Posts Tagged Kenneth Kelleher

Postman Always Rings Twice – Play Review


San Jose Stage Company premiered a new stage adaptation by Jon Jory of “Postman Always Rings Twice”, directed by Kenneth Kelleher, as a part of their 35th anniversary season. Adapted from 1934 novel by James M. Cain that was also made into a 1946 classic film with Lana Turner and John Garfield, this is a crime thriller with some twists and turns.

Image result for postman always rings twice, san joseSince its first appearance in 1934, this story captured the minds and gained high popularity.  Frank (Jonathan Rhys Williams) is not only morally bankrupt but is a hobo without a sense of purpose or ambition in life. He makes a pit stop at a rural California diner for a meal and is offered a job by Nick Papadakis (Robert Sicular), the Greek owner of the diner. Franks ends up staying and soon begins a passionate affair with Nick’s wife, Cora (Allison F. Rich).

Image result for postman always rings twice, san joseCora swoons to Frank’s rough and tumble approach to life but is unhappy with her inconvenient husband standing in the way. The first part in the play moves rather slowly and mostly focuses on Frank and Cora plotting to remove the inconvenience out of the way. In part two the story picks up speed as the duo attempts to put into practice their questionable motives and intentions. A murder plot is hatched but gets botched, elopement is planned and then abandoned, even the confession after a crime does not turn out as intended.

Apart from keeping the audience guessing, the play’s many twists and turns inevitably make one wonder (especially give the current monumental political reality), as to how much and how far can lies be stretched without consequences, and if not the law, then would fate catch up to it ultimately? The play is running at The Stage in San Jose till May 6, 2018 and tickets can be obtained at www.thestage.org .

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Iliad – Play Review


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.

DAVE LEPORI/SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANYDavis Jackson, as The Poet, for the most part rises to the demands of "An Iliad," a 100-minute solo showJackson 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.

English: Triumphant Achilles: Achilles draggin...

English: Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy.details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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”.

 

 

 

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The Threepenny Opera – Play Review


Virgil Thomson has called Bertolt Brecht’s “The Threepenny Opera” “one of century’s most powerful creations” and Bob Dylan said about the music “I was aroused straightaway by the raw intensity of the songs”.  Powerful lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, were originally set to music by composer, Kurt Weill and it was Elisabeth Hauptmann who maintained the raw intensity of the lyrics when originally translating them into English.  The translation of the dialogs and lyrics for this production was done by Robert MacDonald and Jeremy Sams.  It is absolutely incredible that the musical that was originally produced in Germany, in 1928, as a scathing social and political critique about the clash of the haves and the have-nots, echoes true today.

SJStage_TheThreepennyOpera2On the sidewalk, one Sunday mornin’ 
Lies a body oozin’ life 
Someone’s sneaking ’round the corner 
Could that someone, perhaps, perchance, be Mack the Knife?
You betcha!!

Tattoo covered Jonny Moreno, as Macheath, with the words HUSTLER tattooed on his chest, is the fierce king of the 1930s Berlin’s underbelly, where the women admire him and cops make deals with him.  Moreno’s acting is fantastic and his voice commands respect.  The bagger king Peachum also runs his little kingdom where he trains the baggers on concocting tales of woes, to generate maximum sympathy from the donors.  No one can bag on his turf without prior permission from Mr. and Mrs. Peachum, who get a commission from all bagger earnings.  Paul Myrvold and Susan Gundunas last seen together at The Stage, in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, are fabulous as colorful Peachums.  With all the respective turfs well defined, there is a functional system that keeps things organized, up to a point.  But in the end, Macheath’s undoing happens because of the women.  With two wives and his visits to the whore house, his women love him and hate him, in equal measure.  Monique Hafen is fabulous in the role of innocent Polly Peachum (the bagger king’s daughter).  She marries Macheath, unaware of his prior marriage and other passing interests.  Halsey Varady as astute heroin shooting druggie, Jenny Diver, is superb. SjStage_TheThreepennyOpera3

Director Kenneth Kelleher, Musical Director Richard Marriott and Vocal Director, Allison F. Rich have done a marvelous job in capturing the underbelly of 1930s city streets of Europe, where alliances shift rapidly and the downtrodden have their own code for survival, where you gotta watch your own back.

This absolutely spell binding performance is undoubtedly “not to miss” play of this quarter.  Kudos to Artistic Director, Randall King and Executive Director, Cathleen King for bringing such evocative, edgy, intense productions to San Jose Stage.   For tickets, go to http://www.thestage.org.

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Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” – Play Review


Persuasion by Jane Austen – Play Review

Jane Austen's Persuasion

Beginning April 3, San Jose Stage Company is showing Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, adapted by local Bay Area playwright, Jennifer Le Blanc and directed by Kenneth Kelleher.  In the words of Randall King, Artistic Director of the San Jose Stage Company, “The intimate setting of The Stage venue is the perfect environment to revel in Miss Austen’s characters, who must negotiate a complex code of conduct in order to survive, much less achieve their ends.  The story is indicative of Austen’s great talent, razor sharp, laced with irony and wit, and remarkably phrased.”

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, who allowed herself to be “persuaded” to end her engagement with Captain Wentworth, a man she loved, but one without fortune.  Maryssa Wanlass, in the role of Anne Elliot, is beautiful, calm, cerebral, poised, and graceful.  In the opening scene, she second guesses her earlier decision about Captain Wentworth, and confides to her guardian, Lay Russell, “But I am now persuaded that in spite of the disapproval at home and the anxiety attending his prospects that I… I should have been happier, had I…”  Jane Austen was unhappy about the level of persuasion employed by the society, on young people, particularly young women, regarding their marital choices.  It is ironical that matronly and kind Lady Russell (played by Susan Gundunas), appears to be the only voice of maturity and reason, in the family, while she was in fact the reason Anne had first rejected Captain Wentworth.

As for Anne Elliott’s father, “Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.”  Paul Myrvold does a superb job in the role of Sir Walter Elliot and later as Admiral Croft.  Mrs. Mary Musgrove, (played by Halsey Varady), Anne Elliot’s younger sister, is nervous, fretful woman, fortunate to marry Charles Musgrove (very well played by William J. Brown III).   While Anne was looking after her sister Mary, Captain Wentworth (superbly played by Will Springhorn Jr.), reenters her life.  Everyone around Anne and Captain Wentworth, including Charles Musgrove, his sisters Louisa and Henrietta (Juliet Heller & Allison F. Rich), and his mother (Donna Federico) are completely unaware of their earlier relationship and the emotional turmoil brewing inside Anne and her love.  While Captain Wentworth is occupied by attentions of Louisa Musgrove, Anne is also pursued by her wicked cousin, Mr. Elliot (played by Paul Stout).

Circumstances have given Anne a second chance to marry for love.  Will Anne now follow her heart?  Austen makes fine arguments about women as “rational creatures”, whose stories would take different turns, but for the fact that the women’s stories are recounted “through history and books, nearly all of which have been produced by men, and many of which castigate women’s inconstancy and fickleness”.  During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for women, marriage was the only ticket out of the class they were born into.  Practicality dictated that they use reason, over emotion.  Despite these constraints, Austen’s heroines demonstrate that they can think rationally, display a fair measure of autonomy, and crave independence.   Jane Austen’s heroines marry for love, not practicality.  And it just happens that guided by love, their chosen path leads them to the man who is worthy of their love, is well regarded in society and very wealthy.  Isn’t it every woman’s dream, even today? Not surprisingly, time does not dim the popularity of Jane Austen.

Persuasion is playing at The Bay Area’s Premiere Off-Broadway Theater, The Stage www.thestage.org , in San Jose, from April 3 to April 28, 2013.

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Red – Play Review


John Logan’s Tony Award-winning play Red, directed by Kenneth Kelleher, gives us a peak into the soul and the genius of artist Mark Rothko, brilliantly played by Randall King.  In conversations with his apprentice, an aspiring painter Ken, amazingly played by Aaron Wilton, Rothko pontificates on those he considers lesser artists like Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, and on the nature of patrons who look at paintings and call them “nice”.   “Conflicted. Nuanced. Troubled. Diseased. Doomed. I am not fine. We are not fine. We are anything but fine,” says Rothko.  He considers his paintings as his eternal companions.  He says, “A picture lives by companionship, expanding and quickening in the eyes of the sensitive observer.  It dies by the same token.  It is therefore risky to send it out into the world.  How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling and the cruelty of the impotent.”

Rothko is commissioned by an expensive and exclusive Four Seasons restaurant to paint a group of murals for its magnificent walls. On his first day on the job, Ken arrives as an eager young man in suit, ready to learn and willing to do whatever it takes.  But over time, as Ken listens to Rothko’s put downs, his vainglorious and self-obsessive assertions about his work, Ken increasingly begins to question Rothko’s motives, his art, even his genius.  Rothko is most shaken by the fact that despite his arrogant and self-obsessive bragging, his paintings are up for sale, to be hung in the most consumerist establishment.   The play is also a reflection on the mentor protégée relationship.  The two men go back and forth in the game of power, with grouchy, arrogant, aging Rothko firmly holding on to his assertions and younger naive but determined Ken insisting that reality is changing and Rothko is not in touch with even his own underlying motives.  Gradually, a tug of war ensues with Ken emerging as winning their war of words.

Come and see for yourself what happens when this artist who has spent his life assailing the commercial consumerism of the establishment, now faces the crisis of conscience.  Red is playing at the beautiful theater “The Stage” www.thestage.org , in San Jose.  Stage is set to be the studio of Mark Rothko with hanging murals in rich tapestry of colors that glow with the change in lighting, from shiny and grand to more intimate and human.  Kudos to Cathleen King, the Executive Director, for bringing this bold play, at The Stage.

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Reckless – Play Review


Reckless – Play Review

Reckless, a spooky, comedy, action, murder mystery is currently running at the San Jose Stage Company. Written by a gifted playwright Craig Lucas, the play is brilliantly directed by Kenneth Kelleher. Jamie L. Johnson has done an outstanding job as Stage Manager, beautifully utilizing the quirkiness of the stage, and Halsey Varady’s acting, in the role of Rachel, is absolutely fantastic.

Rachel is the chirpy wife and mother of two, with a brain that runs a mile a minute, jumping from topic to topic, as if powered by strong stimulants. Her quiet despondent husband took out a contract on her life, on X’mas eve, (talk about spooky presents), but balked before the act happened. In a fast moving plot, Rachel throws the wedding ring out of the window, and finds herself on a strange journey. Is it real or imagined? Who is to say? Sometimes life unfolds, with all its improbability and coincidences and twist and turns, in a strangely random, unpredictable, unplanned and ridiculously funny manner. Doesn’t it? Or is she imagining her journey that frees her and sends her on a path of adventure and a quest for self-identity, in a Wizard of Oz kind of way? Well, haven’t your imagination carried you to far and distant places too?

Off she goes with a strange man, and lives with him and his wife, who is partly physically challenged and partly faking it. You have to see the play to understand this. Rachel goes on the talk show and wins big money, goes through therapy, witnesses murders, goes on a run, and finally her chirpiness along with life’s calamity drives away her only companion, before she retreats into a silent world. Only then she finds the balance and an opportunity to right some of the wrongs. This is a story about self-discovery, both through acceptance of trials and tribulations that life dishes out and through spunk and tenacity to take the risks and meet life half way.

“Reckless” is running at the San Jose Stage Company http://www.thestage.org till December 16, 2012.

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