Friday, September 25, 2020



 Not this Picasso! 

This Picasso!  

“A Weekend with Picasso” was the work of a lifetime for Herbert Siguenza; one that the actor/ artist had been preparing for a lifetime. He is simply wonderful, playful and completely at ease as Picasso’s alter ego in this wonderful tour de force.
“A Weekend with Pablo Picasso” was workshopped at the San Diego Rep. in 2010 as work in progress. Siguenza, a founding member of the performance group Culture Clash, wrote the piece, which includes quotes from Picasso’s writings. 

The piece was mounted once again three years ago at New Village Arts Theatre and now The San Diego Rep. is presenting the film adaptation of the play for your viewing through Oct.14th. 

I found it interesting…well alarming how my memory failed me after watching the streamed film version recently as I struggled to remember some of the scenes. Yes, some of the newer clips of film were taken outside his residence in the South of France 1957 but the rest was filmed on the stage of the San Diego Rep. The outside scenes were actually lovely and gave an openness to the production.

Herbert Siguenza takes on the role of Picasso with relish. He will tell you in chapter and verse about the man himself as he channels Picasso’s every move, mannerism, mood, philosophy, chuckle and thought. He dances, clowns, speaks several languages and gets dead serious about politics, past and present. It all starts as he is lathering himself in his bathtub. Speaking directly to the audience,  he agrees to let us in on his work habits only of we promise to leave at the end of the weekend.  

An accomplished arti/painter in his own right, Siguenza will paint a few portraits on stage; some still life and embellish some already finished products. He will tell you about the women in his life, (“When I kiss a woman, I leave my eyes open. I want to see everything”) his politics (with passion) and what a great person he is. Well? “I do not wish my celebrity on anyone…not even my worst enemies” …” The whole world demands from me”. 

He’s seventy-six at the time action takes place. “Time is a bandit. When it’s gone, it’s gone. Like a taxi meter. No argument. The older I get, the stronger the wind gets-and it’s always in my face. I’m afraid I have less and less time yet more and more to say”.
At the time of the play, the icon Picasso is to work on a commission for six painting and three vases for a wealthy patron. The play takes place over a three-day weekend in his studio in the South of France where he is working feverishly to complete his commission. Speaking directly to the audience, as the performance opens, he agrees to let us in on his work habits only of we promise to leave at the end of the weekend.  

Visuals of a painter at work are everywhere; a pencil drawing of a young Picasso, a photo of Picasso with his wife Dora Maar, cubist paintings, African art, a photo of Picasso working on Guernica, (Giulio Perrone scenic/with recreated styles and clothing that Picasso actually wore in famous photographs by Douglas Duncan 1957/59 that some might call casual elegance.). His studio is visual wonder packed with wooden packing crates, books, photos, food, clothing, easels, engravings with hand scrawled messages and reminders about. 

For this reviewer it was a pleasant trip down memory lane when things were simpler and going to the theatre was a treat and a time to gather with old friends. 

Yes, Picasso is alive and well and as long as we cherish the memories of Siguenza’s Picasso we can focus on that.

The production is directed by Tim Powell and Todd Salovey, with Sam Woodhouse as Producer. The production team is rounded out by: Chelsea Smith (1st Assistant Director); Catharina Cojulun (1st Assistant Camera); Ashley McFall (Gaffer); Evan Rayder (Grip & Electrician); Matt Lescault-Wood (Sound Mixer & Recordist); Anastasia Pautova (Art Director & Costumes/Props); Sammy Moore (Set Design & Art Department Lead); Kate Reynolds (Location Scout); and Kim Heil (Associate Producer).

The cost of a ticket is $35.00 and can be purchased on line at:


Monday, September 21, 2020

 "The Niceties": Celebrating Sixteen Years of Plays By Women in Celebration of Women.

Congrats to Moxie Theatre on the opening of its sweet sixteenth season. No easy fete this, in the middle of a pandemic where theatres are closed to audience participation and involvement. 

Now the actors must rehearse through zoom and other creative measures. After final rehearsals the actors and necessary staff come together shortly before shooting the film version of the staged play.  Before this show begins, there is a short documentary as to how its all done.

This seems to be the norm so far as theatres getting their audiences as close to being there as not. By using this device, director Delicia Turner Sonnenberg managed to present to audiences a thoughtful, dramatic, informative and sometimes tense  production of "The Niceties" by Eleanor Burgess. 

Deja Fields and Mouchette val Helsdingen

"The Niceties" is a relative new play. It was developed at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia in 2017 and made its world premiere during the 2018-19 season in a co-production with the Huntington Theatre Company. 

Burgess studied History at Yale College. “The events in “The Niceties” are based on her own experiences and the clashes over diversity on the Yale campus. 

The play is as contemporary as BLM and racial discrimination in Ivy League Schools, though it has a history lesson that dates back further than 1619/The 1619 Project, perhaps in the 1500’s when the first slaves, about 350, were brought to American shores in Virginia by Portuguese and Spanish slave ships. 

When we first meet our two protagonists Janine, (Mouchette val Helsdingen) and Zoe (Deja Fields) in Janine’s office at an ‘elite university' in the Northeast, Zoe is waiting for American History professor Janine to read over and correct her grammar and historical content of the first draft of her history thesis. Zoe is fine with the grammatical corrections but not so much the corrections about her historical findings. (“I’m afraid you’re in for a substantial rewrite”)  Her paper , “A Successful American revolution was only possible because of slavery”.  Janine off handedly remarks it’s “one of the more imaginative ideas I’ve seen”.

If you weren’t already suspicious of this two hander, Zoe is an African American undergraduate student most likely from privilege and Janine is, well, white and tenured and from a generation ago where Blacks were told to be patient and not make waves.  We learn that she worked her way up the ranks with many publications.  She comes from a modest background, a child of working class parents, is gay, married with a grown, university student, and a son with whom she is estranged. 

It’s a setup that's able to segue deep into discussions of racism, sexism, diversity, privilege, power and the toxicity that permeates this country today. It was even more so when the play was written three years ago. It’s amazing what a change in administration can bring. 

As you might imagine the women duke it on just about every level of political discourse, from when the first slaves were brought to our shores to Googling history, to actually reading about it in hard covered books, to George Washington, the American Revolution, to the abolishment of slavery and what version of history you choose to see in the history books. 

When the volume of disagreements rises, and the combatents are ready for for the kill, all bets are off; all the niceties are left at the back door. And…unbeknownst to Janine, Zoe taped their conversations and posted them on line.  They went viral. In so doing it not only exposed Janine causing the end of her tenure, but put Zoe on notice that she too has ruined her chances of getting her dream job. 

In director Turner-Sonnenberg's deft hands and with some pretty compelling acting, each would earn high grades from this retired kindergarten teacher turned theatre reviewer. Watching the exchange of ideas was like watching a tennis match with the energy toggling from one woman to the other with whip-lash accuracy. At times I found myself rooting for one over the other and then vice versa. 

Both women are up to the task. Deja Fields’ Zoe is sure of herself, rather smug and is as confident in herself as the day is long. Mouchette van Helsdingen’s Janine shows a condescending side at the outset but soon realizes she might have met her  match. They take each other on like the dueling divas, but in the end, there are no winners no losers just differences of opinions. You might find yourselves like yours truly, yearning for discussion, which there was after the performance. 

It takes a village to make a production like “The Niceties” work.  The whole was carefully orchestrated and filmed by Canis Lupus Productions.

The all-female and non-binary Design and Production Team includes: Set Design, Julie Lorenz; Costume Design; Faith James; Lighting Design, Cynthia Bloodgood; Sound Design, Mason Pilvesky; Properties, Angela Ynfante; Stage Management, Beonica Bullard; Photos curtesy Moxie Theartre; Assistant Director, Vanessa Duran. 

“The Niceties,” the filmed version from Moxie Theatre, can be viewed through Oct. 4

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; added 2 p.m. performances Sept. 21-24. .
Tickets ($35 per household, with discounts available) . Phone 858-598-7620 or

Running time: 2 hrs., 45 min.

Of her work, Burgess says, “I write to understand things, I write about things that confuse me, I write about things that trouble me, topics where I really thought I knew what I believed and then someone said something that shook me down to my core and all of sudden I realize that maybe I don’t know what I believe.” 

See you on Zoom at the theatre.


Sunday, September 13, 2020


 ‘Emancipation is not abolition’. Slavery must be eliminated from every foot of American soil! Finish what you started. What you started. (Frederick Douglass)

Until I watched the excellent production of North Coast Repertory Theatre’s west coast premiere “Necessary Sacrifices” by Richard Hellesen directed by Peter Ellenstein, the two ideas didn’t seem that far apart. 

When President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, he declared “that all persons held as slaves” in the Confederate State (if the states did not return to the Union by January 1st 1863 and if the Union won the war) “are, and henceforward shall be free, most assumed free meant ‘free’. What was left unspoken between the lines is what we have today. 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.” (Abraham Lincoln)

In case you have been hiding under a rock these last four years, The Civil War, to this day, is still being fought and we are indeed, contrary to Lincoln’s speech deeply entrenched in a divided house.

In an absorbing, close to flawless production we, the home audience (more on that later) are treated to conversations, according to history, that Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln’ had in two meetings banter on the idea of the Negro soldier in the Civil War that could/ might have changed the course of history. 

To some degree it did, but in the long run, the idea of emancipation rather than abolition and all the ramifications that come with, are being played out in neighborhoods across this country, from north to south, east to west. In an age old debate that still ravages this country, African American are still not completely free. 

Hellesen’s play commissioned by Ford Theatre made its world premiere in 2017, takes us back to the summer of 1863/1864 in Abraham Lincoln’s office where the debate for equality for the ‘Negro soldier’ is on Douglass’s mind if he is to help Lincoln recruit ‘Negro’s to fight in his war. 

In a give and take that’s as real today as it was in 1863/4 both actors flex their acting skills as the back and forth takes them to places no one expected. Lincoln and Douglass offer differing takes on the same subject of slavery, the right to vote the war and politics and Lincoln’s reelection each one coming from a different point of view yet expect the same results. You know what that is a definition of?

The two skilled actors, tall, lanky and relaxed, personable and down to earth Ray Chambers as Abraham Lincoln gives the impression that he has all the time in the world to hear Douglass and his ideas out. Coaxing even prompting him to justify himself. There are also bittersweet and intimate conversations about their children and wives.  

Hawthorne James’ Douglass, solid looking, formal and eager to get a commitment from Lincoln is no holds barred with his wants from the president. Both hold fast offering their reasons; Lincoln sticking to the makeup and Constitution the idea of states rights and wanting to end and win the war and Douglass returning to reality of the necessary sacrifices of his men if things remain the same. Even pushing the envelope he expects the government (Lincoln) to grant the Negro the same rights as the white (man) and that included voting rights. 

Hawthorne is said to have done this show in concert style a few years ago. Both actors looked and gave the impression that they were more than comfortable in their respective roles. 

Voting for the Negro doesn’t happen until Feb. 26, 1869 when the 15 amendment granted African American men the right to vote. Women didn’t get the right to vote until Aug. 18 1920 (technically) when the 19th amendment passed, but it was some time before all states signed on. 

In an age of what some are calling this the new normal, everything is new and nothing is normal. Since the shuttering of theatres around the world, (as most indoor venues) theatre junkies (OK I’ll just speak for myself) have gone M.I.A. It’s almost like losing your best friend; no one to hang out most nights and especially on weekends. 

Streaming and Zoom chat rooms are popping up all over the place and watching interviews (North Coast Rep) with Artistic director David Ellenstein with actors you are used to seeing on stage are now becoming your best friends.

That being said, this particular production of “Necessary Sacrifices” comes as close to being in the intimate space of the theatre he as one can get without actually having you tush in a theatre seat. According to the theatre the actors rehearsed separately and when sets, costumes lighting were ready and the actors were in final rehearsal Aaron Rumley  filmed and edited following all the SAG guidelines. What we see is the filmed version that will be available for your viewing through Oct. 11th. 
Cost of tickets run between $24.00 and $40.00 at

The play together with accurate period costumes by Elsa Benzoni, Peter Herman’s wigs, Marty Burnett’s take of Lincoln’s casual White House office, Michael Silversher’s music and last but by no means least, Aaron Rumley’s editing and choreography. 

Coming up next “Same Time Next Year” by Bernard Slade. It will be running Oct. 21 to Nov. 15, 2020.