ARLINGTON at the Magic Theatre
Directed by Jackson Gay, Arlington is almost a solo show. Featuring Analisa Leaming as Sara Jane and Jeff Pew as piano accompanist and her occasionally speaking husband Jerry, this one hour stream of consciousness telling of Sara Jane’s attempts to remain cheerful while waiting for her soldier husband’s return is performed primarily singing with dips into Sprechstimme and brief patches of spoken monologue and dialogue. With Jeff Pew prominently placed in full view at his grand piano upstage, there is no mistaking his importance in the play as the never forgotten mate whose military judgment hovers over Sara Jane. What is not so clear is the reason why the monologue of wife Sara Jane needs to be sung or how she could just be coming to the realization that war is painful, horrific and deadly for those near or on the battlefield.
Ms. Leaming has a lovely soprano voice and manages to modulate from cheerful innocence to worried concern for her unborn male child with the implied fear that he too could be cannon fodder in a yet to be waged war. Along the way she gets to question the values of her military family, deal with a mother obsessed with facelifts, respond to a husband whose sexual fantasies about her are disquieting, be repeatedly haunted by photos of atrocities her husband has committed against women and children and more.
Jeff Pew is equally convincing as her husband on the front and as a force that hovers over her that she can’t quite control. His skill as a pianist is exemplary as is his acting talent in the few spoken interjections he has with Sara Jane. Here the difficulty isn’t with the performing artists themselves as with the material they are given to work with that leaves one wanting more.
ARLINGTON written by Victor Lodato with Music by Polly Pen continues through December 8 at the Magic Theatre www.magictheatre.org or 415.441.8822.
UNDERNEATH THE LINTEL at A.C.T.
Academy Award nominee David Strathairn (Lincoln) easily holds our attention in Glen Berger’s captivating 90 minute solo drama Underneath the Lintel. In what could almost be considered a ghost story, an eccentric librarian finds a weather-beaten book in a return bin—and discovers that it is 113 years overdue. It is still an era where a librarian’s date stamp is his most prized possession. Sparked by a message left in its margins, he sets off on a quest to unravel the secrets of the book and the person who borrowed it. From the hallways of his library, he follows a chain of seemingly insignificant clues that spans the globe and dates back thousands of years. Obsessed with piecing the clues together, he is relieved from his post to follow his insatiable curiosity. With astonishing twists and turns, Underneath the Lintel is a magical piece of storytelling that draws us into an unforgettable odyssey. Strathairn’s riveting performance is like a master class in acting. Energetically performed, his exuberance keeps us captivated as does his vulnerability and comic timing, making this a highlight of story telling that is both emotionally moving and ultimately redemptive as well as entertaining.
Underneath the Lintel directed by Carey Perloff ran through November 23 at A.C.T. 415 Geary Street, SF, CA.
Next up: A Christmas Carol Dec 6-28th, www.act-sfbay.org
by Linda Ayres-Frederick