Twin Solos on Stage
Susannah York’s Shakespeare’s Women and Gregg Stebben’s Richard Feynman both come to Carmel.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
These are dark days for regional theater in Monterey County. Unprecedented budget cuts have forced local drama companies to either creatively fundraise or offer abbreviated seasons.
Since staging a full-scale theatrical production is a tremendously complex and ungainly procedure, one solution is to cut overhead by staging short-run, one-person shows. Unfortunately, most one-man or one-woman shows are nothing more than stand-up comedy routines or static monologues. In short, they lack drama.
So what makes a great one-man or one-woman show? Well, the same things that make any great play: good characters, good story and, most importantly, a really, really good actor.
This week, a pair of great one-person shows comes to town. Internationally renowned actress Susannah York brings her acclaimed one-woman show, The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women, to the Golden Bough in Carmel, and Noel Wood channels the crackling energy and childlike curiosity of a Nobel Prize-winning physicist in The Remarkable Richard Feynman and his “Half-Assedly Thought-Out Pictorial Semi-Vision Thing” at the Carl Cherry Gallery.
Susannah York is a tremendously well-regarded actress whose cinematic resumé includes starring roles in the Academy Award-winning Best Pictures Tom Jones and A Man for All Seasons; as well a a stellar performance in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, for which she received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress.
Great films, all, York may be best known nowadays for her role opposite Marlon Brando as Superman’s mom.
York developed The Loves of Shakespeare’s Women for the 2003 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her exploration of Shakespeare’s female characters proved to be such a hit, she toured it through the UK, Australia, and Asia before bringing it to the States. She’s even written a companion book.
York conceived and wrote the piece, she says, after being inspired by John Gielgud’s stage show, The Ages of Man. “Why not an Ages of Women?” York asked. “Passionate women, comic women. Subtle, savage, submissive or scheming women. Young, old, jovial, grieving women...I suddenly saw that love itself strings all of these women together, from Juliet to Mistress Ford, Viola to Constance and Isabella to Gertrude and from Portia to Cleopatra. Love in its many natures and objects. Romantic love, yes. And family love—love for your master, for your mistress, for your comrade, your country. Love of power, of God, of fun, of an abstract ideal—returned love, misplaced love, unrequited love and love that turns awry...”
York’s play is a benefit for the Carmel Shakespeare Festival (which this summer wraps up a four-year run through the ten “Wars of the Roses” plays, with Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III).
Opening night, on July 30, includes a special post-show
reception with York at La Playa Hotel in Carmel following the
Inspiration for The Remarkable Richard Feynman hit when, one sunny Saturday morning in New York, playwright Gregg Stebben came across the quirkily written autobiography of a physicist.
“I was just looking for something interesting to read. I had no idea who Richard Feynman was,” Stebben says. “But I read it cover to cover sitting in Central Park. It was fascinating. Right then I told myself I had to meet this guy—which I never did.”
Instead, he developed a one-man show based on the infectiously curious physicist, which premiered off-off Broadway before finding its way west to become something of a cult favorite in Monterey County.
Stebben’s script, which he co-wrote with Charles Hamilton, combines Feynman’s intellectual and emotional response to physics; his odd, engaging personality; and his personal history, into an inspiring portrait of a very complex man.
The primary conceit of the play sets Feynman in front of a classroom just hours after returning from the Nobel ceremonies in Norway, where he received a prize for his theory of Quantum Electrodynamics.
Addressing the audience as he would a classroom of students, Feynman reflects on the birth of his theory, wondering how the idea came to him at all. The trajectory of the play follows his discourse on the evolution of an idea before climaxing with an epiphany about his epiphany.
This production stars Noel Wood, whom Stebben met when they both worked at a Silicon Valley dotcom in 1999.
“Almost from the time I met him, I thought he’d be a great Feynman,” Stebben says. “I’ve directed a lot of actors that have gone on to work on Broadway, and Noel is definitely at that level. He’s a Broadway-caliber talent.”
The Remarkable Richard Feynman is part of the Summer Arts and Lecture Series at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts.