Monthly Archives: January 2016

Voodoo Shakespeare Magic in Novato

Review of A Cajun Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare, adapted by Clay David
Directed by Clay David
For tickets / schedule :
www.novatotheatercompany.org
NTC Playhouse, Novato, CA
Novato Theater Company

RUN: January 29-February 21 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(January 29, 2016)

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

An imaginative restaging of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this production is rooted in the dripping warmth and mystery of Bayou swamps. Watery lighting design from Courtney Johnson and moss festooned sets spawn moonlit Voodoo nights filled with Delphic creatures. Contrasting the wily landscape of witching faeries is the Cajun influenced human world of boisterous festivity and honky-tonk music, sashaying across the stage in cowboy boots and merriment.

The play’s opening scene is the most challenging; it is filled with characters who are not given much to work with, other than introducing themselves and establishing plot. Clay David injects a call and response style of humor which livens up the scene. Hermia (Arden Kilzer) takes center stage, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s feigned flighty blonde personality that peels back to reveal a sharp intellect under the mask. Unlike some of the other actors in the production, Kilzer finds a subtle balance for the small theatre, not needing to overact as though it were a massive auditorium. Her timing is perfect, and facial expressions priceless when she confronts Lysander (Mark Ian Schwartz).

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

Creeping through dark magic infused nights are the Voodoo faeries. Sumi Narendran’s Titania is as mesmerizing as her powers, transforming her lines into spells to enthrall the audience. Michael Walraven as Oberon brings a gentleness to the role that is not often portrayed. He is furious with Titania, but it fades swiftly, and his kindness toward the human lovers and Puck is heartwarming. Unfortunately, the production falters when it comes to the trickster. I have yet to see a successful Puck; it is perhaps the most difficult character to portray in Shakespeare. Alison Sacha Ross gave it her best attempt, but melodrama was out of place in the overall production, and her lines did not have enough variation in rhythm and pitch.

I have seen many renditions of the Mechanicals, from Hawaiian surfers to blue collar workers. The Cajun version is by far my favorite; a group of primarily retirement home aged women gathers, flowered day dresses, canes and all, to perform a reverse gender bending to what we are used to in Pyramus and Thisbe. Marilyn Hughes takes on the role of Nicole Bottom, a no-nonsense spinster ready to take on the world in a delightfully revised version of the timeless character. The rude mechanicals’ antics are the jewel of this production, well worth attending to see.

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

Jim Norrena-ACT OUT Photography

A Cajun Midsummer Night’s Dream is as richly seasoned as Cajun cuisine, and just as delectable. It is a unique perspective on the popular play, trimming and spicing it into a hilarious evening. Whether a Shakespeare enthusiast or not, Novato Theater Company is the place to be for a rollicking good time.

Chaotic Genius – ‘One Man, Two Guvnors’

Review of One Man, Two Guvnors
By Richard Bean
Stage Direction by Carl Jordan
Music Direction by Jake Turner
6th Street Playhouse
For tickets / schedule :
www.6thstreetplayhouse.com
6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa

RUN: January 15 – February 7, 2016
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(January 16, 2016)

One Man, Two Guvnors 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Adapted from an 18th century Venetian comedy, Servant of Two Masters, the story and humor has been updated for a modern audience by Richard Bean, a comedian himself. Its West End opening was in 2011, moving to Broadway one year later to critical acclaim. It is not so much a play as an entire experience, richly drawn upon by 6th Street Playhouse. Performances feature a live band, The Craze, ostensibly from Brighton, who entertain well into the evening. Using audience members, the story becomes an interactive experience, leaving the fourth wall non existent.

The plot and exaggerated stock characters will be familiar to Shakespeare enthusiasts—it is reminiscent of A Comedy of Errors and other classic early English works, as well as many comedic operas. The actors strike a balance between fully embracing the absurdity of their roles and reigning in the nonsensical elements to be palatable for consumption thanks to direction from Carl Jordan. Scene transitions take on a playful feel through a series of musical performances from the cast in full character, sparkling with fun. With a minimalist set, April George’s lighting design took center stage, shifting colors with the story’s mood.

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Leading the charge is Craig A. Miller (Francis Henshall) bumbling his way Falstaff style through impossible situations. His brilliance as a buffoon supersedes occasional drops in the accent; his work attempting to move a heavy trunk into the pub alone were hilarious, and his reactions masterful. He is surrounded by a talented cast. Benjamin Stowe (Stanley Stubbers) played it straight with deliberate flair, balancing the pandemonium and augmenting the comedy. While an ensemble role, Michael Temple’s performance is of note, with a constant array of cameos. While his challenges with the accent were noticeable, the poise and powerful acting of Norman A Hall (Charlie “The Duck” Clench) combined for an intriguing character.

6th Street Playhouse’s topsy-turvy production of One Man, Two Guvnors is boisterous, light entertainment with a vintage twist. For a lively evening with good company, visit Brighton via Santa Rosa for an unforgettable experience. Please note that it is not suitable for children due to mature content.

‘This Is Our Youth’ Shines at the Belrose

REVIEW OF THIS IS OUR YOUTH
By Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Pat Nims
Produced by Gary Gonser
Marin Onstage
For tickets / schedule :
marinonstage.org
Belrose Theatre, San Rafael

RUN: January 15 – 30, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(January 15, 2016)

Photo by Marina Nims

Photo by Marina Nims

This Is Our Youth premiered on Broadway at the Cort Theatre in 2014, and was first performed in 1996. Written by Kenneth Lonergan, it brings elements of his time growing up in New York City; he was twenty years old in 1982 when this play is set. Every stage of living has challenges, and this play snapshots the early twenties. The trio represents three types of youthful struggles: a driven student trying to cling to her failing relationship with a parent, feeling lost and in pain with no-one to turn to who understands, and an exterior bluster hiding terror at the unknown future ahead.

Each character is wrapped up in his or her own world, unable to be a true friend as a result. They take out their pain and fear on each other, unable to find an outlet for what they are going through. While presented as a comedy, the subject matter is gritty and relevant to the youth of today. In between the laughs is a sobering picture of the darkness that permeates early twenties and the difficult undertaking to find independence and meaning.

Photo by Marina Nims

Photo by Marina Nims

Marin Onstage has brought together a superb cast of young actors. Fernando Siu (Dennis Ziegler) dominates the stage, swaggering through interactions with other characters while portraying an inner trepidation that consumes him in the final act. Andrew Pryor-Ramirez (Warren Straub) has an excellent grasp of physical comedy and timing, while managing to captivate the audience into pity during emotion-charged scenes, such as when he talks about his sister. Bessie Zolno (Jessica Goldman) perfectly portrays a jittery, stressed out character who is not sure what she wants, constantly questioning every move when not arguing furiously to claw her way into self esteem.

Set Designers Pat Nims and Gary Gonser outdid themselves with an accurate scene, complete with empty pizza boxes lying on the floor, a messy futon and 1980s appliances that some of us still remember owning.

This Is Our Youth is a compelling production with an accomplished cast highlighting the difficult path of a modern young person. Please note that it is not suitable for children, due to drug use, mature language, and sexual themes.