Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco


The SITI Company, New York's acclaimed ensemble-based theatre company, a collective founded and headed by Anne Bogart, brings a dramatic portrait of Virginia Woolf to the Magic Theatre. It has only a two week run at the larger Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason, San Francisco. The 85 minute, one woman piece based on the writings of the celebrated author is simply called Room. Most of the writings are from Ms. Woolfe's essays rather than her novels.

Ellen Lauren gives a tour de force performance during this one act mantra of words spilling into the audience. I doubt if anyone can follow the barrage of words that come from her mouth since it is as if the woman is suffering from Alzheimer's in this stream of consciousness presentation. She starts to tell about incidents in her childhood, like seeing her mother's flower-designed dressing robe, and then jumps to when she was molested by her half-brother when she was a young girl. However, none of this is ever adequately connected or even explained.

Room tries to capture the landscape rather then the details of Ms. Woolfe's life. The actress is like a conduit between the author's mind and the audience,and she is riveting in this performance piece. As the audience enters the large auditorium, Ms. Lauren is sitting alone on an aisle seat just staring up at the stage. She makes no movements. She is in her own little room. There is a bright spotlight coming from the ceiling and she is bathed in the glow of the bright light. She is dressed in gray and it is very effective. Once the audience is seated, she rises and looks around the auditorium at the audience. She says nothing at first and then finally she says "Good evening," and marches up to the stage to speak.

Ms. Lauren's first words give us a hint of what we are in for during the next 85 minutes. She says, "I must asked you to imagine a room, any room. But it must be your room, a room of which you are mistress, and where you can close the door to the world outside, and sit and think; perhaps even to write, a retreat, a sanctuary, a refuge. Call it what you will. But it must be a room that you can call your own. Do you have a room? I pity you if you do not. A room of one's own is not a luxury but a necessity".

Ms. Lauren's skillful movements combined with Ms. Bogart's precise integrated text is impressive. Sometimes the actress stands motionless and erect with amazing restraint and then suddenly her head jerks, her arms go upward in a jerking movement and her body bends at austere angles. It is as if we are watching a dance recital by Martha Graham.

Christopher Akerlind's lighting dominates, reinforcing the bold changes of the piece with split-second timing. The soundscape of Darron L. West is essential to the piece and the background music and sound are very suggestive.

Room runs through March 17 at the Cowell Theatre in Fort Mason. Tickets are $10 - $47 and you can call (415)441-8822 or visit SITI Company will present a second solo show starting March 20 at the Cowell. It is called Bob and it is a dramatic portrait inspired by the international avant-garde director and visual artist Robert Wilson.

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

- Richard Connema

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