Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
“ Madagascar ” – North Coast Repertory Theatre
“All’s Well that Ends Well” – Old Globe theatre
AIRDATE: JULY 11, 2008
Women who love too much – and the men who leave them. Two plays, obsessive females, serious amounts of disappointment and pain.
“ Madagascar ” is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma, framed as a mystery. Written by upcoming New York playwright J.T. Rogers, the drama is getting its West coast premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre, under the precise and assured direction of David Ellenstein. The structure is tricky: a series of occasionally intersecting monologues, delivered directly to the audience.
It’s like a mosaic: bits of brightly colored glass, doled out one sliver at a time. Some of the pieces fit together, but it doesn’t create a complete picture. We’re up to the challenge, but we have to keep our attention sharply focused. The onlookers’ memory has to be as acute as the characters’. Perhaps Rogers , whose writing can be lyrical and intriguing, is just doling out a dose of steely cold reality. If you love someone to bits, and they suddenly disappear on you, you might torture yourself replaying every utterance and encounter, but you may never fully understand. It’s unnerving, but it’s life.
Skillfully navigating this sea of ambiguity are three outstanding performers. Rosina Reynolds is a rich, ramrod-straight gorgon, dripping in pearls, entitlement and condescension. She loves her son as intensely as his sister June does. Christy Yael is heartbreaking as brokenhearted June, retracing his every step, but unable to fathom what happened or why. Frank Corrado is the mother’s lover, caught in a dysfunctional crossfire he barely comprehends. There’s no light at the end of this labyrinthine tunnel. I guarantee you’ll be up half the night trying to figure it all out.
Shakespeare, as always, has it all figured out. He understood more of human nature and foibles than all the playwrights since him put together. For reasons that aren’t totally clear, the tragicomedy “All’s Well that Ends Well” is one of his least-performed plays – just the kind Old Globe artistic director Darko Tresnjak loves to dust off and dig into. In his gorgeous production, he gives his excellent cast delectable bits of stage business that keep us entertained and enthralled.
This is the story of accomplished and single-minded Helena, who’ll do anything to make the cad Bertram her husband. She goes before the King, puts her life on the line, even stands in for another woman in bed. In return, he berates her, abandons her on their wedding night, and lies about his extracurricular exploits. Ultimately, he makes a neck-snapping turnaround that Tresnjak somehow charms us into accepting. Perhaps this arrogant young count just needed to grow up. We hope for the best, but we fear for Helena in the long run.
So, not all’s exactly well at the end of these two provocative plays. But with great productions like these, we’ll take the lumps along with the poetic language and compulsive love.
” Madagascar ” runs through August 3, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
“All’s Well that Ends Well” continues on the Old Globe’s Festival Stage, playing in repertory with “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor .”
©2008 PAT LAUNER