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Theater Review: SaraSolo Festival

SaraSolo celebrates the power of one.

Ann Morrison. Photo by Blake Walton.
Ann Morrison. Photo by Blake Walton.
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Live theater is usually a team effort. Gotta Van Productions marches to a different drummer. This new area performance outreach is the brainchild of Anne Morrison (Broadway veteran and latter-day bard) and Blake Walton (the writer/director/actor/one-man band of New York City theater). They celebrate the individual performer. SaraSolo, their inaugural festival, gave local theater lovers a taste.

The two-weekend festival brought a grab-bag of solo talent to the intimate stage of the Crocker Church.  Here’s a quick, but not comprehensive sample of the final weekend.

Gabriel Ortiz offered a touching and autobiographical survivor’s story of a young man who overcomes the legacy of a heroin-addicted mother, a father in prison, and older brothers caught up in the L.A. gang culture.

Christine Alexander shared her unique flavor of improv comedy — fleshing out improbable audience suggestions with physical gags worthy of Lucille Ball and voices and characters worthy of Tracey Ullman. Think long-form improv — an hour-long sketch concocted on the spot. (Actually two, on both weekends.) She made it look easy.

Ann Morrison told the forgotten story of the “real” Peter Pan — J.M. Barrie’s hero who made his debut in “The Little White Bird, Or Adventures In Kensington Gardens” — the largely forgotten book that preceded the books and plays we all know. She used every storyteller’s trick in the book — gesturing and changing voices and rhythms on a dime. She reacted to an unseen world and made the audience see it. Truly hypnotic!

Eliza Ladd offered a hallucinatory history of life, the universe and everything, telling her tale with equal parts dance, mime and spoken word poetry. She created a waking trance with fragments of ritual and incantation. Her non-linear narrative came together like a half-remembered dream.

Rod Rawlings embodied a 70-year-old Mark Twain. The legendary author starts off embittered that he’s reached “the Biblical statute of limitations”— then shrugs it off to regale his friends with songs, jokes and tall tales.

These solo flights were a lot of fun.

We can’t wait until the next SaraSolo festival takes off.



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