Saturday, February 10, 2018

Relationship evolves over 5 decades in "Reel to Reel"

"Reel to Reel" features, from left, Will Marchetti as Walter 2, Andrew Pastides as Walter 1, Zoë Winters as Maggie 2 and Carla Spindt as Maggie 1. (Photo by Julie Haber)

Maintaining a relationship over many decades often depends on the little things.

That’s one theme of “Reel to Reel,” written and directed by John Kolvenbach and receiving its world premiere at Magic Theatre.

The relationship is between Maggie and Walter, who spend 55 years and three months together. They’re seen mainly when they meet at age 27 and start living together, again at age 42 when they get married, and yet again when they’re both 82 in 2050.

The 82-year-olds are portrayed by Carla Spindt as Maggie 2 and Will Marchetti as Walter 2. Their younger selves are played by Zoë Winters as Maggie 1 and Andrew Pastides as Walter 1.

Maggie has been fascinated by sound nearly all of her life and has recorded hours and hours of it. She painstakingly splices the results into slices of life that she uses in a performance. Walter apparently is a filmmaker, but perhaps not a serious one.

Walter 1 is a nerd who’s dismayed when the bold Maggie 1 marches into his apartment, his bed and his life on the night they first met at a party.

Walter 2 and Maggie 2 have mellowed into a comfortable existence in which each seems content with the other and their small moments.

The couple’s evolution is illustrated in scenes that switch in time, often overlapping.
In addition, the actors portray other characters, such as Walter 1’s friend Betty (Winters) and Maggie 1’s parents (Spindt and Marchetti). They provide an array of sound effects.

Although the actors deliver most of their lines from memory, they sometimes refer to scripts on music stands on either side of the stage. The impression is that this world premiere is in flux, as if last-minute changes are being made.

However, the use of scripts doesn’t distract from the intrinsic interest of the concept and of the action, which Kolvenbach orchestrates well for the most part. The one exception is Winters, who often seems too strident as Maggie 1.  

On the other hand, Pastides as Walter 1 and Spindt and Marchetti as the elder couple all do well. Longtime Bay Area theatergoers may recall that Spindt and Marchetti have often acted together, many times as couples.

Other production values complement the show with the set and projections by Erik Flatmo, costumes by Meg Neville and lighting by Wen-Ling Liao.

Running about 85 minutes with no intermission, “Reel to Reel” will continue through Feb. 25 at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., Building D, San Francisco. For tickets and information, call (415) 441-8822 or visit