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Weekend Preview: 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' And New Restaurants

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October 25, 2012 1:17 p.m.


Jim Hebert, theater critic at U-T San Diego.

Troy Johnson, food critic at San Diego Magazine.

Related Story: Weekend Preview: 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' And New Restaurants


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: Ambitious productions highlight our weekend preview selections. A high-tech high-concept musical that features robots gets ready for previews at the La Jolla Playhouse. My guests, Jim Hebert, welcome.

HEBERT: Great to see you again.

CAVANAUGH: And Troy Johnson is dining critic and editor at large at San Diego magazine.

JOHNSON: Good to see you.

CAVANAUGH: Let me start out with this sort of ambitious and interesting sounding play coming up. Just when you think they've pulled out all the stops at La Jolla Playhouse comes Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Who is behind this production and what is it about?

HEBERT: This kind of epic musical, it is directed by Dez
Mackinaw, who is definitely a familiar name here, having revitalized the La Jolla Playhouse in the '80s and led it device. He is teaming with Wayne Coyne, who is the leader of the band the naming lips. This is a 2002 album by the Lips, one that is cherished by Lips fans and rock and roll fans in general. And the playhouse and Dez are adapting that into a musical.

JOHNSON: He's been officially appointed God status, hasn't he, Wayne Coyne?


HEBERT: I think so. They're still going through the last parts of that ceremony.


CAVANAUGH: Can you give us a nutshell, what this experience might be about?

HEBERT: Yeah, are the album is sort of described as a concept album. But I talked to Wayne and he said they didn't really set out to do a concept album. They started out with two threads, one of which was -- the band's sadness over a friend of their, a Japanese American woman who had recently died. So some of the music is -- it's a very elegiac kind of album. There's a real sense of mortality that runs through it, and it's kind of wistful, and yet really uplifting in a way, beautiful, lush music. And the same yo shimmy comes from another friend of their, a Japanese American singer and drummer for the band the Boredoms who sings on some of the tracks on the album.

CAVANAUGH: Let's hear a little bit of the album now.

(Audio Recording Played)

CAVANAUGH: We're talking about a play of the same title, yo shimmy battles the pink robots. The big question. Of. Will there be robots!

HEBERT: There will be robots. There'll be one really big robot that's actually operated by five people, three of whom are inside this kind of robot puppet. And then two who are backstage helping manipulate it. And then there are going to be smaller, flying robots. And there's going to be a lot of projections and things as well to give it a sense of that part of the story. It really transitions between real life, telling the story of a Japanese American artist who is -- has a very serious illness and this fantasy world where the illness -- the robots represent the illness, and she's fighting these pink robots that are attacking her system.

JOHNSON: Every time I see the pinwheel on my computer, I feel an illness come over me.


JOHNSON: It sounds like the muppets meets Blade Runner.

CAVANAUGH: It is certainly ambitious though. It must be one of the most ambitious things they've ever done.

HEBERT: It is. Probably ever. I was talking to the current artistic director, and he said it's the most technically advanced thing they've done since he came aboard five years ago.

CAVANAUGH: It runs through December 16th at La Jolla Playhouse. Rancho Valencia has gotten a major makeover.

JOHNSON: Now, it's a classic old, grand dame of a property. It's kind of the wild hills of Rancho Valencia, but oh, was it tired! It had bags around its eyes, and new ownership came in, they were estimating about $15 million they were going to spend to spruce up the old lady, ended up spending $30 million!

CAVANAUGH: Whoa! That's an upgrade!

JOHNSON: Yeah, so as it always does, I'm going to spend $5 tonight, $200 later and a couple sake bombs later, you're having a great time.

CAVANAUGH: You're particularing excited about the changes in the restaurant.

JOHNSON: Big-name artist! They have a Damian Hearst piece, he's the richest artist living right now. This one he's got a piece called Infloration, which is made entirely of real butterfly wings. Just to have a Damian Hearst piece in San Diego, whether you like his work or think it's overvalued, it's pretty amazing.

CAVANAUGH: So talk about the menu.

JOHNSON: The menu, they are really upping the menu. Chef Eric bower has done a really great job out there. They're going to do a 55-day aged New York strip steak. Lamb oweso Buicko, high-end cuisine. You're going to go out for a big night. But Eric Bower, everybody I know that's tasted his stuff over the last few years says he's doing an amazing job.

CAVANAUGH: And it's seasonal and farm to table.

JOHNSON: Everything is seasonal nowadays! I was just talking to a chef who's saying if you're not doing seasonal, you're getting gutted on food costs, the food isn't good. It makes zero sense. Everything is seasonal.

CAVANAUGH: Let me get you to say just a word about the pony room.

JOHNSON: The pony room is their bar. They're going to have wines on tap with a huge trend coming out now. Everybody is doing it. The first Prosecco on tap in California over 100 tequilas. I'm looking into having it reptated in my living room.

CAVANAUGH: Now, back to the theatre. A hammer, a bell, and a song to sing returns to San Diego. I know that we spoke about that play on this show a while ago. Remind us about it.

HEBERT: Well, in a funny way, it's kind of a juke box musical the same way that yo shimmy is. Upon although I'd love to go to the bar that as a juke box playing all the flaming lips all the type. But a hammer, a bell, and a song to sing started out as kind of an ode to Pete Seger. It was going to be about his life. Then he decided at one point last year when this was being developed that he was kind of uncomfortable with the idea of a show about his life. So the rep really quickly had to reconfigure the whole thing.

CAVANAUGH: They rewrote the whole thing.

HEBERT: They turned it into much more a celebration and a look at the history of American social consciousness through songs that tracked all kinds of social movements, the civil rights, and all the war protests.

CAVANAUGH: Labor movement, the whole thing.

HEBERT: Exactly.

CAVANAUGH: Why are they bringing it back?

HEBERT: Well, it ended up being a workshop production. It went so well and people -- actually people really got into the spirit of it last time.

CAVANAUGH: Do we follow the bouncing ball? Does everybody know the lyrics? If you recently spoke with Todd sallow Vee, and what insights did he share with you about the new staging?

HEBERT: Well, they're kind of broadening it out, and one thing he mentioned was that he thinks it's the first time the Rep has actually brought back -- has done a show in one season and then brought it back the next season. So it's kind of a little bit of a historic thing in that way. It shows how much they believe in this project.

CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone, a hammer, a bell, and a song to sing begins previews November 3rd, and runs through December 2nd at San Diego Rep's lyceum theatre in downtown San Diego. Now a rapid-round, Troy!

JOHNSON: Yes, okay!

CAVANAUGH: There is a lot of food news, and a lot of coming soon news that you want to tell us about.

HEBERT: Final jeopardy.



CAVANAUGH: You've knot the inside scoop on a lot of new restaurants that will be opening soon. Cucina Urbana's new restaurant. Where is it?

JOHNSON: It's going into the old Chevy's fresh Mexican in flower hill mall in Del Mar. It is such a change! It's one of the best restaurants in San Diego, over in Banker's Hill. Cucina in Otecha is the one going in in Del Mar. This is just reclaimed artifact, real good comfort food, all under $20, shared plates. It's a great edition for a mall, but it's seen a better day. They're going to be selling the design of the restaurant on the menu. If you like that wooden shoe cascade coming down from the wall, you can order it. It's a really interesting concept.

CAVANAUGH: That is interesting. Now, the next one solves a question for me I've been asking myself, what the heck is going on with Brian's!

JOHNSON: It's a classic late-night purple hooter breath type eatery. At about 3:00 AM in Hillcrest, that's where you went for a big plate of eggs! This is being taken over by the guys who own Hash House. He's going to turn it into what he's calling a Euro dinette. No one knows what that is! But the master mind behind it is a very creative guy, semi-sane, and he's going to do some amazing things with it.

CAVANAUGH: Are they going to have those great Christmas lights on top?

JOHNSON: I'm sure there'll be a rendition of that!

HEBERT: I think they need bigger portion sizes at the hash house. I could almost lift the plate last time.


CAVANAUGH: Tender greens, expanded to UTC, and they're going to be adding another location.

JOHNSON: Tender greens, this is a great salad concept. Fresh, light for French, they've organic greens, cured meats. They're going into the old grey hound bus station on Broadway. It's been at the corner of over here, commerce, for a long time. This is going to spruce that neighborhood up, give a great lunch option, one of the better new chains in San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: You have 10 seconds for one more.

JOHNSON: Cam zazzy seven, started by a celebrity chef Kevin Faulconer Roberts, down across hooters. He's going to do a Quentin Tarantino sake sushi restaurant! Done!

CAVANAUGH: Thank you both! Fabulous!

JOHNSON: Thank you so much, Maureen.