Record Performances: North Coast Rep Ushers in 2019 Shows

November 27, 2018


gabriel-final-rgbPlay Within a Play

As North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach finishes out the year, they are preparing for five varied shows that will fill evenings from January through May next year.

Opening on Jan. 9, Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo” tells the story of a has-been theater couple “who are now fallen on hard times playing at a not as good theater than they’re used to,” North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein tells me. The writer, Ken Ludwig, is best known for his play “Lend Me a Tenor.” “He’s like one of the foremost comedy writers in the theater in America today, and this is an earlier play of his – probably one of his two best plays in my opinion,” Ellenstein adds. He calls it a backstage comedy. “You see them putting on parts of two different plays and the company doing it and all the things that go wrong. It’s very, very much fun, so it’s kind of a comedy bordering on farce – really a fun show.”

One of the Hottest Playwrights in England

After “Moon Over Buffalo” closes on Feb. 3, the West Coast premiere “Gabriel,” written by English writer Moira Buffini, opens on Feb. 20. “Moira Buffini has become sort of one of the hottest playwrights in England now. This is an earlier play of hers and kind of one that brought to international attention.” Ellenstein says. More recently, Buffini has written “Handbagged” and “” The story is about the Nazi-occupied English Channel island of Guernsey in 1944.  “It’s the story of a household of women, a mother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a housekeeper and how they deal with the occupying Nazis who are there,” Ellenstein explains.

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“Gabriel” closes on March 17 and the comedy “All in the Timing” opens April 10. Author “David Ives has become again another internationally known person, but this is the play that actually brought him prominence,” Ellenstein says. The play was originally produced by the Old Globe in the early 1990s and Ellenstein says he thought it was time for a revival. “It’s kind of like an intellectual Saturday Night Live because it’s six short plays strung together and each one is somewhat different but they’re all word-based cause he’s a great wordsmith and writer of sarcasm and irony,” Ellenstein explains. The play will consist of a cast of six. “The comedy is more based on language than it is on slapstick. It’s a language comedy. In fact, most of them even deal with language and the fact that language is such an imprecise way to communicate sometimes.”


“A Walk in the Woods,” which opens on May 29th after “All in the Timing” closes on May 5, was originally produced by the La Jolla Playhouse in the late 80s. “Then it went on to Broadway and went on to be a staple in the regional theaters in the 80s and 90s and everybody did it,” he says. “And nobody’s done it in a long time and it is so timely again because it is about a relationship that develops between a Russian diplomat and an American diplomat.” The two-character play chronicles six meetings between the two men over a period of two years “and how their relationship develops as they attempt to represent their respective countries and their points of view,” Ellenstein adds. “And it is as timely as it was back then – if not more so. It is kind of a bittersweet story of two men trying to negotiate big problems of the world and through that how it affects their relationship personally.” “A Walk in the Woods” closes on June 23.

If You Like “Guys and Dolls”…

Lastly, opening on July 10 is “Another Roll of the Dice” written by Mark Saltzman. The world premiere-musical will reunite the late “Guys and Dolls” music and lyrics team of Frank Loesser and Damon Runyon, intertwining three classic Runyon stories with Loesser classics like “Heart and Soul” and “Two Sleepy People.” “It’s kind of like what else happened while ‘Guys and Dolls’ was going on,” Ellenstein explains. “It takes place in Mindy’s Cheesecake, which is where a lot of Guys and Dolls takes place, but yet the characters are different and the stories are different,” he says. “We’re hoping for big things after it’s done here, that it’s going to go on and have productions all over the place because it’s got a lot of surefire things going for it.” Saltzman had to get the rights from both Loesser’s and Runyon’s estates, “but they have all signed off on it so it’s a big deal,” Ellenstein says. “It’s got the potential of being a play that gets done everywhere so that’s a very exciting thing to be starting.”

Peppered throughout the season are NCR’s various variety night shows, including their Tuesday night comic series, a one-night performance of “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus,” starring San Diego native Ryan Drummond, several long form improv comedy performances from LA’s Impro Theatre, they are bringing back the sold-out “Seger” about Pete Seger, and actor and ventriloquist Jay Johnson of “Soap” will perform “The Two and Only.”

As for the next season that will open late in summer 2019, Ellenstein is still doing the nitty-gritty of rights and contracts, “but it’s already shaping up to be a really fun, exciting season with surprises in it and also some old familiar friends.”

“We did a little research,” Ellenstein tells me, “and we discovered that of single-stage theaters in this country, in other words, theaters that only have one stage, we are the second most performances per year of any theater in the country. Because we do so many of these variety nights our Mondays and Tuesdays are taken up with stuff. We’re the second highest use theater in the country. We only have one stage and we make use of it.”

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