Produced by: San Jose Stage Company
Directed by: Lee Sankowich,
Featuring: Randall King, Allison F. Rich, Judith Siebenthal, Rob August, Will Springhorn Jr., Tanya Marie, Michael Bellino, and Tim Fullerton
Running time: 120 minutes, one intermission
When: February 6-March 3, 2019
Where: San Jose Stage Company, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $32-$72. Call 408-283-7142 or visit www.thestage.org.
of a mendacious time
“The greatest thing that happened in my life was meeting my wife,” said The Stage Artistic Director Randall King in a recent interview, “and the second greatest — which pales in comparison — was walking into a Theater 101 class at Cañada College.”
King, who grew up in the 1960s, and “dropped out of high school a little wild,” had always kept a journal — “flow of consciousness” he said, which is the way he talks over the phone, words rushing out like water down a mountain stream, as he stands in his Campbell backyard, with his dogs Ben and Maggie, and the occasional cawing crow nearby.
The journal keeper was at Cañada College to get his GED, studying journalism and public relations, and “saw these wackos doing scenes from ‘Marat/Sade.’ Then I took that 101 class.”
He loved what he learned there — “You levitate when you do this! I have spent the last 40 years trying to recreate that environment.”
King has combined, in a sense, those two greatest things in his life, because 38 years ago he hooked up with Cathleen, who became his wife 36 years ago and gave him two children, and also helped him found San Jose Stage Company, where she is the executive director.
Now calling itself more simply The Stage, the company has always strived to put on important plays, and has considerable support in San Jose. Supporters recently made it possible for The Stage to purchase the building in which it operates, and dealmakers are working out the details to replace it with an eight-story building, in which the bottom two stories will be for The Stage.
Coming this weekend to the existing stage is a classic of American theater, Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which runs February 6 through March 3, 2019.
King will be Big Daddy, this time.
“I played Brick the first time we did it, 30-plus years ago,” said King, who is now 67. “But I am surprised by what I didn’t hear in the play then, because I was young. Such a method actor.
“When you live in the theater, as I often say, being an actor, you live in a sense of arrested development. There are two worlds you live in — the one you create, and the one you live.”
Now, playing the father in the Pollitt family, King is more aware of “the themes in this play,” and he notes certain parallels with the Trump presidency.
“When we were thinking of doing it (this season), it was about the time Trump was thinking of running ... we didn’t know the unprecedented level of mendacity we could experience in this sociopolitical reality show, the divisions in society getting wider and wider, after all the hard work, the assassinations, the sacrifices of the last 70 years. …
“We are revisiting the South in this play, the strains and struggles.”
King is “blown away” by the “poetry in prose” of Williams’ writing, and by the play’s themes of mendacity, death and alcoholism.
“We were working in rehearsal last weekend, the transition from Act 2 to Act 3. ‘Lyin’, dyin’ sons of bitches.’ My God, how many times a day does that word come up now? Where did our sense of truth go?”
“The biggest gesture on stage to close yourself off is to fold your arms,” King said, drawing a parallel to Trumpian behavior. “His stubbornness, his anger, his Mussolini mug. It’s troublesome.”
King mentioned the racism faced by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, and praised Obama’s class and integrity.
“We have no sense of that at all” in Trump, he said.
“Big Daddy says, ‘You know about this mendacity thing, hell, I lived with it, so can you. There’s nothing else you can live with but mendacity.’ You take the lies, you learn to live with them. It’s exactly where we are. (This play) just hits the pulse of where it at so you can feel the thump, thump, thump, lub, dub, lub dub.” He laughs.
The Stage brought in Lee Sankowich to direct. Sankowich produced the original “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” play, which had long runs in New York and San Francisco, was artistic director of Marin Theatre Company for 16 years, and has directed for regional stages all around the nation. The cast includes Stage mainstay Allison F. Rich, King, Judith Siebenthal as Big Mama, Rob August as Brick, Will Springhorn Jr. as Gooper, Tanya Marie as Mae, Michael Bellino as Reverend Tooker, and Tim Fullerton as Doctor Baugh.
“The proof is in the pudding (for the production),” said King, but we’re having a lot of fun wrestling with it.
“The scope of the play makes it a challenge. The design elements. All the pieces of this puzzle are critical. Everybody is involved, there is nothing arbitrary. The weight, the power and the respect for the work.
“We want people to say, ‘Goddang! You guys really kicked it out of the park!’
“That is always our goal.”