Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Return of Dave Barton

By Allen Bacon
Daily Bosco

When Director Dave Barton was closing down his Way-Ahead-of-it's-time Monkey Wrench Theater last December in Fullerton, CA and moving the troupe to Los Angeles, we got into a conversation about if he ever thought about directing for one of the Fullerton theaters like STAGEStheater, Maverick or Hunger Artists Theater.

Barton didn't think he would, because, at the time, the three aforementioned small regional theaters were going in opposite directions from what he wanted to do.

Barton has a knack for going to Europe and securing the rights to never-before-seen plays or lesser known playwrights who write with an edge and controversy and directing and performing them here in intimate settings before anybody else does....right in the middle of conservative North Orange County, CA.

What a big difference a year makes in the life of local theater.

Hunger Artists Theater, after a long run, has closed it doors and in a very interesting move STAGEStheatre has come to terms with Dave Barton to be it's First Programming Director.

“Having run—and closed—two storefronts myself, I’ve been friends for many years with members of this company, despite having decidedly different theatrical values, says Barton.

"When they asked me to come on board, needless to say I was both thrilled to work with my friends and a little tentative, stepping into uncharted territory for the both of us. It’s been exciting and rewarding to see whether we could meld those two philosophies, creating a new and exciting direction for the season,” continues Barton.

STAGEStheater will have two rarely-performed absurdist classics opening the new year, followed up by a Yazmina Reza comedy making its debut in OC, farces from British playwright Alan Ayckbourn and American playwright Christopher Durang, two socially-concerned short plays by Howard Korder, one of the writers behind Boardwalk Empire, two US premieres from avant-guard Scottish playwright Linda McLean, a new work from the All Puppet Players lampooning a literary classic, the musical version of the outrageous cult film Eating Raoul

The only mainstays from past seasons at STAGEStheater will be a revival of two very popular STAGEStheatre productions The Woman in Black for Halloween and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play for Christmas.

Currently celebrating its 20th year in business, STAGEStheatre is one of Orange County’s most innovative community theaters.

It produces nearly 15 productions annually, showcasing local playwriting, acting and directing talent. STAGEStheatre is, and will continue to be, dedicated to the development of the artist. It is located at 400 E. Commonwealth in Downtown Fullerton (between Lemon and Balcom).

STAGEStheatre first offering for the 2013 season will be Jean Genet’s controversial The Balcony directed by Barton.

First staged at a private club in London because it was considered too scandalous for Paris audiences in 1956, The Balcony is set in the Grand Balcony, a brothel in a contemporary European city aflame with revolution. The Grand Balcony is a palace of illusions where men come to indulge in their secret fantasies. Inside, prostitutes assist patrons in play acting a variety of roles: a judge inflicting punishment on a beautiful thief, a bishop dealing with a penitent sinner, a general meditating on his relationship with his horse.

However, fantasy and reality become clouded when the insurgents in the street overthrow the Royal Palace and presumably kill the country's queen and her court. It is then that the Police Chief replaces these dignitaries with their counterpart from The Grand Balcony, including the bordello's Madame Irma assuming the role of Queen. As the masqueraders warm to their roles, they convince even the revolutionaries that the illusion created in the bordello is preferable to reality.

After directing a very successful production of his play The Maids several years ago and reading Edmund White’s painstaking biography of the thief, ex-con and political activist that became one of the greatest absurdist playwrights of all time,  Barton long wanted to direct this play.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that he discovered the hilarious British script from the late 80s by Barbara Wright and Terry Hands, however, and I think it’s the most entertaining and bawdy of the available translations.

The Royal Shakespeare Company used the script in its 1987 production, revising and restoring poetic and erotic moments from all three of Genet’s previous versions. “Banned and censored throughout its production history, this epic three-hour play (two intermissions!) is loaded with sex, political comedy, beautiful woman, philosophy, murder, movement and revolution.

More raunchy (and timely) than when it was written over 50 years ago; this is a unique opportunity for OC audiences to get a delightfully absurd peek at this acclaimed writer’s work,” says director Barton.

Starring in The Balcony are: Cynthia Ryanen, Rick Kopps, Katrina Klein, Sean Hesketh, Adam Poynter, Joey Walsh, Sabrina Zellars, Jack Millis, Austin McCoy, Jonathan Delamora, Robert Dean Nunez, Michele Greco-Lucchina, Evelyn Goode, and Wade Williamson.

Tickets for The Balcony are $20.00, $18.00 for students and seniors. Performances are January 11-February 16, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5:00 p.m.

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