Oct 5, 2018
By Melana Eljumaily
Durang Durang, a trio of one-acts by Christopher Durang, now running at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center, is a night of entertainment for people who love the theater and love to laugh. Durang is best known for his plays Beyond Belief and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, both of which were made into movies. With these three plays, Durang takes the art of parody just about as far as it can go. Directed by: Sandy Ziviani.
The first short is For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls. It’s a wild and witty send-up of Tennessee William’sThe Glass Menagerie. Dee Dee Robbins plays the controlling, yet often flummoxed matriarch, with perfect Southern panache. She swirls around the stage as her younger son, Lawrence (Darien Reed), spends quality time with his collection of glass swizzle sticks. All have names and personalities and God helps anyone who comes between this man and his cocktail stirrers.
Big brother Tom (Thomas Gibson) is bringing home a lady caller from the factory for dinner. Lawrence attempts to make himself scarce when he learns this loud lady is a planned match for him. Athena Gundlach pulls out all the stops, playing Virginia with stentorian brilliance.
With a quick change, the next short play, Medea, transports us to ancient Greece. As Medea, Athena Gundlach is again let loose to overact to her heart’s delight. She is so much fun to watch and so funny, I wonder how the other actors managed to stay in character. Last play’s ensemble are joined this time by Ashley Matteoni as a member of the Greek Chorus, whose comments on the action are clever in their obviousness.
Catch your breath during intermission, because the final play, An Actor’s Nightmare, is another delirious ride with this talented group of actors through the works of Noel Coward, Samuel Beckett, Robert Bolt (A Man for All Seasons) and no less than William Shakespeare. Thomas Gibson plays an ordinary man who is utterly nonplussed when he finds himself backstage at a theater. People keep calling him George and supposedly he’s the understudy for Edwin, but darned if he can remember any of this.
Again, the ensemble cast does a great job of parodying these classic works. As a big fan of Samuel Beckett, I especially loved the jabs at what seemed like an amalgamation of several of his works. Ashley Matteoni, waiting in her tin barrel, gets it just right.
I’m sure people who have not seen the plays being parodied will enjoy the show as much as veteran theater-goers who have history with this material. They won’t be in on the joke completely, but there is still plenty to laugh about. Especially with The Actor’s Nightmare and its familiar references to a multitude of Shakespeare plays.
I was impressed that the set, a sort of sweeping columned arc, fit right in with all these plays. The design by Yave Guzman, worked as the perfect backdrop for the American South, ancient Greece, and appropriately, as a stage set. The costumes by Kim Ziviani and Sandy Ziviani were all bright and fun and most importantly evocative of the plays being parodied.
Durang Durang is an amusing journey through the theater. I was going to write laugh a minute funny, but the laughs actually come much more frequently than that. Enjoy.
Running October 5, 6. 12 and 13 at 7:30 pm; October 7 and 14 at 2 pm.
Cloverdale Performing Arts, Inc.
209 N. Cloverdale Blvd., Cloverdale CA 95425
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