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June 2, 2005
not what life does to you;
it's what you do with life
by ELLIN BELTZ
IF YOU ONLY READ THE PRESS RELEASES,
the two currently running plays locally would seem rather alike
-- but they're not. One sparkles with lessons about life, love
and the meaning of humanity, while the other bogs down in endless
dialogue, tired characterizations and old jokes.
Those familiar with commedia
will particularly enjoy Dancers at the North Coast
Repertory Theatre; it's loaded with comedy and holds a mirror
up to each of us regardless of age.
Another brilliant set design by Daniel
Lawrence and a series of deft characterizations by Theresa Ireland
(Nurse Montcrief), Josh Kelly (Kevin) and Nathan Pierce (Orderly)
bring to life the day-to-day grind of life in a nursing home.
Kevin waits to find out about his mother and meets Julia (Lynne
Wells, at left in photo). Julia is a woman of artistic temperament
who explores Kevin's relationship with a difficult mother and
her own sense of loneliness and loss during and after a time
when the young man is told his mother "didn't make it."
A few days later Kevin comes
back to see Julia and meets her cantankerous roommate Jack. Bob
Wells' portrayal of a man 20 years his senior is so real you
can feel the creaking of his bones and the tension in his tendons
as he jealously watches the younger man intrude on what had been
his tidy life and daily routine of little spoilings at the gently
comedic hand of Nurse Sutton (Wanda Stapp). [Bob Wells at right
After Sutton is replaced by
the authoritarian Nurse Raymond (Becca Ramsey), Jack attempts
to regain control by playing a trick that backfires when Kevin
arrives unexpectedly and takes the brunt of the prank. To say
anything other than that you might die laughing at Jack, or crying
at what you learn about yourself during Julia and Kevin's scenes,
would spoil a theatrical delight.
Director Carol Escobar deserves
much credit, not only for the scripted performances but also
for thousands of little details, including a wonderful "intermission
act" where the workers in the hospital set the stage for
the remainder of the play. Beth Lanzi's costuming and Dan Mullins'
light design and set construction complete the effect.
Dancers continues until June 18 on Thursdays, Fridays,
and Saturdays at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, June
12, at North Coat Repertory Theater, 300 Fifth St., Eureka. For
reservations, group rates or more information call 442-NCRT or
Meanwhile the Ferndale Repertory
Theatre stages The Sunshine Boys, a classic
play by Neil Simon that has been made into a movie and remade
for television. In the Rep's production, Bob Clark busily plays
Willie Clark, one member of a vaudeville team that performed
for 43 years before breaking up quietly one night after a performance.
Clark blames his career failure and concurrent poverty on his
partner, Al Lewis (J.R. Patterson) who decided to retire after
decades of success on the road, even though it's obvious to all
that it's Willie's fears and hatreds that probably drove his
partner to leave.
Only Willie's nephew, Ben Silverman
(Dmitry Tokarsky), can stand the old codger, who argues and bickers
even when he's getting his own way. I found both the character
and the portrayal annoying. Willie's endless ranting about other
people's personal habits and his curmudgeonly self-imposed isolation
wore off somewhere around the end of Scene One and even the entry
of several more actors -- including the usually incredible character
actor J.R. Patterson as Al Lewis and newcomers Vicki Charleton,
Diane Woodford and Lori Maciel in supporting roles -- couldn't
bring the performance to life.
Director Renee Grinnell's vision
also wasn't helped by slow and mindless set changing and the
incessant noise from the light booth on preview night. The Rep
has a wonderful tradition of introducing young people to theater;
what's needed now is an attempt by those same young people to
work at a professional level as set by costumer Vicki Charlton
and the rest of the show's designers and technicians: Diane Woodford,
Bruce Keller and Jessie Talbert.
It's possible that audience
response from opening weekend, along with some tightening, may
make this a piece that fans of Bob Clark or vaudeville-style
humor may enjoy.
Shows continue Thursday, Friday
and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until Friday, June
17. There will be one Saturday matinee June 18 at 2 p.m. The
Rep is located at 447 Main Street in Ferndale, for tickets or
more information, call 786-5483 or visit www.ferndale-rep.org.
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