If you'd substituted the wine drinking for beer drinking, Sideways the movie might have become the ultimate guy picture, because it had all the other requisite elements, including sexual escapades with two gorgeous women. Even with wine instead of beer, Sideways, adapted from Rex Pickett's novel, became a hit that burnished the reputations of director Alexander Payne, actor Paul Giamatti and the Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Now Pickett's tale of two buddies on a no-holds-barred road trip has been turned into a play, adapted by Pickett and directed by Des McAnuff for La Jolla Playhouse.
Can a road movie be turned into a play? Absolutely. With the inventive use of quickly interchangeable tasting-room, hotel-room and restaurant sets, along with picturesque backdrops of the Central Coast, this Playhouse production carries you away every bit as well as the film did. After all, Sideways is less a travelogue than a ride-along with two flawed but funny protagonists—the neurotic oenophile Miles (Patrick Breen) and the engaged party boy Jack (Sean Allan Krill). When they encounter comely waitress Maya (Nadia Bowers), party-girl wine pourer Terra (Zoe Chao) and a beer-swilling boar killer named Brad (Tom Patterson), you know you're in for one hell of a ride.
Pickett's play takes a few significant detours from the 2004 film (director Payne and Jim Taylor wrote that screenplay), but the essence of the story is the same. The Playhouse cast is, like a good pinot noir, rich and memorable, with Krill turning in a knockout performance that blends physicality with deft timing. His Jack, hedonist though he may be, is more likable and profound than Thomas Haden Church's movie version. Krill's Jack is a friend to the end—betrayals, bloody noses and all.
Breen has his moments—especially when Miles is filthy drunk—and the boar hunt the guys embark upon is a raucous departure from the tasting rooms. Terra's gun-wielding confrontation of the duplicitous Jack is even more dangerous to our heroes. But survive it all they do.
Sideways the play is more profane than the film (a good thing) and less precious (an even better thing). Wine lovers will be thirsty on the way out—maybe a few beer drinkers, too.
Sideways runs through Aug. 25 at La Jolla Playhouse. $15 and up. lajollaplayhouse.org.
Double Indemnity: In a theatrical version of the 1943 noir novel and 1944 film, an insurance man falls for a sexy dame who wants her husband dead. Opens July 27 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
In the Heights: A musical about working-class folks trying to get ahead in a Dominican-American neighborhood in New York City. Opens July 30 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. sdrep.org
Sister Act: A nightclub singer witnesses a murder and is sent, via witness-protection program, to a convent, where she teaches the choir to rock. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs July 30 through Aug. 4 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
The Wizard of Oz: A Kansas girl's blunt-force head trauma sends her to a colorful land where men are made of straw and tin, lions dance and monkeys fly. Opens July 24 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Visa. moonlightstage.com
You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up!: The nationally touring stage version of a 2010 book by comedians Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn about their real-life marriage and family. Opens July 24 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown. lyceumevents.org
Carnival: An orphan named Lili joins the circus and becomes the object of an unhappy puppeteer's affection. Through Aug. 4 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Perfect Wedding: Dude wakes up on the morning of his wedding with a hot chick lying next to him, and the bride shows up. But he and his best man have a plan. Through Aug. 4 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
It's Just Sex: Three couples get together for some drinks, and, wouldn't you know it, the inevitable spouse swapping ensues. Through Aug. 10 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Freedom of Speech: Eliza Jane Schneider plays 34 characters in her own one-woman show, which chronicles her travels around the United States in an old ambulance. Presented by Moxie Theatre, it runs through Aug. 11 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. moxietheatre.com
The Rainmaker: A conman arrives at a Depression-era ranch where the cattle are dying and the farmer's daughter's hopes of finding a husband are fading. Through Aug. 11 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Musical: It's Shakespeare's classic comedy in the forest, but with pop music from the 1960s. Presented by Intrepid Shakespeare Company, it runs through Aug. 18 at San Dieguito Academy Performing Arts Centre in Encinitas. intrepidshakespeare.com
Company: A musical organized around a series of vignettes that explore the relationships between an unmarried 35-year-old man and his 10 coupled-off friends. Presented by Cygnet Theatre, it runs though Aug. 25 at The Old Town Theatre. cygnettheatre.com
Sideways: Two middle-aged guys, one who's about to be married, head to Santa Barbara wine country and find trouble. Through Aug. 25 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through Sept. 1 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Suds: The Musical: The story of a young woman looking for love in a Laundromat frames a soundtrack of '60s hits. Through Sept. 1 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Tom Stoppard's existentialist play turns two minor characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet into lead characters. Through Sept. 26 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare's play, about a man who borrows money to court a woman, gave us the terms "shylock" and "a pound of flesh." Through Sept. 28 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Greek forest is alive with fairies, magic potions and the pursuit of love in the opener of The Old Globe's summer Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 29 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net