Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Illuminating Acting in Luminescence Dating

Also see Richard's reviews of Jane Olivor at the Empire Plush Room and A Christmas Carol

René Augesen and Gregory Wallace
American Conservatory Theatre and Magic Theatre are each marking their 40th year, and to celebrate the occasion, A.C.T. artistic director Carey Perloff is presenting her own play, Luminescence Dating, at the Magic through December 23rd.

Luminescence Dating is a scholarly play, but don't let that keep you from seeing this provocative production with four superb actors. It is bright, appealing and very entertaining. The timing among the four actors is perfect and the scene changes by the director Mark Rucker are smooth.

In the one-hour 50-minute drama, Angela Hart (René Augesen), a strong-minded archeologist, is determined to find the Praxiteles Aphrodite, a seven-foot tall marble nude that aroused obsessions in 5th century B.C. before vanishing. Angela has been obsessed with finding the whereabouts of the Goddess of Love statue for 15 years. She is even more upset over why her former lover Nigel Edwards (Stephen Barker Turner) recently left their Greek dig and retuned to his own dig on Cyprus.

The play takes place in the lab office in the basement of an unnamed university in the United States. Angela's best friend Victor Reid (Gregory Wallace) has stolen a broken arm from Nigel's excavation and has brought the piece to Angela. This valuable piece is a clue that may reveal the statue's secrets. The three highly spirited and emotionally charged academics set off to unravel the mystery.

Luminescence Dating works very well as a romantic thriller and the dialogue is a smooth mix of science, academic wordplay and wonderful wit. Ms. Perloff's words are instantaneous and effectual, making this fast-paced suspense entertaining.

René Augesen (A.C.T. core member) is excellent as the frazzled archeologist who wears her affecting emotions on her sleeve. Gregory Wallace (A.C.T. core member) gives one of the finest comic performance of his distinguished career with American Conservatory Theatre. His catty wit is brilliant and timing exceptional. Stephen Barker Turner (Nicholas Nickleby, As You Like It, Cymbeline at Cal Shakes) gives a polished performance as a no-nonsense rationalist. Ching Valdes-Aran (The Wild Party and Shakespeare on Broadway) is very good as a Greek poetry reciting cleaning lady who just might be the Aphrodite, or at least a symbol of the Goddess of Love.

Erik Flatmo has designed an excellent detailed set with a lot of desks, tables, shelves and filing cabinets filling out the three-sided stage. Russell H. Champa's lights give out amazing emotions, such as when he bathes the stage in pink lights when the goddess appears. Chris Houston's score brings to mind a mystic style. Mark Rucker's direction is sharp and fast paced.

Luminescence Dating is playing at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco through December 23rd. For tickets please call 415-441-8822 or on line at

Magic Theatre's next production will be the start of the Hot House Series 2007 with the World Premiere of Chantal Bilodeau's Pleasure & Pain.

Photo: David 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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