From Another Zero's -Best of 2022- in San Diego Theatre

2022 Marked the first semi-normal year of performances after the pandemic. 

14 plays, three musicals, and more... by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

I love these yearly recaps seeing everything in retrospect and amazed at how many productions there were. In a year when COVID was still very present but continuing to be safe and trying to leave it behind. New companies came, others went and through all that, we are here writing about it. 

I saw over 75 productions and wrote about 61. Like how?

These lists usually should be as concise and tight as possible, but why though? 

Here is what I really liked in 2022 categorized by plays, musicals, and touring shows along with outstanding performances and honorable mentions:


Playwright Josh Harmon is a Master in my book and dives into deep, specific cultural topics like being Jewish in the United States, Race, sexual preference, etc. In this play, Harmon goes into college admission politics, diversity quotas, and white privilege. OSP Artistic Director James P. Darvas brought these characters to life in a passionate, strong way that echoed the theatre walls. A well-cast, well-acted, round production.

Life Sucks - Cygnet Theatre.
A re-work/mash-up of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya by Aaron Posner, directed by Rob Lutfy that was beautiful, all over the place with a substantial cast and a gorgeous set design by Yi-Chien Lee. Uncle Vanya is not an easy one and Life Sucks sort of gave audiences the cliff notes version with an added message and twist. 

On Her Shoulders We Stand
- TuYo Theatre.
A multi-sensory, immersive experience that honors the role of Latin American women during World War II. Written and directed by Patrice Amon, this immersive and interactive 40-minute piece took audiences in groups of four through seven different rooms, each staged and themed with "people" that mingled and shared stories having audiences time-traveling on-site. Not only was this staging creative, but it also navigated through social distancing with headphones because the actors were masked and it turned out to be a beautiful, moving production that reflected heart and effort. 

The Great Khan
- SD Repertory Theatre
Theatre as well as a form of entertainment is also (or should be) a platform for memory, history, education, and making people uncomfortable. A Rolling World Premiere that was part of the National New Play Network (NNPN) where imagination and creativity come together resulting in a wonderful piece. The Great Khan is an example of great storytelling using elements like history, truth, assumption, and repression not to mention great ensemble work. It was sad that such a good story with solid actors onstage turned out to be a mess backstage. I guess the takeaway is that people are not willing to be silent anymore and accountability is key.

Black Séance
 -Blindspot Collective 
Another immersive piece with a wonderful added value, -alcohol-. Part of the WoW Festival/La Jolla Playhouse in a jazz bar/cabaret setting, artist Nathan Nonhof carried the weight of the 90 minute and change show by using simple props like an umbrella, a scarf, and glasses. Accompanied by Ahmed on the piano, Nathan impressively sings, dances, raps, and interprets. Along with a couple of magic treats while channeling the spirits of Black historic figures like Frederick Douglass, Josephine Baker, and Malcolm X. Nonhof bringing out the history receipts sharing a list of just a few iconic Black people that have changed the world. 

Desert Rock Garden
-New Village Arts
This world premiere written by Roy Sekigahama gifted audiences with a powerful and moving piece about the history of Japanese Incarceration Camps in the United States. Both beautiful and sad, director Yari Cervas carefully guided a simple but powerful setting to tell this appalling and monstrous chapter in history with just two actors. We do not see many AAPI stories onstage and it is time we see more. I really appreciated this staged approach. 

The Taming of the Shrew
 - The Old Globe
The Globe had not staged a Shakespeare at the outdoor space in two years, so this production was also special because it represented a “Bard Comeback ”. The fast-paced, fun, colorful summer production brought different elements like the direction of Shana Cooper, and switching up gender roles which the Globe has done in the past but it was still fun. Having action series stars onstage like Deborah Ann Woll, adding musical interpretations mixed in with the lines, and last but not least, Ásta Bennie Hostetter's runway-worthy costume design made this a special production for sure.

IRON - Roustabouts Theatre Co. 
This West Coast premiere was an absolute master class of interpretation with mother-daughter Rosina Reynolds and Kate Rose Reynolds portraying an estranged mother-daughter duo from Scotland immersed in murder, incarceration, frustration and stress! This piece kept audiences still in their seats. Not only was it a treat to see actors that are related in real life work together, but the delivery, what a delivery!

The Outsider- Scripps Ranch Theatre
I believe that this has been Scripps best production yet. Based on political propaganda and the PR machinery behind political campaign angles, this play written by Paul Slade Smith tackles the motions, characters and comedy straight forward. A joy to watch and also serving as a palate cleanser for what was happening in real life. This might be their best production yet but the pre-curtain announcement was the best ever! 
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank- The Old Globe
A terrible title for a fantastic play that is well written, equally weaved and hilarious, a total gas! The play goes in deep into topics regarding the Jewish community, Orthodox Jews, the Holocaust and current times meshed with lifestyle comparisons, living in Florida vs living in Israel. There was some turn off with the title for sure and it really did not do this work justice. And this is coming from a Mexican, I mean we joke about EVERYTHING, but this one I believe was too close. It also reminds us not to judge a book by its cover.

Sweatshop Overlord-La Jolla Playhouse
Kristina Wong illustrated the feel of isolation in the pandemic and how the strength of community can pull trough regardless of distance, separation and disease. The chronicle style, one person production, was fast-paced, raw, and moving. Bringing this now historic event to light through its strengths and opportunities. Pure creative resilience. 

Into the Breeches!- North Coast Repertory Theatre
This was a joy from beginning to end. When a small playhouse gets left without male actors because of the war, the women step up to portray the roles against all paternalistic, systemic, odds. A nice mix of six powerful actresses pull the weight of the piece with precise direction by Diana Van Fossen. It was too a sort of theatre insider with jokes, egos and ageism related to the craft. 

As You Like It-La Jolla Playhouse in association with Diversionary Theatre
Queer, fresh, fun, full of talent along with triple and quadruple threats like dancing, singing, playing instruments and so on wrapped by Mel Ng 黄敏萍's exquisite costume design and Emmie Finckel's bright, colorful, and functional scenic design.This reconceptualized Shakespeare was theatre's welcome to the 21st century.

The Mystery of Irma Vep-Diversionary Theatre
Closing out the theatre year with a golden broche like we would say in Spanish. Two actors playing multiple characters in a campy, spooky, fun production that uses all the space -along with audience members- and also prompts interaction. Nice, creative, resolute, direction with amazing talent, energy and portrayal.


In The Heights
-San Diego Musical Theatre
ITH is not an easy production to stage. It is a complex piece with choreography, vocals, and movement. SDMT resolved it well and made it their own in a reduced space with a company of over 20 artists that brought the house down. It is also great to see young, up-and-coming talent deliver and they did it for sure. Alabanza!

Witnesses-CCAE Theatricals
This world-premiere was based on the diaries of five teenagers who lived through the Holocaust and did not survive. CCAE did an amazing job beautifully staging this powerful piece with Matthew Herman’s gray and somber scenic design giving exactly the right tone and home for the story to be told accentuated by Zach Blane’s lighting design and John Fredette’s sound design which comes at the tensest moments. Hopefully this beautiful musical will have many seasons ahead. 

Lempicka-La Jolla Playhouse 
The playhouse's season opener came in full throttle with the story of Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka. Her life, marriage, daughter, and how she escaped the Russian Revolution. A multi-layered piece with many achieved, catchy songs and, I believe really doing justice to the aesthetic of Lempicka's painting with bright greens both in the wardrobe and set design with Broadway sensation Eden Espinosa as the famous painter.


Freestyle Love Supreme-The Old Globe
Not only has this been a hit on Broadway, but the improv show with amazingly talented artists and Lin-Manuel Miranda at the head as co-creator also gave audiences a wonderful time with a very different approach for the Globe including content so different in their season. Bravo for the risk and the variety. 

The Band's Visit
-Broadway San Diego
One of four musicals in Broadway history to win the unofficial "big six" Tony Awards®, The Band's Visit accrued Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. It was also the 2019 Grammy Awards® winner for Best Musical Theater Album. Based on the 2007 motion picture with the same title, the beauty of this musical lies in its simplicity. A one-90-minute act full of an amazing story where the star is the music.

-Broadway San Diego
This mythical tale with a trip to the underworld was a total treat. Not only were the set design and performances stellar, the beauty of the diversity of the cast as well as them using their own hair, no wigs whether it was blue, braided, or shaved on one side. Rachel Chavkin's direction (she also directed Lempicka) honored each actor's individuality having them not alter their image for the role but embrace it with their own unique look.


  • Nancy Ross in Sapience totally embodied an orangutan before our eyes delivering a wonderful portrayal that did not need a costume or special makeup. Just the acting and movement were enough.
  • Jessica John in Abigail's Party was sensual and bold as the soirée. Her Beverly, aside from looking absolutely stunning in that long dress and puffy hair was hilarious and relentlessly vicious.
  • Mikaela Rae Macias and Jennifer Eve-Thorn in Mother of the Maid. Macias was solid in her MOXIE debut and looked at the audience while delivering her lines with intention suing the space. The role of Joan's mother brought the woman, the mother, the actress, and the storyteller all together in Thorn delivering a mature, grounded performance, reflecting a detailed curation from mannerisms to glances, winks, and specific tones. 
  • Bruce Turk-Annabella in July Turk as Alexander, the dreamy mountain lover, absolutely stole the show with his comedic ability and amazing accents.
  • Katie MacNichol- Into the Breeches. She was a total hoot to watch. Funny, poignant and full of grace.
  • Andrew Gutierrez-First Date . As the best friend sidekick, Gutierrez delivered hilarious comedy and amazing dance moves.

Honorable mentions

Blue Period and Turning Off the Morning News at Onstage Playhouse. I appreciate the creative decision to stage these plays. Blue Period touches upon Pablo Picasso and his friend also a painter, Carlos Casagemas and his suicide which apparently led to Picasso's Blue Period. A unique topic to stage a play and to do it locally is even better. In Turning Off the Morning News, the gist is gun violence and the staging is odd and uncomfortable. No other way to do it and speak up at the same time. 

Catch Me If You Can just like In the Heights, San Diego Musical Theatre did an amazing job in a small space with great choreography with a large cast giving audiences a wonderful time with a production up to par with the touring Broadway one.

Mala in English and Spanish, alternating performances between the playwright Melinda Lopez in English, and Yadira Correa in Spanish as well as having it be part of the Globe for All spring tour, crossing it to Tijuana for performances at the Cultural Center while honoring and embracing both countries as one community through theatre.

Taxilandia is an incredible, original concept of touring the Southbay in the back of a car while getting to know the history of those areas. Although in need of some logistical tweaking, the effort and the delivery totally deserve a space in the SD theatre highlights of 2022.

This list was pretty -different-... there were many productions worth mentioning and 2022 represented not only a comeback but resilience.

What did you like in 2022?

No comments:

Post a Comment