Friday, July 15, 2016

Seussical


“Oh the things you can think
“When you think about Seuss.”

The audience at the Music Circus were all thinking about Dr. Seuss when “Seussical” burst upon the stage of the Wells Fargo Pavilion, like being shot from a circus canon. With costumes by Kate Bergh and the wonderful puppets of Richard Bay, all of your favorite Dr. Seuss characters came to life in a cacophony of color and music.

“Seussical,” by Tony award nominees Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle centers on three of Theodor Seuss Geisel’s best loved stories, “Horton Hears a Who,” “Horton Hatches the Egg” and “Gertrude McFuzz,” but pulls in characters from many of Seuss’ other stories as well.

It is all orchestrated by the irrepressible Jason Graae, the Cat in the Hat, who acts as a sort of ringmaster for the scenes that are to follow. With a delightful twinkle in his eye, Graae is mischievous and fun to watch.

The heart of “Seussical” is Horton, the elephant, played by John Treacy Egan in a marvelous baggy pants suit with a long tie as his trunk. You can’t help but fall in love with Horton, filled with gentleness and a genuine heart, who cares for everyone and always keeps his word, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him.

Early in the show, he discovers Whoville, the teeny tiny world of the Whos, who live on a big puffy dandelion. Though nobody else believes in their existence, Horton vows to help them save their world, in his own version of “Whos lives matter.”

Eleven-year-old Josh Davis, last seen at Music Circus as Michael Darling in “Peter Pan,” plays the young boy who meets the Cat in the Hat, and then morphs into JoJo, the son of the Mayor of Whoville (Jamie Torcellini) and his wife (Eydie Alyson). They don’t know what to do with a boy who thinks, so they send him off to military school run by General Genghis Khan Schmitz (Stuart Marland)

JoJo is a misfit in the military and has a beautiful duet with Horton, “Alone in the Universe,” as the two of them share their feelings of loneliness because they are “different,” and realize that they aren’t really alone.

You called my name and you set me free
One small voice in the universe
One true friend in the universe
Who believes in me

The ever-helpful Horton agrees to egg-sit for selfish Mayzie LaBird (Ginifer King), while she shops for an hour. But she disappears and leaves him literally holding the egg for over year, protecting it from rain and despite the derision of everyone around him. He is going to keep his promise, no matter what, even though he is captured and put on display in a zoo. (“I said what I said and I meant what I meant. An elephant’s faithful 100 percent”)

Horton’s best friend, Gertrude McFuzz (Bets Malone) is a bird with only one feather in her tail, who is really in love with Horton. She gets her wish for a bigger tail, which causes problems she never envisioned and she learns how one has to be careful with wishes.

Sharon Wilkins makes an impact with her Sour Kangaroo, who doesn’t add much to the plot of the show, but certainly knows how to belt out a song.

Other beloved characters who appear are the Grinch (Seth Danner) and Yertle the Turtle (Eric Anthony Johnson).

Don’t look for a real plot in this show, but sit back and enjoy the color, the costumes, the puppets, and the music, which, while not particularly memorable, is fun in the moment.

Bring the kids; they’ll love it.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Constellations


“Constellations,” by Nick Payne, now at the B Street Theatre, talks about the unlikely play topics of relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory. It’s like “The Big Bang Theory” without the laughs.

The show examines the possibility of parallel universes — or not so much universes but paths: what might have happened if you had not gone to that party, or said that thing, or stayed with that person, or turned left instead of right at the intersection.

It’s difficult to explain in this quite odd, quite different, yet surprisingly engaging show.

“Constellations” examines what might have happened in these and other instances by following the relationship of Marianne (Dana Brooke) and Roland (Tom Patterson), who enter this “multiverse” and travel through it.

The backdrop on the stage is a star field showing various constellations, which light up each time the couple changes paths.

Marianne, a scientist at Sussex University in the field of quantum cosmology, first meets Roland, a bee keeper, at a barbecue where she breaks the ice by telling him why it’s impossible for human beings to lick their elbows. Roland blows her off. Suddenly we hear a ding, a different constellation lights up and the same conversation takes place, with a different reaction on Roland’s part. Another ding and the same scene is played a little differently again.

This is the “multiverse,” which, over some drinks at a bar, Marianne explains is the hypothetical collection of infinite alternate universes existing alongside the one we perceive as reality. It’s all part of general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the various string theories that connect them.

“Let’s say that ours really is the only universe that exists,” Marianne explains to Roland. “There’s only one unique me and one unique you. If that were true, then there could only ever really be one choice. But if every possible future exists, then the decisions we do and don’t make will determine which of these futures we actually end up experiencing.”

Lost yet?

Well, don’t worry, somehow it works to create a complicated yet beautiful relationship between these two likable people playing out the various possibilities in their lives. They go for a drink, or maybe they don’t. They fall in love and live together, but break up, or not. They have a chance meeting and feelings are still there, but Marianne is engaged, or maybe Roland is married. Maybe their time together will be tragically short.

The juggling of time periods and emotions requires excellent actors who can change the whole mood of a scene from flirtation to courtship to infidelity, to joy, illness and heartbreak, just by a slight shift in posture or a look in the eye. It’s really quite remarkable.

This show will not appeal to everyone, but it’s really a fascinating piece of theater, performed by two talented actors, and just think — if you happen to meet another B Street patron at a barbecue, “Did you see ‘Constellations’?” is a lot better conversation starter than “Do you know why it’s impossible for human beings to lick their elbows?”

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Bells are Ringing

Gia Battista as Ella.
Gia Battista and Ian Hopps just may be the quintessential musical comedy couple. They play Ella and Jeff in “Bells are Ringing,” the second half of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble’s summer festival, now at the Veterans Memorial Theater through July 31.

“Bells are Ringing,” by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with music by Jule Styne, is directed by Dennis Beasley (his directorial debut with DSE). Written in 1956, it was a vehicle for Judy Holliday and while it may be thin on plot (as are most musicals of that era), it is long on heart, music and dance.

Battista’s Ella is a spunky heroine, who makes every appearance on stage a delight. She works at “Susanswerphone” and can’t help getting involved in the lives of those for whom she takes messages.

She has her favorites, particularly Blake Barton (Kevin Gish), an out-of-work Method actor; Dr. Kitchell (Tim Gaffaney), a dentist who hates dentistry and just wants to write music; and playwright Jeff Moss (Hopps), who is suffering from writer’s block. He calls her “mom” because she uses an old lady voice and he thinks of her as a mother who pushes him to do better.

Ella considers the relationships with these clients “perfect” because she can’t see them and they can’t see her (“It’s a Perfect Relationship”).

When Jeff leaves his phone unplugged and thus she cannot call to wake him for an important meeting, she sneaks into his apartment to wake him up. Their relationship begins, though Jeff doesn’t have a clue who she really is.

Hopps is a dream of a leading man, a younger, thinner Matt Damon-type with the dancing grace of Neil Patrick Harris. He and Battista have great chemistry and though they endure the expected bumps in the road over their two days together, you know that eventually it will all come out just fine.

A minor plot concerns Sandor (Kyle Stoner), a bookmaker, who decides that “Susanswerphone” is the perfect cover for his book-making activities. Sue (Sydney Schwindt) is blissfully unaware of his real business and he keeps her off base by pretending to court her while she thinks she is helping his “Titanic Records.”

Stoner is just wonderfully sleazy. He leads perhaps the most fun song of the show, explaining how his system works.

It’s a simple little system any child can understand
The composers’ names, we list them with the racetracks of the land…
What is Beethoven? (Belmont Park)
Where’s Puccini? (Pimlico)
Who is Humperdinck? (Hollywood)

(The system might have worked if only Beethoven had written a 10th symphony.)

At the same time for some unknown reason (but important to the finale), Inspector Barnes (J.R. Yancher) is convinced “Susanswerphone” is a cover-up for a call-girl operation and sets out, along with his assistant Francis (Johnny Quesada), to follow Ella and see if he can catch her cavorting with the customers.

The base set from the previous night’s “Cyrano” works well as the setting for “Bells are Ringing” and nicely camouflages the seven-piece orchestra, directed by Peter Kagstrom, in the middle of everything.

The only thing missing from the opening-night performance was a larger audience. It would be a shame if more people didn’t see this excellent production.

For a housekeeping note, the high school parking lot is closed for the summer, but parking is available either on the street, in the St. James Catholic Church parking lot or in the parking lot at the Stephens Branch Library. The city also has created a new white zone directly in front of the Veterans Memorial Center for easy drop-offs.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Cyrano de Bergerac

Matt Edwards, William Oberholtzer, Jessica Woehler, Johnny Quesada, Philomena Block, Harvey Jordan, J.R. Yancher, Lisa Halko and Sydney Schwindt perform in the Davis Shakespeare Festival's production of Edmond Rostand’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” running through July 31. Gabby Battista/Courtesy photo  
The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble opened its 2016 festival this week, with an impressive production of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” directed by Rob Salas. “Cyrano” will run in repertory with “Bells are Ringing” through the end of July.

Edmond Rostand’s story (adapted by Anthony Burgess) may be one of the saddest love stories written. Cyrano is a man with great moral values, noble to the core. He is a dashing swashbuckler, able to take on 100 men single-swordedly.

He is glib of tongue and has a wonderful sense of self-deprecation, knowing his shortcomings … or is that long-comings, referring to his prominent proboscis. He deflects insults about his nose with jokes of is own making — “ ‘Is this a conch? … are you a Triton?,’ “That’s a dwarf pumpkin, or a giant turnip!” “When it bleeds it’s the Red Sea!”

Matt Edwards is a marvelous Cyrano, full of cape-swirling panache. He is in love with the beautiful Roxane (Kristi Webb), but knows his suit is hopeless as she is in love with the handsome but inarticulate Christian de Neuvillette (Pablo Lopez). Christian is also in love with her and asks for Cyrano’s help in wooing the lady of his dreams.

Cyrano writes the words that help Christian ply his suit, unaware that they are Cyrano’s own feelings for the girl. When Christian is sent off to battle, Cyrano goes along to protect him, and to write letters home to Roxane for him, to keep the love alive.

When Christian is killed, Cyrano has too much respect for Roxane’s feelings for her husband to let her know the truth about him. He remains her friend, and silent lover, for the rest of his life, leading to a beautifully touching death scene.

But Cyrano is far more than a story of unrequited love. There is plenty of sword play (Sydney Schwindt is fight director, though Edwards is himself a fight choreographer) and lots of bad guys to go around.

There’s Comte de Guiche (Tim Gaffaney), a powerful, married nobleman himself in love with Roxane and not fond of Cyrano. He attempts several times unsuccessfully to have Cyrano killed,
Ragueneau (Harvey Jordan) is Cyrano’s friend, a baker and a poet, who becomes Roxane’s porter after his business fails.

William Oberholtzer is Le Bret, Cyrano’s BFF, who tries to steer his friend in the least dangerous path, but his advice is usually ignored by Cyrano.

Kyle Stoner is Vicomte de Valvert, the nobleman chosen by deGuiche as Roxane’s husband. He is tricked by Cyrano to remain outside the house while Roxane is secretly wed to Christian, and then is defeated in a duel after the wedding, when he objects.

The multi-level set is designed by Niko Rabbitt and, together with the costumes by Caitlin Cisek, works well to create the look of a 1600s city.

“Cyrano de Bergerac” is a play that has it all, from verbal duels and actual swordplay, to a beautiful love story, to honor and friendship and a hero who stands head and shoulders above many heroes.
The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble does justice to this classic tale and it sets the stage for a promising summer festival.

For a housekeeping note, the high school parking lot is closed for the summer, but parking is available either on the street, in the St. James Church parking lot or in the Stephens Branch Library parking lot. The city also has created a new white zone directly in front of the Veterans Memorial Center for easy drop-offs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Hello, Dolly


Everybody’s favorite matchmaker, Dolly Gallagher Levi, is at the Music Circus this week, and it’s nice to see her back where she belongs.

Jerry Herman’s award-winning “Hello, Dolly” burst onto the stage of the Wells Fargo Pavilion, and, despite it being the hottest night of the year (so far), the show was energetic and dazzling, and the action was non-stop (thank goodness the Music Circus tent was replaced years ago).

With direction by Glenn Casale, choreography by Randy Slovacek and costumes by Marcy Froehlich, this production is just stunning.

In the title role is Lynne Wintersteller, who seems a younger Dolly than we are accustomed to, but she is a take-charge, no-nonsense woman whose life is devoted to “arranging things” (like furniture and daffodils — and lives).

A widow of many years, Dolly has decided it’s time to get back into life and sets her beautifully feathered cap for curmudgeon Horace Vandergelder (Stuart Marland). Each of Dolly’s musical numbers is a show-stopper, perhaps most of all “Before the Parade Passes By,” an amazingly choreographed number that ends Act 1.

Marland, who played Mr. MacAfee in last season’s “Bye Bye Birdie,” is delightfully grumpy until he finally realizes that for all of his apparent dissatisfaction with Dolly’s work on his behalf, she’s really the only woman he actually wants to marry.

Vandergelder’s two store clerks, Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, offer great comic relief and the story of their adventure in New York almost surpasses that of their boss and Dolly. John Scherer, as Hackl, in his 14th Music Circus show, has this wonderfully open face of a 43-year-old innocent who has never left Yonkers, and whose main hope on this adventure is to actually kiss a girl.
Jordan Grubb, as Barnaby, is the perfect bumbling sidekick, who follows Cornelius’ lead, but who is nervous about consequences Cornelius never even considers.

The two young men stumble into the hat shop of Irene Molloy (Jacquelyn Piro Donovan), and meeting her and her assistant Minnie Fay (Sarah Marie Jenkins) will change the lives of all four young people in a way they never imagined.

Donovan has a lovely voice that dominates in the poignant “It Only Takes a Moment” as she describes how her day with Cornelius has affected her.

Sainty Nelsen has the job of crying. All the time. Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde wants only to marry her beau Ambrose (Justin Schuman), against her uncle’s orders, until Dolly steps in. Nelsen and Schuman are fun to watch in the dance competition at Harmonia Gardens restaurant, where everybody eventually ends up.

Of course, the Harmonia Gardens is almost a character itself, with its famous waiters, headed by Rudolph (John B. Williford). The dancing of the six waiters in the Waiters’ Gallop is stunning and when Dolly makes her entrance to the title song, well … you know you are seeing classic theater.
Put on your Sunday clothes and get yourself over to Sacramento and catch this delightful production while you have the opportunity. “Dolly’ll never go away again,” but “Hello Dolly” will be leaving at the end of the week.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Totalitarians

Cassidy Brown and Kelley Ogden perform in the Capital Stage production of
“The Totalitarians,” running through July 24. Charr Crail/Courtesy photo
  
About 10 minutes into playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s hilarious comedy, “The Totalitarians,” I was convinced that we had found Donald Trump’s playbook. At intermission, I checked on the date of publication and learned it was first produced in 2014, while Trump was still firing people on “The Apprentice,” and his watch words were “You’re fired,” not “Make America great again.”

I spoke with director Peter Mohrmann after the show and commented on the wonderful coincidence of a Trump candidacy at the time they were doing this show (which had been booked a year and a half ago). He said he had been nervously watching the campaign hoping Trump would not “peak too soon.”

But whether written with Trump in mind or not, this play will definitely have you making comparisons constantly.

Penny Easter (the amazing Jamie Jones) is an over-the top Sarah Palin-type who is running for lieutenant governor of Nebraska. She wears camouflage pants, carries a big crossbow and her only credentials are that she is a bright-eyed, good-looking former roller derby champ with great hair. She’s not too big in the brains department and tends to go off script and say whatever she thinks. She has a rich husband and a smile that charms everyone.

She is loaded with charisma (pronounced CHA-risma), she says. She uses off-color language and malaprops and has never heard of “political correctness.” She speaks in nonsensical rhetoric in such a stirring fashion that her followers are slavishly devoted and don’t realize she is making no sense whatever.

Sound familiar? This was written as a satire but, sadly, it doesn’t feel so much satirical anymore!
Penny’s long-suffering campaign manager, Francine (Kelley Ogden), is stressed to the max, and trying to balance her own political ambitions of becoming a speech writer for a big Washington politician with the job of writing a winning speech for a woman whose “stupidity is not an act,” she admits.

Her stress level is not helped by husband Jeffrey (Cassidy Brown), who desperately wants his wife to give up politics and agree to start a family. Jeffrey is a tender-hearted physician who can’t bear to let his patient Ben (Casey Worthington) know that he has aggressive cancer and will die within the month.

Ben is a political activist, dead set against Penny winning the election and willing to go to any length to make that happen. He draws Jeffrey, who has been feeling frustratingly ineffectual in his life, into his plans (it seems to be a coalition of two), unbeknownst to Francine.

Penny’s campaign takes off when Francine comes up with the winning slogan, “Freedom from Fear.” Temporary tattoos are given to the crowds with “FFF” on them and Penny’s speeches get more and more strident.

Then comes the “Freedom from Fear” moment and everyone raises their fists in the air. At first dead silence, just fists. And then a whisper growing, the crowd beings to chant “FFF. FFF. FFF.”

After a stump speech that any actress would die for, which Jones delivers with all the fervor in her bones, the campaign becomes wildly successful and the women are overwhelmed with the joy of creating such an emotionally effective response. In the meantime, Jeffrey and Ben are lurking in the city park trying to expose a totalitarian regime (“You think it’s a coincidence that Nebraska is the state where Kool-Aid was invented?) and relating to each other in unexpected ways.

This play is viciously funny in the first act, but a little less so in the second, though discovering Ben’s secret is definitely the key to the finale.

Stephen Decker’s set design is simple but marvelously utilitarian with pieces that slide in and out, up and down, without ruining the integrity of the basic message of the stage.

“The Totalitarians” is, at its core, a story about power. Penny Easter lusts for traditional political control. Ben seeks power through the destabilization of current power structures. Jeffery, feeling lost in his marriage, is trying to find power again through becoming a father. Francine is reveling in the power of creating a character who can rise to greatness using her words, though in her lust for success for Easter, she has forgotten her own set of values.

The end result is a dark comedy that rings all too true in this day and age.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Music Man

Howard Hill (Richard Wall) charms the ladies of River City, Iowa, in the Davis Musical Theatre Company's production of "The Music Man." From left are Jen Nachmanoff as Mrs. Squires, Dannette Vassar as Alma Hix, Mary Young as Eulalie Shinn, Jean Thompson as Maud Dunlop, Jessica Arena as Zaneeta Shinn and Christina Rae as Ethel Toffelmier. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo
“The Music Man,” which closes out the Davis Musical Theatre Company’s 31st season, is a beloved musical that has been around since it opened on Broadway in 1957. It won five Tony Awards, including one for Robert Preston in the role of Harold Hill, the traveling salesman going about the country selling the promise of a boys’ band.

Preston made the role such an iconic one that when Cary Grant was offered a chance to play Harold Hill in the 1962 movie version, he is reported to have said that not only would he not play the role, but if they didn’t cast Preston, he wouldn’t even see the movie.

And so Preston has been the definitive Harold Hill for nearly 60 years; hundreds of actors have followed him, but none has the panache of Preston. Richard Wall, a middle-school principal from Elk Grove making his DMTC debut with this show, must have done a lot of channeling because his is the first performance I have personally seen, in a host of “Music Mans” through the years, that comes close to creating the magic of Preston’s performance.

According to co-producer Steve Isaacson, the last time Wall was on stage was in high school, when he played … Harold Hill.

But then most of the performers in this production, which DMTC has been presenting for years, are good. Wendy Carey, who grew up as a DMTC kid, plays Marian Paroo. Her voice is smooth as glass and she is a lovely Marian.

(A piece of local history: The dress Carey wears in the final scene was originally made by costumer Charlotte French in 1989 for Nancianne Pfister’s only on-stage appearance, in the Davis Comic Opera Company’s 10th-anniversary show. You have to love the small world of theater in Davis!)

Adam Sartain is very funny as Harold’s former partner in crime, Marcellus Washburn, who has found himself in the quiet town of River City, Iowa, and is settling down with the local piano player, Ethel Toffelmier (Christina Roe). Sartain is at his best leading the local kids in a rousing dance number, “Shipoopi.”

DMTC veteran Mary Young makes an imposing Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn (wife of the mayor, Steve Mackey). Young’s opening-scene costume is a study in yellow and is one of my favorites in the show. She looks like a canary among all those feather-hatted women gossiping about Marian.

Cullen Smith is sadly saddled with a terrible wig, but it does not detract from her delightful performance as Mrs. Paroo, Marian’s mother, who is up for doing anything to help her daughter get a man.

Ten-year-old Django Nachmanoff is an adorable Winthrop, the kid whose lisp makes him shy and silent until Harold promises him a coronet and a uniform with a big red stripe down the leg. His “Gary, Indiana” brought down the house.

Eight-year-old Gillian Cubbage, who made her DMTC debut last year in “The Wizard of Oz,” has fulfilled the faith I had in her during that show. Playing the mayor’s daughter, Gracie, she’s growing in ability and is as professional as any adult on the DMTC stage. (And it doesn’t hurt that she’s cute, too).

Jackie Smith-Induni does well as Amaryllis Hix, Marian’s piano student, who joins her in singing “Goodnight, My Someone.” She plays a lovely “cross-hand piece.”

Tommy Djilas, the “bad” kid from the wrong side of the tracks, is given an earnest performance by Jonathan Kalinen, while his girlfriend Zaneeta Shinn (Jessica Arena) shrieks “yeee-gods” with the best of them.

One other performer in a minor role who deserves mention is Jean Thompson as Maud Dunlop, wife of Ewart Dunlop (Jeff Nauer), a member of the school board-turned-barbershop quartet. Thompson has a magical face that just glows and makes any scene in which she appears extra-fun.

The barbershop quartet includes, in addition to Nauer, Jeremy Carlson, Scott Scholes and Andy Hyun. They are always fun and these guys do a good job of bringing back that old barbershop sound.

Returning to the DMTC stage after a hiatus is Ben Bruening as Charlie Cowell, the anvil salesman, out to expose Harold Hill for the swindler that he is. Bruening is suitably slimy and the man you want to boo.

This is an odd production in that Hill is going to form a “boys’ band” but, other than Winthrop, there are no young boys in the cast and the band to whom he says, “think, men” are all girls. But let it pass. No need to complain about such a small point in an otherwise enjoyable show.

A Revolutionary Mind

The cast of “A Revolutionary Mind,” presented by California Stage, includes Marion Jeffrey as Susan, surrounded by Michael Erwin as the Professor, Joe Monroe as Alan and Berman Obaldia as Raymundo Gleyser. Courtesy photo

 Leslie Lewinter-Suskind (“Italian Opera”) is introducing her new play, “A Revolutionary Mind,” at California Stage Theater’s R25 Arts Complex. The production is directed by Ray Tatar.

Drawing inspiration from the life and disappearance Argentinian filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer, this play centers on Susan (Marion Jeffery), a boomer generation activist who was ready to set the world on fire and make it a better place for everyone.

But first she had to marry Alan (Joe Monroe); then the birth of a daughter, and then a son, intervene with her plans to save the world.

The show itself bounces back and forth seamlessly among three time periods — the present day, Susan’s college years and her dialogs with her professor (Michael T. Erwin) and conversations with Raymundo Gleyzer (Berman Obaldia) as she tries to make sense of her life and what she has accomplished. It also deals with the very real disappearance of her daughter, whom she has raised to be an activist and who went off to film atrocities around the world, like Gleyzer.

The success of this powerful plan rests on the performance of Jeffery as Susan. She is mesmerizing. She has the ability to transform from the modern-day subservient wife to the passionate student to the frustrated activist and back again with the mere turn of her head and slight change in her expression. It really must be seen to be appreciated.

Matching Jeffery in intensity is Obaldia as Gleyzer, a larger-than-life figure whose passion for recording the atrocities he sees around him and sharing them with the world ultimately will lead to his torture and execution. It is he who extracts the most guilt from Susan as he points out that while she has the desire, she gave it up in exchange for a husband and a suburban home where she gives dinner parties serving Swedish meatballs or fondue and attends meetings about the condition of the world.

(“How do you silence the real world so you can hear the real world?” she asks in anguish. Any frustrated activist in the audience will identify immediately!)

Erwin as the Professor is a nice, tell-it-like-it-is character who takes no excuses from Susan and always challenges her to be better than she thinks she can be.

At the same time, husband Alan (Monroe) is himself frustrated, wanting to be supportive of Susan, but tired of her leaving the family, whether physically or emotionally, to try to change the world.

As the play begins, he is dealing with the American Embassy, which has called to let the family know that their daughter is missing. The encouraging and then discouraging news of the daughter permeates the evening, and is driving Susan’s conflicted emotions, realizing that it was she who instilled in her daughter the need to change the world, which has led to this dangerous situation in which she now finds herself.

(According to his bio, “A Revolutionary Mind” is the first theater production for Monroe, and he certainly shows promise for future productions.)

While I found this play excellent and very moving, I also found it depressing. The collegiate Susan’s passionate hopes for her future are shared with her professor and sound like they came right out of a Bernie Sanders speech. (Maybe they did.)

The more that Susan, her professor and Gleyzer talk, the more one realizes that we have not come nearly as far as we hoped we had. We are still fighting the battles they fought during the civil rights era, only now we are fighting for the rights for even more categories of human beings. We still do not have universal health care or schooling available to all. Atrocities are still happening in foreign lands. The battle goes on, as it has for centuries.

I don’t know if this will be a wake-up call for all former passionate activists, but it certainly will leave you wondering how you might have done things differently when you had the opportunity. And does the life you have lived leave you satisfied with your own role in changing the world from the comfort of your air-conditioned house?