Posts Tagged Paul Gordon
Sense and Sensibility: Theatreworks Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on March 16, 2022
Sense and Sensibility – Play Review
Musical version of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility, playing at Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, through Theatreworks Silicon Valley is a treat for the senses and is sensible for the minds. Incredible lyrics by Paul Gordon, make it a must see musical treasure and is directed by brilliant Robert Kelley. Incredible scenic design by Joe Ragey and costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt place the formidable cast right in the 18th century England where properties were passed to male heirs, and young women were left to find a suitable match or navigate through life in poverty or worse, spinsterhood, in a society where premium is placed on rank and status.
Sisters Marianne Dashwood (Antoinette Comer) and Elinor Dashwood (Sharon Rietkerk) find themselves at such a pivotal juncture, upon the passing away of their father. Marianne Dashwood is passionate and spontaneous, quick to love and hasty in her laments; she loves change of seasons, random walks and finds joy in nature and poetry in dead leaves; she embraces zest for life and romantic idealism, and loves wholeheartedly, laughs uproariously, and weeps dramatically. Women like her are often the force behind much needed changes in a society. When the property is passed to her brother, she asks her sister, “why? Is it because he is a dutiful son or because he is deserving? For, he is neither”.
Marianne’s sister Elinor Dashwood is subdued in her emotions, slow and thoughtful in expressing her feelings, polite and considerate in her commentary, rational and restrained in her thinking; she speaks of decorum and propriety; and she always tries to see things from others’ perspective, be sensitive to their feelings and say the right things, even when she suffers great hardship in doing so. Women like her, are often the ones who help maintain order in society and prevent chaos not only through their own patience and kindness but also with their counsel to others, as her sister Marianne acknowledges, “my sister hopes to save me from my excesses”.
While either disposition in excess may not serve a person well, it seems Austen clearly favors domination of sense over sensibility. As Elinor says to her sister Marianne, “it is not everyone who has your passion for dead leaves”. From good natured, shy Edward Ferrars (Darrell Morris Jr.) to dashing and temperamental John Willoughby (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) to dutiful husband, John Dashwood (Nick Nakashima), they all play their roles to perfection. With prevailing sense of the time, Austen navigates her heroines through the plot twists and rewards them with a suitable match, at the end of her novels, as the happy audience departs with a smile.
This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season and a treat to be savored, after the lockdowns of the pandemic. Tickets are available at www.theatreworks.org .
“Being Earnest” Musical – Based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on April 7, 2013
The new musical, “Being Earnest”, based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, perhaps one of the wittiest plays in the English language, is presented by Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon and Emmy nominee Jay Gruska, at the nationally acclaimed TheatreWorks. Musical direction is by William Liberatore. It is TheatreWorks artistic director, Robert Kelley’s stagings and scenic designer Joe Ragey’s sets, that help transport the story to London’s Carnaby Street and the country estate of Mr. Worthing, and steal the show. If, “In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”, this play is both sincere to Wilde’s clever critique of the hypocrisies of the society in which Wilde lived and stylish in its presentation. “Being Earnest” has costumes designed by Fumiko Bielefeldt, lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt and sound design Jeffrey Mockus. The play is reset to 1965.
The play opens with Algernon Moncrieff receiving his friend, Jack Worthing, superbly (played by Euan Morton and Hayden Tee respectively), at Moncrieff’s London home. Gordon and Gruska have done a fantastic job in muscalizing the classic, with superb lyrics. Jack has created an alter-ego, Ernest, to escape the drudgery of his conservative lifestyle, in the country. He has fun in London, as Ernest, and explains away his frequent absences, to his ward in the country, by saying that he has to visit his wayward brother, Ernest. In London, Jack falls in love with Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen (played by Mindy Lym) who readily accepts him, claiming, “my ideal has always been to love someone of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.” Upon hearing of the secret engagement of her daughter to Jack Worthing, Lady Bracknell (superbly played by Maureen McVerry) interviews Jack and finds him unsuitable when he reveals that he is an orphan and was found in a handbag by a charitable gentleman, who raised him. Lady Bracknell says, “To be born, or at any rate bred, in a handbag, whether it have handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life”.
At Jack Worthing’s country home, Ms. Prism (played by Diana Torres Koss) is in charge of Jack’s ward Cecily Cardew (played by Riley Krull). Algernon wishing to pursue Jack’s “beautiful” ward, unbeknownst to Jack, arrives his country home, claiming to be his younger brother, Ernest. Cecily has always been intrigued by the wickedness of “Ernest”, and when Algernon tries to explain that he is not wicked, she says, “If you are not, then you have certainly been deceiving us all in a very inexcusable manner. I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy”. Algernon professes his love for her and inquires whether she would still love him, if his name were not Ernest. She says, “I might respect you, Ernest, I might admire your character, but I fear that I should not be able to give you my undivided attention.” While the script has been pared down to include the songs, it retains some of the most witty original dialogues. Now there are two love stricken men looking to get rechristened by the rector, Dr. Chasuble (played by Brian Herndon). Meanwhile, Lady Bracknell considers the social possibilities of two pending marriages. To Algernon, unconcerned about society, she says, “Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”
This is a beautiful, must-see rendition of Wilde’s lampooning of the shallow social mores of Victorian society. It is full of superb lyrics and famous dialogues, gorgeous scenes and amazing acting. The young lovers, beautifully play the roles of flippant characters, lacking depth, and deliver Wilde’s witty and sparkling lines, with aplomb. In the end, ironically, Lady Bracknell, most shallow character of all, and keeper of traditions, reflects upon Mr. Worthing’s obsession with the name Ernest, for the sake of his love “My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.” “On the contrary, Aunt Augusta,” he replies, “I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of being Earnest.”
If I were to watch only one play this season, I would select this one. “Being Earnest” is currently playing at TheatreWorks www.theatreworks.org in Mountain View.