September 9, 2008

The reviews are in for Night Sky, and they’re great! Here are some excerpts and links to the full stories…

San Diego Union Tribune
Enlightening sky show
Mo’olelo’s affecting production of ‘Night Sky’ delivers a universal message
September 8, 2008
Read the entire article at:
“….Anna happens to be an astronomer, and her hard-fought journey to a deeper, more authentic understanding of her own place in the universe drives Mo’olelo Performing Arts Co.’s affecting production of the Yankowitz play…. The production itself is a pretty cosmic event for Mo’olelo: It’s the company’s bow as the first resident theater company at La Jolla Playhouse, a program launched by Playhouse artistic director Christopher Ashley to foster promising local theater companies, many of which lack their own performance spaces…. ”

photo by Earnie Grafton, Union-Tribune

photo by Earnie Grafton, Union-Tribune

Mo’olelo’s ‘Night Sky,’ at the Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre
Down the rabbit hole…
By Jennifer Chung Klam
Posted on Sep 08 2008
Read the entire article at:,com_sdca/target,580265a5-6f9f-4471-aa54-f296f345219a/
Earlier this year, Mo’olelo was chosen as La Jolla Playhouse’s first Resident Theatre Company. Its first production at the Mandell Weiss Forum Studio Theatre is a moving and enlightening production of Susan Yankowitz’s “Night Sky.”

With “Night Sky,” Mo’olelo continues its practice of producing poignant, socially conscious work, providing some insight into why La Jolla Playhouse chose Mo’olelo among nine local theater companies for the year-long residency. The company will produce one more play during its residency, in May.






One Response to “reviews!”

  1. Jim Soderberberg Says:

    This is all cool, but someone took a different point of view. You should check this out.

    Match Flame of the Vanities

    The original “The Elephant Man” proved to be a hit in every sense of the theatrical term including advertising, staging and casting. The show stacked up seven Tony(tm) nominations, including the title role for Philip Anglim. The Tony(tm) winners for “The Elephant Man” include Carole Shelly (Best Actress), Jack Hofsiss (Director) and Best Play (Bernard Pomerance and producers). Word on the street at that time was Philip Anglim’s the show was a vanity.
    New York theatre “buzz” in the 70s was rabid with schadenfreude. A sign of the times? “Avenue Q’s” 2004 Tony Award(tm) winning score sports a song titled “schadenfreude,” so take it as you will.

    Seema Sueko as Anna in Mo’olelo Performing Arts’ “Night Sky.”

    It’s tough to see those couched around you lauded for a show you carried on stage and off. Whether a blow or a balm, Mr. Anglim chose a terrific play, a role fit to his talent and skills and the right director with the right take on the show that capitalized on his abilities. The actor purchased the North American rights to the show. In the end, he limped all the way to the bank.
    Today we have Seema Sueko’s Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s production of “Night Sky” by Susan Yankowitz. The show inaugurated the La Jolla Playhouse’s Resident Theatre Company Program with parsimonious amounts of ingenuity and recessionary size vacancies of risk. For Ms. Sueko, who plays the lead, it is not a well-chosen vehicle.

    Considering the significance of the opportunity and commitment in context of the La Jolla Playhouse’s ongoing contribution in the American Theatre dynamic and Mo’olelo’s aspiration to produce “edgy” work one would think Artistic Director Seema Sueko would hit the ground with an audacious choice and start running. The Playhouse program rewards the most vibrant of “homeless” theatre companies in San Diego. What went wrong? Is it Mo’elelo or is it San Diego?

    Artistic Director Seema Sueko chose the play and cast herself in the lead role of Anna, instructor of astronomy. Ms Sueko’s performance as a Type A Prof proved pat with a narrow emotional spectrum and lacked spontaneity. Her performance appeared choreographed. With a character obsessed with control, it would have been savory to see Anna’s vulnerability in earnest and elevated into the spiritual especially given this play’s “movie-of-the-week” tone.

    I left Mo’olelo with a sense the Ms Sueko led her company through a project with the deliberateness of someone who kept her pants up with a belt and suspenders. Not that one should drop their pants. For example, Siobhan Sullivan’s direction lacked imagination taking a conventional mid-west regional theatre approach to interpreting the work. Ms Sullivan’s passion for the material was not evident.

    “Night Sky”’s supporting cast turned in dutiful performances, but there is no telling what the actors were truly capable of in their role in this loosely explored production. The play is hardly an enthralling study of the aphasic experience. The show demanded fully realized performances with touch-and-go ensemble work to carry the evening.

    The show’s set design held more promise. David F. Weiner’s architectural rendering of brain forms used a series of successive horizontal lines and levels, not unlike the “slices” of an MRI. But Mr. Weiner’s choice of black for the unit set repeats design’s age-old practice of using the color black to allow a unit set’s flexibility with multiple scene locations. C’mon folks, let’s get a little bit wild or at least show a little moxie. Why not flip the color pallet and play with a clinical white? Throw the old forms behind.

    Jeannie Galiotos’ costume designs were serviceable. The show’s light designer (Jason Bieger) gives away his potentially most stunning design element of the evening, a starlight curtain, as soon as the audience enters the room. (Today starlight curtains appear to be standard lighting fixtures in theatres the way strobe lights are found in discos.) The lighting design is another element of leaden obviousness eagerly served up in Ms. Sueko’s show.

    Who’s producing whom?
    The company lists among its Creative Team biography’s Thomas Baker, PhD. Is he responsible for the project’s tepid results? His biography identified him as the Executive Director of the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation, a Mo’olelo board member and as having produced an instructional video. What qualifies him as a theatrical producer? (If Dr. Baker is an “Executive Producer” in the sense one’s name is listed in monetary contribution categories why pass him off as creative staff?)


    It should be noted that the company emphasizes its Green approach as evidenced by two pages of “puff piece” program notes written by its intern and a recent award for their efforts. Mo’elelo produces exemplary artwork; email blasts, newsletter updates and weekly updates of exactly how many seats are available for a particular performance. Ms Sueko personally answers new requests for inclusion to their email list.

    The audience needs Mo’olelo’s emphasis on the work. “Night Sky” is disappointing for the rich potential the company possesses. The program bio’s list enough fodder for a “blow the roof off” experience. The company has the potential to reach out and change hearts and minds of paying audiences, new and typical alike. I believe this is Mo’olelo’s desire.

    In my theatre circles, if we refer at all, we refer to a failed show as a “flop” or a “dog,” and add one or two supporting words to justify our opinion and leave it at that.
    Nevertheless, questions of how and why a project doesn’t work provide interesting discussion and reinvigorate one’s artistic values even if the discussion occurs in a closet.
    I know from experience that actors are not driven by charity to establish a theatre company. An actor must produce work of merit (or married to the owner of Seagram’s). It takes more than performance skill to create the critical mass of workers and volunteers required and Ms Sueko proves this point to be true: Seema is a terrific producer.

    At least a sliver of monomania ignites a theatre company’s creation as Charles Ludlam informed us in his play “Stage Blood.” If any actor-manager from the past fifty years could demonstrate, sovereignty can produce inspired work it was Mr. Ludlam (he, too, wore a dress) and his Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Congratulations, Charles, for sublime work on the page, stage and revealing this plot point.

    “Night Sky.” Closed.
    Cast: Seema Sueko, Tom Andrew, Bibi Valderrama, Justin Snavely, Nicole Gabriella Scipione, Brian Mackey. Director: Siobhan Sullivan, Stage Manager: Tareena Devona Wimbish, Scenic Design: David F. Weiner, Lighting Design: Jason Bieber, Sound Design: Paul Peterson, Costume Design: Jeannie Marie Galioto.

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