Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Ice Glen is a Mild-Mannered
Romantic Comedy

Also see Richard's reviews of Tartuffe, The Twelve Days of Cochinas and Reckless

Lauren Grace and
Marvin C. Greene

Aurora Theatre is presenting Joan Ackermann's Gilded Age romantic comedy through December 10th with a splendid cast performing in the style of an Edith Wharton play. Watching this two-act slow drama I am reminded of those romantic novels of Danielle Steele or Victoria Holt. Joan Ackermann wrote this play specifically for the Shakespeare and Company's Springlawn Theatre in the Berkshires in 2005. The two-hour production is a fictionalized account of Edith Wharton offering unsolicited poems from an unheard of poet to the editor of the highly esteemed magazine, The Atlantic Monthly. During that time poetry was revered in the literary world, and the magazine was the place where all great poems were read.

Ice Glen is set in 1919 in an elegant but decaying Berkshire mansion that is up for sale. The plot centers on reclusive poet Sarah Harding (Zehra Berkman) who resists efforts to have her works published. She is the gardener of the estate which is owned by recent widow Dulce Bainbridge (Lauren Grace). Two years prior, the death of Bainbridge's husband left her to cope with the house in decay. The mansion is staffed by two retainers straight out of a Jane Austin book. The old fashioned butler Grayson (Julian Lopez-Morillas) is most submissive to the owner while the cook Mrs. Roswell (Jessica Powell) watches over the residents with a benevolently worried eye. The staff is rounded out by sixteen-year-old Denby (Douglas B. Giorgis), who was taken in after the death of his parents in a fire. He is a half-witted boy with the inquiring mind of a seven year old.

Several years prior the late Samuel Bainbridge had handed over to Edith Wharton three of Sarah's poems, which have made their way to Peter Woodburn (Marvin C. Greene), editor of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly magazine. He has written to Sarah about publishing them, but she has not responded, so the editor has come to the mansion to plead with her. Once in the Berkshires, he finds himself completely out of control in the woody surroundings. He is bungling in dealing with the young tranquil poetess. However, the new widow sexually pursues him with success. When he returns to Boston he finds that he is in love with Sarah's poems and probably the young poet herself.

Ice Glen's second act picks up the plotline that involves Dulce and Peter, the selling of the Berkshire cottage, and the problems of the servants and the idyllic poet.

The acting in this production is exceptional. Marvin C. Green (worked in all of the major regional houses in the Bay Area) is convincing as Peter Woodburn with his unrequited love for Sarah. Zehra Berkman (The Master Builder, Killer Joe and Cordelia in King Lear) looks and acts like a young Katharine Hepburn. She inhabits the character with rebellious vigor.

Lauren Grace (The Master Builder and Emma) gives a good performance as Dulce Bainbridge. She moves from reserved and self-controled to seductive. She is especially aggressive in her war of words with Woodburn in a dramatic scene in the second act. Jessica Powell (Trestle at Pope Lick Creek and Abigail's Party) adds humor to the production as the cook who complains and worries about everyone in the household. Julian Lopez-Morillas (The Master Builder, Marius, Hedda Gabler) is perfect as the old school butler with a great Down East accent. Rounding out the cast, Douglas E. Giorgis (42nd Street Moon, San Jose Rep) is charming and hilarious as Denby. He has the right intonation in his voice to sound like a seven-year-old asking question after question.

Director Barbara Oliver has given the production a placid pace while John Iacovelli's open set contains a detail of bare trees and woodland objects, giving the production a woodsy atmosphere in the three-sided seat theatre. Jim Cave's lights are natural, including a wonderful sunset on the one wall. Anna Oliver's customs are authentic early 20th century wear.

Ice Glen runs through December 10th at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-843-4822 or visit

Upcoming at the theatre is A Little Cole in Your Stocking with Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia opening on December 20 and running through December 30th. Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party opens on January 26th at the theatre.

Photo: David Allen

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

- Richard Connema

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