Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

The Aurora Theatre is currently presenting PALOMINO: a one-man, seven character play about a New York actor turned carriage driver; turned gigolo; turned kiss and tell author.

David Cale is the whimsical writer, capable director, and star of this tour de force.

PALOMINO explores the erotic and lucrative opportunities set before a handsome Irishman, who is sufficiently charged endocrinally, anatomically qualified and morally debased enough, to provide a mercenary verisimilitude of love to the cougars and dowagers of Central Park.

Whether the tender and ribald tales are fact or fantasy is up to the audience to decide: being an election year, the commingling of fiction and non-fiction has become a life style—particularly in California.

Cale is absolutely protean on stage: moving from one character to the next by merely shifting his gait, affecting a lilt, raising or lowering his pitch, and translating his body language.

Such nuances are the creative brush strokes he uses to vividly depict each new character.

Cale conjures up four distinct women and to the credit of his acting talent, he is not another cross dresser.

Even while garbed in the rudimentary vestments of a stable boy-one horse teamster, Cale facilely morphs from one horny society matron to another, and takes on three male roles—including a very compelling Irishman.

This is acting and storytelling at its best: minimal set, minimal props, minimal tech and minimal costuming all place the theatrical burden—the ability to suspend the audience’s sense of disbelief—on the shoulders a very capable actor.

This is stage magic bordering on the alchemical.

Politically and culturally to its credit, an Irishman is the main character and yet there is none of the obligatory, ancillary, or gratuitous British bashing that typifies a show with one or more Irish characters.

In this regard, Cale shows unusual and possibly unprecedented restraint.

Kieran McGrath refuses to be a victim of British Imperialism: instead, he is an autonomous Kerouacean wayfarer of the planet: he is the modern day Gaelic equivalent of Odysseus.

If you have ever imagined yourself as a Lothario for hire, or wondered what it would be like to insinuate your way in to the gilded boudoir of a Park Avenue apartment, this is your ticket.

This show is about taking charm, good looks, and a propensity for moral compromise to the marketplace, on the road, and on to Malibu, Monterey and Malta.

For a delightfully provocative evening call the Aurora box office at 510-843-4822 or surf over to www.auroratheatre.org for tickets.

Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

The award winning Off Broadway West Theatre Company is currently presenting Henrik Ibsen’s HEDDA GABLER as directed by Richard Harder.

Great casting, starting with Cecilia Palmtag in the title role, jump starts this intricate and complex show which has been universally hailed as the beginning of modern theater.

Palmtag and Harder have artistically conspired to create a Hedda that is as emotionally glacial as a February fjord and as turbid as the winter waters of the North Atlantic.

But it is not merely iciness that defines Hedda, it is her alluring contradictions: the projected sense of being attainable while being unattainable: a disturbing beauty on the outside and a menacing, manipulating vixen on the inside.

While the show dates back to the 1890s, it has lost none of its ability to grab audiences with its dramatic talons and drag them into the pathological vortex created by Hedda.

Hedda is a powerful woman: seemingly much bigger than the life in the small western Norwegian town which she is seemingly exiled; she is certainly no match for its denizens.

But exiled from where and for what?

Has fate sequestered her in provincial Norway to deny her the opportunity to achieve her fullest potential or to appear on the cover of supermarket tabloids?

Has she been denied the chance to live life on a scale commensurate with her beauty, ambition and intelligence?

Could the Hedda Gabler of Ibsen, Palmtag and Harder have expanded herself to match the challenges of the larger modern world?

Given the chance, could Hedda have “been a contender” instead of a neurotic, self-absorbed, narcissistic, destructive, petty, petulant child raging against the dull civility and quiet tenor of Norwegian life?

Hedda exercises absolute control over all the other chess pieces on the board.

Adam Simpson brilliantly portrays Hedda’s husband: the absolutely obtuse George Tesman: he is like a snake handler, never consciously aware of the dangerous malignant force he has married into.

If you see the show with friends, be prepared afterwards for heated debate: undoubtedly Hedda will be put on trial: defended and vilified; cross examined via the lens of speculative psychology, bar stool sociology, feminism and a probing dissection of Hedda’s cerebral cortex.

This is theater as it was meant to be: provocative, intellectually challenging, emotionally charged, philosophically stimulating and psychologically captivating.

For tickets, call the box office at 415-407-3214 or visit www.offbroadwaywest.org.