Posts Tagged Randall King
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens at San Jose Stage: Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on November 24, 2021
The novel “Great Expectations” penned in 1861 by Charles Dickens, has received near universal acclaim and has been translated in several languages. Dickens’s themes of extreme poverty, jaw dropping wealth, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of basic human goodness, resonate across countries and cultures.
Interpretation of this masterpiece was adapted for stage, by Neil Bartlett, and is currently playing at San Jose Stage Theater in San Jose, CA. Big kudos to Artistic Director, Randall King and Executive Director, Cathleen King. The story begins with an orphan, Pip (Keith Pinto) who lives with his hot-tempered sister and kindly brother-in-law, stealing some food. The key challenge in playing this masterpiece on stage is to whittle down Dickens’s brilliant use of character and plot to a few minutes of on stage performance. Credit for this artful performance goes to brilliant director, Kenneth Kelleher and masterful cast of performers, Li Leng Au, Jennifer Le Blanc, Julian Lopez-Morillas, Norman Gee, and Nick Rodrigues, in various roles, besides Pip’s. And it goes without saying that Keith Pinto as young orphan Pip, lovestruck teenage Pip, and wealthy and more mature Pip, is truly brilliant.
Little boy Pip gets a peek into wealth and upper class society when fabulous and wealthy Miss Haversham asks for Pip to visit her, for her amusement. Miss Haversham was left at the altar in her youth and she continues to nurse her pain. As a daily reminder of her pain, she still wears a tattered old wedding dress. Li Leng Au as Miss Haversham brings dramatic energy and a sense of gravitas. But it is not the wealth that sparks Pip’s interest or curiosity about eccentric Miss haversham that propels him to continue to visit her. Pip falls hopelessly in love with Miss Haversham’s adopted daughter, Estella. However, Estella’s cold treatment (encouraged by Miss Haversham) and Pip’s own low social status in life, precludes any chance for him marrying Estella. And yet, Pip harbors great expectations that perhaps some day he may be a man of means and be worthy of marriage with Estella.
And yet, acknowledging the futility of this exercise, Pip laments,
“Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”
This is a brilliant story depicting differences between classes in Victorian England. It is a also a story of courage, romance, love and hope. Sometimes the lessons one learns through trials and tribulations in life, only become apparent much later. It is much later that Pip understands that love transcends wealth and he also realizes that money can never buy love, nor guarantee happiness. The play is beautifully performed and as intended by Dickens, it provides a window into the society that was most significantly divided by class and also serves as a morality tale.
In the words of Artistic Director, Randall King, “this story challenges us to open our hearts and minds to become kinder, more compassionate and better at discerning true moral values.”Tickets are available at www.thestage.org .
The Night Alive: Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on November 25, 2016
The Night Alive, written by Conor McPherson and directed by Tony Kelly, is a kind of nativity story focusing on compassion and kindness although the beginning seems like it’s anything but that. The play starts by providing a glimpse into the slice of anguished lives of a few lost souls and faint but clear glimmers of hope appear by the end.
Tommy (Randall King) rents a room in his uncle Maurice’s (Julian Lopez-Morillas) old Edwardian house in Dublin. Uncle Maurice lives upstairs and though critical of Tommy, he also loves him. Tommy’s friend, Doc (Lawrence Radecker) is Tommy’s little sidekick who also frequently sleeps in the room and helps Tommy with odd jobs. They scrape by from day to day work and live amidst junk-filled squalor of the room. As the play begins, one night Tommy rescues a young prostitute, Aimee (Allison F. Rich) and bring her home to get her cleaned up. Aimee has no place to go and she ends up staying, for that night and another and another.
Tommy has been estranged from his wife and kids and does not have anything significant to look forward to in life. But a sort of friendship develops between Tommy and Aimee and it brings a little sunshine into his otherwise dark life. Friendship also sprouts between Aimee and other men. Doc is a little slow and at first he is not quite approving of the loss of his sleeping place and of his friend’s attention. Uncle Maurice is also somewhat disapproving at first. Deadpan humor while all these lost souls are trying to find their bearings in a situation of change and chaos is often heart-breaking but things start to get resolved and just as there is emergence of hope for a kinder gentler life, the story takes a turn.
Aimee’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Jonathan Rhys Williams) comes looking for her and completely disrupts their lives. Is that not how life often unfolds for people with lower means and resources, and keeps them imprisoned in a vicious circle where while they continue to live, life in a true sense seems to emerge every now and then but continues to stay out of their reach? For this group, as life unfolds in the moment, as they live without dreams, goals and a future, their little attempts at humor seem like attempts to grab fleeting happiness, whenever they can. Doc once brings a book titled “How to survive life-threatening situations”, and reads from it. As the audience laughs at totally non-helpful suggestions outlined in the book, a question lingers, how does one survive life that has nothing to offer?
If however, the ending is good, rest does not matter. Play ends ambiguously, albeit at a place where a little hint of hope, a faint flash of faith emerges. Sometimes love and kindness may just be enough to open a future of possibilities.
The Night Alive is playing at www.thestage.org in San Jose till December 11, 2016.
Bonnie & Clyde – A Musical
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on June 9, 2014
At the height of the Great Depression, between 1910 and 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow rose from being Texas nobodies to becoming lovers, thrill seekers, folk heroes, criminals, and FBI’s “most wanted”. The musical “Bonnie & Clyde” at San Jose Stage www.thetage.org, is based on the book by Ivan Menchell, and electrifying lyrics are by Don Black, with music by Frank Wildhorn.
The cast is fabulous. Allison F. Rich and Cliff McCormick in the role of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are superb as America’s fascinating outlaws. As Bonnie & Clyde leave Texas, their robberies and crime spree spreads through Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Missouri, killing at least 13 people. Their prophetic lyrics point to the nature of things to come.
Clyde & Bonnie
We are wasted ’round here
We’re too good for this place.
We weren’t born to live
And die in Texas!
This is my plan- there’s no plan B
And this world will remember me.
You and this world will remember me!
Bonnie is not the only one lured by the picture or riches & luxury painted by Clyde. Bonnie is not the only one keen to loose her “egg-stained apron”, yearning for “somethin made of satin”. Not long after Bonnie & Clyde embark on the adventure of crime and its rewards, they are joined by Clyde’ brother Buck Barrow (Will Springhorn), as he ignores all warnings from his wife Blanche Barrow (Halsey Varady).
The barrow brothers together enjoyed the brief stint of crime and adventure, before all hell broke loose.
Clyde & Buck Barrow
We are the heroes who
The people look up to
And brother that feels great
Director, Michael Navarrta and Musical Director, Allison F. Rich, along with the entire creative team have done a fantastic job of recreating this drama, that in the words of Garland Thompson, “really wants to be a movie”. Special shoutout to Projections Designer, Garland Thompson, Videographer Chris Eldridge, and Stage Manager, Jason Nall for seamlessly blending in video projections with the set, to make this adventure come alive. As Bonnie and Clyde and their gang, escape from captivity, evade the police, and keep jumping the state lines, the video projections as backdrops add meaningful information, and are vivid and imaginative.
Don’t miss this show that will take you on an unforgettable journey of crime and adventure. As Randall King, the Artistic Director says, “This is the perfect way to close out the season with guns-a-blazing”. This show will be running at The Stage in San Jose, now through July, 27. For tickets and other information, go to www.thestage.org.
The Threepenny Opera – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on February 14, 2014
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.
On 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?
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.
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.
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on October 25, 2013
A play about wrestling? I almost did not go to see this one. I would have missed one heck of a play. Makes one think about what wrestling represents in the minds of many of us. The playwright Kristoffer Diaz has created an interesting juxtaposition of vastly different communities in this excellent play, masterfully directed by Jonathan Williams. Stage Manager, Meredith King and Set Designer, Ian Wallace have done an amazing job in recreating the environment suitable for wrestling matches, one of the oldest forms of combative sports.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”, a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist, is not just a play about sports. It is a play about what it means to have an American dream and how certain sports and wrestling for sure, embody the American dream. In fact, after Virgil Riley Runnels, Jr., a son of a plumber, won multiple grand wrestling championships and various titles, he was renamed, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. In this play, Macedonio Guerra, known as Mace, a wrestler of Puerto Rican decent, describes his childhood fascination with the art and the business of wrestling. He talks about what the sport meant for him and his brothers and how it molded his own aspirations.
When he entered the game of professional wrestling however, he hit the glass ceiling, sooner than he had anticipated. He was rather short and not highly charismatic and was therefore deemed a non-championship material. Instead, he became a professional “looser”. He plays his character and is also the narrator, in the play. Through him, we get a glimpse into the world of professional wrestling, buzzing with racism, jingoism, and xenophobia, not to mention, certain level of ignorance. And sometimes there are people who mask their smartness, to fit in. Mace almost calls on the ignorant and racist remarks of his boss, but then thinks better of it, and says, “I let my boss be right”. He says, as a professional looser, his job is to “make the winner look good”; to make the winner look as though he defeated the opponent with considerable force and strength. The pre-determined champion, in a sport where fights are frequently “fixed”, and body slams, mounted punches, backhand swings, and other moves are often rehearsed and faked, is Chad Deity, a charismatic, engaging, tall black man with an easy smile and a powerful voice.
Mace however, sees his big break that could help him inch closer to realizing the American dream, when he finds a charismatic champion hidden under the carefree Indian kid, Vigneshware Paduar. Mace presents VP to his boss EKO and tells him “I will do the heavy lifting” in prepping VP. VP fights the bad guy, Billy Heartland and then EKO fascinated by VP’s foreign decent and non traditional stance, starts planning the best way VP can be presented to the fans. He wants to present him as Muslim terrorist, even though VP is Hindu, building on the notion that sometimes, racial identity may be exploited, in pursuit of the American dream. EKO presents VP as an evil Muslim, called the Fundamentalist, who with his sleeper cell kick, seemingly poses a threat to the American Dream guy Chad Deity. All the four wrestlers, Mace (played by Andrew Perez), Chad Deity (played by Donald Paul), Vigneshware Paduar or VP (played by Jaspal Binning), and bad guy Billy Heartland (played by James Long), and the owner of the wrestling team, EKO (Randall King) do an amazingly superb job. It is worth it to see the play just to see their fabulous wrestling moves and characteristic wrestling boasts.
This beautiful, satirical, amazingly witty play also blends in tenderness and poetic storytelling. Towards the end, VP and Mace begin to realize that they are becoming parts of the exploitative machine, by accepting the soundbites, the racially charged epithets, and by readily abandoning the truth. The satire is not just on the professional sport of wrestling. The joke is also on theater goers, who may have come to see this sport, with its loud music, bright lights, unusual attires, and rough language, as “lowbrow”. The fact that underneath the façade and faked exterior are real people, striving for the same things that make the American dream, some respect, recognition, and feeling of “having arrived”, is an eye-opener.
“The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” is a not-to-miss play of this season, and it is playing at The Stage in San Jose, until November, 10. For tickets, please go to http://www.thestage.org.
Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on April 8, 2013
Persuasion by Jane Austen – Play Review
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.
Red – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on March 1, 2013
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.