Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

New Conservatory Theatre Center presents
the World Premiere of Jack Heifner's
Intriguing Comedy Seduction

Also see Richard's review of The Last Sunday in June

(clockwise, from top) Bradford Shreve Matt Socha and Jason Wong
The New Conservatory Theatre Center commissioned playwright Jack Heifner to write an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's scandalous and erotic La Ronde (Reigen). This time, it would involve the liaisons of young and older gay persons. Mr. Heifner, who wrote the Off Broadway hit Vanities plus many other plays, came up with a 96 minute bon-bon called Seduction. It's no longer 19th century Paris but a city in the States today.

When La Ronde first appeared in Vienna in 1897, all of Europe was scandalized. This story of love and betrayal was immediately banned and subsequently shared secretly among close friends. When it was produced in 1921, the authorities immediately shut it down and imprisoned the actors on obscenity charges.

The great French director Max Olpus recreated the film in 1950, and it has become a French film classic, still playing occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. The loose series of sexual sketches was freely adapted again in 1998 by British playwright David Hare, starring Nichole Kidman and Iain Glenn. The title was changed to The Blue Room and it became one hot ticket in London. The play moved to New York in 1999 and was a sold out, limited run. There was an excellent production of The Blue Room in San Jose several years ago.

La Ronde was also made into an Off Broadway musical called Hello Again, with a great score by Michael John LaChiusa. This musical is currently being presented in regional theater productions schedules. Therefore, it is no surprise that someone would come up with a gay version with a lot of cute men who are usually either undressing or dressing in various titillating scenes - at least that is what the NCTC audiences are seeing. All in all, Seduction has some very good comic scenes and some ordinary dramatic gay confrontations.

Once again, there are two characters per scene with one character moving into the next scene to link seduction from one story to the next. Some scenes are amusing, some are dramatic, but all move swiftly under the helm of director Christopher Jenkins. The first scene is taken from Schnitzler's account of an encounter with a military man, this time an American sailor (Bradford J Shreve), and a young 17 year hustler (Christopher Maiklish) who wants money for a couple of tacos. From there, we get a daisy chain of sexual encounters in which A sleeps with B who sleeps with C until we finally work our way back to A.

There are some very good comic scenes, especially between the producer (Scott Smith) and the actor (Jason Wong). The writer (Matthew Socha) and the actor in a room in a Monastery is a real hoot. The scene between the businessman (Scott Smith) and the teenager (Christopher Maikish) is also very good. Several of the other scenes seem to be more contrived but probably necessary in this round robin of sexual peccadilloes.

The actors, clothed and unclothed, give these scenes their all. Five young males take on the various roles, and sometimes it is a little confusing as to who is doing what. Christopher Maikish, a recent arrival from Chicago who trained as a classical voice and musical theater major, is excellent as the hustler and teenager. This 24 year old actor does a wonderful portrayal with the mannerisms and voice of a 17-18 year old hustler and naïve teenager.

Jason Wong (Maid), another newcomer, is excellent as the nicely overdramatic "drama queen" actor who is part Tallulah, part Bette Davis, with a little Joan Crawford thrown in. He projects a wonderful voice for the role of the student as well as the actor.

Bradford J. Shreve (42nd St Moon's Fifty Million Frenchmen and Marin Theatre For Me and My Gal) is especially good as a young professor who wants some excitement and passion from his older lover. Matthew Socha is admirable as the successful playwright of a play called Torch Song in a Monastery. Scott Smith is very good as a businessman who is just a little frightened about having sex with a 17 year old, very naïve teenager.

The small bandbox stage contains five panels that are moved around from scene to scene to represent hotel or apartment rooms. The props are minimal.

Seduction plays through March 28 at the New Conservatory Theatre, 25 Van Ness, San Francisco. For tickets please call 415-861-8972.

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

- Richard Connema

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