The company’s first production was OLD TIMES by Harold Pinter in December 2014.
Since then, the company has produced the following twelve plays (including nine Bay Area Premieres):
ESCAPED ALONE and HERE WE GO by Caryl Churchill. Bay Area Premieres.
dirty butterfly by debbie tucker green. Bay Area Premiere.
4.48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane.
THE HUMAN EAR by Alexandra Wood. Bay Area Premiere.
THIS WIDE NIGHT by Chloë Moss. Bay Area Premiere.
TENDER NAPALM by Philip Ridley. Bay Area Premiere.
AGES OF THE MOON by Sam Shepard. Bay Area Premiere.
WHAT RHYMES WITH AMERICA by Melissa James Gibson. Bay Area Premiere.
DYING CITY by Christopher Shinn. Bay Area Premiere.
OR, by Liz Duffy Adams.
OLD TIMES by Harold Pinter.
We’re proud to be the first company in the Bay Area to present the work of leading national and international playwrights such as Philip Ridley, Christopher Shinn, Melissa James Gibson, Chloe Moss, Alexandra Wood, and debbie tucker green.
The company is also proud to have produced the Bay Area Premiere of AGES OF THE MOON by the local legend Sam Shepard as well as the Bay Area Premieres of ESCAPED ALONE and HERE WE GO by Caryl Churchill.
Here are details on all of our productions:
ESCAPED ALONE and HERE WE GO by Caryl Churchill. Bay Area Premieres. With a cast of Eighteen Actors. Directed by Robert Estes. July 18-August 3, 2019. Thousand Oaks Baptist Church. 1821 Catalina Avenue, Berkeley.
The Thousand Oaks Baptist Church venue worked perfect for the plays, as ESCAPED ALONE is set in an outdoor garden…and the church has a garden. HERE WE GO is set in a hall after a funeral…and Thousand Oaks not only has a beautiful hall that has hosted such events, but their graceful hall just happened to have been designed by Julia Morgan.
In ESCAPED ALONE, we met four women of a certain age (well, seventy, or approaching that age), who seem to be enjoying summer afternoons by sharing tea time in the garden. In their intimate world of complicated, involved friendships, a new guest brought mysterious imaginings of future global calamities.
HERE WE GO featured three scenes that took us through the one thing after birth that we all know will happen, death. This journey of mortality was beautifully essayed in the elliptical, poetic, powerful language of Caryl Churchill.
The critic Victor Cordell found the production “wonderfully crafted.” Here is his full review:
ESCAPED ALONE featured Jenn Lucas, Jan Carty Marsh, Marsha van Broek, and Susannah Wood.
HERE WE GO featured Abe Bernstein, Mary Bishop, Simone Bloch, Jody Christian, Marty Lee Jones, Sonja Kydd, Willow Mae, Jan Carty Marsh, Marcie Rich, Alison Sacha Ross, Alejandro Emmanuel Torres, Denise Tyrrell, Vicki Victoria, and Patricia Westerfield.
dirty butterfly by debbie tucker green. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Mikah Kavita, Kim Donovan, and Jesse Vaughn. Directed by Robert Estes. September 21-October 7, 2018. Waterfront Theater, 2020 4th Street, Berkeley.
Anton’s Well Theater Company presented the Bay Area Premiere of debbie tucker green’s dirty butterfly, a mysterious, poetically taut examination of three people living too close together. (The playwright specifies that her name and the titles of her plays always be in lower case.)
This play perfectly suited AWTC’s artistic mission of producing complex, contradictory, language driven plays as Lynn Gardner, The Guardian’s critic, said that debbie tucker green’s dialogue “is like secret whispers and, like the characters’ lives, it is fragmented and often unfinished.” She found that “there is a sly, controlled power in this writing.
The critics praised our production. John Wilkins, formerly the lead theater critic at KQED and now beginning his own theater review website The Free Audience, found the directing “astute,” the “three-person cast…sharp and attuned to each other,” and the production “alive and vibrant.”
Here’s his full review:
Christine Okon saw that the three actors skillfully brought their characters to life and that the “director Robert Estes is to be commended for bringing to light yet another relatively obscure play to Anton’s Well Theatre, taking on the challenge of unprecedented interpretation.”
Here’s her full review:
4.48 PSYCHOSIS by Sarah Kane. Starring Anastasia Barron, Jody Christian, and Adrian Deane. Directed by Robert Estes. Choreographed by Bridgette Loriaux. July 20-August 5, 2018. Temescal Arts Center.
We were very proud to present a rare local production of 4.48 Psychosis, Sarah Kane’s searing examination of depression.
The New York Times finds that 4.48 Psychosis is “breathtakingly beautiful” and that Kane’s language “creates the most persuasive and authentic portrait of what it means to be terminally depressed…ever encountered in a theater.”
Our production featured actors Anastasia Barron, Jody Christian, and Adrian Deane. The creative crew was comprised of Director Robert Estes, Assistant Director/Producer Wm. Diedrick Razo, Choreographer Bridgette Loriaux, and Lighting Designer Nathan Bogner.
4.48 Psychosis opened on Friday, July 20, 2018 for ten performances, with a closing date of August 5, 2018.
The production received great critical praise.
Nicole Gluckstern of KQED found that “Through their unconventional staging they imbue this difficult piece with moments of real beauty and empathy, drawing the audience to bear witness to a human condition that is so frequently ignored, misinterpreted, or rejected.
She cited the three woman cast of Anastasia Barron, Jody Christian, and Adrian Deane as being “strong” and “fearless.”
For her full review:
We enjoyed the attention to detail critic Kate Tinney’s review. She even mentioned the breathing of the actors.
She saw that “the lighting design by Nathan Bogner is a spectacular anchor throughout the show.”
She wrote that “This production of ‘4.48 Psychosis’ makes extraordinary use of physical theater. The actors stretch themselves both emotionally and physically. What’s more, the audience is so close that it can see every knee shake or deep breath as the actors warp themselves from graceful to grotesque and back again.”
For her full review:
Charles Lewis III ranked 4.48 Psychosis as being one of the best shows he’s seen this year. He gives us a grade of A-, so we’ll keep trying hard to get that raised up!
For his full review:
Christine Okon observed that “Director Robert Estes and choreographer Bridgette Loriaux create a visceral and verbal experience where three brilliant performers (Anastasia Barron, Jody Christian, and Adrian Deane) dance, interact, intertwine, explode, recoil and literally throw themselves against the wall…”
She thought that our production renders the play “beautifully.”
For her full review:
THE HUMAN EAR by Alexandra Wood. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Crystal Brown and Louel Senores. Directed by Robert Estes. April 5-15, 2018. Berkeley City Club.
The Guardian newspaper in London said that Ear was “fascinating, intricate, and tricky.”
We say that you would have been fascinated by seeing wonderful local actors Crystal Brown and Louel Senores portray the conflicted relationships between sister/brother, lover/cop, time/memory, and violence/guilt.
Matthew Surrence, the former theater critic for Oakland Tribune had this to say about the production:
Artistic Director Robert Estes says he named his invaluable theater company Anton’s Well because of Chekhov’s statement that everyone should leave behind something useful, such as a well, and “creating theater is our water well.” But an alternative name for this company could be Harold’s Pint, because after the company’s debut with Pinter’s Old Times, every subsequent play has reflected to some degree a Pinteresque aesthetic, each starting (and frequently ending) with a mystery that unfolds in elliptical, often rhythmically repetitive dialogue exploring memory and varying versions of reality, suddenly giving way to unexpected revelations that set off crescendoing depth charges of emotion and unsettling insight.
The Human Ear, by Alexandra Wood, is no exception. Like many of Anton’s Well’s previous plays, it’s a two-hander, with Louel Señores appearing to Crystal Brown’s Lucy as Jason, her long-lost brother — or perhaps as a specter or impostor — which Ed, the other character Señores plays, tries to explain to Lucy in his official capacity as a policeman, and in his unofficial, self-appointed, more personal capacity.
Bert van Aalsburg’s frequently shifting and blinking light design and James Goode’s sound design, with frequent knocks, pops, rattles, and rumbles each serves as disturbing characters in their own right, with the disquieting effects expertly manipulated by Production Technician Vanessa Ramos and Stage Manager / Tech Ayumi Namba, with Producing Associate and Assistant Director Wm. Diedrick Razo performing, unseen, an eerie door effect.
Brown effectively maintains an unnerving level of anxiety throughout as Lucy, already in mourning, tries to determine whom she is confronting, while Señores expertly shifts his voice and bearing between his characters so that the audience as well as Lucy is in a constant state of (sometimes shocked) discovery. One actor playing two or more characters in relation to another actor’s singular role is another Anton’s Well trademark, and Estes’s staging here, as in each other instance, superbly strips away the extraneous to focus on the characters’ mercurial dynamic that gets to the core of the drama even as some questions are left unanswered.
Nevertheless, by the end of the 75-minute, intermissionless evening, the play lays bear the corporeal and symbolic meaning of The Human Ear in a way that will linger in the mind like the aftermath of the all-too-frequent, stunningly violent acts that plague these characters and, in varying degrees of proximity, all of us as well. The Human Ear is another great production by Anton’s Well, but its very short run ends April 15. Don’t miss it.
THIS WIDE NIGHT by Chloë Moss. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Miia Ashley and Mary Jo Price. Directed by Robert Estes. December 1-17, 2017. Berkeley City Club
Anton’s Well Theater Company was proud to present the Bay Area Premiere of This Wide Night by English playwright Chloë Moss.
The play won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Award in 2009. The New York Times says that the two female former prisoners characters are “shaped with compassion” and that the play “feels more packed with compressed, complex life than a season of television crime dramas.”
TENDER NAPALM by Philip Ridley. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Anastasia Barron and Willem Long. Directed by Robert Estes. Choreographed by Bridgette Loriaux. July 14-August 5, 2017. Temescal Arts Center.
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 by Sam Shepard. Bay Area Premiere. Starring David Cramer and Don Wood. Directed by Robert Estes. December 2-18, 2016. Berkeley City Club.
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.
Lily Janiak, the theater critic for the San Francisco Chronicle found that the cast and director mined riches from the script. She saw Don Wood’s performance as marvelous and David Cramer’s as magical.
WHAT RHYMES WITH AMERICA by Melissa James Gibson. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Ben Ortega, Anna Smith, Alexaendrai Bond, and Jody Christian. Directed by Robert Estes. April 8-24, 2016. Berkeley City Club.
Critic Sam Hurwitt found that our production captured the play’s rhythms “beautifully well.”
The Bay Area Premiere of What Rhymes with America by Melissa James Gibson
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.”
DYING CITY by Christopher Shinn. Bay Area Premiere. Starring Katie Tandy and Andrew MacIver. Directed by Robert Estes. December 11, 2015-January 13, 2016. Berkeley City Club.
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.”
OR, by Liz Duffy Adams. Starring Mary Jo Price, Paul Stout, and Colleen Egan. Directed by Robert Estes. November 27, 2015-January 10, 2016.
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, featured 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.
OLD TIMES by Harold Pinter. Starring Richard Aiello, Jody Christian, and Mary Jo Price. Directed by Robert Estes. December 2-17, 2014.
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