WIll Geer Theatre

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Conflicts and Confusion: “Cherry Docs” at Theatricum

Published September 8, 2012 by mickala

Hatred, superiority, fear, confusion, desperation and a longing to hold onto our ancestry; all of these and more, are topics approached by David Gow’s two-man play Cherry Docs. Set in present day Canada, Danny is a Jewish Attorney assigned to a case that no one else wanted. Mike is that case; a Neo-Natzi who kicked a man to death with his steel-toed Cherry Doc Martins. The tension is almost immediate as the conflicts of interests and beliefs ignite up the night at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum. The two men try to get past their hatred and work together for the sake of the trial.

            This is a story that provides a lot of insight into the world and how people operate around one another. Many people share many different views and they can often be insulting or even harmful to those around them. Gow’s play addresses those issues and more by bringing together two people who have completely different moral values and make them work together as a team. The ignorance and hatred addressed throughout the night can resonate with any audience member. A powerful moment comes when Danny recalls a drive home where he is confronted by a group of kids of African descent. They are dressed in all black, metal and leather. They want to wash his car and though he does not know why, this infuriates him. In a flash of realization he claims, “I hate them. No… I’m afraid of them”. This one line, delivered with eery emotion, summarizes much of the feelings in America and throughout the world. As a race, we often hate what we do not and cannot understand. Being different scares us and therefore we fight against it.

Danny and Mike never truly become friends, but their differences do subside. Danny realizes how Mike can hate the way he does and Mike realizes that someone from the very culture he despises helped him even though he did not have to. It is a strong play and one that will have you thinking long after it has ended.

The presentation of this powerful piece is good. The acting is stellar, though Andrew Walker is listed to play Mike, in the performance I attended Mark Cecil played him. Cecil was passionate, and boiled over with hatred, confusion and remorse. Alan Blumenfeld’s Danny struggled throughout the play with the idea of helping someone who wished to “annihilate” him. There were lighting issues at the opening of the play, but they were quickly fixed, and Cecil did not miss a beat of his monologue even though he was in complete darkness for most of it. Overall this is a play worth seeing and since it is at one my favorite venues it is definitely worth a trip to Topanga Canyon.

Cherry Docs plays Thursdays with an occasional Saturday from now until October 13th. Check Theatricum’s website for a full list of all of their stellar productions.

–Mickala Jauregui

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“Measure for Measure”: a Hidden Treasure in the Hills

Published June 3, 2012 by mickala

In the middle of the winding hills that is Topanga Canyon, lies a hidden jewel that brings theatre back to its natural outdoor setting and intertwines the elements with man made sets. The Will Geer Theatre is an outdoor amphitheatre that houses Theatricum Botanicum, who performs older works, often with a twist. Having just discovered this troop, presiding in this heavenly location, I am extremely excited to be able to dive deeper into their works. Their first production of the summer season William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” opened last night, Saturday June 2nd and will run through September. However, there are four other shows, running simultaneously that you can see there this summer, so there are many reasons to go back numerous times.

“Measure for Measure” has been taken out of its usual era and been transplanted into the wild peace hungry 60’s. The story has been slightly shifted in order to fit its groovy new time period and the characters updated. Though updating Shakespeare’s work is nothing new and can sometimes be done in a way that dumb downs the work, this production was done beautifully. Bringing Shakespeare’s words to life, with even more meaning that resonates with the world of the 60’s with some messages the still ring true in today’s society.

The show opens with protests and a Governor (Aaron Hendry) who is unhappy and decides to go undercover in order to get closer to a prisoner who may have been wrongly punished. Claudio, who has been thrown in jail and sentenced to death for impregnating his African American girlfriend Juliet (Crystal Clark), is the main focus of the plot. A frantic farce ensues as Claudio’s sister Isabelle (Willow Geer), who has resigned herself to a life in the nunnery, tries to save her brother’s life, all at the encouragement of the meddling Lucio (Melora Marshall).

Ellen Geer has done a fabulous job with her immensely talented cast. Letting them run with the newly embellished parts and providing them with proper guidance. Lucio, played to immense and hilarious perfection by Marshall, is as sleazy as he is obnoxious. She transforms herself into the conniving but well meaning man. After concluding that Claudio’s death is definite Lucio becomes blistering drunk and makes an outright fool of himself in front of the disguised Governor. Marshall’s comedic choices bring the entire audience to their knees with laughter.

Marshall is not the only stellar performance that this production encompasses. Willow Geer’s tortured Isabelle is heart wrenching and loveable. There are parts where her character’s actions could seem forced and unconvincing but Geer places them with utmost certainty and determination making every move and word as necessary as the last. Gerald C. Rivers as Pompey, a Pimp, bejewels the audience with his colorful performance. There is also a wee one, who spends the entire show strapped to her mother’s bosom. Though adorable and extremely well behaved, the thought of the little tyke being there for three hours and the combination of her pure cuteness was distracting and caused me to miss some of the action taking place.

If I were to pick a downside to this production, it would perhaps be the length, translating to the time spent on the uncomfortable benches of the theatre. However, this is both Shakespeare and the outdoor experience. It helps bring us back to the earlier days of theatre, and honestly most of the time you are laughing and so captivated that your back doesn’t really bother you. Overall, I am most excited to see more of Theatricum Botanicum’s work, because from what I hear they rarely disappoint, and with “Measure for Measure” I was far from disappointed.

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