Posts Tagged San Jose

Ideation – Play Review


“Laugh about it, cry about it, but a job is a job”. But is it really, and at what cost of personal credibility and supply of #alternativefacts does one maintain a job with questionable ethics?  In “Ideation”, playwright Aaron Loeb addresses the issue of morality and ethics, through a group of corporate consultants working together on a mysterious, exciting, well paying, and ethically ambiguous project.  Hannah (Lisa Mallette) is the in-house corporate executive and most senior member in the room.  Her job is to facilitate and drive the project but more in a conciliatory manner than by controlling.  She is joined by external consultants, Brock (George Psarras), Ted (Tom Gough), Sandeep (Sunny Moza).  Additionally Scooter (Max Tachis) is a young intern, pushed by Hannah’s boss JD to do odd jobs like take notes, get coffee, get required supplies and get the room ready.

Image result for ideation, citylights

While extremely short dead line creates some serious pressure, super secret hush-hush project with obscure mission about disposal of dead bodies lands the group into giant quagmire of ethical dilemmas.  As the group questions the morality of the tasks, goal, and strategy, suspicions emerges about who might be in charge of the project, could there be several such projects, could each team be privy to only limited amount of information, and who would bear moral responsibility for such a mission.  The paranoia quickly escalates to break down the team, as the members begin questioning who in the team has how much information and who could be a plant from the top and the ethical dilemma begins causing cognitive dissonance regarding their role in the entire affair.

Image result for ideation, citylightsDirected by Mark Anderson Phillips, the play is thought-provoking, devilishly dark, and infuriating (because most of the answers never come), but also funny.  In Trump era, marked by secrets and lies, it is also very timely. The interesting and thought provoking idea is that when a head honcho, someone at the top of the food chain refuses to be transparent and share the vision and properly considered tactical steps then there is a cascading feeling of paranoia and eventual breakdown in the team. Several times the team decides to stick to the project at hand and adhere to logic. But quickly the resolve evaporates in the looming cloud of suspicion, because logic and transparency go hand in hand, and in the absence of one, the other cannot be sustained.

Great kudos to Director, Phillips and the entire creative team, to production manager, Ron Gasparinetti and Executive Artistic Director, Lisa Mallette, for bringing such timely and bold productions to San Jose, CityLights. For tickets, please go to www.cltc.org . Ideation will run till February 19, 2017.

 

 

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The Night Alive: Play Review


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.

Image result for night alive, san joseTommy (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.

Image result for night alive, san joseAimee’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.

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Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War – Play Review


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

For most of World War I Allied Forces, predomi...

For most of World War I Allied Forces, predominantly those of France and the British Empire, were stalled at trenches on the Western Front. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

A cross, left near Ieper in Belgium in 1999, t...

A cross, left near Ieper in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity – Play Review


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.

Wrestling

Wrestling (Photo credit: fotobydave)

“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.

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