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March 31, 2005
certainty is completely impossible
by ELLIN BELTZ
IT WAS A PERCEPTIVE DRAMATURGE
AT THE NORTH COAST Repertory Theatre who placed Eugene Ionesco's
classic The Bald Soprano opposite Steve Martin's 1996
WASP. Reading that the two shows share just six actors
and the same director and crew, you might expect less than what
this top-notch group of young performers puts out.
The older play begins the evening
on a lovely living room set rendered suitably absurd with deft
touches, including an arm coming out of an umbrella
and a completely broken and mislabeled grandfather clock. Mrs.
Smith (Lexy Cann) regales Mr. Smith (James Read) with a nonsensical
monologue on their supper made even more hilarious by their alternate
support and chastisement of their maid (Aimee Hennessy). The
first night audience started laughing slowly -- perhaps they
failed to see the absurdest links to modern humor such as Saturday
Night Live, or perhaps they thought the actors were trying
to play it straight.
[Photo at left:
James Read and Lexy Cann in The Bald Soprano.]
By after the arrival of Mr.
and Mrs. Martin (Nathan Pierce and Janeen Sutherland) for a nonexistent
dinner, no one in the house was in the slightest doubt about
the humor of it all. The playwright used the stupid conversational
"teach yourself English" phrases in a way that only
one stuck too long in a language lab can ever truly appreciate
before seeing The Bald Soprano.
Finally after a hysterical argument
on the war between men and women, the Fire Chief (Henry Kraemer)
pops in for a visit. Kraemer steals this part of the play, and
to a large extent the character is supposed to draw attention
away from the increasingly meaningless couples by telling absurd
allegorical fables until the audience is left helpless with laughter
and the lights fade to black.
After intermission, the second
one-act, Steve Martin's WASP, introduces us to an archetypical
1950s white Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. But, as with most
of those apparently perfect little worlds, this one is flawed.
Dad (James Read) digs golf and
his lawn, which he feels makes him the envy of the neighbors.
Mom (Lexy Cann), Sis (Aimee Hennessy) and Son (Henry Kraemer)
are ignored by Dad and each other as they attempt to develop
meaning from shallow materialistic lives.
The only thing nuclear about
this dysfunctional family is their tendency to glow in the dark,
listening to voices (Janeen Sutherland, Nathan Pierce) that guide
and challenge them. Distanced and withdrawn at home, Sis delivers
the most adult content of either piece as she explicitly dreams
about her handsome choirmaster, a part also played by the chameleon
Interesting scenic design and
props (Stanley Brayton), lights (Dan Mullins), gorgeous period
costumes (Marcia Hutson), slick properties (Theresa Ireland)
and flawless sound (Gabriel Groom) all contribute to director
Michael Thomas' well-actualized vision for these pieces.
The NCRT has been well-served
by its recent association with celebrated director Donald Forrest;
actors are in full stage makeup; set, lights, costume and sound,
which were good before, are all tighter now; and the triskelions
have been reborn. Bring your funny bone, laugh your butt off
and stick around at intermission to watch stage manager Wanda
Stapp single-handedly transform England into suburban America
in one of the slickest set moves of any recent show on the North
Performances continue Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays through April 16 at 8 p.m. Abundant street
parking surrounds NCRT at 300 Fifth St., Eureka. For reservations,
group rates or more information, visit www.ncrt.net or call 442-NCRT.
Deathtrap - April 7-30. A failing playwright receives a
wonderful play from a former student. Near bankruptcy, he plans
to lure the writer to his home and kill him. Besides terror,
the play has humor, pathos, surprise and intrigue. Other reviewers
have noticed a tendency for the first act to drag in dialogue;
let's hope Ferndale Rep hurries through to the fast, scary and
even wicked parts, which have mesmerized audiences worldwide.
Unless you have seen the play or the movie, you absolutely will
not guess the end. Be among the first in Humboldt to see who
gets it, how, where and why at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre,
447 Main Street. Visit www.ferndale-rep.org or call 786-LIVE
for tickets and show times.
Congratulations are in order
for Dell'Arte, which was named as the recipient of the 2005 Prize
of Hope Award from the Danish Institute for Popular Theatre.
The Hope award is presented each year to theaters and individuals
who have fought for hope, and fought "with sparkling energy
against habitual thinking, the greatest threat to our culture,"
according to a press statement. The award will be presented in
Denmark on May 15.
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