Friday, June 27, 2008

'Tis Pity She's a Whore

This is the Video Promo for the show at A.C.T.

A.C.T. Triumphs with Ford’s Whore

About ten years ago I came across a play called "'Tis Pity She's a Whore" by John Ford in an obscure book of non-Shakespearian classical monologues for men . The title itself is shocking. The monologue from the play has a young man, Giovanni, trying to convince a priest to condone his desire to sleep with his own sister, Annabella. Intrigued, I found the play at the library and read it. I was mesmerized. This play was like nothing I had ever read. I couldn't believe that it was written just eleven years after the death of Shakespeare. It was so like Shakespeare in form, but so different in spirit. In most of Shakespeare's plays order usually wins the day and right usually triumphs over wrong. But in this play with its intricately woven, exquisite story line, no one is who they seem to be and there is no justice. We are left with a chaotic world, scoffed at, and then the curtain falls.

I must take my hat off to A.C.T's Artistic Director, Carey Perloff, for taking on this work. The title, the story (revolving mostly around incest, murder and deception), and it's complete obscurity would normally make those who run theatre companies starved for audience, run away quicker than you can say "Barak Obama for President". But Ms. Perloff decided to take the risk. It seems that the plays diva, the versatile and brilliant, Rene Augesen, wanted Perloff to produce this show after they became aware of it through Tom Stoppard's use of it as a device in his play, "The Real Thing". Perloff promised Augesen that they would and thankfully she kept her promise.

My personal experience with the play prior to this had been the strange reactions I would get whenever I did the Giovanni monologue at auditions. Here's how it usually went: I would announce that I would be doing a piece from "''Tis Pitty She's a Whore". That would immediately raise eyebrows across the table. No one had heard of the play, and the title itself just is so non-P.C. Then I would begin, and as soon as the people in the room realized that I was asking a priest to give me permission to schtupp my sister, I'd lose them. When I had finally finished, came the inevitable questions. "He really wants to sleep with his sister? Where did you find that piece?!!" Needless to say, I stopped doing the monologue. It just turned people off, and it seemed utterly preposterous. Maybe now that A.C.T. has dusted off this work of complete genius, I'll give it another shot.

The production itself is mesmerizing. The Scenic Designer, Walt Spangler, created something magnificent here. There are stare cases with balconies on either side. In the center on a platform, upstage, sits a woman named Bonfire Madian Shive. She is a cellist. She is a singer. She is a composer. And she is out of this world! I'm telling you, if you went only to hear her play her cello and sing during this show it would be worth it. In front of her are what resemble organ pipes and they seem to be alive. They move up and down throughout the show, seeming to pulse with the life force flowing through the actors themselves. There are candles that suddenly appear and disappear like ghosts throughout the play; the kind of candles Catholics often light in lieu of going to confession in order to assuage guilt. It's a brilliant effect.

The entire cast is splendid. I really felt that they were proud of this production; it just had that kind of energy. You could sense that they realized that they had created something totally unique and remarkable. Anthony Fusco, who plays Vasques really impressed me. Like Iago in Othello, he is not at all who he seems to be, and his ability to manipulate others for what he perceives to be a higher virtue, left a lasting impression on me for days. Fusco played it to understated perfection.

Be warned the play is bloody, even though A.C.T. has toned the gore down from the way Ford describes it in the original text.

But do yourself a huge favor and go see this play. Shakespeare was not the only genius of this time to write plays in the English language. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Call (415) 749-2ACT
Phone Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 12 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Sunday & Monday 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
6 p.m. on nonperformance nights

Tickets Online

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Pear Avenue Theatre

The Pear Avenue Theatre

Cast of Homeland Prayer
The Pear is producing a world premiere of a fantastic award winning play called Homeland Prayer by Jeff Carter. I know it's a good play because I've read it a few times. It's about a family dealing with the return home of a wounded soldier. Timely, and poignant, Homeland Prayer glimpses into the hidden tragedy of war.

Running at The Pear from June 27 to July 13.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Foothill Adds it All Up

Go check out Foothill College's "The Adding Machine" for your Brechtian fix. T0m Gough, the director and head of the conservatory, has done a fantastic job mounting this strange and over the top play. Many excellent performances and a chance to see a style of acting that isn't done much.


"The Adding Machine" Presented by Foothill Theatre Arts Department
May 30, 2008 - June 15, 2008

The Foothill College Theatre Arts Department presents The Adding Machine, a comic, expressionistic masterpiece written by Elmer Rice, now through June 15 in the new Lohman Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills. Remaining evening performances are June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 at 8 p.m. Matinees are June 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.

Directed by Foothill Theatre Arts Instructor Tom Gough, the play follows the exploits of Mr. Zero, a hard-working, psuedo-Everyman, as he toils through his rather inconsequential existence, a nameless human cog in a vast business engine. After years of dedication to his job, he finds himself out on his ear-replaced by a machine. Mr. Zero does not take this news lightly, and his choices soon send him on a path through various stages of the afterlife to discover the true nature of his menial existence.

"The foreshadowing nature of Elmer Rice's 1923 play is, in many respects, rather eerie," Gough said. "The Adding Machine directly addresses the question of advancing technology at what cost to personal humanity. While our society is becoming more connected to each other at a staggering rate, it begs the questions what is the quality of this interfacing and is our connectivity detached and ultimately de-humanizing? This production emphasizes the relationship between man and machine."

Performers with featured roles include Peggy Lynch of Atherton; Leslie Breton of Los Gatos; Tim Goble of Mountain View; Alex Hero of Palo Alto; Sarah Griner of Redwood City; Jake Van Tuyl of San Jose; Polina Krasnova of San Mateo; Daniel Mitchell of South San Francisco; and Suzie Poulson of Sunnyvale. Multiple ensemble roles are played Beth Boulay and Victoria Spencer of Campbell; Doug Beckett of Cupertino; Derrick Brooks and Ernesto Garcia of East Palo Alto; Ross Buran of Hillsborough; Ric Ferras of Los Altos; Jerome Sephers of Menlo Park; Arturo Dirzo of Mountain View; Martin Gutfeldt of Palo Alto; Victoria Ippolito, Georgina Kartsonis, Caitlin Lorenc, Juliana Schoedinger and Shannon Tierney of San Jose; Jezebel Barraza and Angel Ordaz of Santa Clara; Brian Van Winkle of South San Francisco; Linda Christensen, Brittany Pirucki and Marvina Reasons of Sunnyvale. The show includes scenic design by Bruce McLeod, costume design by Julie Engelbrecht, lighting design by Andrew Custer and sound design by Chris Graham.

Tickets are $16, general admission; $12, students and seniors; $8, Foothill students with OwlCard. For best seating choice flexibility and immediate purchase confirmation, buy tickets online at For group discount rates and to order tickets by phone, call (650) 949-7360.

Parking Lot 8 provides stair and no-stair access to the theatre. Visitors must purchase the required parking permit for $2. Foothill College is located off I-280 on El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. For more information, access or call (650) 949-7360.
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