Fresh squeezed with funny
The Love of Three Oranges
California Stage1723 25th St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
Take a classical commedia dell’arte story, add a prologue that grants accessibility to any audience, then finish it off with fanciful characters that project themselves far beyond the limits of their masks. It’s a concoction that produces For the Love of Three Oranges by Hillary Depiano, the freshman show of Sacramento’s newest theater company, Uh, Yup Productions. The show is produced and directed by Kara Ow.
The Narrator (Brittaleigha Baskerville) explains that the audience’s laughter and applause is a vital part of the show. The plot is a simple story that has served commedia for centuries, a plot about a sad king, a lover-boy prince and the necessity of thwarting evil forces. This premise, coupled with clowns and henchmen, creates an original universe where plot takes a backseat to the colorful characters.
The King of Hearts (Jeffery Lloyd Heatherly) is sad because the prince (Kevin Kirtlan) is suffering from “terminal hypochondria.” He contracts the help of renowned clown, Truffaldino (Steven Adkins), to make the prince laugh, but is thwarted when witch Fata Morgana (Brian Watson) puts a curse on the prince that condemns him to continuously seek three oranges.
Yes, oranges; as in citrus fruit.
Watson performs the drag-queen witch with style and can’t help but be a luscious villain. His timing is consistently spot-on and he often forces the audience into fits of giggles just by staring intensely. Heatherly is in strong voice and is fun to watch. Bumbling villains Princess Clarice (Kat Pane) and Leandro (Mikhail Chernyovsky) keep the misadventures silly.
Smaller ensemble parts prove powerful in commedia. The Wind God, Guard, Servant and Bumpkin (Kevin Frame) progressively gets the audience to root for his nearly mute characters through physical humor, as does the Mute Bumpkin (Ryan “Harpo” Harbert).
Patchwork curtains are the only decoration in the open space, which makes good use of the area for physical gags that often span the entire stage. An excellent chapter of the play involves an elaborate puppet-show set piece. The costumes, designed by Debbie and Kara Ow, range from the simple tights and jerkin of Truffaldino to the eccentric morphing robes of the maniacal witch.
The biggest issue with the show is that it slows down intermittently. For instance, the scene with a flamboyant hell servant reduces the show’s pace to a crawl with too many pauses and misfired timing. That’s risky for a play that relies on audience loyalty.
Also, the venue itself is chilly in the winter. They provide blankets, but dress warmly.
This play has something for everyone: slapstick for the younger order, subtle sexy jokes for the older and sophomoric japes for everyone. If this production is any indication of Uh, Yup’s potential, audiences can look forward to many more shows with just as much heart and dedication.