Saturday, January 26, 2013

All the world's a stage

Jason Heil, left, and Matt Orduna face off in "Clybourne Park."

 It’s been a double-header week for theater – and we’ve spotted the grey whales on their way to the Baja.  We continue our revels as grateful members of the audience for all things natural and theatrical.
We’ve been rocking out to Beatles tunes, thanks to a lively performance of “Backbeat” at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.  Last night, a stellar performance at the Lyceum in downtown San Diego featured a top notch performance of the Tony and Pulitzer prize winning “Clybourne Park.”  An interesting, exhilarating pairing in two magnificent venues.  The Ahmanson is part of Center Theatre Group’s trio of beautiful theaters including the Mark Taper and Kirk Douglas, where we also enjoy world class performances.  We’ve twice stayed at the Omni, with its artful grounds and dog-friendly policy (they even deliver treats to Nick and Nora!). After several trips to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the Oscars, it’s fun to stroll past the dramatic Walt Disney Concert Hall and into the Ahmanson, and not have to race right to a phone or computer to file reportage.  I can do so in a leisurely fashion – even a few days after.

"Backbeat" tells the story of the rise of the Beatles.
We attended “Backbeat” with friends Bob and Sue Hulbert, who hosted us to a stay in their Downey, Calif., home, and took us for a spin in their convertible.  Bob is one of Keller’s oldest friends – their paths crossed nearly 40 years ago as divers, surfers and students of the sea, in their university days at the Aquatic Center here in San Diego.  Their bond stretched across continents to the Red Sea. Keller’s two years in Saudi Arabia inspired Bob’s employment there, too.  Both were divers, charged with surveying the coast line.  So the weekend included a slide show of those long-ago days, along with much reminiscing and a surprise or two.  Cookie learned that Keller was briefly JAILED in the Middle East – for splashing water on the jeep of a construction boss.
That’s another story. (Thanks for the tip-off, Bob. Keller never mentioned this bit of trivia!)

Back to the Fab Five Then Four:  what a trip down memory lane to hear all the famous standards from our long ago youth……. I remember returning from a high school basketball game in the winter of 1965 listening to “She Loves You” in the band bus with my saxophone tucked under my seat.  The L.A. play’s storyline deals with the “fifth Beatle,”  and the band’s rise to fame in the seedy clubs of Hamburg.  It was beautifully acted with inventive staging. The cast included several of the London actors who conveyed the essence of the individuals, the spirit of the rising stars and the energy of the music we all still love. The standing ovation lasted for 15 minutes with a half-dozen encore tunes and an enthusiastic audience singing along and even dancing in the aisles. Lots of grey hair and bifocals caused us to wonder “Who were all those old people?”
The San Diego play, in two acts, deals with the happenings within a single house 50 years apart.  While the theme is racism as relating to neighborhoods and real estate, it’s a play of many layers and much subtlety.  Another fabulous cast and impeccable acting.  Each actor played a double role, no easy task.  Kudos to the Rep, and director Sam Woodhouse.  His staging of “The Three Penny Opera” remains one of my all-time favorite productions in a lifetime of theater going.  “Backbeat” runs to March 1 and “Clybourne Park” to Feb. 10.  In March, we will see “The Mountaintop” at the Rep, and “Over the Rainbow” at the Ahmanson.  Several other venues capture our time and imagination – we won’t miss “Chicago” at San Diego Musical Theater, and August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, where we saw smashing performances of “Man of LaMancha” and “Sweeney Todd.”  We’re hearing two unique choral groups Valentine’s week (more about those down the road), and we’ll fly north to Ashland, Oregon, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in late February!  Recent sightings of the migrating grey whales provide Keller with exciting photo ops!  The abundant marine life, birds and Yorkies continue to engage and entertain with their own unique “acts.”  Play on. 
This migrating grey whale goes back to the deep, raking the sea floor for food enroute to the Baja for calving. --
Photo by Bruce Keller

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