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Weekend Preview: 'Blood and Gifts,' Encinitas Foodie Fest And Kevin Nealon

From left to right: Danvir Singh Grewall, Kelly AuCoin and Babak Tafti in La Jolla Playhouse’s West Coast premiere of "Blood and Gifts."
Craig Schwartz
From left to right: Danvir Singh Grewall, Kelly AuCoin and Babak Tafti in La Jolla Playhouse’s West Coast premiere of "Blood and Gifts."
Your weekend to-do list
David Coddon, theater critic at San Diego CityBeat. Nina Garin, arts and entertainment reporter at the U-T San Diego

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. Sometimes on weekend preview, we talk about a lot of similar event, all plays or concerts. But this week, our events span the spectrum, from food festivals to comedy to hard-boiled political plays. Nina Garin is arts and entertainment reporter at UT San Diego. GARIN: Hello. CAVANAUGH: And David Coddon is here, theatre critic at San Diego City beat. CODDON: Thank you Maureen. CAVANAUGH: Let's start with Kevin Nealon. He's performing here this weekend. What's going on with him? GARIN: Yeah, so we all remember him as one of the early hosts of weekend update on Saturday night live. Since he's left, he's done a bit of everything, some standup, a memoir, and he's on the Showtime show Weeds. So apparently he's really popular on that. And now he's hard to do some standup. CAVANAUGH: He once lived here in San Diego, right? GARIN: Yeah, I didn't know that. He mentioned to San Diego after he was in college in Connecticut. For one Christmas, he was a Sears Santa. CAVANAUGH: Who knew! Remind us what his style of comedy is like. >> He's dry and intellectual, but not very controversial. And unlike some kind of dry humor that is kind of negative or dark, he's the opposite. You get kind of an upbeat and good feeling from him, it's smart but it's not, like, a dark feeling. CAVANAUGH: Well, the venue, American Comedy Company, calls TZ the greatest comedy club in the country. Is standup comedy having a revival? GARIN: Well, I feel like it is. In the '90s and the 2 thousands, comedy clubs weren't what people would do for a fun time. In the '80s it was big, then it wasn't. Now with this club, it's bring think a lot of big names, and people are starting to go out to see comedy again, which I credit to some pod casts bringing standup back into the mainstream. CAVANAUGH: We desperately need a laugh! That's what it is. He performs Friday and Saturday at the American comedy company in downtown San Diego. David, harmony Kansas is a new musical at divisionary theatre. CODDON: This is the story of joy, love, and bigotry in America's heartland. I just made that up. CAVANAUGH: That's pretty good! [ LAUGHTER ] CODDON: It's a world premiere, and it's the story of a gay couple that live in a very heterosexual area in Kansas. And the one young man, heath, is a singer, and his partner, Julian, convinces him to join this music group. And the conflict of the play occurs when they decide to take their singing group out into public, into this area that is not open to gay lifestyles. CAVANAUGH: Harmony Kansas is no San Diego; is that right? CODDON: I would say that's true. And it's definitely no San Francisco. CAVANAUGH: Now, it sounds like a perfect play for divisionary. It takes on a lot of serious issues, but is it funny too? CODDON: Well, it's a world premiere so I haven't seen it yet. It opens tomorrow. But knowing diversionary and their idiom there, humor is a significant ingredient in how they present drama there. It makes it accessible to the audience, and it maintains that contemporary feel that I think audiences respond to. Of CAVANAUGH: A major focal point of this play is the gay men's choir. So this is a musical, and is there any particular genre of music? CODDON: Well, you're going to hear choral music. The composer, bill Nelson, has a popular gay choral review. And he provided the music for this. And that's what you're going to hear. And I think seeing this and hearing in a small venue like divisionary is going to be exciting and resonate with people who are there. CAVANAUGH: I understand the director actually helped nurture this show along to this premiere production. What else is this -- what is he known for? CODDON: James Vasquez, he has a long history with divisionary. HEZ done some recent shows there. He did fair use, which I believe was last year or early this year, but he's all directed in other places than San Diego. He directed the popular rocky horror show at the globe last year, and he's even done the grinch. He is a nurturer of actors, and I think a very talented director who we can expect a lot from. CAVANAUGH: And a lot of the actors are local too. What do you know about this production? CODDON: I know the character who plays Heath has also done shows at divisionary, most note able Yank which was one of the more interesting productions they've done in the last couple years. He also was in signet theatre's Sweeney Todd, which was highly acclaimed. And the actor who plays Julian is a veteran of divisionary, also was in Yank. And he did lamb theatre's light in the piazza, which was also widely acclaimed in San Diego. CAVANAUGH: Let me tell everyone, harmony Kansas is in previews, it opens on Saturday, runs through July 22nd at divisionary theatre in university heights. Now we have food festivals to talk about now. The Encinitas foodie fest is this weekend. What can we see and do there? GARIN: This really is a foodie paradise. You're going to have chefs from places like the Marine room all the way to whole foods. They're going to teach you how to make dishes using sustainable and gourmet items. You'll also have plenty of fun things to taste, like dairy-free gelato, and some eco-friendly home products. The taste of Adam, that's your typical taste event, covering Kensington, normal height, and university heights. So you can buy a ticket and taste food from places like blind lady ale house, cantina noel. The tickets are $25 in advance, and $30 on the day. CAVANAUGH: What's happening south of the border? GARIN: This is the Caesar salad festival. As we all know, the Caesar salad was created in Tijuana at the worldfamous Caesar's restaurant. So they're doing a festival. They have been doing it so it's this weekend, and they're having of course Caesar salad, and food from other restaurants in Tijuana, and there's also going to be music, and a kids' area and art, but the focus is the food, which is becoming very popular in the international food circles. CAVANAUGH: David, blood and gifts, a new play at La Jolla playhouse, very different from the play we were just talking about at divisionary. Tell us about that CODDON: This is new to San Diego. And new to California. It's a west WOEFT premiere of a play that has been produced back east. This is a terrific play. I'm excited to talk about it. It's a play that takes us back to the era of the African-SOEViet war, which again in 1979, and lasted about ten years. And the play takes a look at the spies, the operatives inside Afghanistan, from America, from Britain, and the Soviet Union operative at the time. And the machinations that went on in something this covert war. And it isn't just an issue play, and it could have been. It is a very human play with terrific performances. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: These subject, the subject of it sounds so heavy. Is it a good night at the theatre? Do you go away with a rich experience from it? CODDON: I think there's enough humanity in this show that it doesn't sound like talking heads. It's not a soap boxing show. Obviously it's a political production. No doubt about that. But the relationship is between these three operatives they talked about. Especially the American and the Russian. They're accessible, and they're -- there's a friendship there that is lovely to experience. And moving. And it isn't all a bummer. CAVANAUGH: Yeah. [ LAUGHTER ] CODDON: To put it bluntly. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's good to know. It sounds like there's some foreshadowing of what we're going through today, politically. CODDON: Totally. You see the foundation of what was going to happen in the '90s, and even in the 21st century that is chilling. CAVANAUGH: We move on to something completely different. The fairy festival happening on Saturday. GARIN: The fairy festival is fantastic. It's one of the San Diego botanic gardens most popular events. So you show up, and the setting is fairy-like, it's lush and green. And kids go with their families, and you can make wands and fairy houses, and my favorite is that you can leave a message on the wishing bush. CAVANAUGH: Well, it's got you. I can tell. Now, other do people have to wear costumes? GARIN: No, parents don't wear costumes, but children wear fairy wings. And you're kind of out of place if you don't have something fairy-like. CAVANAUGH: What do you actually do? What are the events that the children and their parents can take part in? GARIN: So, there's a lot of arts and crafts, there's a lot of just exploring in nature. The reason why I like it is because it's a chance to be outside, and it's a chance to use your imagination. And that's not really -- a lot of entertainment for kids right now isn't like that. So I think that's why it's so dear to my heart. CAVANAUGH: That's Saturday at the San Diego botanic garden in Encinitas. And David, there's an interesting discussion tonight at the museum of contemporary art what. Is the topic? CODDON: I can see I'm cast in the role of the deadly serious subject matter here. [ LAUGHTER ] GARIN: Here's some sparkle! CODDON: I'm going to try to sound sparkling about this. This discussion is called Mexican-American art Today. And some prominent artists from both sides of the border, including Perry Vasquez, are going to talk about the impact of globalism on artists from both Mexico and the United States. CAVANAUGH: Tell us about Perry Vasquez. Of what is he known for? CODDON: He is well known for a couple of things. He was the curator for quite a while at the central cultural in Balboa Park. He he was one of the movers and shakers behind the much-beloved ice gallery in Northpark. He's a terrific in his own right and has been molding young artists at southwestern college. CAVANAUGH: So this is a discussion of the themes that unite artists and also challenge artists across the border? CODDON: And also about opportunities for them, which prove to be challenging, especially in this economy. And how do these artists not only present their work, but how do they get fairly compensated for it? CAVANAUGH: Thank you both very much. GARIN: Thank you so much. It was fun. CODDON: My pleasure, Maureen.

Summer is officially here, and longer days mean extra time to get out and play. Whether you're looking for comedy and drama, foodie festivals or family-friendly fun, you can satiate your cultural appetite this weekend with an array of activities throughout the county (and even south of the border).

Need a laugh? "Saturday Night Live" alum Kevin Nealon brings his standup comedy routine to the American Comedy Co. in downtown on Friday and Saturday.

For musical fans: Diversionary Theatre in University Heights presents the world premiere of "Harmony, Kansas," a new musical set in the Midwest about a gay farmer who finds community through joining a singing group. The play is in previews now and officially opens Saturday. It runs through July 22.


Drama and thrill-seekers: La Jolla Playhouse presents the West Coast premiere of "Blood and Gifts," a new spy thriller by J.T. Rogers. The play tells the story of the secret spy war behind the official Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s, and has received rave reviews since its New York debut. "Blood and Gifts" runs now through July 8. (Read San Diego CityBeat theater critic David Coddon's review.)

For visual art enthusiasts, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla tonight presents a conversation, Perspectives: Mexican-American Art Today. Artists Perry Vasquez and Misael Diaz and Amy Sanchez of Cognate Collective will discuss their practice as well as the challenges of art-making in the border region.

Hungry? Food festivals reign supreme this weekend. Some of San Diego's top chefs will show off their skills at the Encinitas Foodie Fest, happening Saturday at Pacific Station in Encinitas. The food fest celebrates artisanal, sustainable and eco-friendly businesses and features live cooking demos, music and dance.

On Sunday, take a stroll or cruise down Adams Avenue during the annual Taste of Adams to sample the menus of more than two dozen restaurants in North Park, Normal Heights and Kensington. Also that day, the Caesar Salad Festival in Tijuana celebrates the city's legendary contribution to culinary life: the Caesar Salad, which was invented and first served there in 1924. The free annual event presented by Caesar's Restaurant features local music, art, a children's area (along Avenida Revolucion, between third and fifth streets).

Thirsty? Head to the San Diego County Fair Friday through Sunday for the sixth annual San Diego International Beer Festival, where you can sample brews from nearly 140 breweries and more than 300 beers from around the world.


Families looking for fun in the sun for the little ones should head to the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas for the annual Fairy Fest, happening Saturday. Activities include creating a fairy house and fairy treasures, plus singing and dancing. Fairy costumes are encouraged but not required.

Need more options? There's always the beach. U-T San Diego arts and entertainment reporter Nina Garin has this guide to the county's beaches.