Anton’s Well Theater Company was to proud to present the Bay Area Premiere of Tender Napalm by Philip Ridley, directed by Robert Estes, choreographed by Bridgette Loriaux, which played at Oakland’s Temescal Arts Center from July 14-August 5, 2017.
The New York Times calls Tender Napalm a “fierce, transfixing and ultimately very moving play” written by “a writer of daring and satanic imagination, with a sui generis vocabulary to match.” The play is filled with language of graphic violence and shocking imagery, so please note that it may not be for everyone, but in its own way, Tender Napalm is beautiful, and ultimately, perhaps even romantic.
The play centers on two people: WOMAN and MAN, as they use their ripe imaginations in a story-telling battle for love. The play’s kaleidoscopic, emotional journey will feature intense movement choreographed by Bridgette Loriaux. The combination of brilliant writing and expressive movement promises to make Tender Napalm a thrilling theatrical event.
Two reviewers came to opening night of Tender Napalm, and both had wonderful things to say. Vic Cordell in For All Events writes:
…. The strongest points of the production are the performers and the choreography. Willem Long and Anastasia Barron are outstanding as the characters. They both exude stage presence. Long commands the stage with an animal-like stalking ferocity, and Barron matches him in formidable yet feminine response. They each roar with enthusiasm throughout – gritting, smirking, tantalizing, and taunting. One strength of Ridley’s dramatic design is that it places focus on the actors, as well as tremendous burden. These actors answer the call.
Choreographer Bridgette Loriaux has created sensational end-to-end movement design involving robust elements of acrobatics and modern dance, with nods to pas de deux and ninja and more. The choreography coordinates beautifully with and enhances the drama. Often, the actors are vocalizing at full bore while twirling, thrusting, leaping, writhing, or wrestling. It’s like delivering a maximum volume, extremely emotional acting performance and a highly athletic dance performance – at the same time. Loriaux and director Robert Estes extract about as much power from the script as you can expect….
Full review at For All Events, Tender Napalm
Charles Kruger wrote at TheatreStorm
On a bare stage, with the minimal assistance of an effective lighting design by Nate Bogner and an excellent original score by Greg Zema, performers Willem Long and Anastasia Barron dig deep into a relationship which is, indeed, as explosively dangerous as napalm, and as tender as a nursing mother. The dance is intense, at times acrobatic, the words and movements almost too full of emotion.
It is astonishing that work that is simultaneously this complex and this opaque can be so riveting, but for the nearly two hour performance I attended there was no fidgeting among the audience members who sat surrounding the actors on three sides with no platform to separate them from the action. We were with these two in a dive into the depths of our shared unconscious, calling up healing spirits in what seemed to be a genuine crisis.
Attendees who allow the images and sounds to wash over them, without worrying too much about making sense of everything, should have a memorable time with “Tender Napalm.” Those familiar with the analytical psychology of Carl Jung, and, particularly, the imagistic psychology of Jung’s disciple, James Hillman, will be even more profoundly rewarded. ….
… “Tender Napalm” is a journey into another world, that lies just beneath the surface of day to day life. It is both familiar and strange, and if you attend with deep attention, you may find that it changes you as surely as would a voyage to a far away primeval island.
Full review at TheatreStorm, Tender Napalm
Ages of the Moon
Anton’s Well Theater Company presented Ages of the Moon by Sam Shepard.
Starring David Cramer as Ames and Don Wood as Byron. Directed by Robert Estes. Assistant directed by Wm. Diedrick Razo.
This Bay Area Premiere captured the essential Sam Shepard: intoxicating language, rambunctious comedy, the meaning of friendship, and a rueful appreciation of the confounding world we live in.
Ran December 2-18 at The Berkeley City Club
What Rhymes with America
The Bay Area Premiere of What Rhymes with America by Melissa James Gibson
Ran April 8-24, 2016
Directed by Robert Estes
Starring Ben Ortega, Anna Smith, Alexaendrai Bond, and Jody Christian
Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue
In What Rhymes with America, we meet four ordinarily extraordinary people or perhaps we meet four extraordinarily ordinary people! In Melissa James Gibson’s piercingly comic world, the daily struggle to be more than adequate collides with such varied life challenges as that of father/daughter relationships (whether it be simply being allowed to see your teenage daughter, or being an adult daughter dealing with the death of your father), or the challenge of going on a date after 23 years, or, just being an actor facing yet another cattle call audition.
It all makes for a painfully funny, enormously engaging portrayal of everyday people working through the often confounding rhymes of what it means to be human in America today.
What Rhymes with America debuted at the Atlantic Theater Company in 2012. It just closed a very successful run at the Public Theater in NYC.
For fans of the TV show House of Cards, the playwright Melissa James Gibson was just named one of two showrunners for the upcoming Season 5 of the show. She has written many recent episodes of the show.
She graduated from the Yale School of Drama. She is best known in theatre for her play THIS, which the New York Times said brought her “into the theatrical big leagues with this beautifully conceived, confidently executed and wholly accessible work.”
It is with great pleasure that Anton’s Well presents What Rhymes with America in its Bay Area premiere.
Cast and Crew Biographies
Alexaendrai Bond (Sheryl) is an actress and dramaturg who enjoys developing and performing new works. She is also currently featured in the bi-monthly serial radio play Terra Incognita (Ex Nihilo Theater). Other favorite credits include the SF Olympians Festival VI: Wine Dark Sea, Dance of the Holy Ghosts (Ubuntu Theatre Project), Walk Like a Man (Theatre Rhinoceros), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (The Cutting Ball Theater), and Tartuffe (Masquers Playhouse). Alexaendrai is a proud member of Theatre Bay Area. Find out about her latest projects at alexaendraibond.weebly.com.
Jody Christian (Lydia) is delighted to be returning to Anton’s Well where she was last seen as Kate in Harold Pinter’s Old Times. She enjoys performing with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley (AEB), Inferno Theatre (IT), Subterranean Shakespeare Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, among others in the Bay Area theatre scene. Some favorite roles include Hannah in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (AEB) and Ophelia in Giulio Perrone’s Quantum Love (SF International Arts Festival). Jody’s training is in dance, acting and physical theatre (Dell ‘Arte, Shakespeare & Co., Studio ACT, and Berkeley Rep….). Last summer she got to realize her dream of performing both Cordelia and the Fool in a collaborative outdoor production of King Lear (AEB/IT) at John Hinkel Park to full audiences!
Robert Estes, the founding artistic director of Anton’s Well, has directed Old Times, Or,, and Dying City for the company. He directed Curse of the Starving Class, Heartbreak House, Arcadia, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and Falstaff! (Actors Ensemble of Berkeley) as well as Other People’s Money and The Real Thing (Masquers Playhouse). Robert served as dramaturg at CalShakes and Town Hall Theatre, and as assistant director at Cutting Ball and the Magic Theatre. Mr. Estes has written about theater for Theater Bay Area magazine and is currently a columnist for the SF Theatre Pub. He holds a degree in English from UC Berkeley. Robert welcomes you to What Rhymes with America. Please feel free to write him at email@example.com or just say hello to him here at the show!
Ben Ortega (Hank) was last seen on stage as Vincent Krieger in Sharr White’s Sunlight (Dragon Theatre) in Redwood City. Ben’s favorite roles include Johnny in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Felix Ungar in The Odd Couple, George Hay in Moon Over Buffalo, Picasso in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Yvan in Art, Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men, Verdecchia/Wideload in the one-man show Fronteras Americanas, Molina in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Buddy in Thunderbabe, Allan Felix in Play It Again, Sam, and George in Same Time, Next Year. Ben studied acting at UCLA and privately with Lisa Chess. Ben is also a stand-up comedian and has performed in clubs on both coasts.
Wm. Diedrick Razo (Assistant Director): A member of Theatre Bay Area and an ATLAS for Director’s alumni, Rick worked in several theatres in the West, most notably with The Magic Theatre, Theatre Rhinoceros, and Performers Under Stress. He assisted Mr. Estes and helped tech last year’s productions at Anton’s Well of Or, and Dying City. Mr. Razo directed the West Coast première of Mickle Maher’s An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Dr, John Faustus on this His Final Evening, the California première of Edward Crosby Wells’ 3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff, and the New Mexico première of Taps by Lindsay Kern.
Cody Rishell (Postcard Design) has been a graphic artist in the Bay Area for over a decade. Other past and present theatre companies he works with include SF Theater Pub, SF Olympians Festival, Custom Made Theatre Co., EXIT Theatre SF, and The Breadbox Theatre.
Katja Rivera is an actor/director who originally hails from Los Angeles, but now resides in Berkeley. She is an artistic associate with Shotgun Players and Playground-SF, and is a proud member of AEA.
Anna Smith (Marlene) is so excited to be working on this play with Anton’s Well. Anna is fresh out of the ACT SF semester program and completed one full year at The New School for Drama in NYC. Some previous roles include Penny in You Can’t Take It With You, Helena in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and working with Mark Jackson on a devised theater piece in the ACT SF semester program. Anna is an East Bay native and is thrilled to finally be getting involved the Bay Area theater scene.
Bay Area Premiere of Dying City
Dying City, by Christopher Shinn, opened on Friday, December 11, 2015 and ran through January 13, 2016.
Fabulous review in the SF Weekly.
“This is theater stripped down to its bare essentials: two actors responding to one another, vulnerable in front of a group of strangers.”
And from the The Berkeley Daily Planet:
“What’s immediately apparent is the unusual rapport between the actors, pleasing to witness …. Their care with the roles — and the sense of background, of the care too of director and company founder Robert Estes, carries the evening.”
Dying City is an intense, spare, emotionally raw account of such large social events as the Iraq war and such close intimate events as a marriage in crisis, as told through the involved story of just three people (as portrayed by two actors on stage). In many ways, it is a modern detective story where the audience figures out the story in the moment. We begin with Peter visiting Kelly, about a year after the death in Iraq of Craig, who was Kelly’s husband and Peter’s twin brother. The play then alternates scenes between this mysterious return of Peter and earlier scenes in time showing the conflicted marriage of Kelly and Craig, all leading to a searching, painful examination of personal and social violence.
The play has received rave reviews, with the New York Times saying that “anyone who doubts that Mr. Shinn is among the most provocative and probing of American playwrights today need only experience the creepy, sophisticated welding of form and content that is Dying City.”
Dying City features local actors Katie Tandy as Kelly and Andrew MacIver as Peter/Craig.
Or, by Liz Duffy Adams
Or opened on November 27. The play is set in the 1660s but reflects on our recent times, particularly the 1960s. The play is basically A Day in the Life of Aphra Behn, one of the first female playwrights to make a living on the London stage during the Restoration. She has to enjoy her, shall we say, pleasurable relationship with the King while resolutely keeping her independence from him. She must avoid being swept up in a plot against the King, but not rat out her comrade in her former employment as a spy. Of course, she needs to make a little time to enjoy her new acquaintance, Nell Gwynne, the leading actress of her day; and, finally, oh yes, she has to write the play that will make her name reverberate to this day! Which it does, as evidenced by the Shotgun Players mounting her signature play The Rover in October.
Or, features local actors Mary Jo Price as Aphra Behn, Paul Stout as King Charles II and William Scot, and Colleen Egan as Nell Gwynne and a number of other intriguing characters.
Sam Hurwitt called “‘Or,’ a dazzling tale of Aphra Behn” in The San Jose Mercury News.
” ” Or,” is a delightful comic romp bursting with witty wordplay, saucy free love and feminist manifestos of independence. It’s a loving celebration of the craft of writing, the intrigues of theater and the theater of intrigues…. It’s a wonderfully decadent ode to a wonderfully decadent time, and to get another chance to see this play, even in such a short and humble run, feels like a gift.””
Old Times by Harold Pinter
Directed by Robert Estes
Starring Richard Aiello as Deeley, Jody Christian as Kate, and Mary Jo Price as Anna.
Assistant directed by Al Badger, costumes by Paula Dodd Aiello, lights by Colin Johnson, stage management by Solia Martinez-Jacobs, and props by Vicki Siegel.
Production Sponsor: Gourmet Makeup Studio.
The very first production of Anton’s Well Theater Company, Old Times opened on December 2, 2014 and ran for six performances at the Berkeley City Club.
It was reviewed in the Berkeley Daily Planet