Posts Tagged play

“The Wolves” – Play Review


A team of young soccer players in Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves” start out with routine banter, typical of young girls, as they do pre-match warm-up sessions. A Pulitzer Prize finalist, the play offers a rich insight into the minds and hearts of young girls. It is inspiring and emotional, funny and sad and juxtaposes the trials and tribulations of growing up as a young girl in a manner that creates a rich tapestry of varying colors of adolescent life. 

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The play is not organized around a singular conventional theme. In fact, the points of tension are dispersed among many situations and issues and randomly emerge in the fast and fragmented girl talk. There is anxiety around being in love, getting recruited to a top college with athletic scholarship, being home schooled and moved around with a parent’s job, going for unsupervised parties with boys and more. Added to all the choices that young girls wade through, there’s the shame, guilt and secrecy around sex and sexuality. 

What emerges is a rich tapestry of adolescent angst, amidst glaring fundamental truths, the many choices that will have long term consequences and many responsibilities that they delicately seek to balance and navigate through, relying on each other, where only they can understand the depth of emotions. Should destiny require them to deal with loss and grief, what adult can fully understand or speak honestly about the emotional anguish that young girls standing on the dawn of adult life experience? But as the play unfolds, every adult is likely reminded of his or her mental turmoil of adolescence and of their young girls they raised, mentored or taught. There is a certain steady building of empathetic investment into the characters that we experience. By the end of the play, we want each of these girls to go to Harvard or Stanford or heck a community college, indeed any vocation of choice; be on a winning team or not play on one if they so choose; find a partner of choice or be happily single; indeed we want them to fulfill their dreams and grow into kind and happy women. DeLappe’s faultless dialogues on a diverse range of topics, makes these girls so real, we love them like our own. 

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Big kudos to the talented cast, Leila Rosa, Carol Amalia ALban, Taylor Sanders, Alex Bokovikova, Alexandra Velasquez, Ariel Aronica, Annika Nori, Erin Southard, Beca Gilbert, and Janine Saunders Evans. Credits go to MacKenzie Blair and Sara Session for excellent staging. Director Kimberly Mohne Hill with assistance by Elena Maddy has done a fabulous job of giving on stage life to Sarah De Lappe’s The Wolves. This is an absolutely not-to-miss-play of this theater season and will be running The City Lights Theater in San Jose, CA until October 20, 2019. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .

 

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Language Archive – Play Review


“What is death to a language.  There are 6900 languages in the world,  Every two weeks, a language dies. This statistic moves me more than any other.  It is death of imagination”. This dialog from Theatrework’s Tony Award-winning “Language Archive” is a celebration of the power of words. And the play itself is also a heart touching rendition of the limitation of language because after all, love transcends words.

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Above everything else, playwright Julia Cho’s quirky sentimental comedy is a celebration of human spirit, with all its tenacity and vulnerabilities. Superbly directed by Jeffrey Lo, every dialog in the play is Muni-Muni (means makes on think deeply in Philippine language). The play centers around whimsical brilliant linguist George (Jomar Tagatac). George’s affirming love for the spoken word and his deep inner struggle to verbalize his innermost feelings are contradictions that point to a larger conundrum – what is more important and more fully defines humans, words or feelings. Even as George devotedly works to preserve and record dying languages of the world, internally he struggles to communicate his feelings to his beloved wife, Mary (Elena Wright). Mary on the other hand, lives in the world of feelings, wears her heart on her sleeve, composes and leaves littler verses for George to find, and cries at the drop of a hat. She is critical of George’s lack of emotions. When George insists that he feels and feels deeply and that his work is devoted to preserving languages and he also deeply mourns the death of a language, Mary counters, “You mourn ideas, not people”.  Mary, a woman of feelings, speaks some of the most memorable lines, including telling George, “There is a certain language, our language, and if you don’t come back, I can’t speak it any more,” and when George does go back, Mary indeed fails to understand him. Emma (Adrienne Kaori Walters) works with George and she understands George more deeply.  She also secretly loves George and pines for him.

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Alta (Emily Kuroda) and Resten (Francis Jue) are endearing old couple who are amongst the last people to speak their native language. However, they only speak in their tongue when they are speaking with love. When they are fighting or sniping at each other, they choose to do that in English. George and Emma are keen to record their language but end up terribly frustrated as Alta and Resten are fighting and refuse to speak in their native tongue, as they snipe at each other in English.  In many ways, it makes intuitive sense that they speak in their native language only when they are communicating deep innermost feelings. After all, language of love is the language of the heart and it supercedes the language acquired through learning of words. Language of love is acquired in infancy, long before an infant learns words. The play beautifully weaves together the amazing power of love beyond words with the power inherent in words that give human feelings of love, longing, fear and vulnerabilities, meaning and substance and enables people engaged in a deep relationship an ability to create their own language.

This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season in the bay area and will be running till August 4 at Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, CA.  Tickets are available at www.theatreworks.org .

Language Archive, Play, Review Julia Cho, Jeffrey Lo, Jomar Tagatac, Elena Wright, Adrienne Kaori Walters, Emily Kuroda, Francis Jue, Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto, www.theatreworks.org 

PS: World’s oldest continually operating library where lost languages have been found
archaeology-world.com/this-is-the-wo…

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Ashadh ka ek din (on Kalidasa): Naatak Play Review


Ashadh ka ek din (on Kalidas) : Naatak Play Review – June, 2019

Found on principles of bringing on stage intelligent and entertaining shows pertaining to East Asian literature and arts in San Francisco bay area, Naatak has consistently surpassed expectations from a demanding audience.

In Naatak’s 69th production, writer Mohan Rakesh’s “Ashadh ka ek din”, the focus is on young love, simple and lyrical as a poem, pure and unspoilt as nature, passionate and brimming with hope as the drop of first rain, in the month of ashadh. It depicts the story of Kalidasa, classical Sanskrit writer and poet who is presumed to have created his works in the 4th century, and was a royal poet during the reigns of kings Chandragupta II and Yasodharman. Kudos to Naatak for fantastic staging. How they manage it, despite low ticket prices is a mystery. 

It is as true today as it was then that stupendous achievements often come from heart-wrenching personal sacrifices. Kalidas (Anush Moorthy) was ahead of his times and his talents went unnoticed, in his little village. However the king in Ujjain was impressed by his work and sent him royal invitation to go to the capital, Ujjain and adorn the royal court as a national poet. Kalidas is reluctant to leave his beloved, Mallika (Preeti Bhat) who is the inspiration behind many of his works. But Mallika insists that he should not pass up this opportunity which will help bloom his talent.

Kalidas: nayi bhumi sukhi bhi to ho sakto hai

Mallika: koi bhumi aisi nahi jiske antar me komalta na ho, tumhari pratibha us komalta ka sparsh awashya pa legi.

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At the insistence of Mallika, Kalidas leaves his village, not to return for several years. With the force of royal sponsorship, Kalidas writes many epics like medghdootam, kumarsambhawa and raghuwans, all the while his beloved Mallika continues to be his muse. While Mallika pines for Kalidasa in the village. Mallika’s mother Ambika (Anshu Johri) curses Kalidasa and refuses to be drawn into the flow of emotions that have gripped her young daughter.  

Ambika: “ma ka jivan bhavna nahi, karm hai”.

Behind every successful man, there is a great sacrifice of a woman (of course, in the present times, opposite is also true). Produced by Alka Sippy and directed by brilliant, Manish Sabu, “ashadh ka ek din” is a story of love that is eternal, of time which stops for noone, and of sacrifice from which are born great works of art. One thing the play is not and I would have loved more of is Kalidasa’s work itself. The play does not focus as much on his poetry. Kalidasa had written Rutusamhara before he went to Ujjain. If the play included many lyrics from there which spoke of the beauty of the mountains, clouds and rains that appeared even more beautiful to the poet, in the company of his beloved, then it would have enhanced our joy. Nonetheless, it is a tender love story, with beautiful prose and heart-touching dialogues.

 

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Mothers and Sons – Play Review


Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsThe 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”?

Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsAs 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”. Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsJust 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 .

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The Siegel – Play Review: May, 2018


Image result for siegel, citylightsThe Siegel by Michael Mitnick, directed by Mark Anderson Phillips is a beautiful romantic comedy, with the title poking fun at the Chechov classic, “The Seagull”.  Ehan Siegal (Ben Euphrat) is in love with Alice (Ella Dershowitz) and though Alice and Ethan have broken up about two years ago, as the play opens, Ethan is with Alice’s parents, Ron (Erik Gandolfi) and Deborah (Luisa Sermol) asking them for Alice’s hand in marriage.

Ethan is on a mission to convince everyone who would be willing to get a dinner or down a few drinks that he deserves a second chance. Ethan tries to convince Alice’s mystified parents. “The point is, I will love you daughter as if she were my daughter”, says the aspiring groom. When Ron and Deborah remain unconvinced, Ethan manages to persuade Ron to have a beer with him where he reads the poem he has written for Alice.

Image result for siegel, citylightsAlice herself is not only determinedly against the entire idea but to complicate matters, she has recently moved in with her boyfriend, Nelson (David Morales). Ethan forces himself on their dinner date and Nelson is somewhat intrigued and amused by Alice’s ex boyfriend. But when Ethan manages to convince Alice to go on a dinner date, Nelson is no longer amused and he too shows up at her parents’ home to ask her hand in marriage. This prompts Alice’s bemused father to inquire, “well how many goats do you offer”?

Image result for citylights, siegelIf the goal is for Alice to be with the person who is a better match for her, then an equally pertinent question lingers in the air, “Do you think there is only one person out there for us”? For Alice, is that person Ethan or Nelson? This isn’t a play with a remarkable story. But it is a play with the most memorable, best cast of characters and each of them do do complete justice to their roles. Each one is just perfect or with just the right mix of quirkyness. “A cast is kind of a living, breathing organism”, says director Phillips and the result is this superbly funny play that leaves you in splits of laughter.

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It would be amiss to not notice an underlying sadness, a gentle touch of melancholy underneath all the drama.  Without dwelling on it too much, it leaves the audience with a whole host of nagging questions. “Do we settle sometimes in life, because it is the right thing to do in that moment or because it takes too much courage to change course, and how long a shadow will that cast on one’s future happiness?” A memorable gem is a quote from Alice’s mother to Alice, “the person who you enjoy being with, is the person you should be with”.  This is not-to-miss play of this theater season and is running at Citylights Theater in San Jose. For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .

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The Toxic Avenger – Play Review


Musical comedy “The Toxic Avenger” based on Lloyd Kaufman’s film of the same name, originally derived from book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, is currently playing at The stage (www.thestage.org) in San Jose.  It is a silly show tackling a serious subject and features a talented cast that performs zillion roles.  Addressing the issue of climate change, the show shies away from becoming preachy or depressing. It begins with the lyrics

Global warming’s up ahead
The experts think we’ll all be dead
But they don’t know we’re here to fight

Image result for toxic avenger, san joseIt is a story of heavily polluted New Jersey town where Melvin Ferd III (Will Springhorn Jr.) resolves to get to the bottom of the cause of pollution and is pitted against town’s greedy, power-hungry and seductive mayor Babs (Allison F. Rich) and her gang of thugs. The mayor’s for-profit corporation is the cause of town’s growing pollution but the mayor is entirely focused on growing her bottom line.

Here’s a place between heaven and hell
Don’t need a map, just follow the smell
A place filled with filthy air
A place full of dark despair
A place you have no prayer
A place called New Jersey
New Jersey
Jersey, the Garden State
Ther’s an exit called the thirteen gee
Right off the turnpike where it smells just like pee
An exit no one dares get off:
An exit where the children cough

Image result for toxic avenger, san joseWhen the mayor’s thugs and Melvin engage in a fight, Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste and emerges as a heroic green monster with superior strength. Melvin’s nagging mother (also played by talented Allison F. Rich) does not the express slightest shock and instead reiterates her disappointment with her son. Her lack of shock at the sight of her son is shocking in itself and at the same time her superb acting makes it feel like a natural response of a nagging mother to a child not rising up to his talents. It is all hilarious.  Melvin also reconnects with his blind love interest, Sarah (Courtney Hatcher). Sarah does not know that it is Melvin and falls hopelessly in love with who she believes is the superhero who saved her from the town’s thugs.

He’s strong and sweet and lives with his mother,
He saved my life so there is no other.
Such a man and man is he macho
Spicy cool like a bowl of gaspacho
Someday he’s ganna be my big, my big french boyfriend!

But Sarah soon gets an opportunity to touch Melvin’s ugly and scarred face and her love abets with the same speed as it had begun to overflow. When scorned by his sweetheart, broken hearted and depressed Melvin goes from being a town hero and a legend to a town pariah. However, Sarah soon changes her mind after she gets a talking-to by Melvin’s mother who explains “If blind people don’t like ugly people, than who will” and she and Sarah’s friends make a practical point that – after all
All men are freaks
It’s a burden every woman shares as she travels down life’s roads

Superbly directed by Jonathan Rhys Williams, the play is hilariously funny and witty. Cirby Hatano’s set is eye catching wasteland with scattered drums of toxic waste. Video design by Vijay M. Rajan occasionally fills the gap in the narrative and adds fantastically funny comic touches. When the fight ensues between the  hero and the thugs, blood is scattered or limbs are severed on the projected screen rather than on the set. The 80s style rock style songs are played by an onstage rock band directed by Brian Allan Hobbs.

The Toxic Avenger is produced at San Jose Stage at a critical time in our history, when depressing developments on the issue of climate change makes us feel both upset and helpless. Toxic Avenger is just the hero we need to transport us for a short while, to a place where we are not entirely helpless, and our righteous commitment enables us to find love and perfect solution for the cause of climate change. The Toxic Avenger will be playing at the Stage in San Jose until July 16, 2017 and tickets are available at www.thestage.org .

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The Memory Stick – Play Review


Set on an army base in Afghanistan in 2016, “The Memory Stick” by Irish playwright Donal O’Kelly, tackles some serious issues of right and wrong and moral obligation of soldiers when they see something unethical. The Memory Stick is a world premiere co-production between The Stage www.sanjosestage.org and the Arts Office of Dublin City Council, Ireland.  

Image result for "The memory stick", san jose stageTwo Native American soldiers Seth Shaw (John R. Lewis) and Jack Black Horse (Joseph Valdez), occasionally joined by Bridget (Lindsy Kail), begin a makeshift lodge while on an army base in Afghanistan.  Each of them relive their earlier memories and share ruminations that are deeply tied to their cultural identity. One of them has recorded some illegal data onto a memory stick about army’s unethical behavior and the discussion soon veers into the realm of morality and whether or not they should publish/leak this information.  The discussion weaves in many threads including systematic oppression of the Native Americans and events surrounding Wounded Knee as well as oppression of the Irish people and uprisings in Ireland. There is also a segment on Bradley/ Chelsea Manning that portrays Manning as a lonely hero.

This is an ambitious and bold play oddly reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and takes the audience into deep recesses of morality and ethics. Is the true mantra for soldiers, “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” or as soldiers in the bigger journey of life, do we all bear responsibility to question the wrong when we see it, that every person can, as Bridget quotes from James Connolly, do “his duty according to his lights”? This play is about human soul and whistle blowers and how it puts someone concerned with doing the right thing sometimes in an incredibly lonely spot.  Indeed the play tackles too much and leaves the audience a bit rattled as well as unsettled.  It is heavy on dialog and while that can put you to sleep at times, yet under the chaos of multiple issues are larger questions about life and morality that are guaranteed to keep you awake at night.  Irish and the Welsh dialect is enjoyable and staging by Tony Kelly is sparse but perfect.

For tickets, please go to www.thestage.org .

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