Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Sagittarius Ponderosa
New Conservatory Theatre Center
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of A Song at Twilight and The Nether

Matthew Hannon and SK Kerastas
Photo by Lois Tema
New Conservatory Theatre Center occasionally presents world premiere plays that are cutting edge dramas. The company is currently presenting young playwright MJ Kaufman's mood drama Sagittarius Ponderosa. This was the winner of the 2014 Global Age Project at the Aurora Theatre Company and featured on The Kilroys 2015 List of the most recommended new plays by female and trans* writers.

Sagittarius Ponderosa seems like a work in progress. It is a 74-minute drama with short, dream-like scenes. Actually, it would make an excellent independent film. It's moving, funny, and sorrowful without dipping too much into any of these moods. This is the coming-out story of a young transgender person named Archer, who returns home to the forests of eastern Oregon from college. Archer is still Angela to the family. At night under the oldest ponderosa pine, Archer meets a handsome stranger who knows the history of the forest. Archer seems slightly unconformable and not willing to be open, even to his family. What follows illuminates the comings and goings of love and the ambiguities of the human heart.

Ben Randle has assembled five fine actors from Chicago, San Diego, and locally. His direction of the short scenes is extremely smooth. SK Kerastas from Chicago is excellent in the role of Archer. SK has an excellent distinguished voice that rings through the theatre. Michaela Greeley is splendid as Grandma. She has a hearing problem, even though she has a hearing aid that she sometimes forgets to put into her ear. What is wonderful is that she is preparing a love potion that she has seen on television for Archer.

Andy Collins gives an excellent performance as Archer's dad Robert, who we are told is lugubriously sick. He has a Jewish doctor who has told him to change his name because the angel of death will not find him. He tells everyone to call him Jason. Collins is also the voice of an octogenarian puppet (designed by Dave Haaz-Baroque) who is supposed to have a young man for Angela. Matthew Hannon, who hails from San Diego, is admirable as Owen the man Archer meets in the forest. We really don't know if he has fallen for a transgender person or a masculine girl. Rounding out the cast is Janis Deluca who has little to do in this drama. However, she is effective in the role of Archer's mother.

Sagittarius Ponderosa is presented in the middle Walker Theatre of the NCTC. Director Ben Randle and scenic designer Christian V. Mejia have put up four rows of bleachers on each side of the small stage and the actors perform directly in front of the audience. There is a snow-white, stately half ponderosa pine against the third wall of the stage along with table and chairs on the far left.

Sagittarius Ponderosa runs through February 28th, 2016, at the Walker Theatre, New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco off Market Street. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or on line at Coming next is Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons opening March 4 and running through April 3 rd.