Blog Archives

A New Play plays the provocation card

This weekend’s entertainment/arts culture vulture journeys led me to take in two stories that both explored the art and challenges of what is known and unknown in any given situation, and how individuals work around those issues – or not – and maintain a sense of awareness in their possible confusion.

I’ll save the movie for a separate post; here is a focus on the play:

Meadow Brook Theatre in Rochester, MI, is currently offering (just) the third professional production of Luce, a new play by JC Lee that premiered at NYC’s Lincoln Center last year. I learned that Lee had been a writer in residence for a year at my California hometown theatre, Marin Theatre Company.

The play is very much of the moment, with references to Facebook, mobile technology, teen obsession with texting, high school social dynamics and more. But the broad portrayal seen at Meadow Brook, while commendable, did not seem to fit with the ethos of emphasizing the smaller moments that the playwright was clearly going for.

Experienced and versatile local actress Serab Kamoo carries the show as Amy, Luce’s adoptive mother who wants nothing more than the best for her son. The rest of the cast gives strong effort to their roles, but I felt that only Kamoo truly convinced in her part. As Luce himself, Leroy S. Graham fares best with a monologue partway through the show, which is the only chance that the character has to truly speak for himself.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the show would have played differently on a smaller stage and with a more unified sense of direction. The script never spells our Luce’s specific intentions when his actions are called into question, but it never allows the character to get to the heart of the matter, either. Meadow Brook’s stage is well used in the design, with a clever conceit of a downstage area doubling as two locations thanks to some lighting maneuvering, but some of the intimacy of the drama is also lost in the wide space.

The play is performed without intermission and suffers from a sense of anticlimax. Several scenes close to the end could easily be the end, and when the last scene comes around, the resolution feels less satisfying than if the story had closed on a more ambiguous note. Similarly, since Luce’s true intentions are never made clear after his actions are called into question, a note of uncertainty might have driven the plot home in a deeper and more direct way.

All this isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the play. I am always grateful when a theatre presents a new piece, and especially if it is something that stimulates a feeling of engagement and discussion.

A “cruel joke” on a noted Bay Area acting veteran

For my 200th post it feels appropriate to reach back to the Bay Area, where this blog began.

Last night, the American Conservatory Theater hosted a benefit for local actress Joan Mankin, who recently received a “cruel joke” dual diagnosis of frontal temporal dementia and ALS. An unusually personal and detailed San Francisco Chronicle article describes her situation, and it’s referenced in a similar San Francisco Examiner article.

I saw Mankin perform onstage at least twice, but feel like I saw her more times than that, as she has maintained an active and committed profile in the local theatre community. She also gained notice over many years for her clowning work, which included teaching at the SF Clown Conservatory and other area schools.

Needless to say, it is unfortunate that someone of Mankin’s stature and versatility has been slapped with these debilitating challenges. I’m sure that the community has rallied to support her.

Two Ann(e)s stay onstage

I keep tabs on news and events in my former homeland of Marin County, California (never far from my heart though that’s for another post) and was pleased to see two theatre friends with the same name (sort of) spotlighted in the local news during August.

On August 7th, Anne Darragh was interviewed about her theatre work, which most notably includes originating a role in Angels in America, in the Marin Independent Journal as advance publicity for Marin Theatre Company’s current production of Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire.

Later on August 17th, Ann Brebner’s 90th birthday celebration received coverage also in the Marin Independent Journal. The party sounded like a had to be there event held in the storied surroundings of Skywalker Ranch – I certainly would have liked to be there. But no transporter beams yet.