Tarell Alvin McCraney is clearly a theatrical heir of playwright August Wilson, and Mr. Wilson served as a mentor during his graduate playwriting education at Yale. Mr. McCraney’s work, like that of his mentor, is a product of big ideas and bold theatricality while at the same time honing to the cultural traditions of the African American community.
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On the surface John Doe is about a man (Michael Nieto) who ends up in a hospital emergency room with no identification and apparently in a coma. He is cared for by one nurse in particular (Rachel Propst), who takes a liking to him without knowing anything about him. Also hanging about are five fairly stereotypical and one-dimensional men who are not seen by the staff but who watch the goings on from a set of waiting room chairs. A sixth character (Jane Lui), who it turns out, is John’s wife, flits in and out like a mental case, clinging to one or more of the men.
Last January’s version was clearly an “audience show,” with a fair amount of sing-along to what has become familiar music, mostly of the folk variety. All of the cast members were solid, but Mr. Crossland, a newbie to theatre, impressed with his tenor lead vocals – not surprising, as Mr. Crossland’s mentor was San Diego native John Stewart of the Kingston Trio. Somehow, though, the moment has passed. In January, we could empathize with a cast that had been assembled for a Pete Seeger tribute (Mr. Armstrong even looks a little like Mr. Seeger) and then had to revise suddenly when Mr. Seeger withdrew his support. We could root openly for the sympathetic comments about the Occupy movement. We could watch with studied horror as the Republican Party tried out an ever more conservative, anti-protest, set of presidential favorites.
It’s easy to like Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna. For one thing, they’re incredibly personable on stage. For another, they’re still obviously in love after 47 years of marriage. But, what seals the deal is that they’re funny – ranging from knowing-smile funny to chuckle funny, to laugh-out-loud funny, to guffaw funny. All of these kinds of funny are amply on display in the couple’s latest show, If Ever You Leave Me … I’m Going With You!, performing through November 11 at the Welk Resorts Theatre.
Jules Verne’s story, Around the World in 80 Days, has been dismissed as an adventure tale aimed at boys, but it has proven to hold appeal for audiences of all ages. That appeal continues as Lamb’s Players Theatre mounts the West Coast premiere of Laura Eason’s adaptation of the novel.
ion Theatre’s Claudio Raygoza has created Julia, a world premiere version of August Strindberg’s Miss Julie. His creation contains a cup of its original author, two cups of Tennessee Williams, and a pinch of Mexican telenovelas. And, in his title character he’s given company stalwart Catalina Maynard a bitch-goddess role worthy of her considerable talents.