Playhouse in Vista in July 2011. Finally, thanks to Paul and Lynne Bolton in Ocean Beach who own Electric Ladyland, Different Stages has a “home” and will be able to have a season of events at the same location. We will be calling the space the Ocean Beach Playhouse. However the name Different Stages can be applied to the progress of a production from play decision to casting to rehearsal to finished product—as in all the different stages involved in theater.
KF: Tell us more about Electric Ladyland.
JP: The space was used as a concert venue and classrooms for the instruction of instrument playing for young people and a meeting place for different types of groups. I believe there were classes and performances of dance, but mostly for concerts, which gave the audience an intimate experience for whatever was on stage. The space does not at this time have stationary seating, which I like. It can also be used as a ‘black box theatre” or theatre in the round—all aspects which I like to dabble in.
KF: Can you talk about the first show of the season?
JP: This is such a sweet comedy. It’s called “Somewhere in Between” by Craig Popsipil. Falling in love…well first finding the person to fall in love with can sometimes be a stressful situation…it can also be like a part time job! (Laughs.) It really doesn’t matter your orientation; it is a chore. In this play, the young man is hopelessly shy and non-pretentious, and he attempts to figure himself and find a lady, hopefully, at the same time. He meets many people along the way who try to give him a reason to drop his guard and well, just…lighten up. Under the strong direction of Kristen Fogle and George Bailey, this is an audience pleaser kind of play and will tickle the funny bone of those in the audience. You and George have put together a fine young cast.
KF: Why thank you! Have you ironed out the upcoming season? Will you have season tickets?
JP: Yes, I have a good line up which is listed on our website www.differentstages.biz. Our first show after “Somewhere in Between” is the revival of “The Dixie Swim Club” which different Stages presented last summer at The AVO Playhouse in Vista. I really like this play and my new cast is a delight. Naomi Olson, president of Oceanside Theatre Company, will be reprising the role of “Lexie.” After that I am looking forward to directing Jonathan Sachs in “Speed the Plow.” I am still waiting approval for the rights to one of David Mamet’s older plays, followed by our Christmas gift to San Diego “The Reindeer Monologues” by Jeff Goode, a R-rated Christmas play. Also, in the new year, we will present “Only Kidding” by Jim Geoghan and “Angry Young Women In Low Rise jeans With High Class Issues” by Matt Morille. In the spring, I am looking at something by the great Tennessee Williams. Late night, beginning in late October, “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” will hit the stage once the rights have been acquired.
KF: Sounds excellent. I know you're partnering with a lot of businesses in the area…
JP: Yes we are. The local merchants in OB are happy that there will soon be theatrical entertainment in their area. OB is such an eclectic area that this should fit right in. There are many good restaurants and bars so close to the venue that coming down early for a meal or a drink after the show will make an evening to the theatre complete. The excitement about this happening in their “playground” is something that makes me very happy.  
KF: I know you are a big David Mamet fan. Besides his, are there any shows coming up that you're especially interested in seeing...or producing?
JP: All of them. (Laughs.) Although I enjoy directing comedy, I love the drama. There is a new David Mamet play that I hope to obtain rights for in the next few months, and I have plans to produce “If We Are Women” by Joanna Glass in the summer of 2013 and “Taking Sides” by Ronald Harwood will open our 2013-2014 season. Both of these plays are very dear to me. Of course these are plans, as I want to see how well the first season is received. 
KF: Well, lastly, you've done a lot of shows...What's the key to a successful one?
JP: The cast and crew. ‘Nugh said.
For more on Different Stages, please visit www.differentstages.biz.


“Leaving Iowa”: A Bundle of Charm That Leaves Something to be Desired
Words by Kristen Fogle

“Leaving Iowa,” by Tim Clue and Spike Manton and directed by Keith A. Anderson, comes to POWPAC with a dollop of laughs and a whole lot of heart. It tells the story of an impromptu (yet purposeful) road trip by a well meaning son through miles of America some of us seldom forget about.

“Leaving Iowa” is about Don Browning, now a writer in Boston, who, like many, suffered through countless road trips with his family as a child. The play moves back and forth, sometimes in an abrupt, jerky fashion, from the present to one particular past road trip to oh-so-exciting Hannibal, Missouri, birth place of Mark Twain with Don, his sister Sis, Mom, and Dad Browning (who is a history buff and chose the obscure location for said trip). In the present, Dad Browning has been deceased for three years, and while visiting Mom and Sis for Sis’ son’s baptism in his home town of Winterset, Iowa (‘Home of the Duke!’ as many of the characters will remind), Don decides it’s time to finally put Dad’s ashes to rest where he requested—at Don’s grandparents’ house, only about two hours away. Why Don chooses such an important day to make the trek, I’m not certain, but, after he finds out his grandparents’ house is now a grocery store, Don decides to find a more suitable place for his father. He contemplates several places, but his car breaks down and in the meantime, runs into some colorful characters…all this while zig-zagging between past and present, that is.

There are many cute, wonderful moments about this piece—all set against some craft-tastic backdrop panels meant to give a postcard kind of feel; one, being the heartfelt, always-got-the-others-back, relationship between Mom and Dad, played by fantastic duo, real life husband and wife Sam and Cheryl Warner. Sis (Christine Gatlin) is the ultimate manipulative little sister, and her fights and nagging of the parents with Don (Nathan Boyer) are enjoyable and incredibly well choreographed; there is something very likable about Gatlin’s portrayal. Bud Emerson, Evan Jones, and Pati Reynolds serve as Browning relatives, everyone met on the trip to Hannibal, and those met on Don’s trip to lay his father to rest. Pati especially concocts delightfully eccentric characters, giving life to what would otherwise be standard Midwesterners such as the farmer’s wife, the career diner waitress, and the automotive tech.

The tender moments punctuate this piece, but there are many facets that make “Iowa” like those long, unbearable drives that the play references. For one…the length. “Iowa” holds its audience captive for a bit too long—the play’s three and a half hours beg to be whittled down by at least a half hour, probably more. The character of Don, and his relationship with his father, also leave something to be desired. We never really see anything that gives credence to Don’s vow to find Dad’s final resting place besides the fact that Don missed a plane to his father’s funeral and that the two didn’t always have a lot to talk about on the phone…Yes, Don is Dad’s only son, but why is he so passionate about going on this journey, or at least more passionate than Sis or Mom? Don’s character also seems a bit stilted: he facilitates between admiration/appreciation for his father and being amused by his family’s ism’s, and that’s about it. The writing also seems to favor the hokey, average family in lieu of showing a snapshot of what family’s are: units with sometimes complex issues. (For instance, the phrase: “The Brownings are unpredictable!” is at use one too many times, but how is their plight unpredictable? And how does this family show us anything outside of the typical?) “Iowa” has all the makings of demonstrating how a family can be broken and bettered through time honored trips, but instead curtails delivering any depth by simply refusing to be more than a cutesy portrait of an American familial foursome.

What “Leaving Iowa” has going is an (almost syrupy sweet) stereotypical car ride that doesn’t really give us the emotion this piece could convey; instead it just reminds us all about times in the car: times we were told to bury our noses in the “Highlights” magazine before we made our respective parents self-destruct. (And they have a great cast who can get us through what is simply, a flawed script.) For that, I’m charmed, and POWPAC is excellent at turning on the charm. Next up is “Cowgirls,” a musical, running August 24-September 30.

“Leaving Iowa”
13250 Poway Road
Poway, CA 92064


“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
Words by Kristen Fogle

Plunging ahead with their first season, the Oceanside Theatre Company presents old favorite “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Based on the comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, the musical—with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner—carries us through a series of vignettes in which we interact with all of our old favorites—Lucy, Schroeder, Sally, Linus, Snoopy—and yes, Charlie Brown.

A tried and true, come to life representation of these characters and all the mini subplots that made the comic endearing—yes, “Good Man” has got it! The action ping pongs from scenario to scenario—sometimes the crux of the action involving Charlie Brown trying to win the affection of the Little Red Haired Girl (always from afar), Lucy pushing ballots on her friends to find out if she is in fact crabby (no surprise, she is), Sally arguing with teachers about poor grades, Snoopy performing dare-devil maneuvers as the Red Baron (his fighter pilot alter ego), Linus attempting to express his affection for that silly blanket, Schroeder trying to thwart Lucy’s advances…any common theme you’ve seen in the strip emerges in one form or another on stage.

This is somewhat limiting, coming from an adult perspective, one who expects to see a concrete beginning, middle, and end, a conflict and resolution…but for fans of Schultz’s strip (which ran for __ years, I might add) and especially for children, the short scenes (I think I clocked the wee-est one at seven seconds) and lack of progression can be forgiven.

And if you can get used to being jostled from one scenario to the next (with no visible connection between any), there are some great characters brought to life by very capable entertainers. Snoopy is played with an effervescent energy by Jimmy Masterson (he has a great dog howl as well!), and Sloane Herrick is captivating as Lucy Van Pelt; Herrick plays Lucy in such a way that I can’t imagine another actress ever getting it as right as her, with just the right combo of annoying (but still very likable) little girl. Ashley Jenks is also an awfully cute Sally Brown, her affected voice and brilliant deliveries made her one of the funnier of the bunch. Playing Sally’s brother Linus is Dan Windham; the largest one up there, I’m a bit confused by this casting choice, especially compared with the very talented Zedrick Villegas Evans (Schroeder)…but who looks like he could be Windham’s son. Devin Collins’ Charlie Brown is a mix of self deprecated characterization paired with powerful vocals, giving the meek Charlie new energy and a lot of gusto I would not expect from the character.

In fact everyone has the pipes to carry this one off, and the harmonies and overlapping of vocals is stellar, even worthy of recording quality in places—a credit to musical director Jeff Lehman and the entire orchestra.

The set is also quite remarkable, and I’m impressed with how everything—the background and all the additional pieces (a mailbox, a fence, Snoopy’s doghouse, Lucy’s well known psychiatry booth—all of these elements are so well constructed and cartoonish, I was really quite impressed with Joanne Kissenger’s set design and execution. This blended well with costumes by Roslyn Lehman, interpreted straight from the comics but adapted well (color and movement wise) for the stage. (For instance, though I’m definitely too old, I’m still slightly obsessed with Lucy’s flouncy, can-do-anything-in-it girly cobalt outfit.)

“Charlie Brown” as a show may not rank very high on the charts for me plot wise, but the effort and payoff OCT exerts as a new company continues to impress and make me want to journey the 37 miles from SD for more.

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown”
Oceanside Theatre Company
217 N. Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054