The Placer Performance Calendar

 

Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Harold and Maude
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show August 2-18, 2013
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Harold and Maude is currently playing at the Sutter Street Theatre, and everything about this show is quirky Ė delightfully so. Itís the story of a young, directionless, 19-year-old man, whose half-hearted attempts at suicide are a product of his fascination with death and his desire to provoke a reaction from his wealthy, single-parent mother. The fascination with death takes him to funerals of people he doesnít know, and thatís where he meets 80-year-old Maude. She also treats funerals as entertainment, but not from a morbid sense. Rather, she sees them as a celebration of the ďcircle of life.Ē From this encounter grows a friendship that blossoms into love.

Itís the general quality of the acting in this show that makes all this plausible. Hazel Johnson, an octogenarian who defies the implications of that title, plays her wonderfully eccentric, Pollyanna-ish character to perfection. And along the way she plays the ukulele, sings beautifully, throws in some hula moves, dances, and draws gasps from the audience when she demonstrates her flexibility by bending at the waist and touching the floor with the palms of her hands.

Chris Celestin initially plays a sardonic character, and a lot of the comedy in the show comes from his comic instincts and subtle gestures. But over the course of the play, this versatile young actor demonstrates a lot of emotional range. And complementing the work of Johnson and Celestin, I saw especially good acting from several of the other players.

There are many comic moments in this production, and one could see them exploited by the attention to detail of director, Warren Harrison. In fact, there was at least one situation I recall that evoked explosions of laughter from the small, Sunday-afternoon audience I was part of. But there is much more to this play than comedy. Itís well-written, and within all the clever writing is food for thought on a range of subjects. Ultimately, itís the humanity of the play that draws you in and makes you care about what is going on up there on the stage. And the chemistry between Johnson and Celestin makes it believable. Itís an unusual theatrical experience that is playing only through August 18. My advice? Donít miss it.

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