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UH Arts Open p. 18

Volume 3, Issue 20 • Sept. 30–Oct.13, 2011• San Diego Uptown News “Walter Cronkite is Dead.”

By Patricia Morris Buckley SDUN Theater Critic

San Diego Repertory The-

atre’s production of “Walter Cronkite is Dead.” is a prime example of style overcom- ing form. While Joe Calarco’s two-person character piece is clunky and rough, the Rep’s production goes a long way in making the audience forgive those flaws. “Walter Cronkite is Dead.”

is one of those plays; characters trapped someplace unfamiliar with someone they’d never be friends with in normal circum- stances. But, as long as they’re trapped, they pour their guts out to each other. It’s a format that’s a favorite of college playwriting students and even a few well- known playwrights (Tennessee Williams and Lanford Wilson come to mind). Calarco’s characters are

Patty, a chatterbox of a South- ern, conservative woman who is not afraid voicing her strong, if often misinformed opinions. Margaret is an uptight East Coast liberal who values her privacy and her intense love of

the Kennedys.

They met in the bar at Rea- gan National Airport in Washing- ton, D.C. Weather has delayed all flights and Patty guilts her

way into sharing Margaret’s table. They talk about kids, fly- ing and the way that civility has fallen along the wayside (ap- pointing Cronkite as the epitome

of civility). This play is being advertised

as a red state-blue state sort of comedy, but it’s not really politics that are the sticky parts of their

(l to r) Melinda Gilb as Patty, Ellen Crawford as Margaret (Photo by Daren Scott)

“WALTER CRONKITE IS DEAD.” When: Through Oct. 16

Where: San Diego Repertory Theatre Tickets: $32-$51 Info: (619) 544-1000 Web:

temporary relationship — it’s the values of their viewpoints. Their politics merely inform their outlook and opinions. The playwright spends a lot of time giving us those opinions, but doesn’t even tell us their jobs or professions. He is so honed in on conveying his “message” that if we sat down together, we could get along despite our radically different politics.

That we come close to forget-

ting the rough patches is due to the Rep’s excellent cast, direction and production values. San Diego favorite Melinda Gilb couldn’t be better cast as the loud-mouthed Patty. Gilb’s razor-sharp comedic timing and willingness to go just a bit overboard suits the busybody character well.

While Ellen Crawford is best known as nurse Lydia Wright on “ER,” local audiences saw another side of her in the Rep’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with her husband, Mike Genovese. Crawford plays Mar- garet’s uptight nature as though it’s a religion, which makes her drunken revelations at the end all the more intriguing. But her best moment is when she tells about the ghosts of the Ken- nedys visiting Margaret and prompting her to have a fourth child — Crawford’s Kennedy imitations are a scream. It says a lot about a designer when you walk into the theater and immediately know who designed the set. Sean Fanning excels with office-like environ- ments, but this bar has an ebb and flow to it that keeps the table the women are at from becoming claustrophobic. Omar Ramos’ constant track of background voices makes the airport seem more realistic, but he never makes its hum distracting or annoying. Ross Glanc’s lights are like a mood ring, shifting to reflect the emo- tions in each scene. A director with a heavy touch would have reduced this show to a pedantic mess. But Shana Wride’s brisk and nuanced direction is almost as civilized as Cronkite himself. While Calarco’s script has

little to recommend it, the same can’t be said for the Rep’s produc- tion. Skilled acting, direction and production values raise this show to something that’s an enjoyable way to pass time between plane rides.u

Editors note: the period in the title is intentional.

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