Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

For the Love of Comrades
New Conservatory Theatre Center

Also see Richard's reviews of A Streetcar Named Desire, Amélie, A New Musical Between Riverside and Crazy and Richard III and Eddie's review of Loveland: Good Grief

Shane Fahy, Miles Duffield, Stephen McFarland, and Paul Rodrigues
The New Conservatory Theatre Center opens its 2015-2016 seasons with the U.S. premiere of For the Love of Comrades by Irish playwright Micheál Kerrigan. This play concerns the alliance between Welsh miners and the lesbian and gay community during the 1984 British miners strike, which also inspired the 2014 film Pride.

For the Love of Comrades is an enthralling two hour with intermission production with a splendid cast and perceptive direction by Jeffrey Hoffman. First-time playwright Micheál Kerrigan, assisted on script development by Patricia Byrne and Mary Connors, has written a beautiful play with convincing genuine dialogue between the gay persons and the straight coal miners. This should play in other gay theatres in this country and possibly Off-Broadway.

Boyfriends Gene (Stephen McFarland) and Sean (Miles Duffield) decide to organize money collections at gay bars for the miners. Sean invites two straight Welsh miners, David (Shane Fahy) and Rhys (Paul Rodriques), to their apartment to stay while in London, much to the consternation of Canadian Gene, who is practicing with his friend Candida (Alyssa Stone) for a conservatory thesis concert. Gene is finally won over after several days with these two very different individuals. Sean is haunted by his former lover Jim (Adam Odsess-Rubin), who was killed by British troops prior to the 1971 troubles between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Miles Duffield gives a compelling performance with a spot-on Irish accent. This is without a doubt a powerful performance, especially when he sees the specter of his former lover, played splendidly by Adam Odsess-Rubin (Romeo in Shakespeare's R & J at the New Conservatory).

Stephen McFarland (Edward in Compleat Female Stage Beauty at the NCTC) gives a convincing performance as the thoughtful Gene. His scene when Sean wants to go to Nicaragua to help the downtrodden living there is very genuine. As the miners, Paul Rodrigues (Baptized to the Bone) and Shane Fahy (The Pride) skillfully go from homophobia at the beginning to a genuine, sympathetic appreciation of gay men by play's end. Rounding out this splendid cast is Alyssa Stone as the aspiring opera student Candida. She gives an excellent performance as an upper-class British woman who initially sides with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, then slowly and adeptly sides with the miners. Alyssa also has a vibrant opera voice.

Brava to dialect coach Jenna May Cass for her work with the cast on Irish, British, and Canadian accents. And bravo to scenic design and technical director Devin Kasper. The middle-class London dining room and bedroom set for this intimate stage is very accurate. The designer also shows actual film footage of the strike throughout the performance on a television set in the area. Costume designer Corrida Carr provides authentic costumes of the period and Jeffrey Hoffman shows he is a sharp and incisive director, making this a fascinating drama to watch.

For the Love of Comrades run through October 11th, 2015, at the Walker Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness at Market, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. Coming up next is Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance opening on October 1 and playing through to November 2nd.

Photo: Lois Tema

Be sure to check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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