Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Moxie’s “Fade” Makes Impressive San Diego Premiere.

“Fade” by Tanya Saracho ("Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine") now showing at Moxie Theatre in Rolando through Nov. 11th in association with TuYo Theatre is another two hander on the San Diego theatre scene. Under the deft direction of Maria Patrice Amon, it deals with social and economic differences in the Latinx community on many levels in a 90 minute + fast paced, witty and credible but predictable work.

In an interview, the playwright shares that she wrote “Fade” as therapy during her first year in LA as a new hire to write a show for TV. As a Chicago transplant, she and her female alter ego Lucia (Sofia Sassone) complain about LA-ville from the palm trees to the weather, to the freeways (no one gets out of their cars) to not knowing anyone to being afraid of being fired.
Sofia Sassone and Javier Guerrero
On her nightly visits to her office space, she befriends and then enlists the help of the custodian, Abel (Javier Guerrero). He works in her office building where his nightly maintenance jobs coincide with her after hours schedule.

He’s usually pushing a vacuum cleaner, cleaning windows, emptying trash baskets or fixing something or other in her office-space (appropriately decorated by Kristin Flores and purposefully lit by Mextly Aimeda). She’s often railing about her co –workers, women in the workplace and her lack of ideas.

They get off to a shaky start when she assumes he is Hispanic so she speaks to him in Spanish. We later learn that he was born and raised in LA, is in fact of Mexican-American heritage but prefers to speak English. (“You speak English? So why have I been speaking to you in Spanish?” A: Um, I don’t know.”… I don’t assume stuff like that.”)

That give and take lasts for a while until they agree that she made a mistake in her assumptions that because someone looks like they may be Hispanic or speaks in broken English that they would prefer to speak in Spanish. He chooses not to because maybe this is America?  They reboot and we’re off to the races.

Culture and class  (her family has a maid- “everyone in Mexico City has one”- his family does not) and ambition are at the heart of Saracho’s witty comedy leaning to the cynical end on the comedy spectrum.

She is afraid of running out of ideas. Some might call it writers block, but in fact she is out of her league compared to the team of writers she is competing with in the upstairs suites of her building.

In her mind her hire was more of a diversity (she is a Mexican-born originally from Mexico City) hire than a talented young, up and coming star. Her one and only published book was titled “The Definitive Guide to Nothing”. She’s angry; he’s a good listener.
As all this off camera give and take is played out in Lucia’s small office space, she and Abel share stories of their past (he more than she). Hers is more ranting and protesting against how she is treated by her male superiors.

She finds his story not only compelling (and that tattoo on your arm?) but oh, so right as an intro into her contribution to the new TV series her company is launching.

After bits and pieces of his story evolve, she asks if she might use some of what he shared of his story, as her intro to the series. (“I want it to be nuanced and stuff.”) He said sure as long as some of the more personal and perhaps incriminating facts he shared were left out. She agreed. (“Don’t worry, I wont tell anyone.”)

The two opposing personalities, she is from an upper class family even though she denies it. She’s also well educated and we see,  condescending.

He’s working class and knows his station in life but is proud of his being both a Marine and Fireman, not to mention the proud dad of a little girl. The one strike that finds him as a custodian because they don’t ask too many questions is the fact that he spent time in jail. Long story.

As she gains confidence with all his new revelations and acceptance with her bosses for moving forward on the project, the tables begin to change in her relationships with the other writers and so, in turn, does her demeanor and self-assurance with Abel. Oft times she’s AOL when he comes by her small office suite.

When he notices and compliments her on her rising star spot in the company, he also wants to know if she’s ready to go in with everything she has to seal the deal. “Are you ready to do whatever it takes?”

Culture clash, show business and personal commitments don’t always make perfect bedfellows and “Fade is no exception. It’s like being on a sea-saw; one minute you’re up and the next you’re struggling to gain balance and a collision course is most inevitable.  

In scene after scene (and there are many that almost fade into one another) both actors come on to the stage with a different set of circumstances advancing the outcome, which, this reviewer found fairly predictable as the plot thickened.

There is a quasi romance that was doomed from the start, a naiveté present that was able to get the very persuasive Sassone’s Lucia into the mind set of Guerrero’s Abel’s almost too trusting way and there is a plausible story to build upon. The rhythms of their give and take are perfect.

Armon’s (“Madres”) spot on direction and Saracho’s fast repartee is perfect fodder for these two beautiful young and seasoned actors honing in on their skills as two strangers, lovers, compatriots and finally adversaries. They are believable, funny, captivating, interesting and charming. The match is ideal.   

She is dressed in Carmon Amon’s funky mismatched flowing styles; linens and flowery and shimmering fabrics that only a body as slim as Ms. Sassone’s can get away with. I loved it. Guerrero’s uniform…well, what can we say?

The one negative for moi was the transition music supplied by, I’m assuming, sound designer Lily Voon. It might be hip. It might be the IN sound, but frankly my dear,  it was too loud and invasive to my ears.

Other than that, the play, the actors and direction is right up Moxie’s alley and now with their debut collaboration with TuYo, they’ve opened up a new page in diversifying the theatre experience.


See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Nov. 11th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Phone: 858-598-7620
Production Type: Romantic Comedy
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Ticket Prices: $18.00- $43.00
Photo: Quasi Studios

Monday, October 29, 2018

“Holmes & Watson” –A Real Cliff -Hanger (no pun intended) at North Coast Rep.

If Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Holmes & Watson” wasn’t so damn clever it would be just  another ho hum mystery. Now on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre through Nov. 18th, Hatcher’s mystery is a head scratcher from  start to finish and clever to boot.

The program lists three separate characters as Holmes 1 (Jacob Sidney), Holmes 2 (Drew Parker) and Holmes 3 Christopher M. Williams) and now in a turn about is fair play it’s Watson’s turn to solve the mystery of ‘will the real Holmes please stand up’!

Jacob Sidney, Drew Parker, Christopher M. Williams
In the world of fiction Sherlock Holmes was the lead detective in all of Conan Doyle stories and Watson was his best friend and number one foil, sort of like Perry Mason and Paul Drake. Now it's Watson's turn to shine.

In Hatcher’s “Holmes & Watson”, now in a West Coast premiere, and three years after Homes’ unthinkable death, Watson (Richard Baird) is called upon to solve the mystery of the true identity once again of Holmes, whose body was never found.  

When the play opens on Marty Burnet’s Gothic looking walled in castle/asylum of sorts, on an isolated island where getting in and out is no ease fete Watson is greeted by Dr. Evans (Si Osborne). Evans appears as strange as his surroundings and as the play progresses, stranger things than Evans dealings come to the fore.
Alice Sherman, Si Osborne and Richard Baird

The good doctor and his, ahem nurse, (Alice Sherman -Jane of all trades) and his never smiling orderly (J. Todd Adams) claims to be in charge of three motley looking blokes brought to Watson for further questioning since who better to identify Holmes than someone as close to him as his side kick Watson? All three listed above in some fashion are being held prisoners and are in varying degrees of disarray.   

Since Holmes’ drowning when he ‘fell’ or was pushed over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, in a scene that is reenacted through projections several times over the course of the 85+ minutes we get to see the ‘how’ of ‘what that seemed to have happened.   

To no one’s surprise, no body was ever found and it was natural for frauds and charlatans to impersonate the detective.  Out of the void, and after several years and attempts to flush out the real Holmes to no avail, these three criminal looking types on the island all claim to be the famous detective. Hmmmmmm.

Osborne, Baird, Sidney, Parker and Williams (seated) 
With red herrings bouncing off the dark stone  walls of the castle and a story cycle enough to confuse anyone claiming to be a super sleuth, Hatcher’s story, under the deft direction of artistic director David Ellenstein who seems to relish in this type fun, makes “Holmes & Watson” a pleasant and aha gift to NCR’s patrons.

As usual North Coast has a top notch and diversified cast and crew, to pull off this mystery caper with the help of Peter Herman’s wigs, or lack thereof, Kim Deshazo’s costumes, Chad Lee Thymes’ accurate sound design, and Matt Novotny’s spot on lighting. Photographer Aaron Rumley is credited for the projections, an integral part of the overall mystery.

All the actors with the exception of Baird’s Watson play multiple roles. As to be expected Richard Baird is the consummate professional. As Watson he’s convincing in his interrogations and in finding fault with each imposter, clever little geyser that he is.
Richard Baird as Watson
Let’s be honest here, this is the stuff Baird thrives on and he does it to perfection. He does manage to be a part of a few hits and misses. But at the end of the day his gestures and mannerisms are always spot on perfect. I must say he is also most convincing when he and Osborne’s Dr. Evan’s go at it.  The dynamics are perfect and the wit subtle.

The remaining cast members are equally convincing, all leading us down the primrose path to a most surprise ending. BTW even if you manage to figure it out, which might take your concentration off the show, relax and enjoy the journey.

It’s not just elementary my dear, its pure and simple fun headed in to the holiday season.

Dates: Through Nov. 18th
Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre
Phone: 858-481-1055
Production Type: Mystery
Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D, Solana Beach CA, 92075
Ticket Prices: $49.00-$53.00
Photo: Aaron Rumley