Volume III, Issue II Summer 2004

Turbulence - Charlene Baldridge's theater diary

For the week of July 11

Delights of the week:

... Sitting outdoors prior to the Globe's Sunday curtain with Jonathan McMurtry, his wife Terry and their 11-year-old daughter, Coral. Jonathan – who's in "Antony and Cleopatra" and "As You Like It" in the repertory this summer – was there, as we were, to see "The Two Noble Kinsmen." He recalled one Globe summer long ago when he was repping in three productions. He arrived early as usual to apply his makeup and realized only just before the "places" call that he was prepared to play the wrong show that night! McMurtry, who's performed in Shakespeare nationwide, has performed in all Shakespeare's plays except the "Henry Sixes." Dakin Matthews, this season's dramaturge and the guy who conflated Jack O'Brien's Tony Award-winning "Henry IV," is seeing to the Henry Sixes right now. According to Jonathan, it's a two-evening experience.

... At Gustavo Romero's Mozart recital Sunday, the two privileged women behind me discussing younger women, marriage and family; declaring that women who don't intend to become full-time mothers shouldn't be allowed to have children. Wonder who'll they'll vote for come November?

The week's repertoire

"Hairspray" here and there

When Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein left the Broadway production of "Hairspray" in May, New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote, "Any actor who tackles Edna must find the heart beneath the fat suit."

Bruce Vilanch, who plays Edna in the touring production that hit San Diego's Civic Theatre July 6 (playing through July 18) has heart, heft and a supreme vocalism to boot. When he hits a "feature" – a booming bass note in Edna's love duet with hubby Wilbur (Todd Susman) – the crystal chandelier in the Civic's lobby tinkles. And when Edna comforts her feisty teen daughter Tracy (the dynamite Keala Settle) it's a sweet, real "awww" moment for mothers and daughters.

Energy-wise this spectacular show is supremely entertaining, with triad-rhymed lines cleverly spoken, crisp and amusing lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, sung to Shaiman's lilting rock 'n' roll score. Jerry Mitchell's choreography is a paean to the '60s. Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan adapted the book from John Waters' 1988 film.

This was my first experience of the show, so I don't have to spend any cyber ink on comparisons. All I know is I was thoroughly entertained by the supremely gifted company, which was truly stoked for the tour's San Diego opening because Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien, artistic director of the Old Globe, was in the audience. So were many Globe friends and former and present employees, among them Joe Kobryner, general manager of Broadway/San Diego; Diane E. Willcox, assistant general manager, also a former Globite; Marc Sommers, the Globe's finance director; Peter Van Dyke, former Globe production stage manager who's off for the summer from the touring production of "Les Mis"; and beloved Lorraine Boyd, a longtime Globe aide to Craig Noel and others on the artistic staff.

At curtain time, the audience long since on its feet, Willcox presented O'Brien with a lovely red, white and blue bouquet, which he in turn bestowed on Vilanch, which he in turn bestowed on Settle. It was that kind of night, filled with warmth and camaraderie.

Busman's holiday

I had a "night off" on Thursday and, like any ham at heart (Pat Launer is my role model), I spent an hour of my evening waiting for my close-up, along with Renaissance Theatre Artistic Director George Flint. We filmed video bits for Robert Salerno's production of Marianne McDonald's "The Ally Way." The world premiere play is adapted from Euripides' "Alcestis" and is scheduled to play at 6th at Penn July 30-August 18.

Among others, the company comprises Ken Oberlander, Ed Hollingsworth, Melissa Hamilton, Douglas Lay and Giancarlo Ruiz. I can't wait to see Flint get in touch with his feminine side, if only on video.

Around the Globe

Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evenings were spent outdoors at the Old Globe. The outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre was the site for the re-established Shakespeare Festival. It's got an all-purpose Shakespearean set designed by Ralph Funicello.

Boom, boom, boom they opened, "Antony and Cleopatra" on July 7, "As You Like It" on July 9 and "The Two Noble Kinsmen" on July 9. The three diverse works hopscotch in repertory, occupying the venue for a total of 78 performances through October 3.

The Shakespeare repertory

Antony and Cleopatra
'Antony and Cleopatra'
Photo by Craig Schwartz
One could carp that Dan Snook and Sara Surrey are too young to play Shakespeare's mature lovers in "Antony and Cleopatra." They are better seen as Theseus and Hippolyta in "The Two Noble Kinsman," which requires a lesser range of emotion. I found Surrey quite convincing as Cleopatra. Snook tends to sashay like a runway model in his toga and he yells uncontrollably when Antony loses everything in his land battle. Festival Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak stages both those productions.

Globe/USD MFA actor Rod Brogan distinguishes himself in all three Shakespeare works, but shines particularly as the super-macho Charles the Wrestler in "As You Like It" and the effeminate Pirithous in "Two Noble Kinsmen." Other MFAers who play large roles exceptionally well include Edelen McWilliams as Rosalind's bosom buddy, Celia, in "As You Like It," Michael Wrynn as country bumpkin Silvius in "As You Like It" and Karen Zippler as Emilia in "Two Noble Kinsmen."

Among my favorite players/roles in the Equity company are as follows: in "Kinsman" Liam Craig, who broke my heart as the Wooer, Bree Elrod as the Jailer's Daughter; in "As You Like It" Katie MacNichol as Rosalind, and Daniel Jay Shore as Orlando. Those who distinguished themselves in multiple plays are McMurtry as Lepidus in "Antony and Cleopatra" and Adam/Corin in "As You Like It"; Charles Janasz as Agrippa in "Antony and Cleopatra," Jaques in "As You Like It" and the Doctor in "Kinsmen"; Gregor Paslawsky as Maecenas, Touchstone and the Jailer in all three, respectively; Greg Thornton as Enobarbus in "Antony and Cleopatra" and Duke Frederick/Duke Senior in "As You Like It," Bruce Turk as the Soothsayer/Euphronius in "Antony and Cleopatra" and Le Beau/Amiens in "As You Like It" and Deborah Taylor as Charmian in "Antony and Cleopatra" and Audrey in "As You Like It."

Graham Hamilton and Brian Sgambati, who play the titular Kinsmen, are attractive and earnest as the cousins whose love for one another is sundered by their love for the same woman. But hey, kids, that's the glory and endless fascination of repertory.

Ralph Funicello's basic set adapts, sometimes miraculously, for all three shows. I loved Karen Carpenter's droll addition of the "As You Like It" sheep, adored MacNichol's lolling with one aloft, and thought the departure of the funeral barge in Tresnak's "Antony and Cleopatra" brilliant. Lewis Brown's (loved Touchstone's red and white clown costume) and Linda Cho's costumes were elegant and unusual. Steve Rankin is fight director in Egypt and Athens and York Kennedy the lighting designer and Christopher Walker, the sound designer in all imaginary locales.

Don't know about you, but I'm plumb tuckered out, except to say that you must not miss the La Jolla Playhouse production of Melissa James Gibson's "Suitcase or, Those That Resemble Flies From a Distance." The Shakespeare's alternate in repertory through Oct. 3, but Gibson's language-loving work lasts only till August 8.

That's all for this week, folks.

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