Spring 2012 Fringe of Marin--Program Two Spring 2012 Fringe of Marin--Program One A Comedy Tonight at the Novato Theater Company A Daring Take on Othello, the Moor of Venice at Marin Theatre Company

Thanks to the imagination and leadership of Dr. Annette Lust, the Fringe of Marin is in its 29th season!  Program Two opened Saturday, April 14 with 8 new plays and solos. The festival begins with "Getting the Message" and ends up with "Wallis and Finnie in Cloud Cuckooland!" 

Talented playwright Rod McFadden wrote "Getting the Message," directed by award-winning Director Carol Eggers.  In Getting the Message, a wife, Christine Melocik, teaches her husband award-winning actor, Rick Roitinger a lesson in how to play "Charades" so he can impress his boss and then she leaves him.  

This was followed by "There Are No Elephants at Costco" written and directed by Michael Ferguson. This is a child's dream about her stuffed animals which are delightfully played by Maureen Coyne as Lucky, the Mouse, Bill Chessman as Trunk, the Elephant and Velvet Harlow as Nibbles, the Rabbit.  This play would be perfect for child audiences.  

Steve North was up third in a solo performance of "The Albatross" replacing Linda Ayres-Frederick in "Cantata #40." Steve North is a great stand-up comedian with outstanding stage presence in his take on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The last play before intermission is "Identity Theft" written and directed by William O. Chessman III.  A man by the name of John (Ken Sollazzo) and a man named Jack (George Doerr) claim to have the same wife Jane (Anne Collins) and the same life.  This is quite an interesting idea.  The dialog of the Cop played by C. Conrad Cady was a lot of fun. However, the play was a bit repetitive with an unresolved ending.  

The second half of the program opened with "Point of View" written and directed by Suzanne Birrell. This play was based on Rashoman in which each character sees the same event in a different way.  Lauren (Trungta Kae Kositchaimongkol) thinks of Andrew as a real gentlemen while Clarice (Crystal Nezgoda) is defending Andrew who is her brother as playing the field, and Sarah (Lauren Arrow) who has broken up with Andrew, thinks of him as Shakespeare's Sir Andrew Aguecheek.  This is such a clever idea and the actresses pull it off by big contrasts.  

"Hitting the High Note" written and performed by Valentina Osinski and directed by Lauren Lundgren was a high point of the entire festival. This is a monologue about a singer who wants to be a rock star.  The performer is a beautiful woman with excellent energy, wonderful facial expressions and great stage presence. To accompany her performance, she illustrates it with clever cartoons on an easel.  Her timing was right on target!

This was followed by "A Pantry Tale: How the Onion Was Nearly Scorched" written by Dr. Annette Lust and directed by Suzanne Birrell.  In this charming tale, we learn the genesis of French Onion Soup. This is another charming story for children especially. Birrell does double duty as both cook and narrator with clever performances by Trungta Kae Kositchaimongkol as the Garlic, Crystal Nezgoda as a beautiful Carrot and Lauren Arrow as the Onion.  The blocking and movement of the actors was done with a great deal of wonderful pantomime.

The final production of the evening was "Wallis and Finnie in Cloud Cuckooland" written by Gaetana Caldwell-Smith and directed by Eileen Tull.  In this play, an upper class couple played by Steve North and Annette Oliveira lose their domestic help.  These two talented actors play off each other very well in their desperate plight.

A memorable outcome of the Fringe of Marin is to discover fresh voices, and to bring in the community to participate either as an actor or as a spectator.  

Program Two continues Friday, April 20 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m. with one final performance, Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m.

All performances take place at Meadowlands Assembly Hall, Dominican University, 50 Acacia (at Grand), San Rafael. For reservations and information, call 415-673-3131.

Flora Lynn Isaacson
Flora Lynn Van Appledorn and Harold Delinsky in Dirty Questions by George Dykstra

Thanks to the inspiration and leadership of Dr. Annette Lust, the Fringe of Marin Festival is now in its 29th season!  Program One opened Friday, April 13 with seven new plays and solos.  The festival begins by asking "Dirty Questions" and ends with "The Gatekeeper" guarding the cemetery of emotions.

Talented playwright, George Dykstra, wrote and directed a clever, funny and poignant comedy, Dirty Questions in which a very old prostitute, Flora Lynn Van Appledorn is interviewed by Harold Delinsky to make sure she is being treated fairly and she in turn introduces him to life.  Under Dykstra's brilliant direction, the two make a dynamic duo.  This play was followed by three solo monologues performed by Carol Sheldon and directed by Pamela Rand in which "Three Old Ladies Talk About Sex." The first old lady is British and has a very broad concept of sex. Sheldon has great animated facial expressions, a great sense of timing and includes some interaction with her audience. Her second monologue, Wanda Lee is a southern lady with a walker who reminisces about her sexual encounter with a hired hand. She is quite believable here and brings her story to life successfully. Her third monologue is French with a musical introduction by Piaf and here she uses her body quite well but has some difficulty with her French accent.  The final piece of the first half of the program was All Gone written and directed by Pamela Rand.  On opening night, Lisa was played by Paula Suyehiro.  From Sunday night on, Pamela Rand has replaced her.  Rand and Burl Lampert perform the roles of Lisa and Jerry in a farce about liposuction.  These two made beautiful music together with perfect timing and hilarious movement in this madcap farce.  

The second half of the program opened with Recipe for Life written and performed by Melinda E. Lopez accompanied by Dale R. Carlson on the sax and flute; Suzanne Birrell on the acoustic bass; Gifford Teeple on congas and David Moltzen on percussion.  Lopez was baking a cake for love, not hate and sang about passion and preached global peace and freedom. The fine musical quartet sometimes drowned out the dialog.  This play was followed by A Chance Encounter by David Hirzel and directed by Jim Colgan. In this play, John (C. Conrad Cady) and Jane (Crystal Nezgoda) run into each other at an airport.  They were former lovers after a 12 year separation. Both are talented actors and their dialog gets better and more believable as it goes on. After a passionate reunion, they end up quarreling.  

The sixth play of the evening was Noah, The Play written and directed by Charley Lerrigo and starring Lynda Sheridan as Noah's wife, Na'amah, Byron Lambie as Noah and Miyoko Schinner as God.  Sheridan is perfectly cast as Noah's shrewish wife and Lambie, a strong festival actor, has a challenging role of Noah who questions who and what is God.  Miyoko Schinner creates God as a beautiful woman who orders Noah to build an ark.  The grand finale of the evening is The Gatekeeper written by Patricia L. Morin and directed by Suzan Lorraine.  In this play, a lawyer, Camille (Terri Barker) meets with the gatekeeper, Ken Sollazzo at Cemetery of Emotions to change getting rid of anger to getting rid of mistrust. The play is very philosophical with great dialog and is also thought provoking about all of the human emotions that one experiences through life. Both ken Sollazzo and Terri Baker give strong performances.

A memorable outcome of the Fringe of Marin is to discover fresh voices and to bring in the community to participate either as an artists or spectator.

Program One continues Saturday, April 21 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 22 at 2 p.m. 

All performances take place at Meadowlands Assembly Hall, Dominican University, 50 Acacia (at Grand), San Rafael, CA. For information, call 415-673-3131.

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Benjamin Alan Knoll as Pseudolus, Simon Eves as Hysterium are surrounded by two courtesans in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Get ready to laugh in the Novato Theater Company's presentation of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was written by Bert Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.

This delightful musical tells the bawdy story of a slave named Pseudolus (Benjamin Alan Knoll) and his attempts to win his freedom by helping his young master (Zachary Isen) win the girl next door (Julianne Thompson). The plot displays many classic elements of farce including puns, the slamming of doors, cases of mistaken identity and satirical comments on social class.  The title derives from the line that Vaudeville comedians often used to begin a story, "A funny thing happened on the way to the theater."

The time is 200 years before the Christian era, a day in spring. The place is a street in Rome in front of the houses of Erronius (Michael Collins), Senex (Alan Weber) and Lycus (John Conway) in an adorable set designed by Gary Gonser.  

The entire cast is outstanding. Benjamin Alan Knoll opens the production as the thespian Prologus who bids us welcome to his temple--wherein they worship the gods of tragedy and comedy.  Tragedy will have to wait for it is Comedy Tonight.  At which time, Knoll becomes Pseudolus, slave to Hero, a pivotal character who has dreams of freedom.  Zachary Isen has just the right tone of innocent charm as Hero, the teenage son of Senex who has already found his true love, who is charmingly portrayed by Julianne Thompson as Philia, a Cretin virgin sold for 500 minae to Miles Gloriosus.  Miles has quite an entrance at the end of Act One.  Will Lamers gives a strong performance as this great warrior, slaughterer of thousands and oppressor of the meek.  NTC is blessed with a quartet of wonderful character actors with Alan Weber as Senex, an old man reluctantly dragged along to visit his mother in-law, Sandy Rubay as Domina, his aptly named wife, Michael Collins as Erronius, the befuddled neighbor of Senex who has been abroad in search of his long lost children and John Conway as Marcus Lycus a trader in the flesh of women.  Simon Eves has the clever comic role of Hysterium, the aptly named slave of Senex and Domina.  Lycus' courtesans, beautifully choreographed by Blanca Florido, include Melissa W. Bailey as Panacea, Shari Clover as one of the twins Geminae and Sarah Nelson as the other twin, Amy Dietz as Tintinabula, Sarah Garland as Vibrata and Linda Ward as Gymnasia.  

This production is beautifully directed by Kim Bromley and produced by Karen Thouvenin. The musical director is Monica Norcia with wonderful costumes designed by John Clancy and Janice Deneau.  The Novato Theater Company excels in their musical productions and this is a real winner--one of their best!

The play runs April 6-April 29 at Novato Theater Company Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Novato. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. For reservations, call 415-883-4498 or go online at www.novatotheatercompany.org.

Coming up next will be Noises Off by Michael Frayn, May 25-June 17, 2012.

Flora Lynn Isaacson

Craig Marker (Iago) and Aldo Billingslea (Othello) in William Shakespeare’s Othello, the Moor of Venice, now through April 22 at Marin Theatre Company.

Othello, the Moor of Venice, directed by Jasson Minadakis, is the first Shakespearean production ever staged by Marin Theatre Company.  Minadakis deserves a lot of credit for his cleverly crafted, electric and fresh version of this play.  

Othello, the Moor of Venice, traces the tragic downfall of Othello (Aldo Billingslea, a Moor who became general of the Venetian armies during the Italian Renaissaince).  He angers Iago (Craig Marker) one of his high ranking soldiers, when he passes him over for promotion in favor of the untested gentlemen soldier, Michael Cassio (Patrick Russell).  In his jealousy, Iago seeks an opportunity to ruin both men and finds it when they are all sent to Cyprus to defend the strategically located island against the Ottoman Empire.  

"Honest" Iago becomes the most unscrupulous villains of drama, but Craig Marker keeps him thoroughly human and plausible. Billingslea succeeds by emphasizing Othello's simplicity, his ignorance of city life and his humility.  He is a professional soldier, bred in the camp, unversed in Venetian subtleties.   He is touchingly humble when he thinks of how he differs from his wife Desdemona, in age, social background and race. 

The performances of Patrick Russell as Cassio and Nicholas Pelczar as Rodorigo, Desdemona's spurned suitor, are drawn with great care.  Mairin Lee as Desdemona is a high-spirited Venetian aristocrat. This gives her dignity which she carries very well.  Liz Sklar as Aemilia, wife of Iago and companion to Desdemona is a well thought out departure from the norm.  She is now seen as a soldier, colleague to her husband, and always subordinate by her gender.  She is subordinate to Desdemona by class as well.  Dan Hiatt is outstanding as Desdemona's bitter father, Brabantio.

In bringing this classic Shakespearean tragedy to life, Minadakis has made many strong and bold choices. For example, the exceptional idea to put two scenes together so we are better able to follow and feel the action, is exciting and thus helps us understand how all of the play's elements are intricately intertwined. Minadakis' simply staged production gives us a wonderful evocation of both Venice and Cyprus in J.B. Wilson's scenic design, supported by the superb lighting design of Kurt Landisman.  Minadakis discovered how Shakespeare's love and respect for both the actors and the language of his play made him such an amazing writer.  

With the strength and skills of his incredible cast, Minadakis was able to pull off his unique vision of Othello.  

Othello, the Moor of Venice continues at Marin Theatre Company through April 22, 2012. Performances are Tuesday, Thursday-Saturdays at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. and a Saturday matinee on April 21 at 2 p.m. and a Thursday matinee, April 12 at 1p.m.  Performances are held at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, CA. For tickets, check marintheatre.org or call 415-388-5208.  

Coming up next at Marin Theatre Company will be God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, and directed by Ryan Rilette, May 24-June 17, 2012.

Flora Lynn Isaacson