CAN CAN by Romulus Linney
PLAY by Samuel Beckett
THE BAY AT NICE by David Hare
Director: Stephan Golux
Set Design: Kade Mendelowitz
Lighting Design: Rhi Johnson
Costume Design: Bethany Marx
Stage Manager: Becca Bieber
|Cast (in Order of Appearance)||click on any image for a larger view.|
|Ex-GI Chioke Buckley
Housewife Bindu Gadamsetty
Young Woman Grace McCarthy
Country Woman Crysta Parks
Woman 1 Elizabeth Allen
THE BAY AT NICE
Valentina Hadassah R. Nelson
Director: Stephan Golux
Theatre Review published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner November 19, 2010
Theatre UAF’s unconventional plays create captivating evening
by Scott McCrea/ Theater Review
FAIRBANKS — Theatre UAF’s production of “Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice” boasts some of the finest, well-polished acting you’ll find in the Golden Heat City, rivaled only by the consistently great work churned out year after year by Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater.
If you don’t mind community theater that bypasses the mainstream and pushes the envelope a tad in terms of being thought provoking and different, you’re in for a real treat with the talented thespians who grace the stage of the Salisbury Theatre. “Can Can Play the Bay at Nice” is a trio of one-act plays; “Can Can” (written by Romulus Linney), “Play” (by Samuel Beckett) and “The Bay at Nice” (by David Hare). As director Stephen Golux told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the three plays all have very unconventional structures and are thematically similar.
“There was a way to make this a theatrical event that was about the nature of theater itself,” he said. “I think that the experience of people coming to watch it will not be unlike going to a short-film festival where you are able to get a small bite sample of things. It is more about form than content.”
The nature of theater itself. It’s a good way to describe the trifecta offering that is “Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice.” With the exception, and only in a minor way, of “Play,” none of the three acts offer any distraction, unique set design or special effects to enhance the theatrical production. We’re going back to the basics baby. Put the actors on stage and let them do their magic.
“Can Can” and “Play” comprise the first half of the show, and both plays rely upon exceptionally timed dialogue to make them successful. “Can Can” is a poignant and telling tale made up of overlapping soliloquies in which an ex-GI (Chioke Buckley) recalls his brief love affair with a French girl (Grace McCarthy), while a Nashville housewife (Bindu Gadamsetty) tells of the strange bond she feels for an older country woman (Crysta Parks). Though there is no happily every after ending, the journey that the four performers take us on in “Can Can” is quite lovely, and truly captures the heartfelt sadness that is love that cannot be had.
In the case of “Play” the problem isn’t necessarily love that cannot be had, it’s love that was had but probably shouldn’t have been had. Confused? Wait until the act begins and you are treated to three “talking heads” with ghastly painted faces, each one coming out of an urn. Just as you are trying to comprehend what it is you are seeing, the rapid fire dialogue starts, sometimes with the three performers (Elizabeth Allen, Jenna Weisz and Brian Lyke) all talking over each other. Eventually, a story unfolds, and then, just when you think it is over, it unfolds again. It’s a highly entertaining performance, marvelously executed by the three performers and with meticulously timed lighting transitions courtesy of lightboard operator Andrew Cassel.
“The Bay at Nice” rounds off the one-acts, and it is the longest and has the more conventional storyline of the three. Set in Leningrad in the late-1950s, “Nice” revolves around the relationship of an aging aesthete, Valentina Nrovka (Hadassah Nelson), with her daughter Sophia (Codi Burk). There’s a lot more mixed into it, including the authentication of a Matisse painting and, similar to the other two one acts, a great deal of angst over love.
Despite these various plots in “Nice” it all circles back to the character of Valentina. That’s due in large part to the powerful performance by Nelson, whose commanding stage presence dominates the production. Nelson has always been a top-rate performer, especially in the work that she has done in FST production’s such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Antigone.” She’s that rare local performer who doesn’t necessarily have to say much to convey a message; her physical mannerisms and facial expressions say so much. That’s certainly the case with her portrayal of the angry and bitter Valentina. Also impressive in “Nice” was Pedro Lizardi as Peter, the woeful and love struck lover of Sophia. Like Nelson, a lot of his performance came through in his physical mannerisms as he slouched depressingly around the stage in Eeyore fashion.
For the theater buff, “Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice” makes for an evening well spent. You won’t walk away from the shows with laughter in your heart or a song on your lips, but you will leave with a great deal of thought on your mind. Not a bad thing, if you ask me.
“Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice” runs through this weekend with performances at 8:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. For more information call 474-7751.
Scott McCrea is a local writer who has been reviewing local theater for more than a decade.
Theatre review published in the UAF Sun Star November 16, 2010
By Jeremia Schrock
Sun Star Reporter
Fri., Nov 12 saw Theatre UAF debut three one-act plays: “Can Can” by Romulus Linney, “Play” by Samuel Beckett and “The Bay at Nice” by David Hare. The event has been billed as “Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice.” All three are directed by Stephan Golux, Assistant Professor of Theatre at UAF.
“Can Can” is composed of two love stories: one between an ex-GI and a young French woman and the other between a newly-wedded housewife and an older country woman.
Grace McCarthy (Young Woman) shines and the chemistry between her and Chioke Buckley (Ex-GI) is palpable. One cannot help but smile when she leaps into Buckley’s arms, insisting he call her his “buddy.”
Crysta Parks (Country Woman) and Bindu Gadamsetty (Housewife) deliver their lines well enough that at the end you expect them to embrace passionately and kiss. While it would have made for a more believable (and memorable) finish, they do not.
To say that “Play” is about three heads in a box would be to do it a disservice. However, it would be true to say that the only things we ever do see of the actors (Elizabeth Allen, Jenna Weisz, and Brian Lyke) are their heads.
“Play” is an unhappy, if at times comedic, romp into adultery. The play is as much about the acting, as it is the stage. Allen, Weisz and Lyke are each contained in separate boxes that never move, with their heads being the only part of them we see. Because of this, the actors must make use of their voices and facial expressions alone. Not to mention the occasional bout of manic laughter from Weisz (Woman 2).
“Play” is very much an ensemble work, which makes judging one actor above another impossible. The cast of three performed admirably and it was pure fun to watch their heads in action.
However, the play is a Samuel Beckett piece, which means many viewers may find themselves confused. This is okay. The play begins at such a breakneck pace and is so visually engaging (despite being minimalist) that it’s easy to get distracted. Large portions of the play are repeated which means that by the end, a viewer will probably “get” what the play is about, which is, as Lyke states, “Adulterers take note: never admit!”
The Bay at Nice
While “The Bay at Nice” was the last of the three one-acts, it is also the best.
Sophia (Codi Burk) is a thirty-something Russian who has lived in the Soviet Union all her life. Her husband is a member of the Communist Party, she has two children and most of her material needs are met. The problem, she says, is she lacks freedom. The freedom to be herself.
To fix the problem, she decides to divorce her husband and move to a small suburb in Leningrad. She asks her mother Valentina (Hadassah Nelson) for help. While Valentina declares that Sophia’s actions are selfish, Sophia chastises her mother (a woman who has known freedom outside of the Soviet Union) for her lack of understanding.
One should see “Can Can Plays the Bay at Nice” for this act. Not only just for “The Bay at Nice” itself, but specifically for Nelson’s brilliant performance as Valentina. One will dislike her, love her, envy her and be thankful one is not her. In fact, Nelson may be the best actor UAF Theatre currently has.
Despite the play being Thomas Petrie’s (Assistant Curator) first performance, an innate talent will only continue to increase as Petrie matures. He was rigid at moments, but it was hard to discern if it was his own rigidity, or his characters. Burk and Pedro Lizardi (Peter) also gave solid and endearing performances.
Of note are the minimalist stage design and the costuming. Mark Twain said that “the clothes make the man,” and nowhere is that more true than in “The Bay at Nice.” Every outfit is perfectly suited to the characters and brings out their personalities beautifully.
November 23, 2010