‘Light Up the Sky’ at SBCC is a love letter to the stage

Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group's production of "Light Up the Sky. Ben Crop
Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group’s production of “Light Up the Sky.
Ben Crop

Moss Hart, when he was sharing writing duties with George S. Kaufman, created a classic of theater with “You Can’t Take It with You,” a comedy that is still a repertory staple to this day. But he also wrote solo, and his last play, “Light Up the Sky,” has undergone a revival since 2009. This screwball comedy is a satire of theater itself, with a young playwright being put through the emotional wringer as his play is heralded, then bombs, then earns respect. Along the way, Mr. Hart writes delicious roles for every member of the cast. And that’s one of the reasons that SBCC Theatre Group’s R. Michael Gros has chosen it for this current season. “Light Up the Sky” runs through March 21.

“Hart shows his characters in the most loving moments but also when they’re at each others’ throats due to anxiety and ego,” Mr. Gros says. In the end, this is an affectionate play, and contemporary audiences would have spotted satirical jabs at Broadway starts Gertrude Lawrence, Billy Rose and Guthrie McClintic, but for today’s audience it won’t matter. Mr. Hart trades in archetypes, hilarious ones.

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Rules of the game: SBCC’s premiere play takes on internet addiction

Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in "Ten Red Kings." Ben Crop photo
Samantha Demangate and Sabrina Wagner have roles in “Ten Red Kings.”
Ben Crop photo

An infrequent but special occurrence in City College Theatre history is on tap with “Ten Red Kings,” the premiere of a brand spanking new play, copyrighted this year. Penned by author Mark Rigney, “Ten Red Kings” takes on Internet gaming addiction and the special camps where parents often send their addicted teens to give them a dose of outdoorsy medicine. It opens at the Jurkowitz Theatre Wednesday.

Sabrina Wagner stars as Margot , a young college freshman who is still grieving the death of her sister. Her one way of coping is spending hours immersed in the fantasy online game World of Warcraft, but her parents have other ideas and she is sent off to a summer camp, and unplugged from her online world. Now she must deal with fellow gaming addicts, counselors and creatures from her virtual world that creep into her reality.

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The fortune-ate daughter: SBCC Theatre Group produces ‘The heiress,’ an adaptation of a Henry James novel

SBCC Theatre Group
SBCC Theatre Group

Inheriting a fortune and then being besieged by suitors who claim to love you was just as much of a problem back in the days of novelist Henry James as it is now, hence the ongoing popularity of “The Heiress,” a James adaptation for the stage that opens this coming Wednesday as the second play of SBCC Theatre Group’s 2014-15 season.

Based on “Washington Square,” Augustus and Ruth Goetz adapted Mr. James’ 1880 novel into a play in 1947 and then into a 1949 film version starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. It’s a play of ambiguous motives, abuse and bitter recriminations, just the kind of heady drama that actors and directors love to sink their teeth into. And this production boasts a strong crew.

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In 2013 the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre presented Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." Circle Bar B Theatre photo
In 2013 the Circle Bar B Dinner Theatre presented Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”
Circle Bar B Theatre photo

This year’s big story was the end of Ensemble Theater’s run in the cozy Alhecama Theater and its move to the renovated and brand-spankin’-new New Vic, an $11.5 million-dollar adventure that took many years to finally happen and has brought Jonathan Fox’s company to a space on par with the Garvin and Hatlen theaters. With state-of-the-art toys to play with, it’ll be interesting to see what Director Jonathan Fox does with the space. So far, Santa Barbarans have seen the Stephen Sondheim musical, “A Little Night Music” with Stephanie Zimbalist and Piper Laurie, and it was quite lovely.

Their farewell performances at Alhecama were also worth noting: David Ives’ “The Liar” was one of their funniest productions in a long time, witty and silly in measure. “The Year of Magical Thinking,” with Linda Purl stepping in for the recently deceased Bonnie Franklin in the role of Joan Didion, was the kind of one-woman show for which the Alhecama space was perfect. “Frankie and Johnnie in the Claire de Lune” was a good revival, although maybe not a necessary one.

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