at Theatre Rhinoceros
A Song at Twilight
By Noël Coward
Theatre Rhinoceros’ A Song at Twilight is an excellent production in every way. Its short, two-week run is almost half over, and I say grab a ticket. (They’re cheap, too!)
First, I need to address the lingering, decades-old stigma of Theatre Rhino’s productions. Too often in the distant past, going to The Rhino was a duty of gaydom/lesbianness. We went to support queer theater, and we often suffered through embarrassingly poor plays and unskilled actors. We went to show solidarity, but we rarely went expecting much or left feeling satisfied. I have memories of excruciating awful nights at the old space on 16th Street, if I have to be honest.
However, the general quality of the Rhino’s productions has gotten much, much better. Quietly and consistently the Rhino has morphed from an obligation into a pleasure. Under artistic director/executive director John Fisher, the Rhino has become interesting and fun. Sometimes the production values have showed the non-profit nature of the company, but the Rhino is producing at least reliable, good theater. So, if you’re my vintage of a San Franciscan, you should consider retiring your blessedly out-dated expectations of what The Rhino does.
This production of A Song at Twilight is simply excellent theater.
- The play is a moving reminder of what queer people in Coward’s day had to do to cover-up who they were and who they loved. Coward repeatedly denied the story was autobiographical. So, really. It wasn’t about him. Really!
In any event, Song represents perfect play selection for a queer theater.
- The script is witty, dangerous, fun, and awful. I remember most of Coward’s works as very pleasant diversions. Song is tightly-written and filled with quick dialogue, but the verbal barbs are devastating and not merely entertaining. The play means something. The characters suffer. We and they learn things. And, yeah, there is a lot of linguistic cleverness to sit back and enjoy.
- The acting is excellent and the actors are well matched to their roles. This is one mature, professional, and spot-on collection of talent! The main characters (John Fisher as Hugo Latymer, Tamar Cohn as Lady Latymer, and Sylvai Kratins as Carlotta Gray) handle the rapid-fire, zinger-laden dialogue with finesse. They act as if everyone talked and fought using Coward-style lines. They make impossible transitions between repartee and all-out warfare seamless and clear.
Wonderful! The cast, including the butler (Marvin Peterle Rocha as Felix), were flawless.
- The production values were first class throughout. The sets by Gilbert Johnson, the light by Sean Keehan, and Scarlett Kellum’s Costumes were natural, appropriate, and complementary to the action on stage.
The Z-Below theater also adds to the experience. The lobby/waiting area is lofty-tacky, but once you’re inside the 88-seat theater, you relax. The space is excellently designed. The rake between rows of seats gives everyone a clear view of the whole stage, and the space feels comfortable, innovative, and modern.
I would go into more detail, but, really, I don’t have time. The show closes January 31st. And, I’ve never said this of a Rhino production before…, it’s a MUST SEE piece of theater.
Disclosure: I do the Rhino’s website and Internet work for them.
But, seriously, this is the first time I’ve posted a review and urged you to see one of their productions!