bunt sign

Thursday, August 9, 2001

Santa Rosa Junior College's intimate Newman Auditorium was the setting for the final night of the Summer Repertory Theatre season tonight, as Mom and I went to see a play that we knew so little of that we had almost no expectations. We believed it would be good, because we knew who the director and some of the actors were, but that's about it.

The play was On the Verge, and it's a little hard to describe. It's about three women travelers, adventurers journeying through exotic places, who suddenly find themselves traveling through time as well. They start out in 1888 and end up in 1955.

Okay, maybe that wasn't so hard to describe. But it's a real trip to see these actors portraying characters in that kind of situation. Lots of ideas and concepts and cultural references tumble out and land on top of each other, until the audience is as unsure of the characters about where and when they are.

In the beginning the three are traveling in Terra Incognita, over mountains and through jungles, encountering a cannibal and a yeti. These are prim ladies very much of their era, and they slowly realize that they are traveling not only through unknown lands, but also through history. They begin by arguing over whether Cleveland or Garfield is president, and later puzzle over Nixon and Ike.

Change comes faster and faster as the play progresses, until by the end the audience is hit with such a barrage of concepts that we, as well as the characters, are left gasping.

It's a play of antic conceits and broad farce, but it's also a play of words and ideas (and grammar and diction). Some of these words come too quickly for the audience to keep up with them, but the threads are held together in a series of brief monologues by the three principals. In two and a half hours, there was not a single moment of letdown in the performance I saw tonight. It was lively and funny throughout.

And interesting, from the set design to the handling of the props. A single set, featuring stylized icons such as oversized dice, is used for all the different places and times. Two "sherpas" act as a sort of chorus, introducing each scene by title, moving props around as necessary, and transforming themselves into such things as jungle vegetation, snow and a river (using a billowing bit of blue cloth).

The concept of time, and whether the future is there to be embraced or merely accepted, is the central idea of the play. The characters discuss the notion that the future is good because it's exciting and new, or bad because it's loud and incomprehensible.

In the end, the differences in the three women themselves determine how they will face finding themselves in a world so far from where they started. Each in her unique manner finds a way to make the future her own. Each of them has something inside herself that allows her to fulfill a destiny that's rich and meaningful in its own special way. If there's a lesson here, it's that we can face the unknown time or place and make it our own, even if we sometimes feel we don't belong.

my garden

According to Renee, this is an agapanthus (African lily). Thanks, Renee.

This was a highly entertaining way to end the summer theater season. Of the six plays produced by SRT this year, five were exceptional. I go to these shows with high expectations, and I'm rarely disappointed.

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Latest recommendation:

Tamar, Visions and Revisions, August 7, At the Mike

Other recent recommendations can be found on the links page.
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