Christopher Durang is one of his generation’s most talented playwrights. Having worked and studied as an actor & playwright with Sigourney Weaver of the film Avatar, Meryl Streep, and Wendy Wasserstein at The Yale School of Drama’s MFA program certainly didn’t hurt. At San Francisco’s Custom Made Theatre’s Durang Me!, two of Durang’s one act plays, The Actor’s Nightmare (directed by Gabriel Ross) & Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You (directed by Daunielle Rasmussen) are performed with humor and glee.
The production opens with Nightmare and accountant George Spelvin (played by Eric O’Kelly) somehow ending up backstage as he walks up from the back of the audience of the theatre where the Stage Manager Meg (Claire Slattery) mistakes him for the replacement for the actor Edwin who was in an accident and is only mentioned by name in the play. So George performs not knowing his lines or even what play he’s in.
He’s eventually joined by the other actors in the play one at a time. Beginning with Sarah (Eleanor Mason Reinholdt); Ellen (AJ Davenport); and Henry (Tavis Kammet). Reinholdt was steady throughout this play, but O’Kelly just didn’t have chemistry with her. O’Kelly is a fine actor; however, he and Reinholdt somehow didn’t mesh. Thus, the play didn’t work as well as it could have.
After the 15-minute intermission and scenery changes for Sister Mary, the audience is swiftly energized by Sister Mary Ignatius (Davenport) who lectures & lays out her educational agenda. She points to drawings of the earth, moon and sun. Then she shows drawings by children of heaven, hell and purgatory. Davenport played the nun spectacularly and was a riot to watch.
Sister Mary continues the lecture with which acts against God send you to hell – murder, adultery & fornication, highjacking planes, masturbation. And seven-year old Thomas, one of her sweet obedient students, joins her onstage after her moments with the audience.
On Sister Mary’s cue, Thomas (Cole Cloud) recites answers to certain questions and is rewarded with cookies. Cloud is a delightful surprise because his comedic timing is perfect. His Shakespearean training has certainly helped him out for this play.
Sister Mary’s lecture is stopped midway by four former students (Kammet as Gary; Reinholdt as Diane; Slattery as Philomena; and O’Kelly as Aloysius), who have come to present a Christmas pageant, which is written by her favorite student who joined a nunnery.
As Sister Mary engages with her students, her attitude gets gloomy as she realizes all of these students have strayed away from the church’s doctrines – an unwed mother; another who’s now gay; and one who has had abortions.
Reinholdt was flawless as Diane. Her performance was nothing short of amazing. Slattery wasn’t too shabby either. And Kammet performed admirably.
Reinholdt was most noteworthy in her dialogues with Davenport’s Sister Mary. It’d be a pleasure to see Reinholdt and Davenport in another production together like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof perhaps.
The performance was done on a thrust stage with blue painted platforms raised with an entry of three small steps at the center of the apron. Upstage center was a wall with abstract colors and royal purpled curtains were used for Nightmare to mask the mosaic windows for Sister Mary.
Simplicity was the theme for all other technical aspects of the show. Source fours with white lighting were the main lights for both shows, though strobe lighting was used occasionally. Standard foundation was used for make-up, except for the ladies of course with their lipstick.
The costumes were not too extravagant except when appropriate for the characters or for the play within a play in Nightmare. And except for a façade fence during Nightmare, both plays only used a single chair for scenery. Simplicity is good for a production; it makes the acting better without the technical side to use as a crutch for the actors.
The Custom Made Theatre Company’s production of Durang Me! performs Thur-Sat @ 8 pm and Sun @ 7 pm through July 11, 2010 @ The Next Stage located at 1620 Gough St, San Francisco, CA 94109. Ironically for Sister Mary it’s housed at the wing of the Trinity Episcopal Church of San Francisco. The play runs just under two hours with the intermission.
Tickets are $28 each for general admission. For tickets, call or e-mail Leah Abrams 510-207-5774 or email@example.com. You can also click below on one of the following links for more information or discounted prices:
The Custom Made Theatre’s next production is The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis opening in September. For some insights into this play, click the review at the link below: