Tracy's Turbulent Take on The Tempest at Marin Shakespeare A Trio In the RAW Shaw's Candida Reigns at Cal Shakes A.R. Gurney Tops Novato Theater's One Act Festival A Hilarious Romp Through American History at Marin Shakespeare

Robert Parsons as Prospero and Sarah Gold as Miranda, Prospero's daughter in The Tempest

With their final production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Marin Shakespeare Company welcomes Director Jon Tracy, who brings his own brand of magic to this enchanting romance.  Recalling the turn of the 19th century in 1901 and touching on the current "steampunk" movement, Tracy is twisting The Tempest taking inspiration from inventor Nikola Tesla in this production which takes a look at what magic is to the modern audience.  Jon Tracy is a creative and innovative director who is true to his vision throughout the entire production.  

The play opens with blue walls which are turned around into a scientific laboratory amid wonderful special effects of both lighting and sound.  This laboratory belongs to the deposed and exiled Duke Prospero (Robert Parsons) who is a brilliant scientist.  Caliban (Michael Torres) is an indigenous scientist who works for Prospero.  Ariel has become the Ariel coil, Prospero's great invention.  The Coil controls the Qualities, six robotic figures who speak Ariel's lines in unison and do amazing backwards somersaults and disappear through trap doors.  Miranda, Prospero's daughter (Sarah Gold) is in a rage against her father because of a shipwreck which Prospero caused.  After the shipwreck, Ferdinand (Alex Hersler) appears on the scene and meets Miranda and the two are immediately drawn to one another.  

Wonderful comic relief is provided before the end of Act I by Trincula (Lynne Soffer) as a simple minded servant who is looking for a place to wait out the coming storm.  Stephano (Cassidy Brown), a drunken butler enters and the two friends are overjoyed to have found each other.  At the end of Act I the whole audience was cheering.  

However, things seem to fall apart in Act II. Prospero's enemies are in his power. They are Alonso, King of Naples (Robert Currier), Gonzalo, Elder of Milan (Christopher Hammond), Sebastian, Alonso's younger brother (Scott Coopwood), and Antonio, Prospero's younger brother (James Hizer).  Prospero forgives his enemies and the play concludes with the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand who is Alonso's son.  Prospero's epilogue is completely eliminated.  

The real magic of this production lies in Abra Berman's wonderful Victorian costumes, Ellen Brooks' amazing lighting design and Nina Ball's innovative set design.  Jon Tracy takes many liberties with Shakespeare's script--some which work but some fall flat, but the production is recommended for its uniqueness and inventiveness.

The Tempest plays in repertory with Macbeth and The Complete History of America (abridged) through September 25, 2011. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Forest Meadows Amphitheater, 1475 Grand Avenue, Dominican University, San Rafael, California. For tickets, call the box office at 415-499-4488 or go online at

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Kate Savage and Alma DeLeon star In a Pickle as part of the RAW Summer Festival.

Ross Alternative Works opened their new summer festival with three new short plays in full production, Thursday, August 18, 2011.  RAW is under the umbrella of Ross Valley Players which has a long history of supporting original theatrical work.  In 2004, RAW was formed and this is their sixth season.
A Trio In the RAW

Janice, Shelley and Jo opened this year's festival.  This play was written and directed by well known Bay Area Pacific Sun Drama Critic Lee Brady and Director Andrea Gordon. This was a particularly difficult play to direct because of the combination of past and present occurrences.  Two sisters, Janice, 24 (Amber Crane) and Shelley, 18 (Saige Hilton) meet for the first time. They both share memories of their mother, Jo, brilliantly played by Ellen Brooks. We have three generations of women when Granny Berger (delightfully played by Anne Ripley) enters the scene.  Other well known actors James Colgan plays Keenan, the father of the girls and Kate Savage plays Abby, a mysterious woman. This is a memory play which succeeds on many levels.

After the first intermission, Come Again, Another Day was performed by Cary Pepper and directed by well known Director Hal Gelb.  This dark comedy takes place in the New York City apartment of Ivan Foley (Burl Lampert) who returns home from a frustrating day of job hunting to find Martin (Ron Dritz), a hired killer waiting in his living room. The playwright's style is reminiscent of Harold Pinter. Both actors give excellent performances.  

After a second intermission, the final play of the evening, In a Pickle by Karen Harline was presented.  This play was directed by another well known director, Alex Kuskulis.  In a Pickle features Joy (in a standout performance by Kate Savage) who is tired of her life and ready to end it all but lacking the guts to follow through.  A masked thug, Cliff (played by Alma DeLeon with expert comic timing) threatens to do it for her when his identity is revealed as coming from a well known gangster family. Both concoct a plan to make them famous and give them recognition.

This RAW Festival premiered Thursday, August 18. Friday and Saturday shows, August 19-20 are at 8 p.m. with a special Sunday matinee, August 21 at 2 p.m. A special talk back session with the individual playwrights follows the Sunday matinee. Go to to find out more.  These plays are being presented at the Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. in Ross, CA.  

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players will be Don't Dress for Dinner by Marc Camoletti and directed by Richard Ryan, September 16-October 16, 2011.

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Top to bottom: Anthony Fusco, Julie Eccles and Nick Gabriel in Candida; photo by Kevin Berne

California Shakespeare Theatre presents Candida (1895)--George Bernard Shaw's brilliant and witty comedy about a morally superior clergyman (Anthony Fusco) in turn of the 20th century London, his enigmatically charismatic wife (Julie Eccles) and the wildly romantic young poet (Nick Gabriel) who puts the very foundation of their marriage to the ultimate test.  Who will housewife Candida choose--her middle aged clergyman husband or the young poet, hoping to whisk her away from the life he deems beneath her? As always with Shaw, neither the answers nor the questions are clearly cut. 

Shaw's plot positions each of these main characters at one corner of a marital triangle. At the two sided base of the triangle, we find the Reverend James Morell, a pastor with an increasingly high profile as a dynamic man of letters who is so much in demand as a public speaker that it leaves little time to spend with his wife, even though he adores her. In the opposite corner is Morell's lovely and clearly intelligent wife, Candida.  At the tip of the triangle is the catalyst for digging beneath the seemingly blissful marriage--a shy and awkward young poet, Eugene Marchbanks, who Morell has taken under his wing.  

Whatever her real age, Julie Eccles looks just right for the age (33 years) Shaw envisioned her to be. Yet the character Shaw created is ageless and her appeal is essentially more maternal than sexual. Forcefully in charge of the household, yet feminine and flirtatious.  The exceptionally pretty Julie Eccles proves herself a vibrant and solid actress.

Anthony Fusco is a fine actor and captures the subtlety of Morell who's been made overly self confident as the only boy in a household of an indulgent mother and sisters.  

Nick Gabriel is most persuasive in playing the bashful Eugene Marchbanks, who's passion gives him the courage to speak his mind.  

While Jarion Monroe has a subsidiary role as Mr. Burgess, Candida's pragmatic father, this actor with his impish grin and booming voice really steals the show!  He adds a generous dose of humor as does the terrific and enjoyable Alexandra Henrikson as the Reverend's typist, Proserpine Garnett.  Her "Prossy: is adorably uptight and with the help of two glasses of champagne, unhinged.  

Liam Vincent plays the role of Reverend Lexy Mill, the young curate chosen by Morell as his assistant.  Vincent's Lexy is a well intentioned, enthusiastic novice.  

Director Jonathan Moscone supports his cast with an artful and attentive production that really takes the stage at Cal Shakes.  Annie Smart's fantastic set also steals the show with her amazing backdrop and gives the Morell parlor and study the rich look of a Broadway production.  Anna Oliver deserves a big hand also for the rich look of her costumes.  

Much of the play's action is a set up for the poignant climax. Both a top notch cast and director of Candida see to it the entire evening makes for good theatre.  

Candida opened Saturday, August 13 at the California Shakespeare Theatre (Bruns Amphitheatre, off Highway 24, Orinda) and plays through Sunday, September 4.  Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 4 p.m. There will be a special Saturday matinee, September 3 at 2 p.m. All tickets are available through California Shakespeare Theatre's Box Office, 510-548-9666 or online at

Coming up next at Cal Shakes will be The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare and directed by Shana Cooper, September 21-October 16, 2011.

Flora Lynn Isaacson
Clockwise from upper left: Karen Clancy, Bruce Coughran,
Carole Landes, Hope Carillo, Kate Savage,  Phillip Swanson,
Emily Surface, Ron Dailey, Rose Stuart, Malcolm Cohen 

Novato Theater Company opened its One Act Play Festival 2011 with three original plays followed by a play by Master Playwright, A.R. Gurney.  The festival opened with "Hickory Miles" by Paul Heller and directed by Bruce Coughran. This play explores the inner world of a woman by the name of Hickory Miles (Carole Landes) as she recalls highlights from her life with both her father and husband.  She tells her story to a Pawn Shop Owner beautifully performed in pantomime by Steve North.  Ms. Landes had fine facial expression as she tells her life story.   

The second play was a farce called "Identity Crisis" by Kitty Burns and directed by Zanne Dailey. In this play, a woman journalist named Andrea Estridge (Dawn Hamilton) has lost her luggage and enters a baggage claim office to speak to the claims officer played with excellent comic timing by Nathan Ross.  He sends for his assistant Cathy Healy played by Emily Surface in a sly performance. A mysterious bag shows up with the initials A.E. and the woman journalist who lost her bag thinks it must belong to Amelia Earhart.  Later a couple played by Steve North and Ruth Rosen come to look for their lost luggage and are told off by Jack Alma Deleon in a fine cameo performance.  

After a 15 minute intermission we see another farce, Car Wash by Louis Phillips and directed by Bruce Coughran.  In Car Wash, Salten Pfeiffer (Rose Stuart) has lost her expensive Mercedes in the car wash.  She tries to convince the car wash employees, Darlene (Karen Clancy) and Joe (Bruce Coughran) to look for her lost car and they all disappear in the car wash.  Another woman played by Carole Landes shows up to have her car washed but nobody is around. 

The grand finale of the evening was "The Love Course" by A.R. Gurney and brilliantly directed by Emily Surface.  In this play, the whole cast gave outstanding performances. Here A.R. Gurney explores a university literature course on love taught by Professor Carraway (Kate Savage) and Professor Burgess (Ron Dailey) with different views on life and love.  Their two students are delightfully played by Hope Carillo as Sally and Phillip Swanson as Mike.  This play was the highlight of the evening.  

The One Act Play Festival presented by the Novato Theater Company is being held at the Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Novato.   Performances are held Thursday-Saturday, August 11-13 at 8 p.m. with a final Sunday matinee, August 14 at 3 p.m. For tickets, call 415-883-4498 or go online at

Coming up next at the Novato Theater Company will be "How the Other Half Loves"  by Alan Ayckbourn, September 1-25, 2011.

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Cassidy Brown, Mike Mize and Darren Bridgett in The Complete History of America (abridged)

With updated material recently written by Sonoma Playwright, Ed Martin, "The Complete History of America (abridged)" by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, opened July 30, 2011 at Marin Shakespeare Company's Forest Meadows Amphitheatre at Dominican University.  

It was a beautiful night. The audience entered the theatre to Billie Cox's patriotic music and were greeted by an ingenious set by Mark Robinson--a large poster-board covering the stage showing images highlighting events from 1492, 1776, 1861, 1942, 1952, 1969 and 2011.  

Directed by Robert Currier and produced by Leslie Schisgall Currier and featuring just three actors, The Complete History of America (abridged) is a roller coaster ride taking us through the entire course of American history with brilliant comedic genius.  As you can imagine, it is a wild ride with actors Darren Bridgett, Cassidy Brown and Mick Mize.  The actors rely on accents, hats and wigs thrown on over patriotic clothes designed by Michael Berg, plastic vegetables, pasta and Super Soaker water guns (no matter where you sit you might get wet).  

Beginning with a bouncing globe and Amerigo Vespucci in Act I, Mick Mize showed off his ability to change accents on a dime.  He was also very funny in a Native American skit.  Both Darren Bridgett and Cassidy Brown serve as alternate narrators.  

One of the highlights of the show was showing rejected flags made by Betsy Ross and her sister.  A big hit was a song and dance vaudeville style of Lewis and Clark as they told the latest jokes of 1805.

When the planned slide show about the World Wars can't be done due to one of the actors breaking the projector (which is all part of the act including receiving the projector from a member of the audience) an absolutely hilarious "real" slide show follows.

Act I ended with a large timeline banner carried by the three actors throughout the audience in the spirit of fun.  Act II opened with World War I to the music of "Over There." This is when the audience really gets sprayed with water by the men in the trenches.  This is followed by a fabulous bit as the trio do a takeoff on the Andrews Sisters.  A highlight of Act II is the takeoff the three talented actors do to depict the Golden Age of Radio.  Cassidy Brown then comes into the audience for a question and answer session relating to Queen for a Day.  Next, Mick Mize appears in a strange Obama mask answering questions from the audience which show off his wonderful skill at improvisation.

Ending it all was an extended film noir segment featuring the talents of Bridgett as Detective Sam Diamond and Mick Mize in a wonderful impersonation of Lucy Ricardo.  The Complete History of America (abridged) requires the impeccable timing shown to advantage by the three talented actors.  Robert Currier shows much imagination and style in his inventive direction.

If you are looking for an evening of good fun, The Complete History of America (abridged) is worth your time. This show received a standing ovation! The Complete History of America (abridged) continues in repertory with Macbeth through September 25. Performances are held at 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 1475 Grand Avenue, Dominican University, San Rafael, CA. For tickets, call 415-499-4488 or go to

Coming up next at Marin Shakespeare will be William Shakespeare's The Tempest directed by Jon Tracy August 27-September 25, 2011.

Flora Lynn Isaacson