Centuries-old Indian tale comes to Firehouse | May 3, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - May 3, 2013

Centuries-old Indian tale comes to Firehouse

Epic compared to Greek mythology, 'Lord of the Rings'

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton Civic Arts Stage Company is presenting "Ramayana," the stage adaptation of the ancient epic tale from South and Southeast Asia, at the Firehouse Theater for two weekends, May 10-12 and May 17-19.

The production is based on a centuries-old Sanskrit legend of Prince Rama, who would like to be a peaceful man but finds that some evils are so great, he must fight against them.

The story of Prince Rama spans seven books and 24,000 verses, according to some sources. The tale is said to have been passed down through generations via oral tradition, until it was written down by the poet Valmiki more than two millennia ago.

"There is a reason it's been popular in South Asia for thousands of years," said Artistic Director Ennals. "It has a little bit of something for everyone -- adventure, romance, questions of right and wrong and what it means to be human."

"The themes of the story are still relevant today," she added.

Over the centuries, "Ramayana" has been retold thousands of times in countless regional languages and dialects. It continues as a living tradition in India, Nepal and Southeast Asia, with its story tightly woven into the fabric of family life, and continues to inspire works of art and literature.

The production's director is Michael Truman Cavanaugh with San Francisco Shakespeare Festival and a graduate of the Dell'Arte School of Physical Theater. Cavanaugh compares the story to Greek mythology or epic tales like "The Lord of the Rings" saga.

It's a physical event, incorporating partner acrobatics, also known as AcroYoga, which involves simple lifts and sharing weight using acrobatic positions and movement.

Choreographer and movement director Amelia Adams taught cast members from age 7 to senior citizens how to perform moves that represent everything from soaring vultures to terrifying demons to Hanuman, the flying monkey god.

The ensemble for the show, the final production of the season, is made up of young people primarily from the Tri-Valley area, with a number of returning actors as well as many performing with the company for the first time. The prince is portrayed by guest artist Salim Razawi, a national theater and debate competition award winner. Rama's nemesis, Ravana, King of the Demons, is played in alternate casts by local actor Jeff Zolfarelli and Oakland-based guest artist Leighland Hooks.

The role of Princess Sita is shared by Avery Clinton, who recently played Annika in "Pippi Longstocking," and Madhumitha Krishnan, who is performing her first role with Civic Arts Stage Company.

Aaron Guerra and Daniel Golubchik share the role of Rama's faithful brother and side-kick Laksmana. Hanuman, Rama's devoted servant, is played by Sika Lonner and Michelle Fomin.

Shows are at 7:30 p.m.Fridays and Saturdays; and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, at the Firehouse Theater, 4444 Railroad Ave.

Tickets are $10, $15, $18; child or senior, $6, $9, $12. Purchase online at www.firehousearts.org, by calling 931-4848, or in person at the Box Office.