Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Jane Austen characters appear in 'Georgiana and Kitty, Christmas at Pemberley'


Friends and family gather for Georgiana's recital. (Kevin Berne/Marin Theatre Company)

Playwrights Lauren M. Gunderson and Margot Melcon follow some of the principal characters in Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in a trilogy set at Pemberley at Christmastime.

Marin Theatre Company is staging the world premiere of the third installment, the delectable “Georgiana and Kitty, Christmas at Pemberley.”

This one starts in 1815 at the country estate of Fitzwilliam Darcy (Daniel Duque-Estrada), where the five Bennet sisters have gathered to celebrate the holiday.

Joining them is Darcy’s younger, unmarried sister, Georgiana (Lauren Spencer), who’s the best friend of Kitty Bennet (Emilie Whelan). She’s also an accomplished pianist and composer.

Unbeknownst to Darcy, Kitty has invited another guest, the shy Henry Grey (played in the Nov. 27 matinee by understudy Nic A. Sommerfeld), who has admired Georgiana and her music ever since a recital she gave a year ago.

He’s urged along by his outgoing friend, Thomas O’Brien (Adam Magill). However, the potential romance between Henry and Georgiana is thwarted by a misunderstanding that sends the two men on their way.

Set in 1835 at Georgiana’s home in London, Act 2 takes on a feminist tone. She’s about to give a piano recital benefiting her fledging organization to promote women musicians. By then there’s a second generation to the family.

There’s also a fortunate coincidence that brings Georgiana and Henry together at last.

As directed by Meredith McDonough, the nine-member ensemble cast creates natural, believable and interesting characters. Three of the women take on dual roles as the younger generation in Act 2.

The production is greatly enhanced by Fumiko Bielefeldt’s costumes, especially for the women. The handsome set is by Nina Ball with lighting by Wen-Ling Liao and sound by Madeleine Oldham.

Composer Jenny Giering serves as musical director.

All of these elements combine to create a joyful, uplifting way to celebrate the holidays.

Running about two hours and 10 minutes with an intermission, “Georgiana and Kitty, Christmas at Pemberley” will continue through Dec. 19 at Marin Theatre  Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.

For tickets and information, including COVID protocols, call (415) 388-5208 or visit https://www.marintheatre.org/tickets/box-office-info.




















Tuesday, November 23, 2021

'Great Expectations' takes to the stage in San Jose


Miss Havisham (Li-Leng Au, left) tells Estella (Jennifer Le Blanc) and Pip (Keith Pinto) how her
heart was broken. Dave Lepori photo

Charles Dicken’s 19th century English novel “Great Expectations” has been adapted for the stage by Neil Bartlett.

San Jose Stage Company is presenting this adaptation with six actors. Only one of them, Keith Pinto as the hero, Pip, plays just one character. The rest do double and triple duty playing a mix of characters.

The plot follows Pip from childhood to young adulthood.

As a boy, the orphaned Pip was taken in by his shrewish older sister, Mrs. Joe (Li-Leng Au), and her kindly husband, Joe (Norman Gee), a blacksmith.

He unexpectedly is summoned to the home of Miss Havisham (Au), who commands him to play with her haughty adopted daughter, Estella (Jennifer Le Blanc).

Aside from Pip, Miss Havisham is the most interesting character. Jilted on her wedding day many years ago, she still wears her tattered wedding gown and retains her moldering wedding cake.

She has trained Estella to break men’s hearts, just as her own was broken. Nevertheless, Pip grows to love Estella.

Several years later, he’s told that he has an anonymous benefactor who will pay for him to go to London to get educated and become a gentleman. That’s when his great expectations arise and are dashed.

Besides Pinto, Gee, Au and Le Blanc, the versatile cast features Julian Lopez-Morillas and Nick Rodrigues. Directed by Kenneth Kelleher, all of them fully inhabit their roles, even when the plot becomes convoluted.

Pinto is especially impressive, remaining onstage throughout the show and reflecting Pip’s transformation from boy to man with both vocal inflection and body language.

The simple, almost barebones set and Jean Cardinale’s costumes facilitate the frequent scene changes and the actors’ changing roles. The sound by Steve Schoenbeck helps to create settings and mood.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “Great Expectations” will continue through Dec. 12 at The Stage, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For information, tickets and COVID protocols, call (408) 283-7142  or visit www.thestage.org.



Wednesday, November 10, 2021

'Revolutionists' tells four women's roles in French Revolution

From left: Charlotte (Katherine Hamilton), Olympe (Gabriella Goldstein), Marianne (Kimberly Ridgeway) and Marie-Antoinette (Olga Molina) all have their own motives. (Scott Lasky photo)  

Seeing Lauren Gunderson's "The Revolutionists" might send Palo Alto Players audiences scurrying to find information about the French Revolution's Reign of Terror. 

Based on four actual women and set in 1793, the play is talky yet seems to assume that everyone remembers high school classes in world history.

It opens with a playwright, Olympe de Gouges (Gabriella Goldstein), trying to come up with an idea for a play that won’t send her to the guillotine. In Gunderson’s sly reference to “Les Miserable,” Olympe says a musical will never work.

Her musings are interrupted when Marianne Angelle (Kimberly Ridgeway) pounds on the door seeking refuge. She’s a Haitian spy who’s opposed to French-imposed slavery in the Caribbean.

Yet another sudden arrival is Charlotte Corday (Katherine Hamilton), who’s intent on martyrdom for stabbing Jean-Paul Marat in his bath.

Finally Marie-Antoinette (Olga Molina) flounces in. She’s just trying to save her head.

Only one survives.

Directed by Tessa Corrie, overacting and fast talking prevail except for Ridgeway as Marianne, the spy. Her character remains calm, but she sometimes speaks so softly that she’s hard to hear. 

The flexible set is by Scott Ludwig with sound by Jeff Grafton and effective lighting by Edward Hunter. Lisa Claybaugh deserves kudos for the period costumes that reflect each character’s place in society.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “The Revolutionists” will continue through Nov. 21 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. A recording will be streamed on demand from Nov. 18 to 21.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.    


Why all of Shakespeare's plays are available

Alice Heminges ((Lauren D’Ambrosio) looks over the First Folio preface as Henry Condell (Michael Rhone, left) and her father, John (Anthony Silk), await her opinion. (David Allen photo)

 Presented by Foothill College Theatre Arts, Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” looks at the efforts involved in preserving the works of William Shakespeare for posterity.

Most of the action takes in a tavern adjoining the Old Globe Theatre three years after the Bard’s death. As it opens, three actors from the theater’s resident company, the King’s Men, are lamenting the publication of a pirated version of “Hamlet.”

They are Henry Condell (Michael Rhone), John Heminges (Anthony Silk) and Richard Burbage (John Musgrave).

After Burbage’s death that night, Henry and John discuss the possibility of assembling all of Shakespeare’s plays into one volume. Unfortunately, there are few complete scripts available.

Moreover, an unscrupulous publisher, William Jaggard (Musgrave), apparently has the rights to most of the plays.

Through luck, ingenuity and the assistance of scribe Ralph Crane (Gwendolyne Wagner), who had served as a prompter and had saved many of the scripts, Henry and John are closer to their goal.

After Jaggard dies, his more honest son, Isaac (Steve Allhoff), steps in to help. Despite more obstacles, the First Folio is published and Shakespeare’s plays preserved for posterity.

The play offers some glimpses of life’s perils at that time, as evidenced by the deaths of Burbage, Jaggard the elder and John’s wife, Rebecca Heminges (Carla Befera).

Providing moral support and encouragement are Henry’s wife, Elizabeth Condell (Eiko Yamamoto), and the Heminges’ daughter, Alice (Lauren D’Ambrosio).

Directed by Bruce McLeod, the cast is a mix of student and seasoned actors. Hence the results are mixed with solid performances by several actors and overacting by others.

The set by Yusuke Soi works well, as do the costumes by Lisa Rozman and sound by Max Stanylov.

Lines from some of the plays add interest to the show, which nevertheless drags in spots.

Running about two hours with an intermission, “The Book of Will” will continue through Nov. 21 in the Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.

For tickets and information, call (650) 949-7360 or visit https://foothill.edu/theatre.