October 2, 2008

Hapgood Focuses on Family This Season

By Judith Prieve

LAST YEAR'S inaugural season of the Hapgood Theatre Company ran the gamut in offerings, but this year Artistic Director Josy Miller has decided to stick close to home with a season devoted to shows focusing on family.

Dubbed "Season of the American Family," the four plays will center on the dynamics of the family, Miller said.

"In this time (of bad economics), people's relationships with their family is what is important, the individual experiences, those are the stories people need to hear right now," she said. "... I think it's a rough time right now, and while there is definitely a place for really challenging work, at the same time people need to see stories that they can escape into and be meaningful to them."

The season will open with an American classic "Death of a Salesman" on Thursday, and while the story is tragic, Miller said it's one that people can still relate to -- and it has moments that will make theater-goers laugh.

Though Miller has never directed or acted in "Salesman," she saw the 1999 Broadway revival of the play, and she said it was a brilliant production that really stuck with her.

"If I made a top 10 list, 'Death of a Salesman' would be on it," she said. "It's a perfect play, the way it is constructed, even at the end of the tragedy, (playwright) Arthur Miller is inherently optimistic because you see the possibilities of what might have been."

Written in 1949, the play quickly received critical acclaim, winning a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the New York Critics' Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best New Play. It is the story of an everyman clinging to his American dream while struggling to make ends meet.

"It's brilliant material and it still speaks to an audience in 2008," Miller said. "All he wants to do is provide for his family, keep his family together. It's a very timely commentary of the current state of the world."

The Hapgood production stars Jack Stauffer of Salinas as Willy Loman, an insecure, self-deluding traveling salesman. Stauffer has extensive acting experience, having originated the role of Chuck Tyler in the TV series "All My Children" and played Bojay on "Battlestar Galactica."

Adrienne Krug of San Francisco plays his wife, Linda, a complex, enigmatic character who serves as a voice of reason in the play. Her acting credentials include work throughout the Bay Area, primarily with the Magic Theatre in San Francisco and the Willows Theatre in Concord.

Other main characters include the couple's sons, Matthew Purdon of San Francisco as Biff and Elias Escobedo, an Actors Equity Association member from San Francisco, as Happy. Dennis McIntyre of Antioch, meanwhile, plays Uncle Ben.

Set in 1949 in a lower-income house, the story centers on Willy Loman's gradual loss of reality and breakdown. Though played in a the classic sense, the director said the troupe will use bright colors and lighting to depict the dream sequences and give surrealistic qualities where appropriate. Miller's husband, Jason Miller, will serve as both set and light designer for the production, which runs through Oct. 26.

Other plays on tap this season include the family drama "Tuesdays with Morrie," the suspense drama "Proof" and the perennial favorite "On Golden Pond."

The troupe also will be participating in the annual San Francisco Bay Area Free Night of Theater 2008, which offers a limited number of free tickets given out to those who make reservations one week in advance of a show (from Oct. 1-22 for shows on Oct. 10, 17 and 24). See theatrebayarea.org for more information.

"Theaters all over the country are offering free tickets to try to get people to come to the theater," she said. "Anyone who wants to see this play will be able to see it."

Also new this year, the troupe will partner with the El Campanil Theatre, which will serve as its box office even though plays will still be performed at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center theater down the street.

Reach Judith Prieve at 925-779-7178 or [email protected] you go

WHO: Hapgood Theatre Company

WHAT: "Death of a Salesman"

WHERE: Nick Rodriguez Community Center theater, 213 F St., Antioch

WHEN: Oct. 9-26 at 8 p.m. Thursday, Fridays, Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays

COST: $38 adults, $19 students (season tickets also available)

INFO: 925-757-9500 or www.hapgoodtheatre.org

Originally published by Judith Prieve , East County Times.

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.