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Theater Notebook: The Roustabouts aims to make people laugh with ‘Southern Belle’

The cast of Roustabouts Theatre Company's "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls."
Wendy Waddell, left, Omri Schein, Wendy Maples and Walter Murray co-star in The Roustabouts Theatre Company’s “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls.”
(Rich Soublet II)

In this week’s San Diego theater report, we have news from The Roustabouts and Point Loma Playhouse

The Roustabouts Theatre Co. returns to live performances this month with a show that celebrates something that’s been missing for many people over the past 20 months: laughter.

The 5-year-old San Diego theater troupe kicks off its fifth season on Nov. 13 with preview performances of Christopher Durang’s “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls ... ,” an evening of five comedic one-act plays. Company artistic director Phil Johnson said he and his fellow Roustabouts co-founders have missed the sound of people laughing together in a communal space, so it was important to kick off the season with a comedy.

“For Whom ...” is a collection of short plays that includes the title piece, which is a parody of Tennessee Williams’ Southern drama “The Glass Menagerie.” Also featured are “Mrs. Sorken,” a mixed-up history lesson on the origins of theater; “Nina in the Morning,” the story of a wealthy and narcissistic woman mourning the loss of her beauty and youth; “Wanda’s Visit,” about a married couple recounting the reintroduction of a terrifying ex-girlfriend; and “Business Lunch at the Russian Tea Room,” the story of a playwright being seduced to adapt his work for a Hollywood script.

Durang is known for the absurd humor in his plays, which include “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, “Beyond Therapy” and “Baby with the Bathwater.” His play “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” inspired by the plays and characters of Anton Chekhov, won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.

The Roustabouts production will feature Omri Schein, Wendy Maples, Walter Murray and Wendy Waddell. Schein co-wrote and co-starred with Johnson in Roustabouts’ 2017 production of “Withering Heights,” inspired by Emily Brontë's “Wuthering Heights.” Murray co-starred in the company’s 2020 production of Will Cooper’s “GUnTOPIA.” Waddell and Maples are new to Roustabouts.

The production will be staged at Moxie Theatre with previews Nov. 13 through 18. It opens Nov. 19 and runs through Dec. 4. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $32-$40. Call (619) 568-5800 or theroustabouts.org/southernbelle.

Roustabouts will return to Durang next month with a one-night-only reading of his holiday comedy “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1. Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

Kirra Adams, Pete Zanko and Carly Salway in Point Loma Playhouse's "She's at the Library."
(Farhad Deylami Azodi)

‘Wonderful Life’ gets a twist

Frank Capra’s 1947 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of the most beloved holiday movies of all time, with its story of the apprentice angel Clarence showing the despondent George Bailey how his family, friends and town would have been much worse off if he’d never been born.

La Jolla playwright Dori Salois watches the movie with her family every Christmas season, but she has always detested the part where George learns that if he’d never been around to marry his wife, Mary, she would have become a frumpy spinster librarian.

“I always hate the part where Clarence screams “She’s at the library,” as if that is somehow terrible, and the way they depict Mary swooning as George approaches,” Salois said.

That scene inspired Salois to write her new holiday play, “She’s At the Library,” a revamp of the Christmas classic that will make its world premiere Nov. 19 with Point Loma Playhouse.

In Salois’ feminist version of the play, Mary is living with her once-wayward friend Violet, fighting the evil robber baron Mr. Potter and trying to keep Bedford Falls from turning into Potterville. Then George arrives claiming she’s his wife and the mother to their four children. Mary must decide which life she prefers.

Directed by Jerry Pilato, the play stars Carly Salway, Pete Zanko, Kirra Adams, Jody Catlin, Brian Evans with Susan Hoekenga, Emmanuelle Love, Janet Taylor and Taylor Spencer.

“I love the cast,” Salois said. “The two romantic leads are so charming and such a good fit. You may end up rooting for George, though maybe you aren’t supposed to.”

Salois says she meant no disrespect to Capra or his film when writing her play. In fact, she once met the late film director. They sat together at an event in Washington, D.C., honoring her mother-in-law, who was related to A.P. Giannini, the Italian immigrant who started the bank that became Bank of America. Capra based the character of George Bailey — who starts a building and loan business to help lift the fortunes of his small town — on Giannini.

Performances of “She’s At the Library” are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 19 through Dec. 5 at the Point Loma Assembly building at 3035 Talbot St., San Diego. Tickets start at $15. Visit pointlomaplayhouse.com.

Pam Kragen writes about San Diego theater for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Email her at pam.kragen@sduniontribune.com.


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