Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

The Subject was Roses lovingly revived by The Pacific Alliance Stage Company

Also see these recent reviews:
Far East | Enrico IV

We traveled north to Rohnert Park to see the loving revival of Frank D. Gilroy's Tony and Pulitzer prize winning drama The Subject was Roses. This has always been a play close to my heart since the original in 1964 with Jack Albertson, Irene Dailey and a fresh, young actor named Martin Sheen. The play hit home since it reminded me of my homecoming after World War II to an Irish father and an Italian mother. The play was later transferred to the silver screen with Patricia Neal taking over the role of Irene Dailey.

This gentle domestic drama tells the story of a soldier returning to his parents after the war. It chronicles the adjustments of the three characters after their world has been turned upside-down. The soldier finds his quarreling parents still engaged in battle. The play covers a weekend in the Bronx apartment of the Cleary family. There are the family dynamics of mother-father, mother-son and father-son, each parent vying for the attentions of the returning son. It explores all sides of the triangle and all the changes that occur when the son returns. Mr. Gilroy's earnest text comes shining though, its value intact, in this production. The actors and director understood and respected the playwright's intentions.

The story demands brilliant actors and there were three dazzling actors on this small stage. The audience surrounded the well decorated kitchen and living room set on three sides. Each actor was sparkling in his or her own right, and they worked exceptionally well together.

Meg MacKay was marvelous as the the work sensitive, easily wounded mother. This was Meg's first non-singing role in years and she shined throughout the whole production. She was particularly effective in the third scene of the second act when her character talks about the past. It was a heart-rending performance.

Will Marchetti, who has played in many Bay Area regional productions, was superb as the erratic, hard drinking, sporadically charming father. He was particularly powerful in the angry outbursts against his wife and son.

Steven Rhyne continues to amaze me with his acting talents. He usually plays in musicals, but his acting ability really showed itself with his strong portrayal in this production. He was both emotionally honest and heart-rending in his journey toward understanding and self sufficiency. This should rank as his best work to date.

The play ran through April 1 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park. Their next production will be Man of La Mancha which opens May 3 and runs to May 20 in the large theater. Tickets can be purchased by calling (707)588-3400.

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

- Richard Connema