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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Woods For The Trees is an Experiment in Experimental Theatre


Also see Richard's review of Dancing at Lughnasa and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

San Francisco's Noh Space is currently presenting an idiosyncratic modern fairy tale called Woods for the Trees, starring two excellent artists. This is a grown up modern story of Hansel and Gretel in the world post 9/11. The kids still get lost in the woods, but many thought-provoking experiences happen to the couple. There are references to forensic crime investigation TV shows when they examine such items as a rock, a leaf, a piece of bread and even the gingerbread house. There are references to the war on terror.

Woods for the Trees is a multimedia event that contains some strange "dancing" that might be called the "Martha Graham" or "Isadora Duncan" kind of chorography. The duo sings strange songs and does silly things with toy solders and the gingerbread house. There are some very interesting projections on a large screen in the back. The company uses two projectors and gives the audience a three dimensional effect. It is very innovative. Words spew from their mouths with much repetition. There are some murky symbols that do not go over well, especially a scene with the couple playing with toy soldiers that is supposed to represent the current situation. Sentences are repeated over and over again. You could call it the Philip Glass version of lyric dialogue.

Woods for the Trees had a 55 minute workshop production in 2002 where it generated great buzz on the theatrical scene. The fable won the "Best of the Fridge" award at the San Francisco Fringe Festival in 2002. The current production runs around 80 minutes with no intermission. This is a play for persons who are interested in experimental theater. As the actor/artist says, "We are not interested in restaging the Hansel and Gretel story. We want to render the familiar utterly unfamiliar." The duo is successful in rendering the unfamiliar in several scenes that are completely off the wall.

The performing artists and writers Sara Kraft and Ed Purver are top class performers. Both are worth just watching as they perform even the most insane scenes. Ed Purver is a British actor of theater, television and film. He has performed in several BBC dramas and has played the Old Vic and several theatres in the West End. London Theatre magazine has said, "Purver's career will be well worth watching." Purver turned down a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company to spend a year in San Francisco. He has been performing in many theaters here in the Bay Area. He has perfect diction, and his mannerisms are excellent. He reminds me of a young Michael Crawford before his Phantom days. Purver has a wonderful charisma about him.

Sara Kraft, Purver's other half (Sara and Ed were married in 2003), has a huge number of theatrical credits. She hails from Chicago and has spent the last decade developing a reputation for creating and performing experimental theatre and dance. She has collaborated with several renowned Chicago companies. Having relocated to the Bay Area in 2000, Kraft is part of the Exit Theatre's Resident Artist series. She looks like a young Dame Judi Dench and has a wonderful pleasing manner about her.

Wood for the Trees plays through April 24 Thursday-Saturdays at 8 pm at The Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa Street, San Francisco. For tickes call 415-621-7978. More information is also available at www.theatrefyugen.org and www.woodsforthetrees.org.


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


- Richard Connema



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