Monthly Archives: June 2016

All for One, and One for All in Guerneville

Review of The Three Musketeers
By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Beulah Vega
Adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas

For tickets / schedule :
www.pegasustheater.com
Pegasus Theater Company
Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, Guerneville

RUN: June 17-26 (Excluding 23), 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(June 17, 2016)

Photograph by Al Christenson

Photograph by Al Christenson

The Three Musketeers has engaged audiences in swashbuckling escapades since 1844, leading to a series of thrilling stories featuring d’Artagnan, who lives by his high-principled notions of honor in a mercenary world. Volunteer staffed Pegasus Theater Company has chosen to present an adaptation in Guerneville’s Riverkeeper Stewardship Park, nestled under a bridge overlooking the lush Russian River flowing by in gentle ripples during the action of the play. The intimate wooded setting is perfect for Alexandre Dumas’ idealized France. A simple set design highlights the natural beauty of the environment.

A youthful romp filled with enthusiastic dueling choreographed by Nadja Masura and Peter Rogers, the musketeers and their opponents range up and down the hillside, into the trees, and across the stage with gleeful skill. Rather than presenting a serious retelling, Ken Ludwig’s Sabine (Olivia Rooney), d’Artagnan’s younger sister, creates a surreal world where Tumblr fangirls are personified alongside the traditional story. Oliva Rooney brings a fresh infusion of comedy to her portrayal of a jarring Mary Sue character with such delight in her role, that Sabine becomes a forgivable addition. In contrast, the sultry Milady (Yelena Segal) and innocent Constance (Rosie Frater) are the essence of their original characters. Yelena Segal was magnificent as the cold-hearted temptress, beguiling and terrifying.

David O’Connell’s d’Artagnan is a young man caught up in a flood he cannot control, accidentally becoming the most important man in France. Rather than the angry youngster with a chip on his shoulder from the novel, this d’Artagnan is kind and a bit hapless, eager to prove himself. The three musketeers are portrayed with gusto and well-earned pride, racing back and forth in a flurry of chase sequences worthy of a classic Western. Nicolas Christenson as Porthos is a future Falstaff in the making; his jovial antics are captivating. Athos (Rusty Thompson) manages to bring a disturbing edge to his character despite being surrounded by drunken revelry when he describes his background with Milady. Athena Gundlach’s Cardinal Richelieu preens and schemes, balancing between melodrama and slapstick comedy. The supporting cast is well intentioned, but still honing their craft. Their scenes slowed the pace, and occasionally distracted, but overall the impression of this production is fast-paced.

The Three Musketeers is an adventure for the whole family, and a fun introduction to live theatre for a younger audience. Its unique natural setting by the river is a treat to experience. When arriving, do not cross, but go down and left when you reach the foot bridge. The theatre trail will be marked with large red banners.

‘The Invisible Hand’ Delivers With Interest

Review of The Invisible Hand
By Ayad Akhtar
Directed by Jasson Minadakis
For tickets / schedule :
www.marintheatre.org
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley

RUN: June 2-26, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(June 3, 2016)

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Harsh brick walls punctuated by a lone barred window overshadows two men huddled in earnest conversation. Young banker Nick Bright (Craig Marker) was mistaken for a higher executive and dragged from his car for ransom by Pakistani extremists. Ayad Akhtar’s nuanced depiction of Nick’s captors shows us relatable, flawed human beings who struggle with universal issues. The Invisible Hand is instantly compelling, augmented by Chris Houston’s sound design that plunges the audience into the dusty streets of Pakistan. Frantic to save his life, Nick pleads that his expertise in the stock market is invaluable. Intrigued by the idea of an easy ten million, Imam Saleem (Barzin Akhavan) agrees, setting the clever, though volatile Bashir (Pomme Koch) to work with the prisoner. Tension builds to intense trading, setting hearts racing with anticipation. As profits grow, characters struggle with desires, duty, and corruption.

In this intimate thriller, the West is stripped of its glamor; one group profits, while another suffers from food shortage as a result of a get rich quick scheme. Bashir points out that the post-WWII Bretton Woods financial system may have caused the U.S. dollar to become the center of world trade, dooming currencies such as the rupee. The captors are an uncomfortable mix of reasonable men and violent aggressors, vacillating between the two in a terrifying manner.

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The cast is riveting, all the more impressive since 40% of the script was changed mere weeks earlier, including most of the second act, due to revisions from Akhtar based on the early run of his play. The actors do not falter, maintaining a high level of concentration and coiled energy lashing out in dramatic moments. Pomme Koch’s Bashir is well educated with a deep-seated passion for learning, challenged by his immutable belief that Western greed is destroying his country. The harangued guard Dar (Jason Kapoor) is a kind, generous soul caught up in a war he is not sure of. He exemplifies those who want to live their lives in peace with their families, but are not given that choice, and do the best with what they have. Barzin Akhaan’s Imam Saleem is disturbing beneath his charming veneer, his story unexpected in its conclusion. Craig Marker as Nick Bright is engrossing; the banker moves from haughty demands to barely contained madness throughout the play in a spectacular performance.

Jasson Minadakis has directed a masterpiece of suspense at Marin Theatre Company. Middle East tensions continue to rise, and works such as this one are instrumental in demystifying the causes. The Invisible Hand transports us to a world floundering in corruption. Was it caused by indifferent Western business practices? Join this talented cast to decide for yourself.