KPBS AIRDATE: June 28, 2002
Forget your preconceptions. If you’re one of those people who wince at the words mime or high-concept Shakespeare production, un-scrunch your face. You’re in for a theater surprise. “A Feast of Fools” and the all-female “Othello” are not at all what you might expect. Geoff Hoyle is far more than a mime, and the Women’s Repertory Theatre isn’t just doing the Bard in drag.
This “Othello” is giving women a chance to take a bite out of some juicy male roles. They are dressed as men, and they play their roles exactly as written… and surprisingly well. Under the taut, sure directorial hand of Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, the language and plot are crystal-clear. The 1960s setting is unobtrusive; you have to read in any undertones of civil rights and women’s lib. The corporate-military milieu works fine for the costumes, but the music choices are irritating. In general, though the gender issues take a back-seat to the real tragedy of jealousy and revenge.
The cast is uneven in the secondary roles, but potent at the top. Sylvia M’Lafi Thompson makes a robust, be-medaled Moor, a gentle, rational soul until he’s attacked by that green-eyed monster. As his lieutenant, Cassio, Gina Alvarado is solid and steadfast. The females are formidable as well: Jo Glover a vigorous Desdemona. Wendy Waddell a forceful Emilia and Morgan Trant a credible courtesan. But in the end, it’s Gayle Feldman-Avery’s show. Her Iago is a sly, schemer, a slick, oily manipulator who takes pleasure in his destruction and makes his acts seem if not reasonable, then somehow logical. This Iago is not pure villain, and he’s utterly recognizable. Just the kind of soulless executive hotshot who’d make a mint wheeling and dealing while his underlings lose their life-savings. A chilling, thrilling performance.
Thrills and chills of a far different sort characterize the clowning of Geoff Hoyle. He’s a brilliant creator of character, a rubber-faced, malleable baby or widower, waiter or Everyman, making magic, dealing with 3-legged adversity, sniffing out trouble and dancing with Death. He has the elasticity of Gumby, the humor of a stand-up comic, the musical talent to tease and then convincingly play a violin. His foil is the enormously talented and very very funny Gina Leishman, who plays multiple instruments, gets sloppily soused and amuses throughout with her offstage antics. This is a great show for the family, because it’s enormous fun and this kind of genius is rare and vanishing. But it’s poignant and heart-breaking, and very adult, too. There’s a dash of each of us in the “Feast of Fools.”
©2002 Patté Productions Inc