Xeitgeist ~ the spirit of the event
by Cynthia Pepper

GUYS & DOLLS – A Small Slice of Paradise

Guys and DollsWarm but not a blazing sun, a setting that has history and nature all mixed up together, an ocean view on your left and then again on your right, a group of people who are committed to bringing live performance for nearly 100 years to a place that no one forgets, a live orchestra in the clouds with talented performing and visual artists sharing their craft. On top of that add laughter, yummy food, singing, dancing and period costumes in front of sets that make you smile. Paradise. Yes, for me that is what the Mountain Play continually reminds those of us chosen few who experience this annual Marin institution. We live in Paradise and it can be enjoyed for 6 shows in May and June. The Mountain Play once again served up a delightful treat last Saturday on the tip-top of Mt. Tamalpais. The 97th production of Guys and Dolls directed by James Dunn with Executive Producer Sara Pearson at the business helm.

Appropriate choreography for the talent level was shown by the choreographer Rick Wallace. His skills are best noted in this show with lively diagonals and group lines. With original painted sets by Ken Rowland we see bright colors that set the tone of fresh, brisk, high-stakes, yet sort of dirty glamorous times. A place where gambling “guys and fancy “goils” dames and broads are a plenty. One of my favorite lines of the show was Illinois with a hard “s” verbalized loudly at the end. The script was filled with irony, sardonic wit, double entendres and redemptive lines of wisdom. The musical was so whimsical you found yourself wanting to taste a bit of a "craps" game and some evangelical Bible session sometime. Maybe a trip to Grace Cathedral or Las Vegas would fulfill the curiosity perhaps? The continued reminder of a 14-year engagement by the leads was enhanced by the fact that Adelaide a perfectly cast and wonderfully presented (Kimberley Jensen) fabricated 5 children and a job for a boyfriend that refused to commit. Timeless wit that all ages enjoy and never goes out of style.

I was whisked away to another time with the opening number that was so fine I wondered if they had started the orchestra? Was this live? It sounded so clean. It had to be a CD. I was easily transformed with Equity actor Randy Nazarian who upgraded the stage energy each time he arrived. You have to love the bad guy to make him a true hero and Randy is so easy to love as Nathan. I also couldn't wait to see Joshua Castro as (Nicely-Nicely Johnson) dance. His grand plies should receive an award along with Randy's double pirouettes that he nailed not once but two times. I wanted more songs from the boys but one cannot have everything! I almost fainted in joy when I saw Pat Polan’s costumes. She pairs orange ties with purple patent leather shoes that seem to match perfectly well! Her palette is a Matisse painting only more fun because it dances and sings. As one can tell I am a huge fan because Pat takes artistic, textural, and color risks that opens the eyes in splendid new ways. Jim Dunn does that as well with his directing choices. He moves our attention across the stage using entrances and exits in a playful way. Just when it seems like we need something new, Jim delivers the just right exit full of whimsy or disappointment, whatever is needed at that time. An entrance full of men is reminiscent of a clown car with a never- ending delivery of willing bodies. His crazy cast consists of all ages, shapes and sizes. Everyone seemed to have the character of the era inside them just waiting to burst out at their given moment. All the collaborators made the waiting worthwhile through the high level of their art.

Whether on a cloud, delivered by taxi or on a lazy susan, "Guys and Dolls" delivers a slice of paradise in a song, in a dance, on a crayon palette and in a laugh up in the clouds. Near paradise to the left of rainbows, with a live orchestra of course!

~ Marin Arts Council Magazine, May 2010