Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Cutting Ball Theater
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of The Unfortunates, Sam and Dede, or My Dinner with Andre the Giant and Dogeaters and Patrick's reviews of Kismet and Aubergine

Jessica Waldman and Kenny Toll
Photo by Rob Melrose
Cutting Ball Theater, one of the leaders of experimental theater and works that are nontraditional and rigorous, is presenting the world premiere of Katharine Sherman's Ondine. After seeing Disney's The Little Mermaid several weeks ago I was prepared to see another mermaid story. Ondine is a water sprite who leaves the sea to join her lover. She resists the call of the sea and chooses to stay on land. When her lover leaves her to pursue his research, she curses him: when he sleeps, he will stop breathing and die. He returns from his journey but she cannot reverse her curse.

Katharine Sherman has written a 74-minute drama about this nymph in short, rhythmic bursts. The tale is hard to follow since the playwright uses resonance, verse, and strange sentence structures. Besides the two central characters, Ondine and her lover Hildebrand, there are characters playing Rain, Mist, and Ice who appear intermittently to advise Ondine.

Jessica Waldman as Ondine and Kenny Toll as Hildebrand give outstanding performances; they have great chemistry together. Jessica Waldman displays contagious inquisitiveness and excitement while Kenny Toll underplays the role of the alchemist-knight with an internal conflict between love and science. His performance feels very real. Molly Benson, Marilet Martinez, and Danielle O'Hara support these two lovers as Rain, Mist, and Ice. They skillfully recite poetry alone and together.

Michael Locher's playful set is extraordinary. The intimate theatre is arranged with the audience on two sides of the huge, blue-wave stage, seated very close to the actors. There are trap doors for the actors to pop or materialize through. Jessica and Kenny occasionally slide down from the crests to the base of the set and sometimes drop their feet through a trap door into an unseen pool below. Rob Melrose's direction is perfect for the Cutting Ball's intimate theater.

Cutting Ball Theater's Ondine runs through March 6th, 2016, at the EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-525-1205 or on line at Coming up next is Risk Is This ...: The Cutting Ball New Experimental Plays Festival starting on March 11 and running through March 26th.

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