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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Doubt, The Winter's Tale and Thoroughly Modern Millie

An Engrossing production of Doubt

Doubt
Kimberly King and
Cassidy Brown

TheatreWorks is presenting an absorbing production of John Patrick Shanley's gripping Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play Doubt, a Parable at the Lucie Stern Theatre though August 10th. This marks my third time to see this dramatic play and my first regional production of the fascinating 90-minute drama. The whole cast is as good as the Broadway players and it is more intimate at the Lucie Stern Theatre.

Doubt, a Parable is a serious drama about complex human and social issues. The play takes place in a Bronx Irish-Italian Catholic school in 1964 and is about the confrontation between conservative Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Kimberly King) and liberal priest Father Brendan Flynn (Cassidy Brown).

Sister Aloysius does not like ball point pens, secular music in Christmas pageants and anything that smacks of material changes in the Catholic Church. She is one tough cookie who reminds me of a nun that I had in Catholic grade school. Sister James (Kristin Stokes) mentions to her stern superior that a 12-year-old, the school's first African-American student, had liquor on his breath after a meeting with the very popular Father Flynn. Sister Aloysius suspects the well-liked priest of "interfering" with the student. Without any further evidence, she accuses the priest of sexual misconduct with the boy. The truth is clouded in convolution as doubt thwarts all hypotheses in this riveting clash of conscience and conviction.

Kimberly King is excellent as Sister Aloysius, although on opening night it took her a while to project and to get into character. She could be a little more stern in her portrayal of the arrogant nun. However, on the whole she gives an excellent performance, especially the confrontations with the priest. As Father Flynn, Cassidy Brown's first appearance in green priest's robe lecturing the audience on "What do you do when you're not sure" is electrifying. It works well in this jewel box of a theatre. He captures the vacillation and doubt lurking beneath a carefully worked out public front. One is not really sure if he is a pedophile.

Kristin Stokes is appealing as Sister James, a novice, teaching nun. Her youthful fervor at the beginning of the play is well accomplished as Sister James loses her innocence as the play progress. Tamiyka White as the young boy's mother gives a powerful performance in her one scene with Sister Aloysius. She portrays a woman who refuses to be bullied by the demanding nun.

Vickie Rozell's direction is excellent and the transition to a smaller theatre is perfect. She keeps each scene tight and gives the audience a personal feel for the characters on stage.

Tom Langguth provides an excellent set. Lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt behind the stained glass windows is striking. The work by sound designer Cliff Caruthers and costumes by Jill Bowers are assets to this gripping drama.

Doubt, A Parable plays through August 10th at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. For tickets please call 650-903-6000 on visit www.theatreworks.org. Their next production is the first post-Broadway production of the musical Grey Gardens, beginning previews on August 20 and opening on August 23rd.

Photo: David Allen


An Interesting Production of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale

Marin Shakespeare Company opens its summer season with William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at their outdoor theatre located on the campus of Dominican University of California in San Rafael. It runs through August 24.

The Winter's Tale has been considered to be one of Shakespeare's problem plays, as the first act is filled with intense psychological drama while the last act is comedic and even gives us a happy ending. The play has been called a comedy, a tragedy and a pastoral romance. There is no doubt about it—the Bard threw everything but the kitchen sink into this play. When it was produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, they presented the second act as an operetta.

The plot is rather silly but it is still Shakespeare. King Leontes (Rafael Untalan) suspects his wife Queen Hermione (Alexandra Matthew) of cheating on him with his good friend Polixenes (Scott Coopwood). Leontes drives Polixenes out of his kingdom, but this leads to unforeseen results with Hermione's just-born baby abandoned in a forest. Shepherds (George Maguire and Drew Hirshfield) find the baby and raise her as their own.

The second act takes place sixteen years later when the baby Perdita (Kate Fox Marcom) grows up and, somehow, Florizel (Mark Robinson), a Prince of Bohemia, becomes involved. A lot of inane things happen here, including a statue coming to life.

Lesley and Robert Currier have assembled a huge, splendid cast to portray the characters. Some of the actors have retained Shakespeare's iambic pentameter while others do an Americanized version of the Bard's words. This is not a subtle production and the commendable desire to lend Shakespeare's verse an easy conversational style does work, especially in the second act.

The Winter's Tale's first act becomes very melodramatic in the acting of Rafael Untalan as Leontes and Celia Madeoy as Paulina, and especially in the last scene of the act. This is straight out of a Greek tragedy by Euripides. However, both are very good and have good articulation of the Bard's words. Alexandra Matthew is effective as Hermione. Scott Coopwood gives a strong performance as Polixenes.

Things lighten up with the entrance of the Old Shepherd (played with great comic flair by George Maguire) and his son called Young Shepard, played by Drew Hirshfield, who is hilarious in the clownish role. Both are outstanding when interjecting their speeches together, like a vaudeville team. Jerry Hoffman steals the second act with his uproarious portrayal of the roguish cozener, Autolysis. Kate Fox Marcom and Mark Robinson give charming performances as the romantic couple, Perdita and Florizel. The second act is light and cheery, the direct opposite of the gloom and dome of the first act.

Billie Cox has written a melodic score that is accompanied by rousing dance choreography by Cynthia Pepper in the second act. Abra Berman has designed all white costumes for the cast which remind me of actors in a Greek tragedy.

The Winter's Tale will remain in repertory with Amadeus and Much Ado About Nothing. The Winter's Tale closes on August 24th. For tickets call 415-499-4488 or online at www.marinShakespeare.org.


An Entertaining Production of Thoroughly Modern Millie

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Melissa WolfKlain and Dominique Bonino
Broadway by the Bay, one of the best semi-professional companies in the Bay Area, recently presented Thoroughly Modern Millie at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center. This company's productions never cease to surprise me due to their use of excellent singers and dancers.

The breezy production retained only two of the musicals numbers of the original Fox film, but Jeanine Tesori's music still has that Roaring Twenties quality, and the lyrics by Dick Scanlan are bright and cherry. Director Dennis Lickteig has assembled a large group of young and energetic dancers who are marvelous to watch. Each one gives a polished performance, especially in the Tie-One-On-Club and the Sincere Trust Insurance number. The choreography by Robyn Tribuzi is fast and first rate. Even the dance steps by Millie and Miss Dorothy on the elevator are perfectly accomplished.

Melissa WolfKlain is captivating as Millie. She is not only is a terrific dancer but she belts out "Not for the Life of Me," "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Forget About the Boy," but has sweet vocal chops on "Jimmy." With an Irish New York accent, Ben Jones inserts a boyish charm into the puckish character of Jimmy Smith; "What Do I Need with Love" and "I Turned the Corner" are beautifully rendered.

Mary Gibboney is effective as Mrs. Meers and she plays the role like an old time vaudevillian dressed as a Chinese madam. She is top notch with Jeffrey C. Wang as Bun Foo and Joshua Lau as Ching Ho in "Mammy." Both of these young Asian-Americans give her great support. William Giammona and Dominique Bonino give exceptional performances as square-cut Trevor Graydon and na´ve Miss Dorothy Brown. Jackie De Muro gives a vibrant portrayal of Muzzy Van Hossmere and a pulsating rendition of "Only in New York."

Attilio Tribuzi leads a kicky twelve-piece orchestra to keep things moving rapidly while Dennis Lickteig's direction is first rate.

Thoroughly Modern Millie played through July 27th at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, 600 N. Delaware Street, San Mateo. Their next attraction is Into the Woods opening on September 18 and running through October 5 and their final production will be Defying Gravity with Stephen Schwartz and Friends running November 6 through the 9th. For tickets call 650-579-5565 or visit www.BroadwayBytheBay.org.

Photo: Mark Kitaoka


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

- Richard Connema



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