Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Archduke: ☼ ☼ ☼

A tale of two Acts. Rajiv Joseph's "Archduke" is marvelously entertaining in Act One, as we are presented with the Ionesco-like spectre of three Serbian doofuses, each afflicted with terminal tuberculosis, deciding to go with the flow and shoot some or other Royal of the Hapsburg Empire, in order to make some money and perhaps add meaning to their waning lives. The conceit is that this historical assassination, which in reality led directly to the conflagration of World War I, has nothing to do with nationalism but comes down to poor kids who dream of eating a sandwich.

We are introduced to a cast we love immediately: meditative Stephen Stocking as Gavrilo, Adam Shonkwiler as the more combative Nedeljko and Jeremy Kahn as Trifko, the senior member of the team. All three realize that disease has given them a death sentence, but they don't want to die for nothing. Plus, they are hungry.

Enter Scott Copwood and Luisa Sermol as Apis and his Slavic sidekick Sladjana. Although Apis and Sladjana are stereotypical characters we have been watching since Rocky and Bullwinkle brought us Boris and Natasha, they are very funny. As Act One ends, we say to ourselves: "Well! This is great! Where to next?"

Perhaps they should rethink the curtain. Act Two feels long. We already know the historical outcome and which boy is going to do the deed, so the author's dilemma is how to keep us as entertained in Act Two as he did in Act one. In a One-Act we could keep marching along, but an Act Two needs something besides dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue. No one has much new to say, the train ride to Sarajevo is fun but accomplishes little and the show, which started out exhilarating, plods to a three word conclusion:

Gun: Boom. Boom.


RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division loves Rajiv Joseph and is always ready to recommend a Joseph show to its readers. Will they shorten Act Two? Or add a twist? We can think of several, so a playwright like Rajiv Joseph must be able to think of even more. We hope so. In the meantime: Three Stars, which means Go See, but be forewarned about Act Two.

Mountain View Center for the Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View
Through June 30

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