Posts Tagged San Jose Stage
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 Addams Family – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on June 13, 2015
You are in for a fabulously spooky treat, in “The Addams Family”, a musical comedy based on a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, based on a group of hilariously zany characters created by Charles Addams. This gloomy musical will keep you smiling till the very end. Tony Kelly has masterfully directed the show, with Musical Direction by our highly talented Allison F. Rich and Assistant Musical Direction by Ryan Stohs. Andrew Lippa has provided music and lyrics.
“Intoxicating scent of graveyard”, err, intoxicating sight of graveyard, pervades on the stage, as each of the characters is introduced; after all, “living or dead, family is family”. Grandma’s (Donna Federico) claim to fame – when she breaks wind, “it can start the windmills on an old Dutch painting”. And in case you wonder about Uncle Fester (D. Scott Mcquiston), “what could a fat bald person of no specific sexuality know about love”, he is in love with the moon, and is preparing for a voyage, to meet his beloved.
The wacky and the macabre gets interestingly bizarre when you meet the “fabulous mother, She of skin so pale, eyes so deep, and dress cut down to Venezuela”. Gomez Addams (Johnny Moreno) is deeply dedicated to his family and most of all, to his unpretentious gloomy wife, and mother of Wednesday (Courtney Hatcher) and Pugsley (Zac Schuman), the edgy and evocative, Morticia Addams (Allison F. Rich).
Wednesday has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Jeffrey Brian Adams) and has invited him and his family dine over at the Gomez’s and the stage is set for an extraordinary encounter between the conservative Midwesterners, living far out in the country and the highly sophisticated New Yorkers. Wednesday pleads to her family,
They’re normal people
Not like you
Not like me
Please can’t we be a normal family!
One normal night
That’s all I want
That’s all I need from you
Grandma says, “define normal” and it soon becomes clear that each family has its own unique quirks and its own unique brand of mid life crisis. Wednesday’s concerned mother tells her husband, “Wednesday is growing up. Gomez: She’ll be Thursday before you know it!” Meanwhile Lucas’s mother Alice Beineke (Elise Youssef) sings,
When I’m depressed
Or feeling blessed
A poem will get it off my chest
They come to me
They take no time
They just pop out
and always rhyme
This show is an absolutely stupendous undertaking by San Jose Stage, with a big cast, long list of creative team members, as well as the band for music. Michael Cook has done a marvellous job with scenic design and Abra Berman’s work on costume design is equally fantastic. Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager, Margaret Kayes and Nicole S. Langley deserve special kudos. My best compliments are for Prop Master, T J Toribio, for absolutely fantastic work with props. For any student of props, this is a must-watch performance.
Easily, I designate The Addams Family playing at San Jose Stage (www.thestage.org) as not-to-miss show of this theater season.
Venus in Fur – Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Play Reviews on February 13, 2015
Dynamics of power are always infinitely interesting. Add to the mix, sexuality, erotica, and pure physical attraction, and you have a volatile mix, perfect for a theatrical production. San Jose Stage had a full house on the opening night of David Ives’ “Venus in Fur”. Tony nominated Best Play (2012), has received multiple awards and has also been made into a Roman Polanski film, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Vanda, an aspiring actress arrives late for her audition for a play based on the nineteenth century erotic novel, when Thomas Novacheck, a playwright-director is about to leave. Thomas is condescending, he talks over Vanda, interrupts her, and does not believe she has the capability for the role. To his credit, Vanda seems totally unprepared, unprofessional, is spewing curses, is bursting with energy, even erotic energy, and seems an unlikely candidate for the role. The power dynamics are in favor of Thomas and notwithstanding her many challenges of coming for an audition on a rainy, stormy day, he is about to throw her out, but gets interrupted by a phone call from his fiancee.
Vanda seizes the opportunity and steps into a costume to begin her reading. As they do the reading, Thomas discovers, to his great dismay, that not only has Vanda come prepared with props and costumes for both, but almost seems to have mastered the play, literally and in spirit. A prepared employee can have the boss wrapped around her finger and the power dynamics shift again. The source material for the play comes from 1870 novel, Venus in Furs by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which also happens to be the origin of the term “masochism”.
As the reading progress, the power dynamics shift again and then again, as Vanda and Thomas step in and out of their roles as Dunayev and Kushemski and step back into character, almost seamlessly but also quite discerningly, if that is possible. Dunayev says, “Why should I forgo any possible pleasure, abstain from any sensual experience? I’’m young, I’m rich, and I’m beautiful and I shall make the most of that. I shall deny myself nothing.” Ahhh the reach of power that comes with it all. But then again who wields the power, one who writes the script or one one who plays along?
As the reading progresses, they share their histories, their kinks, pulled by magnetic attraction towards each other, they fight it when out of character, but fully exploit it, in character. They concede that while people may render themselves explicable, people do not find themselves easily extricable And these stories where people are unable to extricate themselves, make for great theatrical productions in capable hands like Director Kimberly Mohne Hill and actors Johnny Moreno (as Thomas and Kushemski), and Allison F. Rich (as Vanda and Dunayev). Venus in Fur is running at The Stage in San Jose, till March 1. For tickets, please go to www.thestage.org .
Andhera Hone Tak – (Wait Until Dark) – Hindi Play Review
Posted by Darshana V. Nadkarni, Ph.D. in Hindi - Bollywood Movie Reviews-- Play Reviews-- NAATAK-- Poems-- Event Reports, Play Reviews on November 19, 2014
NAATAK company has exceeded all expectations in its production of “Andhera Hone Tak”, hindi version of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller, “Wait Until Dark”. The play is performed with English subtitles projected above the stage, and that makes it a must-see play, for a wider range of audience.
Stage versions of thrillers are rare because suspense and elements of a thriller, including murder, robbery etc. are hard to create on stage. Producer Surender Singh has made a bold attempt in bringing this production and the suspense filled thriller does not disappoint on any count. Clearly, Mukund Marathe has once again proved that he is simply one of the most brilliant directors.
Suneeta Saxena (Sareeka Malhotra) is a housewife, who is also blind, and is married to Sameer Saxena (Puneet) and they live in Shivaji Park, Mumbai. Sameer becomes an innocent transporter of a doll stuffed with contraband, when he brought it home, at the request of a woman, who is now surfaced as dead. Soon thereafter, Sameer is traveling again for business and Suneeta becomes target of three con-men, looking for heroin hidden in a doll. The doll is nowhere to be found because unbeknownst to anyone, a little girl, Aneesha, living in the apartment upstairs, has stolen the doll. The trio play initially manage to get Suneeta worried that her husband will be suspected of murdering the woman and the only way to protect him would be to enable them to have the possession of the doll.
Sareeka Malhotra’s performance as a blind heroine, is brilliant, both vulnerable and at the same time courageous and determined. The three con men, played by Varun Dua, Sanjay Apte, and Amit Sharma are so good at being bad that their performance holds you at the edge of your seats. Aneesha Nema, the little child star gives a phenomenal performance as a bratty but precocious kid. The set design is superb, easy for a supposedly blind person to navigate and yet complex for her to figure out the movements of the intruders. Juhi Mohan has done a great job with lights, helping create the perfect “dark”, that would give Suneeta an edge against the intruders.
Every theater season, I give my recommendation of a “must-watch play of the season” from among South Bay Theater companies, including (NAATAK – www,naatak.org, CityLights – http://www.cltc.org, San Jose Stage – http://www.thestage.org, Theatreworks – http://www.theatreworks.org, EnActe Arts – http://www.enacte.org etc.) and this season, unequivocally, I recommend NAATAK’s “Andhera Hone Tak”, as the “must-watch play of the season”. While the play is performed in Hindi, the English sub-titles, projected above the stage, make it easy for all to enjoy. So remember, you don’t need to understand Hindi to enjoy the suspense, heart stopping tension, spooky lighting, and climactic end, all delivered by flawless performance, in real time.