Monthly Archives: August 2017

Frustrated Lovers Conspire for Freedom in ‘The Miser’

Review of The Miser
By Molière
Directed by  Kim Bromley

For schedule (free admission):
Old Mill Park Amphitheatre
Mill Valley, CA
The Curtain Theatre

RUN: August 19 – September 10, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(August 20, 2017)

The Miser - The Curtain Theatre

Harpagon (Grey Wolf) and La Flèche (Nelson Brown) debate what it means to be a miser. Photo by Russell Johnson.

The Curtain Theatre transforms a picturesque redwood grove in Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park into an enticing outdoor amphitheatre, with delicately painted sets by Steve Coleman, creating the ambiance of a 17th Century French parlor.

Director Kim Bromley’s broad comedic brushstrokes exaggerate foibles of characters—Cléante is obsessed with his own appearance, covered in golden ribbons and lace, Valère manipulates to any length forwarding his goals, and Harpagon, otherwise known as the miser, ignores his children to protect material wealth instead. This satirical examination of society was one of Molière’s later plays, and wildly popular at its premiere in 1668, quickly spreading to the rest of Europe.

Harpagon, a tightfisted elderly gentleman, wishes his children to marry for wealth. Under his watchful eye, both have fallen in love with penniless suitors, and are secretly hoping to marry without his consent. After a series of mistaken identities and hidden truths come to light, all is well in a suitably chaotic deux ex machina denouement, in the style of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.

The Miser - The Curtain Theatre

Élise (Isabelle Grimm) and Valère (Steve Beecroft) in a tête-à-tête. Photo by Russell Johnson.

Live music drifts across the stage in romantic waltzes and well-timed pratfalls, lead by Don Clark. Isabelle Grimm as coquettish Élise minces through her formidable amount of dialogue beside Steve Beecroft’s calculating Valère. Their melodramatic love affair is charming and amusing in its awkward scenes behind her father’s back, attempting to escape his wrath.

Embodying an overtly emotional, plumed nobleman is Nick Moore as Cléante, a young actor who is studying at College of Marin. He boldly interacts with the audience, pleading for money, and succumbing to a faint spell in their midst after discovering his beloved Marianne is claimed by another.

Krystina Morrill’s feisty Marianne does not appear until after intermission, and she is far from the submissive innocent that is expected. Women in this play are confident, willing to take matters into their own hands, and adept at maneuvering situations to their advantage.

The Miser - The Curtain Theatre

Cléante (Nick Moore) reveals his secret love for Marianne to Élise (Isabelle Grimm) Photo by Russell Johnson.

In its earliest run, Molière himself portrayed the title character, and added Harpagon’s hacking coughs to cover his own illness. Grey Wolf’s miser is a lecherous, greedy villain whose hobbling gait and cantankerous insults plague the servants of his household and send his children running. Nelson Brown as the sharp tongued valet La Flèche stands up to him, saving the day.

The Miser can be enjoyed on weekends and Labor Day Monday at 2:00 p.m. in the relaxing shade of Old Mill Park below the library. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged; arrive early to take advantage of their preset chairs, or bring a blanket to sit on the hillside.

‘The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet’ Mentors All Ages in Napa

Kirsten Livingston of Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet

Photo courtesy of Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet

Ballet training fosters a sense of confidence, physical awareness, dedication, and can be an encouraging community atmosphere with the right teacher. Opening this September in Napa, The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet will be offering classes for all ages. Founder Kirsten Livingston is putting her extensive experience and passion for teaching into the new school. “I believe that everyone should dance regardless of what their particular goals are.” There is a place for all at Livingston’s school—young people wishing to express a lively, creative spirit in a positive environment, teenagers who plan to pursue a professional career in classical ballet, or adults looking for an artistic outlet. “I want every child who walks through my doors to have the best possible experience with dance and their training,” Livingston assures.

With twenty-six years of teaching experience, Kirsten Livingston has learned how to shape her program to individual needs while retaining a sense of discipline in the studio. It takes focus and hard work to train with classical ballet, but it should be enjoyable as well; finding that balance is key to a well-run dance academy. Her own formation ranges from the intricate staccato style of contemporary ballet at the Balanchine school to personal training with Russian ballerina Madame Valentina Belova in a traditional style of ballet. She has had training from the Pacific Northwest Ballet, our local world-class company San Francisco Ballet, and has studied the more structured RAD style of teaching. As a result, no matter what each student is trying to achieve, Livingston is able to draw on a wide range of influences to choose what will work best for them.

Because ballet is a performance art, there will be opportunities to do so, although as a fledgling school, that program will be built up with time. Starting with small scale productions, such as holiday cheer to bring into homes for the elderly, or a spring concert, productions are likely to be based on story ballets and perhaps in the future a staging of Nutcracker. Partnering with Lucky Penny Community Arts Center for a location, the academy is conveniently accessible from the highway.

To learn more about the new school, ask questions, and sign up for classes with a 10% discount, join Kirsten Livingston at the open house sessions, August 26 and September 2 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Fall classes will begin on September 5, meeting on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

The Arts Academy School of Classical Ballet
Phone: (408) 309-8029

Lucky Penny Community Arts Center
1758 Industrial Way, Suite 208, Napa

Glittering ‘FairyWorlds!’ at the Cannery

Review of FairyWorlds!
Adapted from William Shakespeare
Directed by Jared Sakren
For tickets / schedule :
Railroad Square, Santa Rosa
(Enter through 6th Street Playhouse parking lot)
Shakespeare in the Cannery in association with 6th Street Playhouse

RUN: August 10 – September 2, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(August 11, 2017)

Shakespeare in the Cannery - FairyWorlds!

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Adapted from William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jared Sakren‘s vision wraps the stage in shimmering mists of fairyland with a host of floral draped creatures hovering in twinkling adoration of their otherworldly royals. April George’s lighting design casts mystical colors of moonlight, while Maci Cae Hosler’s costumes are almost unwieldy in their spectacle, with sweeping cloaks, light infused wings and streamlined battle gear of Amazon warriors.

Despite the visual feast of this production, which at times suffers from technical hiccups, it is the intimate character driven moments that make FairyWorlds! come alive. In a brilliant choice of casting, Elizabeth Henry is both Hippolyta and Titania, while Chris Schloemp portrays Theseus and Oberon, creating parallel mature love stories. Sakren’s nuanced directing becomes obvious when he takes the nearly mute Hippolyta and turns her into a force to be reckoned with, using the physicality of an Amazon to keep her engaged in scenes, rather than melting into a backdrop piece as I have seen in other productions. The antics of Schloemp and the wedding party turn the final act’s mechanicals performance into Renaissance RiffTrax style hilarity.

Craig A. Miller struts into the role of Bottom, wheezing and bellowing as the monstrous love of Titania, and causing fits of laughter from the audience in his prolonged comedic death scene as Pyramus. His fellow mechanicals take to their roles, with Al Kaplan as the put-upon Peter Quince / Prologue, whose bellowed pronunciation corrections from backstage are perfectly timed. Jill K. Wagoner’s Tom Snout / Wall interacts adroitly with Miller’s Pyramus, making faces at him throughout the scene.

Shakespeare in the Cannery - FairyWorlds!

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Haplessly caught in the snares of fairies are the young lovers, who wander through the woods, tossed by magic’s capricious ways. Abbey Lee’s feisty Hermia turns Marty Pistone’s fight choreography into a sort of vicious dance, furious at her new rival, Haley Rome’s Helena, who keeps a level head at the gathering whirlwind of events. Joseph Favalora’s acrobatic Puck is cheerful and graceful; his poise, always at the tips of his toes, maintains the fairy quality of his character, contrasting the heavily traditional role he takes as Philostrate.

FairyWorlds! captures the enchantment of Shakespeare’s play with a dreamscape atmosphere. It’s exciting lighting design and enthusiastic cast weave an entertaining evening in the unique cannery ruins venue.

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