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Stomp & The Winter's Tale

Wednesday, May 24 2000
Now ensconced more or less permanently in San Francisco, Stomp is the perfect show for the city. It's truly multicultural, with a cast who're not only of various ethnicities, but various body types as well: big and hulking, tall and lithe, short and stocky, and out-and-out petite. What they all have in common is great rhythm. Stomp incorporates elements of mime, tap, and jazz, while the drumming draws from taiko, African, and South American beats. The cast members use no actual drums, inventively employing commonplace items (brooms, trash cans, tea boxes, kitchen sinks) to create intricate, complicated rhythms. Comedy arises out of the troupe's use of mime (none of the characters speaks until the very end), one-upsmanship, and anticlimax -- big buildups lead to hilariously small punch lines, many of them provided by the diminutive Taro Alexander. (On opening night, a few moments lacked crispness, but didn't detract from the enjoyment.) Stomp co-creator Luke Cresswell begins the evening with a deadpan face (most of the cast maintain a mask of nonchalance as they skillfully flick, snap, slap, or pound out the numbers), and one by one the other performers appear, each adding a new layer and beat to the rhythm. When the entire troupe is banging and clanging, its members' feigned indifference disappears and the pulsing, booming syncopation takes over. Fiona Wilkes, jumping with abandon, becomes a priestess of percussion thumping out the bass line. Mina Liccione swings from the rafters playing on a wall full of junk, and her long, thin arms add extra flourishes as she brandishes her drumsticks. The poor Marines Memorial Theater hardly seems substantial enough to contain all that glorious noise: The place rocks. The show deserves to be a long-term success here.

The Winter's Tale
The Women in Time company takes on Shakespeare's exquisite play with some real success. Angela Goodsell's astonishing performance as Paulina provides the emotional core for this production. Her grief and anger result in tears as she lambastes King Leontes (Matt Henerson) for his inexplicable charge of adultery against his wife Hermione (Jennifer Wagner), causing her and their two children's apparent deaths; Goodsell roots Paulina's ensuing apology for her outburst in despair, and it's heart-rending. Henerson's Leontes possesses terrific command of the language and grand royal gestures, and evokes a chilling horror looking at his infant daughter one last time, then dismissing her to abandonment and probable death. Wagner is fine, but doesn't give enough weight to Hermione's most noble lines ("How will this grieve you/ When you shall come to clearer knowledge, that/ You thus have published me!"). The Bohemia pastoral sequences are less successful. As first Antigonus and then the Shepherd, Don Wood's flatness and discomfort with Shakespeare's diction undercut his scenes. Robyn Ganeles lends a sweetness to the young prince Mamillius, but as Perdita her too-girlish wiggliness overshadows the character's intelligence and poise. And Autolycus' (Paul Silverman) songs don't come across well, though Silverman's entertaining when affecting a foppish courtier. These difficulties obscure the intended festival atmosphere, and the show lags. Overall, director Sacha Reich approaches the text with inventive originality. There are occasional blocking problems, and the costumes and lighting aren't well integrated. But she has Goodsell portray Time as an old Gypsy woman who sweeps up the snow and sprinkles gray in the characters' hair, and in the final scene, she smartly faces Wagner upstage. As you watch the faces of the cast gazing at Hermione in Shakespeare's magical ending, as Goodsell gently, movingly reveals the truth to the others, you thrill to this production, despite its faults.

About The Author

Joe Mader


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