Friday, October 22, 2010

Four Snouts up for Mauritius at Capital Stage

(:)(:)(:)(:) for Mauritus by Theresa Rebeck playing now at the Capital Stage in Old Sacramento. I should have known that this play was written by a woman. Even though, as the Sacramento Bee review suggests, the playwright is clearly deeply influenced by David Mamet, only a woman could have created the complex and 3-dimensional character of Jackie, played so ably by Kristine David. The play is by turns funny, tense, and funny and tense (like so many vehicles Cap Stage chooses).

In the first act, the exposition and over-the-top quality of the performances fought with the semi-believable premise of 5 people obsessed over two stamps in a collection. But the second act completely won me over with Kristine David's courageous, porous energy interacting with the power, skill and humor of Kurt Johnson, John P. Lamb and Jonathan Rhys Williams. Johnson is charming as the self-serving middle-man Dennis mediating between Jackie and Rhys Williams as his stamp buyer "Sterling," a completely improbable ex-con insane violent guy cum philatilist.

I wonder a little at the director Michael Stevenson's choices as to characterization. Did everybody have to be so incredibly wound up? It does seem written that way, but if I were directing this piece, I'd probably dial it back a little so that it's more simmering below the surface.

The rest of the cast is extremely solid with the exception of Lauren Bloom who plays Jackie's sister Mary. Usually I can tell if my antipathy is toward the character or the actor, but I think in this case it's a little of both. Clearly Lauren is a trained experienced actor, but she fails to bring any shred of likeability, depth or humanity to the condescending older sister she plays.

A final note on Kristine David. The program tells us that she is the only actor in the play that is not a member of the Actor's Equity union. Typically it is the equity actors that carry the play and the non-equity actors fill at an affordable price. In this production, the very young, beautiful and powerful Kristine David is without a doubt the star and a stand-out talent. Sacramento needs to see a lot more of her.

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