Saturday, September 10, 2016

"Dear Master" ☼ ☼

Gustave Flaubert inhabits one side of the stage and George Sand the other. The two famed nineteenth century writers communicated by letter for many years, though they never met in person. Their letters have survived and were made into a dialogue for the stage by Dorothy Bryant. In 1991 "Dear Master" was the first play presented by the small company that grew into the Aurora Theatre. In honor of its 25th Anniversary, the Aurora has brought the production back, directed by Joy Carlin, with Michael Ray Wisely as Flaubert and Kimberly King as Sand.

It's talky. The problem with trying to make these letters into drama is that there was little in real life. Mid-19th Century Europe was a cauldron of revolution and anti-revolution, but neither Flaubert or Sand took part in it, except in their younger days before these letters were written. As we might expect, the two authors had no more solutions in mind than we do today. Flaubert would be today's Republican and Sand today's Democrat, one the misogynist wishing the world would return to an earlier day, and the other the idealist longing for the world to use love to fuel the engines of a newly industrial Europe.

King and Wisely are believable as eighteenth century intellectuals. He blusters, she consoles, she invites him to visit her but he never does. We wish something could have transpired between them, if not in life then on stage. Little does, because little did. The letters between Flaubert and Sand are fascinating as a historical record. As a play, a little less so.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Dear Master" Two Stars, one for acting and one for Annie Smart's set, which allows the two characters to remain in their own comfort zones.

But as for the play itself, as George Sand said, referring to progress: "It is much slower than I expected."

"Dear Master"
 The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through Oct 2

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