Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Triangle" ☼ ☼ ☼ BANG

The TheatreWorks World Premiere of "Triangle" is ambitious, with infectious music, clever lyrics, and excellent performances by all six characters, especially Ross Lekites as Brian and Megan McGinnis in the dual role of Jenni/Sarah. The staging and lighting are innovative and help move the play through the complications of hundred-year time switches and character changes. You get to exit the theater singing, a major plus in the spectacle-first musical idiom of our era.

But things are a little out of balance. The central conceit is that Brian and Ben's love-after-ten-seconds relationship in 2011 has the same power and gravitas as Vincenzo and Sarah's a hundred years earlier, who were doomed to die with hundreds of others in the historical 1911 fire at New York's Triangle Shirtwaist Company. Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore's songs are strongest, though, when they pertain to the earlier romance ("Business," "Follow the Rules," "Papa's Gonna Kill You," "All That I Need is Here.") You can dance to the more modern-themed numbers, such as "Nine Floors Up" and "Drive Away," but they lack the same power.

Zachary Prince alternates with ease between the fey boy-toy Ben and the empathetic and serious Vincenzo. Sharon Rietkerk is excellent as Brian's friend Cynthia but even better as Sara's sister Chaya. Rounding out the cast are Laura D'andre as Dr. Zimmerman and Rolf Saxon as Howard/Boss/Isaac.

When the characters from different ages meet at the end, we want the modern Brian to convince the historical Sarah not to go to the Triangle to meet Vincenzo, as Brian never did with his dead sister Jenni (also played by McGinnis). But we already know the history. So the audience has to decide for itself how they feel about Ben and Brian, now that Vincenzo and Sarah are gone.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Triangle" Three Stars with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. The ensemble of actors, the set and staging, and Meredith McDonough's direction earn one star each. The BANGLE is for the cleverness of the lyrics that make the audience laugh with recognition, like "from seam to shining seam" (when the historical sisters are talking about finding work as seamstresses in their new marvelous America). But this BANGLE must be shared with Lekites hitting really high notes while sitting on the floor.

"Triangle" is a World Premiere and is still young. With the help of God, theirs or ours, the show will only get stronger as the run proceeds.

Lucie Stern Theater
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Through August 2

Monday, July 13, 2015

"Company" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

The most amazing thing about Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's "Company," playing for a good chunk of the summer at San Francisco Playhouse, is that the show is forty-five years old but feels perfectly honest today. Sondheim's lyrics astonish you with their incisive wit, as always, and though his music feels a bit dated, in a Burt Bacharach-y soft-jazzy kind of way, the songs continue to have the same power as they had when the show won six Tonys in 1970, including Best Musical.

If you ever have any questions about marriage, listen to "Grateful-Sorry." From the heart, and also from the craft of the consummate songwriter, there are few songs in the entire canon that cut to the core like this one. Thankfully, the show has several lighthearted songs too, including the more famous "Marry Me A Little," "Barcelona" and of course the anthem to New York: "A Hundred Other People."

This SFP production has many wonderful things about it. We particularly enjoyed Teresa Attridge as Marta, Velina Brown as Sarah, Christoper Reber as Harry, Ryan Drummond as David, and of course Monique Hafen as Amy, whose tongue-twisting "Getting Married Today" is a comedic standout.

Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott designed an eye-popping set and Susi Damilano's direction was almost enough to counter the lack of space for the dance sequences to pay off as they might on a larger stage, given a cast this size. We love the intimacy of the scaled-down two-piano music, much the same as SFP did with My Fair Lady in the old building. Congratulations to San Francisco Playhouse for taking a chance with an undertaking of this size. It pays off in just about every way.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

 The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division, specializing in Musical Theatre, awards "Company" FOUR STARS. Show, direction, singing and acting each merit one star. If the dancing smooths out later in the run the production will be even stronger.

San Francisco Playhouse
2d Floor of Kensington Park Hotel
450 Post St., San Francisco
Through Sept. 12