Cinghiale! by Emilie Miller
- Speaking in Tongues by James Bovell
- Strange Love by Perry Alley Puppet
- review by Robert Hurwitt in the SF Chronicle
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- The wild boar is only a metaphor, but the full frontal puppet nudity
is for real. The suspect may have committed a murder that may not have
happened. Stories get fractured to intriguing and frustrating degrees.
- The annual January theater explosion is upon us, that secondary season
opener when companies large and small begin their post-holidays shows.
Some three dozen productions have opened in the Bay Area this month. As
usual, the three primary stages of the Tenderloin's Exit Theatre are filled
with offerings, making it a good place to start taking stock of the new
year's small theaters so far.
- It's a mixed bag of less and more provocative explorations of the demons
that haunt some women's psyches. The theme crops up in literal form in
the puppetry of "Strange Love,'' gets a more allusive if murkier treatment
in Emilie Miller's "Cinghiale!" and is most suggestively and
disturbingly intertwined with men's inner demons in Andrew Bovell's "Speaking
- "Strange Love" is the most disappointing of the three and
"Cinghiale!" the most frustrating. "Strange Love,"
on the Exit's main stage, is a trio of playlets by the Perry Alley Puppet
Theatre of New Hampshire, essentially singer-dancer puppeteers Andrew and
Bonnie Periale accompanied by pianist- composer Larry Siegel. The work
is sweet, sincere and unexceptional, cloyingly precious in a dance-and-puppetry
"The Tree of Life" girl's coming-of-age fable (with boring demons)
and heavily didactic in the service of multicultural acceptance in "Jack
- "Jack & Yettl" at least has the most beguiling puppetry
in its clog- dancing stick figures. The most potentially inventive piece,
"Share & Share Alike" -- about a woman's secret affair with
her lover's conjoined twin -- features the least creative puppetry and
a concept still awaiting development.
- The demon in Miller's solo piece is also explicit. It's the cinghiale
(Italian for "wild boar," as she tells us often) of her title.
It's hard to know what Miller wants us to make of it, though, in part because
the connections in her multicharacter solo are so elusively allusive, but
more because she and director Michael Lederman hadn't figured out how to
cope with the Exit Stage Left's live acoustics by opening night, and much
of the text got lost in echoes.
- Miller is an appealing and generous performer, who moves beautifully
(choreography by Nicola Bosco) and embodies her characters with varying
degrees of success, least convincingly when relying on a trite upper-class
accent. The characters -- all women who hunt in some sense and a boar-
friendly girl with debilitating allergies -- and the theme may be less
generic than Miller has managed to make clear so far.
- The ambiguity in Bovell's "Speaking in Tongues" grows more
compelling in the course of his curiously fractured narrative. His 2001
drama, in a West Coast premiere by the Actor's Collective at Exit on Taylor,
is particularly intriguing for anyone who's seen the fascinating Australian
film "Lantana," which Bovell and director Ray Lawrence developed
from this script a year later. "Tongues" is "Lantana"
in embryonic form.
- Director Jon Drawbaugh and his cast don't do the material full justice,
but they make a strong effort. Four actors play nine roles in Bovell's
intercut fragments of an ever more intricately intertwined tale of four
couples disintegrating in a web of infidelities, miscommunication, therapy
and possible murder.
- The performances aren't as disturbingly nuanced as those of Barbara
Hershey, Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush et al in the film, but Karen Finch
gains magnetic force as the disappeared therapist, Gabrielle Fisher does
nice work as a pair of her rivals, Daryl Lozupone is affecting as her conflicted
husband and Kevin Rolston is strong as a repressed cop and a pathetic suspect.
- For anyone who's seen the movie, it's intriguing to look at the ways
in which Bovell expanded upon these characters and situations. But "Tongues"
stands its own unsettling ground. And Drawbaugh's didgeridoo-infused staging,
framed in Australian outback videos and the bark paintings of Cynthia Poulos'
set, makes a case for it that transcends a few strained Aussie accents
and underdeveloped moments.
- Unburied treasures: One-night stands get some new respect with two
new programs at the Marsh and the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Starting in February, the Marsh unveils a Wednesday San Francisco Treasure
Series -- one-nighters by local gems such as Charlie Varon (Feb. 11), Marga
Gomez (workshopping her "Los Big Names," Feb. 25), the Joe Goode
Performance Group (April 7), with Jeff Greenwald, Josh Kornbluth, Pamela
Z and others yet to come.
- In a similar vein, the JCC's Eugene & Elinor Friend Center's inaugural
season opens its Edgewise solo series with Jeff Raz's "The Whole Megillah"
March 4, followed by Varon in an evening of monologues (April 1) and Sara
Felder's "June Bride" (May 13).
- Life upon the wicked stage: Actors' Equity's annual report is out and
posted on its Web site (www.actorsequity.org). The good news? Membership
total earnings reached an all-time high of $264.5 million. The sobering
reality: The percentage of members working in any given week remains steady,
as it has for years, at about 15 percent. The nationwide average annual
salary for a professional actor last year was $14,995.
- It could be worse. Consider Italy, where Nobel Prize-winner Dario Fo
-- whose hit "The Two-Headed Anomaly" satirizes Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing government for corruption and curtailing
civil liberties -- is being sued by a member of Berlusconi's party for
a million euros for defamation and "persecution." Probably couldn't
happen here. It's hard to imagine a member of this administration taking
that much interest in the theater.
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