http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/05/17/ramayana-shines-at-firehouse-arts-center


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 17, 2013

'Ramayana' shines at Firehouse Arts Center

Civic Arts offers classic tale of love and war

by Glenn Wohltmann

It's a brave move by any theater company to have youngsters in a production, especially one that uses acrobatics.

Some small fumbles in lines and moves by the young actors just proved to make "Ramayana," playing through this weekend at the Firehouse Arts Center, more endearing and added to the performances rather than taking away.

Ramayana is based on the centuries-old south Asian oral tradition surrounding Prince Rama. The show itself could be the basis for any given number of prime-time dramas: boy meets girl, girl gets kidnapped by bad guy, and boy gets girl back.

In this case, though, the bad guy is really bad. He's Ravana, the king of demons, played in last Friday's performance by Leighland Hooks of Oakland. True to the oral tradition, Prince Rama, played by guest artist Salim Razawi, is helped out by monkey god Hanuman, played Friday night by Michelle Fomin.

It's the kind of story where everyone in the audience knows going in that the bad guy will lose and the hero will triumph.

Don't let that stop you from going, though. It's worth the ticket price just to see Hooks -- or, in some performances, local actor Jeff Zolfarelli -- as Ravana and the acrobatics done alternately by Fomin and Sika Lonner as Hanuman.

Acrobatics, or more properly, Acro-Yoga, is a big part of the shows and it's both amusing and slightly painful to watch as the younger performers try to stay in character while doing their moves and holding their poses. Choreographer and movement director Amelia Adams must have had a parent's patience as she worked with the performers, some as young as 7 years old.

Some scenes stand out, including Hanuman's leap across the sea, the war between demons and monkeys, and the final battle between Rama and Ravana.

Of particular note was the performance of Hooks, who could be seen outside rehearsing at the Big Draw arts festival downtown Saturday, surrounded by young monkeys and demons. Fomin, who played much of her role in handstands or other poses, was outstanding, as was the young monkey who spotted Ravana and took off screaming -- offstage, behind the backdrop and back onstage -- where she saw Ravana again and took off screaming again.

The show itself is fun, funny and appropriate for all ages. It's the Pleasanton Civic Arts Stage Company's final production of the season.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at the Firehouse Theater, 4444 Railroad Ave. Tickets are $10, $15, $18; child or senior, $6, $9, $12, and can be purchased online at www.firehousearts.org, by calling 931-4848, or in person at the box office.

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