GEM OF THE OCEAN    (2010)
    by August Wilson

    Jorge Portugal       SAN FRANCISCO POST
    PHENOMENAL  –  5 STARS        August Wilson's’ Drama, Gem of the Ocean, Shines Brightly in San Francisco
    "What good is freedom if you can't do nothing with it?" , asks Solly Two Kings, in response to Eli's philosophical truth, "Freedom is
    what you make it." A few minutes later Caesar Wilks is pontificating to Citizen Barlow, "Get you some shoes. Stay out of saloons." This
    is the fall of 1904, and three black men are arguing in the parlor and kitchen of Aunt Ester's house at 1839 Wylie Avenue in
    Pittsburgh, bringing to life different sides of the African-American experience. . A sign on the front door says: "This is a peaceful
    house and a safe haven for all who visit here." It had been a station on the Underground Railroad and now the home of Eli, Black
    Mary and Aunt Ester.   "Gem" is brilliantly directed and designed by Lewis Campbell . This is a "must see" for anyone that cares about
    history, creative arts, social issues, great entertainment, and/or human rights.  The small theater, with only 70 seats, places every
    viewer close to the action.

    Flora Lynn Isaacson,  The San Francisco Bay Times
    Multi Ethnic Theater's Powerful Gem of the Ocean
    Director Lewis Campbell has assembled a superb cast of actors.  Kendra Owens, as Aunt Ester, carries herself with the dignity and
    authority that this ancient woman has earned.  Black Mary (Brianne Moore) is the chief cook and bottle washer at the house.  One of
    the great highlights of this play is when she tells her brother Caesar (Bennie Lewis) that she used to love him, but no longer loves
    him.  Another highlight is when she tells off Aunt Ester when Ester complains about her.  Also superb is Fabian Herd as Citizen
    Barlow, whose soul gets cleansed by Aunt Ester. Vernon Medearis' acting abilities bring to life Solly Two Kings' stories about how he
    escaped slavery via an underground railroad to Canada and then returned to save over 60 others from slavery.  Also giving first rate
    performances are Trevor Lawrence as Eli, Aunt Ester's caregiver, John Jamieson as Rutherford Selig, a white peddler and Bennie
    Lewis as Caesar, a police man who upholds the law at all costs.  All of these actors really listen to one another and have real
    connection.  The director of this fine ensemble production, Lewis Campbell, also designed the wonderfully detailed set which makes
    us feel as though we are in Aunt Ester's parlor.  

    Susan Cohn, San Mateo Daily Journal
    City Scene August 26, 2010
    Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, the current production of San Francisco’s Multi Ethnic Theater,
    is delivered full force by an extraordinary ensemble of actors whose characters struggle with inner secrets and tragedies of
    circumstance that weigh on their souls and twist their lives.  The intimacy of the 70-seat Gough Street Playhouse allows the audience
    the pleasure of seeing every nuance of expression as the drama unfolds.

    Audience Comments, from Goldstar Events

    ☆☆☆☆☆    Gabriela Aranda  –  Written on Aug 17 2010
    The performance was fantastic! I truly enjoyed the actors staying in character; the richness and power of Mr. Wilson's play was
    adeptly handled by the actors. I was enthralled at every moment, every turn of events, every new plot twist.  I highly recommend
    this event - the play is long by most standards; it is full of rich, powerful dialogue - and I wish it could have gone on for another
    act, that's how much I enjoyed it.

    ☆☆☆☆☆    AnikaG  –  Written on Aug 23 2010
    August Wilson's idea of 1 play a decade over the span of 10 decades depicting the African American experience was pure
    creative genius. The actors in Gem of the Ocean at the Next Stage Theater were incredible. The theater was quaint and
    inviting. I would definitely see another production there and recommend it to others.

    ☆☆☆☆☆    Beth S. Eckenrod  –  Written on Aug 18 2010
    This was a very good production of August Wilson's Play. Yes it is long and full of pithy thoughts and ideas .   We are so
    fortunate to have such good actors and small theatre in San Francisco. I would love to spread the word and get more people
    out to see this play.
    ☆☆☆☆☆    Gary Alan Fine  –  Written on Sep 06 2010
    A very impressive production, particularly from a company that defines itself as a community theater. While it is important to put
    on Wilson's plays as he wrote them, the play would have been more powerful if shortened about 15-20 minutes, but it was a
    highly credible production of an important American play.
    ☆☆☆☆☆     Vicki H.  –  Written on Aug 30 2010
    This was our first visit to this theater. We really enjoyed the play and thought the actors were of the highest caliber! Would
    highly recommend seeing this play and theater company.
    ☆☆☆☆    –   Written on Aug 27 2010
    Great acting! Felt good to support production "off beaten path".   Go see it. Long but strong.

    ☆☆☆☆     dstern  –   Written on Aug 27 2010
    Solid, intimate theatre - the actors really "went for it" and had a good command of a long, challenging, inspiring play. We
    recommend it highly. And will stay in touch for future performances by this company.

    ☆☆☆☆☆    Noelaniec  –  Written on Aug 24 2010
    This was an excellent show. August Wilson - so of course thought provoking and compelling. The acting was great, and there
    are no bad seats in the theatre. It is too bad that the turn out has not been higher. It is certainly worthy of a larger audience on
    all levels. I feel lucky to have heard about it!

    ☆☆☆☆☆    –    Written on Aug 23 2010
    Don't miss this. A terrific play at a great price. I've told numerous friends about it. The play is not quite three hours long, with
    one intermission, and the time flies by.

    by Mark Medoff

    A frightening but witty sociopath (Mark Williams) takes five people hostage at an out-of-the-way New Mexico diner in Multi Ethnic
    Theater's production of Mark Medoff's darkly amusing 1973 play. Suggesting the '60s generation as betrayed by the Vietnam era,
    Teddy and girlfriend Cheryl (Lily Tung) plan to rob an affluent couple (Kara Hughes and Gary Pettinger) who've stopped in for
    breakfast, but Teddy finds himself irresistibly drawn to tormenting the small, empty lives of the regulars: gas station attendant Lyle
    (Omar M'Sai), misfit waitress Angel (AJ Davenport), and especially the pretentious grave-shift cook Stephen "Red" Ryder (Eric
    Johnson), whose nickname and outmoded '50s mien speak loudly to Teddy (with a mixture of fury and fascination) of the mythic sham
    of the American West. In turn, Teddy forces confessions and actions from his captives that will change them irrevocably. Lewis
    Campbell directs brave performances that, together with a well-appointed set design, do fitful justice to a play both very much of its
    time and worth a second look. Johnson and Williams have a tendency to overplay their admittedly supersized roles, but they and the
    rest of the cast find a solid groove by the second act, when a dramatic climax and Medoff's theme of hollow American nostalgia come
    together with winning ferocity.

    Jack Foley        KPFA RADIO
    I saw some genuine theatrical magic last night at Multi Ethnic Theater’s production of Mark Medoff’s 1974 play, When You Comin
    Back, Red Ryder.  At the very end of the play, Angel, a woman described in Medoff’s script as “obese” and played last night by A.J.
    Davenport  is alone on the stage, the only inhabitant left in the dreary café in which she works. Much has happened throughout the
    play, and the stage has been filled with people, but now there is no one except her. Red Ryder, the only man she has ever loved, and
    whom she hoped might have feelings for her, has left to make his fortune elsewhere. One feels that he might well be back, that his
    fortune-making scheme will turn out to be a disaster, but for the moment he has certainly abandoned Angel. In any case, she now
    understands that he does not return her love and that, even if he comes back, he will never return her love. Angel sits at the counter
    of the café. She picks up Red’s half-eaten doughnut and begins to eat it. There is no sound: no dialogue, no music. Just a fat girl who
    now knows that she will never be loved and for whom sweets (even half-eaten ones) may be the best substitute she can find for a
    lover. She says nothing; she just sits there for a moment and eats. It is utterly magical. All of the loneliness of the world seems to
    gather at that moment and be present at this down-and-out, battered, loser’s café. Ms. Davenport is simply wonderful. There is no
    one but us to love her and we do.

    Chloe Veltman        SF WEEKLY
    When Teddy, a brain-shot Vietnam veteran, and his spacey girlfriend, Cheryl, barge into a roadside diner in southern New Mexico
    one Sunday morning demanding more than plates of steak and eggs and a little light conversation from the terrified brunchers,
    personalities collide and change forever. Mixing hippie drug-runners with straight-laced out-of-towners and local workers, Mark
    Medoff's 1973 play When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder explodes the flower child idyll of "love and peace" while tearing down the
    myth of the Old American West. Multi Ethnic Theater's production goes deep into the dramatic core of the piece, creating a brooding
    atmosphere of isolation, disaffected youth, and tumbleweed living. The actors depict Medoff's demandingly diverse characters
    bravely and A.J. Davenport -- as the sweetly acerbic waitress, Angel, shuffling about director-designer Lewis Campbell's evocative set
    with her piles of napkins and coffee mugs -- creates a perfect balance between understated melancholy and outspoken sass.

    by Athol Fugard

    notorious Robben Island prison camp (Myers Clark and David Stewart) rehearse a performance of Antigone, which is the continuation
    of their struggle by other means.   Next, in Sizwe Bansi is Dead, a timely twist on the perils of the identity card, we meet Styles (Vernon
    Medearis), an Multi Ethnic Theater presents two one-acts by renowned South African playwright Athol Fugard. In the first, worker
    (David The   Island,Stewart) befriended by a savvy local (Fred Pitts).  Both plays grew out of improvisations with Fugard's actor-
    collaborators John Kani and Winston Ntshona in Capetown in the early 1970s – when the reality of apartheid was such that the script
    for Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, the story goes, could not be written down (lest it end up in a South African court as evidence of subversion) –
    and director Lewis Campbell's capable cast achieves solid results in these demanding roles. While echoing the plight of migrants and
    colonized the world over, these luminous sketches contain a surprising amount of humor and joy, bringing home the horror of an
    unjust system precisely by being consummately human portraits.

    Doug Konecky,  America On Line - Entertainment
    It's always a welcome joy when a small theater company puts it all together. The three talented actors in Multi-Ethnic Theater's
    production bring the full emotional range of Fugard's characters to life. Vernon Medearis's Styles, the township photographer with a
    long solo story to tell in the play's first scene, is angry while reflective, understanding while at the same time a bit of a hustler. His
    hilarious recounting of his years working at the Ford plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa is interrupted by the appearance of Sizwe
    Bansi -- that is, Robert Zwelinzima -- who would like a photograph taken, but he isn't too sure of his name. The first scene ends with
    the brightness of a flash bulb, and in the second scene Sizwe Bansi (David Stewart) and Buntu (Fred Pitts) begin to act out the three-
    scene flashback that eventually unlocks the mystery of why Sizwe Bansi is now "dead," and is using the new name of Robert
    Zwelinzima.  By the end of the play, Medearis, Stewart and Pitts have provided an insight into the grimy world of South African
    apartheid, as well as a personal revelation about the raw power of a small cast in a cramped theater with a story to tell.

    by Charles Gordone

    Doug Konecky        AMERICA ON LINE -- ENTERTAINMENT
    You'll be hard pressed to say anything critical about this staging of Charles Gordone's award-winning play. The actors, Kijahre Fikiri
    (in the role of Gabe Gabriel), Ben Dziuba (Shanty Mulligan) and Fabian Herd (Johnny Williams), are first rate and exciting. Herd is
    explosive, Dziuba pulls off a thespian ready for prime time. Three other notable performances come from  Rachel Raijput as Dee
    Jacobsen and Shaun Landry as Cora Beasely, both of whom are excellent foils for the fiery Johnny; and a terrific romp by Multi Ethnic
    Theater's veteran Vernon Medearis as over-the-hill gangster Sweets Crane. Director Lewis Campbell's Greenwich Village café set
    provides plenty of space for a large cast to interact.

    World Premiere by Charles Johnson

    Jack Foley,  KPFA-FM
    Charles Johnson’s A Secret for Next Sunday is a vital, at times brutal glimpse into the intricacies of family life. The play keeps close to
    the real, so that “theatrical” or melodramatic plot lines which might have been developed  -- aren’t: things that happen, the way they
    do in life.  Someone dies, but there is no “reason” for it other than the fact that people die.  It is the least judgmental of plays, but one
    of the truest: a look at suffering which insists on nothing but the inexorable fact that life exists. Lewis Campbell’s direction and an
    excellent cast keep the play as convincing as the argument your next-door neighbors have every Tuesday. A Secret for Next Sunday
    should not be kept secret.

    Wanda Sabir,  San Francisco Bay View
    Playwright Charles Johnson is interested in race as a theme in his work.  His new play, A Secret for Next Sunday, is certainly that.   
    Set in Chicago during a time when youth were unaware of the racial strife that brought many African Americans to northern cities,  the
    lead character Jim decides to address this disrespect after a drug lord takes his parking space one time too many.  There are parallel
    stories being told: one set in Alabama, the other in Chicago.   Two couples Jim and Mattie and Bessie and McCoy have known each
    other from childhood. The men came north together where they met their future wives, whom they thought were northern girls.   What
    I like most about the play is the relationship between the two men and the women, not to mention the couples. McCoy really loves his
    friend, and accepts him, faults and all.  Pay attention to the Emmit Till reflections,.  They foreshadow the scenes on the other side of
    the stage, the scenes in which Jim replays in his mind repeatedly over the course of the evening. He can’t change what he did, but he
    certainly can learn from it.
MET is a project of Theater Residencies, Incorporated (TRI ), a California non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation.

    by August Wilson

    Joshua Medsker          SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
    If a fella forgets his song, he forgets who he is," says Bynum Walker, the voodoo man in the Multi Ethnic Theater's production of Joe
    Turner's Come and Gone, August Wilson's play about the children and grandchildren of former slaves. The residents of a Pittsburgh
    boarding house in 1911 struggle through day-to-day life in the years after slavery. The idea of music as both sin and salvation runs
    strong throughout the play and is duly acknowledged by the players. The production is enjoyable, with strong acting from most of the
    cast. The straightforwardness and simplicity of the material are well represented, and the small size of the theater space adds to
    Wilson's intimate personal drama.  The inclusion of beautiful old country blues songs during the intermission is a nice touch.

    Doug Konecky       AMERICA ON LINE  --  ENTERTAINMENT         August Wilson in an intimate setting.
    Playwright August Wilson (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson) published Joe Turner's Come and Gone in 1988. It is the
    story of a half dozen people who are passing through a Pittsburgh boarding house at the beginning of the 20th Century, told in a
    series of short vignettes. Seen-it-all Seth Jolley (James Otis Brown) runs the boarding house with the help of his wife Miss Bertha
    (Peggy Royster) and they are the stabilizing forces around whom the other characters revolve. Excellent performances by Jeremy
    (LaMott Atkins),  Selig (Doug Marshall) and the mesmerizing Loomis (Vernon Medearis), plus the fact that the theater is tiny (64 seats)
    makes the production feels like an intimate soap opera with good friends as the cast.  Everyone rises to the rousing finish.
    Joe Turner's Come and Gone  is August Wilson at his best and the intimate Gough Street Playhouse is a terrific place to see it.
REVIEWS OF MET PRODUCTIONS   ---   at The Gough Street Playhouse
Most recent listed first.   Scroll down for earlier productions.

For three earlier productions at The Potrero Hill Neighborhood House click on the HISTORY button above.

    the Lorraine Hansberry story in her own words

    Jack Foley,  KPFA-FM
    Lewis Campbell, retired from teaching but not from theater, is and an old hand at ensemble work.  He has brought To Be Young,
    Gifted and Black to his Multi Ethnic Theater at the Gough Street Playhouse in San Francisco. It's a terrific production directed by
    Campbell and featuring a cast of eight actors, AJ Davenport, Danielle Doyle, Douglas Marshall, Fabian Herd, Jessica Jade Rudholm,
    Judith Sims, Robin Hughes and Vernon D. Medearis,  all of whom play a variety of roles and all of whom, at one point or another,
    speak Hansberry's words.  The current production is a dance of Hansberry's consciousness as actors' bodies move swiftly and subtly
    around the theater space.  The play is in effect choreographed and Hansberry's words are made alive by a variety of voices:
    Hansberry is everyone in this play. The cast is uniformly excellent, and there are many stand-out moments. AJ Davenport, Fabian
    Herd, Vernon D. Medearis, Douglas Marshall, and Jessica Jade Rudholm are all MET veterans who deliver their lines with customary
    brio, humor and effectiveness, but there is no one in the production who is lacking.

    Audience Comments, from Goldstar Events

    The play was very inspirational. The actors did an excellent job capturing several poignant periods in Lorraine Hansberry's life.  
    Lorraine Hansberry is an incredible writer and her timeless work speaks to today's generation.

    I absolutely loved this play. The acting was superb. I am away from home and do not have my program here, so I cannot single out
    any particular actor, but they were all excellent.

    My son and I enjoyed this event. I enjoyed learning about the life and thoughts of Lorraine Hansberry. I was impressed with the
    passion of the actors. This was my first play at this playhouse, will go again.

    This is a must see show for anyone interested in theatre, black history and women's history. Young writers and actors especially will
    benefit from Hansberry's inspiring writings. I was thoroughly entertained and educated.

    We really loved it. The acting was excellent and the story was incredibly inspiring.  I highly recommend it.

    An amazing performance, very talented actors, most interestingly presented. We were spellbound. This theatre and group are a
    great SF treasure.

    Great performance.  Always wanted to see this play, and this was a great version of it.  Actors were terrific!

    MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS        (1999)
    by Athol Fugard

    Dan Wilson,  Bay Area On Line Theater
    Master Harold ... and the boys is one of those plays that manages to be beautiful, thoughtful, powerful, and consciousness raising all
    at the same time. It manages to do this, all within a single scene. From a writing standpoint, this impresses me because I have a very
    hard time writing long scenes.  This play is an hour and a half in one place, in one conversation. That's a major accomplishment in
    terms of writing.   But as good as that writing is, without great actors, it would be for naught. Fortunately, Multi Ethnic Theater has
    three wonderful actors.

    Fabian Herd is quite good as Willie, the slow-witted busboy. Willie doesn't look like much on the surface, but is a surprisingly complex
    character. Seemingly an innocent, we discover that he has a horrible temper and frequently beats his girlfriends. In many ways, Willie
    is a mirror of who Hally (Harold) is in the present: a child-man who lashes out thoughtlessly at those he loves when confronted with
    ugly realities beyond his control. Herd has the difficult task of having to react and observe the majority of the play. When the focus is
    on him, Herd succeeds in presenting a complete human being and not just a sketch of a character type. When the focus is not on him,
    Herd almost melts into the background ... focused on what is happening, sending you back to the action in case your eye should stray
    upon him.

    Rama Kellum is riveting as Sam, the complex, compassionate, intelligent, and humane waiter/server. If Willie is a mirror of who Hally is
    now, Sam is the model for what Hally wishes he was. An uneducated man with a piercing intelligence, and eloquent spirit, and a
    wisdom that runs deep. Kellum is deeply rooted in Sam, living so intently in the moment that its very easy to forget that you're watching
    a play. You see and hear his love for Hally in his voice, in his face, in his words. What's more, you see the anger, betrayal, and pain
    that comes when Hally lashes out in childish fury. Kellum also has a wonderful sense of timing, bringing a consistent humor to the
    piece as he constantly questions young Hally's assumptions and ideas.

    Jason Arquin is fabulous as Hally. Young Master Harold is a challenging part, in that an adult actor must play a child on the brink of
    manhood. Old enough to want to enter adult society, but child enough to still find girls icky. Arquin manages to balance nicely between
    boy and man in his portrayal. We see a budding intellect, a social blindness, a cultural naiveté, a troubled youth ...

    by Reginald Rose

    Doug Konecky,  America On Line - Entertainment
    Twelve Angry Jurors keeps us involved in the detective work and has us cheering for the jury when it arrives at the proper verdict.

    Zoe Kahana, Director, Community Arts Ticket Service
    The performance Sunday evening was crisp and thought provoking.  I'm proud that Center Stage is able to partner such creative work.

    THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE     (2002)
    by William Saroyan

    Jack Foley,  KPFA-FM
    I saw -- and very much enjoyed - -the recent Multi Ethnic Theater production of William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life, produced in
    San Francisco, the city where the play takes place.  The original is set in the 30's when World War II is imminent.  MET's production is
    set in the 70's when the Vietnam War is  important: "BOOOOOOOOOM WAR! O.K. War. I retreat. I hate war. I move to
    Sacramento."    The character who speaks those words is Harry, the eager-to-please young dancer/comedian originally played by
    Gene Kelly.  In Campbell's production the character is played by a young African-American woman, Brandy Evans -- but both the
    charm and the naiveté of the character come through.

    "Nick", the bartender, also undergoes a change of gender: A.J. Davenport, a woman, plays the part in a wonderfully bravura (and
    entirely convincing) way.  "Tom" is still something of dolt and a child, but in this production he is African-American. Indeed, the only
    African-American character included in Saroyan's play, Wesley, is here played by a white man John Jamieson whose piano playing is,
    suitably "out of this world." Melinda Maximova is excellent in the pivotal role of Kitty, stunning in her entrance, she is almost too
    beautiful for the character. In the original production Joe's speech about money was deemed too controversial and cut. In MET's
    production. T.J. Pierce as Joe gave us one of the evening's thrilling moments when, remaining seated, he magnificently directed the
    speech towards the slumming "society people" visiting the bar. Vernon Medearis was also a standout as he turned the garrulous Kit
    Carson character into a bona-fide African-American male. Harry Siltonen was an excellent "Arab," repeating the important line, "No
    foundation --  the way down the line"  Willie, Saroyan's "marble-game maniac," was played superbly -- in a wheelchair!--by a disabled
    Japanese-American woman, Stephanie Miyashiro. The playwright's "Newsboy" was played by disabled African-American actress Afi-
    Tiombe Kambon, who also sang an excellent version of the Irish song, "Danny Boy." (When asked whether she is Irish, the character
    replies, "No, I'm Greek.")

    Campbell's shifts of ethnicity and gender are entirely in the spirit of the play, which deliberately keeps itself open to diversity:
    whatever comes into "Nick's American Place" comes into it. "Maybe," speculates Nick, "they can't feel at home anywhere else." The
    play's openness is the source of both its optimism -- despite the fact that there is "No foundation -- all the way down the line"-- and
    the sense it projects of a precious, guarded innocence.  It is precisely such an innocent-minded,  illusioned, and unsophisticated
    democracy that is at the center of Saroyan's deeply American play.

    For those who wear the label "San Franciscan" as a badge of honor, the hottest ticket in town is the latest production of William
    Saroyan's 1940 Pulitzer Prize winning The Time of Your Life at the Gough Street Playhouse.  With universal themes of the class
    struggle, this "Time" is proof positive that cross-cultural and cross-gender casting works. The action takes place at Nick's, a San
    Francisco waterfront hangout, only Nick –  imbued with great compassion by AJ Davenport –  is a woman.  Myers Clark and Veronica
    Rocha are also standouts as the young lovers, Tom and Kitty.

    William Saroyan had a taste for stories and plays about the average Joe, and The Time of Your Life is his epic.  Multi Ethnic Theater
    has cross-cast most of the characters. Nick the bartender is played by a woman, A.J. Davenport; the noisy longshoreman McCarthy
    is played by Bennie Lewis, who's black; and Willie the pinball wizard is played by Stephanie Miyashiro, in a wheelchair. Lewis and
    Vernon Medearis (playing a showy cowboy known as Kit Carson) know how to project their lines.  Director Lewis Campbell has
    designed a brilliant set, consisting of a full bar with a working beer tap.  The show captures the sound and rhythm of a waterfront dive.