Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Bumpy Production of Awe About Eve
Theatre Rhinoceros is currently presenting the world premiere of Awe About Eve, based on, of course, All About Eve. This production stars the indefinable Matthew Martin as Bette Davis. It has been said that "Martin was born to play Margo Channing." Well, I do have to agree he makes a great Bette. He has all of her mannerisms, such as the raised eye bow, the Davis stare, the voice inflections and the fluttery hands down pat. This is the Bette that I worked with at Warners.
One of the great lines that Margo says in the film's party scene is "Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy night." Well it certainly was a bumpy night with a long - almost three hour - production which uses Mankiewicz's original uncut script. This is one of those great Hollywood classics that should have stayed on film. Many film scripts do not make good theatre; for example, both The Graduate and a campier Matthew Martin version of All About Eve called Eve come to mind. A dilemma about this production is whether to laugh at it or laugh with it. Are they trying to be serious? There was very little camping here. There are miscast actors and some over the top acting/screaming scenes.
Awe About Eve uses a long, drawn out Marilyn Monroe scene that was cut from the original film. One can see why it was cut, since it does not move the story forward. The group uses a red velvet type curtain that is pulled back and forth between each scene while the group moves furniture. There is so much curtain closing and opening, it becomes a complete distraction.
Eve is co-directed by John Fisher and Matthew Martin and you wonder who had the upper hand in this back-stabbing melodrama that takes place in the American theatre. Matthew is very good as Margo, and he acts a fine line between drama and farce. Margo's scene with her best friend Karen Richards sitting in the front seat of a car that just ran out gas is first rate. Libby O'Connell, who plays the playwright's wife, gives a smooth and professional performance through the whole production.
Maryssa Wanlass is also splendid as the aspiring and conniving actress, Eve. Her speech at the end of the play, as she accepts the Sarah Siddons Award, is effective. She is able to marvelously portray the actress from hell in a "butter would not melt in her mouth" way. Yes, there are good performances, including the wisecracking talk of Floriana Alessandria who plays Margo's dresser. However, I believe it is mistake for Matthew to play the droll and urbane critic Addison DeWitt. As DeWitt, Matthew appears on stage looking more like a Soviet spy from one of the cold war films of the '70s. He uses a very monotone, quiet voice and just does not act like the urbane and sophisticated New York critic. In some of the scenes where Matthew is Margo, you get Addison's voice coming across the speaker system. This is complete confusion, appearing as though the company does not have enough money to hire another actor.
I am not sure what the dual directors were thinking in the famous last scene when another conniving aspiring actress invades the dressing room of now-star Eve. Was it meant to be serious or camp? The acting is just a little much, especially when she puts on Eve's fur piece and goes to a wall cabinet that is supposed to open showing full length mirrors on each side. Instead of mirrors, the company uses foil, which brings laughter from some members of the audience. Also, the production uses the soaring film music for this scene, which adds to the hilarity. It looked good in the '50s but its pure camp now.
The voice of veteran actor Dean Goodman is heard at the beginning of Eve, as he talks about the theatre at the Sarah Siddons award dinner. His voice is very clear, very theatrical with just the right inflections on each word - a good voiceover performance, and one of the best scenes in the show.
Awe Above Eve runs through July 18 at the studio theatre of Theatre Rhinoceros. Tickets can be obtained at 415-861-5079 or visit www.TheRhino.org for more information.
Theatre Rhinoceros' next production will be Marga Gomez's Intimate Details which opens on August 12 and runs through September 5th on their main stage. The theatre is also presenting P.A. Cooley and Drew Todd's one night review A Midsummer Night's Madness at the new Gay and Lesbian Center in San Francisco on July 10.