Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Towle's Hill": UNRATED plus ***UPDATE***

*** UPDATE! The Marsh has lowered the price of a ticket substantially to Towle's Hill and wine tasting. So as you read the review below, be aware the show is now only $15 if you mention 'wine tasting' at the ticket counter. For that small price, 'Towle's Hill' has become a bargain!***

'Towle's Hill' is a well written and captivating piece of theater. Mark Kenward (actor and writer) is very believable as farmer Towle Bundschu and is able to propel the audience into an understanding of the difficult lives of California's pioneer vinter families. The story, of one winery's travels from the Gold Rush into the 1970s, is as much a story about California history as it is about wine and the people who make it.

But it's very short (half an hour? a little more?). And if you look at it from a non-theatrical point of view, the show is basically a fluff piece about Gundlach Bundschu Winery, who commissioned it in the first place, and who offers, in exchange for a rather hefty admission price, a taste of chardonnay and merlot after the show.

The wine is very good. The show is very good. The problem is that wine lovers will want more wine and theater goers will want more show.

The Marsh is trying to do something novel here, and we applaud them for it. Hybrid art forms are gaining strength throughout the city and may turn out to be a large part of our entertainment future. Dinner theater like Teatro Zinzanni runs for years, circus combines successfully with hip hop -- why not theater with wine tasting?

Well, why not? The concept is a good one for both sides -- the Marsh would like to reach an audience who doesn't often venture into the Mission, and the winery would love theater goers to think about ordering its wines during dinner at the bistro after the show.

The sour grape in the barrel is the admission price. $35-$50 for a scant half hour paean to the farmer's life, followed by a tiny bit of wine, is just too much for this reviewer to be able to recommend the show, even though -- and mark this for the future when the price comes down -- Mark Kenward and David Ford (director) have fashioned a very winning story on the stage.

'Towle's Hill' is UNRATED

'Towle's Hill'
The Marsh
1062 Valencia St, San Francisco
FRIDAY NIGHTS ONLY through Nov. 21

No comments: