Saturday, July 18, 2009

review - Twist @ Diversionary Theatre, San Diego

book & lyrics by Gila Sand; music by Paul Leschen
directed by James Vasquez
Diversionary Theatre
San Diego
through August 9
This is the second production of Twist that I have seen. Paul Storiale directed the LA premiere at the Avery Schreiber Theatre in NoHo in December, 2007. Limited by space, Storiale did a miraculous job of staging and the entire cast, including Alexandra Billings and Brandon Ruckdashel, were excellent. It was an audacious and delightful enterprise.
Fast forward one year and a half later to San Diego and the highly respected Diversionary Theatre. This is a subscription based Equity waiver space that is dedicated to producing top notch work, and with Twist, the results are most impressive. There is a 3-piece band, a set, some funky costumes in leather with flashy high-heeled boots for Fagin and the ladies, and a cast who are blessed with astounding musical artistry. Sand and Leschen have added some new music to the Drama Desk nominated score, and the story unfolds with a bawdy and bold vision that sustains itself well beyond the two hour performance. There is still a bright future for this imaginative work.
Jacob Caltrider as Oliver is meek, yet willing and never loses sight of who he is and where he came from. There is a terrific feat of casting here with Tom Zohar as The Artful Dodger, who provides a dynamic contrast to Caltrider's low-key performance. David McBean is a marvel as Fagin. Short offstage, he makes himself appear much taller on and sashays around as if he truly owned the entire space, barking and bullying with a rich baritone - and that's just his speaking voice. His singing is perfect for rock opera. I can see him essaying Frank'n Furter in Rocky Horror and Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He also wears the silk and leather to the hilt. Jackie Cuccaro as Lady Downlow and Amy Northcutt as Nancy are both deliciously off-center in their look and attitude. Cuccaro is more whorish than Victorian (as I last saw her portrayed-...and justifiable) and Northcutt with her clownlike hair color comes off a sadder and more victimized Nancy. Tony Houck is hilarious as Charlie Bates - a sort of Sean Hayes in heels, and Andy Collins is very memorable as the weird, dancing Mr. Sowerberry.
Vasquez' liquidy direction makes the entire piece flow as smooth as Fagin's silk scarf.
Twist is worth the ride to San Diego. It is more than camp. It is more than what some refer to as a crude joke. This is a very smart... fearless gay's perception of the Oliver Twist tale, made imaginatively darker, scarier, more lascivious, more cruel, and far more truthful than most straight renditions to date. The finale "Beautiful Boys and Lovely Ladies", a new number added in San Diego, is so befitting as the onstage Dickensian characters address the audience of the future. It offers s a brave hope for gay lifestyles everywhere in time and space.
5 out of 5 stars


Blogger Steven said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 27, 2009 at 11:46 PM  
Blogger eslgr8 said...

I loved Diversionary's Twist too, but a correction. There is to my knowledge no "Equity Waiver" agreement other than L.A.'s 99-seat plan, valid only in Los Angeles county. Only one Diversionary production in the past year has employed an Equity actor, and that was a single guest contract in last years Yank. The cast of Twist is entirely non-Equity.

July 27, 2009 at 11:53 PM  

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