Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

When the Ladies Are Murderers for Hire: Dark Comedy at La Jolla Playhouse

Monday, August 7th, 2017

The perfect story for the age of Donald Trump, Jr. has just arrived at La Jolla Playhouse.  The name of the play is “Kill Local,” and I’m happy to recommend this Playhouse experimental effort.

So, for some summer laughs and gender role reversal, hurry over to catch this farce with a morality play angle.  The more gruesome parts are in the first act but patrons will definitely stay around for the conclusion.

This reviewer was amused that with the world-wide feminist call for gender equality, this dark comedy comes along to show what can happen when women are completely in charge.  This makes for refreshing drama and helps one understand the often leavening  role of art.

Though bloody, the acting was quite good even as some of the players lines could have used better microphone boosting.  Same for the innovative directing—the play had to be stopped for a stage correction on opening night.

But the script is well-written, a tribute to the partnership between UCSD Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse.  The fine writer, Mat Smart, studied at University of California, San Diego before migrating to New York and now has temporarily come back to delight the home folks with a script and staging that has echoes of Theater of the Absurd and is a bit unusual but—amazingly—it works!

The players should be recognized for their good acting and hard work in this physically demanding performance.  They are Matthew Amendt, Carolyn Braver, Candy Buckley, Amanda Quaid and Xochiti Romero.  Braver’s parents drove in from Tucson to delight in the work of their 25-year-old daughter who effectively plays a semi-naïve 17-year-old.  Her very proud dad confided that she had already had a Broadway role and was thrilled to be in this La Jolla production.

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

The other stars are a devilish Mom and her two daughters who run a small family killing-for-hire business which is the heart of the production.  Their extraordinary foil is Amendt a dead ringer for Donald Trump Jr, looking-alike, sounding-alike and a capitalist—selfish at any cost.

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Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Candy Buckley as “Gloria”

One could delight merely in this character’s swinging around at the mercy of his guns-for-hire captor.  But there is much more in this playful script for which you’ll have to scurry over to the playhouse to get the inside story: La Jolla Playhouse

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Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Matthew Amendt as “Todd”

Most everywhere one turns these days in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego one sees partnerships between UCSD and various elements of the community.  Presentation of “Kill Local,” as said, fine experimental theater, is a marvelous tribute to the long-time synergy created in the “Theater District.”

At the same time, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla must be congratulated also for providing a temporary home for SummerFest 2017, our grand musical event—on a class with the very few top musical festivals in the world.

Incidentally this is the same academic leader who brought the Dalai Lama to La Jolla—a courageous act in face of anti-free-speech propagandists who flooded his switchboard with nasty phone calls.  It was a pleasure to see the Chancellor at the Playhouse opening night of “Kill Local” in this case accompanied by his articulate and handsome son.

Check out “Kill Local” during this limited run in August.  Ticket details are available at the site La Jolla Playhouse.

 

BEGUILING “UP HERE” IS ATTRACTIVE, TEMPTING AT LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE

Friday, August 14th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

For a real treat go see “Up Here,” the lusty neuroscience musical playing through September 6 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Just for a chance to see the stars, sexy Betsy Wolfe and mind-plagued Matt Bittner, in the roles of beautiful Lindsay (she even says she has quite a “rack”) and Dan, “the computer man,” whose head is populated by a huge group of demons and encouragers, is more than worth the price of admission.

Dan (Matt Bittner) crazed by his love for Lindsay (Betsy Wolfe)

Kudos to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the married couple who created the book, music and lyrics.  (On Broadway he won a Tony Award for “The Book of Mormon” and she won prizes for the Off Broadway musical “In Transit.”)  What a splendid assemblage by the Playhouse.

The love affair, at the center of this charmer, is a kind of a conventional meeting and matching and rejecting and rejoining where he has confidence problems and she is too compelling to lose.  The back-and-forth is played out in front of a set that also makes frequent references to evolution.  Alas, we see and hear much of the voices in Dan’s head, challenging his insecurities and Lindsay is also nervous about a new job and an old beau.  At a certain level much of this drama for fun plays out in our own anxiety-driven lives.

But this is real entertainment combining the Playhouse tendency to stage productions that please their upper-bourgeois mainstay audience with a brilliantly funny script that touches up and back with more meaty mental health issues delivering an undercurrent of contemporary focus that will please those seeking, also, something to think about.

The colorful production is directed by Alex Timbers and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, both prize winners with an eye on the stars and delightful use of the ensemble mostly to emerge from Dan’s head as he tries to get it straight.  With a number of small sweet tunes the production, for a musical, has so few big numbers that there is not a listing of the songs in the patron’s program.

Demons and Do-Gooders inhabit Dan's Brain

Set designer David Korins has created stage with allusions to the human brain but it is one’s funny bone that that get tickled in this memorable production.

 

Compelling San Diego Musical Theatre’s “Next to Normal” Illuminates Mental Illness

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

By Barry Jagoda

Frequent patrons of San Diego Musical Theater are in for a shocking change from the company’s fare of light Broadway-style musicals when they have the intense experience of the current production, “Next to Normal,” which opened last night (September 27) and runs through October 12 at the North Park Theatre.

This is an extremely well-written and well-produced play, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and, in 2009, a collection of “Tony’s” for its Broadway run that year.  Although it must be said that the story has its depressing moments there are also many uplifting scenes and educational lessons.

Though the producers like to refer to their production as a “rock musical,” in truth it is a searing look at mental health issues, particularly the painful and distressing bipolar disease, often referred to as manic-depression.  “Next to Normal” is very serious drama masquerading as rock theater.  The small live orchestra and the outstanding voices of the six cast members help to relieve the realities of the topic under examination—but agony also comes through in this fearless play.

 

The brilliant San Diego version is alternatingly painful and illuminating.  With a fine cast of six players and a live orchestra, also of six members, this is the story of one woman’s trauma and how deeply debilitating  bipolar disease is to her and for her family.  Perfectly played by Bets Malone as the mentally ill Mom, she goes though all the stages of medications and psychotherapy and electro-shock treatment.  The idea is to purge whatever bad memories triggered the illness while opening the patient to a mind that can be rebuilt with positive thoughts.

The audience was clearly moved by all this but not to be overlooked in the story is what could be called “collateral damage,” the enormous stress and unfathomable pain suffered by her loyal husband (very well portrayed by Robert J. Townsend) who promises to stay with her no matter what.  Also subject to agony is the couple’s teen-age daughter who has the normal adolescent adjustment problems vastly multiplied by being her mother’s daughter.

The story makes clear that the trauma began with the death of the couple’s eight-month boy, 16 years earlier.  But this demon persists, as the now imaginary son lingers on throughout the play, never far from Mom’s memory.  We are told by one of the psychiatrists that there is often a genetic disposition for bi-polar but the disease is often triggered by a traumatic event.  In “Next to Normal,” that turns out to be the dead infant who never leaves his mother’s psyche.

 

 

 

 

In our complex society of very rich, very poor and much in-between we do not often have a chance to get inside the skin of a corner homeless person or someone clearly acting “crazy.”  It is one of the many virtues of “Next to Normal,” that theater goers are forced to look deeply into the psyche of mental illness.  This production is wonderful drama and very public-spirited theater.

As a measure of commitment the producers have arranged for a charity sharing procedure and, in this case, the recipient is the International Bipolar Association.  For more information and to contribute to this highly deserving research organization access www.ibpf.org

 

MOSCOW BALLET DELIGHTS WITH 2013 “NUTCRACKER” TOUR

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” is currently on it’s 21st annual North American crowd-pleaser  featuring an award winning company of 40 Russian dancers in more than 100 performances all across North America this holiday season.

As seen in San Diego, December 16, a focus on the best of the company dancers demonstrates why this Russian ballet extravaganza, with memorable production values, splendid costuming and hand-painted backdrops has become so widely appreciated in its appearances throughout the United States and Canada.

Particularly stunning are performances by Karyna Shatkovska as the lovely Masha and Volodymry Tkachenko, who plays first the Nutcracker, a holiday party doll gift for Masha, and who is then transformed into her Prince.  These two dancers, by themselves, are well worth the price of admission.

They are backed up by a fine company of Russian dancers and are joined by as many as 50 young American and Canadian ballet students from studios in each of the cities on the tour.

The production can be seen as a triumph of art over logistics.  With performances in more than 60 cities, getting the dancers, their costumes, stage settings, technical support and arranging for the massive marketing, travel and local partnerships is an admirable achievement.  The dance makes it all worthwhile.

A significant shortcoming is the absence of live music, understandable in light of already great burdens for this extravaganza.  (Apart from the aesthetic issue another problem is that the recorded music does go on even as the audience is busy trying to applaud!)

Ticket buyers can find details of the remaining performances at http://www.nutcracker.com/your-city.  A second performance in San Diego is set for December 17 at 7:30pm at the Copley Symphony Hall.

 

WONDERFUL “WHITE CHRISTMAS” BUT NO SNOW IN SAN DIEGO

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

By Barry Jagoda

In San Diego one does not have to travel far to enjoy theater at a very high level of performance, as demonstrated this holiday season by the San Diego Musical Theater (SDMT) at it’s December 13 opening night presentation of “White Christmas.”  The stirring and heart-warming musical will play at North Park Birch Theater until December 22.

There is a danger of assuming that “road-show” or “out-of-town” productions cannot live up to their advance billings.  In part this is because the most successful Broadway shows are often those selected for “provincial” distribution and therefore have very high standards to match.  Another possibility is that a greater “mass culture” spin is sometimes employed by local producers as a lure in efforts to find a wider audience.  Both of those challenges have been overcome by SDMT though excellent casting, superb costuming and inspiring choreography—with really great dancing and singing by a very professional cast backed by a fine 22-piece orchestra seen on stage the whole evening.

One discordant note, though understandable, is the proclivity of the producers, Gary and Erin Lewis, to stand before the opening curtin to promote upcoming productions and to encourage donations to the non-for-profit company.  It is doubtful that their pre-show duo pitch results in more coin for the collection plate but this prelude gives their otherwise extremely impressive operation a bit of an “amateur” feel.

Directed by Todd Nielsen, with the orchestra under the baton of Don LeMaster and starring four journeymen actors, Todd DuBail and Jeffrey Parson in the male leads and Laura Dickinson and Jill Townsend as the objects of their interest and partnership.  A large cast of quite brilliant singers and dancers make up the pleasing ensemble.

This production is based on the 1954 Paramount Pictures film, “White Christmas.”  The real source of delight, of course, is Irving Berlin, who wrote the music and lyrics.

The story begins in the final stages of WWII and continues ten years later with the army soldier/entertainers making progress with their act in New York City.  Women-chasing takes them to snowy Vermont instead of a next planned gig in Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow is certainly a reality in Vermont but the beauty and charm of the story brought tears of recognition and enjoyment to many in the San Diego audience where there’s been no white Christmas for more than fifty years.

(The warming influence of the Pacific Ocean keeps the weather of San Diego relatively consistent throughout the year, with temperatures rarely dropping low enough to even support any of the white stuff except in higher elevations).

For the capacity crowd of more than 500 snuggled into North Park Theater on a cold December evening a deeper warmth was afforded by this highly satisfying American classical tradition so professionally presented.   The theater even provided a few flakes of snow for the audience as they were showing their appreciation for such a delightful night.

 

Great Paul Robeson Passionately Portrayed by Daniel Beaty at La Jolla Playhouse

Monday, October 14th, 2013

For La Jolla Playhouse patrons who crave socially relevant drama a magnificent such work currently occupies the stage in the form of a biography of the great American black actor, singer and political activist, Paul Robeson.   The production, titled “The Tallest Tree in the Forest” stars another world-class great actor, Daniel Beaty, who, in a one-man performance, gives the audience an unforgettable and highly emotional experience, playing the parts of 40 persons and bringing to life at least 15 songs, including “Ole Man River,”  “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “Battle of Jericho.”

 

Robeson, born in 1898, son of a run-away slave, was an All-American football player at Rutgers, a distinguished graduate of Columbia University Law School and a star of stage and screen—with one of the truly amazing voices in the history of the American and world-wide stage.

Tired of “nigger this” and “nigger that,” in his home country, he became enamored of the Soviet Union making an enemy of the dangerous Diretor of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover.  Eventually called before the House Committee on Un-American Activity and blacklisted during the 1950s cold war period of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Robeson’s performing world collapsed when his passport was taken away for eight years at the height of his stage career.

Though Robeson is now remembered as a great and patriotic American, perhaps the most well-known black man for most of the 20th Century, his life and his amazing story comes alive in this Playhouse production as portrayed by Beaty, the brilliant actor and vocalist  whose work is completely deserving of the story of the heroic Robeson.

Accompanied by a musical trio and perfectly staged by veteran director Moises Kaufman this is a play not to be missed.   There is plenty of time to get tickets and go before the production closes November 3.

 

Electric “Tribes” Engages La Jolla Playhouse Audience

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

by Barry Jagoda

“Tribes,” the wonderful drama currently on stage at The La Jolla Playhouse, did not look all that interesting at first glance but it turns out to be one of the most compelling presentations in years from this potentially wonderful San Diego house of creativity.

Many Playhouse productions have seemed to be tryouts for Broadway, particularly under the leadership of the much heralded Des McAnuff, the former Artistic Director.  But the team of Christopher  Ashley (who replaced Des several years ago) and his sidekick, Managing Director Michael Rosenberg, are making a valiant, and often successful, effort for the Playhouse to become relevant for those who want theater to be stimulating and not merely a site of ego gratification for the swells of La Jolla who come to hear bells and whistles and show up on Opening Night at what they think is world class when it has often been mindless froth.

Not “Tribes.”

This is a brilliant story of family dysfunction, one tribe comprised of an insufferable intellectual father, an overly empathetic mother and three children.  One of their kids, in this British-Jewish home, was born deaf.  The other two are aggressively hungry for their own success in music and academia.  Another tribe started as two deaf parents and their lovely hearing daughter.  When the two young deaf kids meet and fall in love they eventually try to start a third tribe, their own home and love.  This causes the boy—whose folks had forbidden him to learn sign language—to go the other way and completely embrace deaf culture.  Unfortunately his new girl-friend, gifted from birth with hearing but now in her twenties and herself losing it to painful noises of black rushing sounds, (evolving toward her parents and  their “disabled” life-style), announces, “I don’t want to be only deaf.”  Will they break-up?  (Earlier the audience,  including many without hearing, gets a huge laugh at the line, ‘The deaf are the Muslims of the disabled, handicapped world.”)

“Tribes” is a universal, painful story filled with life lessons about cultural relativity  and continuously asking the question of which of the many “tribes” among us is normal.  All six characters are wonderfully cast:  After a while one can easily forget you are inside a theater and begin to think you are at someone’s home in Britain trying to help sort out their problems.  “Tribes” is a treasure for the mind!

(L-R) Thomas DellaMonica, Meghan O’Neill, Russell Harvard, Lee Roy Rogers, Dina Thomas and Jeff Still share top billing in “Tribes

To it’s much appreciated credit the Playhouse has maintained deep skill in  understanding production values, lighting, costuming, set design and casting. Director David Cromer has turned this play into something most always understandable even with deaf characters communicating in the venue of the nearly wrap-around, thrust stage auditorium of the Playhouse Potiker Theater, not a simple task.  Of enormous help are the electronic surtitles flashed all around invoked not only to interpret the large amount of sign language being employed but also for such pedestrian assignments as warning the audience to “turn off cellphones.”  With “Tribes” we have the happy combination of great, unforgettable drama married to La Jolla Playhouse’s expected mastery of production values.  Unlike many Playhouse presentations the story is so good that, finally, the bells and whistles become merely an accompaniment instead of the main focus.

But, dear reader, if you are one seeking more and deeper substance, be advised that Des-the-Knife, like Mack-the-Knife, is back in town and directing an old San Diego favorite, “Sideways,” based on the charming buddy movie about two guys who take a car trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara,  We’ll review, in the next couple of days, what the old La Jolla Playhouse, with direction from the locally (and internationally) much-beloved McAnuff, does with this story.  Will he  have spoiled it trying to make his superficial audience entertained? One high-ranking, and very well informed Playhouse official whispered to this reporter, “I hear Des wants to take “Sideways to Broadway!”   We will let you know in this space next week.  This same Playhouse executive booster was particularly proud that the organization now has what appears to be a successful outreach all over San Diego.  ”We used to present five shows a year but now we have a total of 16 in communities all over the region and this all takes major donations and regular subscribers.”

Meanwhile, back to “Tribes.”  I do hope to be forgiven for turning to the ubiquitous Russian author Leo Tolstoy whose first sentence, in what some believe is the greatest novel of all time, “Anna Karenina,”Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  The Anna Karenina Principle describes an endeavor in which a deficiency in any one of a number of factors dooms it to failure. Consequently, a success (subject to this principle) is one where every possible deficiency has been avoided.

In, “Guns, Germs and Steel,” his brilliant book of anthropology and geography, the unsurpassed Southern California intellectual, UCLA Professor Jared Diamond further explains the Karenina principle:  So few wild animals have been successfully domesticated, because a deficiency in any one of a number of factors can make a species “undomesticable.”

At the heart of “Tribes,” a play about language and love, is the question of what is a “deficiency” and what is “normal?”   Nina Raines, the author of the novel on which this production is based, seems to find deafness not really a deficiency, at least compared to the secular, intellectual striving and craziness of the main family on stage.  Go see (and hear) for yourself:  Tribes plays only until July 21.

At the end of the several hour production, which zoomed by on Friday night, July 19, as though in an instant, the sizable deaf contingent in the audience (provided with interpreters to sign for words that could not be heard) rose to their feet waiving arms and hands high, the American Sign Language signal for wild applause.  Others in the audience clapped vigorously in the “more normal” manner while “Bravo” also rang out after an unforgettable night in La Jolla.

 

 

San Diego Musical Theater with Rousing “CHICAGO”

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

By Barry Jagoda

The Birch North Park Theatre is a wonderful old San Diego venue, dating from 1929, perfect for “Chicago,” a road-show musical based on Broadway’s third longest running production.  It is heartening to walk into this great space immediately to be confronted with a 14-piece orchestra which occupies half the stage and is soon joined by a cast of 19, including three or four starring roles and a highly professional ensemble.  The musical theatre is very much alive in San Diego.

By way of introduction, on the February 22 opening night, Gary and Erin Lewis, executive directors of the producing organization, San Diego Musical Theater (SDMT), stepped in the front of the curtain and announced that the show was about crime, about murder and adultery.  That about sums up the content of “Chicago,” but the baton of resident musical director, Don Le Master,  keeps the orchestra and the production jumping with comedic charm and “razzle dazzle.”

Nearly 40 years after its Broadway debut, the play has evolved into a mostly empty, jokey story.  But production quality and fast pace in San Diego, results in some high entertainment value—wonderful singing and dancing by the two competing female leads, Kyra Da Costa and Emma Radwick, and a bold, bravura performance by the handsome, fast talking Chicago defense lawyer, played by Robert Townsend, gives the audience a series of delights. Particularly impressive is the constantly visible and hard-working ensemble. Patrons seemed to really appreciate the talents of this group of eight hoofers.  And what one must never forget about this production is that it was first conceived by Bob Fosse, whose “The Chorus Line,” may be the greatest Broadway musical ever.  In “Chicago” the characters are also forced to dig deep into their emotional selves for material although this Fosse trademark is here seen more as comedy and farce instead  of insightful self-analysis.  The San Diego production was directed by Ron Kellum and choreographed by Randy Slovcek.

“Chicago” tells the story of Roxie (below right) who shoots a suitor when she thinks she is being taken advantage of and about another peripheral Chicago dancer, Velma (below left), who wants the attention Roxie seems to be getting.  Billy Flynn, the smooth ” mick lawyer,” takes on Roxie’s case and (shh!) gets her acquitted of murder.  The rest is commentary and good middlebrow musical art, although the lawless violence seen in pre-depression Chicago necessarily reminds one of similar conditions in today’s Windy City.

 

Several members of the cast were making their professional stage debuts with this production.  One such ensemble member, Ariel Lowell, who spends much of her time seeking theatrical opportunities in Los Angeles, was clearly excited by her chance and she did a fine job throughout the evening.  That was indeed lucky because it turned out that ten members of her family came to Opening Night, including her siblings and parents from Colorado and her grandmother from Virginia.  In one of the production’s more lavish numbers the Ensemble (with Ariel, left center, below) surrounds star lawyer “Billy Flynn,” well played by Townsend.

In early February Ariel and the cast began two weeks of rehearsals and their performances showed a high degree of professionalism.

A huge crowd showed up for Opening Night and it was a diverse group. Quite visible was a former President of the University of California, Bob Dynes, and his wife Ann, who is the retired attorney for UC San Diego.  The audience was obviously  thrilled with the live musical quality and it was apparent that SDMT has begun it’s season with a hit.  After previews and a highly successful Opening Weekend, February 15-17, the show was scheduled, during the last weekend of February and the beginning of March, for eight more performances. Tickets are available on-line, <www.sdmt.org> or by phoning the box office at 858-560-5740.

Under the leadership of Producers Gary and Erin Lewis, San Diego Musical Theater will bring a total of four large musicals to the Birch in coming months: “The Sound of Music,” May 10-26; “Ain’t Misbehavin,” September 27-October 13 and “White Christmas” in December.

 

Brilliant Charlie Chaplin, Despairing Dostoevsky at La Jolla Playhouse

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

     It is mystifying to think about how one of the nation’s leading theater companies, La Jolla Playhouse, could simultaneously present to its loyal audiences a brilliant musical biography, the most enjoyable and historically significant “Limelight, The story of Charlie Chaplin,” while also serving up in an adjacent theater the vile, meaningless 90 minutes of useless agony, a version of Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground.”

     It was only toward the end of “Notes” that patrons starting walking out, a final on-stage rape scene was ultimately too much to bear, but we all should have left in the beginning as it became apparent that the whole production was to consist of a maniac repeatedly proclaiming that his life was completely evil and that he was in perpetual agony.

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Contrast this with the uplifting life of Chaplin, who rose from the slums of London to become, on the basis of pure talent and a genetic ability to perform, one of the very greatest Hollywood entertainers and movie stars.  His story, a great crowd pleaser in La Jolla, is likely to end up on Broadway as have many other productions from these uneven creative stages.

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     “Notes,” an adaptation of an early novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky, who became one of the two or three greatest Russian novelists, did feature interesting staging in this Yale Repertory-La Jolla co-production, and there is one other positive reflection:  A community that prides itself on serving up the “good life,” as does San Diego, can use an artistic nightmare here and there.  In fact it is the very absence of this kind of humanistic struggle, the turning away from issues of alienation, that makes the local culture less appealing than in other major centers.  So, bring on a little lower Manhattan or some sordid San Francisco, to say nothing of painful 19th Century Russia.  We need a little shaking up in a place that calls itself “America’s Finest City.”

 

     Chaplin’s thought-provoking life encompasses so much about the 20th Century—urban poverty in the world’s cities, immigration, mama-inspiration, imaginative bravado, the Cold War and American political repression and H o l l y w o o d that it is an absolute natural for telling a big story with its emotional highs and lows.  At the heart of this wonderful story is a show about how to please an audience.

 

     In telling the life of this natural and consummate entertainer, who built on his vaudeville training to become a star in the earliest silent films and then the “talkies,” the La Playhouse has gone all-out, as this company can do when it is when focused on a good story.  In the current production we have a wonderful orchestra, singers, dancers, stars.  Chaplin, a world-class womanizer, took four wives and then, as he left the stage driven away by the horrible anti-communist blacklist, moved to Switzerland and had eight kids with his last wife. 

 

     What the audience might best remember, besides the perfect showcasing of Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character, is the truth about a life, about mass culture and how the left-wing idealism bit so deeply into almost all its adherents that the challenge of know-nothing attacks by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his fellow demagogues at first seemed irrelevant.  But these attacks were just plain poison on our whole culture.  This production is a truth-teller, retaining the mean-spirited backdrop of poverty and political controversy of the worst kind of 20th Century pain, yet delivered in the form of a wonderful musical giving pleasure and delight to the audience with its terrific script and story and show casing the greatest figure in early Hollywood.

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These two plays are at La Playhouse <lajollaplayhouse.org> through mid-October.