Arts & Events

New: Around & About Opera & Theater: Cinnabar's 'Marriage of Figaro' & Fringe Festival at Dominican University

By Ken Bullock
Saturday May 31, 2014 - 08:41:00 AM

Cinnabar was founded in the 70s as an arts center in an old stucco schoolhouse on a hill by the late Marvin Klebe, an American baritone with a career in Europe who wanted to come home, raise his family—and involve them and the community in arts education and performance. Cinnabar's still going strong today, with the artistic direction of Elly Lichenstein, Klebe's student and protége (who just won a lifetime achievement award from the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle), and management of Terence Keene, late of Berkeley Rep. 

Opera's Cinnabar's strongest suit, of various performing arts well-staged and taught there; this weekend will be the first of two for a perennial favorite, Mozart and Da Ponte's 'The Marriage of Figaro,' which seamlessly combines exquisite music, a knowing libretto and an uproariously comic story that ends in wisdom. Cinnabar staged it brilliantly a few years back; some of the same singer-performers have returned for the current production, stage-directed by Lichenstein, with the onstage orchestra directed by Mary Chun. Eugene Walden and Kelly Britt sing Figaro and Susanna. 

Opera in such an intimate setting isn't just about good sight-lines and hearing the music and singing clearly. There's a very direct, physical and emotional effect in a small, wood-framed house such as Cinnabar's—most evident in another production a couple years back, with Jillian Khuner of Berkeley singing Violetta in Verdi's 'La Traviata' ... the impact of the famous high notes in her arias were more than affecting, more like (pleasurable!) ballistics—the composer's original point! 

May 30-June 15, Fridays-Saturdays at 8, Sundays at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Boulevard North, Petaluma. $9-$40. (707) 763-8920, 

About 20 years ago, Annette Lust, an emerita teacher of French at Dominican University with a background in theater and mime (student of Etienne Decroux, the founder of modern mime; longtime reviewer and jurist at international movement theater festivals), created the Dominican University and Community Players, reacting to the cancellation of drama classes and productions. Out of the troupe, the Fringe of Marin eventually took shape, a sometimes scrappy, always interesting melange of original one act plays and solo performances by all and sundry—from local talents as well as contributions from great distances, Dominican students to professionals and talented amateurs. 

Since Lust's death least year, Dominican alumna Gina Pandiani (managing artistic director), with a background in opera and theater, and Pamela Rand (production manager), a student of Jacques LeCoq's movement theater and self-professed comedic "Pam the Ham," have assumed the direction of the Fringe, with their collaborators moving it to Angelico Hall—once the scene of Philharmonia Baroque concerts—and bringing it back from neglect. 

This Spring (there're Spring and Fall seasons for the Fringe), the Fringe features two programs of 10 short plays altogether and a solo performance, repeated on each program (Rick Roitinger excellently navigating the raconteurish maze of Aleks Merilo's 'Little Moscow,' a genial tailor fraught with strange memories, amid the images of bygone times in Russia). 

As is common with short play festivals, the entries are often close to sketch comedies. Beyond the immediate factor of entertainment, though, some in particular focus on greater values: satiric dialogue (C. J. Ehrlich's 'Tuesday in the Park with River Apple'), 'PreOccupy Hollywood' (indie movie extras considering revolt as they wait and wait to go on camera), a teenager in difficult circumstances, acting out on the phone what she won't in conversation (Inbal Kashtan's 'Fourteen,' directed by Jon Tracy, familiar to theatergoers from Aurora and Berkeley Playhouse, among others), a mash-up of disparate characters and moods out in the wilderness, one couple seeking celebration and solace among the wild life, both natural and "on vacation" (Kashtan and Tracy again) ... 

Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2 & 7:30, Sunday at 2, Angelico Concert Hall, 20 Olive Avenue (just off Grand Avenue, across from Dominican Gym and entrance to Marin Shakespeare). $10-$20 (pay what you can, Saturday, May 31, 2 pm).