Monthly Archives: October 2017

‘The Rainmaker’ Finding the Space Between

Review of The Rainmaker
Written by Richard Nash
Directed by Patrick Nims
Sonoma Arts Live
For tickets / schedule :
Sonoma Community Center, Sonoma
Tickets: $22-37

RUN: October 13-29, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(October 27, 2017)

Sonoma Arts Live - The Rainmaker

H.C. Curry (Montgomery Paulsen) comforts his daughter Lizzy Curry (Abbey Lee). Photo by Marina Fusco Nims.

Unrelenting heat oppresses the Curry’s ranch; cattle are perishing in the drought and tempers have worn to a thread, ready to lash out. Compensating for the powerless feeling of watching their home fall apart without a cloud in the sky or chance of rain, family members cling to lifelines of their own making. Noah’s rational view of the world becomes an obsession, while Jim finds himself swept into a whirlwind romance, despite the impracticality it poses. The household is on the verge of open conflict when a smooth-talking con artist arrives with wild stories of how he can make it rain for a mere one hundred dollars. On a whim, the father agrees, considering it a gamble worth attempting, and goes along with the stranger’s odd requests.

Playwright Richard Nash crafts fascinating arcs for each character. This is not a high drama play; The Rainmaker is an in-depth view of what causes human motivations and actions. Forced by circumstances to examine inner beliefs, the family is permanently changed by what they discover.

Lizzy’s story touched me, because despite modern assurances that it is perfectly fine for a woman to be alone, there comes a time when you wonder if perhaps it is due to being worthless and unattractive; being an “old maid” may not have as much stigma today, but it is still a difficult struggle that is often unacknowledged. Powerfully acted by Abbey Lee, Lizzy is not interested in outlandish dreams for her future, she has quiet hopes that appear to be slipping away. When Noah takes out his anger on her, shouting that she is plain over and over, Lizzy breaks down, wallowing in self-loathing. Bill Starbuck (Tyler McKenna) picks up the pieces, reminding her that the only looking glass that matters is what she sees in herself. McKenna maintains a confident exterior, revealing layers of self-doubt through body language and flashes of pleading eye contact with Lizzy.

Sonoma Arts Live - The Rainmaker

The Curry family gathers for a tense dinner. Photo by Marina Fusco Nims.

There is no weak link in the cast; Nick Gallagher portrays Noah’s grim desperation and scramble for a well-ordered structure in the family, Matthew Loewenstein’s File is hiding from the truth about his wife, pushing through his reluctance to speak out, Montgomery Paulsen is a soothing, caring father as H.C. and Nick Moore’s rash Jim radiates youthful enthusiasm and innocence.

Adding relaxing ambience through traditional cowboy songs, Rick Love as Sheriff Thomas has a pleasant, natural singing voice. He led an entertaining sing-along before the show with the audience laughing and clapping along. Scene transitions were enjoyable with his appearances to pass the time with favorites like “Tennessee Waltz” and “Get Along Little Dogies” on his guitar.

Director Patrick Nims utilizes Bruce Lackovic’s tiered, rustic set design for silent moments of rummaging through the kitchen, folding blankets in the tack room, and frantic clearing up in the sheriff’s office, without the need for dialog. Take a deep breath, sit back, and be present in this timeless story of self-discovery and hope. The Rainmaker challenges us to find a balance between dreams and reality, because in that space we can truly live.

‘Steel Magnolias’ is a Haven of Compassion

Review of Steel Magnolias
By Robert Harling
Directed by Beulah Vega

For tickets & schedule:
6th Street Playhouse
Santa Rosa, CA
Tickets: $28-33, $23-28 Ages 62+, $20 Under 30

RUN: October 20 – November 5, 2017
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(October 20, 2017)

Steel Magnolias - 6th Street Playhouse

Truvy (Jennifer Peck) discusses Shelby’s (Ellen Rawley) dialysis treatments. Photo by Eric Chazankin.

On the surface, Steel Magnolias is a lighthearted gathering of women in a salon, discussing whether their colors are Autumn or Spring. Underneath is a hinted darkness that gains power, threatening their lives, and the pink draped beauty parlor transforms into a refuge of support and understanding. Playwright Robert Harling based the story on his sister, Susan, who passed away from complications after giving birth as a type 1 diabetic, and it was adapted into several popular films.

In the classic Southern town of Chinquapin Parish, Truvy is the hair primping queen, ready with a smile or tears as needed for her beloved customers and friends. Wandering into her shop with a shady past, Annelle is welcomed with open arms, despite her sudden obsession with “born again” Christianity. Affluent Clairee appears to have gentle poise, but enjoys practical jokes, and has saintly tolerance for rough around the edges Ouiser and her bitter commentary. The play opens with Shelby’s wedding preparations and her well-intended argument with M’Lynn, her mother, over whether baby’s breath belongs in an elegant hairstyle. Their relationship is a ping pong match of anger and tenderness.

mollie boice portrays Ouiser as hiding a romantic soul under layers of gall and sarcastic remarks, clomping about while discovering just the right moments to slip in a humorous look or reaction. Effervescent Jennifer Peck (Truvy) gives continuity to the play with her reassuring presence. The cast is superb, and Jill K. Wagoner’s anguish as M’Lynn in the final scene was heart-breaking, leading to an impactful denouement.

Steel Magnolias - 6th Street Playhouse

Gail Reine’s costume designs are classic 1980s with tapestry vests, puffed sleeves and vivid colors. Sam Transleau’s set has echoes of Evangelical church banners surrounding a lounge that shifts décor as time passes, covered in gaudy Christmas decorations or crocheted Kleenex boxes.

Director Beulah Vega creates a realistic atmosphere of women who are far from perfect, but stalwart in their affection for each other, ready with a stern lecture or comforting shoulder to cry on. Life is messy, and Steel Magnolias shows that it is more important to be there for each other, rather than attempt to fix the situation alone. Hairspray clouds the air in this hopeful picture of six extraordinary women at 6th Street Playhouse.

Journey of Acceptance in Cinnabar’s ‘Quartet’

Review of Quartet
By Ronald Harwood
Directed by Jereme Anglin
For tickets & schedule:
Cinnabar Theater
Petaluma, CA
Tickets: $28-35, $25-30 ages 62+, $20-25 under 30 and military, $15-20 under 18

October 13-29, 2017

RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(October 15, 2017)

Cinnabar Theater - Quartet

Wilfred Bond (Clark Miller), Jean Horton (Laura Jorgensen) and Reginald Paget (Michael Fontaine) convince Cecily Robson (Liz Jahren) that she is not about to go on holiday. Photo by Victoria Von Thal.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered who the aging face was staring back? Surely the reflection could not be real; it does not feel like so many years have passed. For the residents of a retirement home for musicians, their glory days as opera stars are long gone, but that does not mean their lives have ceased to have meaning. Quartet is an honest, hopeful examination of growing old with long-time friends and rivals. Joseph Elwick’s set design is marvelous, filled with portraits of famous composers, a comfortable array of elegant couches, and a grand piano dominating the room.

Struggling to hold onto her past that has dwindled into memory, Jean Horton (Laura Jorgensen) is left with pride as her consolation, until confronted with its fragility and hurtful consequences. Her ice princess façade is shattered when she opens up to explain the reason for her veneer in a beautiful, vulnerable moment from Horton. Better able to embrace the present, senility and all, Cecily Robson (Liz Jahren) is a bubbly, outgoing artist whose mental acuity is crumbling, to the consternation of her companions, who do not want her sent away. Jahren’s performance is admirable, capturing a compassionate, dazzling opera diva who is losing control, forgetting where she is, yet unfailing in her enthusiasm.

Cinnabar Theater - Quartet

Cecily Robson (Liz Jahren) comforts Jean Horton (Laura Jorgensen). Photo by Victoria Von Thal.

The story falters with Wilfred Bond, who constantly comments sexually about the assets of women. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein, its inclusion is not amusing—a relic of earlier attitudes that have come into question. Despite this, Clark Miller is excellent in the role, and has true insights that demonstrate a depth to his character. Reginald Paget (Michael Fontaine) is an entertaining intellectual, who has his nose perpetually in a book, seeking to escape what his life has become.

Verdi’s birthday celebration is an annual tradition at the home, and the group has been requested to perform the famous Quartet from Rigoletto. Their reactions vary from excitement to terror, and through negotiation they hatch a plot that will satisfy the diverse personalities, leading to a cheerful, hilarious finale.

Cinnabar Theater has gathered a delightful cast for this eccentric home of retired artists coming to terms with their faded careers and romantic flings in Ronald Harwood’s Quartet. Relax with the senior residents for an evening of laughs mingled with somber moments. Reginald speaks volumes to the current Sonoma County community “I’ve nowhere now,” but he realizes that friendship has become his home. This play is fitting for what we are going through, and worth spending time with Cinnabar.

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