An Energy Driven Production of Tony Kienitz’ Body of Water
By Richard Connema
A new theatre company called A Theatre Near U has debuted its first production at the Southside Theatre at Ft. Mason. This is a theatre academy for teens who want to have a life in musical theatre when they become adults. Tony Kienitz and director Tanna Herr have assembled a cast of triple-threat teen performers ages 13 to 18 to present the world premiere of Kienitz’ Body of Water. This is an intense musical drama about a group of kids who escape the terrors of a civil war by hiding out in an isolated mountain cabin. Since they have not heard from their parents, they believe they have no future with them, so they strike out on their own as their only hope of survival. Watching this fascinating drama, I was reminded of “Lord of the Flies” with one person becoming more like a dictator to the rest of the group. The music by Portland and Hollywood composer Jim Walker is rich and evocative and the dances by San Diego choreographer Kaylie Caires are tornado driven, sometimes reminiscent of the work of the Alvin Ailey and Paul Taylor dance companies. The teen-age cast has been rehearsing for eleven months, yes eleven months, to present this two and a half hour production. All are memorable in their acting, singing and dancing. These are the adult performers of the future and some could very well be stars. Shayan Hooshmand, age 13, gives a uniquely fetching performance as Shorty. His voice has a pitch perfect resonance and he can really shake a leg when dancing. Also outstanding is Aaron Slipper, age 18, who could well become a great actor. He plays the “dictator” of the group and has a vibrant theatrical voice that resonates through the theatre. Winston Wang, Ido Gal, Cara Parker, Jackson Wylder, Ali Arian Molaei, Alia Cuadros-Contreras, Audrey Forrester, Bella Wilcox, Sara Grey, Elizabeth McCole, Jasmyn Donya and Juan Santos give stimulating performances. Backing up these young actors are Will Kast on guitar, Curtis Wu on violin, Jess Feeman on drums and Gabe Galang on guitar and bass; music director is Pierce Brandt. Body of Water plays through June 28th, 2014, at Southside Theatre at Fort Mason Center, Building D, 3rd floor, 2 Marina Blvd at Buchanan Street, San Francisco. For tickets and other information, visit atheatrenearu.org/.