Sunday, December 14, 2008

Noise Within: fall 2008

Eastside Road, Healdsburg, Saturday, December 13, 2008—
WHAT? OH, YES, I should let you know about the plays we saw last week. It was the semiannual visit to Los Angeles to see productions at A Noise Within, a repertory company whose efficient programming allows us to see three plays within a week — or less: next May, for example, within three days.
Every season seems to offer a couple of Shakespeare plays, a 20th-century American standard, a play from the French repertory, and a couple of plays from odd corners of the literature. Last week we saw The Rainmaker, Hamlet, and an adaptation of Oliver Twist: in nearly every case, the last or near-last performance of the run.
  • The Rainmaker is not a very persuasive stage play. N. Richard Nash wrote it for television, as the jerky flow of the play suggests (you can almost hear the Philco commercials between the scenes). It's dated (1954) and it's hokey, relying on the familiar collisions between a romantic social outcast (title role) and dirt-plain everyday America (a farm family beset by drought, in more ways than one). Sure: Nash has in mind the tension between insular pre-WW2 America and the older, more sophisticated Europe it has just liberated. The theme's familiar and has been done better elsewhere.
    But The Rainmaker works; it still plays, at least it did in this NW production; and it's useful to see it to better appreciate the work of, for example, Tennessee Williams. In this production, too, Nash's characters managed to come to life, and if the play recalls others in this detail or that — plays ranging from Of Mice and Men to The Glass Menagerie — at least in doing so it contributes to a fuller understanding of the nature of 20th-century American theater. And, let's face it, it's an honest evening of entertainment. Foxworth and Flanery, the leads, were remarkable, I thought, for the detail and patience they brought to their characterizations.
    Cast and Crew:
    Bo Foxworth (Starbuck)
    Bridget Flanery (Lizzie Curry)
    Mitchell Edmonds (HC Curry)
    Scott Roberts (File)
    Ross Hellwig (Jim Curry)
    Leonard Kelly-Young (Sheriff Thomas)
    Steve Weingatner (Noah Curry)
    Andrew Traister, Director
    David O, Composer
    James P. Taylor, Set and Lighting Designer
    Julie Keen, Costume Designer
    Byron Batista, Hair/Make-up
    Dicapria Del Carpio, Props Master
    Rebecca Baillie, Production Manager
    Kate Barrett, Stage Manager
    Adam Lillibridge, Technical Director
    Michael Pukac, Scenic Artist
    Ronnie Clark, Master Electrician

  • This year's production of Shakespeare's Hamlet was, quite simply, one of the most telling evenings we've spent in this Glendale theater — and we've seen over thirty plays here. Much cut from the usual production, it was based, I heard, on the First Folio text. It was compressed and tight and very much focussed on the title role. Double-casting the two Hamlets — the Prince of Denmark and the ghost of his murdered father — may seem gimmicky, but it very much worked; it breathed new urgency into a very familiar play. I thought Freddy Douglas was fine in the role; Tony Abatemarco (a friend of ours) was a very credible, humane Polonius; Deborah Strang and Dorothea Harahan grew as Gertrude and Ophelia as the play progressed, Steve Cooms was a strong Horatio., Francois Giroday portrayed Claudius as tentative at the beginning, then witless and hesitant. The physical production was dark and intense.

    Freddy Douglas (Hamlet/Ghost)
    Tony Abatemarco (Polonius/Others)
    Deborah Strang (Gertrude)
    Dorothea Harahan (Ophelia)
    Jacob Sidney (Guildenstern/Osric/Others)
    Steve Cooms (Horatio)
    Matthew Jaeger (Laertes/Rosencrantz)
    Francois Giroday (Claudius)
    Mark Bramhall (1st Player/Gravedigger/Others)
    Michael Michetti, Director
    John Pennington, Choreographer
    Sara Clement, Set/Costume Designer
    Peter Gottlieb, Lighting Designer
    Kari Seekins, Composer/Sound Designer
    Monica Sabedra, Hair/Make-up
    Ken Merckx, Fight Choreographer
    Rebecca Baillie, Production Manager
    Susan Coulter, Stage Manager
    Adam Lillibridge, Technical Director
    Jennifer Inglis, Scenic Artist
    Ronnie Clark, Master Electrician

  • Oliver Twist is one of the many classics of English literature this English Lit major has managed to avoid; the only Dickens I've read is A Tale of Two Cities, and that nearly sixty years ago. If only the novel were like the Noise Within production I'd run out and buy a copy. (Well, maybe not.) This version, adapted from the novel by Neil Bartlett, was funny and schematic, with production values recalling Brecht and Weill, sets and situations recalling Hogarth, and spoof-the-classics irony out of Mad Magazine.
    Brian Dare debuted with Noise Within in the title role, playing it straight and sympathetically. Tom Fitzpatrick was a reedy, sinister, creepy Fagan; Apollo Dukakis brought real presence to the role of Bumble; Geoff Elliott had fun with that of Sikes; Shaun Anthony fleshed out the warm minor role of the Artful Dodger. Jessica Berman and Jill Hill had fun as Rose and Nancy, individuating them nicely; Julia Rodriguez-Elliott directed.
    The more I think about it, the more I like it. It was a good half-season; I'm sorry it's over, and you can't see it too. (But do consider Noise Within's Waiting for Godot, running January 15-25; we saw it last season, and the production deserves this special revival.)
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