Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Excellent Reviews for Pear Slices 2008

Review from the Mountain View Voice.

Superb slices from The Pear

Who knew the folks at Mountain View's Pear Avenue Theatre were such serious multi-taskers?

Not only have they established themselves as being top-notch actors, directors and producers, but with Pear Slices 2008, these thespians have proved once and for all they can write, too.

Running through April 27, Pear Slices — now in its fifth year — is a unique treat of a theatrical experience. Perfect for the sort of crowd with attention spans attuned to television's eight- to 12-minute intervals between commercials, Pear Slices presents eight short plays over the course of a two-hour production. Each slice is written by a member of The Pear's writer's guild, and this year's selection includes a diverse group of material.

For instance, Pear Slices begins with a short called "Miss Direction," by V.B. Leghorn, which details the obsessive and stalker-ish relationship between a car's automated navigation system (personified with great comedic timing by Camila Frausto) and the car's driver. Sample line: "You hurt me to the micro-grade."

Sound unusual? Not compared to the next piece, "The Near-Death Experiment," by Richard Medugno, which tells the story of a serial killer on death row who, as part of an experiment hatched by an ambitious doctor, is momentarily killed and brought back to life again in order to study the transformative effects of such an experience.

If there is any unifying theme among the Pear Slices of 2008, it seems that a certain penchant for the bizarre and surreal connects the theatrical material in them all. And a sign of the high quality of writing here is that the playwrights successfully pull off a number of challenging themes which might have appeared silly or trivial in lesser hands.

Caryn Huberman's "Pig Me, Act II" manages to make the relationship between human and pig a nuanced and intimate thing. What appears at first to be a completely outlandish proposal on the playwright's part — that a woman and her talking pig live together, and that the pig has been genetically modified to provide her with replacement organs — turns into a sad yet powerful story about cross-species love and loyalty.
About half way through "Pig Me," you have the unnerving realization that you've become emotionally invested in the strange material. It's a feeling that comes again and again while watching Pear Slices.

Just as important in these productions are the eight actors, who make multiple appearances in a variety of challenging roles. John Romano and Ray Renati, who were so good as dueling brothers in The Pear's recent production of "True West," appear frequently and continue to raise the bar for acting on The Pear's stage. Romano is particularly memorable when playing Salvador Dali in Ross Peter Nelson's "Allegorical Construction with Ectoplasm and Soft Cheese, Act II," uttering such lines as "Dali is a flaming giraffe!" and "My madness is that I believe I'm not mad!" with total dead-pan sincerity.

Pear Slices has become one of Mountain View's best artistic traditions. Nestled just a block from the expansive Microsoft campus and situated on land recently purchased by Google, the theater reminds us that in the land of technology titans, the small, intimate and quirky deserve a place too.

Review from Metro Active.


Pear Avenue presents eight short 'slices' of theater in one night

By Marianne Messina

THIS YEAR'S "Pear Slices" production at the Pear Avenue Theatre is a humorous eight-pack of 20-minute plays with quirky premises and surprisingly well-rounded arcs. Written by a handful of local playwrights and performed by an astute, versatile cast, the plays roll smoothly from one to the other by way of music, created by Michael Pease, which sets upcoming moods and themes. For example, the Beatles' song "Piggies" ("Have you seen the little piggies crawling in the dirt?") introduces Caryn Huberman's play Pig Me, in which a woman (Corrie Borris) befriends the articulate pig (Camila Frausto in pig nose) created with her DNA to be her future organ donor. In an acting tour de force, eight actors recycle through wildly varied characterizations; most ubiquitous is the all-purpose Ray Renati.

In V.B. Leghorn's play Miss Direction, Renati is a man in midlife crisis and the object of his Global Positioning System's affections (Frausto makes an amazing Grace, the GPS, producing the familiar digital-voice hitches to a T). A few moments later, Renati is in uniform guarding and abusing Luke (Matt Sameck), a criminal about to undergo an experimental cure in The Near-Death Experiment by Richard Medugno. Suddenly, in Ross Peter Nelson's Cheese Cubed, Renati plays a mop-haired film crewman working for Jessica's (like Sally Jessie) nasty talk show, and Frausto, the formerly bodiless GPS, has become the glamorous talk-show host with an underhanded modus operandi. She pits an unsuspecting art-gallery expert (Monica Cappuccini) against a former nemesis (John Romano), a pretentious artist.

Romano, who also plays the withdrawn, work-focused doctor testing his hypothesis in The Near-Death Experiment, goes on to play an extroverted, self-congratulating Salvador Dali—red sash, flowing cape, scrolling mustachio—in Allegorical Construction With Ectoplasm and Soft Cheese (also by Nelson). Romano's chest-thrusting Dali is as fascinating as Cappuccini's Gala, a brooding, dominant woman in flowing dark hair, fluttery gold dress and black beads (costumes by Mae Heagerty Matos and Gail Farmer). With two projected images, the play draws a comparison between a Dali painting and a photograph from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, suggesting how one inspired the other by way of a few "ectoplasmic" (deceased) visitors.

PEAR SLICES, eight short plays presented by Pear Avenue Theatre, plays Thursday–Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm at the Pear, 1220 Pear Ave., Unit K, Mountain View. Tickets are $15–$30. (650.254.1148)