Beauty and the Geek in a Modern Fairytale Romance

By David Templeton
Directed by Carl Jordan
Marin Onstage
For tickets / schedule :
Belrose Theatre, San Rafael
Tickets: $25, $21 Seniors, $15 Students, $12 Children

RUN: October 27 – November 18, 2017
RATING: 3.5 of 5 stars

(October 28, 2017)

Pinky at Marin Onstage

Pinky (Melissa Claire) exchanges a quiet moment with David (Larry Williams).

Stories influence early impressions of romance, whether amusing family anecdotes or princesses in towers waiting for a prince to ride up astride a dashing charger. David grew up hearing tales of the persistence of true love, and its ability to overcome all odds. Pinky is determined to wait for the perfect man, and has a PC (Prince Charming) list of required attributes, such as tall, but not too tall.

Their youthful dreams are challenged when David sees her from across the room, backlit in glorious beauty, and is determined to prove his adoration, while Pinky considers him a friend who might check off a few items on her list, but holds no romantic attraction. Unrequited teenage love leads to madcap adventures through cemeteries, the mall food court, and culminates with a choreographed sword fight in full costume to Lord of the Rings music.

Melissa Claire is a radiant Pinky, along with a host of other characters, from a drawling surfer accent to hair twirling “valley girl” friend. Many of the scenes are a single actor interacting with themselves while switching roles, and for the most part it is effective, although there were places where it lagged.

David is being portrayed by both Jeffrey Weissman (October 27, November 10, 11, 17, 18 at 8:00 p.m.) and Larry Williams (October 28, November 18 at 2:00 p.m.) who bring unique perspectives to the character. I was present for Williams’ performance, and his warm enthusiasm created an instantly accessible David who was easy to root for, despite possibly going too far in his quest to get Pinky’s attention.

Pinky - Marin Onstage

David (Larry Williams) and Pinky (Melissa Claire) discover their friendship.

The play contains hints of “nerd” trivia like Dungeons and Dragons alignment recitations, causing stumbling over lines; playwright David Templeton is a wordsmith, crafting delightfully complex language that requires extensive rehearsal time to fully appreciate them, and he has the background to include accurate references explaining the difference between Lawful Good and Chaotic Neutral. Gary Gonser’s set design of castles and LARPing swords set the scene for this imaginative narrative.

Pinky is a heartfelt comedy drawing parallels from the 1946 film La belle et la bête which delves into the territory of love and friendship. While the carefully planned antics are highly diverting, Pinky has a touching message that while love is worth fighting for, it is also important to know when to stop and move on with someone else. Join Pinky and David as they navigate the difficult territory of friends who could turn into more, and the adorably awkward stages of first love.

‘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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