AISLE SAY San Francisco


by John Strand
Directed by Josh Costello
Presented by Marin Theatre Company
Marin Theatre Company
397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA / Phone (415) 388-5208

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Playwright John Strand reached back to 17th century France for the plot in his "Lovers & Executioners" and set the action in that time period. His source was "La Femme juge et partie" by Antoine Jacob de Montfleury, a contemporary and bitter rival of Moliere. Montfleury in turn found his inspiration in a Spanish play by Lope de Vega. Fans of Shakespeare might even find some resemblances to characters and situations created by the Bard, but with nowhere near his skill.

The plot concerns a husband, Bernard (Jackson Davis), who believes his beloved wife, Julie (Lisa Anne Porter), has been unfaithful to him, but he doesn't confront her with his suspicions. Instead, he abandons her to a deserted island. Three years later, having proclaimed himself a widower, he woos pretty young Constance (Alexandra Creighton), who can't stand him. She's more interested in a mysterious stranger who has just arrived. That stranger, of course, is Julie, disguised as a young man, Frederic. Julie's ultimate goal is to find out why Bernard so cruelly abandoned her and perhaps to exact revenge.

She's accompanied by Octavius (Liam Vincent), her confidant and servant. Completing the picture are Guzman (Gary Grossman), Bernard's manservant; Beatrice (Gwen Loeb), Julie's former maid now in service to Constance; and Don Lope (Lance Gardner), a volatile Spaniard who woos Constance.

Although the play looks at various forms of love and the ways they can change, it has shortcomings. One of the most obvious is that it's in rhymed couplets, which become distracting as one anticipates the next rhyme. Second, some of the characters are stereotypes, making them hard to care about. This is especially true of Gardner's Don Lope. Davis as Bernard and Porter as Julie are exceptions because their emotions seem more genuine. Creighton's Constance also takes on depth during the play.

Scenic designer Steve Coleman's castle-like set resembles a child's pop-out book reinforcing the caricatures seen in some characters. Moreover, director Josh Costello uses some tired sight gags and allows fight captain Risa Aratyr's sword fights to go on too long. Likewise, Beatrice has an Act 2 speech that seems endless. On the other hand, Fumiko Bielefeldt's costumes are handsome, and lighting by Lucas Benjaminh Krech and music and sound by Chris Houston are effective.

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