OLYMPIA DUKAKIS – Opens in A.C.T.’s “Vigil”, Wednesday 3/31

Comedy by Morris Panych (The Overcoat) plays Wednesday, through April 18th

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) celebrates the return of three acclaimed artists to its stage: Academy Award winner Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias, Hecuba) and beloved Bay Area veteran actor Marco Barricelli return to A.C.T. in a delightfully mordant comedy written and directed by Morris Panych (The Overcoat). When an embittered, self-involved bachelor arrives to care for the dying aunt he hasn’t seen since childhood, his brief visit stretches to interminable lengths. As her health improves against all odds—and against his hopes—their relationship evolves in unexpected ways. Vigil offers an uncanny balance of gallows humor and grave ruminations on family, identity, and the human condition. Vigil plays through April 18th at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco).

“It doesn’t get better than being at A.C.T. in the spring, acting with Marco Barricelli in a fabulous play by Morris Panych,” says Dukakis, who has appeared at A.C.T. five times, including twice in the title role of Hecuba. A former longtime member of A.C.T.’s core acting company, Barricelli shares his excitement about this repeat collaboration and being back at A.C.T.: “I cannot express how elated I am to be, once again, among all my friends and colleagues at A.C.T., from the brilliant Olympia Dukakis to the wonderful Carey Perloff and this extraordinary company. One of the greatest joys is to be again treading the boards of the magnificent American Conservatory Theater in Morris’s extraordinary and challenging play. Life is good!”

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Believing that his Aunt Grace (Olympia Dukakis) is dying, Kemp (Marco Barricelli)
starts taking care of her after a 30 year absence. Photo, Kevin Berne

Morris Panych, one of Canada’s most celebrated and prolific theater artists, has won numerous international awards for his writing and directing. He is best known to Bay Area audiences for the runaway hit production he co-created and -directed, The Overcoat, which launched A.C.T.’s 2005–06 season. Vigil has been translated into 19 languages to date and has received highly praised productions in London’s West End and in Paris. Panych speaks to the themes of his seminal work: “Most of us are afraid of death, but how we face our mortality defines us. How we die is largely defined by how we live and, as importantly, how we help each other die. This is a personal, but also a social question. How we treat each member of our society defines who we are as a society.”

A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff speaks to Panych’s oeuvre as an artist: “Morris Panych is a wonder: a vivid storyteller and brilliant theatrical mind, who is equally at home performing, writing, directing his own original work or classics, and creating multidisciplinary spectacles like The Overcoat. He has an enormous imagination, great empathy, and a wicked sense of humor. I am thrilled to introduce this seminal play to A.C.T. audiences, where it reunites the cutest couple in show business, Olympia Dukakis and Marco Barricelli, in another Canadian adventure.”

This is the second time that Dukakis and Barricelli have appeared together on the A.C.T. stage. They previously starred in another Canadian two-hander, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, by Michel Tremblay. Made up of a taut, funny, and hard-hitting series of short scenes that pierce into its characters’ psyches, Vigil is a tour de force that gives these two veteran actors an exciting opportunity to build on their previous partnership.

The play is set in a run-down attic apartment innovatively realized by scenic designer Ken MacDonald, who is Panych’s husband and longtime artistic collaborator (including on The Overcoat). A.C.T.’s properties department has been collecting newspapers for months to create the unkempt world that MacDonald’s design envisions. MacDonald also designed the costumes. Lighting designer Alan Brodie, who also lit The Overcoat, and sound designers/composers Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe round out the creative team for Vigil.

MEET THE ARTISTS

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MORRIS PANYCH (Playwright/Director) is probably best known for his work on The Overcoat, which he co-created and directed with Wendy Gorling. He adapted the play and directed it for film. The production has now toured to Britain, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Other work includes several productions for Tarragon Theatre—notably his own plays, including Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, winner of Canada’s prestigious Dora Mavor Moore Awards for outstanding production and direction, as well as a Governor General’s Award for playwriting. Directing credits for The Canadian Stage Company include Hysteria, Amadeus, Sweeney Todd, Vigil, and, most recently, Take Me Out. In Vancouver, he has directed more than 50 plays, including a celebrated adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid and an award-winning production of She Loves Me for the Arts Club Theatre Company. When Panych is not directing plays, he is writing them. So far he has penned more than 20 plays, many of which have gone on past their initial productions to national and international success—most notably Vigil, which to date has been translated into 19 languages and received highly praised productions in London’s West End (Wyndham’s Theatre) and in Paris at Théâtre La Bruyère. He also directed the television production of Da Vinci’s Inquest and productions at Vancouver Opera – Susannah and Threepenny Opera.

marco-barricelli
MARCO BARRICELLI (“Kemp”), artistic director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, has been an actor, director, and educator since 1982. After eight seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he became an associate artist at A.C.T., where he directed and taught in the Master of Fine Arts Program. His A.C.T. performance credits include roles in A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Real Thing (Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award), Les Liaisons Dangereuses, The Three Sisters, American Buffalo (Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award), Buried Child, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, The Beard of Avon, Celebration and The Room, Enrico IV (Dean Goodman Award), Glengarry Glen Ross (Dean Goodman Award), The Invention of Love (Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Award; Dean Goodman Award), Long Day’s Journey into Night, Mary Stuart, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Rose Tattoo (Drama-Logue Award), among others. He has also worked on Broadway and regionally with Long Wharf Theatre, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Guthrie Theater, The Old Globe, and South Coast Repertory, among others. Television appearances include L.A. Law and a recurring role on the NBC series The Book of Daniel. Teaching acting has also taken him abroad to work with the Accademia Nazionale d’arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico in Rome and the Prima del Teatro in Italy. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

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OLYMPIA DUKAKIS (“Grace”) last appeared at A.C.T. in A Mother (2004); she has also appeared at A.C.T. in the title role of Hecuba (1995 and 1998), the world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian’s Singer’s Boy (1997), and Michel Tremblay’s For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again (also with Marco Barricelli, 2002). She has appeared in more than 200 productions on and off Broadway and in regional theaters throughout the United States. Her most recent theater credits include The Singing Forest at The Public Theater; an adaptation of The Tempest; Rose, by Martin Sherman, at the National Theatre in London and on Broadway; and Credible Witness, by Timberlake Wertenbaker, at the Royal Court Theatre in London. She received two OBIE Awards for Brecht’s Man Is Man and Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo. Her many film credits include Moonstruck (Academy Award and Golden Globe Award), Mr. Holland’s Opus, Steel Magnolias, Three Needles, The Intended, and The Event. Television credits include the Tales of the City trilogy (Emmy Award nominations), Lucky Day (Emmy nomination), Sinatra (Emmy nomination), The Last Act Is a Solo (ACE Award), and Young at Heart (Emmy nomination).

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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