Nov. 16 2016 03:56 PM

“Miss You Like Hell” both simmers, falters at La Jolla Playhouse

    Krystina Alabado (left) and Daphne Rubin-Vega in 'Miss You Like Hell'
    Photo by Jim Carmody

    Sixteen-year-old Olivia, an emotionally damaged girl, resides in an imaginary world in which she communicates her alienation via a blog—her inveterate readers are her “castaways.” Olivia is herself a castaway, to some degree of her own making. Into this troubled teen’s life bolts Beatriz, the errant Latino mother who Olivia feels abandoned her. Beatriz, in every way her daughter’s polar opposite, goads her into taking a get-to-know-you road trip across the country with her (there is an ulterior motive). So begins Quiara Alegria’s Miss You Like Hell.

    This world-premiere musical is four years in the making at La Jolla Playhouse, where it was originally commissioned by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley. Just last February, it was workshopped as part of the Playhouse’s DNA New Work Series.

    Now we have the finished product, with music and some of the lyrics by singer/songwriter Erin McKeown, direction by Lear deBessonet, and a Beatriz and Olivia portrayed by Daphne Rubin-Vega and Krystina Alabado respectively. Hudes’ stellar playwriting resume boasts both In the Heights and Water by the Spoonful, though narratively Miss You Like Hell is rather familiar territory. The eye-opening, soul-revealing “road trip” is hardly a groundbreaking dramatic device; nor is the idea of the free-spirited parent showing the painfully inward child how “to live” (see Miss You Like Hell’s “Lioness” number).

    Rather, it is McKeown’s lyrical and frequently lovely score that empowers this production and its principal characters. This is her show, along with the engaging young Alabado, recently on Broadway in American Psycho. The latter’s rendering of the McKeown solos written for her are heart-rending, most of all during what could be considered this musical’s title tune which comes near the surprising finale.

    Rubin-Vega’s convention-flouting character threatens to overpower not only Olivia but everyone else onstage. That, and some odd sight gags (a dancing “Allen Ginsberg?”) find Miss You Like Hell trying too hard when, in the long run, it should rely on McKeown’s songcraft and the gradual rediscovery of a mother and daughter’s bond.

    Miss You Like Hell runs through Dec. 4 at La Jolla Playhouse, UCSD campus. $25-$86; lajollaplayhouse.org.


    OPENING:

    The 1940’s Radio Hour: A family-friendly musical about a quaint New York radio station that’s about to air its last broadcast of holiday music. It opens Nov. 18 at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com

    The Dybbuk of Hannah and Sam’s Wedding: A broken vow blurs the line between the supernatural and the real world in this musical based on S. Ansky’s classic, The Dybbuk. Featuring original music from local Klezmer musician Yale Strom, it opens Nov. 23 at the Lyceum Theatre in the Gaslamp. sdrep.org

    NOW PLAYING

    November: David Mamet’s biting political comedy about an inept, outgoing U.S. president who has put the office up for sale. Directed by Steve Murdock, it runs through Nov. 19 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info

    Bad Seed: Maxwell Anderson’s thriller about a little girl who may have a dark side. Directed by Kristen Fogle, it runs through Nov. 20 at Lamplighter’s Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com

    Equivocation: A playwright named “Shagspeare” is forcibly commissioned by the King to write the definitive history of the Gunpowder Plot in Bill Cain’s acclaimed who-done-it. Directed by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, it runs through Nov. 20 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

    Now Playing:

    November: David Mamet’s biting political comedy about an inept, outgoing U.S. president who has put the office up for sale. Directed by Steve Murdock, it runs through Nov. 19 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.info

    Bad Seed: Maxwell Anderson’s thriller about a little girl who may have a dark side. Directed by Kristen Fogle, it runs through Nov. 20 at Lamplighter’s Community Theatre in La Mesa. lamplighterslamesa.com

    Equivocation: A playwright named “Shagspeare” is forcibly commissioned by the King to write the definitive history of the Gunpowder Plot in Bill Cain’s acclaimed who-done-it. Directed by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, it runs through Nov. 20 at the Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org

    The Sound of Music: The Broadway production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical about Maria and the famous von Trapp family. Directed by Jack O’Brien, it runs through Nov. 20 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in the Gaslamp. broadwaysd.com

    The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Shakespeare’s comedy about two BFs who fall in love with the same woman. Directed by Richard Seer, it runs through Nov. 20 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

    Vieux Carré: Tennessee Williams’ memory play about a young, gay writer living in a boarding house filled with dying souls. Directed by Will Detlefsen, it runs through Nov. 21 at the Mandell Weiss Forum at UCSD in La Jolla. theatre.ucsd.edu

    Miss You Like Hell: In this world premiere musical, a teenage girl sets out on a road trip with her free-spirited Latina mother. Written by Erin McKeown, it runs through Dec. 4 at the La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org

    A Chorus Line: The classic musical about a group of gypsies who audition for a Broadway show. Directed by Thomas Fitzpatrick, it runs through Dec. 11 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com

    The Normal Heart: Larry Kramer’s seminal work about the early days of the AIDS crisis in New York City. Presented by ion Theatre Group, it runs through Dec. 17 at the BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com

    The Fantasticks: Two fathers stage a kidnapping in hopes that their two children fall in love in this ‘60s musical. Directed by Ted Leib, it runs through Dec. 18 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org

    Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Now in its 19th year, this holiday classic tells the musical tale of a green grump who plans to ruin the holidays for the town of Whoville. Directed by James Vásquez, it runs through Dec. 26 at the Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. theoldglobe.org

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