Stravinsky and the sadness of a puppet Soldier

Nov 18

Stravinsky and the sadness of a puppet <i>Soldier</i>

As the weary soldier trudges down the road home, you see the weight of his exhaustion as well as his excitement to see his mother and fiancée in his every step. The remarkable thing is that this soldier – who goes by the name of Joseph – is a Bunraku-style puppet. All that extraordinary expression is coming from his puppeteer, Muriel Maffre, the San Francisco Ballet star who retired in 2007.

Along with Aurora Theatre Company artistic director Tom Ross, Maffre is the co-director of The Soldier's Story, a theatrical fusion of music, dance, puppetry and storytelling that carries a melancholy charm for its brief 75 minutes. Much of that charm comes from Maffre, who also dances the role of the King's daughter, who falls under Joseph's spell.

It's easy to succumb to this Tale.

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Cal Shakes’ Shrew anything but tame

Sep 25

Cal Shakes’ <i>Shrew</i> anything but tame

If you think you've seen The Taming of the Shrew, you might want to think again. Director Shana Cooper's production – the season-closer for the California Shakespeare Theater – is fresh, feisty and full of insight. Many a Shrew can make you cringe, but very few, like this one, can actually make you lose yourself in the comedy, the provocation and the genuine emotion underneath it all.

Cooper brings a sense of contemporary flash and fun to the production, from the bright yellow accents in Scott Dougan's double-decker set (backed by a colorful billboard-like ad for a product called "Tame") to the zippy song mash-ups in the sound design by Jake Rodriguez. The music is especially fun. You can hear strains of Madonna's "Material Girl" followed by a flash of the "Wonder Woman" theme song one minute and revel in almost an entire number ("Tom, Dick or Harry") from Kiss Me Kate, the next.

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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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