Friday, January 20, 2017

Intriguing, endearing theater takes the chill out of soggy January days

In the title role of Marjorie is Dee Maaske, whom we've followed in two decades at Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The versatile Maaske moves skillfully in OSF's Repertory format from contemporary drama and comedy to the classics.
It is a treat to have this globe-trotting talent in California for the run of "Marjorie Prime" through Feb. 5.

Actors Dee Maaske and Steve Froehlich form a charming
couple -- with a futuristic theme -- in "Marjorie Prime."


NorthCoast Repertory Theatre offers a small welcoming theater venue
with pretty places to stroll or sit and sip between acts or before the show.

and theater marketing departments

WE SEE hundreds of plays each year, many of them terrific.  Every now and then, though, one comes along and the result is magic.
"Marjorie Prime" is such a play. It is a true jewel -- to be admired and shared for its sparkle and staying power. To be returned to, savored.
The flawless production at NorthCoast Repertory Theatre north of San Diego is worth planning a trip to San Diego.
As Marjorie's daughter and son-in-law, terrific acting
is delivered by Elaine Rivkin and Gergory North.
This smart and tender play, is everything good theater should be -- provocative, troubling, ultimately reassuring and with moments of lightness and levity.  Provocative because, like all good art -- whether symphony, story, photo, dance or poem --   it demands more than a single exposure. Troubling because it offers the possibility that our increasing interaction with technology can produce unsettling consequences.  Reassuring, because it poses hopeful answers to the questions we all have about the future.  It considers the possibility that all future technology will not necessarily improve human relationships, but that somehow love and human connections will continue to have importance.
WE WERE introduced to the play last year at the Mark Taper in Los Angeles and were thrilled when playwright Jordan Harrison was named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. The young talented talent gets credit for beautiful writing, but other critical elements must coalesce to make a production magical.
The "Marjorie Prime" poster and graphic hints at the
theme -- that artificial intelligence might produce a
 human looking creation to keep the bereaved company.
Veteran director Matthew Wiener creates a believable future in this story of "primes" -- humanoid lifelike robots who speak with patients in the form of lost loved ones thus providing comfort and companionship.
COMPLEMENTING Wiener's deft and subtle direction is a terrific ensemble.  Playing the title role is one of our favorite actors, Dee Maaske. We've followed her career for two decades at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where she is in top form whether in Shakespearean tragedy, contemporary drama or slapstick. (Her Marjorie has a humorous, ironic edge.)  Among our other favorite Maaske roles are "All's Well That Ends Well," "The Trip to Bountiful" and "Noises Off."  This versatile actor commands attention.  Her Marjorie is poignantly drawn, yet funny and flirtatious.  She makes us think, reflect. Supporting her are three fine actors who capably convey the plays shifts and subtleties.
NORTHCOAST REP is a lovely venue. We enjoy
Shaina Knox, left, as Eliza, and Lance Arthur Smith
are backed by an all-aces cast in this royal flush
of a revival of the Lerner and Loewe classic.
time at the outdoor tables with a glass or cuppa, and always sample a warm fund-raising chocolate chip cookie (one is $4 and ample to treat two or three.)
Without theater in my life, I'd surely wither. "Marjorie Prime" is a bouquet of delights, a play-lover's play with grace, beauty and intelligence. 
Other theatrical gems in the San Diego jewelry box:
* "My Fair Lady" at the Welk Resort. A spirited, finely tuned revival of the time honored 1956 musical chestnut about a flower girl turned lady. Top performances, great production numbers. 
* "Our  Great Tchaikovsky." Perennial favorite Hershey Felder channels another brilliant musical talent. By San Diego Repertory Theatre.
*  "Les Liaisons Dangereuses." at the Lyceum downtown. Produced by New Fortune Theatre Co. This fiery and mannered story is set in 1780s France featuring "the game" of love, revenge, betrayal and cruelty. Fine performances.
* Wherever in the world you see theater, don't overlook the smaller venues -- Intrepid Theatre and Diversionary Theatre present fresh, new and original work, cutting edge, intriguing, in intimate settings. intrepidtheatre.org 

Mary Tyler Moore's fictional character Mary Richards broke
ground for real-life journalists and other career women.
UP NEXT: With the death of Mary Tyler Moore this week, our Friday post features a tribute by Cookie (Christene Meyers). She interviewed Moore in 1980 and was a faithful fan of her groundbreaking 1970s Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meyers was forging her own newsroom career during the show's Emmy winning run, and she reflects on the ways in which Moore changed the world for working women. Next week, we'll feature Malaga, an inviting city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. It lured us for eight magical days. Come with us to the Alcazaba -- remembering to explore, learn and live and follow us Fridays when we post for the weekend. We hope you're enjoying our original take on travel, the arts, nature and occasionally, breaking news in the entertainment world.


  1. Santa Monica SojournersJanuary 22, 2017 at 8:53 AM

    Have seen this magnificent play twice since it debuted in L.A. at the Taper. Gets better each time.

  2. What marvelous variety. We find fine theater here in Ohio, too. Love the smaller houses, 100 or so seats. Will put NorthCoast Rep on our itinerary next spring when we visit San Diego.

  3. This play intrigues me after reading your thoughtful review. I'll pass the play along to our Billings players.