Yearly Archives: 2016

Sonoma State University Fall Dance Concert

Review of Fall Dance Concert
Directed by Christine Cali
Sonoma State University Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
Evert. B Person Theatre

RUN: November 3-6, 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

November 6, 2016

The Sonoma State University Fall Dance Concert is a celebration of student work; supervised by faculty, they choreograph, design, and manage pieces in the short space of two months, with only eight rehearsals per choreographer. Due to the outpouring of interest this autumn, it has been split into two separate productions: Heart and Soul—the latter of which I attended. Soul is an intimate evening of emotionally charged pieces ranging from crushing sorrow to playful romps in a tightly paced hour of riveting dance.

Photo by David Papas

Photo by David Papas

Solo Dolo
5 of 5 stars
Choreography: Kyle Her
Music: Anvil by Lorn

A lone couch becomes the focal point of this stunning solo that slowly builds from stark loneliness to anxiety, anger, and letting go, sinking back into stillness. Kyle Her’s mesmerizing athletic performance is constantly fluid—extensions reach into the air, arms long and graceful, elbows jut out first with the body following. Mark Wilson’s low lighting sets a somber, rhythmic tone, moving with the dancer in a tangent symphony.

Photo by David Papas

Photo by David Papas

4 of 5 stars
Choreography: Bella Wenneberg
Music: “Magnets” by Disclosure, “Do I Wanna Know” by Arctic Monkeys

Western themed white corsets, shirts, and braids give the impression of a conventional piece, but Tension swiftly breaks that illusion and becomes a creative set of three vignettes. Groups stalk in emotionless symmetry across the stage, linked or isolated, crossing in straight lines, breaking formation to push, lift, or manipulate each other, constantly connected. They disperse in favor of a mirrored pas de deux of unique relationships, ending with the powerful depiction of a single dancer struggling with a rope to the sound of her heartbeat, fighting to move forward against all odds, and breaking free for a captivating final moment—her fist clenching and relaxing to the beating sound, ending in darkness.

Photo by David Papas

Photo by David Papas

4 of 5 stars
Choreography: Anjelica Martinez in collaboration with the dancers
Music: “Atomos X” by A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Weaving Classical and modern sensibilities, this trio seeks for purpose, tentatively searching themselves, languidly stretching in long expansive shapes. Babbling voices drive them into communal purpose, coming together to discover meaning. It is a fascinating dance, although the performers could be lighter on their feet—the heavy footsteps took away from an otherwise contemplative piece.

No One Left Behind
3 of 5 stars
Choreography: Christina Campos in collaboration with the dancers
Music: “Brotsjór” by Ólafur Arnaldas

Earth smeared dancers crowd the stage, shifting between pleasing tableaux. Dynamic lighting by Jessica Amen projects shadows and flashes of lightning, while heart-racing music charges through the auditorium. It has the elements of success, but it is trying too hard without a unifying look to the movement or clear thesis of what is being portrayed, leaving a muddy, detached impression.

4 of 5 stars
Choreography: Caitlin Colangelo
Music: “Losing the Light” by Explosions in the Sky

This quiet piece is deeply vulnerable; dancers silently shiver, subtly shifting and cocooning beneath the stress of life. Shoulders initiate movement, simulating distress by curving up and inward. Dancers slowly balance and meditate, comforting each other or giving in to sorrow. Silent dark shadows envelop the stage, and this brief window illuminates the importance of supporting each other through difficult times.

The Space Between
5 of 5 stars
Choreography: Bria Gabor in collaboration with the dancers
Music: “Untitled” spoken word by Jasmine Williams and “Midnight” by Coldplay

Literature and dance mingle in this powerful message of acceptance that our world needs hope to survive. Words spark gentle pantomime journeying from birth through childhood, how we are trained to hate what is different. Music echoes across the end of Bria Gabor’s reading, washing the stage in blue moonlight of Kieran Latham’s lighting design. Tiny threads of blood glow in white and blue across the dancers’ wrists, prompting them into a slow coming together, finding similarities, and accepting who they are, forging the peace we strive for through unforgettable visuals.

Subliminal Taps
3 of 5 stars
Choreography: Carissa Pinnix
Music: “Heart Cry” by Drehz

Continuing the theme of light, this frothy tap piece includes shoes that flash in the dark. It is a joyful, bright frolic that is infused with party energy and fun. The music is unexpected, and I am not sure if it works or not, but the piece was the perfect uplifting note to close the performance.

Lively Staging of ‘Peter and the Starcatcher’

By Rick Elice
Based on the novel by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
Music by Wayne Barker

Directed by Patrick Nims
Marin Onstage
For tickets / schedule :
Belrose Theatre, San Rafael

RUN: October 21 – November 12, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(November 4, 2016)

Peter and the Starcatcher marin onstage san rafael

Photo from Marin Onstage

Peter Pan’s world is a genre that is difficult to define; while wrapped in the outer appearance of a bedtime story, its darker elements are crafted for adults. In earlier stories, he is a sinister figure, which recently resurfaced in the Once Upon a Time adaptation where parents fight to protect their children from the immortal kidnapper of Neverland. Touches of cruelty and bitterness surround the boy in Peter and the Starcatcher. As an orphan, he has endured suffering and rejection; adults betray Peter, leading to repeated outcries of anger against them. Nick Gallagher captures the character’s brooding nature that secretly yearns for companionship. Through decisions made by adults within the play, we are forced to examine how they affect children who do not understand the nuances behind those choices. Peter struggles with why he has been treated unfairly, internalizing the abuse until it isolates him. These compelling themes run underneath a play filled with melodramatic antics.

From flashing red lights and awed shouts of “Black Stache!” to toothbrush toting mermaids mincing across the stage, this production is a masterpiece of primitive theater, drawing on the competence of the actors over elaborate sets and props. When Molly creeps through the ship, peering into cabins, the cast becomes doors and bulkheads. The backdrop by Gary Gonser is a simple and effective wall of stacked crates as if inside the cargo deck of a clipper ship; remaining sets are created by ropes, a ladder, and the occasional sea chest. Leffie Martin’s imaginative fight choreography includes toilet plunger and brush wielding combatants facing off on a storm tossed ship amid Harrison Moye’s inspired lighting design. Unfortunately, despite an ensemble that gives it their all, the production suffers under a poorly constructed plot, staid dialog, and narration that attempts to be clever. There are flashes of dry humor in the style of Douglas Adams, but not enough to hold up the play.

Peter and the Starcatcher marin onstage san rafael

Photo from Marin Onstage

Hannah Bloom’s Molly Aster shines like the stardust pendant around her neck—she manages a consistent accent, coquettish energy, and grows from a petulant young girl in the first scene to a maturing woman who bids Peter farewell with wistful acceptance. Mark Clark as Mrs. Bumbrake lightens the mood with his touches of eyelash fluttering comedy, and the entire cast hams it up with enthusiasm, dashing about, tumbling, and running, rather like a group of friends playing dress up in the attic and having a grand old time.

Enjoy a boisterous evening of inside jokes and clownish antics with thoughtful musings on being an adult. Unwind after a stressful day with Peter and the Starcatcher in the cozy cabaret seating of San Rafael’s Belrose Theatre.

Murder is Brewing in Santa Rosa

Photo by North Bay Stage Company

Photo by North Bay Stage Company

Review of Dial M for Murder
By Frederick Knott
Directed by John Faulkner

For tickets / schedule :
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
North Bay Stage Company

RUN: October 21 – November 6, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(October 28, 2016)

Footsteps creak in the passage, and the audience is holding their breath, tensing with the couple huddled in the dark, clinging to each other in anticipation and terror. Will the key fit the lock? Will an innocent be sent to death row for a crime she did not commit? Dial M for Murder is unique among its genre—the murderer is known all along, and the thrill is in whether or not he can get away with the perfect crime. Director John Faulkner references it as “one of the not-so-common plays where the villain takes center stage.”

Michael Walraven’s Tony has the façade of polished society thinly veiling a chilling psychotic killer. He transitions between self-inflicted personas: a cold intellectual who is fond of rambling to those he has elegantly trapped between his pincers. The scene with Paul Menconi’s Lesgate is disturbing—Tony casually walks about the room, wiping fingerprints off glasses and furniture alike, while Lesgate realizes he has been trapped, his expression growing more panicked as Tony’s leisurely cleaning unfolds. While tennis is the sport referenced by characters, the play is closer to a baseball game—quietly tiptoeing along interspersed with moments of wild action. It is Tony’s mesmerizing dialog that drives the story, not violence.

The loving tenderness of Margot is memorable from Grace Kelly’s performance in the Alfred Hitchcock adaptation, and Jesse Bell brings the poise and innocence of the role to life with an acerbic edge to it. When she successfully defends herself, it is believable considering the strength Margot displays from the opening scene. Although the desperation of the situation causes an eventual breakdown, Jesse Bell’s performance is determined and sympathetic. Despite a skillfully covered for mishap, Tom McIntyre’s Max captures a romantic writer caught up in his own world. Naively in love, he fails to see the cruel cunning of the man beside him until it is nearly too late.

Audie Foote and the team’s set design of drab grey and black furnishings create an overcast atmosphere punctuated by the sunset colored couch where most of the action takes place. Lighting designer Robin Delucca recreates film noir with dramatic changes in lamps and evening moonlight—a crucial aspect of building tension. Because the play is comprised of lengthy monologues, it can become rather static. John Faulkner’s direction shifts actors around the stage: pacing, staring, and limping. This creates a dynamic movement to the scenes, although the hard soled period shoes can become distracting in their loud clacking.

You will be on the edge of your seat for North Bay Stage Company’s Dial M for Murder—a timeless classic of the “nice guy” who is not what he seems. Prepare for a chilling evening of machinations and intrigue from a capable cast of local actors.

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