Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Nov 23rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Big Issues, Bold Work

ae_TheLetters‘The Letters’ explores life beneath state control in Soviet Russia

While some will stop at nothing to hide the truth, others will let nothing stop them from revealing it. Either way, there is a price to pay.

John W. Lowell’s play, “The Letters,” takes viewers back to Soviet Russia, circa 1931. When love letters surface between a famous Russian composer and his various homosexual paramours, the government embarks on a campaign to hide the evidence so as not to bring disrepute to the State. Anna, a ministry employee, is mysteriously called into the director’s office, where she is at first offered a promotion—but the exchange subtly morphs into a deadly cat-and-mouse game.

 

“The Letters” opens Friday, Oct. 7 at Center Stage in Santa Cruz, where it will run through Saturday, Oct. 22. Under the direction of Al Muller, the play features Brian Spencer (who is also the producer) as the ministry director, as well as Helene Simkin Jara as Anna.

“I’ve directed lots of stuff, many genres, lots of musicals—I like to laugh and feel good,” says Muller. “But I also see theater as such an important catalyst to understand and discuss important issues. This play raises questions that you carry with you beyond the final bows.”

And though the play examines a totalitarian regime in Moscow in the 1930s, Lowell finished his first draft of the play following Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. He explains, “Over the years, I became increasingly disturbed at the way that private actions between consenting adults had become matters of State.”

The playwright adds that he was appalled during the President Bush years when the United States employed techniques of incarceration, interrogation and torture that would have been denounced had they been employed by the former Soviet Union. “The play is about, ultimately, what happens when private behaviors conflict with totalitarian tactics.”

“John Lowell’s plays have a lot to say,” says Muller. “In a time when people want to go to the theater to be coddled and feel warm and fuzzy, this play is more for the thinking folk. With this play, you could launch a study of the politics of the time, history, censorship and art because it touches so many corners of life.”

He adds that despite the fact that the play deals with heavy material, it’s not a downer: “It’s thought-provoking and beautifully written so it’s really engaging.”

Though there are only two characters the audience views on stage, there are two other characters that are spoken about but never seen. One of these is an underling to the director who has been stealing documents from the ministry.

“It all boils down to the secret nature of the work,” says Muller. “The director refers to the people who come in and do their work and then leave as cockroaches—a nasty indictment of loyalty.”

In addition to directing the production, Muller designed the sets for the show.

“The set is quite realistic—a structure that hints at shadows, things that are not totally revealed,” he explains. “The colors are cold—grays, blues. The director of ministry’s office is not a nice place to go to. It also needs to look a little thrown together. He’s not necessarily high on the food chain, so he has leftover furniture that has wear and tear. The physical environment resonates with the emotions that are happening—the coldness and callousness of larger society.”

To some degree, this story can be viewed as a cautionary tale, says Muller. “It’s relevant to today. It’s always our major concern in living in a democracy. When we have freedoms, there’s always the possibility of losing them.”

He adds, “Look at what happens when you go to the airport. Now when you go the airport they can scan your body and see through your clothes. You can’t get much worse than that.”

 


“The Letters” runs Oct. 7-22 at Center Stage, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12  at  brownpapertickets.com or $15 at the door (cash or check only).

 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery