Regional Reviews: San Francisco
An Impressive Production of Beth Henley's Abundance
Shelton Theater is currently presenting Beth Henley's Abundance. The playwright usually writes about women's issues and family in the Southern United States; however, in this case she writes about the Wyoming frontier in late 1860sbut it's still about women's issues. Abundance is a one hour and forty minute no intermission drama filled with humor, sorrow, and some surprises. This is may be one of Beth Henley's least performed plays, though it is currently running Off Broadway as well. Abundance is about life's possibilities and devastated dreams among five people.
Bess Johnson and Macon Hill are mail order brides who meet while waiting for their husbands, to start life in a small cattle town. Bess is the quiet one while Macon is an outgoing fun-loving person who is exuberant and determined to get on with life in the West. Unfortunately, Bess's future husband has met with an ill-fated accident, and she is met by Jack, the dead man's brother. Jack is an egocentric, unpredictable roustabout who says he will marry Bess. Macon's man Will is quite different from Jack. He is a widower and steady as it comes, but a very dull person. You could say he is also the exact opposite of Macon. Life becomes challenging for Bess and Jack, and Bess is constantly mistreated and totally unappreciated. On the other hand, Macon is hardly tolerant of William, although the couple is well off. The wild adventures Macon had in mind come through, except they happen to Bess.
Director Julie Dimas-Lockfeld has assembled a first-rate cast and keeps the dissimilarities of the characters clear. They look and act like people who would inhabit the Wyoming territory of the 1860s. Amanda Gerald-Shelton gives a first rate performance as the naïve Bess. She easily morphs from an abused wife, to an involuntary Indian squaw, and finally to a tough, self-merchandising business person. As Macon, Elena Ruggiero gives a pitch-perfect performance, evolving from a lightheaded woman to a syphilitic old woman hard-bitten by disillusionment and whisky.
Rick Roitinger gives an authentic performance as the abusive husband Jack. He plays the role as a hooligan who pretends to be witless of his own nastiness. Sasha Litovchenko is charming as the sweet-tempered William, who becomes the center for sadness in this drama. Rounding out the five-member cast is Moshe Quinn, who nicely plays Professor Elmore Crome. He plays the character somewhat fey.
Steve Coleman has designed an outline of both cabins on the small stage, while graphic designer Alan Savanapridi has designed a Wyoming plain in the background.
Abundance runs through March 14th, 2015, at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street, San Francisco. Phone number 415-882-9100 or visit www.sheltontheater.org.