Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

This Golden State - Part One: Delano
Magic Theatre

Also see Eddie's review of Chinglish and Richard's reviews of Choir Boy, Fallen Angels and The Addams Family

Sean San Jose and Ron Knapp
The Magic Theatre recently presented the world premiere of Luis Alfaro's powerful This Golden State - Part One: Delano. In the intimate three-sided theatre, the audience sat in an authentic church setting with pews. Actors were sitting as "parishioners" with bibles in their hands and mumbling prayers in the center part of the theatre. They greeted people nearby as old friends.

The intense 90-minute drama opened with a preacher giving the audience a blistering sermon with jumping and arm-waving, preaching the "word of God." This was old time religious revival in its true form. We immediately became members of his flock and he expected us to render a few amens and praise be to Gods. This minister was so charismatic the audience just couldn't help themselves but get into the spirit of the scene. During the production, song sheets were handed out we all joined in the choruses of "Wade in the Water," "Old Time Religion,"," and "Oh How I Love Jesus.

Oh, yes, there is a plot to the show and it's centered on the magnetic preacher Elias. From a San Diego church, he had returned to his hometown after seven years to preside over the current pastor's funeral and to help with foreseeable changes. There was an air of mystery and nervousness about him that troubled his wife of two years, Esther. We found out what was troubling the man toward the end of the drama.

The small cast of six gave outstanding performances under the astute direction of Loretta Greco. Sean San Jose gave a dynamic performance as Elias. He rarely lessened the character's anxious and jumpy movements, only doing so when he relived a memory of an event several years prior that caused him to make a sudden departure from Delano.

Sarah Nina Hayon gave a great performance as the preacher's wife Esther. She morphed beautifully from a meek and subservient wife to a more determined and strong wife. Wilma Bonet was impressive as a woman of deep faith and a member of the congregation who thanked God for everything, even saying, "Thank God for Bisquick." Armando Rodriguez gave an outstanding performance as Moises, a young man with marital problems. Carla Gallardo played Romie, a young girl who was seen in flashbacks with Elias before he left Delano. She was excellent in the small role. Rod Gnapp played Brother Abel, who had come down from Oregon through the Association of Pentecostal/Apostolic Churches to help in the transition of merging the Delano church with neighboring churches. He gave a pitch perfect performance playing devil's advocate to Elias' strong convections.

Loretta Greco directed this production outstandingly; scene changes were made with no interruption on Andrew Boyce's extraordinary church set.

This Golden State - Part One: Delano is on the 2016 schedule of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Magic Theatre opens its 2015/2016 with the American premiere of Penelope Skinner's Fred's Diner opening on September 17.

Photo: Jennifer Reiley

- Richard Connema

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