Monday, January 09, 2012

Moscone's 'Ghost Light':
2 Endings Too Many; My 2-Word Cameo

Big Mike and I were admiring the sculptured busts of Bay Area theatrical luminaries in the windows of the public parking lot opposite the Berkeley Rep's two theaters last night before taking in "Ghost Light". The creator and director of the dramedy, Jonathan Moscone, came walking along and I struck up a conversation with him. He's so down-to-earth, and a handsome bear to boot!

Moscone commented on Mike's Gayville Hall hat, and they shared a bear-to-bear moment, while I readied my camera for photo-snapping. That's Mike on the right, Moscone in the middle, and me. We exchanged pleasantries, I said we looked forward to a good play, but little did any of know I would have a two-line cameo in the evening's performance.

"Ghost Light" is an emotionally-charged mix of serious drama about the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and some of the impact it had on his son Jonathan, leavened with humor that elicit hearty laughs.

We're introduced to the adult Jonathan character while he listens to messages left on his answering machine, including one from a gay candy-maker who wants to produce and sell a candy-bar named for his father called "By George!" Moscone, the co-creator of the work with Berkeley Rep honcho Tony Taccone, excels at poking fun at himself throughout the play.

Also coming on the receiving end of wicked satirizing is Gus Van Sant, a pretentious radical queer artiste simply named Film Director in the cast credits, during the making of the Harvey Milk bio picture "Milk" that reduced Mayor Moscone to little more than a Post-It note.

During the first act, Jonathan, played by the charming and equally infuriating Christopher Liam Moore, conducts an acting class with the audience and all the house lights turned up. He came out in the audience, stood at the end of my row and barked out a question. Did anyone in the class really know the feelings of our fellow students?  

"No," I called out. Moore lit up hearing my voice, quickly agreed with my answer, then asked for my name. "Michael," I said. "Michael, you get an A," Moore replied, as people chuckled and my two-word cameo participation was over.

The drama is quite effective showing a complex gay man thrust into the historical limelight at an early age, confronting a few ghosts in his life and career, with a few relevant contemporary political issues like Prop 8 and a reference to Rick Santorum getting laughs, but there's a major problem.

There are two-endings, stretching the running time just past two-hours and thirty-minutes. I thought the play was wrapping up when the adult Jonathan is addressing his demons and the audience, as George Moscone steps onto the stage as flickers of thousands of candle-lights, evocative of the march down Market Street the night Moscone and Milk were assassinated, are projected on the scrim behind them.

Tony Bennett crooning "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" fills the theater, and the play goes on when it should have concluded at that point. Instead, minutes drag by as Moscone and Taccone bring us to The End. Trimming the closing to a single ending would elevate this play to even more greatness than it already possesses in abundance.

Tickets for the remaining performances are going fast and if you don't act soon, you'll miss a chance to see this important American play linked to a revolutionary moment in our country's history. "Ghost Light" has its final performance on February 19. Click here to purchase tickets at Berkeley Rep.

No comments: