Monthly Archives: September 2017

Aroma of Friendship and Vice in ‘Sideways’

Review of Sideways
By Rex Pickett
Directed by Argo Thompson

For tickets & schedule:
Luther Burbank Center for the Arts
Santa Rosa, CA
Left Edge Theatre
Tickets: $25 General Admission

RUN: September 8 – October 1, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(September 15, 2017)

Sideways - Left Edge Theatre

Jack (Chris Ginesi) sips pinot noir with the tasting manager (Mark Bradbury) while Miles (Ron Severdia) describes the bouquet. Photo by Argo Thompson.

Sideways has morphed forms from bestselling novel to film and this stage adaptation by the original author, Rex Pickett. Although it takes place in Santa Ynez Valley wine country, the play is appropriate for this area, and the industrial style tasting room set design by Argo Thompson with vino pin wine racks is reminiscent of wineries in Sonoma County.

Wine snob and floundering writer Miles takes his buddy Jack on a whirlwind bachelor party, consuming vast amounts of alcohol in a quest for the perfect pinot noir. Along the way, they meet two beautiful vino enthusiasts and strike up an impromptu romance.

Sideways - Left Edge Theatre

Miles (Ron Severdia) lectures Jack (Chris Ginesi) for getting into another scrape. Photo by Argo Thompson.

Wine country inside jokes abound, with hissy managers sputtering “this is a tasting room, not a bar” while pulling bottles away, and Miles attempting to explain how to properly drink wine, describing a delicate bouquet in pompous detail that has Jack rolling his eyes and downing the pour in a single gulp. The burgundy soaked sex scene with lovers as turned on by the wine as each other had the audience laughing hysterically, and constant derision of merlot was hotly contested in the lobby by locals who favor that varietal.

Ron Severdia’s Miles portrays an outward veneer of confidence that wears away in a downward spiral personified by clutching at an unopened bottle of Château Latour that is slowly degrading in quality. He is unwilling to uncork it and take the consequences, since it has become a parallel to his overall life decisions. In contrast, Chris Ginesi’s easy going Jack is terrified of commitment, bouncing between women in a headlong rush toward his wedding.

Recently divorced Maya (Maureen O’Neill) discovered her love of wine by taking revenge on her ex-husband’s infidelity by breaking open his treasured cellar and consuming the finest burgundies. O’Neill’s reserved charm is appropriate to the character, and she has a grounded authenticity to her reactions. Jazmine Pierce as Terra is a wildcat in her confrontation with Jack’s dishonesty, leaping on the bed, ferociously brandishing a golf club. The supporting cast moves through a variety of roles, Mark Bradbury’s tasting room managers being especially memorable.

Sideways - Left Edge Theatre

Terra (Jazmine Pierce) furious with Jack (Chris Ginesi) and Miles (Ron Severdia). Photo by Argo Thompson.

The downfall of the play is in its length and pacing. With engaging characters and an entertaining concept, a tighter editing pass would have maintained the energy; instead, it slumps in several scenes, until building up to a satisfying conclusion. There are enough captivating interactions throughout to keep the audience interested; Thompson’s direction and the cast’s investment in their roles make up for the scattered timing by keeping characters realistic and connected. Left Edge Theatre’s Sideways celebrates the significance of close friendship, with its ups and downs, in a hilarious wine drenched road trip.

Academic Escapades in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’

Review of Love’s Labour’s Lost
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Rob Clare
For tickets / schedule :
Marin Shakespeare
Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, Dominican University of California
Tickets: $37, $34 Senior 65+, $12 for 25 and younger or pay your age

RUN: September 2-24, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(September 10, 2017)

Love's Labour's Lost - Marin Shakespeare

Longaville (Walter Zarnowitz), Dumain (Terrance Smith), Biron (Patrick Russell), and King Ferdinand (Dean Linnard) enjoy the last moments of freedom before signing the edict. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Shakespeare’s comedies range from wickedly sharp banter between lovers to drunken buffoonery, utilizing clever plot twists and mistaken identities. In this frothy little play, it is language that takes the forefront; Shakespeare is showing off and doing it splendidly. Dancing rhythms range up and down in a capering melody of words. It is no wonder that love blossoms so easily when the atmosphere is charged with sizzling poetry.

In the court of King Ferdinand, four young men decide to eschew the pleasures of female company and lengthy banquets to concentrate on academic pursuits that will sharpen their minds. The agreement is signed just as a princess and her ladies arrive. Secretly, declarations of affection are written, and the firm pact is set topsy-turvy. The women have their fun at the suitors’ expense, until realizing that the men are truly in earnest.

With eight lovers dashing about in various disguises, I was grateful to costume designer Abra Berman for color coding the couples with hat ribbons and sashes. Her elegant Edwardian summer frocks are a pleasing sight against golden stone walls of the Oxford University quad inspired set design by Jackson Currier. The visuals in this play are a confection of light colors and frivolity, matching the meters of frolicking poetry.

Love's Labour's Lost - Marin Shakespeare

Rosaline (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) flaunts her love letter. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Despite being a solid ensemble piece, each character flashes with individuality. Dean Linnard’s King Ferdinand attempts to hold firm to his studies with stoic duty, while hiding the fact he is a hopeless romantic at heart. Linnard’s hilarious attempt at singing a tune for the princess was matched only by his heel kicking performance in a Russian dance while in disguise. Playful rascal Biron (Patrick Russell) would rather be playing cricket than worrying about books, the opposite of his quietly earnest friend, Longaville (Walter Zarnowitz) and energetic Dumain (Terrance Smith) whose antics land him in the pond rather than face King Ferdinand to admit he is in love.

Their affections are not to be wondered at, with wit cracking Rosaline (Kathryn Smith-McGlynn) who triumphs in every encounter, Livia DiMarchi as the poised princess able to hold her own against the flustered king, flirtatious Maria (Eliza Boirin), and mischievous Katharine (Morgan Pavey) who finds her suitor’s ardor amusing.

Love's Labour's Lost - Marin Shakespeare

Biron (Patrick Russell), King Ferdinand (Dean Linnard), Longaville (Walter Zarnowitz), and Dumain (Terrance Smith) prepare to face the ladies. Photo by Jay Yamada.

Amy Lizardo as Costard has a never ceasing loquacious tongue that could cause Sense and Sensibility’s comment “I do not think she drew breath from the moment we left London.” Lizardo’s personable warmth is a welcome addition to the cast. Carl Robinett’s Moth wanders by in the background of scenes, making snarky remarks until having his moment to shine as the young Hercules wrestling with a snake, causing enthusiastic cheering from the audience and characters alike.

Love’s Labour’s Lost may not have the popular appeal of other Shakespearean comedies, but its richness in language and charming love stories are an entertaining delight with this exquisite production. Rob Clare’s direction crafts a spirited gambol of poetry and awakened desire that is the perfect way to end this year’s outdoor theatre season.

Encountering the Other in Curtain Call Theatre’s ‘The Elephant Man’

Review of The Elephant Man
By Bernard Pomerance
Directed by Michael Tabib
For tickets / schedule :
Curtain Call Theatre
Russian River Hall, Monte Rio
Tickets: $20, $15 Students / Seniors 60+

RUN: September 1-23, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(September 9, 2017)

The Elephant Man - Curtain Call Theatre

John Merrick (James Rowan) is discovered by a London policeman (Vince Black) and Carr Gomm (Joseph Potter)

Finding humanity in those who are radically divergent is a struggle for society; if someone looks or acts differently from what we are used to, it challenges our comfort zone. Historically it has been difficult to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard and respected equally, as recent news attests to. With the severely disfigured “elephant man” it is easy to react with fear, revulsion, or pity, rather than recognizing him as an intelligent equal worthy of normal attention and dignity.

Loosely based on the life of Joseph Carey Merrick, who is known as John in the play, it takes place in 1884-1890. Curtain Call Theatre’s stark scenic design allows the actors to become the main focus, rather than an elaborate Victorian setting, utilizing chilling black and white projections by Bill Young as a backdrop.

John Merrick’s deformities are not recreated with makeup or illusion; it is entirely on the shoulders of James Rowan’s strength as an actor to bring the audience into Merrick’s world, which he confidently succeeds in. This difficult role is not only physically daunting, with specific facial contortions, arm weight, and shuffling limp, but emotionally draining as the character experiences heartbreak, joy, despair, and love over the course of the evening. Rowan is absolutely invested, deeply connecting with the audience who feels the journey with him.

The Elephant Man - Curtain Call Theatre

Dr. Frederick Treves (Lew Brown) explains the meaning of “home” to John Merrick (James Rowan)

Rustling in luxurious satin, Yelena Segal is Mrs. Kendall, the down-to-earth actress who is able to see the real Merrick. Her tenderness and open friendship revolutionize his life as she goes to extreme lengths ensuring that he does not miss important moments. Lew Brown’s Frederick Treves captures the quiet suffering of a successful doctor who is adrift when it comes to managing his personal affairs, caught up in reconciling a keen scientific mind with the archaic moral values of the culture he resides in. The nightmare sequence in act two is riveting and a cruelly accurate examination of the idealized male during that time period.

The Elephant Man from Curtain Call Theatre confronts our perceptions with heartfelt awareness that external features do not reflect the soul and personality within; if we run away like the terrified nurse, refusing to encounter the “other” it is a mistake. Instead, reaching out to discover the unique contributions of each person shapes a compassionate, creative environment where men like Merrick are accepted and able to thrive.

Company photographer: Dave Hall Photography

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