Now that the Fritz Theatre has stolen everybody's thunder with its family-friendly wrinkle, some may think summer theater here faces an anticlimax. After all, the crazy ol' Fritz caught audiences off guard when it opened a dinner theater musical last month. With the speculation that followed, you'd have thought the group was the only game in town.
Not only is the Fritz Blitz new play competition alive and well and around the corner (see August listings); every other theater company will be too busy to see the shows. This summer, the Blitz shares San Diego's stages with William Shakespeare, Jean Genet, Lanford Wilson, Athol Fugard, a ton of musicals (including Miss Saigon and The Producers), a political commentary or two and exactly 112,000 more entries in a season rife with modern fare-grist on which the Fritz has cut an additional set of teeth.
"We haven't always been at the top of our game," Fritz artistic director Duane Daniels explains. "We've never been afraid of sexuality or nudity... that takes place in the course of a great play. But we got a little exploitive; at least that was the rap that we got. The press got really mad at us, and so did the public. We lost a lot our customers."
A 2000 production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd set things aright. And with its current musical I Do! I Do! at the Sixth Avenue Bistro, the Fritz is becoming established in a new home, its fourth since 1991.
"We won't be able to do the adventurous, risky-type theater that we're known for," Daniels says of the work at the Bistro. "But we're still going to do... the Fritz Blitz, and we'll still be working at [Hillcrest's] 6th@Penn and so forth. So we get to do the stuff that we usually do, but now we have this additional residence. You move on."
As the Fritz ramps up for the contest, its opposite number is preparing a festival of its own. Its central figure is revered the western world over for his simple stories and breadth of characters. And his downright scary clairvoyance may speak to the causes and effects of our national malaise.
The Old Globe Shakespeare Festival will run from June 25 to Sept. 26 at the open-air Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park. On its face, that doesn't herald anything particularly sexy-but the itinerary marks the return of a Globe tradition.
Antony And Cleopatra, As You Like It and The Two Noble Kinsmen will run in repertory-the season's 78 performances will be staggered so audiences can conceivably take in the entire festival over three nights (see listing). Old Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien says nearly 20 years have passed since his theater presented Shakespeare in rep. The practice "necessarily had to be curtailed... because of the producing burden of three separate theaters." (The campus also contains the Old Globe mainstage and the Cassius Carter Theatre Center.)
Meanwhile, O'Brien, 64, is busy cultivating a curious habit on national TV. On Sunday, June 6, he won the Tony Award for best direction for his production of Shakespeare's Henry IV last fall at New York's Lincoln Center. This was the sixth nomination of O'Brien's career and is his second Tony in a row. Last year, he won best director for the hit musical Hairspray.
The accolade is the latest feather in the Old Globe's profusely adorned cap. But at a media gathering last month, O'Brien gave his nomination cursory notice. His attentions lay with the extraordinary power of the theater to educate and perhaps to heal-desirable qualities in an era that has wrought a manifest assault on the American will.
"This is a bad time," O'Brien told a near-capacity crowd at the Old Globe mainstage. "We are confused. Our national [resolve] is somewhat being called into question. What can we do-what will we do as artists" to assuage America's massive crisis of identity?
More often than not, the long-term remedy for such ills is charted by the balding little guy with the oval face and the lame excuse for a goatee.
There's no shortage of everything between Fritz's insanity and Shakespeare's sobriety. Thirty-five shows are set over the next three months, 20 in June alone. And while the season may lack a classical flavor overall, it's not the end of the world. The theater is an amazingly adaptable animal, beckoning your most intimate reflections no matter the chronology of fare.
Break a leg!
JuneA LESSON FROM ALOES at 6th@Penn Theatre, June 22-July 21. A white Afrikaner lives under South Africa's racist rule in the 1960s. $17-$20. 619-688-9210.
ANNIE at La Jolla Stage Company, now through June 27. The Depression-era rags-to-riches story based on the "Little Orphan Annie" comic strip. $18-$22. 858-459-7773.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park, June 25-Sept. 26. Charts 10 years of Marcus Antonius' life following the death of Julius Caesar. One of three Old Globe Shakespeare Festival entries. $19-$55. 619-23-GLOBE.
AS YOU LIKE IT at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park, June 29-Sept. 25. Identities are masked and genders crossed in a journey for peace and acceptance. One of three Old Globe Shakespeare Festival entries. $19-$55. 619-23-GLOBE.
BED AND SOFA at the Cygnet Theatre, now through July 18. A homeless friend is invited to share a married couple's quarters-and the mice commence to playing in the cat's prolonged absence. $10 to $30. 619-337-1525, ext. 3.
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE at the La Jolla Playhouse, now through Aug. 1. This double bill runs in repertory and centers on a West Coast gubernatorial campaign as it examines our two-party political process. $28 to $52. 858-550-1010..
DORA THE EXPLORER at the Civic Theatre, June 16-June 20. For children 2-5. Charts the exploits of Dora, the Latina heroine, as she overcomes obstacles to find her teddy bear. This is part of Nederlander's Broadway San Diego series. Call for prices. 877-225-9686.
EXPERIMENT WITH AN AIR PUMP at the Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts, June 10-July 27. Examines the clash between humanist philosophy and scientific research at the turn of two centuries. $15-$18. 619-584-3593.
I DO! I DO! presented by the Fritz Theatre at the Sixth Avenue Bistro, now through June 19. Musical charts the marriage of Michael and Agnes through good times and bad. $41-$46. 619-239-4196.
JESUS HOPPED THE "A' TRAIN presented by Lynx Performance Theatre at the Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts, June 25-July 25. Features Angel Cruz, serving hard time for shooting a local reverend. Angel embraces Christianity after an inmate (a serial-killing Christian) is sent to the chair. $15-$18. 619-584-3593.
KID-SIMPLE at the Sledgehammer Theatre, now through July 11. The Jordan Harrison story focuses on Moll, a maverick who invents a machine to alter sound. The Mercenary steals the device, not to mention Moll's heart. $18-$20. 619-544-1484.
MISS SAIGON at the Civic Theatre, now through June 13. The acclaimed musical focuses on an American soldier and his love for a Vietnamese woman. The couple's passions reawaken in an explosive reunion. Call for prices. 619-570-1100.
MOVIN' OUT at the Civic Theatre, June 23-July 18. Musical about six lifelong friends, featuring 27 songs by Billy Joel. Call for prices. 619-570-5100.
PLACES TO TOUCH HIM at Diversionary Theatre, now through July 25. Cesar is a lawyer, a politician and a homosexual-he must choose between his lover and the voters in an election year. $12 to $24. 619-220-0097.
SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM at the Scripps Ranch Theatre, June 18-July 18. Musical revue by Sondheim, et al., featuring songs such as "Send In the Clowns" and "Company." $14.50-$17. 858-578-7728.
SOUTH PACIFIC at Lamb's Players Theatre, Coronado, now through July 4. Rodgers and Hammerstein musical explores the lives of American troops stationed in the Pacific during World War II and the wider world they encounter. $22-$48. 619-437-0600.
THE CONFESSION presented by Teatro Punto y Coma at the Lyceum Theatre, Horton Plaza, June 9. World-premiere comedy about a family man with a big secret, staged as part of the 11th annual Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival. $20. 619-544-1000.
THE INTELLIGENT DESIGN OF JENNY CHOW at the Cassius Carter Center Stage, Old Globe Theatre, Balboa Park, June 17-July 18. A genius with an obsessive-compulsive disorder finds her way in the world. $19-$47. 619-23-GLOBE.
THE MAIDS at 6th@Penn Theatre, June 17 through July 25. Two domestics abuse each other as a reaction to the hierarchy that oppresses them. $12-$23. 619-688-9210.
TRIUMPH OF LOVE at the Starlight Theatre, Balboa Park, June 24-June 27. Musical centers on a princess who cheats, lies and dresses as a man to be near the guy she's hot for, even though he's plotting to kill her. This is part of the Starlight's annual season of musicals. $10.50-$42.50 for single tickets, $42-$144 for four-show subscription. 619-544-7827.
JulyART at Lamb's Players Theatre, Coronado, July 28-Sept. 12. One of three good friends purchases an ambiguous work of art; the trio get a lesson in friendship. $22-$48. 619-437-0600.
BOOMERS presented by Lamb's Players Theatre at the Lyceum Theatre, Horton Plaza, July 9-Aug. 22. Revised musical covers the music and events of the '50s, '60s and '70s. $28-$42. 619-437-6050.
DAMN YANKEES at the Starlight Theatre, Balboa Park, July 15-July 25. Musical about Joe Boyd, transformed into a baseball star in a pact with the devil. This is part of the Starlight's annual season of musicals. $10.50-$42.50 for single tickets, $42-$144 for four-show subscription. 619-544-7827.
HAIRSPRAY at the Civic Theatre, July 6 through July 18. Baltimore's Tracy Turnblad is transformed from outsider to teen celebrity in this musical. This is part of Nederlander's Broadway San Diego series. Call for prices. 877-225-9686.
HOT SUMMER MADNESS at the Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts, July 9-July 25. Featuring three one-acts by Howard Casner, Lanford Wilson and Peter Tolan. $15-$18. 619-584-3593.
LUCKY DUCK at the Old Globe Theatre mainstage, Balboa Park, July 10-Aug. 15. Musical adaptation of the Ugly Ducking story, featuring the homely bird Serena. $19-$58. 619-23-GLOBE.
THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN at the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, Balboa Park, July 2-Sept. 24. Centers on two cousins and their fractured relationship amid their love of the same woman. One of three Old Globe Shakespeare Festival entries. $19-$55. 619-23-GLOBE.
AugustAUNTIE MAME at 6th@Penn, Aug 6.-Aug. 8. Staged-reading fund-raiser for the theater about a woman who lives life to the fullest and her newly homeless 10-year-old nephew. $25. 619-688-9210.
FRITZ BLITZ OF NEW PLAYS BY CALIFORNIA PLAYWRIGHTS at the Lyceum Theatre, Aug. 5-Aug. 29. Eleven original works placed in competition for awards in seven categories. Call for prices. 619-233-7505.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE at Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts, Aug. 27-Sept. 19. A leader discovers his role is too lax amid a wife's estrangement and sexual gamesmanship. $15-$18. 584-3593.
SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN presented by Lamb's Players Theatre at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre, Aug. 12-Sept. 12. Story of one musical family's road trip during the Great Depression. $28-$42. 619-437-0600.
THE MUSIC MAN at the Starlight Theatre, Balboa Park, Aug. 15-22. Musical about Harold Hill, who plots to con the folks of River City, Iowa until love enters his life. This is part of the Starlight's annual season of musicals. Single-ticket prices are $10.50-$42.50, $42-$144 for four-show subscription. 619-544-7827.
THE PRODUCERS at the Civic Theatre, Aug. 24-Sept. 5. Musical about a theatrical producer and an accountant who scam to raise more money than they need for a sure-fire Broadway fiasco. This is part of Nederlander's Broadway San Diego series. Call for prices. 877-225-9686.
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE at the Civic Theatre, Aug. 3-8. Musical about a Kansas girl who moves to New York during the 1920s to make a new life. This is part of Nederlander's Broadway San Diego series. Call for prices. 877-255-9686.TWELFTH NIGHT at the Adams Avenue Studio of the Arts, Aug. 3-22. Shakespeare turns the world on its head as girls become boys and women woo women. $15-$18. 619-584-3593.