Photo by Daren Scott
Jennifer Paredes (left) and Kenia Ramirez in Into the Beautiful North
Creating the illusion of a road trip is a formidable theatrical undertaking that seldom succeeds. It doesn’t with San Diego Repertory’s production of Into the Beautiful North, a play by Karen Zacarias based on a novel by Luis Alberto Urrea. In the play, as in Urrea’s novel, a girl named Nayeli and her friends from the fictional Mexican town of Tres Camarones make a daring journey across the border. Their quest: to bring home Nayeli’s father and to recruit Mexican warriors to return with them to thwart the thugs who’ve overrun Tres Camarones. Nayeli and company have been inspired by the film The Magnificent Seven and its dauntless guns for hire. All fine— for a novel. But on stage, the storytelling is scattershot, episodic and at times grating, with principal cast members Kenia Ramirez, Bryant Hernandez and Jennifer Paredes scrambling about in front of a projection screen, breathlessly transitioning from one situation to another, and even singing (to a strummed ukulele) a refrain that really adds nothing to the drama.
Much-needed comic relief is supplied by Herbert Siguenza in multiple roles, though his and others’ “border cop” parts are one-note. Catalina Maynard’s Mayor Irma of Tres Camarones also feels underdeveloped. Into the Beautiful North is part of a rolling world premiere that includes three other theaters in the U.S. For now though, it isn’t ready for prime time.
Into the Beautiful North runs through April 23 on the Lyceum Stage in Horton Plaza, downtown. $38-$65. sdrep.org
• • •
San Diego Musical Theatre’s First Date is actually a wise choice for a first date. It’s funny, its cast is universally appealing, and it’s only an hour and a half long, leaving plenty of time to hit a Gaslamp bar or bistro afterward. The entire show—written by Austin Winsberg with music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner—takes place on a blind date between uptight Aaron (Joshua David Cavanaugh) and beautiful but blunt Casey (Cassandra Nuss). Supporting characters (played by Lauren King Thompson, Zackary Scot Wolfe, Lindsay Joan, Jonathan Sangster and John Massey) supply dating advice and flashback material. Except for when the band drowns out the vocals, this all works nicely, like two people meant for each other.
First Date runs through May 7 at the Horton Grand Theatre, downtown. $35- $60; sdmt.org
Travels With My Aunt: Four actors play 20 different roles in this offbeat comedy about an eccentric aunt who changes the life of her stuffy nephew. Written by Graham Greene, it opens April 12 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. northcoastrep.org
Margins of Error: In this world premiere drama from Will Cooper, a revered scientist, his wife and two students attempt to break down love and deceit to a science. Presented by the Roustabouts Theatre Company, it opens April 14 at the Lyceum Theatre in the Gaslamp. theroustabouts.org