Two-hander. It’s a funny term, meaning a play with two actors. Currently, two different two-handers are running in Sonoma County, proving exactly how much range and variation these plays can have.
At Left Edge Theatre, Stephen Sachs’ Bakersfield Mist is a witty, coarse and brutal dark comedy set in a Bakersfield mobile home. It clocks in at a super-brisk 79 minutes, with no intermission. Co-directed by Kimberly Kalember and Argo Thompson, the play concerns Maude Gutman (Sandra Ish), a foul-mouthed, ex-bartender divorcée, and Lionel Percy (Mike Pavone), an arrogant, condescending art expert who’s convinced Maude has discovered an authentic Jackson Pollock painting in a local thrift store.
Both actors are equally excellent—a necessity in a show with only two performers—and the co-directors, showing a keen facility for this kind of ugly-funny confrontation, keep the action moving through sharp, often deadly comedy and escalating mystery, to remarkably personal drama and a satisfyingly ambiguous climax.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★
Main Stage West’s Daddy Long Legs is in many ways the opposite of Bakersfield Mist: a lush, nostalgic, sentimentally romantic musical (by Jane Eyre‘s Paul Gordon and Les Misérable‘s John Caird), slightly overstuffed at two hours, two minutes (including an intermission) but absolutely dripping with sweetness and charm.
Based on the classic 1912 novel by Jean Webster, this 2009 gem, imaginatively and sensitively directed by Elly Lichenstein, is told mainly through correspondence between the spirited Jerusha Abbott (a superb Madison Genovese), who sings the autobiographical “Oldest Orphan in the John Grier Home,” and Jervis Pendleton (Tyler Costin), the titular “Daddy Long Legs,” a wealthy, anonymous benefactor who funds Abbott’s college education and dreams of becoming an author.
With lovely offstage orchestration from a live ensemble, this openhearted, unorthodox two-hander proves, with beautiful tunes and a soaring, if improbable love story, that less can sometimes be much, much more. ★★★★½
‘Bakersfield Mist’ runs through Dec. 2 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. Thursday–Saturday, 8pm; 2pm and 5pm matinee, Sunday, Nov. 26, and Saturday,
Dec. 2. $25–$40. 707.546.3600. ‘Daddy Long Legs’ runs Thursday–Sunday through Dec. 10 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thursday–Saturday, 8pm; matinee, Sunday at 5pm. $15–$30. 707.823.0177.