Solo performance illuminates Magic’s ‘Eva Trilogy’

Julia McNeal is excellent in the first play of Magic Theatre’s premiere “The Eva Trilogy.”

“Eden,” the beautiful, poetic first play in Barbara Hammond’s “The Eva Trilogy,” is entirely a soliloquy, delivered on a bare stage—the purest form of theater.

And, as directed by Loretta Greco in this Magic Theatre world premiere, and performed by the luminous Julia McNeal, it is engaging from start to finish.

In it, Eva, an Irishwoman in her late 30s, sits on the stoop of her sister’s house in a seaside village, talking to herself in a seamless stream-of-consciousness that evokes James Joyce’s Molly Bloom, or Dylan Thomas’ poetry.

Eva is awaiting the arrival of the hospice worker who will relieve her, temporarily, of caring for her aged mother, who’s upstairs in bed slowly dying, in great agony, of Parkinson’s. Or so we’re meant to think, at first.

Eva left Ireland decades ago for glorious Paris; her mother now lives here, cared for by Eva’s sister and her sister’s husband, who’ve asked Eva to fill in while they take a brief vacation.

For Eva, desperate to return to Paris, this long moment on the stoop leads her to muse over her past: her childhood as one of seven siblings with a sick father and rigid Mum, youthful sexual escapades, the Catholic upbringing she’s trying to escape, her travels, a miscarriage, her regrets, her pleasures. McNeal brings it all to vibrant life.

The end of “Eden” is disturbing, unexpected yet inevitable.

But just as “Eden” is simple and eloquent and full of the rough texture of life as we live it, the following two short plays in the trilogy (the three comprise one full evening’s performance), which are slightly surreal at times, are unconvincing.

In “Enter the Roar,” set a month later, we meet the three other characters plus the conflicted family priest. As written, it’s a purposefully chaotic part of Eva’s story, a roar indeed, but it’s so stagey and over-acted that it’s hard to sort out the strands of Hammond’s deeply existential themes.

Thirty years later, in “No Coast Road,” Eva has become a hermit in remote Corsica; a young American hiker (Caleb Cabrera) stumbles upon her campsite. But Hammond’s Eva of “Eden” is now a cliché of a feisty, eccentric elder (no fault of actress or director), and the flirty-contentious relationship between young man and crone feels artificial, the contrivance of a young playwright.

A plus, though: the gorgeous pastoral set and projections by Hana S. Kim.

REVIEW

The Eva Trilogy
Presented by Magic Theatre
Where: Fort Mason, Building D, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; closes Nov. 12
Tickets: $35 to $80
Contact: (415) 441-8822, www.magictheatre.org

Read the full review from the San Francisco Examiner here.

Why Playwright Barbara Hammond Is on the Cusp of Something Big

The writer behind Magic Theatre’s Eva Trilogy steps into the spotlight.

Barbara Hammond wants you to call your mom. At least that’s one takeaway from her latest work, The Eva Trilogy, premiering this fall at Magic Theatre. The production is conceived as a triptych of plays, performed in sequence—first Eden, then Enter the Road, and last No Coast Road—that together tell the story of an Irish expat, Eva, who finds herself thrown back into family crisis after a soul-searching stint in Paris.

Like her heroine, Hammond is a daughter of Ireland, though she now lives stateside. The work was inspired by Saint Patrick’s Day readings of the rambling Molly Bloom soliloquy from Ulysses with her Irish literary group in New York. After that, Hammond, whose own mother became terminally ill during her writing process, says, Eva “really did start spilling out of me in a way that no other play of mine has done.”

Hammond may not yet be a familiar name, but expect that to change. Her film, June Weddings, was a director’s award winner at the 2013 SF Shorts festival, and her last staged work, We Are Pussy RiotorEverything Is P.R., was staged in Seattle this summer. She was a resident at the New Dramatists playwriting lab alongside Taylor Mac, which put her on Magic Theatre artistic director Loretta Greco’s radar. “When I finally met her in person, I think the first thing I blurted out was ‘I don’t know why you aren’t famous,’” Greco says. “And I mean that.”

Famous, perhaps, in time. But a crowd-pleaser? That’s harder to say. “The play isn’t for people to say, ‘Oh, I enjoyed it,’” Hammond says. “It’s for them to go home thinking about whether they like themselves.” And maybe to remember to call Mom.
Oct. 19–Nov. 12

Read more from San Francisco Magazine here.

In ‘Runaway Home’ at the Fountain Theatre, hurricane-battered lives hang in the balance

Camille Spirlin, left, and Maya Lynne Robinson in “Runaway Home” at the Fountain Theatre in L.A. (Ed Krieger)

Jeremy J. Kamps‘ play “Runaway Home,” now premiering at the Fountain Theatre, is set in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward three years after Hurricane Katrina. The waters may have long receded, but the residents still wander like ghosts through the wreckage of their lives.

Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s set is heaped with piles of debris, once-cherished items now good for nothing but reminding people of what they’ve lost. A half-senile local, Mr. Dee (Jeris Poindexter), notes that his wife’s prized ”Sunday wig” is a ratty-looking horror lying atop a heap of boxes.

The play’s 14-year-old protagonist, Kali (Camille Spirlin), introduces herself to the audience in a lively rhyming soliloquy as she picks through the junk. A precocious kid with a rebellious attitude and a gift for words, Kali is still mourning her grandmother, who died during the hurricane. She and her mother just moved back to their ruined house after three years in Baton Rouge, but they haven’t been getting along. Things are so bad between them that Kali is running away with nothing but her backpack and an old twirling baton.

She isn’t on the road for long when she’s caught stealing from a bodega by its owner, Armando (Armando Rey), an immigrant struggling to earn the money to bring his two daughters from Mexico. Against his better judgment, softhearted Armando takes a liking to the sassy, pugnacious Kali. She talks him into hiring her to sweep the store, and within days he has given her a set of keys.

“I got a feeling you already are,” Lone Wolf replies.

Lone Wolf also teaches Kali a new way to think about stealing — “liberating” things from the capitalist machine — and she takes it upon herself to liberate a gun. “Just in case my historical moment presents itself,” she ominously explains.

Meanwhile, Kali’s mother, Eunice (Maya Lynne Robinson), sits at home wondering where Kali has gone and whether she should bother to look for her. When Eunice’s no-good, charismatic former fiance, Tat (Leith Burke), tracks her down and tries to sweet-talk her into a reunion, she is briefly tempted — then recovers her maternal instincts and sets out to find her “demon child” instead.

Kamps has a way with dialogue and the Louisiana patois, and under Shirley Jo Finney’s sensitive direction, the actors inhabit their characters with endearing naturalism, even during the expressionistic, poetic interludes. Their conversations are so entertaining that they frequently mask the clanking and grinding of the plot’s gears, at least until the implausible, puzzling denouement.

If its story line is still a bit murky, “Runaway Home” conveys a poignant sense of the human suffering that follows a natural disaster — long after the cameras have stopped rolling and the world has turned its attention elsewhere.

Read the full article from the Los Angeles Times here.

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‘Runaway Home’

Where: Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., L.A.

Where: 8 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; ends Nov. 5

Tickets: $20-$40

Info: (323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Cast Complete for Paper Mill’s World Premiere of THE HONEYMOONERS MUSICAL

The company will be led by Laura Bell Bundy, Leslie Kritzer, Michael Mastro, and Michael McGrath.

Paper Mill Playhouse, by arrangement with Jeffrey Finn, has announced complete casting for its world-premiere production of the new musical comedy The Honeymooners, based on the CBS television series of the same name.

Directed by Tony Award winner John Rando, with choreography by Emmy Award winner Joshua Bergasse, and musical direction and vocal arrangements by Remy Kurs, the production is scheduled to begin previews at the New Jersey venue September 28 for a limited run through October 29.

The cast will be headed by Tony Award winner Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton, Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden, and Tony nominee Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton, with Lewis Cleale as Bryce Bennett, Lewis J. Stadlen as Old Man Faciamatta, and David Wohl as Allen Upshaw.

The ensemble will feature Holly Ann Butler, Chris Dwan, Hannah Florence, Tessa Grady, Stacey Todd Holt, Ryan Kasprzak, Drew King, Eloise Kropp, Harris Milgrim, Justin Prescott, Lance Roberts, Jeffrey Schecter, Britton Smith, Alison Solomon, Michael Walters, and Kevin Worley.

With a book by Dusty Kay and Bill Nuss, music by Stephen Weiner, and lyrics by Peter Mills, the new musical concerns Ralph Kramden and buddy Ed Norton, who are still shooting for the moon. “After shocking their wives by winning a high-profile jingle contest,” press notes state, “they are catapulted out of Brooklyn and into the cutthroat world of Madison Avenue advertising, where they discover that their quest for the American Dream might cost them their friendship.”

The production will also have set design by Beowulf Boritt; costume design by Jess Goldstein; lighting design by Jason Lyons; sound design by Kai Harada; hair, wig, and makeup design by Leah J. Loukas; with orchestrations by Doug Besterman and dance arrangements by Sam Davis. The production stage manager is Timothy R. Semon. Casting is by Telsey + Company, Patrick Goodwin, CSA.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $34 and may be purchased by calling (973) 376-4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.PaperMill.org.

Learn more from Playbill.com here.