Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule
Curran: Under Construction Presents The Events
The historic Curran Theatre is still under construction, but for four days Carole Shorenstein Hays invited the media for a look-see into the "theatre under construction." We were ushered through the stage door and onto the stage of the theatre. We observed the orchestra seats and balcony from the stage. The old enormous crystal chandelier is still up over the orchestra seats. However, there was little light coming from the orchestra area so we could not make out any details of the seats. The Curran Theatre is set to open on January 2017.
As an extra "entertainment" we witnessed a new play from British playwright David Gray performed by two excellent British actors, Lesley Hart and Clifford Samuel, with superb choral work by a choir from the local Most Holy Redeemer Parish under the leadership of Victor Cervantes. The 90-minute play was called The Events and it was being presented by the Actors Touring Company in association with New York Theatre Workshop and the Young Vic of England. We were seated on the stage on bleachers four tiers high facing the orchestra seats while the chorus was seated on the same set of bleachers facing us, with the two actors exquisitely performing in front of us.
The Events is a response to the killing of 77 people by Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011. The opening scene in this provocative drama showed a disturbed Clair (Lesley Hart), a lesbian priest in a small seaside village, who led the choir stage right while a character simply called "The Boy" (Clifford Samuel) was minding his own business stage left. Clair called to him to join her and the choir, saying words like "If you want to sing please do so" or "if you don't want to sing that's fine also." She wanted to know why the boy walked into her community-choir rehearsal and shot several members dead. We found out later what's really eating her up with anger.
The Events was presented as a series of oblique episodes and alternative universes, such as an aboriginal boy standing on a rock, watching three ships arrive and vowing to kill all the passengers; later the same boy said, while standing on the rock, "Thank fuck something interesting has finally happened around here."
The Events was unbending and fearless theatre. In parts it was rebellious and profound and sometimes it was unfathomable but it still held my interest. There was a lot of talk in this show and very little action. Sometimes there was not satisfactory dramatic impact, but it was no fault of the actors or the choir. They gave enthusiastic performances.
Clifford Samuel gave a magnetic performance taking many roles, such as vicar's female lover, a wolf who skipped manically, an aboriginal boy, the killer's psychiatrist, and of course Andres Breivik. Scottish actress Lesley Hart was outstanding as the fanatical lesbian priest who had lost her partner in the raid. She skillfully drew the audience into her obsession.
The Most Holy Redeemer Parish choir, with music director Joe Bucker (from the original production) leading adroitly from a piano on the far right, performed selections ranging from gospel hymns to Dizzee Rascal's "Bonkers," which was a favorite of the killer.
The Events was presented for four days only, from September 23 to September 26, on the stage of the Curran: Under Construction, 445 Geary Street, San Francisco. For up coming events check out www.sfcurran.com.