Nine Returns: Hopefully With a Much More Pleasant Postscript

It's kind of interesting that the musical Nine is a theatrical adaptation of Federico Fellini's landmark 1963 surrealistic film, 8 1/2.

It's fairly interesting that the book for the musical was written by Arthur Kopit, whose 1968 play Indians, was a critique of both the genocide of Native Americans as well as a condemnation of the Vietnam War.

And it's sort of interesting that, after years of never seeing the show performed on a local stage, California Repertory Company's production, opening this weekend, is the second time this year that it will receive a local staging.  (That's due, obviously, to the 2009 film version starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

But what is truly interesting is that the last time Nine was performed, at the Hunger Artists Theatre in Fullerton, in May, it starred an OC actor named Daniel Wozniak, a man currently facing life in prison, or the death penalty, for a brutal double murder committed the final weekend of that run.

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In a review of that show, which was anything but positive, Wozniak's performance was singled out as "suberb...Wozniak somehow manages to make Guido eminently likeable and even symphatic. This is a man absolutely into himself--both his virtues and his flaws. And Wozniak captures the angst of a man staring into the abyss of his own being and seeing his own frailty."

Who would have thought that along with confronting the demons in his character's soul, Wozniak's own insanity was leading him down a horrifying path that would end with him beheading Samuel Herr and disposing of his head and other body parts in El Dorado Regional Park and then using Herr's phone to lure Julie Kibuishi to an apartment in Costa Mesa, where he shot her twice in the head with a shotgun.

Of course, none of that has to do with Cal Rep production, which is directed by Joanne Gordon, and which will mostly likely be a far more enjoyable mounting due to the fact that the company is the graduate arm of Cal State Long Beach's theater department, and that Gordon is a wonderfully talented director.

She also thinks Nine is a far better play than the dolt who wrote the review on the ill-fated Hunger Artists's production:

"It is one of the most exquisite scores ever written," Gordon said in a press release from Cal Rep. "The book is smart and sophisticated, yet underappreciated."

Gordon also believes that while the production is centered around an ego-maniacal, manipulative man that it empowers women. "It's a celebration of women and their diversity, complexity, luscious sensuality, neuoritic needs and powerful integrity...It is a recognition of man's need for woman."

Nine at the Studio Theatre, CSULB South Campus, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., (562) 985-5526.  Opens Fri. Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m. Sat.-Sun., 2 & p.m. through Nov. 7. $12-$15. http://www.csulb.edu/depts/theatre/shows/nine


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