Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Review: East County Magazine

Hotel Cassiopeia

Reviewed by Kathy Carpenter
East County Magazine

Now showing at the Don Powell Theatre at the San Diego State University campus, through December 7, 2008.
Sundays 2:00 p.m. all other days 8:00 p.m. For ticket information call 619-594-6884 or check online at

Charles L Mee's Hotel Cassiopeia follows the American collage artist Joseph Cornell. Cornell's dreamlike abstract art is the theme of the play, which is directed by Peter James Cirino. Characters in the play are reminiscent of people Cornell knew, observed or dreamed about. Mee created the play from diaries, letters, clips of Cornell’s life, and the music and movie he loved.

Photos provided courtesy of SDSU. Joseph Cornell and Lauren Bacall played by Phil Kruse and Annie Pritchard.
The Ballerina is played by Diahanne McCrary.

Why "Hotel Cassiopeia?" Cassiopeia, the constellation, is forever - Hotel Cassiopeiais a place you check into for a night or two. Come spend some time at a place between the two. Experience the world through the eyes of Joseph Cornell, played with sensitivity by Phil Kruse, as you become immersed in the many wonderful characters who filled his life: ballerinas, an actress, artists, friends, the women he teried to love, his mother who controlled him, and the sick brother to whom he was devoted.

The costumes were fantastic, which really made the story come alive. The ballerina was one of my favorites characters with Diahann McCrary doing all the magical dance moves every little girl dreams of in her beautiful pink costume. The cast is large and I'm sure you'll find your own favorite as you follow along the in the journey of Joseph Cornell's world.

Kathy Carpenter is a reviewer for San Diego Write Way and blogger for Eric Maisel Creativity Central blog.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Review: Gay & Lesbian Times

Hotel Cassiopeia
Published Thursday, 27-Nov-2008 in issue 1092
Gay & Lesbian Times

An odd assortment of people wander across the stage before the show begins: a ballerina, two men in suits painted à la Jackson Pollock, Lauren Bacall, a waitress, a pogo stick rider, a severe-looking woman pushing a lawn mower, a trio consisting of a pharmacist, an astronomer and an herbalist.

These are all characters – real or imaginary – in artist Joseph Cornell’s life. Playwright Charles Mee’s memory play Hotel Cassiopeia plays through Dec. 7 at San Diego State University’s Don Powell Theatre. Peter James Cirino directs.

Born in 1903, Cornell’s personal life revolved around his overbearing mother (Kimberly Ford) and little brother Robert (Billy Khang), a cerebral palsy victim, with whom he lived until they died. Cornell assumed the responsibility of providing for the family at 14, when his father died. He worked in various places, including a Manhattan textile studio. He never studied art.

After hours, Cornell collected found objects at flea markets and junk shops, which he took home to his collection in the basement. There he used them in unique collage boxes, a technique known as assemblage. His work, influenced by the Surrealists, was admired by many leading artists, and Cornell showed his work at the Guggenheim and Metropolitan museums in New York. He was also an avant-garde filmmaker, making dreamscapes by splicing together existing film stock and changing the lighting. Holiday in Brazil is one example.

taking its cue from Cornell’s eccentric life (and based on his diary), is a multimedia extravaganza that gives SDSU’s technical team a chance to shine in ways not often possible. The set is an enormous wooden construction resembling an oversized piece of furniture of the type one might use to store and display art or pottery. Suspended up right is Robert’s room, itself an elevated box. Videocam projections flash onto the wall with close-ups of the actors. Platforms slide in on what sound like ball bearings, usually carrying a character. A child’s slide appears and is used by cast members. A pianist plays on stage left.

There is no linear plot; Hotel Cassiopeia is a collection of snippets from Cornell’s life. Through all the apparent chaos, Cornell’s near-crippling shyness comes through, a problem which prevented him from connecting with women.

is an extraordinary (if strange) dramatic event, at once fascinating and puzzling. Cornell was definitely a breed apart.

The cast is fine, individually and collectively, but the stars of this show are the technicians who built the constructions and make the stage magic work.

Only four performances remain. If you’re in the mood for adventurous theater, give Hotel Cassiopeia a whirl.

plays through Dec. 7 at SDSU’s Don Powell Theatre. Shows Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. For more information, visit