Monthly Archives: July 2016

Midsummer Madness at Marin Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’

Review of Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Lesley Schisgall Currier
For tickets / schedule :
Marin Shakespeare
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California

RUN: July  29 – August 21, 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(July 29, 2016)

Marin Shakespeare Twelfth Night Review

Photo Copyright Lori A. Cheung

Twelfth Night is a rollicking tale that builds into chaos, settling in for a hasty ending moments before the plot spins out of control. Wrangling the story into a discernible and amusing form is experienced director Lesley Schisgall Currier. Celebrating the absurdity of amore, star-crossed lovers are effusive and melodramatic, while men strut about in oversized sparkling codpieces designed by Abra Berman. Marin Shakespeare’s production is bawdy and satisfying, but does not push boundaries; it is a conservative staging, despite the ruckus.

Elena Wright (Viola) is believable as a man, and carries a sense of melancholy through her sisterly concern and unrequited love for her master. Her interactions with Duke Orsino (Dean Linnard) are tragic and comedic, showing how often people are forced to wear a mask of contentment when feeling entirely different. In modern society, we are greeted with “How are you?” a question Viola would have to lie in response to. Beset with suitors she does not care for, Olivia (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) reacts by retreating into herself, until opening her heart to love. The character shifts dramatically from plaintive mourning to a schoolgirl’s crush in the space of a few lines; a difficult transition to bring the audience along for. As a result, Olivia’s motivation is rushed and confusing, making mockery of her character prematurely. There is potential in the performance, if the imprecise timing can be overcome.

Marin Shakespeare Twelfth Night Review

Photo Copyright Lori A. Cheung

The antics of gin-soaked Sir Toby Belch (Daren Kelly) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Michael J. Hume) steal the show. Puffed up and confident, they carouse the night away, stumbling through practical jokes and enabling a duel that turns out quite fishy. Their accomplice Maria (Mary Baird) schemes in a lucid state of mind, her wit a sharpened awl against adversity. Together they become the focus of Twelfth Night. Untouched by greater concerns of love, good company and drink are all they require for a happy life. Accomplished acrobat Jeremy Vik juggles and tumbles as the fool Feste, who brings the two worlds of the play together in a central thread of merrymaking and inventive feats of balance.

Jackson Currier’s set design appears simple at first glance—pools of water and a primitive mural. It shines in use, as recessed pieces add to the staging, especially a revolving wall that turns an otherwise conventional scene of trickery from a letter into side-splitting hilarity.

Marin Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is boisterous fun under the stars at Forest Meadows. It has room for improvement in the tale of lovers, such as Duke Orsino’s stilted dialog, but does not fail to captivate for an entertaining evening.

Clever Fairy Tale Play for Children

Cloverdale Puss in Boots Review

Photo by John Gobeille

Review of Puss In Boots
By Moses Goldberg
Co-Directed by Sasha Guleff & Yave Guzman
For tickets / schedule :
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center

RUN: July  29 – August 7, 2016
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(July 30, 2016)

Puss in Boots at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center is a delightful way to introduce children to the theatre. Drawing from the beloved fairy tale, the production is less than an hour with no intermission to distract youngsters in the audience, and includes constant interactive elements with the actors. When attending, you may find yourself called upon to become a cat, or tell the King that you work for the Marquis. The cast keeps to simple concepts, not rushing scenes, and presents of the play within a play structure in a manner that is understandable to the newest theatre enthusiasts. Thanks to donors, 150 tickets were given to The Boys and Girls Club, Cloverdale Library, and Food Pantry families to bring the next generation into the theatre. Mentoring children and giving them the opportunity to see friendly, short plays such as this one is vital to the continued existence and appreciation of theatre.

Ian Munc capers as Mr. Dupress / Puss, his warmth and excitement encouraging enthusiastic responses from the audience when called upon to help him defeat the Ogre. His interpretation of Puss is innocent hope in a happy ending, rather than the calculating animal I have seen in other productions. Olivia Guleff as Fitzgerald and Robert A. Rodriguez as Wisteria demonstrate that actors do not always get along, before transforming into Simple and Princess Clarissa who adore each other. Gender bending the traditional princess and hero roles not only adds a layer of comedy, but shows children in the audience that they do not need to be constrained by gender in what characters they can play and who they become.

Cloverdale Puss in Boots Review

Photo by John Gobeille

Long-suffering John Slinkert as Mr. Jones / Ogre / King hops in and out of roles, after losing an argument that someone else should play the Ogre. His King is pompous and poised, with a kind heart, and the Ogre deliciously evil. Not only is the play meant for a younger audience, it is co-directed by teen Sasha Guleff, who was enthusiastic in requesting the opportunity to work with Yave Guzman.

Puss In Boots is the perfect production for young children and families, or those who are ready to let their inner child out to play. Fairy tales teach important life lessons, and what better place than the theatre to present them, where actors are real people, rather than images on a screen. It’s time to take the iPad away and bring children to the theatre for an engaging afternoon with a clever cat.

‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ in Monte Rio

Review of Dancing at Lughnasa
By Brian Friel
Directed by Michael Tabib
For tickets / schedule :
Curtain Call Theatre
Russian River Hall, Monte Rio

RUN: July 8-30, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(July 15, 2016)

Nestled in picturesque Monte Rio, Russian River Hall is home to Curtain Call Theatre, a volunteer organization bringing performances to the Northern Sonoma County community. Their inspiration this season is Dancing at Lughnasa, a recent award winning play set in rural Ireland. Director Michael Tabib creates a traditional, formal staging. Michael Mundy (Bill Young) ruminates on his past as a boy in 1936 from a formal pulpit, detached from the energy of his family set in tableaux. While his perspective gives insight, isolated blocking slows the rhythm and infuses lonesome wistfulness to the primary action; Young does not have the dynamism to carry momentum through his soliloquies, causing uneven pacing. Although it is not a polished production, it is intimately emotional and filled with heart. The Mundy sisters are revealed as deeply passionate and vulnerable, willing to take chances for love.

Rustic, idealized set design by Jake Hamlin, Michael Tabib, and Dax Berg is a charming foundation for a gentle glimpse into Michael Mundy’s memories. His aunt Maggie (Avi Lind) is amiable, rather than fiery, an encouraging presence clinging to her Wild Woodbines. Kate (Michelle Randall) has an underlying sweetness to her struggle with modern values. Pamela Henderson’s Christina is demonstrative in her emotions, diving into misery and soaring with the heights of requited love, transforming into a fury when she realizes Gerry (Chris Reid) is openly flirting with her sister. Petra Sperling-Nordqvist as the unstable Rose is poised and elegant, augmenting the tragedy of her character’s future. Wanda Wiemar’s Agnes Mundy is clearly in love with Gerry, squirming in agitated guilt when he saunters into the cottage.

Recently returned from a lifetime in Africa, their brother Father Jack (Joseph Potter) is overwhelmed by his strange surroundings, and weakened by illness. Potter weaves a man who is not suffering from dementia; his Father Jack believes in the beauty and power of native ceremonies and culture, eschewing Catholicism for a religion of unfettered dancing and music. His rejection of the mold that Kate and the local parish wish to foist on him is calculated, not confused.

As evidenced in the title of the play, dance is integral to the story. Are the sisters too old for overt displays of pleasure—is hard duty and housekeeping all that is left to them? On the surface, the answer is affirmative, and firmly enforced by Kate, but in a moment of excitement she leaps from her chair to jump about the kitchen waving handkerchiefs and shrieking to music with the rest of them. Curtain Call Theatre’s Dancing at Lughnasa is a nostalgic journey of fleeting joy in a family decaying from unmet dreams. Russian River Hall is cozy, staffed by friendly theatre enthusiasts and is an easy, beautiful drive through the redwoods along the river just past Guerneville. Spend an evening with the Mundy sisters in a comfortable setting with lovely sets and good company.

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