Monthly Archives: May 2017

Compassion is Forgotten in ‘From Both Hips’

Review of From Both Hips
By Mark O’Rowe
Directed by John Craven
For tickets / schedule :
www.mainstagewest.com
Main Stage West, Sebastopol

RUN: May 19 – June 4, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(May 27, 2017)

From Both Hips - Main Stage West

Photo © Eric Chazankin

Accidentally shot during a drug bust, Paul returns home an invalid, determined to make the cop pay for his mistake. Using an inventive technique of including phone conversations to transition between scenes, giving additional context to the story, Mark O’Rowe’s play has crackling dialogue and relentless pacing.

Profoundly flawed human beings inhabit this dark comedy—Theresa, who is lonely enough to have an affair just to be noticed, co-dependent Liz who hangs onto her friends with leech-like tenacity, Willy’s lack of self-awareness leading to flashes of anger, and Paul’s despicable attitude toward others. What they have in common is a desire to be accepted and loved, a theme paralleled by a casually discussed article on whether or not dogs are capable of affection, which is brought up throughout the play.

Lydia Revelos as Liz hovers through scenes—a coiled spring waiting for her moment. She brings across a personality that believes she is acting out of good intentions, oblivious to the disregard of others as the odd one out. Ilana Niernberger’s anxious Theresa is brilliant in a moment of misinterpretation when she thinks Liz has discovered the affair, only to realize it is the dog they are discussing. Her mounting tension and over excited imagination regarding the break-in is both amusing and ominous, considering her fears have foundation in actual incidents.

From Both Hips - Main Stage West

Photo © Eric Chazankin

Sam Coughlin (Willy) and Alanna Weatherby (Irene) make a solid team. With direction from John Craven, their tenderness toward each other, small comforting gestures and strained emotion during arguments shows a marriage with foundation to it, despite superficial problems. When cross-examined about where Willy goes when upset, Irene insists he comes home to her, and that pronouncement is believable from what we see of the couple.

In contrast, the marriage of Paul (Chris Ginesi) and Adele (Nora Summers) has been shattered by a combination of his ego and her coldness. She prefers to depend on a friend in her illness, rather than admitting how far gone she is and asking for help. He could care less about what she is going through, and believes he is the primary victim—after all, they weren’t the ones who were shot in the hip.

From Both Hips - Main Stage West

Photo © Eric Chazankin

From Both Hips is a reminder not to become self consumed when feeling alone and abandoned; the toxic relationships caused by reaching out to the wrong people in destructive ways harm all those involved. It is easy to laugh at the shenanigans, and think we are nothing like these nasty sort of characters, but they are exaggerated versions of people we know, perhaps ourselves, and we can learn from their mistakes. Don’t miss the United States premiere of this thought provoking and disturbingly amusing Irish play.

‘Suddenly It’s Springtime One Acts with Heart’ at Marin Onstage

Review of The Public Eye & Ludlow Fair
Marin Onstage
For tickets / schedule :
marinonstage.org
Belrose Theatre, San Rafael

RUN: May 26 – June 10, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(May 26, 2017)

Photo by Gary Gonser

The Public Eye
By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Billie Cox

Dive into 1960s London with this classic play examining the challenges of youthful enthusiasm dimming into middle aged stodgy intellect that eschews imagination. Charles Sidley, played with indignant stuffiness by Mitchell Field, has become convinced that his wife’s absences indicate that she is having an affair. Eccentric private detective Julian Cristoforou (Ellen Brooks), with a penchant for eating sweets when nervous, is on the case, in between hunting down chocolate macaroons. This one act play feels full length, and could have carried the evening on its own.

Brimming with curiosity and adventure, Emily Ludlow as the wife, Belinda Sedley, captures the stage with her confidence and innocent amusement at small discoveries, such as enraptured praise for Ingmar Bergman films. Ellen Brooks’ outlandish detective is a quintessential 1960s English character, complete with raincoat and kooky flower, designed by Nancy Bodan-Gonser. Direction from Billie Cox layers comedy under each scene, creating a delightful period piece with an agreeable denouement that warms the heart.

Photo by Gary Gonser

Ludlow Fair
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Renee Mandel-Sher

In contrast to the quirky and sentimental The Private Eye, this one act is more of an experiment in form than a completed work. It leans heavily on rambling monologues from roommates who are forced into intimate discussions based entirely on their proximity to each other. There are glimmers of depth toward the end, when Agnes admits that she wanted to have children—an opportunity that has slipped by and become merely a dream. Hande Gokbas muses with quiet sorrow, clutching tiny dolls that are all she has, tears misting her expressive eyes.

Keara Reardon’s Rachel is erratic and emotional over a recent breakup—energetic in embracing the role, although the overall concept flounders. The play feels like the newsreels that used to be added onto feature films—more of an educational piece that is part of the experience, but does not hold its own.

One Acts with Heart lives up to its name, offering two unique plays that are enjoyable and well directed. If you are fond of vintage BBC shows, The Public Eye will be a treat, and the Belrose Theater is a comfortable environment to spend the evening.

‘The Money Shot’ Highlights Triviality in Our Culture

Review of The Money Shot
By Neil LaBute
Directed by Kimberly Kalember & Sandra Ish

For tickets & schedule:
www.leftedgetheatre.com
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
Left Edge Theatre

RUN: May 19 – June 4, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(May 20, 2017)

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

The Money Shot is a study in superficiality—living on the casual level, unwilling to form deeper human connections. Neil LaBute presents a kaleidoscope of examples, from Steve’s blatant disregard for the company he is with to Karen’s subtle narcissism through constant name dropping of her accomplishments and snide remarks that make her partner feel under valued. This cesspool of insincerity comes to a boil in a drawn-out conflict that leaves the audience with an abrupt, odd sort of ending, wondering if there was another scene meant to be there, or if the sudden cutoff of action was deliberate.

The premise is quite simple, if rather smutty; two famed Hollywood actors are considering an actual sex scene in their latest film to raise ratings overseas, and have met with their partners to discuss the implications. Argo Thompson’s set design is an upscale “outdoor room” sort of style, straight out of the latest Frontgate. In between sips from a Sangria dispenser, the cast politely quarrels for the majority of the play—typical of a party where too little attention has been paid to the guest list and their compatibility.

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

Loudest with voicing her concerns is Karen’s partner, Bev (Sandra Ish) who takes the thoughtless remarks about her sexuality and culture personally, and is not about to let them slide. While her reactions are warranted, the character comes across as belligerent and a bit of a bully, showing the opposite side of the spectrum from Missy (Heather Gordon), who is Steve’s partner and prefers to stay aloof from the situation. Gordon keeps the audience guessing about whether her lack of attention and persona is simply an act for the sake of her career, or genuine. Either way, we do not get to know who she really is—representing those whose façade might be purposefully imposed to attain certain goals.

Laurie Gauguin’s Karen is the quintessential self obsessed star—she ignores the task at hand to quibble over where her name appears on the movie poster, and constantly talks about her non-profit organizations, Malibu restaurant and fragrance line. Dodds Delzell as Steve is the character you love to hate, “manspreading” across half the couch, spouting ignorant nonsense, and oblivious to the chaos until it affects him personally.

Left Edge Theatre - The Money Shot

Photo by Left Edge Theatre

Left Edge Theatre’s The Money Shot is a quirky play with talented comedic actors that makes you think as much as you laugh, putting a spotlight on awkward social situations caused by the tendency to avoid discussing what really matters, preferring to live in a sort of fantasy realm of general topics until it becomes so offensive that a battle ensues.

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