Reinventing the Glass Menagerie at Marin Theatre Company NTC's Musical Take on Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Craig Marker as Jim and Anna Bullard as Laura in the Glass Menagerie at MTC
To celebrate Tennessee Williams' centennial, Director Jason Minedakis has re-imagined the Glass Menagerie. He feels that it is Tom's play. In Minedakis' staging, Tom is always present. When he is not in a scene, he's watching it unfold from a fire escape above, together with expressive Trumpeter Andrew Wilke, as the portrait of the long-departed father and interpreter of Chris Houston's melancholy score. Tom, of course, is Tennessee Williams himself in this semi-autobiographical play. Nicholas Pelczar who plays Tom, is almost a dead ringer for Williams. He is the narrator, and it is his memory that drives the play.
Aspiring poet Tom Wingfield reluctantly works in a warehouse to support his overbearing mother Amanda (Sherman Fracher) and debilitatingly shy sister Laura (Anna Bullard). Pushed by his mother, Tom finds his sister a gentleman caller (Craig Marker as Jim) to try to coax her from her fragile private world. In this stifling atmosphere of family melodrama, Craig Marker is a breath of fresh air as the gentleman caller. Minedakis has a fine cast. In addition to the wonderful Craig Marker as Jim, the gentleman caller, Nicholas Pelczar gives a well-rounded performance as Tom. Sherman Frocker's Amanda plays well in both her martyr-like guilt traps and her southern charm, and Anna Bullard's Laura is both fragile and painfully shy.
According to Director Jason Minedakis, on his concept for the play, he says, "It is a very strong exploration of a family fighting to maintain itself." This gives the play a harshness not seen before in other productions. A thick web of skeletal fire escapes enclosed the combative Wingfield family on Kat Conley's set design. There are no solid walls and everything can be seen through, like glass. The set features only the pieces of furniture which are essential to the action--a bare wood-slat table, four chairs, a couch and a phonograph moodily lit by Ben Wilhelm's lighting design. The only props, the only things the audience sees in the play are the pieces that stand out in Tom's memory and most of the props are mimed, except for a solitary glass unicorn.
There was too much arguing and shouting in Act One. This was redeemed in Act Two when covers soften the iron settee and colorful lanterns warmly light the scene between Tom's sister Laura and the gentleman caller in a long conversation which was beautifully acted and sensitively portrayed by Anna Bullard and Craig Marker.
The Glass Menagerie plays through December 18 with performances at Marin Theatre Company, 597 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Matinees are every Sunday at 2 p.m. plus a matinee Saturday, December 17 at 2 p.m. For tickets, call the box office at 415-388-5208 or go to www.marintheatre.org.
Flora Lynn Isaacson
David Bauer as Scrooge and Johnny DeBernard as the Ghost of Christmas Present in
A Christmas Carol-A Musical at NTC
The Novato Theater Company's creative rendition of A Christmas Carol, a Musical, which premiered in 2010, opened November 25, 2011. Theatre Artistic Director Blanca Florido wrote the adaptation, with music by Andrew Klein, and lyrics by Florido. This year's production includes four new songs. Florido's adaptation parallels the original text closely with its message of social justice so relevant to today's economy.
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was a novella first published in 1843. The story tells of sour and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge's ideological, ethical and emotional transformation as a result of the supernatural visits of Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
The Prologue begins on Christmas Eve in the 1840's exactly seven years after the death of Scrooge's business partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge (David Bauer) is established in his counting house as a greedy and stingy businessman, who has no place in his life for kindness, compassion, charity or benevolence. The next scene shifts to Scrooge's house/bedroom where he is warned by Marley's ghost (a strong performance by Johnny DeBernard) to change his ways so Scrooge might avoid a miserable afterlife like Marley. Scrooge is visited by three other ghosts; each in its turn and each visit is detailed in a separate scene on a remarkable revolving stage which accompanies him to various scenes with the hope of achieving his transformation.
The first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past (the lovely Monica Norcia) takes Scrooge to the scenes of his boyhood and youth which stir the old miser's gentle and tender side by reminding him of a time when he was more innocent. The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Johnny DeBernard in another remarkable performance) takes Scrooge to several radically different scenes--a joy filled gathering of people on a London street, the family feast of Scrooge's near-impoverished clerk, Bob Cratchit (a sympathetic portrayal by Jarrett Battenberg) and a wonderful portrayal of Bob's wife by Kathryn Daskal. A visit to the home of Scrooge's nephew Fred (a joyful performance by Phillip Swanson) is meant to evince from the miser, a sense of responsibility for his fellow man. The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Future (with a silent performance by Ian Lamers), harrows Scrooge with dire visions of the future if he doesn't learn and act upon what he has witnessed.
In the Epilogue, Scrooge awakens Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart then spends the day with his nephew and family after anonymously sending a prized turkey to the Cratchit home for Christmas dinner. Scrooge has become a different man overnight and now treats his fellow man with kindness, generosity and compassion, gaining a reputation of a man who embodies the Spirit of Christmas. Bravo to David Bauer as Scrooge who is completely believable in all of these changes.
Bravo, also to Director Blanca Florido for her wonderful direction of a cast of 25 actors as well as her adaptation and her wonderful lyrics.
The revolving stage was amazing as were the sets by Gary Gonser and the period costumes by John Clancy.
Composer Andrew Klein's songs were fabulous as was the piano accompaniment of Barbara Bacon-Shaw and cello by Monica Norcia.
This is a great show for the whole family this holiday season.
Performances are held at Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Novato; December 1-3, 8, 10, 15-17 at 8 p.m.; with matinees December 4 and 11 at 3 p.m. For tickets, call 415-883-4498 or go online at www.novatotheatercompany.org.
Flora Lynn Isaacson