MOXIE Theatre's latest production "Man and Moon" Stages a Tender Story About a Life-Changing Disease

Along with the Reactions of the Body and the Heart

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Tirzah and MG Green. Photo Daren Scott 
Aaron (MG Green), a transitioning man battling breast cancer, encounters Luna (Tirzah), a spirited 12-year-old fascinated by astronomy. Luna's mom has breast cancer and she is used to the waiting and the special unit rooms. As their parallel treatments progress, the characters develop a deep connection, leading to unexpected revelations. "Man and Moon," written by San Diego Playwright Siena Marilyn Ledger, and directed by MOXIE's executive artistic director, Desireé Clarke Miller, is a poignant play set in an oncology unit. MG Green and Tirzah deliver a compelling and emotionally charged performance, captivating the audience throughout the 90-minute piece without intermission. Their on-stage chemistry, coupled with alternating doses of humor and heart-wrenching moments, creates a dynamic and moving duo. Desireé Clarke Miller's direction demonstrates careful and skillful guidance, resulting in a wonderful sense of communion. Farah Dinga who we've seen onstage in a couple of MOXIE plays this year, was assistant director for Moon' and I believe their contribution rounded out the complexity of what is happening along with the fates.

MG Green and Tirzah. Photo Daren Scott 
The set design by Yi-Chien Lee effectively portrays a realistic medical waiting area with a bathroom door, hallway, and play section, complemented by Rai Feltmann's well-crafted props. Annelise Salazar's lighting design captures the familiar grayish-yellow ambiance of such places, enhancing the overall authenticity. Claire Peterson's costume design successfully brings out the distinct personalities of the characters, although I understand the reasoning behind it, still I would have liked more variety in Aaron's wardrobe.

The technical direction by Robert (Robbie) Malave and scenic artistry by Julie Lorenz beautifully depict Luna's love for the stars and planets, incorporating vibrant colors that counterbalance the feelings of uncertainty and heaviness that the unfolding of the story is bringing. Eliza Vedar's sound design further enhances the immersive experience.

This is a very tender story about a life-changing, life-threatening disease that intersects with the physical body and how it can react and even lie. Siena Marilyn Ledger puts powerful premises in front of each other that as well as being thought-provoking, also put out on the table how life can be unfair. Man and Moon is a touching play in which the performances, direction, and design elements create an atmospheric production that evokes both laughter and tears. Be prepared to have tissues on hand.

Currently playing until December 3. Industry Night is on November 20 and an ASL Interpreted Performance is on November 26.

$20 RUSH tickets are available at the Box Office 1 hour before each performance. 

Hardship tickets are also available upon request by calling the Box Office at (858) 598-7620 for more information.

To learn about additional dates, cast, and creatives click HERE

To listen to Desireé Clarke Miller's interview on the Downstage Podcast click HERE.

Cygnet Theatre Brings Intense Moments in "The Little Fellow" World Premiere

Combining strong Performances and Engaging Storytelling  

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Rachael VanWormer, Sofia Jean Gomez, MJ Sieber, Keiko Green (center). Photo by Karli Cadel Photography

"The Little Fellow (or The Queen of Tarts Tells All)" Cygnet Theatres world premiere production written by Kate Hamil and directed by Rob Lufty is a risqué comedic drama, loosely based on the life and tell-all memoirs of 19th-century courtesan Harriette Wilson. The piece is strong with its doses of suspense. 

Keiko Green, portraying Harriette Wilson, shines in her role, capturing the essence of the character with skill. The entire cast is terrific, giving their all to bring the story to life. MJ Seiber's portrayal of the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, is a standout performance, -I believe one of his best-demonstrating superb acting abilities. Particularly noteworthy are the scenes he shares with real-life wife, Keiko Green, which showcase a true master class in acting—alive, strong, and emotionally impactful. The intensity of the deliveries, especially Green and Seiber is such, that it made me think of the show run as a whole and the loads of energy it takes to perform from Wednesday to Sunday. It definitely is a testament to their histrionic mettle and fortitude. Rachael VanWormer's return to the San Diego stage is met with a marvelous performance, offering thought-provoking moments as the chambermaid Mary. Sofia Jean Gomez, portraying courtesan Julia Johnstone and Harriette's childhood "co-worker," brings a delightful blend of comedy, drama, and cynicism to her character with creativity and spunk. Rob Lufty's direction is spot on when delivering these complex multi-layered stories that transport the audience to different worlds, creating a true theatre experience.
Keiko Green, Sofia Jean Gomez. Photo by Karli Cadel Photography

Yi-Chien Lee's scenic design, primarily focusing on the Little Fellow's quarters, is flexible, realistic, and practical, effortlessly transitioning between scenes while providing the necessary elements. In addition, an unexpected reveal will leave audiences in awe. Shirley Pierson's period costume design, featuring girdles, slips, and crinolines, along with Peter Herman's wig design, successfully transports the audience to the 19th century. Anne E. McMills' lighting design and Steven Leffue's sound design further enhance the overall production, adding depth and creating a captivating atmosphere.

I love when theatres bring to the stage these types of stories that bring up questions, and make you go and research to compare and contrast the versions and theories out there. Although the piece needs some tuning so the scenes flow more smoothly as with all new works, "The Little Fellow (or The Queen of Tarts Tells All)" definitely delivers a memorable theatrical experience, combining strong performances, engaging storytelling, and cool production elements. Currently playing until November 19. For performance days and times, please click HERE

A British Spy Thriller Turned Comedy

Scripps Ranch Theatre Brings the Silliness and Wit with The 39 Steps 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

The cast of The 39 Steps. Photo Ken Jacques
As the year is coming to an end and the marquees start displaying Christmas and spooky classics, it is always fun to squeeze a comedy into the repertoire. Scripps Ranch Theatre did just that, closing 2023 with an adaptation of The 39 Steps, an Alfred Hitchcock movie turned comedy by Patrick Barlow, from the novel by John Buchan, directed by Phil Johnson. From the pre-curtain speech voiced by Johnson which immediately set the tone, this play proved to be a delightful slapstick comedy, filled with silly moments that kept the audience engaged throughout. The central mystery of the "39 steps" was skillfully woven into the plot, with a gradual unveiling of the truth, leading to an enjoyable and entertaining experience that runs exactly 2 hours including a 15-minute intermission. It goes by fast being that all the moving pieces do as well and the audience tries to catch up and not miss anything of what is happening. 

Yi-Chien Lee has been hard at work this year gracing theatergoers with her amazing set designs. Despite its simplicity, the design was practical and effectively framed the scenes, enhancing the overall storytelling along with Michelle Miles's lighting design and Patrick Duffy's sound design that gave added "umphs" to the punch lines as well as revealing moments that plumped the ongoing mystery. My personal favorite without spoilers, was a party disco scene that went on and off as the door opened and closed. That was pure calculated joy. Special shout out to stage manager Jessamyn Foster because it is they, the SMs that can make this magic happen performance after performance. However, the true stars of this production were the prop designs by Justin Magallanes, as they were essential tools for the actors to seamlessly switch between roles, changing mannerisms and attitudes with impressive speed. This added an element of excitement and made the performances highly enjoyable to watch. 

Melanie Mino and Chris Braden. Photo Photo Ken Jacques
As with every mystery, there are the good guys, the bad guys, the police guys, the seducers and seduced, etc, and the cast of 4 actors played all of them. Kaitlyn Slater's portrayals were exceptional, showcasing her fantastic comedic timing and bringing a witty, snappy, and charming presence to the stage. Alongside her, Melanie Mino also delivered, infusing the production with a touch of serious comedy. Marley Bauer as the framed Richard Hanay is the axis in which the events unfold, setting the rhythm and tone. Chris Braden is the man of the many voices, faces, and frequencies, prompting serious cackles from the audience. It was evident that Phil Johnson's direction played a significant role in bringing together these talented actors and their craft, resulting in a cohesive and well-executed production. Between 1939 and 1950, in Mexico "el teatro de carpa" which translates to "circus theatre", showcasing comedic icons such as Tin Tán or Palillo was the boom. 39 Steps reminded me of that. I also have to add that Scripps might be on to something with the pre-curtain speeches. Remember The Outsider? (if you know).

This is a fun time out at the theatre with family and friends thanks to its blend of comedy, mystery, and talented performances. Proof of the creativity and skill of the entire production team, leaving the audience thoroughly entertained.

Currently playing until November 19. For performance days and times please click HERE.

Listen to Phil Johnson being interviewed in Downstage, the SD Theatre Critics Circle podcast HERE.

North Coast REP Welcomes Fall Season by Bringing the Haunting Tale "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"

With a skillful direction, combined with exceptional design elements that create a chilling and captivating experience 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(L-R) Bruce Turk, Katie MacNichol, Conner Marx, Jacob Bruce, Ciarra Stroud & Christopher M. Williams photo by Aaron Rumley

There is nothing better than when a production fits into the overall feel of the season. North Coast Repertory Theatre gathered various elements for their latest production, Jeffrey Hatcher's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's novella “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," to not only enhance the fall colors, gloom, and cold but to additionally start wrapping up the year in a metaphoric and histrionic way. The classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde aside from having that British dark flare (and gore), it also points out the contrasting sides of the human personality and corresponding demons as Henry Jekyll is a renowned and respected doctor based in Soho in the West End of London. He develops a serum to try to contain his contrasting urges but the opposite happens and he loses control while his alternate ego takes charge.

The production was directed by the talented artist Shana Wride, who I saw last onstage in another British play, Present Laughter at Cygnet, and last year in Into the Breeches! precisely at North Coast. It is great to witness Wride's different artistic sides and in this case, creative choices for the stage, guiding the talented cast, including Jacob Bruce, Katie MacNichol, Conner Marx, Ciarra Stroud, Bruce Turk, and Christopher M. Williams, to bring this haunting tale to life that was resolved in a very original form by grouping the actors to alternate the portrayal of Hyde while intersecting different characters of the story at the same time that Bruce Turk alternates with Jekyll. Ciarra Stroud plays the chambermaid, love interest, and trigger, Elizabeth. This dynamic adds to the already inherent tension of the story by having to follow the ping-ponging of the actors as they tag for the interpretation of Dr. Henry Jekyll’s alternate personality. Although the weight of the story naturally inclines towards Bruce Turk who has not disappointed yet, there is nothing but histrionic power in this cast as everyone is captivating while giving each other space to stand out and have their own moment.

Elisa Benzoni’s wardrobe design featuring a checkered vest and striped pants for the ensemble, sort of a uniform, made for a wonderful combination that adds to the visual appeal of the production. Worth noting that Elizabeth stands out wearing the same patterns but instead of pants, she wears a skirt and instead of a tie, a bow, providing a distinct contrast to the rest of the characters. I thought this to be subtle and brilliant.

Katie MacNichol & Bruce Turk - photo by Aaron Rumley

Marty Burnett's scenic design transports the audience to the eerie world of Victorian London very simply by adapting gray walls with sliding doors that showcase the actors' shadow through Matthew Novotny and Erik Montierth’s blue lighting design that creates an ethereal and mysterious atmosphere. This consistent visual palette enhances the sense of unease and adds to the overall sense of dread. Melanie Chen Cole’s sound design integrated gorgeous suspenseful music, that heightened the tension, with another layer of intrigue to the narrative. This production was playful with the aesthetic nodding clues to the audience. Another standout feature is a red door that is placed in the middle of the stage and cleverly moves around, symbolizing the duality and ever-changing nature of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and, for me, the iconic London red phone booths.

This production is a must-see for theater enthusiasts. The skillful direction, combined with the exceptional design elements, creates a chilling and captivating experience that stays with the audience long after the final curtain call. Currently playing until November 12. For performance dates and times, please click HERE.



Blindspot Collective has Dance, Acting, Language, and Culture Come Together in Kagitingan

Paying a Heartfelt Tribute to the Filipino Veteranos who Fought with the U.S Against Japan in the War  

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Bong Cabrera in Kagitingan. Photo Elliott Hefner

I have a special affinity with the Filipino community because first of all, they turn up! When there is a show, an event, whatever it is that has another Filipino, they show up and I just love and respect that so much. Second, we are like half or long lost siblings because we were conquered by the same, we share names, and last names, our currency is named the same and we even share some words too. When I saw the announcement for Kagitingan, I was clueless. Something that is common in my life and I sort of like it because I go in with no expectations. The title of this show comes from Araw ng Kagitingan which in Tagalog means Day of Valor, commemorating the fall of Bataan to Japanese troops during World War II and officially observed on April 9th. When a show has such a heavy subject matter you think, "How are they going to put that together"? and how are they going to pull through? Well, the company Blindspot Collective answered with an absolute slay surrounded by respect and heart. A project that was born from the doctoral research of Dr. Jimiliz Valiente-Neighbours on citizenship and identity, interviewing 83 Filipino soldiers who fought side to side with American soldiers. The production integrates modern dance interlaced with Filipino folk dances and hip-hop with a really amazing break dance choreographed by Theresa Maigue-Bendorf.

The cast of Kagitingan. Photo Elliott Hefner

The 80-minute piece with no intermission begins with the first interview conducted by Evangeline (Dey Ilagan) with a Filipino veterano as he recounts his experiences while other actors come and recreate them along dance intersections that are powerful as they are tender and full of magic and heart. Through these interviews, we see a live illustration of the dichotomy of the veteranos feeling American as a country that fought alongside The States yet, being discriminated against, suffering racist slurs by their American counterparts, not being fully recognized and not having full benefits as veterans. From the late 1940s all the way to 2013 when Barack Obama signed The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. 
Bong Cabrera as Hermogenes, one of the veteranos, is an interpretative force not to be reckoned with. He also performs the choreography with precision and grit. Jayden Pagsolingan and Joseph Corrales tore the floor with impressive breakdance moves along with Gabrielle Ocampo, Isaac Brieske, and Leobardo Rubio in contemporary dance. 

Kagintingan is the first show at the new performance space in the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego ​which is a black box-type room where sounds can sometimes get lost in the echo. Still, this production was so wrapped up in love and feeling that after a few minutes, it did not matter. Nonprofessional and professional actors made for a wonderful ensemble thanks to a cohesive direction by Desha Crownover that gave space with room to breathe.  

The cast of Kagitingan. Photo Elliott Hefner

Hsi An Chen's set design with a long curtain from almost ceiling to floor serves as a backdrop for the moving tables and chairs that make for the interviews, strongly complemented by Michael Barahura's Rembrandt-esque lighting design that plays with yellows, blacks, and beautiful shadows that intensify the already hefty feelings and reactions happening in the room. Elisa Vedar's sound design has a mad soundtrack that guides the steps and mood.

Another aspect I greatly appreciated and is an absolute value in this production is the Tagalog. I do not speak it, but there is no need as there is such a communion in the room, and, seeing Filipino audience members understand and laugh at the puns makes it even more enjoyable. Dey Llagan who is also the dramaturg for this production, supervised the pronunciation and Tagalog dialogues. Jessica Mercado who played Bella, an interpreter in the Philipines, graced the audience by speaking Pangasinan, another major language in that country. Assimilation is something that sadly, often comes with migration and the language is one of the first to go. Having Tagalog and Pangasinan here with the dramaturgy work and the supervision is the cherry on top that makes this work whole and round paying tribute to these veterans, their sacrifice, and their families.

​Many times, the value of theatre is undermined and truly underestimated. It's pieces like this that show and prove how powerful the art form is. Not just in entertainment value and aesthetics but as a record and education tool as well. Theatre is memory. 

Kagintingan is closing this Sunday and it is sold out. I recommend not giving up and going just in case there is a cancellation. You never know. More information HERE.