Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

A Good Production of Holes
for the Student Audience

Also see Richard's reviews of Almost Heaven: John Denver's America and Red Hot and Blue!

Christy Mcintosh and Levi Damione
SHN'S FamilyStage is presenting a stage adaptation of Louis Sachar's Newberry Award winning book Holes through October 9 on the big Orpheum Theatre stage. This excellent production is tailored for students from the third to seventh grade, and these groups of students are enjoying this complex story thanks to director Paul Dobie.

Dobie, who recently served as Assistant Director of the Tony winning Glengarry Glen Ross, has managed the complicated balance of interweaving past and present stories of the curse of the Yelnats family through a fast paced 80 minutes, with no intermission.

Sachar's book has become an icon, read by most elementary school students. Some have called it the Tom Sawyer of the modern age. The book was made into a successful Disney film, and this stage version follows the movie closely, almost scene by scene. Although the production has played in various cities this company has been cast locally.

Holes centers on Stanley Yelnats IV (Devon Graye) who has been wrongfully accused of stealing a pair of expensive sneakers. He is sentenced to a detention camp for juveniles in the very hot, dry desert of Texas. The judge says that digging five-feet-deep holes in the parched ground in the blistering heat will build character. However, an "evil" female warden (Cat Thompson) knows there is a treasure chest that was buried by the notorious bandit Kissing Kate (Christy McIntosh) 100 years previous. The main story is interwoven with the story of why Kate became a bandit and how the curse of the Yelnats family interconnects with the current unfortunate situation of Stanley Yelnats IV.

Holes deals with racism, lynching, adult corruption and intimidation at the camp. The drama does not patronize anyone since there are good and bad kids, and the same holds true for the adults in the play. The six men who play the teenagers are excellent. Devon Graye as Stanley has a certain coolness about him even when things are going wrong. Robert Garcia as Zero gives the character an affecting understanding. Levi Damione who plays eight parts is especially good as a Latvian ancestor of Stanley. Daveed Daniele Diggs, Brendan Simon and Jomar Tagatac who are part of the six detainees swiftly change into adult parts. All are first rate in their roles.

Cat Thompson as the warden is deliciously evil while Michael Ray Wisely gives an excellent characterization of the sadistic warden's assistant. Robert Parsons portrays an assortment of evils. All are done a little melodramatically, but the kids love the over the top acting. Christy McIntosh (recently played Snow White in Beach Blanket Babylon) as a sweet frontier school teacher who becomes desperado Kissing Kate is captivating in the role.

Bob Bangham and Rowena Macaraeg have designed an interesting desert set with what looks likes the young boys digging holes into sand in front of the large desert backdrop. They also use two black scrims to hide the desert in various scenes. Lighting by Kimberly J. Scott is particularly effective at depicting scorching heat in the desert scenes.

Holes plays at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St, San Francisco through October 9th. For tickets please call Ticketmaster at 415-512-7770, at, in person at the Orpheum Theatre box office or on line at

The next in the FamilyStage series will be Rock Odyssey with a book by Stephen Cole and music and lyrics by Billy Straus. It opens on January 27th and runs through February 5th 2006.

Photo: David M. Allen

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

- Richard Connema