Category Archives: Show Time

Vol. 11, No. 25 – Sept 12 – Sept 25, 2018 – Movie Review

Crazy Rich Asians
Review: 3 stars out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Crazy Rich Asians is a 2018 romantic comedy directed by Jon M. Chu. Screenplay by Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim. Based on Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel of the same name. The film stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Nico Santos, Lisa Lu, Ken Jeong, and Michelle Yeoh.

Having discovered her fiancé’s family is one of the richest families in Singapore, Rachel Chu has to navigate the intricate power dynamics of the super rich.

I haven’t seen a romantic comedy in quite some time, so much so in fact I forgot what makes them enjoyable. Whether it’s the beautiful locations, the melodrama, or the inevitable cheesy ending, Crazy Rich Asians hit all these hallmarks. Crazy Rich Asians also has the advantage of being fresh for audiences. An all Asian cast placed in Singapore and revolving around modern Asian culture, 3 distinct things that are not going to be familiar to most western audiences; and that is where so much of this film’s strengths come from, it feels genuine. Maybe even more importantly, it’s actually funny.

Crazy Rich Asians had an interesting production history that I would directly attribute to this film’s success. By securing funding from outside the US, and optioning the original story for $1, Kevin Kwan retained strong creative control over the adaptation of his book. Kevin’s pursuit to bring an all Asian cast to the big screen and create a film culturally significant to Asians is laudable. Even turning down a seven-figure payday from Netflix, Kevin was directly responsible for this films success and cultural impact.

I can’t claim to have an understanding of Asian culture, but I can say the portrayal of Asian culture in this film was wildly entertaining. Every bit of this film was turned up to eleven, and the glitz and glamour never stopped being entertaining. The sets were beautiful and really did justice to showing how unique Singapore is. With the titular character being Asian American, there is a lots of drama played off of this fact. At times, romantic comedies can slog around halfway through, but the film stays pretty consistent in quality.

Crazy Rich Asians might be a high point for me in the romantic comedy genre, but some of my usual gripes of the genre are still present. Flashy and wild parties are fun to see, but that makes up a bulk of the films plot. Frequently the film defaults to trying to be all fun and games; I would of liked a bit more fleshed out drama. Maybe asking for more depth from a romcom is the wrong mindset to have, but without a doubt Crazy Rich Asians make a great date night film.

Funny, endearing, and novel, plenty of reasons to make the trip to see this film. Crazy Rich Asians brings fresh ideas and solid execution to the romantic comedy genre. Now if romantic comedy is a steer clear for you, I don’t see that changing for this. It hits all the usual beats and is very predictable in that regard. Nonetheless, If you are looking for a fun date night movie, or for a wild destination wedding without the price tag, Crazy Rich Asians is worth the price of admission. Rated PG-13 2h1m

Vol. 11, No. 25 – Sept 12 – Sept 25, 2018 – A View from House Seats

Singing along to the tunes many of us grew up with.

by Shirley Lorraine
Rock and Roll at the Rubicon

What a terrific way to end the summer – reliving a memorable time in music history and singing along to the tunes many of us grew up with. The world premiere production of I Dig Rock and Roll Music now playing at the Rubicon Theater fills the arena and the audience with memories and joy. We were reminded that music is a healing art so needed in troubled times. The concert entreated the audience to relax and enjoy “about the happiest sound there is”, in the words of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Carrying forward the concept of “Lonesome Traveler”, a Rubicon world premiere of a few years ago focusing on acoustic folk music, the current concert showcases songs made popular in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s when folk became electrified and blended into rock and roll. Those were the days when the lyrics could be easily understood, and specific songs became banners for some of us. Now, some 50 years later, we can still happily sing along. And the lyrics are suitable for all ages to hear.

Co-creators George Grove, Rubicon co-founder James O’Neil and Dan Wheetman have compiled songs that epitomized the era and whose messages are still meaningful today. Perhaps even more so. Protest songs such as “Peace Train” and “War” are mixed with familiar favorites “Cherish”, “California Dreamin”, “Everybody’s Talkin’ and more.

Cast members Caitlin Ary, Sylvie Davidson, Brendan Willing James, Chris Lash, Matt Tucci and Trevor Wheetman displayed their acumen in song styles as well as instrumentation. James and Wheetman both appeared in Rubicon’s Lonesome Traveler, and Davidson appeared in the Off-Broadway production of the same show.

The night I attended one cast member was absent and her part was filled in quite capably by Cassidy Craig, a graduate of the Rubicon’s Harmonix. Craig held her own throughout and even garnered a standing ovation for her rendition of “Respect” in honor of the late Aretha Franklin.

The second act opened with an instrumental medley where the audience was invited to sing along. And we did, joining in on “Hey Jude”, Sweet Caroline” and “Let it Be” among others. Many in the audience kept time to the beats with hands, feet and heads bobbing throughout the performance.

Adding a special touch to the concert were original compositions by James, Lash, Davidson and Wheetman. Lash provided Elton John quality on the keyboards that was intricate and inspiring. Drummer Matt Tucci kept everyone on beat. The range of this talented cast is a thing of beauty to the eye as well as the ear.

Noel Paul Stookey (Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary) contributed an original song as well, titled “Standing on the Shoulders” celebrating the lasting influence of musical performers who shaped history.

I Dig Rock and Roll Music provides an evening of nostalgia, beauty and pure enjoyment. Once again, the Rubicon Theater brings forth a high-quality artistic event to enhance our community.

I Dig Rock and Roll Music plays Wednesdays to Sundays through September 16 at the Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St. (corner of Main and Laurel Streets) in downtown Ventura. Matinees: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Evening performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Tickets: $35-$65. 24-hour ticketing and seat selection is available online at (805) 667-2900.

Vol. 11, No. 24 – Aug 29 – Sept 11, 2018 – Movie Review

Eighth Grade
Review: 3 stars out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Eighth Grade is a 2018 comedy drama, written and directed by Bo Burnham, marking his directorial debut. Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, and Emily Robinson. Eighth Grade follows Kayla Day, a soon to be high schooler, and her life as she navigates through a confusing time of transition.

Dizzyingly awkward, painfully honest, and nauseatingly cringey; pretty much exactly how I remember my last year in middle school. For us millennials and generation Zers, that’s precisely why this film is so appealing. It validates a time in every young person’s life that we fondly look back on and think, “ What the hell was I thinking?” Eighth Grade was Bo Burnham’s first dive into narrative-driven film, and he killed it.

Bo Burnham’s use of unknown actors is something I’ve been itching to see more of in Hollywood. Elsie Fisher’s performance was great and as were many of her co-stars. Having new unknown actors is such an easy way to circumvent the problem of having experience adults play the role of children. This added authenticity really goes a long way to improve the experience and help the viewer’s immersion.

However, Bo Burnham’s screenplay was really the star of the show here. I haven’t seen other media really do justice to the youth culture of Gen Zers quite like Eighth Grade. Awkward parental dabbing, Fortnite dances, and vlogging, it’s all there and just as silly as it looks in our lives. In the middle of all that though, this is a story of encouragement. A story that we all persevere through this time and eventually hit our stride. Kayla Day is so easy to root for, so easy to care for, because she so perfectly encapsulates that vulnerable time in everyone’s life.

With all that said, the biggest obstacle to Eighth Grade’s success is really itself. It’s an awkward story, about awkward teenagers, in an awkward time in their life. I can’t help but ask myself who really is this film for? An R rated film targeted specifically for middle schoolers,that spends as much time poking fun at youth culture as it does celebrate it. That’s a hard sell. Really, I feel the film seems to be best suited for us young adults who just love to commiserate. Reminiscing about how terrible of a time middle school was is a fun ride, but not one that everyone wants to go on. It’s a great film, that much is clear, but it very much isn’t for everyone. Rated R 1h34m

Vol. 11, No. 24 – Aug 29 – Sept 11, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Classic comedy in Camarillo

Now on stage at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse through September 16 is Noël Cowards’ classic comedy Private Lives.

Sir Noël Coward a (knighted in 1970) dabbled in all parts of the theater throughout his lengthy career, from acting to directing to writing and seemingly everything in between. The quite cheeky Englishman is most well-known for his “comedies of manners” – Private Lives being one of the most successful. The dialogue is clipped, succinct, delightful and humorous as it points out and highlights the human condition and many of its failings.

Newlyweds Elyot and Sibyl Chase have chosen a hotel in Deauville, France for their honeymoon. So have newlyweds Amanda and Victor Prynne who reside in the suite next door. All goes swimmingly until Elyot and Amanda, who were previously married to each other, realize that not only have they entered unions of dubious lasting power, they still have strong feelings for each other. They decide to run away together to rekindle their passion, leaving Sibyl and Victor in the lurch. Ultimately, the jilted parties confront the pair and comedic chaos ensues.

The sparkling dialogue exposes the clear double standard thinking of the 1930’s to hilarious response.

All the characterizations are strong and consistent. Alan Waserman, playing Elyot, gives a solid performance that brings forth lots of laughs as he delivers sentiments of the times with a straight face. His new young bride, Sibyl, is suitably spirited in the person of Lauren Zika. She carries off the flighty role with vigor. Amanda, Elyot’s first wife and the center of the plays whirlwind action is portrayed by Genevieve Levin, who attacks the part with fervor. She is well matched to Bill Sweeney as her new husband Victor, a caricatured English gentleman.

Scenes between the two men are delightful as the characters battle each other with more wit than brawn. The English accents are carried off extremely well by all and it took a few minutes to acclimate my ears to its cadence. Because of that combined with musical background, the opening scene was a challenge for me. As soon as the music stopped I was able to focus on the verbal spars more closely and able to enjoy the wordplay.

Theresa Secor, a familiar face in Ventura County Theater, adds brief comic touches as Louise, the maid. Although her lines are spoken entirely in French, she certainly delivers a clear message through expressions and body language.

The 1930’s costuming credited to Erin Heulitt is simply dashing – flattering to each person and adds a special touch to the strong characterizations.

Set design by Director Dean Johnson gave most attention to the second half scenes, an interior suite in Paris, France. Just enough detail was given without overcrowding the set with period knick-knacks. The opening sequence on the hotel veranda was less polished, in my opinion, but did convey the appropriate tone.

Private Lives is a welcome look at classic (and clean) comedy of the highest quality.

Private Lives runs Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. through September 16

Camarillo Skyway Playhouse

330 Skyway Drive, Camarillo
Camarillo Airport
(805) 388-5716 or

Adults $20, Students, seniors (60+) and military, $15, Under 12, $10

Jeffry George hired as Rubicon’s Executive Director

Karyl Lynn Burns was all smiles introducing new Rubicon Executive Director.

Jeffry George recently served as Executive Director of the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre (WHAT), on Cape Cod, a post he held for six years, guiding the organization through significant financial and organizational realignment. Reporting to the Board of Trustees, Jeffry was responsible for administration, development, marketing, education, and community outreach.

He managed a seasonal staff of 45 and a volunteer program of 120. Jeffry also implemented an intern program for professional artists, with weekly seminars, career workshops and hands-on training through rotations in various departments.

While at Wellfleet, Jeffry led strategic planning efforts and provided leadership in consultation with the Harvard Business School CAP program. He secured $2.25 million in new donor funds.

Jeffry had primary individual responsibility for overseeing the construction of a new state-of-the-art, $6 million, 200-seat theatre completed in June of 2007, including serving as client representative to builder and architect and resident inspector for USDA-Rural Development (primary lender). Jeffry’s influence and guidance on capital projects will provide healthy returns for the future of the organization; it will also be of enormous help to Rubicon as the company begins to address building and infrastructure needs.

Says Jeffry, “I have admired Rubicon’s incredible artistic reputation for many years, and know many artists who speak of the company with reverence and respect. I am especially excited by Rubicon’s commitment to developing new works.”

“Throughout the interview process,” he continues, “I have felt drawn to the company and to the community of Ventura. I look forward to working with Artistic Directors and Founders Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’neil, Board President Doug Halter, Board Vice-President Walt Wood who helmed the search process, and others in the organization to lead Rubicon Theatre Company into a new era of sustainability and strength.”

He will also be working closely with Mary Jarvis and Development Director Amber Landis-Stover to reach out to the broader business community to invite new attendees and potential contributors to become a part of the Rubicon family.

Prior to his work at Wellfleet, Jeffry also served as Executive Director of Cantata Singers in Boston for nearly three years, a 60-member classical choral organization with an endowment of $2.5 million. As Managing Director of Theatre Aspen, he managed a four-show summer season, an education program for students ages 6 through 11, and was responsible for evaluating and implementing all administrative and financial policies.

During his long and successful career, Jeffry also served as General Manager of the 300-seat LORT/LOA Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton Florida. He has an in-depth understanding of the artistic and production process, having been both a Production Manager and Production Stage Manager at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City, Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ, and North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA.

Jeffry is an advocate for the importance of theatre in society and in people’s lives. He enjoys working collaboratively with various constituent groups to ensure that professional, quality theatre is accessible to the community he serves.

In his first 90 days, Jeffry will be focusing on building a Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee to advise the organization as we expand the Boards of Directors and Advisors based on an analysis of the organization’s leadership needs.

Vol. 11, No. 23 – Aug 15 – Aug 28, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Old standard still thrills

Actor’s Repertory Theatre of Simi blasts it out of the park with their revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s lively musical, Oklahoma! The long-running, high-stepping production retains the same charm and appeal it originally brought to the stage in 1943. Still one of the most popular musicals ever, Oklahoma! has the audience singing along, tapping their feet, and cheering for the heroes.

Based on the book Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, the story is set in 1906 in what was then Oklahoma Territory. The action centers on a small western town and the colorful characters who call it home. The main story portrays the courtship of young Curly and Laurey as they dance around their mutual attraction. Secondarily, a romance between smitten Will Parker and flirty Ado Annie takes a rocky path. Underlying the frivolity is a dark side provided by rough-hewn ranch-hand Jud, who pines for Laurie.

Directed by the multi-talented Will Shupe, the production features a range of actors who two-step their way through with style and energy. Choreography by Becky Castells is tight and impressive, given the number of people on stage and the high energy and intricacy of the reels. The cowboys and the farmers of all ages kick up their heels while the cadre of young girls flounce and preen flirtatiously.

A large live orchestra directed by Matt Park provides all the right notes as the familiar music fills the theater.

The voices of leads Joe Hebel and Sara Owinyo give Curly and Laurey solid tones that do more than justice to Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ and Many a New Day, among other favorites, in fine fashion. Owinyo has a clear and beautiful voice reminiscent of the original Laurey, Shirley Jones. Hebel is strong and clear as well, although at times vocally overpowering in volume. The combination of strong voices, microphones and a full orchestra could be dialed down a few notches and still be more than adequate, in my opinion.

Ado Annie is playfully portrayed by Alissa Horner, who is matched with Conner Stevens as Will Parker. They complement each other well as they sing out All Er’ Nothin’ and I Cain’t Say No.

Traveling peddler Ali Hakim is larger than life in the person of Ceron Jones and David White channels his dark side as the brooding Jud Fry. The role of feisty Aunt Eller as personified by Kathleen Silverman is a hoot and a force of nature.

Director Shupe has opted to retain all the original script, including a few songs and dance sequences that are frequently cut. Kudos for giving the audience the full experience. Dancers Michael Dumas and Ashley Maimes executed a lovely dream dance sequence that added depth to the story.

Also delivering notable performances are Ted Elrick as Ado’s father, Mr. Carnes, and Ciara D’Anella as Gertie Cummings. A large ensemble fills in all the spaces left with gusto.

For a superior touch of nostalgia coupled with outstanding performances, Oklahoma! is one to catch before it’s gone.

Oklahoma! runs through September 2 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Simi Valley. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8:00 p.m., Sunday matinees begin at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $25 Adults, $22 Students/Seniors 60 & Above, and $18 Children 12 & Under. (805)583-7900,

Vol. 11, No. 22 – Aug 1 – Aug 14, 2018 – Movie Review

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
2 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a 2018 musical directed and written by Ol Parker, from a story by Parker, Catherine Johnson, and Richard Curtis. The film stars Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper, Andy García, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Cher, and Meryl Streep. Taking place after the events of Mamma Mia!, the film revolves around Sophie’s restoration and reopening of a hotel with flashbacks of Donna’s arrival Greece and her chance run in with the three possible fathers of her daughter.

Every once in a while I watch a movie that reminds me of another way a movie can be “good”. I’m not talking about Oscar-worthy performances or gripping narratives that cut deep and expose societal ills. I’m talking about fun. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again might not be a movie on your radar, but it’s more than enough for a fun date night. With great musical covers of our favorite Swedish pop super group, wonderfully tacky costumes and sets, and surprisingly good cinematography, there is plenty to enjoy.

That isn’t to say that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is an amazing movie. For every bit of ABBA goodness, there’s equal amounts of the campy love story writing that one would expect, but that okay, that was really all I expected going into this. If you wanted a gripping drama on the struggles of a woman in a rocky relationship, trying her best to make it in this world, then you came to the wrong movie.

It’s wonderful seeing a movie that felt so alive with color and vibrant energy. The costumes ranged from wonderful, to wonderfully tacky. The locations were beautiful and everything felt so colorful. It felt like this film was partly made just for sake of an aged cast to finally cut loose and have fun. Amanda Seyfried and Lily James had a number of great musical pieces throughout the film. What really surprised me was the camera work on display here. There really was some great framing and camera work during this film. As a package, while it might be a little shallow for some, it’s still a fun time to be had. There’s nothing wrong with being in the shallow side of the pool from time to time, right?

In all, there’s really little to say about the movie. It’s a fun date night movie if there isn’t really anything else to interest you. If you are an ABBA super fan, then absolutely you should see these great performances. Otherwise, you aren’t missing too much. It’s a fun ride, with some catchy tunes. 1h54m PG-13

Vol. 11, No. 22 – Aug 1 – Aug 14, 2018 – A View from House Seats

The company of the Rubicon Theatre Company’s Summer Musical Intensive production of Grease. Photo by Kirby Ward

by Shirley Lorraine

Youth productions sizzle in summer

Summer is the perfect time to engage kids of all ages into fun and fascinating learning experiences.

Many Ventura County theaters have regular summer programs for youth to enjoy being on stage and behind the scenes, learning the craft as they go. It is always exciting to watch talents bud and bloom.

Camarillo Skyway Playhouse stages periodic youth productions via the CSP Stage Door Players and Camarillo Young Actor’s Company. See their website for additional information.

The High Street Theater in Moorpark concluded its summer youth production of Aladdin, Jr. just last weekend. Drat, just missed it. Be sure to calendar July 2019 for next year’s offering.

Elite Theatre in Oxnard is currently presenting Yearbook – a humorous glimpse with a positive spin into life in middle school. The play accentuates how teamwork, caring and compassion help guide the students through various typical situations. Directed by Michael J. McGraw and produced by the Elite’s Artistic Director L.J. Stevens.

Only two performances remain to catch this special production – Saturday and Sunday August 4 and 5. Curtain time 2 p.m. for both shows. General admission $15, Senior & Students $12, $10 under 10 years old. (805) 483-5118 or online at 2731 Victoria Avenue, Oxnard, CA 93035 (Victoria and Channel Islands)

The Ojai Art Center Youth Branch proudly presents The Little Mermaid, Jr., adapted from the Disney Broadway production. It is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story and features music, action and a cast of children from age 5 to 15. Directed by Gai Jones, the production continues its run through August 12.

General admission $15, under 15 $10. Friday 7:00 p.m, Saturdays 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays 2:00 p.m. through August 12. Ojai Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery Street, (805) 640-8797,

Rubicon Theater’s Education & Outreach 2018 Youth Productions Musical theater students present the ever-popular 50’s musical Grease, celebrating its 40th year of delighting audiences across the globe. Enjoy a look into the past as the cast brings forth familiar songs such as Greased Lightning and Summer Love.

The staging features 28 Ventura County students ages 15-24 and is directed/choreographed by Beverly Ward and Jamie Torcellini.

The anniversary production corresponds to Rubicon’s 20th anniversary of providing quality theater to Ventura County as well as in-depth educational opportunities for volunteers of all ages.

Performances are Friday August 3 at 7 p.m, Saturday August 4 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday August 5 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Tuesday, August 7 at 7 p.m., Wednesday August 8 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday August 9 at 7 p.m. and Friday August 10 at 7 p.m. 1006 E. Main St, downtown Ventura, (805) 667-2900 or

Whichever production you go see, know that your support of youth theater programs across the county will provide the cornerstone for future talents. Help keep Ventura County theater alive and well for years to come.

Vol. 11, No. 21 – July 18 – July 31, 2018 – Movie Review

Ant-Man and the Wasp Review:
2 Palm Trees out of 4

by Manuel Reynoso

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a 2018 superhero film based on the Ant-Man and the Wasp. The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Directed by Peyton Reed and written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari. Starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly.

Still riding high off the wild ride that Avengers: Infinity War was, I was actually looking forward to watching another Marvel movie, but perhaps going in expecting things like impactful themes, nuanced villains, and meaningful dialogue was unreasonable for an Ant-Man movie. It certainly was a fun watch with plenty of witty jokes and well done action scenes, but it felt like just more of the same Superhero movies we’ve been going to see for the last decade. Along with some questionable directing and massive overuse of sci fi techno babble, I walked away painfully underwhelmed.

Now that isn’t to say Ant-Man and the Wasp was a complete disappointment. The manipulation of size lead to some fun fight scenes and car chases. Paul Rudd continues to be his hilarious self and really has the only redeeming dialogue in this film. There is enough here for me to not completely write this film off. Ant-Man and the Wasp could be especially fun for families with small children, but that’s where my praise ends.

There were plenty of strange directing decisions that threw me off, but none more than the director’s strange over reliance of Chekhov’s gun. Chekhov’s gun is a pretty basic storytelling device: essentially you introduce an interesting item, and then the audience gets the payoff of seeing said item move the plot along. Usually used sparingly in a film, apparently Ant-Man and the Wasp find this this technique hilarious, because they do it over and over and over again. So many times our attention is put on a random item, like there is going to be some incredibly clever usage of it, with the resulting payoff being completely vapid.

I wish my complaints ended here, I really do. I should have enjoyed the film more, but so much of the dialogue is just a slog to get through. I just couldn’t get myself through all the sci fi mumbo-jumbo speak. Hearing whole conversations consist of random science terms with the word quantum slapped on is just not engaging at all. Usually I expect a film to lay it all out in the beginning and get it out of the way, but instead we have to hear about quantum this and quantum that. The amount I cared by the end was literally at the quantum level itself.

Don’t get me wrong if you can look past my gripes, you can still have a good time. Perhaps I went into this with the wrong mindset; maybe I should have just enjoyed it for what it was, a light hearted action romp with some witty jokes, but it really wasn’t all that special of one.

Rated PG-13 1h58m

Vol. 11, No. 21 – July 18 – July 31, 2018 – A View from House Seats

by Shirley Lorraine

Santa Paula Stars Shine in Constellations

It is not often that a completely fresh viewpoint comes to the stage. Santa Paula Theater Center’s current offering of Nick Payne’s Constellations takes its audience into rarely explored territories mixing art and science. The excursion takes the audience on a fascinating ride into mental space to explore what could happen in a parallel universe or universes, where endless strings of slight variation on a singular incident are possible.

Constellations soars through the sky with lightning speed as the two actors, Jessi May Stevenson and Ron Feltner as Marianne and Roland, continually rewrite their relationship from many different angles. The age-old question of how an incident could have concluded with a different outcome is given a great deal of thought. The variations are achieved through the application of the principles of string theory, relativity and quantum mechanics. It sounds heavy, but the situations are so relatable it is easy to see oneself in at least one of them.

It took me a few moments in the beginning to understand why the scenes were being repeated. Once I understood that new characters were emerging with slight tweaks to the scenario, I enjoyed the play with a different level of understanding. It is a deep piece that shimmers on the surface and simmers at the core.

A simple, unadorned setting allows the actors to transform themselves in attitude, demeanor and presence via light pools highlighting the subtlety of how one minor change can alter the outcome of a given situation. I found myself pondering the efficacy of taking the time to “what if” threads to gain some insight as to possible resolutions before proceeding. Could happen.

Directed by the very talented David Ralphe, Stevenson and Feltner appear seamless as they transcend time and space, each becoming a slight variation of themselves on a dime. Both delve deeply into their souls to pull out myriad nuances of emotions. The action is enhanced by the projection of distant stars and nebulas with gentle underlying music.

Presented with no intermission, the audience is given an unbroken glimpse into the ever-changing nature of relationships which is as vast as any universe.

On another note: the night I attended was the inaugural evening utilizing SPTC’s new air conditioning! With the recent and continuing heatwaves in play and years of using the program as a fan, the AC is a very welcome addition.

Be sure to visit the theater’s website often for updated news on concerts, specialty performances and noteworthy happenings. There is always something interesting going on. One-time concerts especially tend to sell out quickly.

Also take notice that Sunday performances for this production are at 4:00 p.m. You won’t want to be late.

Santa Paula Theatre Center, 125 W. S. Seventh St, Santa Paula
Friday & Saturday eves 8 PM, Sundays 4:00 PM through July 29
Adults $24, Seniors/Students $22. Not recommended for 17 and under.