The reviews are in and it is unanimous that "In Search of Red River Dog" is must-see theatre" The world premiere play hailed by the critics, premiered at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. "Superbly acted by all four cast members... Sam Shepardesque in a stark, reality driven, highly emotional way" (Asbury Park Press). "...Dana Benningfield and Jeff Farkash have a wonderful chemistry... Betty Hudson is the salt of the earth... Once again New Jersey Repertory Company proves itself to be a fledgling playwright's best friend, consistently giving new plays most remarkable productions. This is one of its better choices" (Star Ledger). "Jeff Farkash and Dana Benningfield did a wonderful job... the emotional ups and downs were felt thought their performances... The veteran talents of Betty Hudson and Ross Haines added an extra touch..." (Fred's Entertainment). "There is a reason to see 'In Search of Red River Dog'... It is the strikingly good performance of Dana Benningfield... Dana Benningfield finds every nuance in the unhappy Paulette." (Two River Times). "Wonderfully acted... Perlman's well-written piece captures the frustration of men who see their jobs vanish and their women grow stronger than themselves. Sam Shepard-like in its starkness, realism. and family dysfunction, Perlman, nevertheless has a voice of her own.... NJ Rep once again has produced high quality theatre with an edge..." (BackStage).
New Jersey stage: Tragedy, not trash, in trailer park
BY PETER FILICHIA STAR-LEDGER STAFF
In Search of Red River Dog
Where: New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch
Are people who live in trailers necessarily "trailer trash"? Playwright Sandra Perlman is out to refute the stereotype in "In Search of Red River Dog," now at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.
Though Paulette and Denny live in a "sardine can," they're an eloquent and devoted couple, thanks to Perlman's fresh dialogue. Not that the young marrieds don't have problems. Denny's out of work, which doesn't help Paulette's dreams of going to college. Worse, their baby has died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Their prospects have tarnished in the few years since Denny nearly became the football team's MVP, and Paulette almost won the title of the town's Apple Butter Queen. …
Posted on Thu, Apr. 25, 2002
'Jocasta' is an exemplary play that engages the heart and mind
By NATHALIE PLOTKIN
The Staff Players Repertory Company concludes its 32nd season with the West Coast premier of "Jocasta," Sandra Perlman's highly praised new play.
This is yet another retelling of the nightmarish Greek myth about Oedipus in which the Delphic Oracle has stated that the son of Laius and Jocasta will murder his father and marry his own mother.
The story has long held an almost mesmerizing fascination for authors ranging from Homer and Sophocles and on through the Medieval and Renaissance periods to the present day.
Playwright Perlman, in revisiting the ancient myth, realized there is only a name "Jocasta" mentioned for the woman to whom this tragedy befell in the script which is powerfully emotional. Yet often exquisitely humorous brings her absorbingly to life.
The season theme of "Reality Among Shadows" is once again brought compellingly to the fore by director Marcia Hovick, who elicited luminous performances from the three-woman cast.
Carey Crockett's stage design was tastefully and artistically evocative of the play's location.
The first act introduces the women who, in the course of the play, engage one's emotions, sometimes with whimsical humor, but also, as the characters reveal themselves, with deepening interest and sympathy.
MaryAnn Schaupp-Rousseau as Jocasta the widowed queen of Thebes, is required to marry the hero Oedipus, who has become the savior of the kingdom of Thebes.
She is a fragile, unhappy person to whom fate has dealt terrible blows. Schaupp-Rousseau inhabits the role with delicacy, engaging our sympathy easily and directly as she bemoans her helplessness in the face of the edicts of the Gods.
Ismene, Jocasta's mother, is a stronger human being who looks at life with a practical appreciation of its human possibilities, but also with an awareness of its mythologically ordained impossibilities.
Constance Denning as Ismene is an assured, vibrantly accomplished actress who rivets one's attention at every turn. She gets the best lines, which she delivers with great understanding and zesty wit.
The unexpected and powerful climax in the first act, that is heart-rending in its depth of feeling and emotion, is electrifyingly created by Schaupp-Rousseau and Benning.
The second act reveals that Jocasta has learned the bitter fact that the Oracle's prediction has been fulfilled. She has unknowingly married and had children by her own first-born son. He had unknowingly killed his father. Jocasta feels her life has become unbearable.
Jocasta's maid and confidant of many years, Iris, as played by Virginia Daggett, is a sympathetic and tender character who tries desperately to ease her Queen's fate.
This playing out of the Oracle's words, however, makes for a very somber and moving conclusion.
"Jocasta" is a very well written play that engages the heart and the mind. There are times when laughter and sadness are in close juxtaposition.
The production is exemplary and the acting is exactly what is needed to bring out the best of this strong script. It is one of the finest plays I have seen this season. GO!
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
WOW! Mesmerizing LUNACY presented by Dobama at CPH
Every once in a while a theatre-goer sees a play and a performance so stunning that the only word that describes it is mesmerizing. That is the case with Dobama Theatre’s world premiere production of Sandra Perlman’s ‘LUNACY.’
Perlman, a Cleveland playwright, who is a member of the Cleveland Play House’s Playwright’s Unit, and a professor of play writing at Case Western University, has penned a short one and a-half hour play (including a brief intermission), which grabs and holds the audience’s attention. This is a fine script!
Perlman is fortunate that director Mark Alan Gordon has a clear grasp of the necessary mood and pacing the script needs, and a cast that gives flawless performances. With a lesser production, the excellence of the script might not come through as strongly as it does.
‘LUNACY’ takes place in 1827, but its implications are timeless. As written, it concerns Edwin Forrest, a twenty-one year old rising star. His acting specialty is Shakespeare. As he is rehearsing ‘KING LEAR,’ Cornelia Lamb, a young Quaker woman, enters the theatre. As a result of her challenge, Forrest becomes wrapped up in the mystery of why Benjamin, Cornelia’s father, not only thinks he is, but is the perfect Lear.
Questions abound. What makes for a perfect performance of a fictional character? Who is crazy, the person who attempts to portray something he is not, or someone who believes and feels that he is the character? What can we learn about reality from those who are, in fact, lunatics? Is our role in life to seek out the perfect role and then live it until we complete the very last line of the character’s play?
Michael Regnier gives a career high performance as Benjamin Lamb. He doesn’t perform Benjamin, Regnier is Benjamin, and, therefore, the perfect Lear. This is a mind blowing enactment. Wow!!! I only wish I could experience Regnier doing a full-length production of ‘KING LEAR.’
Dan Hammond (Edwin) is Regnier’s near match as an actor. Edwin, early in the play, is trying to learn Lear’s lines. He fights to make the character both real and flawless. As the play develops, so does Edwin’s understanding of Lear. Hammond is wonderful while allowing us to experience his awakening to what a real character development is all about. Another Wow!
The third Wow! is Bernadette Clemens’ sensitive portrayal of Cornelia, Benjamin’s daughter. She gives nuance and texture to the role, thus creating a real person who experiences rather than acts feelings.
Director Mark Alan Gordon has created a near-perfect theatrical image. He is sensitive to the characters’ needs to underplay certain segments and rant in others. He has masterfully worked with the actors to key ideas, and correctly pace scenes.
CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: ‘LUNACY’ has to be ranked near the very top of shows in this area’s local season of fine productions (‘EQUUS’ at Beck, ‘FAT PIG’ at Bang and Clatter, ‘THE PRICE’ at Ensemble, ‘HAY FEVER’ at GLTF .) ‘LUNACY’ is a go see, a must see, an absolutely don’t miss!
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
By TONY BROWN, Plain Dealer Theater Critic
Lunacy, the word, has come to mean just plain crazy. But the origin of the expression (degrees of madness linked to the phases of the moon) hints at the truth of it: intermittently crazy. And aren't we all? "Lunacy," the new play by Northeast Ohio writer Sandra Penman, might at first glance appear to be just a clever riff on Shakespeare's "King Lear." But Perlman is a smarter and braver writer than that. She takes us on a haunting exploration of not only insanity and "Lear," but also of the power of family to comfort, that moment of life called death to unite, and - ultimately - the power of the theater to heal. The Dobama Theatre worldpremiere production of the play, which opened during the weekend as part of FusionFest 2007, packs layer upon layer of richness into 80 compact, funny and emotionally wringing minutes. Perlman has made a specialty of deconstructing (and reconstructing) classics. Her most successful play until "Lunacy" was 2001's "Jocasta," a psychological feminist revisit of Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex." What makes "Lunacy" even more effective is the context in which Perlman places her reconsideration of "Lear. …"
NL Correspondent: Bangalore India
Jammu, March 22: During the day seven of the annual drama festival 2011, Vikram Sharma's translation of Sandra Perlman's famed play 'Jocasta' was staged at Abhinav Theatre here on Wednesday. Produced by Shivani Cultural Society the play proved to be a treat for the audience. Showcasing a deep tragedy the play exposes the dichotomy in human character. Through his direction Vikram succeeded in highlighting the transitional shift in a woman's tragic life.
The play saw some beautiful performances by Neha Lohatra, Harmeet Kour, and Pooja Langey. Rajat Behl composed music for 'Jocasta' while Shalini Sharma took care of make up, set and costume.
Performers, playwright infuse Oedipus tale with fresh power
Two psychiatrists go to the opera. The shrieking heroine, the only character left alive on stage, readies a dagger to off herself. One of the shrinks leans over and says, "With a little professional help early on, this all could have been avoided."
It's an old joke, but its grain of truth provides plenty of fodder for post-Freudian writers who re-examine the old stories in the light of psychoanalysis.
"Jocasta," Kent playwright Sandra Perlman′s often fascinating, often funny, through-the-looking-glass look at Sophocles’ "Oedipus Rex," this week launches Cleveland Play House′s annual Next Stage Festival of New Plays in fine style.
The handsome, smart, world-premiere production, though small and short (it ends Sunday; you'll be lucky to get a seat in the 110-seat Studio One Theatre), boasts two very good acting performances and a spectacular one.
Perlman′s choice of myth is especially apt. The story, fraught with psychological implications, lends its name to the Oedipus complex, the most well-known Freudian diagnosis. Look back at "Oedipus Rex" and you find it staring right back at you, way ahead of its time, psychoanalytically speaking.
But Perlman, like so many playwrights before her (even Sophocles was borrowing the story), has her own spin. She wonders what was going on with the mother/wife instead of the son/husband. Perlman′s suggested answer could be dubbed the "Jocasta complex," a willful ignorance of stark reality.
Like the psychiatrists at the opera, Perlman posits that the tragedy could have been avoided if these people had only talked.
In Act 1, we find Ismene, Jocasta’s mother, advising her daughter on the eve of her wedding to Oedipus not to tell her new husband anything about her previous marriage, the son who was taken away to die, that terrible prophesy. It's comedy with terrible implications. Ismene makes this casual, hilarious and horrific remark about Oedipus: "I'm old enough to be his grandmother." After the intermission, a decade later, with Ismene dead and Jocasta now aware that ignorance has ruined her, the Theban queen discovers that her woman-in-waiting, Iris, has also participated in this festival of self-deception, compounding the hurt.
Although "Jocasta" is not set in any particular time, with ancient references left intact but the language modern, director Eric Schmiedl uses a 1930s Hollywood motif to drive home a post-Freudian, pre-feminist sensibility. Schmiedl′s sometimes hyper- active direction - do these characters ever sit still? - is calmed by set designer Michael Roesch′s elegant, classically proportioned art deco bedroom.
Dark and ebullient Laura Perrotta, sensually sheathed in satin slips but bearing the scars of a veteran wife and mother, plays Jocasta with a hauteur that is easily and often punctured. Erin Hurley′s Iris has a sheen of naivete and sexual repression.
As fine as these performances are, they are overshadowed by Catherine Albers′ in the most complexly drawn character, Jocasta′s charmingly irritating, lovingly manipulative mom. Rather than being a glacier, Albers chooses to be a self-absorbed and histrionic sliver of ice, always ready to dart in, quickly numb her victim, do her damage, and withdraw again. She is the queen mother of denial.
The play suffers when Perlman occasionally gives in to the temptation to tut-tut; good shrinks (and playwrights) just nod. And why did costume designer Charlotte Yetman make such a beautiful wedding gown only to plague it with a mondo case of visible panty lines?
Distractions aside, "Jocasta" fascinates us with reiteration of a timeless question: "Can we talk?"
Friday, March 09, 2001
© By TONY BROWN PLAIN DEALER THEATER CRITIC
'Lunacy' mirrors life, raises questions
CLEVELAND - My, how art can mirror life, and visa versa.
One need look no further than "Lunacy," a riveting, lean, honest and deceptively simple play being given its world premiere in Cleveland through May 27.
The production packs as powerful performances as I've seen in just one hour and 25 minutes of theater, including one 15-minute intermission.
Sandra Perlman's play, set in 1827 Philadelphia and New York, illustrates live theater's power to move audience members. How many of us have seen a play, perhaps for the first time, and said we had no idea how this vibrant art form could cause such empathy?
Corneila Lamb, one of the main characters, says such a remark at the end of the play. The young Quaker woman, portrayed with heartfelt sensitivity by Bernadette Clemens, had just seen what she felt was a powerful portrayal of King Lear by rising Shakespearean star Edwin Forrest. (The late performer is considered America's first great Shakespearean actor.)
The performance spoke to Lamb, a newcomer to theater, because her elderly father, Benjamin, had grown mad just like King Lear, one of Shakespeare's greatest tragic heroes. Through Forrest's performance, she could see herself losing her father all over again.
"That is the greatest review I've ever received," Forrest responds, in one of the more touching moments.
Dan Hammond's performance as the former real-life actor deserves kudos as well. Hammond deftly captures Forrest's smug, self-worshipping attitude, arrogance dripping from his powerful voice. As "Lunacy" progresses, Forrest becomes kinder, and Hammond undergoes an impressive transformation to convey a man with a heart, one with a more tender voice.
Benjamin's madness, played vividly and hauntingly by Michael Regnier, sets the plot in motion. Lamb arrives one day in a Philadelphia theater, where Forrest is rehearsing. Lamb asks Forrest to come with her and witness "The Perfect Lear," her father a Shakespearean scholar and teacher in his younger days.
She hopes Forrest will help Benjamin, who has lost his mind and thinks he is King Lear, emerge from his madness.
"Lunacy" not only confirms the link between art and real life, it raises the question of how to best prepare for a role. Forrest, we learn, has gone to insane asylums to observe how patients act, in an effort to create authentic portrayals.
Forrest does so once again by accompanying Cornelia to an asylum where her father lives.
But does this method amount to mimicking others? Accompanying Cornelia raises another issue: Is it an act of lunacy, kindness or selfishness that of a self-centered performer wanting only to succeed in his career? These are some of the questions raised, but not necessarily answered, by Perlman.
It is no accident she named the female lead character Cornelia. The name is similar to "Cordelia," the devoted and honest daughter of King Lear, a father about to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia.
Lear tells his daughters the size of property each will receive will be proportionate to how much they love him. Regan and Goneril, lying, flatter their father with poetic words to indicate their intense "love" for him. Cordelia says she loves her father just like any devoted daughter would no more, no less.
To help lead Benjamin out of the world of the play ("King Lear"), Forrest helps Benjamin's daughter portray Cordelia. Only with Lear's death, occurring at the end of Shakespeare's play, will this happen.
While you won't find many people who think they are King Lear, people with Azheimer's Disease have been known to act as he does.
Sadly, as powerful as theater is, a loved one cannot "bring the person out" of the crippling disease by playing a fictional character.
How nice it would be if, in that instance, theater would not only mirror life, but be one and the same.
Aaron Krause is a Reflector staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug. 23, 2010
“DRAMA LOOKS AT LIFE AND LIES”
By GRETCHEN C. VAN BENTHUYSEN
Men without jobs and the women who love them is at the heart of Sandra Perlman's new drama "In Search of Red River Dog," now playing at the New Jersey Repertory Theatre in Long Branch.
Also at the heart of the matter are lies.
The lies told by the steel mill owners to its laid off workers. Lies told by the garbage company that was illegally dumping chemicals years ago that now have poisoned the groundwater in Deerfield, Ohio, in 1978. And the lies told between a husband and wife that, when revealed, undermine the shaky foundation of their marriage.
Superbly acted by all four cast members and directed by Rob Reese, the play unfolds over 48 hours in the front yard of a run-down trailer.
Sam Shepardesque in a stark, reality driven, highly emotional way, the plot centers on Paulette (Dana Benningfield) and Denny (Jeff Farkash), high school sweethearts who married after she became pregnant.
Their young daughter has recently died and Paulette believes the cause was poisoned water from leaky chemical drums. Paulette's beloved dog Red also is sick, and she vows that if he dies (which he ultimately does), she'll have his remains analyzed to prove he was poisoned.
Meanwhile, Paulette has some unusual habits which leads us to think she may be losing her grip on reality. She sings nursery rhymes. Hangs laundry at night to dry. And plants exotic spices she has no use for.
She also is very bright - brightest kid in school - who married a football player who can barely put two words together. Benningfield turns in a finely wrought performance as the young wife who has to make some hard choices.
Her mother Bertie (Betty Hudson), who lost two children to miscarriages before she got the family out of a beautiful but deadly coal mining valley in West Virginia, loves her daughter with a passion. But she does not want to move again, and believes if Paulette stirs up trouble with her theory about the poisoned water, they will never work again and be forced to leave the area.
Hudson is excellent as the mother, particularly when she is horrified at the circumstances surrounding Red's death and what happened immediately afterward.
Her husband John (Ross Haines) is drinking himself to death because he knows the steel mills will never reopen and he can't even land a clerk's job at the local convenience store because he can't work the computerized cash register.
It is the women who have the survival instincts. John accepts this. Denny does not.
Farkash's portrait of a Denny that is insecure and terrified his wife will leave him is nicely done. We want to feel sorry for his predicament and do, up to a point. As his fears overtake him, accusing his wife of infidelity and lack of respect, he becomes pathetic. As always, it comes down to sex and Denny resents not having any with Paulette, just because a doctor said to give her time to recover from their baby's death.
He finally takes his frustration out on her and nobody's life will ever be the same.
At the end of this two-hour drama we realize Paulette is the one who is facing reality and Denny is the one who lives in an imaginary world.
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