Category Archive for: ‘Annette Lust’

May/June Theatre Reviews

May/June Theatre Reviews

Berkeley Rep’s In Paris, A European Multimedia Visual Challenge
In Paris, based on a short story by Ivan Bunin and staged as a multimedia production, moves at a slow pace deploying Russian and French dialogue with English subtitles, music, song, mime, video, and several rapid dance moments magnificently performed by Baryshnikov as the male protagonist. In this 1930ties piece, we watch the former principal dancer of the Kirov Ballet navigate with elegant ease as the retired lonely Russian general seeking the company of a young waitress (Anna Sinyakina) also looking for love and a companion. After the young waitress attends a movie and spends the night with the older man their search to fulfill their mutual loneliness is for a time resolved.
The sober simplicity of the dramatic action in this eighty minute piece directed by Dimitry Krymov sparks the curiosity of the spectator from the opening caricature of a male protagonist who repeatedly picks up his overcoat and hat that falls from hooks and in the following scenes as he pursues the young waitress. Although the spectator does not share the thoughts and emotions of the protagonists, he is intrigued as the protagonists climb into a cab, see a movie, go to Montmartre to dance and drink, and then return home to remain together. Prompted to search for the protagonists’ subconscious motives, the spectator participates more actively
Although to a large extent the spectator needs to imagine the protagonists’ mutual loneliness, other elements compensate for the reserved presentation of the emotional content. One is that this simple exposition of the dramatic action prompts the spectator to search for the protagonists’ subconscious motives and thus participate more actively in the dramatic action.
Among the visual elements that communicate the meaning and feelings of the piece are the expressive movement (and sometimes stillness) of both Baryshnikov and Anna Sinyakina and the other cast members, along with Alexiei Ratmansky’s choreography, the imaginative surrealist love scene, and the elegant scenic and costume designs of Maria Tregubova. Added to this are the songs and music of Dimitry Valko, Baryshnikov’s  dynamic (but all too short) dance numbers, and Tei Blow’s well accomplished audio and video designs.
The stark simplicity of the production thus serves the visual lyricism of this challenging crossbreeding of postmodern elements depicting two lonely beings in search of love. It is a unique Russian styled postmodern experience and a rare European theatre conception that should not be missed.
For the upcoming Berkeley Rep production of Eve Ensler’s (author of The Vagina Monologues) Emotional Culture, June 14 to July 15, visit www.berkeleyrep.org
42nd Street Moon Revives Zorba,a Celebration of Life, at the Eureka
In celebration of their twentieth anniversary of reviving lost musical theatre, 42nd St. Moon opened this season with Zorba, adapted by Nikos Kazantzakis from Zorba the Greek. Directed by Greg MacKelllan with a cast of 20 actors and with musical direction by Dave Dobrusky, the musical is as much a fully acted play as a musical celebration of life .
The musical begins with a zestful bouzouki (long necked stringed instrument of Greek origin) celebration in an Athens tavern in 1924. Chorus leader singer Alexandra Kaprelian’s powerful seductive voice and sensual movements set the mood in the opening song, “Life Is.”
Enter Zorba (Michael Stevensen), an adventurous, gypsy like male who does not allow life’s vicissitudes alter his yearning for new experiences. He meets Niko (Ian Leonard), a timid Greek scholar, whom he latches on to teach him to live life fully. Together they will explore a mine Niko has inherited.
Enter the French widow Madame Hortense  (Stephanie Rhoads) who falls for Zorba and in her vivacious song “Boom Boom” brags about all the admirals she frequented when she was younger. Later in “Goodbye Carnavaro” she bids goodbye to Zorba who leaves to buy materials for the mine and whom she awaits in hopes of marrying him. Part One ends in the leader’s lyrical songs “The Bend of the Road” and “Only Love..”.
Part Two offers poetic wisdom in Zorba’s “Woman,” dynamically sung by Stevensen, and in which he describes women as a fresh spring and men as only passers-bys. After Zorba has succeeded in encouraging Niko to propose to the silent beautiful widow (Teressa Byrne) , the musical presents tragic aspects of life that sadden Niko but that Zorba accepts as life’s alternations. With his “I Am Free” song we watch Zorba move on to more adventures.
Although the content of this musical contains some dated and clichéd sentimentality, this is compensated by the well interpreted philosophic wisdom and truths it offers about life, love, and the role of the male and the female. What also strengthens the musical is the spirited enthusiastic allure of the 20 cast members as both actors and singers..
42nd St Moon has once more  presented a rarely performed musical treasure staged with simple sets and costumes to the tune of a single piano and a bouzouki in the warm ambiance of the Eureka Theatre, one of San Francisco’s elegant intimate theatres. The Eureka Theatre, founded in 1972, has a rich artistic history, having launched many illustrious artists and companies including Tony Kushner’s Angels inAmerica in 1991 that won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
 For information about future 42nd St. Moon productions visit www.42ndstmoon.org 
Sheherazade X11: 2012
On a theme depicting subjects that are 2012 related, Wily West Company, partnering with the Playwright’s Center of San Francisco, presented a short play festival comprised of the following eight Bay Area playwright’s works.
Mission Irresistible by Patricia Milton, directed by Ann Thomas, develops a Russian delegate’s (Diana Brown as the dynamically convincing Russian female) attempts to seduce two of Nasas’ serious minded astronaut representatives (Lila Tavelli and Wesley Cayabyab) into partnering with Russia.
Rod McFadden’s Of Machines and Men, directed by Ann Thomas, revolves around cracking the enigma of machines, the electronic brain, and whether a machine can think. This futuristic questioning mixing in homosexuality and national security (played by E. Kimak, P. Goleman. A. Edber. W. Cayabyab, and B. Ortega) asks more questions than provides answers.
Space Junk by Kristin Anundsen and directed by Kat Kneisel, offers a comedic interpretation of a couple’s reaction to a piece of space junk with “Maya” printed on it falling into their apartment. Ben Ortega and Linsay Rousseau Burnett as the hysterical couple refuse to turn over the specimen to Melissa Keith as Captain Parkhurst.
Candice Benge’s The Disadvantaged, directed by Ann Thomas, portrays a delusional advantaged, financially independent individual (Edward Kimak) attempting to force through blackmail the secretary (Diana Brown) of the Business and Economic Affairs Bureau into giving him advantages not due to him.
An American Traitor by Jordan Puckett directed by Ann Thomas, depicts men in war togs torn over the choice between murdering or being a traitor to one’s country and the soldier’s duty to deliver death to people. This debate performed by Ben Ortega and Wesley Cayabyab as the interrogator of soldier Jason Scott intensely portrays these interrogations.
Her Special Day by Rachel Bublitz depicts the preparation for a wedding during which the mention of the Mayan prediction of the end of the world  seems as if it will ruin the bride’s special day but rather takes on a comic turn through the reactions  of the bride’s mother who at one point suggests they flee to Mexico and then concludes that they only have a couple of weeks left anyway.
In Gaetana Caldwell Smith’s Traveling Music, a clever spoof on future automated cars driven by a talking robot, the robot soon becomes a nuisance, especially when he repeatedly asks Susan what music she wants to hear followed by proposing that of Yanni. Another comical moment is when he questions Susan on who the guy she recently was with and to whom she gave a blow job. When Susan discovers they are not going in the right direction and calls for help from the Triple A’s she only gets the run around from the operator. By now the audience is rolling in the aisles with laughter.
Along with Caldwell’s excellent spoof on the failure of some technology such as the automated car, the latter is an impressive prop that highlights  the piece.
In the cunning comedy One Last NightStand  by  Bridgette Duta Portman                    a girl enters a bar to be approached by a young man asking that since according to the Mayan calendar our days are limited why not  have a good time. After she leaves he tries this on another girl who come into the bar. At one point when one of the girls confuses an expected solstice with the Mayan prediction the bartender tells her that if she has to deal with dumb guys like that she should get her science straight.
This interesting collection of original short pieces plays at Stage Werx, 446 Valencia St. in San Francisco.through May 26t.  For information abot these performances and future one act festivals visit www.wiley west. com
Raison in the Sun, A Signature Piece for the African American Shakespeare Theatre Company
In Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raison in the Sun, based on a poem entitled Harlem by Langston Hughes, the title symbolizes how a raisin that remains too long in the sun can shrivel up. And so is the demise of the impoverished Travis and Ruth Younger and son Walter, Travis’ mother Lena, and sister Beneatha waiting for money to move out of a crowded apt in Chicago’s poorer south section. The dramatic action is actually relates to Lorraine Hansberry’s family’s purchase of a home in a hostile white neighborhood where they had a lawsuit concerning the property they attempted to buy.
In the fifties A Raisin in the Sun, written by a black woman and with a black stage director and actors, was a precarious risk to stage. However, after it opened on Broadway on March 11, 1959 and was performed for nearly two years, despite uneven reviews of the previews, the New York Drama Critics Circle called it the best play of 1959 and the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway and directed by a black director (Lloyd Richards),.
The Younger family lives in a modest little apartment on Travis Younger’s wages as a limousine chauffeur. When his mother, Mama, receives a  $10,000 insurance check, his wife Ruth refuses to let Travis invest it in a liquor store with Willy. Mama puts some money down on a house in a white neighborhood and gives the rest to Travis for Willy with his promise to keep some for Beneatha’s education. After Willy disappears with the money, Karl Linder, a white inhabitant of the neighborhood, offers to buy their house. Travis proudly refuses the buyout while Beneatha is courted by two boyfriends, the rich, educated George, who denies his African heritage, and Joseph, a Nigerian medical student at a Canadian university visiting America, who renders her proud of her African heritage. Beneatha finally accepts Joseph’s proposal of marriage and leaves with him for Nigeria.
Although the 1959 text is somewhat dated and could be trimmed in spots, this is overlooked by the expert stage direction by veteran actor/director and artistic director of the African American Shakespeare Co., L. Peter Callender along with the company’s excellent acting. Eleanor Jacobs as Mama is a strong leader of the family. Zion Richardson as Mama’s son brings abundant energy to the embittered chauffeur attempting to provide a better life for his family and wife Ruth (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong) courageously bears the family troubles. Siaria Harris’ Beneatha portrays the younger generation in search of their African heritage. These actors and the rest of  he cast, including the adorable eight year old Todd Risby, achieve emotional depth and interrelate well.
This Raisin in the Sun production is a tribute to Hansberry’s role in inspiring and uplifting the African American spirit that admirably represents the purpose of this cultural and theatre center to to artistically perpetuate the African American cultural heritage.
Raisin in the Sun plays until May 27th. For this production and future productions visit www.African-americanshakes.org
Beckett’s Play and Endgame at ACT
In Beckett’s Play a male and two females are trapped in funeral urns up to their heads rapidly babbling with search lights on each one as he or she speaks. When we hear such lines as “Get off of me!,” “Finally it was too much,” and “Maybe we can be friends” we suspect they are speaking about a conflict between these characters or others in an intimate relationship that has failed.
As in Beckett’s other plays these characters are trapped and in this case unable to move in their funeral urns as they repeat the grim memories of their relationship. This recalls the familiar Beckett’s absurdist theme that depicts the hopeless human condition that leaves one inert before the sordidness and senselessness of life that has to be nonetheless endured.
Expertly directed by Carey Perloff and well performed by René Augesen, Anthony Fusco and Annie Purcell, this 25 minute introductory play that sets the stage for one of Beckett’s major theatre works reqquires the collaborative efforts of the spectator spurred on to search for the play’s meaning.
In Beckett’s longer End Game, that opened in London in 1959 in French, we see the master Hamm (Bill Irwin), blind and immobile in his chair, his crippled servant Clov (Nick Gabriel) hobbling about, and Hamm’s father (Giles Havergal), and his mother Nell (Barbara Oliver) locked in garbage cans. The theme of being miserably stuck is reiterated here the Hamm’s immobility, Clov’s inability to leave Hamm, and Hamm’s parents locked up in garbage cans. The title and play’s content suggest that it is the end of the game of a miserable life. At one point Hamm relates to Clov that one day he will undergo that miserable end.
“one day infinite emptiness will be all around you, all the resurrected dead of all the ages wouldn’t fill it, and there you’ll be like a little bit of grit in the middle of the steppe.”
Endgame deepens Beckett’s theme of absurdity that Beckett described as a “despairing play about despair.” Altough I mied Bill Irwin’s genius for expressive physical movement, it offers strong enigmatic moments as the one in which after Hamm dismisses Clov from his service Clov appears with his valise and coat to watch Hamm ring the bell he used when he needed him. And Clov stands there motionless as if stuck to the ground. Will Clov really leave? If so,  will this not mean a despairing suicide for Clov and eventual death for Hamm? Or will they be they condemned to continue a love-hate relationship of mutual torture?
Under the helm of Carey Perloff, Endgame communicates the meaningful content of Beckett’s oeuvre masterfully performed by four of our most dynamic local and national American actors.
For information about Play and Endgame performing through June 3 and for  upcoming productions at ACT, visit ACT-SF or call 415-749–2228
A Behanding in Spokane at S.F. PLayhouse Recalls Commedia Lazzi.
A Behanding in Spokane by Martin McDonagh, a black comedy about a killer searching for his missing left hand lost when a gang of ruffians forced him to have it chopped off by a train running near Spokane, Washington. Twenty seven years ater  meets up with a couple who take advantage of his mania to locate his severed hand by claiming they have found it. The dramatic action happens in the main protagonist’s (Carmichael played by Rod Knapp)) dingy hotel room where he deals with  he low-life Lisa (Melissa Quine) and her black boyfriend Toby (Daveed Diggs) who want cash for having found his hand that is black and, counter Carmichael’s doubts, is dark colored because it is 27 years old.
The play has been sharply criticized by some critics because it does not have the gory bloody imaginative storytelling vigor of his former plays such as The Lieutenant of Inishmore, directed by Les Waters at Berkeley Rep in 2009, in which cat owner Padriac tortures a drug dealer hanging upside down by pulling off his toe nails. After Padriac discovers his cat has been replaced by a red one covered with black shoe polish he prepares to shoot both his father and Davey. When three IRA fighters arrive to shoot Padriac for having splintered from the original IRA, Padriac shoots the three members and has even more blood spattered about when he orders his father and Davey to cut up their bodies.
However, in A Behanding director Dusi Damilano cleverly brings out the comical aspects of the somewhat less gory but nonetheless sadistic elements of the play. The shots Carmichael takes at the young couple are so comically portrayed by the actor as an eccentric clown and the couple’s  innocence and  fear of him as he attempts to blow them up with a lit kerosene  are funnier than they are scary. Added to this are the moron reactions of the desk clerk Mervyn (Alex Hurt) in the midst of all this violence and the angry throwing of human hands at one another that turn the play into a hilarious farce.
 If one can view the play with a detached sense of humor and not take the exaggerated use of blood curdling violence seriously but rather accept it as a good theatrical device, this dynamically staged and acted play is very enjoyable. In fact The Lieutenant of Inishmore and the Behanding inSpokane recall the crude buffoonery at the basis of the lazzi (comic routines) of the Commedia dell’Arte, the most vital dramatic form in Western Theatre. Carmichael calls to mind the Commedia Pantalone, the older clown who ends up as the butt of the jokes of the younger characters.
Bill English’s attractive set of a cheap hotel could be tawdrier. Miyuki Bierlein’s costumes suit the characters. Michael Palumbo’s lights and Jacquelyn Scott’s props serve the play well.
A Behanding in Spokane that mixes elements of Commedia with those of Irish storytelling is a playfully imaginative production with an enigmatic ending that poses the question “why search so ardently for what we may already have?”
A Beheading Plays until June 30th. For information call 415-677-9596 or visit SFplayhouse.org.
Annette Lust
FROM PARIS TO SAN FRANCISCO-FRENCH PLAYWRIGHTS IN TRANSLATION AT Z SPACE May-15-27
  
Staged Readings of contemporary plays by French playwrights Samuel Gallet, Marion Aubert and Nathalie Fillion will take place this last weekend in May at the S.F. Zee Space. Sponsored by the Playwrights foundation and the French Consulate, these events are proceeded by a Bal (dance) Littéraire/reception on May 25 at 7 p.m.and play readings by the above playwrights on May 26 at 4 and 8 p.m. and a colloquium on international playwriting and translation at 11 a m and 1 p m at the San Francisco Z Space
For information and tickets 415-626-0453.