The notes I made at intermission refer to the strong performances by all the actors in what amounted to an ensemble piece: each of them came onstage, thoroughly created their characters and laid out their part in the framework for the story. Especially noteworthy during the first two scenes: Laurie Wall’s “Birdie Hubbard” barely controlled her developing mental breakdown, and Bethany Friedel’s expertly nuanced teenaged “Zan Giddens” brought a few laughs from those in the audience who knew adolescents well. Kris Carey’s “Oscar Hubbard” was brimming with the suppressed rage of a dominated younger brother to John Szabo’s cool, macchiavellian “Ben Hubbard” as they negotiated a seamy business deal with John Tranchitell’s “Mr. Marshall.” All this in the first two acts of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes.
The Director’s Notes comment that Ms. Hellman “had not meant for audiences to think of her characters as villains to whom they had no connection. but to recognize some part of themselves in the money-dominated Hubbards.” In this she was disappointed. In me I suppose. Nothing of me in there. I did however recognize, in Ben, a friend. But I digress. . . .
In the final two acts after intermission, The Little Foxes really, I mean really caught fire. The impressive work of the first half was just setting the stage for some really powerful performances by everyone in the cast remaining onstage. One by one each came to the fore, expressing the passion, the despair and resignation, the resilience developed when greed and lust for money betray ordinary familial affection and self-respect. Collin Wenzel’s Leo finally realizes he’s been “had” by his own father and uncle. Joy Eaton’s “Regina Giddens,” facing the audience, finally reveals the origin of her cold calculating greed. There is tragedy enough for everyone here. Its source is the love of money.
I had a word with director Jim Sousa after the show. He let his actors run with their parts. Wise man. His choice of shades of gray for the set, with bursts of color here and there, served to emphasize the bleakness of the script, and the lives of the characters.
A fine production. I can’t say enough.
Through May 19, 2013
Theatre website: Pacifica Spindrift Players
Box Office: 650-359-8002
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. . . . We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”
—Joan Didion, from The White Album—
This play is fiction, but it speaks the truth of the City of Leningrad in the Soviet Union during the dreadful winter of 1941-2. It is the 200th day of the 872-day siege of that city by Nazi Germany. There are no utilities, there is no water in the pipes. There is no heat.
Seventeen warehouses of food supplies have been bombed and destroyed. The little that remains is distributed by ration card at the pitiful rate of 125 grams a day. The people are starving.
One sound heard throughout the city is the rasp of sled-runners in the snow, as the bodies of the dead, wrapped in sheets, are brought to the cemeteries where they accumulate outside the gates, unburied.
Young Josef is a stand-in for the 2,000 who died in Leningrad on this the 200th day, for the 60,000 who died in February of 1942, for the 641,000 citizens who died during the two-and-one-half-year siege.
The Fringe is upon us again. We have lost our guiding light, Annette Lust, but the long-running series of one-act theater productions she created and nurtured through 31 seasons lives on, still suffused with her energy, and now her memory. Opening night April 19, with its mixture of low comedy, witty insight, and real-life drama, is a powerful testament to that memory.
The evening opens with “Mr. Wonderful” (long-time Fringer Harold Delinsky) and MC/writer/director George Dykstra exchanging vaudevillian one-line groaners between sets of 60s popular dance (think “the Swim”) by a trio of local high-school students. Danielle Littman has written a touching, insightful ode to the “Last Letter” that will ever be carried by our dwindling USPS, and actress Hilda Roe delivers. Maureen Coyne and Al Badger return to the Fringe with their trademark well-tuned performances, this as a married couple who never quite got what they wanted in Norma Anapol’s “Rose Levy Learns at Last.”
After the Intermission, the Romantic poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Molly McCarthy) comes to life, choosing “Not Death, but Love” (written and directed by Roberta Palumbo) and leaving the father who never quite knew her for the poet now taking her away to new and unknown adventures. “The Dead Celebrity Line” (by Gaetana Caldwell Smith) looks into the inner workings of a lingerie store, and the lives of the young ladies in retail. Amazing performances by Hilda Roe and Flora Lynn Isaacson reach deep into the real tragedy that war brings to those who have no part in it in David Hirzel’s “The Two Hundredth Day” (very well directed by Steve North). The evening comes to a well-tuned close with a witty take on the complicated ritual of birthday-gift choices in modern marriage.
As always, the Fringe of Marin continues to surprise and delight. Program Two opens tonight. See the Fringe website for performance times and dates for both programs.
All shows at Meadowlands Hall, Dominican University in San Rafael.
Five performances only of each program, weekends.
Last show May 5 matinee.
Box Office 415-673-3131
Website and online program: www.fringeofmarin.com
The 31st season of the Fringe of Marin will be opening Friday April 19. The world premiere of my play “The Two Hundredth Day” will be among the offerings in Program One, but that’s not the only reason to go. The plays and monologues in the Fringe are always full of surprises, plenty of laughs, surprising turns of events, and some startling drama all presented in short-format: twenty minutes of less.
During the first thirty seasons of the Fringe, artistic director Annette Lust encouraged beginning playwrights, actors, directors and production assistants to try their hands, and seasoned hands a place to practice it. In the four years I have been attending, I have been continually astounded at the range and quality of Fringe productions. We were saddened by the news that she passed away after a brief illness in February of this year. Annette will be greatly missed. This 31st season, and future seasons of the Fringe of Marin, will continue as a living testimonial to her enduring devotion to the theatre.
My play “The Two Hundredth Day” looks at one tragic, yet ultimately hopeful moment in Leningrad during the devastating 900 day siege of that city by Nazi Germany during World War II. Nearly a million people died during that siege, of cold and starvation. The story of the survivors is one of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity, and my play is an homage to that spirit.
“But this occasional timidity is characteristic of almost all herding creatures. Though banding together in tens of thousands, the lion-maned buffaloes of the West have fled before a solitary horseman.
“Witness, too, all human beings, how when herded together in the sheepfold of a theatre’s pit, they will, at the slightest alarm of fire, rush helter-skelter for the outlet, crowding, trampling, jamming, and remorselessly dashing each other to death.
“Best, therefore, withhold any judgment at the strangely gallied whales before us, for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”
From Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” italics by David Hirzel
Tonight I am reading the official magazine of my home state “Wonderful West Virginia” . One of the articles in it has to do with the factories that produced, or once produced, marbles. Young people of today will wonder what a “marble” is. Those of my generation will fondly recall it.
I was of course as captivated as any young male (the pursuit of marbles as I recall was a largely male occupation) of my generation by the recent piece on marbles appearing in “Wonderful West Virginia.” I note the mention of Master Glass in Bridgeport near the Benedum Center until 1947, but must protest.
I called Bridgeport home 1964-1970, and I walked by “The World’s Largest Glass Marble Factory” (as claimed on highway signs at the time) on my way to BJHS (Bridgeport Junior High School, to those of us who attended in ’62-3). Piles of cullet glass attested to its operational status. It was only after working at Continental Can Corp. in Clarksburg after my graduation from BHS 1968 that I even knew the meaning of the word “cullet.”
From my archives of a few years earlier, I recall the pink-and-white striped marble bag sewn by my mother, filled with cats-eyes and aggies and the deadly, all-important steelies. It was never full to overflowing, I was not a master of the art. But I venture to say that playing marbles with our friends was a thousand times more “social” than any social medium today.