Shakespeare gets schooled
Erratica, An Academic Farce
Sacramento, CA 95816
Professor Samantha Stafford has encased herself in her academic ivory tower, spending her days lecturing, correcting papers, meeting with students and working on her homage to Shakespeare. You would think this would make an academic happy, but alas, poor Stafford, you knew her well if you’ve spent any time in a university setting. She’s cynical, abrasive, judgmental, snobby, mocking and miserably unhappy, though she’d be the last to admit it.
However, Stafford’s ivory tower is starting to get mighty crowded with a lovesick sonnet-writing student, an overeager publicist, a drama-mama freshman, an intriguing librarian and a libidinous ghost of Christopher Marlowe.
Stafford’s world becomes an intelligentsia intrigue, cleverly captured by relative newcomer, Chicago-based playwright Reina Hardy, who debuted her newest play Erratica, An Academic Farce last weekend in a Sacramento world premiere.
Erratica is the first fully presented professional production of Capital Stage’s Playwrights’ Revolution project. In 2007, the company was awarded a $40,000 grant to help nurture writers and create “bold, powerful new plays,” according to the theater. And after readings and workshops, Hardy’s Erratica was chosen to be the first of the new plays to be developed into a full-blown production.
Hardy is an exciting new talent who employs imaginative staging, witty dialogue, interesting plotlines and unusual literary devices, such as a ghost who breaks through the fourth wall. Not all of it works—it gets mighty busy at times with the numerous characters and story lines, and the thoroughly entertaining ghost can be more of a distraction than a helpful vehicle. But Hardy gets high marks for being original, entertaining, and intelligent, and for creating an abrasive, clever central character who is hard to embrace, but even harder to forget.
Erratica explores the insular world of scholars, who teach, write and debate worldly subject matters and issues within the safe confines of a university setting. Stafford battles hopeful yet untalented writer wannabes; emotionally charged students; a haughty librarian with sexual energy; a missing manual mystery; and, of course, her inner demons.
Capital Stage artistic director Stephanie Gularte is perfect as the acidic, sharp-witted Stafford, who starts off full of confidence but slides toward uncertainty as she confronts various challenges and ultimately herself. Gularte has a comedic side that’s fun to see and not often used in her more serious Capital Stage performances.
She’s supported by a strong cast under the careful direction of Michael Stevenson—most notably Jamie Jones as the brash publicist who wants to make Stafford’s book more “Cosmo girl” friendly, and Eric Wheeler as the elusive librarian who tries to take Stafford off her high shelf. Stephanie Altholz gives a wonderful performance as the immature freshman on the emotional roller coaster, while Danny Webber is clearly enjoying his romp as the sexy ghost.
The staging is clever with revolving doors and bookcases, and the fun Rolling Stones soundtrack provides a high-energy pulsating beat.
Though Erratica still needs some fine tuning, it’s an exciting opportunity to see a developing well-written play and promising young playwright in action.