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Pulitzer Plays: One Old, One New on Local Stages

Members of the Wolves soccer team pose for a photograph.

One very new play (a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist) and one old (a 1937 Pulitzer winner) are on local theater stages. The choice is yours.

Capital Stage opens its 14th season, #SearchingforAmerica, with Sarah DeLappe’s “The Wolves,” about a girls’ indoor soccer team doing warm-ups for a series of matches. During these exercises the girls talk about everything from world events — Kosovo, the correct pronunciation of Khmer Rouge, refugee immigrants held in cages here — to sex, hygiene and menstruation (pads vs. tampons). One striking thing is these female athletes seem to behave just like we think their male counterparts do. They’re rude and crude and have built a sense of camaraderie.

The cast features 10 characters, nine athletes and one soccer mom who turns up late in the show. The girls are not given names but are referred to only by their jersey number. This in a sense makes them more symbols than individuals, although certain personality traits develop during the course of the 90-minute, one-act play. This version of “Searching for America” is about growing up, about establishing oneself as a person, and living through and adapting to all the events, big and small, that come with living. There may be no great revelations, but there are opportunities to reflect upon youth and what it takes to make it through to adulthood.

The Capital Stage production, a Sacramento premiere, is directed by Nancy Carlin on an inventive Astro Turf soccer field set (design by Eric Broadwater). It is a marvel of technical precision — lighting (Timothy McNamara), sound (Ed Lee) and rapid scene changes — all faultless on opening night, despite a computer failure just the day before opening that threatened the whole thing.

“The Wolves” plays at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 30. Tickets are $30-$42. Capital Stage is at 2215 J St.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 995-5464 or go to CapStage.org.

An Oldie but a Goodie

“You Can’t Take It With You,” now on stage at Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael, is a classic comedy from the heyday of playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. It opened on Broadway in 1936 and won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A 1938 film version directed by Frank Capra and starring Jean Arthur and Jimmy Stewart won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director.

An impressively busy set (designed by Andrew Fiffick) manages to corral a huge cast for a community theater production — 18 actors, many of whom are on stage at the same time. Director Diane C. Bartlett gets the credit for keeping a motley crew of characters mostly in check.

The plot concerns a family of oddballs who don’t know how to be anything other than what they are, although they try when daughter Alice (Alyssa Tanner, in a role then-local actor Jessica Chastain played at Chautauqua some 20 years ago) gets engaged to the scion of a rich and “proper” family, the Kirbys. Young Tony Kirby (played by Eric Fawcett) is not like his parents but establishing himself as his own man is not easy. The action, except for the straight-through love story, is all nonsense arising out of the quirks of the Sycamore family. The mother, Penny (Karen Ward) is a playwright and artist, although she is awful at both; father Paul (Dave McHenry) spends most of his time in the basement with Mr. DiPinna (Ron Hanson), making fireworks; grandfather Martin Vanderhof (Rodger Hoopman) attends commencement speeches and collects snakes.

There’s a daughter who continues to take ballet lessons although she’s a terrible dancer, and a Russian dance instructor (Chris Lamb, in a deliciously over-the-top performance) who makes himself a part of the family — much like a milkman did when he made a delivery one day and stayed five years, until he died. It’s that sort of family. And everybody draws laughs. This is a strong ensemble with actors who look like they belong together — and act like it, too.

“You Can’t Take It With You” plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 30. Tickets are $19-$21. Chautauqua Playhouse is in the La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road in Carmichael.

For tickets or for more information, call (916) 489-7529 or go to CPlayhouse.org

Photo by Joelle Robertson.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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