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Weekend Preview: 'Other Desert Cities', 'Accomplice' and Adams Avenue Unplugged

La Jolla Playhouse presents its fourth Without Walls production: ACCOMPLICE: SAN DIEGO, by Tom Salamon and Betsy Salamon-Sufott, directed by Tom Salamon, running March 26 – April 14.
La Jolla Playhouse
La Jolla Playhouse presents its fourth Without Walls production: ACCOMPLICE: SAN DIEGO, by Tom Salamon and Betsy Salamon-Sufott, directed by Tom Salamon, running March 26 – April 14.

Editor's note: Adams Avenue Unplugged replaced the Adams Avenue Roots Festival, not the Adams Avenue Street Fair, which is held in September.

Weekend Preview: 'Other Desert Cities', 'Accomplice' and Adams Avenue Unplugged
GUESTSDavid Coddon, theater critic, San Diego CityBeat Kimberly Cunningham, associate editor, San Diego Magazine

CAVANAUGH: Adventures are the order of the day on this weekend preview. And a new type of Adams Avenue Street Fair. David Coddon is with San Diego City beat. And Kimberly Cunningham is associate editor of San Diego magazine. Welcome. CUNNINGHAM: Thank you so much. CAVANAUGH: Let me start with you, David, and a theatrical performance. It's a play that's starting its previews at The Old Globe this weekend. Give us some background of the plot of Other Desert cities. CODDON: It was a Pulitzer nominee, it is about the liath fall that reside in Palm Springs California, just up the road from us, at Christmas time. And the family is divided by deep-seated emotional and political foibles which are worsened or heightened when one of the daughters comes home for Christmas. CAVANAUGH: It's a family drama? CODDON: It is. The father and the mother. And there is a sister, who is sort of a wise-cracking side character. And the children, including Brook, who is a writer. And it's these memoirs she intends to publish that hold this dark family secret that sort of upsets everyone. I don't want to give it away. But it's a terrifically written play. The playwright is Mr. Bates, John Robin Bates. And he was considered in his youth sort of a wunderkind. He was from LA, and as a young man lived in both Brazil and South Africa. And he came back to L.A. to attend school. It was there that he began to write. And in the late 90, he broke through on that scene. And this play is only a couple years old, it debuted in 2011. CAVANAUGH: I think it's exciting that we have a lot of familiar faces in this production. CODDON: Yes, and faces that Globe-goers will recognize. Robert Foxworth, who I'm sure everyone knows, who also played this part in the L.A. production last winter, he's the father. And Dana Green who a lot of Globe-doers will remember as the star of As You Like It. She plays Brook. CAVANAUGH: You mentioned that this is set in Palm Springs, right up the road. What role does the desert play in this production? CODDON: There's the incongruity of Christmas in the desert. We have a hard time picturing muted colors and warm weather. But the other purpose it serves is to be a present background, but not a distracting background for these characters who are larger than life people. CAVANAUGH: And in their own little words, their own little deserts. CODDON: Yes, that's a nice metaphor! You're darn right. CAVANAUGH: It begins this Saturday with its opening night on Thursday, May 2nd. And another theatrical experience, Kimberly. This is brought us by the La Jolla Playhouse, part game, part theatre. Accomplice. CUNNINGHAM: Well, the element of surprise is a big part of this. I don't want to give too much away. What I will tell you is that the plot essentially followed a group of criminals who are on the run. And you as the audience member become the accomplice, hence the name, to help them pull off this crime or con they've got going on. CAVANAUGH: How does this experience work? Listeners should know this is a theatrical experience, but it is not in a theatre! CUNNINGHAM: Right. So it's pretty cool. Basically the night before, you get a mysterious phone call from a blocked number. And this voice or person tells you -- gives you a location to meet and a time to meet, and the time corresponds with whatever time you signed up for when you bought your tickets. So you show up at said location, and once you get there, you'll be in a group of about ten people. And at some point, an actor shows up and leads you to a second location where he kind of debriefs you and wrappings you into this plot and gives you your first clue. And from there you go from location to location walking the streets of little Italy. CAVANAUGH: And from what I understand, the people that you meet along the way, you're not always sure who's the actor and who's just a regular person dining out in little Italy that night! CUNNINGHAM: Right, that's definitely a big part of it. And I think you'll definitely be surprised. CAVANAUGH: Writer/director Tom Saloman created this. Why? CUNNINGHAM: He created it with his sister, Betsy. And my understanding is that they were a walking tour in New York City in the lower east side. And I guess they loved scavenger hunts when they were kids, and they wanted to create this importance where you would explore these neighbors in a fun and surprising way. So it definitely feels like a scavenger hunt. But you get to see a lot of cool things along the way. CAVANAUGH: And I guess you -- this is like kind of the ultimate interactive theatre, you're actually being part of the play while it's happening in a sense. CUNNINGHAM: Absolutely. CAVANAUGH: Now, this is a Without Walls production. What's the idea behind this? CUNNINGHAM: It's what they call site-specific theatre. It takes the traditional production and out of the theatre and into the real world. So if you're seeing a play about a nightclub singer who sings in a nightclub, you'll watch the play in a nightclub instead of in a theatre. And it's -- it feels different, it's something that's really big in Europe right now. Christopher Ashley who is the artistic director at the La Jolla Playhouse, he really believes it's the future of live theatre. CAVANAUGH: It must be extremely popular because I know it's been extended. CODDON: These have been very successful. They did one in a nightclub in Hillcrest last fall irk think it was. And they did the Carr plays last summer, which was one of the best things I've ever seen. Kimberly is absolutely right, they believe in this concept and they do it very well. CAVANAUGH: Accomplish, just extended through June 2nd. It takes place in little Italy. Adams Avenue Unplugged, David. Used to be the street fair, last year it changed its name. What makes it so special? CODDON: Well, part of it is it's free! [ LAUGHTER ] CODDON: This is the largest free music festival in California. CAVANAUGH: Wow. CODDON: That's part of the attraction, obviously. But just being free isn't enough. This is truly a community event that incorporates the communities of Normal Heights and Kensington. For the people who live up there, it's more than a joy than a hassle. And for those of you who don't know these neighborhoods, it's an opportunity to not only hear music up there, but to get to know the businesses. CAVANAUGH: Who can we look forward to seeing and hearing this year? CODDON: Well, among the featured performers of national note are Geof Muldaur and Jim Kweskin. The Americana band Haunted Windchimes is a very exciting band. And John C. Riley who you may know from a lot of films, he has his own band, and he's a guitarist, and they do country and roots music. He'll be up there. CAVANAUGH: We have a clip of John C. Riley and Tom Brosseau. Here's what they sound like performing. (Audio Recording Played) CODDON: That's low-fi if I ever heard it. [ LAUGHTER ] CAVANAUGH: Why is it called unplugged now? CODDON: I think the main change is -- the festival was much more of a street festival before along Adams Avenue with the street closed. That's completely changed. It's open all the way from 30th down to Marlboro. And the idea is the music is inside the venues along Adams. Everything from the Kensington ca-at a to the air-conditioned bar to demill's Italian restaurant. There are still areas where there will be vendors and so forth. But thematically, it may be the same. But logistically, it's changed quite a bit. CAVANAUGH: Kimberly, San Diego magazine's best of North County issue is out now. You'd like to give us some insight into what San Diego magazine refers to as NOCO. CUNNINGHAM: The Rancho Valencia resort and spa just completed a $30 million remodel. And it is just beautiful. It's one of my favorite spots in San Diego. I love to go sit in the Pony Room, they have great cocktails and wine on tap, and great appetizers. I think the new Whole Foods at Flower Hill Mall is very cool. They have a tavern where 24 craft beers on tap. This is a great trend for supermarkets. CAVANAUGH: Not just whole food, whole beer! CUNNINGHAM: And that's this workout called core 40, it's in Solana beach and other locations in San Diego. And a lot of people in our office really love it. It was formerly called Body Rock. But people love it because it's only 40 minutes. It's done on super-fancy reformers, it's a Pilates type of workout, and people say it really changes your body. CAVANAUGH: Wow. Now, when you're compiling a best-of issue, you've got to do a lot of exploring, right? What did you uncover about what was totally new in the region? CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think one of the biggest surprises was this place called Paint the Walls in Poway. And it's a place where kids can go and break the rules and literally paint on the walls. And so I don't have kids, and I'm not in that parenting world where I'm hearing about stuff like this all the time, but I have a little niece, and I'm so excited to take her there. I just think she'll love it. CAVANAUGH: How has North County changed over the years? CUNNINGHAM: We have a running joke in the office about all the strip malls in North County, and especially in the Carmel Valley area. And what I would say is that the strip malls are still there, but they're foodier, higher end, and more stylish. And more unique. So you're seeing less chains, the old Ihop in Del Mar highlands town center is backing a snooze, which is the popular breakfast stop in Hillcrest. The old chevy's is becoming Cucina urtecha. So it's becoming a major destination. CAVANAUGH: You have a really nice list of a number of really exclusive to North County restaurants. And it was really an eye-opener for me because sometimes you just think of the downtown or the areas around downtown as being the places where chefs want to go. But apparently not. Let me just really quickly, you're going to celebrate the issue with a party happening tomorrow? What can we expect? CUNNINGHAM: It's at the park Hyatt Aviara. It's a 1-stop shop where you can sample and taste different dishes from all the restaurants on our list in the feature. There'll be spas there performing mini-spa treatment, live music, acrobatics, it's just a really great time. And I know they're offering a discount for KPBS listeners. CAVANAUGH: Oh, all right! The best of North County party is happening tomorrow at the park Hyatt Aviara resort in Carlsbad.

A new play at the Old Globe, a recently extended out-of-the-norm theater experience, a folk music festival and a party celebrating North County San Diego are what's topping our to-do list this weekend.

"Other Desert Cities," which opens for previews starting this Saturday, April 27, offers a contemporary take on family drama at Balboa Park's Old Globe Theater. The story follows novelist Brooke Wyeth, who returns to her family home in Palm Springs for the holidays with a juicy manuscript, and what happens when family secrets threaten to rise from below the surface. The playwright, Jon Robin Baitz, created the ABC drama "Brothers & Sisters", a show that had more than its share of family drama. "Other Desert Cities" had a successful run on Broadway and opens at the Old Globe with a reputable cast of both newbie and veteran actors. Find tickets here.


Moving from a more traditional theater experience to one that's totally out-of-the-box, the La Jolla Playhouse's production of "Accomplice: San Diego" has been extended yet again through June 2. A Without Wall Presentation, "Accomplice: San Diego" is a totally unique theater experience that doesn't even take place in a theater. Rather, viewers are contacted only a day or two before the show with a meeting place. The day of, viewers set out on foot through Little Italy, following clues from cast members and interacting with businesses and the community to solve the mystery. Previous productions of "Accomplice" have taken place in London and New York City to excellent reviews.

Though it underwent a bit of a change in format last year, the Adams Avenue Unplugged festival is still going strong in 2013. Taking place along a two-mile stretch of Adams Avenue (running through University Heights, Normal Heights and Kensington), this folk music festival attracts both big name acts and local musicians alike. The two-day festival (happening on Saturday and Sunday) will feature sets from the likes of Los Alacranes and Reilly and Friends, all taking place inside local businesses (everything from restaurants to bars to art galleries).

North County San Diego is coming into its own these days and San Diego Magazine did a whole issue on the best of the best of what's up north. The magazine celebrates this issue with a party on Friday, April 26 at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad. Sample food from North County's top restaurants as well as wine, beer and live music. Buy your tickets here and use the promotional code "KPBS" to receive $10 off.