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San Francisco by Richard Connema

The Marin Theatre Company Presents Craig Wright's Poetic Drama The Pavilion

Also see Richard's review of The Love List

The Marin Theatre Company is currently presenting its second production of the season, the Pulitzer Prize nominated play The Pavilion, penned by Los Angeles based playwright Craig Wright. The drama has been hailed by critics as an Our Town for our time. Lucas is well known for his work on HBO'S acclaimed Six Feet Under and other plays such as Prelude to a Kiss.

The Pavilion has become a regional company favorite and has played in many cities in the States. The comedy-drama needs only three actors and a sketchy set. It takes place in an aging pavilion in Pine City, Minnesota during a 20 year high school reunion. The old wooden place will be burned down by the local fire department after the reunion party. It is to be replaced by a modern concrete entertainment/sports complex. The theme of the play is what Thomas Wolfe told us over sixty years ago ... you can't go home again. Everything changes as we move forward; even the old wooden Pavilion must go.

The Pavilion's plot centers around the reunion of Peter (John Flanagan) and Kari (Deborah Taylor), who were high school sweethearts. The couple broke up when Peter left for college, leaving Kari alone and pregnant. Kari terminated the pregnancy and still has bitter resentment toward Peter. Kari is now in a loveless marriage with Hans, a golf pro who is very protective of her. Peter, currently a psychologist and never married, has had a series of love affairs and is currently living with a very young girlfriend.

Peter has come back to the 20 year reunion in hopes of a second chance with his one true love, Kari. He shows up with a handful of flowers and a long list of apologies. He is regretful of his past, but as the narrator says, he is "cosmically stupid" and here's where the old adage of Thomas Wolfe comes into play. Kari is more practical and she realizes that the past is the past and that "time only goes in one direction." There can be no future with her high school sweetheart. She admits at the end of the evening, "of course, my heart's been broken but all in all I'm happy because life's been good."

The Narrator (Joan Mankin) plays many characters at the reunion, both male and female. She plays Angie who is married to Kent the local chief of police. Angie is pregnant by Cookie, the town's drug addict. Kent searches for Cookie throughout the evening, swearing he will kill the bastard. But in the end, he gets high on pot with the man. These scenes are hilarious with Mankin playing all of the characters.

Craig's poetic script is magical. It starts with the narrator telling us how the universe begins. She says it is "a world made of stars dancing." Director Danny Scheie has added a wonderful touch to this production - he has put up a bank of television sets, three on each side of the stage, and flashes quick photographs, starting with the big bang going through the ape man, Christian and Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the modern age, and the World Wars to the present in a flash of an eye. The beautiful film editing by Erik Pearson gives emphasis to Ms. Mankin's great solo performance. She ends her observation with "at the center of everything in the universe, there's you." This solo performance is outstanding and it comes off inspired and astute.

John Flanagan plays the role of Peter as a self centered person who is regretful of the things he has done in the past. He really believes he can go back again to make matters between him and Kari right. He even thinks he can change time to go backwards. Deborah Taylor is extraordinary in the role of Kari. She has wonderful emotions at her hand as she changes from being angry to sad, warm and even hopeful but still maintains a head on her shoulders.

Joan Mankin as the Narrator plays all of the other characters at the reunion, including a very comic guy named Pudge who works at a suicide hot line with a 900 number and charges the desperate callers by the minute. As the character says, "When it works, it's a real bargain." She is superb in all of the roles.

Danny Scheie's direction is perceptive, and the events flow at a very smooth pace. His idea of the television sets is a brilliant stroke along with the use of simple folding chairs for props. Even the lighting design by David Leonard is excellent.

The Pavilion plays at the Marin Theatre Company Theatre located at 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley thru December 7th. For tickets call 415-388-5208 or online at www.marintheatre.org.

Their next production will be Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker in The Last Schwartz, which opens on January 8, 2004 and runs through February 8th.


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


- Richard Connema



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