Theatre

Glittering ‘FairyWorlds!’ at the Cannery

Review of FairyWorlds!
Adapted from William Shakespeare
Directed by Jared Sakren
For tickets / schedule :
www.shakespeareinthecannery.com
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.

Thriller Meets Farce in ‘The 39 Steps’

Review of The 39 Steps
By John Buchan
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon

Directed by Adrian Elfenbaum

For tickets / schedule :
www.rossvalleyplayers.com
Marin Art & Garden Center Barn Theatre
Ross, CA
Ross Valley Players

RUN: July 14 – August 20, 2017
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(July 21, 2017)

Ross Valley Players - The 39 Steps

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

Pursued by police and nefarious foreign agents, Hannay races across the United Kingdom in an effort to clear his name and prevent the mysterious 39 Steps from falling into the wrong hands. Vaguely inspired by Hitchcock’s 1935 film, it turns the spy thriller into a slapstick comedy of intrigue and romance, with three actors portraying a cornucopia of characters, from a raging Scottish householder to mincing professor’s wife, swapping hats and costumes at outrageous speeds, often within the same scene.

Michael Monagle as Hannay is sarcastic and heroic, plagued by a mounting set of unfortunate circumstances that paint him as a murderous villain to the public. His tireless physicality in the role includes a re-enactment of the train chase—leaping across moving cars, climbing roofs and jumping through windows before throwing himself to the ground under fire from a trailing airplane.

Robyn Grahn portrays the three main women in the play: femme fatale secret agent Annabella, sharp witted Pamela, and flirtatious Margaret. It is not the hasty wig and costume changes that transform Grahn; rather her poise, accent and personality define the characters and their individuality. The scene when she is dragged about the moors handcuffed to Hannay, trudging through mud and clambering over stiles was especially effective through her indignation and staging by Adrian Elfenbaum that moves them through a darkened auditorium, allowing her auditory reactions to spark imagination, rather than relying on projections or sets.

The remaining roles fall upon the talented Sean Garahan and Andre Amarotico. Taking on the blustering, fiery personalities is Garahan, who’s sputtering passion is memorable and had the audience applauding with delight. In a wide range from truly disturbing child at a windswept inn to the hysterical charwoman who discovers a body stabbed in the back, Amarotico is brilliant in this adaptation designed for versatile comedic actors.

Ross Valley Players - The 39 Steps

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

This satirical examination of the film noir genre is playful fun, while retaining the suspense of a thriller; for those unfamiliar with the story, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen to Hannay and what the 39 Steps might be. Alfred Hitchcock enthusiasts will notice tributes to his work, such as Tina Johnson’s lighting design casting distinctive shadows and an iconic moment from one of his films. Ron Krempetz was inspired by the mayhem to put on a show with so many quick changes, and created a vintage backstage set design that parallels the openly revealed nature of the production, while echoing the 1930s with period furniture and an Indiana Jones vibe.

It is easy to be captivated by The 39 Steps at Ross Valley Players—whether you enjoy secret agent adventures, Alfred Hitchcock films, or theatrical comedy that the whole family will enjoy, this play is a treat of first-rate entertainment.

The Recipe for a Wonderful, Wild Frolic

Review of The 39 Steps
by Gary Gonser, SFBATCC

By John Buchan
Adapted by Patrick Barlow
Directed by Adrean Elfenbaum
For tickets / schedule :
www.rossvalleyplayers.com
The Barn Theater in Marin Art and Garden Center
30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Ross, CA
Ross Valley Players

RUN: July 14 – August 20, 2017
RATING: 4.5 of 5 stars

(July 16, 2017)

Ross Valley Players - The 39 Steps

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

Take a rather tired story with a chase scene from 100+ years ago, add a successful film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock from 1935, modify that with a concept by Simon Corble & Nobby Dimon, then finalize that in a 2005 script by Patrick Barlow for Broadway that uses four actors to play all the scenes and roles from the Hitchcock classic film, and you have a wonderful, wild ride.

The story starts out backstage at the Palladium in London. Michael Monagle (as Hannay) is sitting in the theater, only to be interrupted by Robyn Grahn (as the spy, Annabella). She is looking for a room for the night to hide from other spies looking to kill her. Hannay takes her in and after a short discussion of a secret document leaving the country in a few days, Annabella is killed. Hannay escapes only to find himself on the run from the cops, while tracking down the spies and secrets that killed Annabella.

Simple enough, but it’s a long way from London to the highlands of Scotland on a train, especially constrained by a single set and four actors. Along the way, Grahn morphs into Pamela (a wide-eyed highland sheep farmer’s wife) and Margaret (a fair city slicker aka “love interest”). Monagle remains the stable, indefatigable Hannay, tracking his prey to clear his name and save England from its enemies.

Ross Valley Players - The 39 Steps

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

But wait! Who plays the comics onstage at the Palladium, or the cops chasing Hannay, or the spies, or the sheep farmer and hotel proprietors, or the Scots’ election team, or the many smaller parts done by extras in Hitchcock’s film?  Enter Sean Garahan and Andrew Amarotico to the rescue.

Garahan and Amarotico are amazing actors who take quick costume and dialog changes in stride as they exit off one part of the stage only to enter as different characters through another part of the stage. Each character they play is different in dress, accent (yea, the Scots’ accent is as fun as their German and British accents), and personality. This reviewer stopped counting the distinct parts after 15. I would actually see four people on stage, and wonder where the others were.

Yes, of course there is more. Not only are all scenes and characters from the Hitchcock film “39 Steps” included in this pastiche, but little treasures from all Hitchcock’s films are tucked away in the scenes for us to find.  For example, music from “Psycho” plays for 5 seconds in an unexpected spot, while visuals from “Vertigo” expand a scene. This is a scavenger hunt for hidden trivia celebrating Hitchcock, the master “who done it” filmmaker.

The whole show is a masterpiece of comic teamwork by expert actors having the time of their lives in this wild frolic of stagecraft done with perfect timing.  It is an engrossing puzzle to the audience (“which Hitchcock film did I see that in?,” “who is that character?” etc.) that infects the audience in a matter of minutes with infectious laughter that cheers throughout the show.

Ross Valley Players - The 39 Steps

Photo by Gregg Le Blanc

This is not suspenseful mystery, but it is a cacophony of acting challenges that bring out the best of each minute of the show.  The set never changes, but basic set pieces are moved as necessary to smoothly create the necessary scenes along the way. Costumes and choreography are included with the meal as tasty “side dishes” to the main dish of plot and action.

Add the exotic spices of spot-on lighting and sound, and we have the perfect meal. This reviewer is going back for seconds.

 

Tickets:
$27 General Admission
$15 Young Adults under 25
Available through Brown Paper Tickets (+8% fee), or at the door

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