Having witnessed some consistently excellent Nevada County theater for 30-odd years now (I must be old), I may fairly confess that I can count the truly great performances on my upper digits. After last weekend’s offering at the Stonehouse in Nevada City, I’ll have to start using my toes.
As the iconic George and Martha, Ken Miele and Trish Adair bring a commitment to character and relational conflict (and occasional tender co-dependence) that blazes with intensity and raw emotional power. This collaboration exemplifies the very essence of what good theater can serve.
The “chemistry” between these two permeates the very air we share in the intimate venue. Their umbilical connection is evident, even when estranged (and even when one or the other is offstage). They employ a shared body-politic that is marvelous in range … exquisite in subtlety … pyrotechnic in execution.
Jimmy McCammon’s deft direction evinces a keenly insightful depth of understanding of Albee’s brilliantly structured storyform and kept the full-house audience on the edges of our collective seat for the entirety of the three-act two-hour production (and brought us to a standing ovation to boot). Were we laughing in appreciation of Albee’s well-crafted employment of preconscious forewarning and subconscious memory, or do we simply recognize these dysfunctional characters in ourselves? (Surely not. We see their more venal attributes in eccentric relatives only, right?)
McCammon’s masterful portrayal of the conflicted Nick packs a host of motivations into his cranium, then into his scrotum and back up again (stopping briefly at his heart). We just don’t know how we feel about Nick … which is how we should feel about the roller-coaster ride that is Nick, after all. Perhaps this is why his (mousey?) wife is so often nauseous?
Any director who undertakes to also perform in a live production risks the peril of an occasionally too-subjective perspective, and this reviewer felt that the luminous and talented Kate Tobie (whose tour-de-force performance in last month’s “The Maids,” earned universal accolades) had not yet been adequately directed to fully match her fellow actors’ nuanced performances in this tight ensemble piece. Her portrayal was, indeed, resplendent with incandescent moments and with a few directorial tweaks by the final performances this week (Thursday, Friday and Sunday), what we’ll have here is a profound ability to communicate.
And that this young, poppin’ fresh theater company, Synthetic Unlimited, is consistently bringing this level of sustained brilliance for their short six-show runs is testament to a muse whose work ethic rivals Sisyphus. In a word: wow.
Do yourself a deep favor and do not miss it!
Loraine Webb is a freelance writer/character actor.