Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Eclectic week: Malashock, Measure for Measure, and measuring the Artistic Directors

Taking Stock

Malashock Dance Signature II

Friday, Nov. 4 at Dance Place Liberty Station, lovely Andrea Rehm  and Nicholas Strasburg, a most commanding partner, set the Abbe Wolfsheimer Studio ablaze in “Everybody Knows,” one of nine Leonard Cohen numbers in John Malashock’s 2009 Shadow of Mercy.
Rehm and Strasburg
Photo by Jim Carmody

Cohen’s hard-hitting, bittersweet and sometimes cruel music/lyrics are riveting and are matched in tone by Malashock’s choreography (each section, as he says, is a little story), set on Rehm and Strasburg and other company members Blythe Barton, Andrew Holman, John Paul Lawson, Jennifer Puls, Lora Segura and Justin Viernes. The body types and talents, possessed of amazing power, are perfectly utilized in realizing Cohen’s work, which is all the above and more.

There was an article about Cohen in The New Yorker last week. I became so engrossed when reading it that I wasn’t able to talk when a friend phoned. (Words are my drug of choice.) Cohen is the same age as I, and I certainly identify with his rebellion and his courage of expression. Would that I had the guts. The work is visceral and honest and not in the least academic or written to please. He was a seeker who suffered lifelong depression exacerbated by use of drugs, among them acid, and alcohol.

Among the Cohen songs in Shadow of Mercy are “Famous Blue Raincoat,” “Take This Waltz,” “Story of Isaac” (touchingly performed by Holmes and Strasburg), “The Gypsy Wife” (luscious and varied women Barton, Puls, and Segura, partnered by Lawson). Shadow of Mercy ends with “If It Be Your Will.”  Author of the much-covered song “Hallelujah,” Cohen explored many faiths lifelong, and at one point became a Buddhist monk, living abroad for many years. You can hear him perform on line.
Strasberg and Rehm
Photo by Raymond Elstad
The second half of the Malashock Signature II program, which continues at 7:30pm Thursday-Sunday, November 10-13, comprises the world premiere of Malashock’s yKnow, set on the company with music by yMusic Ensemble of New York City. The theme concerns a dance company much like Malashock’s, as he said, full of chaos, a bit of rivalry, deep affection and true caring. Although it’s a horse of an entirely different color than Shadow of Mercy, it celebrates working tout ensemble, which these eight dancers surely do, producing some exciting, extreme and even comic images, something much needed after Cohen’s dark vision.

Throughout the 90-minute evening, costumes by Elisa Benzoni are fascinating in their harmonic dissimilarity, and Erica Buechner handles the lighting, which is rudimentary but effective.

Tickets (hurry, some performances are sold out) at or 619-260-1622.

The Globe for All

Sunday afternoon at the downtown central library, I attended The Globe for All’s fine, friendly and raucous production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, which is performed in the round through November 20 in as many as 18 non-theatrical venues. The tour goes among others to community centers, senior centers, homeless shelters, and correctional centers. The company, headed by Christopher Salazar as the Duke, includes other professional actors Ally Carey, Leisel Gorrell-Getz, Fiordelino Lagundino, Jake Millgard, Masha Millgard, Makha Mthembu, Daniel Petzold, Davina Van Dusen, and Nathan Whittmer, plus DJ Mike Vale. It is directed by Patricia McGregor. As a result of these free performances, many will see Shakespeare and even live theatre for the first time.
(from left) Christopher Salazar as Duke and Makha Mthembu as Isabella performing for the audience from the San Diego Public Library, Central Branch. The 2016 production of The Old Globe's touring program Globe for All, Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, directed by Patricia McGregor, tours community venues Nov. 1 - 20. Photo by Jim Cox.

On the floor at the edge of the playing area was a little boy who looked to be around 4 or 5. He was absolutely rapt during the entire performance. Many were there with their families, and free refreshments were served.

Artistic Directors Panel

Artistic Director Barry Edelstein was present at the library performance and at a Monday night artistic directors panel I attended, hosted by Lamb’s Players. The panel and guests were hosted by Lamb’s and the event was sponsored by the San Diego AEA Liaison Committee. All the ADs involved have resident space and use Equity actors in their seasons. Jason Heil was moderator.

In addition to Edelstein, those on the panel were Steve Glaudini of Moonlight Stage Productions, David Ellenstein of North Coast Repertory, Kristianne Kurner of New Village Arts, Sam Woodhouse of San Diego Repertory, and Robert Smyth of Lamb’s Players. Each spoke briefly to the artistic and financial condition of their theatre and also addressed the state of San Diego area theatre and their place in the community.

There were many actors and other arts-related people at the event, which lasted from 6 to 10pm, including two receptions at which those present interacted. Many were actors hoping to get an audition and to be cast. All had a good time getting to know one another and the artistic directors. I was reminded once again of the challenges the ADs face and their courage and dedication. I went home extremely grateful to be doing what I do.

Miss You Like Hell

Kristina Alabado and Daphne Rubin-Vega
in Miss You Like Hell.
Photo by 
Look for my review of La Jolla Playhouse’s Miss You Like Hell in San Diego Community Newspaper Network publications. I sat in the dark at the opening,  wondering why Quiara Alegria Hudes’ book for the musical seemed so familiar, and then I realized it’s based on her play 26 Miles, which has seen two local productions. It’s a doozie about the mother/daughter relationship – just my kind of complicated piece.

Personal News

Speaking of the mother/daughter relationship and on a personal note, I am traveling to Tampa November 10-14 to see three performances of Jake Heggie’s The Work at Hand, conducted by Michael Francis, played by The Florida Orchestra and sung by mezzo soprano Jamie Barton with Anne Martindale Williams, cellist. These are the last scheduled performances of the orchestral chamber work that uses my late daughter Laura Morefield’s text. December 2 Heggie’s new opera, It’s a Wonderful Life opens in Houston, occasioning another trip. this time to my favorite boutique hotel, the Lancaster, where I am meeting friends for the premiere. What a blessed and privileged life I enjoy at 82.

Requiescat in Pacem

The theatre community lost two dear souls this week: George Weinberg-Harter, 72, a former colleague, first at San Diego Opera back in the ‘70s (when I still sang and was in the touring production of The Old Maid and the Thief) and then, as a writer, including a collegial association when we were both members of the San Diego Critics Circle. He died November 7 of a heart attack. The second loss was much admired actor Owiso Odero, who got his MFA at UCSD, did some acting at the Old Globe, in film and television, among many others, and who collapsed and died November 4 while in rehearsal for a play. He was only 41. 

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