Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Word for Word's Three Blooms is a Wonderful Visual Production
Word for Word, the theatre company that transforms classic and contemporary fiction into performance works for the stage, have done it again with their presentation of three short stories from Amy Bloom's 1993 Come to Me. The collection of stunning short stories was nominated for the National Book Award that year. The short stories that include "Hyacinths," "The Sight of You" and "Silver Water," are tales that go deep into the heart of the most alarming and joyful human relationships.
Word for Word, in collaboration with Upon These Boards, has created a wonderful two and half hour theatrical experience under the title Three Blooms. This trilogy takes us through three generations of a character's life. The company has always presented short fiction as amazing theater with fine acting and directing. Three Blooms breaks new ground in visual theater. They have encompassed animated forms of all kinds - from puppets to fabric shapes. The 12 member cast is superb in all three stories.
Three Blooms interconnects three stories with a Jewish immigration west to Manitoba to a reverse migration to Connecticut. We see the story of a Jewish family in the plains of the Canadian Province with a central character named David, played extraordinarily by Peter Q Parish as the young boy, Wm. Todd Tressler as the adult and a life size wooden puppet designed by Wendy T. King and manipulated amazingly by Parish. We watch this young boy grow up under unusual circumstances to become a psychotherapist, a husband and the father of two girls.
The opening story, Hyacinths, begins as a nostalgic tale of six year old David who has a strict Christian bible-thumping father (an unbending Robert Parsons) and a kindly Aunt Ida (a fussy Patricia Silver). The boy is being raised a Protestant, but all of his Jewish relatives are strong influences on the boy's life. They come to the house for David's birthday celebration as he is now reaching the age of Jewish "manhood." The joyful occasion turns into a tragedy that involves an accidental shooting death of David's cousin. This is a powerful moment in the first act.
David's father does not want to have anything to do with the young son after the accident, so David is spirited away to live with his Jewish aunt and uncle. The uncle wants David to be Jewish but the young boy has not been circumcised. Director Randall Stuart uses marvelous puppets and props in a circumcision scene. The first act ends with adult David (Wm Todd Tressler), now living in Connecticut, taking his two young daughters back to the old homestead to relive those memories. Once again, tragedy looms for David in the near-drowning of one of the daughters.
Three Booms' second tale, The Sight of You, is the story of David's wife Galen (excellently played by JoAnne Winter), who is having an extramarital affair with construction hunk Hank (a macho Gabriel Mann). This story borders on soap opera wherein the question is asked, will Galen leave her secure family life to live with a gorgeous man who loves her? The story is less interesting, but the staging of the first scene in the second act is a work of theatrical imagination. Set designer Shawn Weinsheink covers the complete three sided stage with a huge blue silk fabric with slits to resemble a swimming pool. Actors bob in and out of these slits to look like they are swimming. It is an amazing scene.
Silver Water is the last tale and it focuses on the daughters of David and Galen. The story tells of the decline of Rose, who was an outgoing popular child and gifted high school soprano, played and sung brilliantly by Katy Stephan, declining into a psychotic Rose played by an amazing Amy Kossow. This is a bold and poignant story of a family struggling with mental illness.
Three Blooms is one of the most innovative productions of this year. We witness love, compassion, jealousy, envy and all of the delicate inconsistencies and enduring powers of the human heart. The complete cast of twelve excellent actors gives marvelous performances. The production at the Magic Theatre closed on March 21.