Monthly Archives: February 2016

‘Brighton Beach Memoirs’ in Healdsburg

Review of Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Neil Simon
Directed by Joe Gellura
For tickets / schedule :
www.raventheater.org
Raven Performing Arts Theater, Healdsburg

RUN: January 29 – February 14, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(January 30, 2016)

Photo by Ray Mabry

Photo by Ray Mabry

Brighton Beach Memoirs premiered on Broadway in 1983, and was adapted for film three years later. Playwright Neil Simon grew up in New York during The Great Depression of the 1930s, an era which parallels our current economy. Characters agonize over seventeen dollars gone missing, living in the crushing reality that a lost job could mean living on the street. When faced with moral dilemmas to working, the family must decide what means more—principles or putting food on the table. Interwoven with exterior pressures are growing tensions in relationships. Sisters are pushed to their limits with each other, boiling over in a confrontation years in the making, and young Nora Morton (Giovanna Poulos) struggles to make life changing decisions without a father to confide in.

Sasha Guleff as Eugene Jerome instills life into a shadowed world of hardship through snarky running commentary to the audience. He treats every situation as comedic gold, no matter how dismal it is, demonstrating how one person with a cheerful personality can raise the hopes of an entire family. Despite stumbling with the Brooklyn accent, Guleff is exhilarating and enthusiastic. His character’s never-ending quest to glimpse a disrobed girl for the first time is charming, although it does make the play unsuitable for young children to attend.

Photo by Ray Mabry

Photo by Ray Mabry

Mary DeLorenzo as Kate Jerome portrays a bellowing Jewish mother who expects perfection, but secretly loves her family deeply. Jack Jerome (Gregory Skopp) is a quiet, amiable father who slowly bends to financial pressures, realizing that hard work isn’t enough, an all-too real sentiment for a modern audience. The ensemble puts their heart and soul into the production, and although there is inconsistency with the lines and the accents could use improvement, there were real moments of feeling in the play that I was impressed by.

Set designer Steve Thorpe outdid himself with tiered layers of rooms, furnished in a haphazard manner, demonstrating the financial difficulties faced by the Jeromes. The living areas are meticulously clean, a reflection of Kate’s personality. While the costumes were not entirely accurate, they gave the general impression of the time period without being fussy.

Brighton Beach Memoirs explores a family’s struggle to understand each other and not give in to tragedy. You will laugh and weep with the Raven Players through this bitter-sweet venture into 1937.

San Francisco Ballet ‘Program 2’

Review of Program 2
For full program notes, tickets, and schedule : San Francisco Ballet
War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco, CA

RUN: January 27 – February 6, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(January 31, 2:00pm, 2016)

Mathilde Froustey and Davit Karapetyan in Balanchine's "Rubies". (© Erik Tomasson)

Mathilde Froustey and Davit Karapetyan in Balanchine’s “Rubies”.
(© Erik Tomasson)

Rubies
Choreographed by George Balanchine
Composed by Igor Stravinsky

Rubies sparks with energy at San Francisco Ballet; rather than using it as a show-off of extensions, the dancers create a powerhouse piece of dynamic lines interspersed with playful capers. Karinska’s timeless costume designs glimmer, accentuating the richness of movement. Supported by Stravinsky’s syncopated piano and strings entwining with each other, this ballet’s exacting rhythm traces confidently across the stage. I have seen Jewels many times, and do not tire of the second segment—it continues to inspire and delight.

San Francisco Ballet in Morris' Drunk To Me With Only Thine Eyes.. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Morris’ Drink To Me With Only Thine Eyes..
(© Erik Tomasson)

Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
Choreographed by Mark Morris
Composed by Virgil Thomson

A casual piece, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes is rather like what dancers fool around with in the studio when no-one is watching. Shifting with waves in the music, it changes between shuffling marking, warmup, and explosions of virtuosity. Santo Loquasto’s costume designs reflect a formalized version of practice studio attire, perhaps influenced by the music, which is 13 piano etudes. Pianist Natal’ya Feygina was mesmeric, building the melody into delicate longing in the finale. Gennadi Nedvigin is magnificent in this piece, languidly making his way across the stage with lyrical pirouettes. Vanessa Zahorian nimbly took to the stage with her characteristic bright cheerfulness. Comfortable and beautiful, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes is musical and spontaneous.

Lorena Feijoo and Luke Ingham in Scarlett's Fearful Symmetries. (© Erik Tomasson)

Lorena Feijoo and Luke Ingham in Scarlett’s Fearful Symmetries.
(© Erik Tomasson)

Fearful Symmetries (World Premiere)
Choreographed by Liam Scarlett
Composed by John Adams

Light and shadow drive Fearful Symmetries in constantly fluctuating darkness, from hovering twilight gray to chiaroscuro black. Geometric shapes suspend over the dancers, winking on and off. David Finn’s lighting design is spectacular, reflecting the altering emotion of music and movement. Jon Morrell’s costume designs demonstrate the individuality of each dancer through shades and necklines, yet is cohesive and perfectly tailored to augment placement. Fearful Symmetries radiates vitality, with techno overtones and precise motion, interspersed with sinuous intimate moments. It was described as primal by Tina LeBlanc in the Meet the Artist interview, which captures the grounded sensuality of the piece.

Do not miss San Francisco Ballet’s Program 2—it is a luscious buffet of exhilarating dance with an astounding world premiere by Royal Ballet’s Liam Scarlett. The program is a technical and artistic masterpiece.

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