Jim Hebert is the theater critic at the U-T San Diego.
Troy Johnson is dining critic and editor-at-large at San Diego Magazine.
Related Story: Weekend Preview: New Stage And Plate Offerings
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. We just finished talking about the new culture clash play in San Diego so we thought we'd find out about some other theatrical events around town. Plus, our very active restaurant screen. The focus is on dinner and the theatre on today's weekend preview. I'd like to welcome my guest, Jim Hebert is the theatre critic at UT San Diego. Welcome back.
HEBERT: Thanks Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Troy Johnson, it's been too long! He is the dining critic and editor at large at San Diego magazine. Hi.
JOHNSON: How are you? Jim Hebert!
HEBERT: The setting of theatre critics awards are on Monday, and I feel I should be the one to tell Troy unfortunately he's not winning one although he was amazing as the cyclops in odyssey at the globe this past fall! And we just don't have a category for it.
JOHNSON: Single handedly brought down San Diego theatre.
CAVANAUGH: A raisin in the sun opens this Saturday at moxie theatre. There are a lot of themes. Are the themes still relevant today?
HEBERT: I think one sign of how relevant they are is the most recent Pulitzer prize winner for drama is a sequel to raisin in the sun, written by obviously an entire different playwright. But yeah, I think the themes of class and race, it's a little different today than it was in 1959, but they're certainly very relevant still.
CAVANAUGH: I think a lot of people are familiar with the play. I think we probably had to read it in high school.
HEBERT: Uh-huh, yeah.
CAVANAUGH: But it's still a classic and it still resonates. Delicia Turner Sonnenberg is directing this play. She's got a lot going on.
HEBERT: She's all over the place. She's the artistic director of moxie theatre, which is producing this production. And she also at the same time has this play called in the wake that's about to open at San Diego rep. So she's juggling these two big shows right now.
CAVANAUGH: And one of the cast members I hear is a bit of a TV celebrity. ; is that right?
HEBERT: Yeah, that's mark Christopher Lawrence who's on NBC's Chuck. And he actually has done several shows in San Diego, several plays. He's done a couple of productions at signet theatre. So he's bringing apparently a Hollywood entourage down to moxie, this very compact theatre.
CAVANAUGH: Red carpet time?
HEBERT: Yeah, I've never seen a red carpet even at one of the big theatres around here.
CAVANAUGH: So a raisin in the sun opens this Saturday. I would suppose that that is celebre event is going to be on opening night and runs through March 4th in the moxie theatre in the college area. You have the inside scoop on several new restaurants opening downtown. Let's start with Gaijin.
JOHNSON: It's a Japanese noodle house going into the old cheese shop on fourth avenue downtown. He's a great chef, in every single different kind of culture. He does Japanese, he knows sake, he did Italian. But this is going to be a noodle house. Gaijin is Japanese for foreigner. Which makes sense because it's an Italian doing a noodle bar, which sounds weird, but he's a fantastic chef, and some of these gringoized riffs on ramen are really thrilling. It's becoming the new trend in San Diego.
CAVANAUGH: Two new places near Petco Park.
JOHNSON: Block 16, this is going to be a massive project. The guy who's opening it, this is going to be a 20,000-square foot bar, kind of like house of blues meets squid row down in Cabo. And they're going to have a 25 by 35-foot jumbotron inside playing videos and everything else. They're going to have an old-school lunch counter. So that's going to be the biggest project to open up downtown in a long time.
CAVANAUGH: Wow, okay.
JOHNSON: And the kitchen is an Asian eatery from the guys who do bar basic. They have a top-chef coming from London, and she's going to be doing an Asian influenced gringoized concept as well.
CAVANAUGH: And we've got Sora, a new spot with the head sushi chef at Nobu.
JOHNSON: He did Chocolat in Hillcrest, and they're going to do Japanese/Italian, like edamame purees on pasta, and everything else. With Nobu's head sushi chef heading this thing up. It should be a fantastic restaurant. It's going into the old crescent heights spot, which is over by the harbor, and still we lament the loss of crescent heights. But finally somebody is going into that spot.
CAVANAUGH: And Jason Matlon has a new home.
JOHNSON: At red light district, on the corn every of fourth and E or F. Red light district just opened up. He can cook a hook protein. If it's snorted or woked, this man can do it justice! He just opened it up. And he's, like kicking off this weekend. There's going to be some rough starts, but that guy is a talent.
CAVANAUGH: All right. Okay. We go back to the theatre now that we have had our dinner.
HEBERT: My riff is ramen is, like, adding two seasoning pacts? I don't know if they've thought of that. But I go a little crazy sometimes.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Golden child opens on Sunday in downtown. What's it about?
HEBERT: This is the David Henry Wong play that -- it's kind of a little bit of a ghost story. It starts in present times. This guy who's about to have a baby is visited by the spirit of I think his mother who takes him back to 1911 where his grandfather is going through this whole transition of -- he's from -- lives in a very traditional confusion family, and he's been exposed to the west back when it was still -- there was a lot a lot of barriers between east and west. It's kind of about that influence of Occidental versus Asian culture. And there's a humor to it.
CAVANAUGH: That's what I was going to ask. Is it strictly a drama?
HEBERT: There are comic elements. There's some poignancy to it as well. He's a very funny playwright. And I think mote of his plays, there's at least some thread of humor through them.
CAVANAUGH: Doesn't he have something on Broadway now?
HEBERT: It just closed called Chinglish about the language gap between the cultures. He's best known for madame butterfly, which was the Tony winner in 1989. One thing about this production, though, that the company is called Chinese pirates productions, and they used kickstarter.com, which is part of this new wave of crowd-funding sites.
HEBERT: Where you find people to support your project, get them excited about it, and then they get a little reward if it comes through. So David Henry Wong ended up being one of the financial backers out of 54 people. He was one of them, which was -- I think blew out Andy Lowe, and the people who run this company.
CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. So the golden child previews Saturday, it opens officially on Sunday, runs through February 18th at tenth avenue theatre downtown. We move from downtown to little Italy restaurant news. What's happening at Ben Cotto?
JOHNSON: It's one of the best Italian restaurants. Little Italy has been this quaint, stereotypically Italian neighborhood for a long long time. And it needed new blood. Northern Italian food, coastal France, a little bit more cream and sauce, fattiness, which makes food good! They are expanding, opening up a second concept in the space next door. And this is one of the biggest expansion news in San Diego because they are so well loved. And they're going to be doing that in the next couple months. So look out for that.
CAVANAUGH: Prep kitchen just opened another location in little Italy.
JOHNSON: Prep kitchen is the casual off-shoot of whisk and ladle, which is the one of the biggest high-end restaurants to open up in La Jolla a few years ago. And it's basically what they would cook for their kitchen staff. Of it's casual, but this place, it's a second-story pot that overlooks a street, are the design is awesome. It is one of the cooler spaces I have seen open in San Diego in a long time.
CAVANAUGH: And talk about cool spaces. We're going to be able to dine in an old Victorian house?
JOHNSON: There is going to be a -- somewhat of a pub, it's like a very refined garden pub opened up by the guys who own bareback grill in Pacific Beach and just opened up a rag land public house in Ocean Beach. But they're basically going to do old Victorian steam punk meets a garden party. It's really going to be beer and wine and they say that people from 85, 90, who love doilies can come sit on the porch, and then some young hipsters will feel comfortable there too.
CAVANAUGH: With a wooden computer strapped to their back.
[ LAUGHTER ]
JOHNSON: That's at a cool old Victorian house that's going to be opening. Watch out for that.
CAVANAUGH: Moving again to the theatre. A new drama opening, enemy of the people. Tell us about it.
HEBERT: There was the question about whether this was the basis for the movie jaws, and I'm not sure if this is true or not.
CAVANAUGH: This is the Ibsen play, right?
HEBERT: Right. You wouldn't think Ibsen, Spielberg, jaws. Whatever that shark was named.
CAVANAUGH: You're going to need a bigger theatre!
[ LAUGHTER ]
HEBERT: That's right. But yeah, the story line is a little similar. It's about a crusading, you know, someone with a sense of conscience who is trying to right a wrong and is being turned away by the powers that be. And in jaws, it was the police chief. And here in enemy of the people, it's actually a doctor in this resort town where visitors come to kind of take the waters, and they start getting sick. And he finds out there's something wrong with the water. And he -- his pleas for doing something about it are ignored or -- he's forced to clam up about it. So intrepid Shakespeare is doing this production in a brand-new theatre at campus of --
CAVANAUGH: There's a heart-warming story about that. I wonder if you could tell that.
HEBERT: Yeah, the abridged version. Clayton E. Ligget, who the theatre is named afterward, one of his students of Eddie Vedder, who wrote a song for pearl jam called long road.
JOHNSON: Long road home or something.
HEBERT: Yeah, when ligget died because he was his mentor and taught him so much about how to be in the world. So this brand-new theatre is a tribute to him.
CAVANAUGH: Intrepid Shakespeare company and enemy of the people opens Friday, runs through February 19th at the Clayton ligget theatre at San Diegito academy in Encinitas. We're out of time.
JOHNSON: That's okay!
CAVANAUGH: I have been speaking with Jim Hebert and Troy Johnson, and we'll have you back to talk all about the Hillcrest restaurant news.
JOHNSON: Absolutely, next time. Enjoy your weekend. Thank you very much, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you.
HEBERT: Thanks Troy, thanks Maureen.