‘Ruby in Love’ and ‘Harm’s Way’ on stage in Sonoma

Love, aging, sex and family dynamics are themes interwoven in Sonoma Arts Live'a original productions of 'Harm's Way' and 'Ruby and George in Love.' Both are being staged in a unique format called readers' theater. Without costumes, elaborate sets or memorization, actors bring the plots to life through reading their lines. Reflection, intonation and emotion drive the story.

Following the performance, audiences engage in a 'talkback,' a conversation and Q&A with the playwrights and directors and an important part of the creative process.

'It's been a few years since we've done readers' theater,' says Jaime Love, executive artistic director. 'Last time it was well received. I thought these two related works would be the perfect opportunity to do that again.'

'Harm's Way' is written by playwright Marilyn Kreigel.

'I wrote my first play at 13,' she says. 'And I wrote my second at age 70.'

After obtaining her MFA in playwriting at San Francisco State, Kriegel went on to write several more plays that won awards. 'For me, writing is like a puzzle. It presents itself a piece at a time. I have no idea where the story is headed,' she says. 'Yet by listening to the characters, their lives emerge and I see that the story was there all along.'

In 'Harm's Way,' Maggie, an elderly woman, is going to visit her son and French daughter-in law in Paris. At San Francisco International Airport, she's detained and questioned by TSA. A week later than expected, she arrives in Paris in a confused state. Suspense builds as everyone tries to figure out what happened to her.

Kenwood resident Nellie Cravens is the director. Cravens has been active in theater, done TV commercials and acted in movies. She recalls her memorable moment in Eddie Murphy's action-comedy-thriller 'Metro.'

'In the scene at Shreve's in San Francisco, I was thrown on the floor and fake pistol-whipped 20 times,' she laughs. 'They didn't hire a stunt person, so I got an extra 200 bucks.'

Jeane MacPherson, a Sonoma Arts Live regular, plays the role of Maggie. 'Maggie is an interesting person,' MacPherson says. 'She grew up in the sixties, and as an activist, supported many causes. She went on to became a successful sci-fi writer.' Though set in pre-cellphone 2003, 'Harm's Way' addresses current issues, like diminished memory and recollection. MacPherson says she enjoys readers' theater. 'It reminds me of the wonderful days of radio. Mesmerized, I'd sit listening to drama conveyed through the actor's voice. And from that I could imagine all the rest.'

Performances for 'Harm's Way' are Monday and Tuesday, July 30 and 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Sonoma Community.

Joanneh Nagler, writer and director of 'Ruby and George in Love' says, 'I'm so excited that my play's debut performance will be in Sonoma.'

Nagler has written books, plays, scripts, short stories and music. Her credits include writing for ABC Pictures, as well as culture and travel magazines.

At 84 and 80 years old, Ruby and George are having a steamy, sexual love affair, much to the chagrin of their children whose lives are in a mess.

'Perhaps, they're jealous,' Nagler laughs. 'Ruby reminds me of my 96-year-old mother-in-law. She had a wonderful relationship well into her eighties.'

Sonoma resident Monica McKey plays Ruby. 'I love the play,' she says. 'It's a story with heart, humor and so well written.' Mckey has been active on and off stage for 37 years. 'As Ruby, I'm finally going to get my first on-stage kiss,' she chuckles.

John Partridge plays George, Ruby's lover. Partridge, behind the scenes with Sonoma Arts Live for several years, was musical director of 'Evita' and 'Gypsy.' And locals famously know him as director of the Sonoma Hometown Band. Playing George will be Partridge's on-stage debut. 'I was intrigued by George's character so I auditioned and got the part,' he says. 'George is a retired airline pilot used to being in charge. Now he's trying to reconcile giving up some of that. It's a challenge for him.'

The play spans generations with Trent, George's son played by George Bereschik. He's familiar to local audiences from his supporting role in 'Gypsy.' 'Trent is divorced with a 28-year-old daughter who has trouble managing her credit cards,' Bereschik says. 'Trent loves his father but is conflicted by his relationship with Ruby.'

'Ruby and George in Love' runs August 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on August 4 at 2 p.m. at the Sonoma Community Center.

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