Todd Evans, creative director of Sonoma Stage Works (SSW), has contributed a brave compilation of one-act plays entitled “The Many Faces of Love” to Sonoma Theater Alliance’s (STA) Festival of Theatre. The plays Evans chose are all about love; messy, complicated, tender, passionate and often misunderstood love. Classic drama.
His idea for this production grew from last year’s well-received one-act series, PlayFest. “People enjoy the short snippets of drama,” said Evans, who chose four plays, each about a 30 minutes in length.
In a survey taken last year, STA audiences requested more classics. The plays included in “The Many Faces of Love” are all seasoned works, which have remained popular for decades, stories that still resonate, reworked.
“This is one of the only opportunities to see a classic this season, aside from “Dracula,” said Director Julia Holsworth. (She is referring to Silver Moon Theatre’s rendition of the 1924 stage play coming to us in October.) “And one-acts are great entertainment because you get to see a variety of things.”
Holsworth directs “The Songs of Love.” In this play, by Appalachian playwright Romulus Linney, an elderly couple falls in love at a home for seniors and faces their younger family members’ distain. She finds the themes in this play (originally set in the 1980s) timely, as she witnesses stories like this one unfolding in her workplace today. “Seniors lose their independence and are not able to effectively communicate with their families,” she said.
The play is being billed as a comedy, and while there are humorous elements to it, the audience has to decide whether or not it is, indeed, a comedy.
Joey Hoeber directs Tennessee Williams’s “Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry” and the second Linney play in the line-up, “Can Can.”
“Eighty percent of directing is casting,” said Hoeber, “finding the right people for the job, people who are already skilled at what they’re doing, trained. You just tell them where to go and they create the wonderful relationships with each other.”
“With Williams you have to dig deep,” he said. Actors Nestor Campos and Libby Oberlin did some serious digging as a young couple struggling with their relationship in “Moony’s Kid Don’t Cry.” Audiences will surely remember Campos from past productions and will welcome Sonoma newcomer, Oberlin, to the local stage.
Their volatile and vulnerable relationship is edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Hoeber also worked on “Can Can” with Oberlin and Campos, who play a young French woman and an American ex-GI who fall in love. Yoli Holman and Anastasia Encarnacion play the other unlikely couple. The simply staged play is essentially four intertwined soliloquies describing the two couples’ love stories. The focus is on Linney’s language and storytelling skills.
Bill Shea, directs “Trifles,” the 1916 play, by Susan Glaspell, based on an actual event she reported on as a journalist. The wife is the main suspect in a farmer’s death. A county attorney and local sheriff examine the house and question the neighbor who discovered the farmer’s body. The neighbor’s and sheriff’s wives stand back from the investigation, but see more in the woman’s kitchen “trifles” than the men are able to.
Evans, acting as scenic designer, created a basic, adaptable, interior set which supports each story. Customized furnishings, curtains and lighting for each play transport the audience from scene to scene, from a present-day reception room in a Tennessee nursing home to a shabby apartment in Buffalo and a depression-era farm house. While he met that particular challenge, Evans wishes the stage crew would take a bow for all of the work they do preparing the set for each play.
Evans, who has been busy juggling the many aspects of producing four plays, acting in one of them, and working with three directors and 14 actors can now sit back and take pleasure in the shows he has created.
“It has been a little bit of a circus, but I enjoy it,” said Evans. “One of the big joys of theatre is the collaboration, and bonding with others.” He is grateful to the Sonoma Community Center and STA for including SSW in the 2014 Festival of Theatre.
“The Many Faces of Love” plays at 8 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sunday, through July 27. The Rotary Stage at Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center, 276 East Napa Street, Sonoma, CA. Tickets cost $20 on Thursdays and $25 Fridays through Sundays. To order tickets, call 707-938-4626, Ext. 1 or go to SVBO.org.