Sunday, March 6, 2016

OPALINE by Fengar Gael : Garage Theatre Long Beach

(a Delirium for a Parched Planet)
Written by Fengar Gael
Directed by Caprice Spencer Rothe

The Garage Theatre in Long Beach has been at it for fifteen years.  In the true spirit of “seat-of-the-pants”, experiment and cry havoc, this world premiere of Fengar Gael’s loopy take on Greek myth and Victorian Oddities has some problems that lapsed over into the street on opening night.  The tiny space near downtown Long Beach is parking challenged and has for a lobby, well… Seventh Street.   Opening night audience was eclectic and artsy.  The tiny storefront is emblazoned with quality advertising for Opaline as well as for upcoming shows that comprise their 2016 season.  A theme of tarot cards to announce the upcoming plays is displayed in one window.

According to Homer, Odysseus set out aboard The Argos to fight in the Trojan Wars.  On his return he is lured into magical waters by Circe, the enchantress, who turns his men into pigs!   Greek myth is loaded with analogies and how Gael stirs the Victorian feeling of Oscar Wilde’s unique world, “original” art by Gaston Verdante (Adam Brooks)  and the subsequent employ of three ‘Circes’ (Gregory Cesena, Erin Grissom and Jeffrey Kieviet) who actively become artwork, stage hands and employers of magic is, in itself a mystery.   
(top to bottom) Erin Grissom, Josephine Black, Gregory Cessena


As absinthe factors heavily into the plot, this quote by Wilde may help to light the way: 

 “After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.”

Having first met Ms Gael when she was a finalist in the National Repertory Theatre Foundation Playwriting Competition with her beautiful play, DRINK ME, featuring three Alices, I have been a fan.  The challenge of her work falls to the skills of the actors, director and crew to realize them.  Opaline (Josephine Block) is the ancient French retainer for the artiste Gaston Verdante (Brooks) presenting as a smarmy Victorian in a time projected a hop and skip and a jump into the Future.  Verdante’s ability to “channel” or actually become Monet or Van Gogh factors into the plot.  Anthropologist Dr. Hargraves Moss (Allen Sewell) arrives to investigate the discovery of the corpse of an ancient woman who has, apparently self immolated with some sort of alcohol!  She bears an uncanny likeness to Opaline and off we go.
(left to right) Jeffrey Kievet, Allen Sewell, Varda Appleton, Erin Grissom 

The three Circes, adorned in ‘marble’ from head to toe become somewhat suis gender as they flirt and pose providing fluid changes to the set as well as ‘becoming’ artwork by posing in the hanging frames that surround all 27 seats in the tiny Garage space.

Director Caprice Spencer Rothe has been an effective traffic cop with the actors, however acting styles and presentation are a bit uneven with laser focused work by Varda Appleton (Dr. Celestia Jane Olive) and spritely interpretation of the singular muse/artist Beatrice (Bibi) Corbeau (cute and spritely Cassandra Bell).  Mlle Corbeau was the color I had to look up (blackish green), as every character in Opaline is verdantly coordinated, along with bottle after bottle of absinthe.  

World Premier’s are exciting.  Opaline may find its pace and settle into a very interesting production. All photo credit:

 OPALINE by Fengar Gael
The Garage Theatre
251 E. 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays.
Friday, March 2nd- Saturday, March 26th
Curtain: 8pm

Tickets: may be purchased online at or at the box office 30 minutes prior to each night’s performance, or by calling 866.811.4111
General $20. 
Students/Seniors/Teachers/Military. $15. 
Opening and Closing Night $25.
Twofer Sutherland Thursdays: 2 for 1.
(General ticket price only, use promo code TWOFER)

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