Thursday, April 21, 2011

This North Coast Weekend

The HSU Opera Workshop presents Mozart's opera The Magic Flute for three performances this weekend: Friday and Saturday (April 22, 23) at 8 p.m., and Sunday (April 24) at 2 p.m. in Gist Hall Theatre.  Students Brandy Rose and Philip de Roulet, and community singers Nanette Voss, Christopher Hatcher and Steve Nobles sing the principal roles. With dialogue in English, it’s relocated by director Elisabeth Harrington and scenographer Rachel Parti to the Mayan culture, which adds color and imagery (a leopard, a lion and lots of birds) and strengthens a nature-based emphasis. “It’s a show for all ages,” Harrington said, “with magic and comedy and drama, but focused on love and friendship, nobility and bravery.”  Paul Cummings, who directs the accompanying 20-piece orchestra, says the music is among Mozart’s best.  More info.

The Fence In Its Thousandth Year by contemporary British playwright Howard Barker is presented at Dell'Arte Thursday through Sunday (April 21-24) at 8 p.m. in the Carlo. According to Dell'Arte: "Written in 2005, Barker's play is a powerful theatrical journey into the borderlands between social classes, metaphorically presented as a literal fence where the powerful and the powerless exist in a tense, emotional symbiosis. Sexually explicit, viscerally emotional and hauntingly poetic, Barker's imagined world speaks to our contemporary social and cultural divisions through the heightened language of the theater." This project on tragedy by the Dell'Arte School's second year MFA's is directed by Stephanie Thompson.

Continuing: Final weekend for the HSU dance concert Gravity Defined in the Van Duzer; Othello continues at North Coast Rep, South Pacific at Ferndale Rep.


Open auditions for the musical Brigadoon to be produced by HSU Theatre, Film & Dance and HSU Music departments in October: Thursday and Friday April 28 and 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. in Room 131 of the Music Department annex.  Prepare to sing one refrain from the musical theatre canon, recite a one minute monologue and participate in group movement. This is a large ensemble show, with characters ranging in age from teens to 50s.  More information: 826-3566.

The North Coast Repertory Theatre announces open auditions for the comedy The Kitchen Witches by Caroline Smith, directed by Carol Escobar. There are roles for two women (ages 40-60), one man (age 20-40) and one man or woman (age 18 or older.) Please come prepared to read from the script. Auditions will take place Saturday, April 30 from 3pm to 5pm and Sunday, May 1 from 6pm to 8pm at NCRT, 300 Fifth Street in Eureka. A copy of the script is on reserve at the Eureka public library. Production dates are July 28 through August 20, 2011. Please call 268-0175 if you have any questions

Friday, April 15, 2011

This North Coast Weekend

Opening this weekend for two weekends--Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 in the Van Duzer Theatre--is Gravity Defined, the annual HSU dance concert.  While that begins this weekend in the Van Duzer, the HSU 10 Minute Play Festival has its final 3 performances in Gist Hall, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and 2 pm on Sunday.

Continuing: Othello at North Coast Rep (see review below) and South Pacific at Ferndale Rep, directed by Ginger Gene, with musical direction by Dianne Zuleger, choreography by Linda Maxwell, scene design by Daniel Nyiri and lighting by Greta Stockwell.  Headlining the large cast are Brad Curtis, Christina Comer, Brian Morrison and Spanky McFarlane. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Othello in Eureka

This is a very slightly extended version of my North Coast Journal review.  There are a number of other posts on this site about Othello, especially the film versions.  They don't cover the most recent, called "O," which I haven't seen.  There's also a review of the previous David Hamilton/Jabari Morgan collaboration on this play. (Clicking this link will start you out with this review again--just move on down the page for the rest.)

For those seeing their first production of Shakespeare’s Othello, North Coast Repertory Theatre in Eureka provides stylish and vivid entertainment as well as impressive individual moments and plenty of food for thought. But there are reasons that people return to this play (and other classics) even when they know the story of Othello the Moor, General of the army of Venice, and his trusted aide Iago, who leads Othello relentlessly into a fatal jealous rage.

With the same Shakespeare text, a different combination of actors and other theatre artists make their production unique, providing the audience with opportunity for different impressions and insights. That’s true at NCRT even though the director (David Hamilton) and lead actor (Jabari Morgan as Othello) collaborated on the last local Othello, at the Arcata Playhouse in 2007.

For example, Iago’s unwitting co-conspirator Roderigo is sometimes portrayed as completely clueless, but Victor Howard plays him as passionate, not entirely trusting Iago but willing to believe what is to his advantage. Ethan Edmonds gives Cassio substance and a reality that justifies him as Othello’s lieutenant. As Emilia (Iago’s wife and confidant of Desdemona, Othello’s young wife,) Megan Johnson releases suppressed and imposing power.

But the most telling portrayal is by Calder Johnson in an impressive performance, who plays Iago not as a capering fiend or bitter conniver but as mostly calm and deliberate (with only a few strangled moments of self-betrayal), worriedly helping everyone get what they want, while manipulating every willing victim to serve his evil ends: pretty much the model of a modern major psychopath.  

Jabari Morgan is compelling and masterful as Othello, raising the game of everyone around him. Claudia Johani Guerrero is a lovely Desdemona, the still center of these crazed storms. JM Wilkerson gets the play off to a confident start with his authoritative Brabantio, Desdemona’s father. David Hamilton’s mostly solid and at times provocative direction, Pat Hamilton’s sumptuous costumes together with Daniel Lawrence’s somber and elegant set as well as Gabriel Groom’s sound and music and Bridget Barsotti’s lighting, all combine with these stellar performances for an accomplished production of high quality.

Audiences can also see this play differently in the changing context of the times. Racist anger directed at a black General plays differently when we have a black President. But whether on first or repeated view, theatre has been powerful for so many centuries because people learn something about themselves there, as individuals and societies. Drama and other literatures don’t always depict tragic consequences of ungoverned passions and weaknesses just to confirm they are human nature. The act of consciously portraying them suggests consciousness as itself a vital part of human nature as well.

Everyone in Othello is prey to passions, even the coldly calculating Iago. (As Robert Heilman notes, "Of the insights that create Iago, none is deeper than the recognition that a cool rationality may itself bring about or serve the irrational.") But the tragedy in this play results from the characters’ decisions. The thought may occur of applications beyond this story: becoming conscious of our powerful unconscious and how it works is essential to the human future.

Othello is at NCRT weekends through April 30.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This North Coast Weekend

As local theatres compete for actors and audience, naturally they schedule their plays all at the same time. So after a relatively motionless March, we have the avalanche of April.

Opening Thursday (April 7) is Shakespeare’s Othello at North Coast Rep for a four-weekend run ending April 30. Director David Hamilton and actor Jabari Morgan as Othello reunite from their Shake the Bard production of this play in 2007. The cast also features Calder Johnson as Iago, Claudia Johani Guerrero as Desdemona and Ethan Edmonds as Cassio.

Also opening Thursday is the popular HSU 10 Minute Play Festival, which runs for two weekends in Gist Hall Theatre, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30, with a Sunday matinee at 2 on April 17. It features seven student-written, directed and acted plays with the usual mix (and collision) of comedy and drama, of new takes on universal themes and up-to-the-second topical treatments. This year there’s a comedy about a guy addicted to milkshakes from Toni’s in Arcata. I’ve written more about the festival on HSU’s dime at HSU Stage & Screen.

Also on Thursday, Brooklyn's Under the Table opens Mad Dog and Big Guy Are: “In the Box” opens a three-night run at Dell’Arte’s Carlo Theatre. Two Dell’Arte grads are the clowns who enter the stage and do their best to leave, despite obstacles. Showtime Thursday though Saturday is 8 p.m.

Then on Friday (April 8), Ferndale Rep opens South Pacific for a four-weekend run, closing May 1. South Pacific is a big, colorful musical — its most recent (and award-winning) New York revival boasted a cast of 40. It’s probably unique for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical play based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (by James Michener), and its Rodgers and Hammerstein songs quickly became standards in the 1950s. Its World War II story about U.S. armed forces personnel (especially lots of sailors) and the natives of a South Pacific island won praise for confronting racial issues, but in more recent years there have been complaints about racial and gender stereotypes. So navigating through all of that while preserving its romance and high spirits should be an interesting creative challenge.

I've received no photos or information on this production, but the Ferndale website flashes some photos that suggest that two of my favorite local performers, Brad Curtis and Christina Comer, are featured.

And this is just the beginning of the April avalanche. Stay tuned.