Point of departure
It’s fitting that Ed Claudio selected Steambath as the swan song to his Actor’s Theatre of Sacramento. Not only is it the type of quirky production Actors Theatre is known for, it’s also a play about final goodbyes.
Claudio is saying farewell to his Del Paso Boulevard theater after a 10-year run that gave audiences classics, such as Our Town, mixed with off-kilter theater, like Waiting for Godot. Claudio’s love of good playwriting was always evident, as was his mission to be involved in the local theater community by producing good works, teaching students and appearing on other local stages.
Claudio will continue teaching, acting and producing shows, but his theater will move to Folsom and be renamed the Actor’s Theatre of Folsom. The facility will be more cabaret-style, with small tables and chairs instead of theater seats, and will concentrate initially on familiar, mainstream Neil Simon-esque productions. However, Claudio will continue to scratch his esoteric-theater itch with limited-run productions at rented theater facilities.
Steambath is a dark existentialist comedy that debuted off-Broadway in the early ’70s. The action takes place in a steamy spa, with men lounging around in white robes and towels, talking about their lives and relationships. Confused newbie Tandy (Sean Morneau) makes attempts at small talk with the men, and the blonde beauty (Christina Birdsall) who occasionally strolls through the room while trying to determine why he’s at this gathering of odd souls. It slowly dawns on Tandy that he is dead, and this room is limbo, a stop on the road to wherever the afterlife leads.
Although the thought of being dead unnerves Tandy, being introduced to God sends him over the edge. The Almighty is a Puerto Rican steam bath attendant (Anthony Sava) who speaks in profanities and makes seemingly arbitrary decisions on life and death. First comes denial; Tandy demands proof that the towel boy is God, who answers with an amusing array of cheesy parlor tricks. Then comes Tandy’s anger and bargaining with God—the very essence of the play.
Though the play can be a bit frustrating at times, it’s never dull. It’s best to sit back and let the steamy dialogue engulf you. Allow the heavier questions to linger, and enjoy the impressive performances by Morneau, Sava, Bob DeLucia (as the resident curmudgeon), and the rest of the quirky steam bath loungers.