Tiny but terrifying: Go ask Alice

Jun 08

Tiny but terrifying: Go ask <i>Alice</i>

The legend of Tiny Alice looms large. Edward Albee’s notorious 1964 follow-up to his monster Broadway smash Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf baffled critics and continued to cause kerfuffles for years to come (especially when William Ball, in the early days of American Conservatory Theater played fast and loose with the script).

This is not one of Albee’s frequently produced scripts, and after seeing Marin Theatre Company’s riveting production, it’s easy to see why. This play is a monster. It’s not like Albee hasn’t created monsters before (he loves to rile the beasts in many ways), but this one is especially weighty.

But this is a challenging play to say the least. Act 1 is familiar territory as Albee introduces his players, his zest for zingers and a juicy central mystery. In Act 2, the ground begins to wobble, and by Act 3, the ground has given way altogether. The monster, perhaps literally speaking, is loose.

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Something Fuddy going on here

Apr 06

Something <i>Fuddy</i> going on here

The world of David Lindsay-Abaire is askew. From his earliest wacky comedies to his later, more serious award-winning work, Lindsay-Abaire’s “askewniverse” (to borrow a word from Kevin Smith’s oeuvre) is filled with people on the outside of perceived normal life, people who are, for whatever reason, struggling just to make themselves understood.

In Shrek the Musical it’s a green ogre who takes a while to figure out that even though he’s not a handsome prince, he’s actually a hero. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole it’s a mother numbed by grief slowly rebuilding a life and marriage after the death of her young son.

And in Fuddy Meers, Lindsay-Abaire’s first produced play (written while he was still in grad school at Juilliard), it’s an exceedingly cheerful woman named Claire who suffers from psychogenic amnesia.

Marin Theatre Company’s production of Fuddy Meers has the great advantage of having Mollie Stickney in the role of Claire. In the play’s nearly two hours, Claire’s blank slate becomes surprisingly full, and every revelation, recovered memory, moment of joy or pain registers on Stickney’s wonderfully expressive face.

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Happy Now? Well no, not really.

Nov 19

<i>Happy Now?</i> Well no, not really.

The smiling cartoon woman on the poster – the one juggling the trappings of modern life such as a cell phone, a brief case, a lap top, a glass of wine and a baby – is a comic figure. She’s about to slip on a skateboard, but she’ll go down being what society wants her to be: a productive super gal.

The poster says comedy, but in actuality, Lucinda Coxon’s Happy Now? Is something of a modern tragedy. The 2008 drama had its premiere at the National Theatre in London and is only just receiving its West Coast premiere from Marin Theatre Company.

Directed by Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, the production is sharp where it should be as well as hard and cynical for most of its nearly 2 ½ hours. The cast, though beset with fluctuating British accents, creates vivid, highly recognizable characters who are easy to relate to and who make us cringe frequently.

There are a few laughs along the way as we watch two households unravel or come dangerously close to it, but this is serious stuff. There’s a whole lot of misery, anger and stress pouring off the stage, and to be honest, it’s not pleasant.

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Marvelous Much Ado closes Cal Shakes season

Sep 26

Marvelous <i>Much Ado</i> closes Cal Shakes season

Much Ado About Nothing can be one of Shakespeare’s trickier romantic comedies. It’s full of sparring lovers, great lines and thoroughly entertaining comic bits. But it also contains some harsh drama, faked death and edgy mischief making. Capturing just the right tone can help ease the audience through all those shifts, and that’s what eludes so many directors of the play.

Thankfully, California Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone finds fresh ways to meld all of Shakespeare’s fragments into a seamless and captivating whole.

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No equivocating: this is good theater

Apr 30

No equivocating: this is good theater

Marin Theatre Company's Equivocation is enormously enjoyable theater.

I liked Bill Cain's play last summer when I saw it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and I still like its muscular, hugely entertaining theatricality. The Marin production, directed by Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis, is more intimate but just as rewarding.

The cast boasts some of the Bay Area's finest – Anna Bullard (the lone woman in the cast), Lance Gardner, Andrew Hurteau, Craig Marker, Andy Murray, and Charles Shaw Robinson – as they crawl around J.B. Wilson's scaffolding set that reminds of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Where else would you want to set a story of William Shakespeare, or Shagspeare as he's called in the play?

As Cain's play imagines Will attempting to write a piece of propaganda theater for bonny King James (and his henchman, Sir Robert Cecil) and discovering that what he writes has to be the truth or nothing, something very interesting happens. Cain's immense knowledge of Shakespeare's plays and British history coalesce into a drama that feels recognizably human yet epic in its scope and more than just a little bit contemporary.

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Review: `The Seafarer’

Nov 19

EXTEDNED THROUGH DEC. 14 The cast of Marin Theatre Company’s The Seafarer by Conor McPherson includes (from left) Julian Lopez-Morillas as Richard, Andrew Hurteau as Ivan, Andy Murray as Sharky, John Flanagan as Nicky and Robert Sicular as Mr. Lockhart. Photos by Ed Smith   Bedeviled on Christmas Eve in McPherson’s `Seafarer’««« ½ The first...

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