Posts Tagged Max Tachis
The play “Mothers and Sons” by playwright, Terrence McNally and directed by Jeffrey Bracco is a funny and poignant tale of loss and love. When Katharine (Lillian Bogovich), Andre’s mother shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Andre’s former boyfriend, Cal (Damian Vega), 20 some years after losing her son to AIDS, she is bitter, angry, hurt and in search of a target. Cal has also gone through deep loss but has found love again, in his husband Will (Max Tachis), and they have a son Bud (Izaiah Gutierrez), they deeply love. Still mourning and reeling from the loss of her son, Katharine sinks deeper into gloom at seeing Cal’s life. She asks, “why did your life got better after Andre and why did mine get worst”?
As per my observation however, this story is less about mothers and sons and more about one mother and her son. It is Katharine’s nature and temperament that has put her into an indefinite period of gloom and bitterness. She describes herself as “I am not a joiner, I did not like to cook, I am a widow”. Katherine could not cultivate intimacy and closeness with either her husband or her son, Andre. She recalls Andre being “remote” and observes with some contempt that she was relegated to being a mere chauffeur. Many mothers might have experiences of similar moments but they put aside those moments and find more enduring closeness and love with their children.
While Katharine’s temperament may have precluded her from enjoying a close relationship with her son, this story is also wrapped in time when gays did not find acceptance in society and were subjected to biases and stereotypes. Katharine, found it hard to reconcile her preconceived notions about gays. She says, “I hate that word. It could be something nice, joyful. But we lost that battle too”. Sadly, her life is an endless series of battles she has brought onto herself. And sadly, reeling in her own misery, she misses completely how an entire young generation of her son’s age was lost to AIDS epidemic, “a living, breathing generation, not a footnote in history”. Just when it seems, there would be no hope for Katharine, then in the midst of sorrow, the characters find moments of compassion and glimmer of hope, and even love. Mothers and Sons is a heartbreaking, emotionally nuanced story of unending mourning and loss and it is also a tale of human compassion where it is never too late to reconcile with one’s loss, only to stumble onto enduring nature of love. Lillian Bogovich as Katharine is absolutely amazing. This is a must-see play if only to watch the brilliant cast playing out the complex human drama with all the emotional nuances and with deep sensitivity. Mothers and Sons is running at the CityLights Theater in San Jose, till February 17, 2019 and tickets can be obtained at www.cltc.org .
Written by Michael Golamco, “Build” is CityLights’ Executive Artistic Director, Lisa Mallette’s yet another bold venture aimed to bring thematically relevant plays to the Silicon Valley audience. Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, CA, this is a story about — what else? A startup! And what could be more hot than a video gaming company?
I am going to skip a more typical review with detailed plot description, in favor of giving you a glimpse of the future envisioned in this production. To give a little background of the plot, Kip (George Psarras) and Will (Max Tachis) had earlier conceived a brilliant game that resulted in a grand success, leading to what appears to be a milestone based buyout deal. Unlike Will, dapper and immaculate, Kip, the creative genius, with disdain for money, and for following procedures, and grave dislike for documenting details to make hand off of work easier for others, has a harder time with monetary success, fast cars, suits and board and shareholder meetings. Kip spends his days cloistered in his home mourning the loss of his late wife, and has abandoned social life, in favor of staying indoors, in his cluttered apartment, working on his next big project; only this time to give it away via open source and cloud. And who else to keep him company but an “artificially intelligent” being, an AI robot, oddly resembling his late wife Allison (Morgan Voellger).
If you think that it might be too far fetched, think again. Sometime back, IBM’s AI computer, Watson made history when it appeared on Jeopardy, the popular game show beat most of the contestants http://bit.ly/JOZmwH . Watson is a computer system, capable of answering questions posed in natural language. This is no small feat. Human language is infinitely complex. That alone makes for a huge challenge in building an artificially intelligent, interactive being. Puns, idioms, and other contextual expressions, and even the tone of voice http://bit.ly/17FvMmW and a pause at a different place in a sentence, can completely alter the meaning. In medicine, AI computer like Watson is expected learn the nuances of the language to offer complex diagnosis, and even indicate the level of confidence it has in the diagnosis offered.
In “Build”, Kip’s AI being is keenly aware of her identity “16 terabytes of data”. But she is far superior than any ordinary machine and he has built it in human avatar. The robot takes on Allison’s personality, even the loneliness Allison experienced when she was married to Kip and Kip was occupied with his gaming venture. This AI machine made out of code is incredibly smart (beats Kip in the word game they play), is intuitive and curious, and even talks about her dreams. When Will discovers Kip’s secret AI being, he is both astounded and concerned that Kip will forever stay a prisoner of his home, as long as he has the companionship offered by the robot. Along with this ulterior motive, Will also has fond memories of Allison and is mesmerized by Allison-like-robot.
This is not stuff of idle imagination. Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have all said that we should be concerned about the future of artificial intelligence. Louis Del Monte, an entrepreneur, has said that some day, machines could surpass humans and could become the most dominant species, and Hawking has said that machines could eventually “outsmart financial markets” and “out-invent human researchers”. Days may not be far when machines will fulfill the roles of companions and caregivers.
While it is challenging to imagine the future, this production is tackling the challenges of reproducing that “future” on stage. It takes the audience into the fascinating world of video gaming as Will and Kip work on deliverables, cleaning out bugs, and packet drops. Then with the help of high tech design and lighting, the audience is introduced to the AI robot. Video designer, Nick Kumamoto has worked wonders with some scattered computer screens and lighting. While AI robot appears caring and concerned, and seems to be a perfect companion, the story revolves around three human beings, one who has passed away, leaving behind memories, and two friends who struggle through their growth and transformation, to keep the ties that brought them together in the first place; gaming, innovation, and their urge to “build” something, in the heart of Silicon Valley. “Build” will be running at CityLights in San Jose, till February 22, 2015. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org
In World Premiere of “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War“, at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through telling of the story of the historic event that occurred in December 1914, both the mindlessness of war and the mindfulness of peace, become abundantly evident. Playwrights Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder have made this historic story personal, by telling it through four main characters, George Krieger (Max Tachis), the German patriotic soldier, fighting for honor, glory, and fatherland; Anna Friedmann (Cailin Papp), the German nurse who questions the wisdom of war; Tommy Williams (Drew Benjamin) English poet who is compelled to go to war by parental pressure and also pulled to write and pulled by his love for his young wife and by his friendship with Krieger; and Maggie Williams (Allison Meneley), young wife of Tommy who encourages him to write and waits for his return from war.
A little piece of history along with the events in the play
This history was also expertly and succinctly narrated at the beginning of the play. The world was polarized and battle lines were drawn, long before the actual event that ignited the region, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, in Sarajevo in June, 1014. As Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia (Serbian ally) mobilized its military. Like a game of dominoes, one by one the countries were pressured or pulled into the war, as Germany declared war on Russia, France, and Belgium; Britain declared war on Germany; soon thereafter, Japan, Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire entered the fight; and ultimately US entered the war in 1917. Ultimately, 70 million military personnel were mobilized.
While the obsession of the generals is with moving the pushpins on a map, war has an entirely different impact on the soldiers, in the trenches. As the characters recount, it was widely believed by common people that the “Great War” would be over within a period of months, if not sooner. Everyone expected their loved ones to be home by Christmas. Then Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary halt in fighting for the celebration of Christmas, in December 1914, but the warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire. In fact, the generals declared penalties for what they considered amounted to fraternizing with the enemies.
During the four years that the world was at war, several deadly battles were fought. Nearly 27,000 French troops were killed in a single day, in the Battle of the Frontiers, in August, 1914. In the battle of Verdun in 1916, over one million soldiers were wounded or killed. In the end, more than 9 million soldiers and over 7 million civilians died, as a result of this “Great War”, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history. It is then all the more remarkable that in the midst of the most deadly period of fighting, there was a brief period of calm, friendship, and camaraderie, moments of hope, reflection, and humanity.
This was a one time event. All future attempts to halt the fighting were squashed by generals’ threats of disciplinary action. It is even more astonishing that this period of calm emerged spontaneously, in the trenches. Those who were there, not to reason why, but to do and die, disobeyed orders, and for a brief shining period in history, humanity prevailed. The soldiers declared their own truce; they began singing Christmas carols to each other across the enemy lines. Entirely a different domino effect was observed, as soldiers in various places, crossed the no man’s land, and shook hands with the enemy soldiers and exchanged presents of cigarettes, plum puddings and beef jerkey and sang carols. Some soldiers even used this short period of “truce” to retrieve bodies of their comrades, from the no man’s land, between the enemy battle lines.
It is the brilliance of Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder, in how this remarkable historical event is captured and reproduced on stage, in “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War”. After deep research and from various documents and anecdotes, Bracco and Wilder put together the script. Ron Gasparinetti created the scenic design to conjure up images of the long ago war, Jane Lambert provided the costume design and Nick Kumamoto provided lighting and video projection to keep the time and place real. George Psarras composed music from popular WWI songs. (One popular song “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” was one of the biggest hits of the Great War time).
This is truly a must-watch play of this theater season, and it beautifully captures the spirit of the holiday season. Truce will be running at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through December 21, 2014. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .
In the aftermath of the #FergusonDecision, this respite is exactly what we need. Let us call “truce” and renew commitment to create conditions of
In “The Smell of Kill”, Michele Lowe has given life to (pun intended) the “meaty” topic of unhappy marriages, where one spouse wishes the other to be dead or sometimes fantasizes killing the spouse. Director Virginia Drake has done a phenomenal job in alternating between comic relief and nervous tension, as three unhappy wives deny, discuss, and eventually unite in denigrating their husbands.
Nicki’s husband Jay has committed some legal hanky-panky and is likely to be indicted and to serve time. Nicki is bitter and edgy from the very beginning and tells the other wives, “Jay is not going to prison, because I am going to kill him first”. Debra’s husband is having an affair with another woman, though that does not stop him from flirting with his friends’ wives. Debra is in complete denial of her situation, at first. She constantly moralizes about appropriate role for good wife and a mother and looks down upon working women like Nicki. Debra says, “a good mother stays home for the first two years of a child’s life”. Molly is not quite so naïve, as she first comes across. She wants a child but is unlikely to get pregnant by her “asexual” husband. Molly has her own fun from having affairs with other men. Debra tells Molly, she should get a hobby and Molly says, “I got a hobby”.
It is the performance of the three women, Mandy Armes, Diahanna Davidson, and Morgan Allyne Voellger working together with impeccable timing that makes the play interesting. Husbands (played by Jimmy Allan, Frank Swaringen, and Max Tachis) are off stage during the entire play, and only participate through their meaningless comments and selfish commands, alternately demanding dessert, calling out little love messages or pelting golf balls in the kitchen. Needless to say it’s not just the wives who get annoyed and angry. Very quickly the audience joins the wives’ camp. The wives have had enough of these insensitive, selfish, flirtatious men who take little to no responsibility in the relationship. And then a situation arises where the wives are called upon to vote and decide, as Nicki puts it, whether or not they should play God and rescue their husbands from a fatal situation they willingly walked into. Will they? Won’t they?
Ron Gasparinetti has done a marvelous job in scenic design and Tyler Della and Ivette Deltoro has worked beautifully on the props. Immaculately clean kitchen, with skylights (windows towards God), and use of sharp, huge kitchen knife to tack the newspaper clipping of Jay’s antics on the kitchen’s broom closet, seems like a perfect setting. Amy Zsadanyi-Yale has done a fabulous work with the costumes, including the blah borrowed top, sexy lingerie, and blood soaked plaid shirt, that speak to the raucous, the risqué, and the gory aspect of the storyline.
Comedy plays are infrequent and often difficult to enact. So this is a rare chance to see a tragic/ comedy superbly executed with precision timing. The Smell of Kill is running at City Lights Theater in San Jose till February 23, 2014. For tickets, go to http://www.cltc.org.