By Kathy Carpenter
A touch of the unknown and unexplained, you don’t have to understand something to be entertained, and to enjoy. North Coast Repertory Theatre Presents, the World Premiere: “Annabella in July” by Richard Strand, with direction by David Ellenstein, it is “Unexpected Whimsical Delight, Contemporary Magic.”
Yes, I enjoyed the play. It was so much fun, and so funny. Did I understand the mechanics of the story? No, and you probably won’t either. For me the story delves into the metaphysical, the whimsy and fun of the unknown. The first act of the play appears to be a simple mistaken identity plot, until the cliffhanger. The second act takes us on a wild ride of possibilities.
The story takes place in July, when ordinary Vanessa, and her husband from Wisconsin, come to the door of a restaurant at a ski lodge in California. The place in empty and Brian leaves Vanessa to secure a table. It takes a few minutes for the hostess/chef to appear. When she does she can’t really see but when she can, she recognizes the woman as Annabella. Vanessa, of course, proclaims she is not Annabella has never heard of her, and has not been to this place or seen this woman, the hostess, before. She can’t convince her. Finally she gets the hostess to pretend she isn’t this Annabella. Then the waitress comes out and proclaims her Annabella. Then, there is a French guy, who is Annabella’s lover. She is still trying to convince them when Brian her husband returns. In the first act Vanessa tries to convince everyone she is Vanessa.
The second act takes over as Vanessa appears dressed as Annabella. Still claims to be Vanessa, and disappears. It is when she returns and tries to give everyone what they want that we lose touch with reality.
The parts of the show I enjoyed most, are the scenes between Brian, Vanessa’s husband, and the French lover. The two actors were incredibly funny.
Jacquelyn Ritz, plays Vanessa/Annabella, what a jewel. She was totally convincing as Vanessa, an ordinary librarian. Her transformation to Annabella was like a moth to a butterfly, amazing. There were two totally different facets, Brian, Louis Lotorto, her husband. I love his humor. Alexander, Annabella’s French lover, played by Brian Turk is a master of funny, offbeat sitcom style. Camelia, the hostess/chef, played by Leilani Smith, is the calming rational talent. Piper, the waitress, played by Catalina Zelles, continues to grow her talent under director David Ellenstein.
The set, is a setting of a ski lodge restaurant. It is so realistic looking with a glass window leading to a balcony overlooking mountain slopes. This is also, a magical touch with the special effects. The Butterfly is so realistic and wonderful as it flutters across.
This is a welcome piece of theatre that leaves you much to discuss with your seatmate as you drive home. Suspend your disbelief and enjoy something new.
North Coast Repertory Theatre
Annabella in July
September 7 – October 2, 2022
987 Lomas Santa Fe
Solana Beach, CA 92075
box office 858.481.1055
Into The Breeches
Comedy By George Brant
San Diego Premiere
Oct.19 – Nov. 13