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Sleuth and Fences

Also see Richard's reviews of Wittenberg and The Hound of the Baskervilles and Jeanie's reviews of An Iliad and Smash


A Brilliant Production of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth


Kit Wilder and Thomas Gorrebeeck
Photo by www.kevinberne.com
I recently revisited Sleuth, one of my most favorite stage thrillers, at the Margaret Lesher Theatre in Walnut Creek. I first saw this amazing two person mystery in London at the St. Martin Theatre in 1970. Later I saw the Broadway production at the Music Box Theatre in New York in 1972. Both times I was blown away by this tense two-hour drama.

Center REPertory Company's production of this classic masterpiece by Anthony Shaffer runs through April 26th. I was not disappointed in this current production, even thought I knew the twisted ending, which I won't divulge. Kit Wilder as the rich and famous mystery author Andrew Wyke, and Thomas Gorrebeeck as the young and spirited Milo Tindle, who is having an affair with Wyke's wife, are just as good as Anthony Quayle and Keith Baxter whom I saw in London.

Andrew invites Milo to his mansion and proposes an intricate financial scheme in which they can all come out winners. Andrew knows that Milo is poor and that his wife is accustomed to luxury. As Andrew says, "This is where the plot thickens." Milo is to steal jewelry from the safe and sell it abroad. At home, Andrew will cash in on his insurance and both will profit. Sounds like a plan, you say? Don't be misled; this crime thriller has more twists and turns than San Francisco's famous Lombard Street.

Kit Wilder and Thomas Gorrebeeck are outstanding and they play the roles to their full potential. They are at the top of their craft, and watching them turn and turn back the tables on each other is sheer enchantment.

Michael Locher has created a magnificent set that is also a star of the show. The interior of the weather-beaten two story country house estate has an extraordinary display of metal, glass, crystal, books, paintings, photographs and the famous laughing sailor dummy that dominated the London and New York stage.

Mark Anderson Phillips' direction brings out the tension in both actors and moves them around like a chess match.

Sleuth plays through April 26, 2014, at the Margaret Lesher Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. For tickets call 925-943-7469 or visit www.CenterREP.org. Coming up next is the Tony Award winning musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opening on May 16 and running through June 21.


A Powerful Production of August Wilson's Fences


Eddie Ray Jackson, Margo Hall and Carl Lumbly
Photo by Ed Smith
The Marin Theatre company production of Fences is certainly one of the most powerful productions I have seen of this August Wilson classic, thanks to the towering performances of Carl Lumbly as Troy Maxson and Margo Hall as Troy's wife Rose, and of the talented supporting players.

Fences is brought to life in an exquisitely potent revival by director Derrick Sanders who helms a strong cast of pitch perfect actors. The setting is Pittsburgh in 1957 just as the Civil Rights movement is starting. Troy is an ex-convict who once was a brilliant baseball player in the Negro League. He has always nursed a grievance that he was born too early to earn a living from the sport as a black man. He is now a garbage man and provider; however, he is tired of lifting the garbage cans and is going to the union to fight the unfair practice of hiring all white garbage truck drivers. He is a man of vitality and animosity.

Troy's 17-year-old son Cory (Eddie Ray Jackson) is being courted by a college baseball recruiter. Burnt and disillusion himself, Troy wants his son to settle for a safe job with a weekly pay check. As a result, his resentment brings him into bitter conflict with Cory.

Carl Lumbly is mesmerizing as Troy. He brings a strong personal warmth to the part but also compellingly exposes Troy's disturbing and unpleasant flaws, as his betrayal of his wife and his brain-damaged brother come to light. He swings with compelling conviction between full-bodied playful humor, vivid emotional denial, and eruptive fury—especially during the violent confrontations with Cory, played vibrantly by Eddie Ray Jackson.

Margo Hall gives a beautiful performance as Troy's wife Rose. She gives the character great warmth and humor. In the play's best scene, when Troy confronts Rose with a shameful confession, Margo Hall gives a pulsating tour de acting performance.

Adrian Roberts gives an outstanding and heartbreaking performance as Troy's brother Gabriel and Steven Anthony Jones gives a solid performance as Troy's best friend Jim. Rounding out the cast are Tyee Tilghman as Troy's oldest son, and seventh-grader Makaelah Bashir as Troy's daughter. Both give admirable performances.

J.B. Wilson's set is gloriously simple, featuring the front porch of the sagging shack where Troy and Rose live. The lighting by Kurt Landisman is excellent and adds to the effectiveness of the drama.

Fences runs through May 11, 2014, at Marin Theatre , 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org. Coming up next is the West Coast premiere of Philip Dawkins' Failure, a Love Story opening on June 5th and running through June 29.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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