Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Ron Campbell Gives Bravura Performance in The Thousandth Night
Ron Campbell, known for his great solo performance in R. Buckminster Fuller, returns to the San Francisco Bay Area with his latest one man show, The Thousandth Night by Carol Wolf, at the Aurora Theatre in Berkeley through July 24th.
Campbell has been playing the French entertainer Guy de Bonheur off and on since 1993 when he won kudos in London, New York and Los Angeles. He performs 38 roles in this 100 minute no intermission piece with his "tour de force" acting. The artist knows how to draw attention and when to shift emphasis on the material. He also knows how to avoid the excesses that have afflicted other solo actors in the past. The play has been called "a comedy with a gun to your head."
The Thousandth Night happens at the height of World War II when a lone survivor of an acting troupe in Nazi-occupied Paris is sent to a concentration camp named Bucenwald. The train is derailed by a bombing attack by the Allies so it is forced to stop at a small, damaged railway station. Guy de Bonheur has just one chance for freedom before the train starts moving again by entertaining a group of gendarmes (the audience) with "amusements" that are not subversive. These are stories from Tales of the Arabian Nights, so the actor becomes a male Scheherazade as he relates and acts all parts of the most famous stories, including a wonderful retelling of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."
Ron Campbell is amazing as he acts out such exotic characters as a genie, a sultan, a princess, and a farmer, not to mention a brilliant portrayal of a doctor. Between these stories he pleads with an invisible Gestapo officer of his innocence in a sabotage attempt in Paris. The characters go swiftly by with the wonderful display of techniques on the part of the actor. His movements remind me of the great French mime Marcel Marceau, and his French voice is reminiscent of Maurice Chevalier.
Richard Olmsted's set design for the back wall of the three-sided seating area is very detailed. It's a superb set for the piece depicting the back room in the train depot with the lights of the platform dimly visible through a wall of dingy windows. Occasionally you hear the loud sound of train noises designed through Chris Houston's sound design, and see lights flashing through the dirty windows by light designer Jon Retsky.
The Thousandth Night plays through July 24 at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets please call 510-843-4822 or visit www.auroratheatre.org.
The theatre opens its 2005-2006 season with Arthur Miller's The Price opening on September 2nd.