Set amongst rolling golden hills off a rural freeway in Sonora (Less than a 2 ½ hour drive from Downtown San Jose) is a fascinating little theatre that serves as one of two locations that the Sierra Repertory Theatre uses to stage a full season of musicals and straight plays. A couple of weeks ago I ventured out with the top down on the Jeep to explore a part of California I rarely get to see and took in the local culture in the form of farce There Goes the Bride.
If you blink you could in fact miss the theater. This converted tin factory seats around 99 and though the outside is a bit twee (you enter through a country gazebo) once you are inside it’s a smart and transformative space. The Sunday matinée audience was older and a bit chatty during the performance (translating for the hard of hearing and speaking louder than they thought) but the theatre is lovely, well air-conditioned and comfortable.
The talent is unquestionable. The father of the bride works his comic chops and at times I felt as if I was watching a classic movie star. He has magical timing and this look that makes it hard to take your eyes off him. The balance between his subtle pauses, gestures and glances and his over the top shtick is really quite enjoyable. The imaginary flapper Polly proved absolutely infectious. True she doesn’t have much to do except be adorable and giggly, but she is an absolute spark on stage, expressive and charming. While the mother of the bride provides a much-needed calm contrast to some of the silly comedy and is convincing and fun to watch at the other end of the spectrum was the grandfather whose exaggerated physical characterization and mugging was a bit too much for me personally, but the audience seemed to quite enjoy his ridiculousness. Overall, a very fun ensemble working well together and well directed.
There is some depth to this farce without weighing it down and making it complex and I very much appreciated that. It followed basic farce structure, not wholly unpredictable and superfast moving. The lines are delivered quickly and the action is truly non-stop. The actors definitely got their workout. Although the pace is lightning quick (at just about 2 hours including intermission) I have to say I still felt the play itself milked some of the jokes entirely too long.
This is a really fun play, professional in every way and the classic California landscape is a tremendous bonus. To be perfectly honest I didn’t know what to expect as a first time audience member and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. A charming, worthwhile 3 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for this bright and spunky production. Whether you drive up and back in a day like I did, taking time to explore the western saloons and antique stores of Sonora during lunch, or you opt to make it a bed and breakfast kind of weekend and adventure out to the goldmine towns in the vicinity, don’t miss the opportunity to see a play at Sierra Rep. Based on There Goes the Bride, I think any show would be a wonderful addition to your cultural road trip!There Goes the Bride plays through September 2nd at the East Sonora Theater in Sonora.
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