Posts Tagged Giovanna Sardelli

They promised her the moon – Play Review


Girls have dreams too. Seven year old Jerry Cobb (Sarah Mitchell) was obsessed with flying. But in 1960, a time of great social change in American history, certain dreams were still reserved for men. Laurel Ollstein’s dramatization of the true story of Jerry Cobb and her female peers in Mercury 13 astronaut training program, is currently playing at theatreworks in Palo Alto. 

Image result for theatreworks they promised her the moon

Stories of two aspiring women are intertwined in “They promised her the moon”Jackie Cochran (Stacy Ross) used her wealth and connections and had already made history as a first woman pilot. Later, financed by her husband, she ran a successful cosmetics company. But for most women, these dreams were out of reach. Jackie Cochran had pushed for women to be allowed to fly for the military, and women did fly during the war. But when WWII ended, women were barred from flying most sophisticated planes. 

During that time, as a little girl, Jerry Cobb seemed determined to fly and touch the heavens.  Her pilot father, Harvey Cobb (Dan Hiatt) encouraged and inspired her and taught her some basics about airplanes. Jerry began flying at the age of twelve and by her twenties, she was setting world records in flying speeds, distance, and altitude. Inspired by her predecessor, Jackie Cochran who was pushing for female astronauts, Jerry Cobb enrolled in Mercury 13 program training to send astronauts into space. Jerrie Cobb beat most of her male counterparts as she went through strenuous rounds of tests and invasive physical and psychological evaluations. 

Meanwhile different politics started getting played into the upper echelons of men, status, wealth and political power. Among the first group of astronauts was John Glenn, the new American hero. Given the culture of the time, Glenn and other men felt that since men flew combat missions, they were more equipped to become astronauts. Cochran was the lone woman in the boys club and sought to leverage her power. Cochran wasn’t happy that her popularity and status as the first woman pilot was getting replaced with a surge in Cobb’s popularity and she perhaps also felt that history would forget her completely if Cobb were to become the first woman astronaut in space. 

Jerry Cobb passed away in 2019. Theatreworks’ celebration of Jerry Cobb in “They promised her the moon” reminds us that legacy is not only created with great achievements, but also by those who dare to dream.  Entire cast is marvellous and Sarah Mitchell’s performance is truly unforgettable.  Huge kudos to director, Giovanna Sardelli for this fabulous and not-to-miss show.

Unfortunately, to mitigate and contain coronavirus pandemic, Theatreworks is canceling all shows right now so please check the website at http://www.theatreworks.org for updates and stay safe.

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Crimes of the Heart – Play Review


Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, set in MaGrath family kitchen, is a story of sisterhood.  Anyone who has lived with sisters would agree that sisterly bonding is strong, it’s sweet, it’s sorrowful, it is sassy, it’s surreal, it’s serene. The play that just opened at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, takes the audience on the complex journey of sisterhood.

Part of the literary genre known as “Southern Gothic”, the play won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play.  Mix of tragedy and dark comedy, the play is set in 1950s, in a small town in Mississippi.  The youngest sister Babe (Lizzie O’Hara) is out on bail, after briefly being jailed for shooting her husband (who is injured in the stomach but survived the shooting).  Middle sister, Meg (Sarah Moser) is just out of the psychiatric facility and has arrived at older sister Lenny’s (Therese Plaehn) home to gather in support of Babe through her court trial.

High Res L-R: Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe  (Lizzie O'Hara) in Crimes of the Heart, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 - Feb. 4, 2017 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Kevin BerneIt is obvious that all three sisters are having a bad day, perhaps a bad life. Babe is entangled in an abusive relationship, Meg joyfully embraces life only to be challenged at every turn, and Lenny celebrates her 30th birthday alone in the kitchen, trying to blow out her candle on a cookie, making wish after another wish.  The sisters are brutal towards each other one minute and supportive and encouraging, the next.  It all comes together to create a touching tapestry of sisterhood, family, and deep ties that provoke great sorrow and also provide strength when strength is needed to get through life’s biggest challenges.  

High Res L-R: Sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn), Babe (Lizzie O'Hara),  and Meg (Sarah Moser) share a moment in Crimes of the Heart, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley Jan. 11 - Feb. 4, 2017  at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. Photo credit: Kevin BerneBeautifully directed by Giovanna Sardelli, special mention also goes to Stage Manager, Ashley Taylor Frampton and Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf, for fabulous stage design.  Major kudos to TheatreWorks’ artistic director, Robert Kelley for bringing a bold and honest story, told from a female perspective, as he says, “in a year that has already focused on America’s women in so many unexpected ways”.  As a million women are set to march in the nation’s capital, and so many more all over the country, in a show of solidarity and strength that emerged from spontaneous rallying cry via social media, to repudiate sexist, racist, misogynystic and divisive rhetoric that has colored current political and social climate in the country, this play focusing on women’s passion, insight, frustration, and bonding, is very timely.  It is also telling how a bunch of loony sisters can overcome and prevail when they bring their passions and bond together, over some sugary desserts :).

“Crimes of the Heart” will be playing in Mountain View till February 5, 2017 and tickets can be purchased at www.theatreworks.org .

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“The Lake Effect” – Play Review


As an immigrant from India, it was a special treat to see “The Lake Effect”, centered around an Indian immigrant family, by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, at www.theatreworks.org .  Randall K. Lum has done a fabulous job with staging, where the softly blowing snow outside the window not only gives an idea of the frigid temperature outside, but serves as a prelude to relationships gone frigid with years of grief and animosity.

Snow blowing from a roof in Ottawa, Ontario, C...

Snow blowing from a roof in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Directed by Giovanna Sardelli, “The Lake Effect” captures confused notions around immigrant attitudes towards race and struggles between two generations growing up very differently, but without overly dwelling on these issues.  On the contrary, the primary focus of the play is on human issues broadly applicable; complex sibling relationship between Vijay (Adam Poss) and Priya (Nilanjana Bose) and their mixed and unresolved feelings towards their deceased father and mother.

Vijay and Priya meet after a gap of several years, on a snowy, cold wintery day, after their father, a small restaurant owner in New York, passes away.  I did not find it challenging connecting with their characters.  Under their seemingly shallow characters, there is a deep, lingering pain from unresolved issues, that makes them very real.  The play does not dwell on the grief and the pain enough for the audience to build empathy with them.  The focus instead shifts to Bernard (Jason Bowan), an African-American bookie, who had developed a strong friendship with their father, during the children’s long absence from the scene.  Bernard is a simple man.  Having lost his memory in a freak accident, Bernard has little baggage, literally and figuratively.

Bernard talks to his dead mother, shares his pain and his blessings, carries no animosity towards anyone, and forgives easily.  The beauty of Bernard’s character is that it quenches the audience thirst for deeper understanding of why other characters feel the way they do, how they will find resolution of their unresolved feelings of grief, pain and rivalry.  Bernard’s ease in coming to terms with what life dishes out, makes it feel perfectly ok for any distance to be bridged with a simple hug, even with ambiguities hanging in the air.  After all, grief and ambiguities are part of life and complex to unravel, but forgiveness and resolution can be very simple and happen when someone takes an initiative.

“The Lake Effect” is a beautiful play and will be on at www.theatreworks.org till March, 29.  

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