What would life be without our dreams and our hopes? Would we have the motivation to go on living? In Bindlestiff Studio's West Coast premiere of A. Rey Pamatmat's Thunder Above, Deeps Below, we see three young modern Americans fighting their way through homelessness, identity crisis, and just surviving in the Midwest.
Under the direction of Alan S. Quismorio, Aureen Almario (portraying Theresa) leads a strong cast that include, William Dao (Gil); Roy Landaverde (Hector); LaMont Ridgell (Locke/The Prince); Laura Domingo (Marisol/Boatwoman); and James Arthur (Perry). And the entire production succeeds in presenting the survival of Theresa along with her friends Gil & Hector.
The play has a beautiful opening image of Perry behind a slightly lit curtain with some fabulous original music by Golda Sargento and Brandon Bigalow. Perry encounters the Boatwoman who then escorts him offstage and we are then thrust into the world of Theresa, Gil, and Hector.
It is a homeless world filled with drugs, prostitution, panhandling, and disappointment. They spend most of their days next to the Dippi Do Donut Shop maintained by Marisol, who does her best to tolerate until her bosses visit the shop. And only then does she ask the three to move to another location temporarily to appease her managers.
Theresa, Gil, and Hector do all they can to make it out in the streets, including prostitution. Although Gil is clearly a homosexual, Hector does not consider himself one yet takes compensation for sexual acts with men, including Locke who has taken a disgusting liking to Hector.
There are many turbulent twist and turns in this play, but through it all, it is an entertaining piece, and the performances of Dao and Ridgell are the definite strengths of this cast. Ridgell is captivating in all the scenes he performed, while Dao was a master throughout the production, especially his solo performance during the cabaret scene at the club Gil was working in. His dance was so precise he nailed a pirouette on stiletto heels. Simply amazing.
More than adequate on this evening's performances were Almario, Landaverde, Domingo, and Arthur. As each actor had their shining moments including Almario's dramatic monologue; Landaverde displaying his many skills such as playing the harmonica; Domingo's clear portrayal of her dual roles; and Arthur's opening performance brought great immediate energy.
The technical elements of the show had a few flaws as there were some lighting issues including the opening scene from Alejandro Acosta's lighting design. Although overall, the lighting design accentuated the performance on the stage appropriately, including some nice gobo lights of the skyline.
Scenic design by Aaron Niles was spectacular - of special note was the authenticity of the counter top of the donut shop; and Brandon Bigalow's sound design was a nice complement for the entire production. Costume design by Glynda Cotton were perfect for the cast, and Damien Alvarez's graphics were flawless.
Thunder Above, Deeps Below performs Thur-Sat @ 8 pm at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 - 6th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 near the corner of 6th & Howard Streets. Tickets are $25 at the door or $20 through Brown Paper Tickets. For information about the show and tickets, click on the links below or call (415) 255-0440:
Bindlestiff Studio's Website: http://www.bindlestiffstudio.org/?q=node/703
Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/227677