Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
It is the story of Iro, an adolescent orphan girl who is mocked by other children, and her punishment by unfeeling foster parents. She sets out on an imaginary adventure of self-discovery. Her mission is to find the ancient winged horse Pegasus. Taking with her only books and her make-believe friend Annika Maria Marquis, she begins a fairy-tale journey in the fantasy's first act. The opening scene shows Iro (Maria Leigh) and Annika vociferously riding the fictitious winged Pegasus and being set upon by pirates straight out of "Peter Pan." Iro somehow joins a French circus that is traveling by ship to Europe. The French circus act could be tightened, as it goes on too long.
The more realistic second act is about how Iro was traumatized by her parents' mysterious deaths. This is well written by the playwright who has a way with dialogue that is excellent. Bottom line, this could be trimmed slightly to a 90-minute no-intermission piece. The current production runs a little under two hours with intermission. But it's staged without a lag between scenes, thanks to director Ariel Craft.
Maria Leigh is admirable as Iro. She morphs into a 14-year-old girl charmingly. In support, six skilled actors play many parts in this imaginary tale. Outstanding is Andrew Calabrese playing Father, Papa, Pere, and Uncle. He has a great theatrical voice. Sabrina DeMio gives a splendid performance as Mother, Mama, Mere, and Nurse Helen, while Maria Giere Marquis gives pitch perfect performances as Annika, Athena, and Ruth. Heren Patel is terrific as Boy, Pirate, Garcon, and George. He skillfully morphs from an effeminate Boy to the butch Garcon in the circus episode. Rounding out the small cast is Laura Domingo, who is very effective plays various roles.
Eric LaDue has designed a fantasy set with black and white curtains hanging in the background. It is taken apart in the second act to reveal a sterile, white hospital room with a bed and chairs. Costumes by Brooke Jennings are imaginative.
Of Serpents and Sea Spray runs through January 30th, 2016, at The Custom Made Theatre, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco second floor of the Shelton Theatre Complex. For tickets call 415-798-2682 or go to www.custommade.org.