Thursday, April 20, 2000
The latest incarnation of Setting the Stage: Theatre in America, currently playing at Monterey Peninsula College''s SRO Theatre, covers the time period from 1930-1955. This is the second installment in a series of stage productions that work in tandem with MPC''s Main Stage Season 2000, moving chronologically through 20th-century American theatre.
And while the larger venue will stage such works as the upcoming Oh, Kay! and Candide, the SRO will continue to play host to a more detailed exploration of the development of American theatre.
The brainchild of writer and director Mark Shilstone-Laurent, Setting the Stage continues to intrigue with scenes chosen from works by Clifford Odets, William Saroyan, Lillian Hellman, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller.
As with the first installment of Setting the Stage, the connecting narrative, provided by the Master Thespian (Peter Eberhardt), is consistently interesting, and pertinent to the material presented. Also, the selections excerpted from the nine plays are well-thought-out and are often unusual choices.
It seems that every time we are treated to a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, one can predict it will be the "Stella, Stella" scene. (Even my 8-year-old can do a passable Brando crying "Stella.") But in Setting the Stage, we get to see a touching and much quieter scene between Blanche and Mitch in which they share their loneliness and Blanche is as truthful as it is possible for her to be. We see Blanche exposed, and some of the more poignant aspects of Streetcar come to the fore.
The main trouble with Setting the Stage is that it seemed under-rehearsed. The cast of players consists of Jerry Gill, Jennifer Muniz, Michael Robbins, Mark Shilstone-Laurent, Sandy Sidener, Rosemary Thompson, Helaine Tregenza, and Peter Eberhardt as Master Thespian. The acting overall was uneven and lacked the energy and intensity that some of these works demand. This was especially noticeable in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, and Death of a Salesman.
Nevertheless, there were some very nice moments. Jennifer Muniz and Rosemary Thompson did a fine job in The Children''s Hour, and Shilstone-Laurent showed his range with a touching performance as a washed up actor in The Country Girl, followed by a brash boxing promoter in The Golden Boy. Sandy Sidener was consistently good throughout the evening. Virtually every scene in which she appeared benefited from her energy and candor. Both Sidener and Gill were believable, and enjoyable in The Time of Your Life.
The set (Amy Favour, Marlie Avant) was painted in warm shades of ochre that evoked the time period nicely. Costumes (Stephanie Wigham) were simple, appropriate and unobtrusive. Both the set and the costumes worked well in conjunction to create an environment that allowed for maximum flexibility of location.
Setting the Stage: Theatre in America 1930-1955 plays through 4/30, at the SRO/Studio Theatre, Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. See theater listings for days and times.
Riders to the Sea/Mac''s Place Drama. Friday, 8pm. Thurs.-Sat., 8pm, Sunday 2:30pm. The Staff Players Repertory Company winds up its "Loving Lifts Your Spirits" series with two dramatic one-act pieces. Riders to the Sea looks at the lives of seagoing Irish peasants, while Mac''s Place, written by SPRC Artistic Director Marcia Gambrell Hovick, examines the lives of three women during the last months of WWII. Indoor Forest Theater, Santa Rita at Mountain View, Carmel. $15/General; $10/Children; $10/Seniors. 624-1531. Through: 5/21.
The Elements Performance Art. Saturday, 1pm. Dance, poetry and art are combined in this collaborative multimedia event presented by students from the Alisal Center for the Fine Arts, and Seaside and Monterey High Dance Companies in honor of Earth Day and the environment. Performances also on 4/29, 5/5, and 5/11. Free. Oldemeyer Center, 986 Hilby Ave., Seaside. 659-4617.
"Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" Drama. Wednesday, 8pm. CSUMB''s Institute for Teledramatic Arts and Technology presents a multimedia account of the Rodney King beating and its aftermath written by award-winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith. CSUMB World Theater, 100 Campus Center, Bldg. 28, Seaside. $5. 582-4580. Through: 4/30.
A Long Drink of Silence Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. One-Woman Show. Jill Jackson takes the audience on a journey through her life, with humor and musical interludes. Written and performed by the actress. Carl Cherry Center for the Arts, Guadalupe at 4th, Carmel. $10/General; $7/Seniors. 622-9639. Through: 4/30.
After Dark Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. Three villains team up to rob our hero of his money in this melodrama set in 19th-century London. California''s First Theatre, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. $10/General; $5/Children; $8/Seniors. 375-4916. Through: 5/27.
Setting the Stage: Theatre in America
1930-1955 Drama. Thursdays, 7pm. Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm. Sundays, 2pm. Monterey Peninsula College''s SRO/Studio Theatre presents the second in a five-part series chronicling the highlights of 20th century American drama. See story, this page. No performance on Easter Sunday, April 23. SRO/Studio Theatre, Monterey Peninsula College, 980 Fremont St., Monterey. $7. 646-4213. Through: 4/30.
On The Air Friday and Saturday, 8:30pm; Sunday, 8pm. Musical Revue. The Wharf Theater revives its musical revue of old-time radio favorites, featuring the songs of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and more. Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater, Fisherman''s Wharf, Monterey. $15/General; $10/Children. 649-2332/372-1373. Through: 4/21.