Posts Tagged Jackson Davis
Playwright Karen Zacaria’s “Native Gardens”, currently playing at The Center for Performing Arts in Mountain View, explores ageism, racism, sexism, classism, republicanism, democratism and more in the context of an unintended property line conflict among neighbors.
Tania (Marlene Martinez) and Pablo Del Valle (Michael Evans Lopez) are young, up and coming Latino couple, each with their own past that colors their perceptions. Pablo is from Chile and grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is angling for a partnership at a law firm and is slightly paranoid of how he will be accepted, given his Latino background. Tania is very pregnant, is nearing the completion of her Ph.D. in anthropology, and grew up in much poorer circumstances in New Mexico. She is idealistic, new agee, strongly pro-environment, and into native plants. Tania and Pablo own a property adjoining Virginia (Amy Resnick) and Frank Butley (Jackson Davis). Virginia and Frank are older couple with a prize-worthy English garden and are Republicans.
Well intentioned neighbors’ attempts for friendship soon melt away as an unintended property dispute arises. Given that garden is important to both couples, albeit in different ways, “Native Gardens” is a comedy rooted in tulipanin (common allergen toxic to some animals, found in tulips) laced barbs, and tannic acid (residing in acorns and leaves of oak trees that helps guard it from fungi and insects) colored retorts.
Zacarias is a compassionate writer and she treats both couples with a measure of empathy, compassion and understanding. Yet, what is fascinating is how gradually and in a measured way and yet how quickly and not so subtly, the conflict escalates and breaks down relations, as both couples dig deep into their personal treasure trove of isms and even political affiliations, to assume bad intentions of others and find new insults.
Director Amy Gonzalez has done a fabulous job, with the script in showing how easy it is, despite all the wisdom and maturity, for people to get polarized, to buy into the divisive rhetoric in the air that may reflect their own latent biases, prejudices and distrust of one another. Special kudos for incredible staging to Sara Sparks and Amy Smith Goodman.
In the current climate of deepening rifts and many symbols of “us versus them” (border wall, trade barrier, cages, guns, armed guards in schools, red wave, blue wave and more), the play uses yet another powerful symbol of a fence. If this play is to serve as a microcosm of what is going on in the country, then such physical articulations not only define our distinctions but when combined with divisive rhetoric and incitement of fear, they serve as call to action, to fiercely protect our zones, perimeters, boundaries and borders. However in the play, as if bringing a perfect measure of hope, it highlights how sometimes humanity springs in the most unlikeliest of circumstances, during those times when we need one another. And in those times when we seek help and when we offer help, in times of unity, our gardens bloom.
This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season. For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .
Homer’s Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem, set during the Trojan war, a long ten year siege on the city of Troy, by Greece. The poem is long and complex and centers more specifically around the short period of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the great warrior Achilles. Setting this poem to a performance on stage, would seem like a challenge of epic proportion. But it is effortlessly done at the current production of the “Iliad” running at www.thestage.org, in San Jose, CA.
Based on Homer’s Iliad, writers Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare, created the stage piece, over a period of 5 years, utilizing video, video transcriptions, improvisation, original music and diligent research. It was translated by Robert Fagles. Kenneth Kelleher is a brilliant director who has directed over 20 productions for The Stage, and once again he did a marvelous job, in The Iliad.
Jackson Davis in the role of the poet, gives a spell binding performance. Although the story itself covers only a few weeks in the final year of the war, the Iliad alludes to the preceding events, including the cause of the war, the hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers who returned home to find their spouses and fashions changed, and those who kept fighting but had forgotten the true cause of the war. Towards the end, it sets the stage for the sequel, the Odyssey, also attributed to Homer. This poem is regarded as more or less a complete narrative of the Trojan War. Davis holds the audience as he tells this complex tale, alternately playing various characters, and using the many props, to set the stage for the next sequence of events.
Paris, a wayward and handsome younger brother of prince Hector of Troy, abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman and wife of the Greek king Menelaus, and brought her to Troy, as his wife, and thus began the Trojan war, that lasted for 9+ years, and took tens of thousands of lives. Towards the end of the war, where the poem begins, Agamemnon, the Greek leader has abducted Chryseis, a daughter of a Trojan priest, and he refuses to give her up, despite being offered wealth and riches by the father. Chryseis prays to Apollo who causes plague on the city. Agamemnon returns Chryseis back but abducts Briseis, Achilles’ captive, as compensation. This angers Achilles and he refuses to support Agamemnon any more in the fight against Troy. This sets the stage for the succeeding epic battle.
Without Achilles, the Greek side is enormously weakened, and is getting slaughtered, prompting his closest and most dear friend Patroclus to beg Achilles, to allow him to don the great Achilles’ armor, and fight in his stead. Soldiers imagine Patroclus to be Achilles, and Patroclus inflicts great casualty, before he is found out, and killed by Hector of Troy. Achilles is mad with grief upon hearing of Patroclus’s death, and in turn not only kills Hector, but drags and dishonors his body. King Priam of Troy comes to Achilles to beg for his son’s body. Achilles is deeply moved, and not only returns Hector’s body, but halts the war for 9 days, allowing Troy to mourn Hector’s death.
Like any war, this is a classic tale, with all critical ingredients, like politics, regret, deep losses, innocent victims, and women taken as captives, against their will. Like any war, time and again, the fighters, winners and loosers alike, appeal to the higher power, for mercy, for compassion, for winning. This is one of the greatest stories ever told and Jackson Davis does a fabulous job of conveying this complex narrative. There is a point when he puts this war into larger perspective and names every single war fought and recorded in history. Wow, wow, wow! Sickened by war and the destruction it inflicts, the poet says, “Every time I sing this song, I hope it’s the last time”.