On Stage

On Stage


Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical is given an energetic, youthful interpretation by the theater department at Moorpark College in a straightforward, intimate production showcasing the promise of a diverse cast of young performers.

Chris Thume and Thomas Hollow alternate performances as Bobby, the about-to-be 35-year-old bachelor protagonist of the show, as he is celebrated and berated by his friends and their partners at his birthday gathering. At Saturday evening’s performance last weekend, it was Thomas Hollow’s Bobby who was a bright, optimistic Manhattanite, defiant in the face of his friends’ attempts to find him a proper wife. Hollow’s strong presence and notable charisma made it easy to understand why five couples and three girlfriends orbit him constantly, though at times he seemed more the casual observer of events than a key participant.

Gathered to celebrate his 35th birthday, Bobby’s friends and their relationships are revealed through a series of vignettes. There’s Harry (a likable, silky-voiced Adrews Purwadi) and Sarah (Kate Roach in the evening’s best acting performance), who taunt and cajole each other in a love-hate-love duet ending in sparring, both verbal and physical. Bobby visits with Dave (a dapper Evan Smith) and Jenny (Mary Mars) as they expand their horizons and show Bobby a looser side. Peter (Johan Karlsson as a likable open-minded man of the 1970s) and Susan (Hillary Lefkowitz) share news with Robert that sends him reeling, while longtime partners Paul (a serviceable Jeremy Ryan on nights that Hollow performs as Bobby) and Amy (Nichole Whitter and Katarina Ritter in alternating performances) contemplate finally tying the knot. Larry (a sweet Joenhel Vince) and Joanne (a brazen Shandar Robinson) serve as the younger couples’ foils, providing Bobby a perspective from the other side of failed relationships.

As Bobby tries to balance his friends’ demands, he dabbles also with three different possible mates. April (cheerily and believably brought to life by Sophia Paden) is the stereotypical flight attendant with long legs and a short intellect, Kathy (Allie Yanetti in full flower-power mode) is the on-again off-again woman who may be the one who got away, and Marta (a feisty and vivacious Maia DeVillers) is Bobby’s New York alter ego, relishing the diversity of life in New York even as Bobby fights to contain it.

Company is a complex, mature musical dealing with the realities of marriage and the nuances of adult relationships. Here, the sophistication of the score and the vocal demands, coupled with the subtlety of acting required, sometimes prove too much for this cast to handle. The night’s music was listenable, but at times performers were vocally stressed and overmatched. The staging, sparse and mostly effective, occasionally resulted in confusing gaps in an already nonlinear narrative. And as the night ends, we are left feeling these performers may not yet fully understand the material they’ve just presented, along with the wistful knowledge that they will,  but hopefully not too soon.

Company, through Aug. 3 at Moorpark College Performing Arts Center, Moorpark. For more information, call 378-1485.


On Stage

On Stage


Considering today’s Generation Text culture, it must be a tricky thing to know the play you’re about to stage is more than 400 years old.

Yet from the moment the fool Feste (Michael Faulkner) and his acoustic guitar stroll into the evening air and onto the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival’s outdoor stage, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s story is accessible and technically beautiful.

Director Kevin Kern wisely places Twelfth Night in the era of the roaring ’20s and gathers a first-rate equity ensemble for the delivery at CLU’s 18th annual Shakespeare Festival. The script retains its cleverly bawdy language and, through sharp acting and stage direction, its best wit, charm and humor are as clear as ever.

Separated during an accident at sea, and each presuming the other dead, twins Sebastian (Jesse James Thomas) and his sister Viola (Angela Gulner) walk in similar circles, wear the same outfit and serve the same Duke (Ross Hellwig). Gulner’s Viola is a particularly astounding performance in a cast that shines with excellence; the bulk of the story is hers, as she commits to working as a eunuch (in this adaptation, a bellboy) while avoiding the advances of both the Duke and his love, Olivia (Elyse Mirto), who presumes Viola to be a man.

If only Olivia had seen how Malvolio (played flawlessly by Jerry Lloyd) had wanted her, a whole lot of trouble could’ve been avoided. Malvolio, defending the peace of Olivia’s home, tears into Feste and his drunken cohorts. They plot their revenge by penning a letter in Olivia’s writing, making Malvolio think his ladylove has finally looked his way. The only thing harder to watch than his glaring lemon-yellow outfit is his ensuing demise, now thought mad and confined to live in a barrel, a prisoner of his own conceit, and made a fool of by none other than Feste the fool.

The action on the Kingsmen’s stage is picked up by a clear triangular device, a live stage mic specially designed by Gary Raymond. The costumes are beautiful, particularly in a scene where Sebastian is to marry Olivia — Howard Schmitt’s designs and choices achieve a colorful synchronicity.

The Kingsmen stage is a natural outdoor beauty, enhanced by birds in surrounding trees calling to the setting sun, and the croaking of frogs in a nearby creek. Sure, Shakespeare’s script is centuries old, but when a slice of summer moon lifts into the sky off the corner of the stage and Viola and Sebastian reunite, both the story and Kevin Kern’s production become timeless.

Twelfth Night through Aug. 3 at Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival, Kingsmen Park, 100 Memorial Parkway, Thousand Oaks. For more information and tickets, call 493-3014 or visit www.kingsmenshakespeare.org.





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