I have been curious about the theatre company, Ophelia’s Jump, ever since I saw their mad-cap, streaming version of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice back in the height of the Covid Pandemic. It was kind of rough and not to my taste, but they were there doing what almost all the companies were doing…trying their best to keep the flame of theatre alive in a time of universal misery. A hearty bravo for them and all the others.
As the fear of covid has begun to abate, I have started to venture out to live theatre where companies made every effort to insure that the virus would not spread on their watch. Masks and proof of vaccination are de regueur. Ophelia’s Jump’s publicist, Philip Sokoloff, sent me an invitation to see their new production, The Hall of Final Ruin. His press release was intriguing and I bit. I checked the venue with Waze and discovered it was 44 miles from my little nest in Valley Village. Hmmm…that’s a lot of costly gas but, what the hell, I filled the tank for a long Sunday drive eastward to Upland, CA, where an eager, packed house was primed for a new show.
The Hall of Ruin, a dark comedy written by Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos, is set in the 1840s in what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico, where Doña Maria Gertrudis Barceló (the scintillating Candida Celaya), known as La Tules, makes a living in her gambling den. During the action, she often goes to a window and randomly fires off her pistol just for the hell of it. She has a faithful, indigenous housekeeper, Pilar (Jennifer Bobiwash) and two adopted granddaughters, the serious, intellectual Carmelita (Brissa Ramirez) who bristles at her mother’s excesses, and the cheerful Rallitos (Cynthia Sophia Alvarez) who pretends to be pregnant. It’s a bit strange when a religious American woman from Kentucky, Sister Jane (Toni Lynd) shows up more or less destitute with no money and nothing to eat. Tules takes her in and teaches her how to gamble.
La Tules feels the nearness of death in the person of Doña Sebastiana (the vivacious, scene stealing Janette Valenzo). A cheerful, freewheeling avatar of doom, Doña Sebastiana is wickedly sly as she plays fast and loose with the audience, and taunts La Tules with the nearness of her impending demise. Ms. Valenzo is an extraordinary performer who appears and disappears, always in different attire and pulling a wagon of doom, much like Charon, the boatman of doom in Greek legend. I especially liked her Zoot Suit. Viva La Pachuca
Produced and directed by Beatrice Casagrán, The Hall of Final Ruin is handsomely mounted by the creative staff, with lighting and projection design by Sheila Malone; scenic design by Ms. Casagrán; sound design and original music by Janette Combs; costume design by Ariel Thomke; and set dressing and props by Ms. Casagrán and Jack Freedman.
The Hall of Final Ruin can be seen at the company’s home at Ophelia’s Jump, 2009 Porterfield Way, Suite I, Upland, CA 91786. It runs through Sunday, April 10, with regular performances Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm, Sunday at 4:00pm; there are also performances on Thursday, March 31 at 7:30pm and on Saturday, April 2 at 2:00pm.
For more information go to http://opheliajump.org (909) 734-6565