Introducing: Joel Beers' Local Theater Blog
It's hard to find a bigger name in American stage directing than Warner Shook. He led Seattle's Intiman Theatre to national prominence in the 1990s, and in 1993, helmed the Broadway production of one of the most epic plays of the 20th Century, Robert Schenkkan's The Kentucky Cycle.
He's also a regular contributor at South Coast Repertory, with his production of Beth Henley's 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winning Crimes of the Heart, marking his eighth directorial effort at the Costa Mesa institution.
The darkly comic play, which opens for previews Friday, centers around three off-center sisters who regroup at their grand pappy's home in the deep south--the day after one of them has shot her husband.
Along with a great director and a script, there's another reason to celebrate this production: Nathan Baesel, one of the most talented actors to ever emerge from Orange County. The Buena Park High School and Fullerton College theater arts major left Orange County to study at New York City's Juliard School, graduating in 2002.
Since then, he's discovered what nearly every thespian with degrees and accolades realizes: making a living as an actor is a bitch! He's had plenty of work, most notably on the TV series Invasion and as the lead character in the gnarly underground horror spoof: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, which has earned cult-like status on the horror circuit--and which the OC Weekly wrote about twice: here and here.
He's also landed a few plum roles at his home county professional theater. In Crimes of the Heart, he plays Doc, an old boyfriend of one of the sisters whose promising career was derailed after he was crippled from injuries suffered in Hurricane Camille. The reason he stayed in the first place? Because Meg, the sister, had promised to marry him if he remained in the storm's path. Ouch. Doc is now married with children, but he's remained close to the family, and it will be interesting to see how Baesel, who always manages to inject an eminently likeable vulnerability into his characters, pulls off the conflicting emotions that Meg's return creates.
In other theater news, this was supposed to be weekend for the long-delayed opening of the Monkey Wrench Collective's new Fullerton theater. But artistic director Dave Barton is finding that opening any business in the Paris of North Orange County carries with it a lot of last-minute hiccups. This time, it's a previously undiscovered flaw in the out-of-code building. Barton calls it an "expensive, time-intensive" fix and he's still hoping that the producton of pool (no water) will open next Friday. But stay tuned.
While Steel Magnolias should be a fine production of a done-to-death play based on the acting quality, a sister production of the play that opens next weekend at Stages could also merit a look: Steel Dragnolias, an all-male version drag style. But you can read all about that one in next week's OC Weekly.
Crimes of the Heart, South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa (714) 708-5550. Opens Fri. Grand Opening May 15. Through June 6. $24-$59. www.scr.org.
Steel Magnolias, Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. Thru June 12. $15-$20. www.stagesoc.org.