Blurb-O-Matic

Sneak peeks at a season of theater that is breathtaking, passionate, entertaining!

For this, our third annual Theater Season Preview, we're stepping out of the closet and into the bright light of honesty, so to speak, and formally announcing the Weekly's new position: lips puckered and ready to kiss much ass.

See, we've noticed something missing in the brochures and press releases that theaters send out announcing their upcoming seasons: our name. It's nowhere to be found. Take South Coast Repertory's handsome brochure. In big italic letters on the cover is a quote from some paper on an island off the coast of New York state—The New York Times, or something. Inside, we see props from The Orange County Register, Variety, Time and the Los Angeles Times. The Long Beach Playhouse's brochure quotes something called The Grunion Gazette. The Mark Taper Forum's quotes the Washington Post (sure, we don't cover the Taper, but we have feelings; we can be hurt).

It goes on and on. Well, we're tired of it and, frankly, just a little wounded. We want to be blurbed. Often, and in REALLY BIG TYPE. And we'll compromise whatever bullshit principles we've ever pretended to have to get blurbed. So from now on, all reviews on this page and in the Calendar section will be designed to suck up to, ingratiate with and lavish effusive praise on whatever show comes our way.

In fact, we're taking it a step further and making it really easy for all those theater marketing and media-relations people: we're going to give you the blurbs right now, weeks or even months before the show opens! At this rate, we won't even have to step inside a theater. Which ought to make many people happy.

The following are the shows we're most looking forward to during the 1999-2000 theatrical season, complete with blurbs:

South Coast Repertory The Hollow Lands (Jan. 7-Feb. 13) and The Education of Randy Newman (May 26-July 2)

The resident regional theater palace has a typically intriguing array of shows lined up, including the world premiere of the trippy References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot by the talented Jose Luis Rivera (Jan. 25-Feb. 27). There's also Sam Shepard's True West (Sept. 21-Oct. 24), Arthur Miller's All My Sons (Feb. 18-April 1) and August Wilson's The Piano Lesson (Oct. 15-Nov. 21). But two plays in particular really squeeze our juices: Howard Korder's fascinating epic of the American frontier, The Hollow Lands, and the world-premiere musical by songwriting icon Randy Newman, co-conceived with the brilliantly talented modern composer Michael Roth and SCR's resident dramaturge, Jerry Patch.

BLURB-O-MATIC:Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Hollow Lands reconfirms Korder's status as this country's leading contemporary playwright."

Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "It might be Randy Newman's education, but the audience earns the diploma in Excellent Theater during this top-of-the-class musical! Give it an A for Amazing! Disney ought to hire this guy!"

Laguna Playhouse The Glass Menagerie (Jan. 6-30)

Several local premieres dot the Playhouse's season, including the Orange County premiere of Steve Martin's very funny Picasso at the Lapine Agile (Nov. 4-28) and the U.S. premiere of Kevin's Bed (April 20-May 14), a play from Ireland's national theater, the Abbey. But Tennessee Williams' lyrical heartbreaker could be the not-so-sleepy sleeper.

BLURB-O-MATIC:Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "A groundbreaking, earth-shattering, life-affirming exploration of a great American play; the playhouse finds fascinating contemporary resonance in a work that has been staged by nearly every theater company on the planet—twice!" Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts Clarence Darrow (Oct. 1-2)

Silver-haired Leslie Nielsen, best known for his string of movie genre spoofs, gets to stretch his legitimate acting chops in this one-man show about Darrow, the silver-tongued lawyer for the oppressed who defended John Scopes' teaching of the theory of evolution in 1920.

BLURB-O-MATIC: Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Let's be frank! Nielsen is stunning, sublime, stupendously splendiferous—in short, it's an enthralling EVOLUTION of a master character actor at the top of his craft!" Empire Theater Corpus Christie (November)

The Rude Guerrilla Theater Company continues carving out its niche as local theater's agent provocateur with this Terrence McNally play, the Theatrical Event of the Year in New York in 1998. The play features a Christlike character cavorting with his male disciples. Protests and bomb threats resulted before the play even opened. It finally did—to tepid reviews. Perhaps a small theater company far from the lights of Manhattan might provide a different, less-hyped feel.

BLURB-O-MATIC: Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Christ!" Orange County Performing Arts Center The Civil War (June 6-11)

A musical treatment of the bloodiest war in the history of the republic, with music by Frank Wildhorn, who composed Jekyll & Hyde.

BLURB-O-MATIC: Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "A glitzy tour de force! First-rate family fare from the opening cannon volley to the final rusty bayonet piercing the bowels of a 12-year-old shoeless Georgia soldier! Watch them rebels run—right into your heart!" Alternative Repertory Theatre A Long Day's Journey Into Night (Jan. 22-March 4)

Once again, the dean of Orange County's smaller houses offers the most literary campaign of the season, with works like Edward Albee's Three Tall Women (Sept. 25-Nov. 6), Athol Fugard's Valley Song (March 25-April 15), and John Patrick Shanley's Psychopathia Sexualis (May 13-June 24). But Eugene O'Neill's magnum opus tops them all.

BLURB-O-MATIC: Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Long Day's Journey Into Night is a brilliant night in the theater! Superbly acted and directed! Can't wait to sit through my next grief-stricken three-hour morphine-and-alcohol jag!" San Diego Repertory Theatre Bandido! (Sept. 24-Oct. 17), The History (And Mystery) of the Universe(March 21-April 23), and Celebration of the Lizard (May 28-June 25)

Talk about eclectic. Three must-see shows at San Diego's downtown theater (blurb that!). Bandido is the return to the stage of Zoot Suit's Luis Valdez. It's about Tiburcio Vasquez, one of California's most infamous bandits and resistance fighters. Then there's D.W. Jacob's one-man show about utopian thinker Buckminster Fuller—intriguing both for its fascinating subject matter and for the guy who will perform the role: Ron Campbell. But the show that already has us buying sheets and scouring the streets for green bud is Celebration of the Lizard, based on the music of the Doors.

BLURB-O-MATIC: Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Break on through to marvelous entertainment! Wake up, grab a beer and drive to San Diego because this show will really light your fire! You'll want to sleep all night in this soul kitchen!" Sledgehammer Theatre The Sites of Blood (Feb. 6-27)

San Diego's premier experimental venue has a typically fascinating season in the works. Based on Aeschylus' The Oresteia, The Sites of Blood is a tale of one of literature's bloodiest families. Looks like a certifiable keeper.

BLURB-O-MATIC:Joel Beers of the OC Weekly says, "Bring the kids! Dad gets axed! Mom gets waxed! Plagues, ghosts and furies! Patricide and matricide have never been this groovy!"
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