Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Hurricane Diane: ★ ★ ★

Madeleine George’s “Hurricane Diane” opened last night at the Aurora in Berkeley. The idea is that the demigod Diana, the gender-fluid Dionysius of ancient Greece who was the patron saint of theater as well as a champion of sexual liberty, has returned to Earth, in this case to Monmouth County, NJ. Her mission is to warn citizens that the earth’s biological clock is ticking down to zero, but her true purpose seems to be to seduce as many suburban housewives as possible, thereby reducing them to worshiping acolytes. They all hate their stupid, pathetic husbands so they don’t need a lot of convincing. 

On one hand this is Sappho's Magical Mystery Tour, and there were cheers as each housewife fell, but on the other hand a very real message is being delivered here: humans have destroyed the Earth, which means human existence is finished. lady, so you may as well submit to Diane's not-too-subtle advances.

Stacy Ross is Diana. 

She is a wisecracking landscape designer whose very presence excites Beth (Gianna DiGregoria Rivera), Pam (Luisa Sarmol) and Renee (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong). These kaffe-klatch ladies appear powerless to keep Diana from re-purposing their crabgrass. The one exception, however, is Carol, played by Rebecca Schweitzer who is determined to be the last woman standing, even if this means saying adiĆ³s to Mother Earth. 

We loved the way Schweitzer developed the role of Carol, from the insipid-ish homeowner obsessed with resale value and curb appeal, to the person who, in the end, controls our destiny -- which is to say, she is all of us. 

The ending can use a little work. We're not sure what Diane and the three Supremes were doing in those robes. 


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants THREE STARS to "Hurricane Diane." What we loved best was the acting. All four women have their moments to shine, though we wish Stacy Ross were a little less current - I mean, would a 3,000 year-old Greek demigod really toss around all those f-bombs? 

I guess they would be PHI-Bombs.

And we really loved Luisa Sarmol. 

Hurricane Diane
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through July 16

Sunday, June 11, 2023

"The Road to Mecca" ★★★ BANG

The Road to Mecca is lined with milk bottles and home-made statues. But Mecca is an afterthought. The real question is whether or not art can play an important role in moving along that road, and if there can ever be communication between those who march blindly down the middle and those who take a different, off-center path.

South African playwright Athol Fugard wrote "The Road to Mecca" during Apartheid in his home country. It was first performed in 1984 and debuted on Broadway in 1988, where Fugard himself played the conservative minister Marius. In the current Z-Space production, veteran actor Victor Talmadge gives Marius a skillful and nuanced reading, allowing us to slowly realize his heart is as conflicted as everyone else's.

Wendy vanden Huevel plays Miss Helen Martins, an iconoclastic widow living in Nieu Bethesda, the most remote village in the Karoo desert, an 800 mile drive from Capetown. Fugard based his story on the real Helen Martins, an artist in Nieu Bethesda who committed suicide when she became too blind to continue sculpting. In our story, Miss Helen is befriended by Elsa (Jodi Jackman), a young schoolteacher from Capetown who has become Miss Helen's only true confidant.

The story is brilliant and the cast every bit its equal. We have to mention Eric Flatmo's picture-perfect set with set decoration by Leah Hammond. The moment we arrive in the theater we feel like we are sitting in Miss Helen's windswept cottage, with its candles, twinkling glass and sense of hope.



The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Z-Space's "The Road to Mecca" THREE STARS with a BANGLE OF PRAISE. We loved everything about this production, but most of all the ensemble of three actors at the top of their games. This is a show that has you thinking about it for days afterward.

"The Road to Mecca"
Z Below
470 Florida St., San Francisco
Through June 30