An experimental theater production is just that. Experimental. And experiments can fail. The odds stacked against the show Mom and I saw tonight were long and uncertain.
It was based on an unfinished book by a local writer, adapted for the stage by the Theatre Arts Department of Santa Rosa Junior College. This was the first performance, with all the uncertainty of the opening night of a new work. And it's being presented not as a play but as a dramatic reading, word for word from the narrative (including he-saids and she-saids) but acted out by the students in the drama program.
And yet, despite all obstacles, it was an amazing night of theater. Once the audience adapted to the rhythms of actors performing as they described their own actions, we surrendered to the magic. Any form of storytelling that draws you in that well is authentic art. When the story it tells is the compelling tale of an Indian woman of wit, courage and independence, you have "Farewell, Angelina," based on the writing of Sonoma County's own Greg Sarris.
We both loved it. Sarris's characters and their story sing with humanity, and the adaptation does it full justice. It's infused with local history and references, from Petaluma dairy farms to Rosenberg's department store in Santa Rosa to the Pomo and Miwok peoples of the North Coast, whose legends are portrayed. The Native American perspective is evident in the use of natural elements like trees and rivers as supporting characters.
The show has humor and sadness, sex and death. What more could you ask for? I can't wait to read the full work when it's published next year.
The author himself was in the audience, and he was asked to come onstage and say a few words afterward. Like the rest of us, he was blown away by the performance, although his expectations were obviously quite different. What a thrill it must be to see your words come to life so eloquently.