Jewel Theatre debuts “The House of Blue Leaves”
The Pope is coming to town. OK, not the real Pope, and not this town, but that’s the premise of a play debuting at Center Stage and produced by Jewel Theatre. “The House of Blue Leaves,” written by John Guare and directed by Susan Myer Silton, tells a compelling story about celebrity worship, not listening to other people, family and even humiliation.
The story unfolds in Queens, New York, on Oct. 4, 1965, when the Pope is coming to America. Our cast is a wild bunch of characters: There’s Artie, a zookeeper, who hopes to strike it rich as a songwriter. He’s married to a woman named Bananas. And yes, she really is fruity. She’s a homemaker whose son, Ronnie, just joined the Army. Meanwhile, Artie is having an affair with his neighbor, Bunny, who’s trying to push Artie to make contact with an old Hollywood friend. And on top of all that, Ronnie is planning to blow up the Pope.
Sure, on paper, the story sounds absurd, but it was the recipient of several Tony Awards and had a good run on Broadway. Combining its notable awards with a powerhouse cast and one of Santa Cruz’s best directors, there’s no doubt that this play will be one to watch. Especially as it’s a part of Jewel Theatre’s lineup for this year. The young company continues to sell out every show it produces.
“Many people spend their lives reaching for something they see as better—fame, celebrity—rather than appreciating what they have and loving the people they are with,” says Silton, speaking to one of the key themes in this play.
It’s true. Who doesn’t browse the Internet and swing by TMZ.com or read People magazine, or watch Entertainment Tonight. Lots of people—whether they will admit it or not—take part in celebrity worship. Who wouldn’t want Julia Roberts’ paycheck, Brad Pitt’s good looks or Angelina Jolie’s lips?
“I think the message of the play is that you need to be present in the life you’ve made,” says Silton. “You will get more out of it than you will constantly looking for something else or at the future, rather than what’s occurring in the moment.”
Silton is an adventurous director who really understands her actors and offers them a wealth of information about their characters, and the play itself. She even goes so far as to dialogue with the playwright to really get his or her insight into what makes their play tick. In this case, she’s done just that with the famous Guare.
“What you love about her [Silton’s] work is that as a director, she has been an actress, too,” says Julie James, artistic director of Jewel Theatre, who also plays Bananas in this play. “She really looks at things and sees different layers. She makes it OK to play and try out things. She makes it feel organic for the actor.”
Those are key elements in why James asked Silton to come on board with this play, a work that she chose because “it is really examining and exposes the human condition,” she says.
“The House of Blue Leaves” runs Sept. 8-25 |at Center Stage, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz, 425-7506, jeweltheatre.net. Show times are at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays.