TR Robertson …. Solana Beach’s North Coast Rep Theatre ended their 35th season with a delightfully funny, a bit absurd and wonderfully cast play, “At This Evenings Performance”, by Nagle Jackson. The comedy has everything you look for in enjoyable theatre – quick wit, physical comedy, mixed up relationships, extreme characters and a series of lessons to be learned through all of the mayhem.
Award winning playwright Nagle Jackson, still directs throughout the United States and Europe. He won a $150,000 prize as the winner of the Onassis foundation International Playwriting contest and is the first American ever to be invited to direct theatre in the Soviet Union. In “At This Evenings Performance” he has created a mythical country, modeled on the Soviet Union of the 1970’s, called Strevia, where the only type of theatre allowed is the classics, modern drama is banned. A group of traveling actors are performing in the socialist state of Strevia, The Players of Dunst, performing “old fashioned classics done the old fashioned way.” The majority of Act I & II take place in the two dressing rooms of the small theatre the troupe is performing in as they put on their version of the Shakespearean Play – “Tristan and Isolde”. The troupe feels trapped, restricted, hating what has happened to their country, all the while going through a whole other series of personal issues and romantic entanglements. All of this leads to on stage and back stage drama, political intrigue, hilarious situations, and a most unusual cast of characters.
“At This Evenings Performance” is directed by veteran North Coast Rep director Andrew Barnicle, directing his 12th play for North Coast Rep. Other members of the Production Design Team include Marty Burnett – Resident Scenic Designer who created clever men’s and women’s backstage dressing rooms where the majority of the play takes place. Light Design was done by Matthew Novotny, Costume Designs by Elisa Benzoni with Hair & Wig Designs by Peter Herman and Prop Designs by Andrea Gutierrez.
The cast is composed of very talented first time NC Rep performers and a number of returning veterans to the NC Rep. Bruce Turk plays Gunther Posnik, leader of the theatre company and a man conflicted with his love of theatre, his feelings about his homeland and his love for the young actress who is a member of his company. He continually makes comments about the current state of affairs in the way the government is now run and their only claim to fame, bathhouses and radishes. By the way, his wife is also a member of the company, played by Katie MacNichol, who plays Hippolyta Posnik. She also is romantically involved with a young member of the company, Piers, played by NC veteran Paul Turbiak. I should also mention that Piers is also involved with the young actress that Gunther is involved with. This young actress is played by Sierra Jolene, who plays Saskia, making her debut at the NC Rep. This love quadrangle comes as an enjoyable surprise to the audience and makes for very funny stage encounters, especially since Gunter and Hippolyta know they are each having affairs. The final member of the theatre company is Oskar, played by veteran actor Kyle Colerider-Krugh. Who calmly goes about his business, but will play a much larger role in the play as the plot unfolds. Action is fast paced on stage, dialog quick and well timed.
The final two members of the cast are audience favorites. Valdez, played by NC Rep and award winning veteran actor Richard Baird. Baird’s deep bass voice, glaring eyes and over-powering stage presence make him the perfect newly appointed stage manager, member of the Popularity force and bungling Strevian spy. He is the foil for many of Gunter’s comments. Playing the Minister of Culture is John Nutten as Pankoff. Nutten, also a NC Rep veteran, who plays the over the top Pankoff, who has come to see the play, aware that a plot is unfolding leading to subversive activity that will begin during the play, leading to the escape of locals from the socialist state. But Pankoff’s concern is not the plot, but rather his desire to entice members of the theatre company to accompany him to his palatial home, in a majestic theatre, where the theatre company can perform plays he has written.
Someone is going to be shot, someone will die, entanglements will resolve themselves, subversion will be witnessed and you will definitely laugh as you watch what unfolds on the stage. Along the way you even pick up a bit of wisdom. Gunther discusses the importance of supporting actors with a reference to history stating, “The essence of history is change”. Toward the end of the play, when everything is starting to unravel, he quips, “the first rule of the theatre is when they start shooting at you – retire”. A good rule for anyone entering the theatre world.
This is a fun, entertaining comedy that will leave you smiling as you exit the theatre. The play will run through August 6 at North Coast Repertory Theatre at 987 Lomas Santa Fr Drive in Solana Beach. Tickets range from $46 – $53 and can be obtained at 858-481-1055 or go to www.northcoastrep.org.
NC Rep will have a summer show, “Tom Foolery” running August 17-27 centered around the satirical songwriter Tom Lehrer. Season 35 for NC Rep will kick-off with Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” on Sept. 6th.