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March 31, 2005
Behind the Stage Door

Absolute certainty is completely impossible


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 Photo of actors in the Bald Sopranotouches, 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 Nathan Pierce.

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 Coast.

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 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 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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