Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Feast your eyes on this fabulous set for the grand finale of Shakespeare Santa Cruz's 2013 season—and possibly forever, at least in its present incarnation.

For this year's holiday show, SSC and the UCSC Theater Arts Department present It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Joe Landry's popular 1997 play in which the beloved Frank Capra Christmas movie is re-imagined as a radio drama being broadcast live, ca. 1946.

Designer Kate Edmunds does a masterful job recreating the Art Deco interior of a vintage radio studio, complete with big-city skyline outside and "Applause" signs above the "studio audience." Six hard-working actors onstage (joined by a trio of chorus girls, who also harmonize on clever jingles during commercial breaks) play all the parts, reading from scripts into stand-up microphones.

While this cast couldn't be any better, I wonder at the selection of this play. SSC has a proud tradition of robust holiday fairy tale pantomimes (Cinderella; Sleeping Beauty) and delightful animal-centric stories (Frog and Toad; The Wind In the Willows). But I fear children might be mystified by this play.

Do modern kids even know what radio is? And even if they do, children who are eager to embrace magical fairy godmothers, drag-queen step-mothers, and grown men as frogs, toads, badgers, and ugly ducklings may not understand a static line of grown-ups standing onstage pretending to be different people.

With the play's single set (as handsome as it is), and no costume changes, the choosing of this play feels like a cost-cutting measure. And that's such a shame. It's a perfectly respectable production in every way. All that's missing is the magic. (Read more)

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