Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Interview of Jessica Powell by Dave Fickbohm

In Sixth Street Playhouse on October 15, 2009 at 4:40 am





Jessica Powell

Jessica Powell






 How did you become interested in the theater? I’m not quite sure; at about 6 years old, I was in the Christmas pageant at church with the line (my emphasis), “And the angel SAID unto Mary . . . .” Some friends and I started writing and performing plays in the 6th grade, as there were no other theatrical opportunities at that time in the Christian school system except for the high school senior play.

What is your favorite play(s)? Oh, my. Angels in America; Ice Glen; Copenhagen; Twelfth Night – no single favorite. Just saw Equivocation in Ashland, which was amazing.

 What is your favorite role? Again – no single favorite, but Hannah, et al. in Angels; Mrs. Roswell in Ice Glen; Aunt Eller (Oklahoma); Joanne (Company); Margrethe (Copenhagen); Goneril; Lady Macbeth.

 Is there an actor, theater director or theater teacher who provided you with special inspiration? All good work inspires and thrills me. The late Philip Meister, who founded the National Shakespeare Company, was an early influence.

 What book or books are on your night stand? The Bible (RSV), as well as Robert Alter’s versions of the Pentateuch and the Psalms; Atonement; Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate (Johnson); Italian for Travelers; The Working Actor’s Tool Kit (Schiffman); Modern French Poets (dual-language); Selected Poems of Giuseppe Ungaretti (ditto); Dante’s Inferno (likewise; Pinsky); Speaking Shakespeare and The Actor Speaks (Rodenburg); Colloquial Italian; 501 Italian Verbs; and my mother’s copy of A Book of Everyday Prayers by Wm. Barclay.

 What do you look forward to when you wake up in the morning? Coffee!

 Are there any habits or traditions you follow before going on stage? Vocal and physical warm-ups; wishing everyone a good show; thinking about where the character is “coming from”; a brief prayer that we’ll all remember our lines, etc., and be inspired.

 When you were a young child did you think you would become an actress? Never! The list was: nurse, doctor, dietician, French teacher, English teacher.

Have you traveled? If you have traveled where did you travel? Any unique experiences while you were traveling? It’s pretty obvious that I’m in love with Italy, but I’ve also been to Scandinavia and various countries in Europe, as well as Belize. Most of my heritage is Dutch, so I’m fond of the Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular. All experiences are unique!

In On The Verge There was very little scenery did that make things harder or easier for you? Easier, definitely, because it made both the audience and the actors use our imaginations more. Overmyer quotes Andre Breton in the script’s frontispiece: “Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights.”

 Do you have a favorite scene in On The Verge? Nope – it’s kind of a roller coaster.

Is there a scene that was particularly difficult in On The Verge? No one scene, but the first act is a little harder because it’s less sequential. This is the second time you have done On The Verge do you like the theme of time travel? It’s not so much the theme of time travel as the play’s subtitle, The Geography of Yearning, that I think is important for all the characters. I can certainly say that “I have such a yearning for the future!” Is it easier to do a play the second time or is each experience unique? Yes! It’s a wonderful gift to be able to repeat a role one likes. One finds new insights, different interactions with directors and actors.

 If you could live in any decade past, present, or future which decade would you choose and why. You can choose one from the past and one from the future if you wish. IF I could be an adult male, healthy, educated, and with at least a bit of disposable income, probably 1600-1610, because I’d be able to see all of Shakespeare’s plays by then.


Review/Theater; The Dupe As Principal In Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe’

In College of Marin on October 12, 2009 at 4:54 am
Tartuffe and Orgon

Tartuffe and Orgon

Dave Fickbohm lives in Marin County and regularly reviews live theater productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Dave Fickbohm at

College of Marin’s production of “Tartuffe” reaffirms, it is Orgon, not Tartuffe, who is the principal character in the Moliere comedy. The focus is on the dupe’s deception rather than on the hypocrite who deceives him.  On College of Marin’s Main Stage, Christopher Hammond is the woefully self-deluding and mirthful object of Tartuffe’s confidence game.

Orgon has welcomed the scoundrel into his home and then encouraged him in his subversion of his family and its values. For Orgon, Tartuffe can do no wrong, and all proof of his misconduct is considered blasphemy, until the husband is faced foursquare with the truth and his own imminent cuckoldry. As Hammond plays him, Orgon is not simply an old fool but the sincerest of acolytes totally overcome by guru worship.

This is a “Tartuffe” that remains very much in period, the age of Louis XIV, Moliere’s French original was scripted in rhyming couplets; Richard Wilbur’s English translation adheres to that model as closely as possible.

With his command threatened, Tartuffe responds heatedly; then, with impeccable timing, retreats to a slow burn.  When Orgon is in high dudgeon his relatives run for cover. This is a wonderfully addled portrait in which Hammond does not lose sight of the poignancy of Orgon’s dilemma. He means well, but he is so Tartuffified that his brain seems washed and dried.

Hammond and Dennis Crumley as Tartuffe are an artful pair of opposites.  Tartuffe almost seems to underplay his role.  Eileen Fisher delivers a gently determined portrait of Orgon’s wife, a woman who has cause for a sexual harassment suit against Tartuffe, and Erica O’Conner is a charming Dorine. As this know-it-all maid, O’Conner blithely maintains her equilibrium as the others do everything to defeat themselves.

It is primarily Hammond who makes this “Tartuffe” such a treat. He is filled with comic inventiveness, as in the scene in which he tries to convince his bigoted mother that Tartuffe has behaved scandalously. “I saw it,” he proclaims. “Saw it with my own eyes,” and then, as his mother continues to argue, he points at his eyes with the index finger of both hands to underscore the point. Rising in indignation, he looks as if he might explode from apoplexy.

On a set by Ronald Krempetz that embodies the austerity and opulence of 17th-century upper-class existence, and under the able direction of W. Allen Taylor, the cast of current and former COM students gives an admirable and enjoyable spin to this classic tale of deception in full period costumes by Patricia Polen.

Stephanie Ahlberg portrays Orgon’s mother with a brashness that fulfills a small but significant role. David Abrams and Sean Gunnell are youthful, hot-headed young men, and Steve Adamski plays Orgon’s brother-in-law Cleante with bumbling good intentions. Jenny Donohue sparkles as Marianne, a young woman in love being denied her true love.  Emmanuel Linden-Broner is wonderfully polite but nasty as M. Loyal, the prince’s emissary who delivers an eviction notice to the Pernelle household.  Alex Greene and David Paulson are solid policemen doing their duty.  Eryn Brydon, does an excellent job as the cavalry to the rescue at the last minute.

This College of Marin production does an excellent job of putting the play in its proper historical context.


What: “Tartuffe” at College   of Marin

Where: College of Marin Fine Arts Theatre, Sir Francis Drake and Laurel Avenue, Kentfield

When: Through Oct. 18: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays

Tickets: $10 to $15

Information: 485-9555

Rating: Four out of five stars

Review of You Can’t Take It With You by 6th Street Players

In Sixth Street Playhouse on October 6, 2009 at 10:58 pm
The Vanderhof - Sycamore Household

The Vanderhof - Sycamore Household


Dave Fickbohm lives in Marin County and regularly reviews live theater productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Dave Fickbohm at

A visit to the Vanderhof-Sycamore household of “You Can’t Take It With You” is pretty much guaranteed to make a person wish for a permanent place in this bustling, happy family.

Sure, the recurring explosions from the basement fireworks laboratory could get on one’s nerves, as could the impromptu xylophone concerts in the living room, but those seem a small price to pay for the joyful companionship of people who believe life is too precious to be wasted doing anything other than what one pleases.

The giddy idealism of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s 1936 comedy sets just the right tone for the 6th Street Playhouse second play of the season.

Staged with enthusiasm and care, the production, is destined to spread good feeling.

The genius of this Pulitzer-winning play is that it treats a showdown of American values as a screwball comedy. The Vanderhof-Sycamores, whose philosophy is stated right there in the title, represent one side. The other is embodied by Mr. Anthony Kirby, a Wall Street type, and his repressed wife. The families meet when their offspring fall in love. The setting is the Vanderhof-Sycamores’ living room, rendered by Elizabeth Bazzano as a lovely, multi-storied home from the 1930s crammed with the implements of the family’s many enthusiasms.

Joe Winkler’s Mr. Sycamore speaks every word a little louder than needed, his hearing ruined by fireworks experiments.

Though perpetually lost in the worlds of the plays she’s writing, Kate Brickley’s Mrs. Sycamore is never too preoccupied to nurture the happiness of her daughters, one ballet-mad (April Krautner) as Essie and zestily married (to mischief-eyed Peter Warden) as Ed, the other (Taylor Differderfer) as Alice, a working girl who is sparklingly in love with the boss’ son (Lowell Weller, whose Anthony Kirby Jr., unlike his parents, uses his head and heart in equal measure).

In supporting roles, Naomi Sample portrays the family maid who is a member of the family very effectively, as does Arnold House as her boyfriend. These two have a wonderful scene at the dining table. Chris Murphy and Keith Baker employ physical comedy to explosively funny effect. Elly Lichenstiein is a wonderfully haughty Grand Duchess and Sarah Abbey plays a zany actress. Adam Burkholder, Scott Hayes, and, Nick Schritzinger looked like and are very believable as the law. Eric Chaznkin is a very confused and perplexed IRS revenue collector.

As the grandpa who is the chief live-and-let-live proponent, John Craven is ever the calm at the center of the storm.

Given his attention to small but telling details, director Charlie Queary, returning to the 6TH Street Playhouse, achieves something very important: He finds the show’s heart.

This viewer, for one, had a hard time seeing the last 20 minutes. Too many tears of laughter clouded my eyes.

 What: ‘You Can’t Take It With You’

 Where: 6th Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA

When: Thur, Fri, Sat at 8 p.m. Sun at 2 p.m. Sat 2 p.m. Oct 10, 17, 24

Price: Gen $28 Sen(62+) $22 Yth $22 Fri, Sat, Sun Gen $22 Sen(62+) $18 Yth $18 Sat. Oct 10, 17, 24

Phone: (707) 623-4185


Box Office Hours: Tues – Fri 1 – 4 p.m. Sat 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. & one hour before Showtime

Review of On The Verge (or the Geography of Yearning)

In Cinnabar Theater on October 1, 2009 at 5:46 pm
Three Victorian women representing the past, present, and future

Three Victorian women representing the past, present, and future


Dave Fickbohm lives in Marin County and regularly reviews live theater productions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact Dave Fickbohm at

Of all the worlds left to explore, the only one completely forbidden to mankind’s prying eyes has always been the future.

In an amusing revival of Eric Overmyer’s “On the Verge,” by the Cinnabar Theater, three Victorian-era American ladies set out for an unspecified virgin territory.

Wearing pith helmets and long dresses, the trio — Mary, Fanny and Alex — land on an island “somewhere east of Australia and west of Peru.”

 Armed with parasols and machetes, they “whack the bushes,” as Mary puts it, in the jungle. As they make their way, stopping occasionally for powder breaks and picnics, they argue over whether women should wear trousers and why jungles aren’t more like gardens and swap exaggerated tales of their adventures.

All of this is humorous in a Monty Pythonesque way, and Mr. Overmyer is agile with his wordplay. But as the ladies press on things take a curious turn. They begin to find artifacts they cannot identify. There are the eggbeaters, for instance, which they take to be amulets. There is also a large metal button with an inscription — “I Like Ike” — on it. But it is only when they find a 1972 newspaper clipping about someone named “President Nixon” that they finally realize they are “dancing through the wilderness of time.”

They finally land in 1955, and Fanny and Alexandra decide that they like Eisenhower’s America just fine and opt to stay. Mary, however, resolves to press on. She feels “on the verge of something grand,” giving the play, subtitled “The Geography of Yearning,” an optimistic view of what lies ahead.

If there is a point to the exercise beyond its humor, it would be as a celebration of the mystery of that terra incognita known as the future.

A quartet of good actors keep the play lively, especially fine performances from Jessica Powell as Mary, and Laura Jorgensen, whose comic timing is always impeccable, as Fanny. Liz Jahren does a wonderful job with the part of Alexandra, and Tim Kniffin in all the male roles gives solid support.

Elizabeth Craven’s direction is smooth and well-paced.  The set is simple so as not to distract from the hilarious lines of the three ladies.   Wayne Hovey devised a way to project scenes on the wall behind the stage, providing the ability to change the scene quickly and with no disruption or break in the comic action.   Steven Dietz should be mentioned for his wonderful use of very appropriate sounds that enhanced the play.

On The Verge is a winner. Do not miss it.


What: Eric Overmyer’s “On The Verge (or the Geography of Yearning”

Who: Cinnabar Theater

Where: The Cinnabar 3333 Petaluma Blvd. N. Petaluma, CA 94952

When: Sept 25 to Oct 11, 2009

8:00 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

2:00 p.m. Sundays

TICKETS:       Order online; by telephone; at the door.

 COST:   $22-$28

Advance $20 to $25. At the door $22 to $28.

Teen night: $10 for ages 12 to 19 on Oct 8.

Phone Information: 707 763 8920

Order tickets online, by telephone 10 a. m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.



Rating: Five stars out of five


PLEASE NOTE:  This co-production moves to the Studio Theater at the 6th street Playhouse in Santa Rosa from Oct. 30 to Nov. 22, 2009




5:30 p.m. Oct 3 CINNABARBRUNCH/DINNER at Jacqueline’s High Tea in Petaluma.

Oct 4 – BOOK CLUB Post show