Sunday, March 13, 2011

"The North Pool": ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ! BANG

With but one scene and two actors, Rajiv Joseph's new 'The North Pool' does everything a play is supposed to do. It involves you, tricks you, gets you rooting for first one, then the other character, makes you figure out what is going on, and then you see the fallout shelter, and the bird containers, and the truth is you don't know anything, do you? Then we rip off in a different direction and the thunder begins. Joseph's dialog -- after all, this is all there is -- is stunning, the characters fully developed and in the end our hearts would be broken, if we weren't a little awe-struck.

Strong words from The Reviewer Who Didn't Like Rock of Ages? (Will you please stop throwing that stuff!) Yes, indeed. This Theatreworks production, directed by Giovanna Sardelli, is a World Premiere in Palo Alto, and we can scarcely imagine how much stronger it can get as the run continues.

Khadim Asmaan (Adam Poss) is a high school student who has been called into Vice Principal Danielson's office. Scenic Designer Erik Flatmo must have spent a lot time there himself because he got it right: the map behind the desk, the American flag, the too-small chairs, the trophies in the trophy case, the view through his window to the lockers behind. It gives you the shivers.

Dr. Danielson (Remi Sandri), middle aged and balding, starts off with a lot of banalities, but he has an agenda. It's not what you think it is at first, or second, but you come to understand he is seeking something important from Khadim. For his part, Khadim appears to be a perfectly normal, well-adjusted and intelligent kid, but soon you realize he is lying through his teeth. After that the map comes down and we see what's behind it. Now the real story gets rolling and you don't know where it will stop.

We'll give you a hint: Playwright Joseph is not writing about racism, but the other r-word: redemption.

RATINGS ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ! BANG

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards "The North Pool" Four Stars! with a BANGLE of PRAISE. The four stars are for the four monster performances, by Poss, Sandri, Director Sardelli and Author Joseph. The BANGLE has to go to Adam Poss for Khadim's remarkable confession scene -- and that is followed by one of almost equal emotional power from Sandri's Vice Principal. We see two people, alone in the world and carrying a terrible burden, from whose clutches only one can relieve the other. This is quite an achievement for a One Acter with two characters and no car chases. Congratulations to everyone.

"The North Pool"
Lucie Stern Theater,
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Through April 3
Photo credits: Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin

No comments: