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“WILD APPLAUSE! Impossible to top” — San Francisco Chronicle

“★★★★ Devilishly funny … perversely enjoyable” — Marin IJ

“MTC’s best play of the season … a must-see for anyone who loves theater” Marinscope 

Twin sisters “M” and “L” care about two things in this world: academic ambition, and each other. But when M’s supposed shoo-in slot at a prestigious university is given to someone else, the sisters begin to strategize how to secure their success by any means necessary. Taking a page from a certain Scottish tragedy, the sisters' sinister scheming leads to bloody extracurricular activities that could take them to the top. Jiehae Park’s new dark comedy is a savage satire on academia, teenagers and race, and made The Kilroys’ 2015 List of the best new plays by female playwrights. 

Fresh off a critically acclaimed World Premiere production at Yale Repertory in the  15-16 season, MTC is excited to bring this sinister twist on the Scottish Play to the West Coast under the direction of Margot Bordelon, who also directed the play’s world premiere. Another of Park’s plays, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo, won the Princess Grace Award, the Leah Ryan Prize, and landed on the first annual Kilroys List, and will receive its world premiere in March 2017 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Performance Schedule

Evenings

Tue - Sun 7:30pm

Matinees 

Sun (Preview) Mar 12, 4:00pm
Thu (Perspectives) Mar 23, 1:00pm
Sat, Apr 18 & Mar 1, 2:00pm
Sun Mar 19 & 26, Apr 2, 2:00pm


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Ticket Prices

Performance Center
seating
Side
seating
Previews (Mar 9 – 12) $37 $37
Opening Night (Mar 14) $60 $55
Sat Eve $60 $55
Tue*, Wed, Thu, Fri & Sun Eve $49 $44
Matinees $49 $44
Best Deal (all shows, limited availability) n/a $25

* Excludes Opening Night.

Prices subject to change. 

Phone orders subject to a $10 per order fee; online orders subject to a $3 per order fee

Disabled seating is currently only available through the MTC Box Office (415.388.5208 or in person). We apologize for any inconvenience.


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Discounts

GROUPS – Bring eight or more people to receive a $7 discount on tickets. Click here or call 415.388.5208.
SENIORS (65+) – $4 off any performances
MILITARY – $6 off all performances. Learn more
UNDER 30 – $22, all performances
EDUCATOR – $12, all performances (limit 2). Must teach at a Marin County School. Contact the Education Dept. to request.
TEENS – $10, all performances

Discounts and special rates available only by calling or visiting the Box Office in person: (415) 388-5208
Promo Codes distributed for online redemption subject to availability. 
Only ONE (1) Promo Code will be valid per order. 
Promo Codes do not apply to Best Deal ($25) tickets.

MTC Engaged Special Events

AFTER WORDS

AFTER WORDS

Post-show question and answer sessions, led by a member of our artistic staff, immediately following most performances (except on Opening and Closing Nights and Saturdays).

Wednesday Pre-Show Talk

Wednesday Pre-Show Talk

7pm

Pre-show talk before every Wednesday performance.

Sitter Saturday

Sitter Saturday

Saturday, Mar 18 | 2pm

Free onsite childcare by UrbanSitter during the 4th Saturday matinee.

Perpectives Matinee

Perpectives Matinee

March 23 | 1pm

Topical lecture one hour prior to the performance.

MTC After Hours

MTC After Hours

March 25 | 10pm

After the performance join us at the MTC bar for music, drink specials, and conversation.

Cast

  • Rinabeth Apostol*

    Rinabeth Apostol*

    L

    Rinabeth Apostol was last seen on the Marin Theatre Company stage in Othello. Recent projects include A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Hard Problem (both at American Conservatory Theater), The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga (TheatreWorks New Works Festival), Untitled Cambodia Pop Play (Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Ground Floor), and Dogeaters (Magic Theatre). Ms. Apostol originated roles in The Kite Runner (San Jose Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company), The Cable Car Nymphomaniac (FOGG Theatre), Fire Work (TheatreFIRST), FIRST (Aluminous Collective), and Imelda: A New Musical (East West Players). Select credits include Aliens with Extraordinary Skills (B Street Theatre), Of Mice and Men (San Jose Rep), Avenue Q (San Jose Stage Company), Red (TheatreWorks), and collaborations with Playwrights Foundation, Crowded Fire Theater, NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, and the Groundlings (Los Angeles), among others. TV and film credits include Lit, Quitters, Girltrash!, Just for Kicks, and Give Me Grace. Ms. Apostol is a member of SAG-AFTRA and a company member of PlayGround and Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company.

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  • Rosie Hallett*

    Rosie Hallett*

    Dirty Girl/Preppy Girl

    Rosie Hallett is delighted to return to Marin Theatre Company after appearing as Mary Dalton in Native Son and Meesh in The Way West, as well as understudying Bellwether. Other recent credits include The Country House at TheatreWorks; Top Girls and Harry Thaw Hates Everybody at Shotgun Players; The Winter’s Tale at SF Shakespeare Festival; Status Update at CenterREP; and three productions and tours to France with Word for Word Performing Arts Company, where she is an associate artist. When not in the Bay Area, Ms. Hallett can often be found in Paris, where she performs with Big Funk Company in English-language productions. She is a company member of PlayGround, a Theatre Bay Area Titan Award recipient, and a graduate of Stanford University.

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  • Jeremy Kahn*

    Jeremy Kahn*

    D

    Jeremy Kahn is delighted to make his Marin Theatre Company debut. His past theatre work includes The Rover (Shotgun Players); Peter and the Starcatcher (TheatreWorks); 1 2 3, Tigers Be Still, The Fantasticks, and Kimberly Akimbo (San Francisco Playhouse); Another Way Home (Magic Theatre); Tortilla Curtain (San Diego Repertory Theatre); Wittenberg (Aurora Theatre Company); Baskerville, It Shoulda Been You, The Storytelling Ability of a Boy (Center REP); Max Understood (Paul Dresher Ensemble); First (PlayGround); Moonshiner (Jackalope Theatre Company); Shakespod (Edinburgh Fringe Festival); Would (NYC Fringe Festival); Chicagoland (The Inconvenience); Beautiful City and Caucasian Chalk Circle (Theatre Mir, where he was an ensemble member for two seasons). TV and independent film credits include Looking (HBO), Unleashed, The Etruscan Smile, Dirt, After Effect, and Wayne. Mr. Kahn holds a B.F.A. from The Theatre School at DePaul University.

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  • Cameron Matthews

    Cameron Matthews

    BF

    Cameron Matthews was last seen in VS. at TheatreFIRST. His Bay Area credits include all of what you love and none of what you hate and Colossal (San Francisco Playhouse), Call It Off (Mojo Theatre), One Minute Play Festival (Z Space), and Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program. He is thrilled to be working with Marin Theatre Company for the first time, and is grateful to be a part of this production. He thanks God for his many blessings. He sends much love and appreciation to his family and friends for all of their support, especially his mom, Sophia. Love you, Mom! 

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  • Tiffany Villarin*

    Tiffany Villarin*

    M

    Tiffany Villarin is a New York City-based actress. She has appeared in House Rules (Ma-Yi Theater Company), peerless (Cherry Lane Mentor Project), Figaro (Pearl Theatre Company), Dream Acts (Re/Union Company), Gentrifusion (Red Fern Theatre Company), Resurrection (Diverse City Theatre), as Nina in National Asian American Theatre Company’s vaudeville-inspired version of The Seagull, and SIX (Second Generation/2g). Ms. Villarin’s regional credits include The Language Archive (Bristol Riverside Theatre), peerless (Yale Repertory Theatre), and The Grown Up (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival). Chicago credits include Ghostwritten (Goodman Theatre), Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West (Timeline Theatre), Golden Child (Silk Road Rising), and The Search for Odysseus (Adventure Stage Chicago). Her film and television credits include Bull, The Blacklist, Gotham, and Certainty. She also worked at the Sundance Theatre Lab on Ghostwritten and Have You Seen Steve Steven? Ms. Villarin holds a B.F.A. in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is a member of The Actors Center.

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Creative Team

  • Jiehae Park

    Jiehae Park

    Playwright

    Jiehae Park peerless recently received its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre and was part of the 2015 Cherry Lane Theatre Mentor Project. Park is one of the writers of Wondrous Strange (Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, 2016). Her work has been developed through the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab, Playwrights Horizons, Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Ground Floor, Playwrights Realm, the Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Old Globe Theatre, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and the amazing Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Her play Hannah and the Dread Gazebo won the Leah Ryan Prize, Princess Grace Award, L. Arnold Weissberger Award, and Grand Prize in the Ashland New Plays Festival Women’s Invitational; her plays also have been included in two years of the Kilroys List. Commissions: Playwrights Horizons, McCarter Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival. Residencies: MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and McCarter/Sallie B. Goodman. She will be a 2016-17 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. As a performer: La Jolla Playhouse, Studio Theatre, Tiny Little Band, REDCAT, and the upcoming Sleep with Ripe Time/The PlayCo. B.A., Amherst; M.F.A., UCSD. 

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  • Margot Bordelon

    Margot Bordelon

    Director

    Margot Bordelon is a New York-based director who specializes in new work. Upcoming: T. by Dan Aibel at American Theater Company in Chicago. Recent projects: Too Heavy for Your Pocket by Jireh Holder for Alliance Theatre, The Pen by Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins for Premieres NYC (NYT Critics’ pick), peerless at Yale Repertory Theatre, A Delicate Ship by Anna Ziegler for Playwrights Realm (NYT Critics’ pick), and Okay, Bye by Joshua Conkel for Steppenwolf Theatre. She’s developed new plays with Ars Nova, Atlantic Theater Company, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Cherry Lane Theatre, Juilliard, New York Theatre Workshop, PlayPenn, Portland Center Stage, Primary Stages, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Roundabout Theatre Company, and the Wilma Theater, among others. Ms. Bordelon moved east after spending six years in Chicago working as a director, writer, and performer. She is a founding member of Theatre Seven of Chicago, and spent four seasons working in Lookingglass Theatre’s artistic department. M.F.A., Yale School of Drama; B.F.A.: Cornish College of the Arts. www.margotbordelon.com

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  • Kate Noll

    Kate Noll

    Scenic Designer

    Kate Noll is a Bay Area native, although she is currently based in New York City. Recent credits include Agrippina (Juilliard), Orange Julius (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater), Così fan tutte (LoftOpera), I and You (TheatreSquared), Xerse (Yale Baroque Opera), Stones in His Pockets (Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center), Utility (Amoralists Theatre Company; nominated for an Innovative Theater Award), Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Yale Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre; nominated for a Connecticut Critics Circle Award), In a Tilted Place (IRT Theater), Gordy Crashes (Ricochet Collective), Kristina (August Strindberg Repertory Theater), This Lingering Life (HERE Arts Center), The Fatal Eggs (Fractured Atlas), Ermyntrude and Esmeralda (Ars Nova), Gloria—A Pig Tail (New York Philharmonic Orchestra), and Cloud 9 (Yale School of Drama). Ms. Noll is also a stylist for film, television, photo shoots, concerts, and performance art. She is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and Yale School of Drama. Upcoming projects include Monstrosity at The New School and Carmen with Heartbeat Opera. katenoll.com

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  • Heather Basarab

    Heather Basarab

    Lighting Designer

    Heather Basarab Ms. Basarab’s designs have been seen with companies including La MaMa (NYC), Aurora Theatre, Magic Theatre, Campo Santo, Chris Black Dance, AXIS Dance Company, The New Pickle Circus, Cirque Mechanique, Wei-Shan Lai Dance, Fog Beast, and Joe Goode Performance Group. Recent projects include Hamlet with Shotgun Players (2016 Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award nomination); Z and Portrait with SFDanceworks (2016 Isadora Duncan Award nomination), Photosoma with Christine Germain and Dancers at Z Space, and The Shipment with Crowded Fire Theater. Recognition includes an Isadora Duncan Award, a Bay Guardian Upstage/Downstage Award, a Time Out Chicago Award for Best Lighting in Dance, and four BATCC awards. Ms. Basarab holds a B.A. from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and an M.S. in Arts Education from Dominican University.

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  • Palmer Hefferan+

    Palmer Hefferan+

    Composer/Sound Designer

    Palmer Hefferan is a composer and sound designer based in New York. Off-Broadway credits include: Orange Julius (Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre); The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Signature Theatre); Friend Art (Second Stage); Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Soho Repertory Theatre); Important Hats of the Twentieth Century (Manhattan Theatre Club); A Delicate Ship (Playwrights Realm); The Film Society (Keen Company); and I Am The Wind (59E59). Select regional credits include: Henry IV, Part One (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Tiger Style! (Huntington Theatre Company); Arms and the Man (Triad Stage); Romance Novels for Dummies (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Tiger Style! (Alliance Theatre); Baby Screams Miracle, Guards at the Taj, Women Laughing Alone with Salad, and Cherokee (Woolly Mammoth Theatre); Twelfth Night (Center Stage); Moment, Sorry, Regular Singing, Bad Jews, and Edgar & Annabel (Studio Theatre). In 2016, Ms. Hefferan received a Henry Hewes Design Award nomination for her design for Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. at Soho Rep. She holds an M.F.A. from Yale School of Drama.

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  • Dave Maier

    Dave Maier

    Fight Director

    Dave Maier has choreographed violence for two previous Marin Theatre Company productions: The Convert and Othello. His work has been seen at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Magic Theatre, SF Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Aurora Theatre, Berkeley Playhouse, Center REP, Impact Theatre, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and Shotgun Players, among others. Mr. Maier is the resident fight director at San Francisco Opera and California Shakespeare Theatre; he also teaches combat-related classes and workshops at Berkeley Rep’s School of Theatre, St. Mary’s College of California, and Stanford University. He is currently serving as president of Dueling Arts International.

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  • Sean McStravick*

    Sean McStravick*

    Stage Manager

    Sean McStravick has previously stage-managed Marin Theatre Company’s productions of Native Son, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley; August: Osage County; The Invisible Hand; Anne Boleyn; Gem of the Ocean; My Mañana Comes; The Oldest Boy; Choir Boy; The Convert; The Whale; Fetch Clay, Make Man; and Good People. Sean has worked for numerous Bay Area theatres, including Shotgun Players; 42nd Street Moon; and Willows Theatre Company, where he was the production stage manager from 2010 to 2012. Regionally, he has also supported productions at North Coast Repertory Theatre, Blue Trunk Theatre Company, Back Seat Theatre, the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and Actors Alliance of San Diego. 

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  • Lizabeth Stanley

    Lizabeth Stanley

    Prop Master

    Lizabeth Stanley (prop master) is thrilled to return for this very exciting 50th anniversary season. In addition to last season at Marin Theatre Company, her recent credits include The Unfortunates and Chester Bailey at American Conservatory Theater, The Comedy of Errors and Year of the Rooster at Impact Theatre, and A House Tour of the Infamous Porter Family Mansion with Tour Guide Weston Ludlow Londonderry at Z Space. Ms. Stanley holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from The Ohio State University. 

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* Denotes member of Actors Equity Association
+ Member, United Scenic Artists
^ Member, Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers

Reviews

  • MTC’s macabre comedy ‘peerless’ is just that

    You might think you’ve seen a breakneck pace in theater before. But the clip at which Jiehae Park’s “peerless” sprinted into its Tuesday, March 14, opening at Marin Theatre Company should make you rethink the very concept of speed on stage.

    Part of the thrill of the opening exchanges between high school student twin sisters M (Tiffany Villarin) and L (Rinabeth Apostol) is their sheer athleticism. Wearing adorable matching outfits by costume designer Sydney Gallas, the performers, in collaboration with director Margot Bordelon, make a ballet out of overlapping whirlwind dialogue, interrupted suddenly, periodically, by an emphatic pause — but one that lasts only a half-breath.

    The astonishing momentum of this West Coast premiere isn’t just spectacle. It adroitly encapsulates, as few contemporary plays have dared to, the extraordinary pressures on elite students in elite high schools seeking scarce spots in elite universities. Tempting as it is to write off college application woes as divertissement for the bourgeoisie, the process as a whole manifests all too starkly a peculiarly American sickness — one that has already plagued Bay Area high schools, notably in the South Bay, where a teen suicide epidemic rampages

    The world of “peerless” is one in which college admissions envelopes rocket out of the heavens like meteors and land onstage with a great, violent thwack. It’s a world where one might restructure one’s whole life, moving to a particular state (to enhance one’s “geographic diversity,” in the play’s sad but pragmatic parlance), attending a particular high school, participating in particular extracurricular activities, all in effort to game a pernicious system, one that somehow we’ve all agreed to accept.

    Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and the story of June and Jennifer Gibbons, Britain’s “silent twins,” inspired Park’s writing, but she transforms those dark sources into zippy comedy (with plenty of Scottish Play references for theater insiders to feast on). As M, the sister who occasionally feels a pang of conscience, Villarin has a default look of eyes stretched so wide you can almost see eyeball veins you’re not supposed to see. This is a student, her performance conveys, so accustomed to prying her eyelids open to cram for AP exams that when her ambition escapes her for a moment, she’s no more than a deer in the headlights. As the more barbarous L, Apostol savors her bloodthirsty lines; it’s as if, in merely speaking, she’s already devouring her planned victim.

    That victim is D, performed with showstopping flair by Jeremy Kahn. Even if Kahn weren’t in the show, “peerless” would still be much-needed catharsis for any parents and students afflicted by the college admissions process; Kahn’s performance elevates the play higher still. He makes D so overwhelmingly geeky that you worry the character’s aura will somehow come out into the audience and accidentally hurt you. He might whack you with his “fat hands” during an especially maladroit dance move at the school’s “Hoopcoming” dance or stab you with the EpiPen he carries around his neck. And each time you think D has reached his feverish peak, Kahn charts a new comedic height.

    If the show has any flaw, it’s that D’s scenes come midway through the play, and they’re impossible to top. Yet in its downtempo denouement, “peerless” makes its most sobering point. Scholar Jan Kott once wrote that “Macbeth” is driven by a false dream, “of a murder that will break the murder cycle, will be the way out of nightmare, and will mean liberation.” Part of the point of “peerless” is that even if you get into your top college, the rat race doesn’t stop there; one race bloodily won breeds only further races to run.

    — Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle Read full review
  • Sisters would kill to get into college of choice in MTC’s ‘Peerless’

    They say a strong foundation in the classics is important for getting ahead in school, but this probably wasn’t what they had in mind. In “Peerless,” the new play by Jiehae Park making its Bay Area premiere at Marin Theatre Company, ambitious twin sisters M and L respond to an academic disappointment (one of them being passed over by a prominent university) by going full “Macbeth.” 

    In a fast-paced, intermission-free 85-minute staging by Margot Bordelon, who also directed the show’s 2015 world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre, the dark comedy isn’t quite an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play,” but it plays with parallels a great deal. 

    The twins have arranged their whole lives to get into the college of their choice, simply called The College. They moved to the Midwest and enrolled in different years just to maximize their chance of getting the one early-admission slot available to any one high school. When that slot goes to someone else instead, the sisters start thinking about how to eliminate the competition. 

    Most of the characters are referred to by generic descriptors rather than names, such as “the boyfriend” or “the brother.” The town and the high school are never named —even the athletic gear in Sydney Gallas’ costumes just says “high school track team.” 

    The sisters speak quickly, talking over each other and finishing each other’s sentences. Reprising the role she originated in the Yale Rep production, Tiffany Villarin is hysterically anxious and high-strung as M, the one who’s first in line. But it’s Rinabeth Apostol’s L, who at first seems like a deferential (if talkative) subordinate, who soon becomes the more cold-blooded conniver of the two, because she doesn’t want M to blow it for the both of them. As she says repeatedly, “You and then me. That’s what it’s always been.”

    Jeremy Kahn is endearingly awkward and wonderfully funny as the guy who actually got the coveted early acceptance, rattling on incessantly about how elated he is to finally be over his low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts. He’s the main thing that stands in the sisters’ way, but it’s hard not to like the guy. 
    Cameron Matthews has an amiable, easygoing swagger as M’s erstwhile boyfriend, who plays only a small role in the story. Rosie Hallett aggressively tries to shock her peers as Dirty Girl, who has a reputation as the school crazy person but also spouts what sounds a lot like prophecy at M like a one-woman Weird Sisters. (She’s also pretty much the only character with a name — Caroline — although it’s seldom used.) 

    The panels of Kate Noll’s intriguingly plain white-walled set slide aside to reveal a multitude of classrooms and other locations. Palmer Hefferan’s sound design gradually becomes nightmarish with haunting rat noises and other unnerving sounds, abetted by Heather Basarab’s dramatic lighting.

    It’s easy to see parallels in the initials characters are given in lieu of names: M for Macbeth, L for Lady Macbeth, D for Duncan, BF for Banquo and Fleance (or maybe just for boyfriend). There are also many echoes of Shakespeare’s tragedy in the fast-paced dialogue, mostly a conspicuous key word here and there. 

    Still, the “Macbeth” parallels only go so far. In tone and spirit, there’s almost as much “Heathers” in the play as there is Shakespeare. The relationship between the twins is at the heart of this piece, and that takes the story in a different direction than its source material. There are some scenes and moments that don’t entirely click, including the ending, and plot developments that seem rushed. Overall, however, it’s a devilishly funny piece of work that somehow makes even its most gruesome moments perversely enjoyable.


    — Sam Hurwitt, Marin IJ Read full review
  • “First-class, must-see entertainment” — Theatre Eddy

    L & M: Identical twins.  The prettiest and smartest girls in their Midwestern high school.  Of Asian descent.  Perfect SAT scores.  Perfect grades.  Each stellar in all respects.  Each a prime ... no, each THE prime candidate for the historically one early decision spot that “The College” (you know, the back East, Ivy League type with ivy, columns, brick and dripping with prestige) awards each year to their high school.  And, a sister- sworn oath for L to hold back a year so M gets this year’s spot; and L, next year’s.

    That is until “the fat envelope” of acceptance from “The College” drops from the sky into the hands of D, the nicest but dorkiest guy in the class who just happens to be (gasp, how could he be?) one-sixteenth Native American ... somehow out-stripping their 100% Asian-American (and female) pedigree.  

    But that is all until the crazy, smelly (but clearly prophetic) Dirty Girl says point-blankly to M that while she did not yet get into this year’s slot, “You will ... and your little dog, too.”

    Thus sets up a high-school comedy hyper-hip in its back-and-forth banter, its text-quick pace, and its locker-planned pacts and plots – a comedy, that is, until it is not. 

    In writing peerless, Jiehae Park has loosely structured her characters and progression of events based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  However, the more twists and turns that the story takes as the twins seek to thwart anyone else getting that one crowning seat on the admission list , the more the similarities become less “loose” and instead become “tightly coupled” to the original story of Macbeth and his Lady (Hint: “M” and “L”).  Marin Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Jiehae Park’s peerless in a brilliantly conceived, directed, and acted production that moves at whirlwind speeds through events that move audience from leaning back in their seats in full laughter to moving to the edge of their seats in tight-mouthed, tense anticipation of what will happen next.

    Rinabeth Apostol (“L”) and Tiffany Villarin (“M”) are nothing short of astounding as they rattle off often at breakneck speeds sisterly conversations where each picks up the past two-to-five words and continues the thought, changes the subject, or inserts a surprise – only to be quickly usurped by the immediate retort of her identical half.  And mirror images they are in their preppy outfits and hair-dos with the exception that L always dons or carries something yellow, and M, something red.  

    L (think Lady Macbeth) is the scheming plotter and relentless pusher who wants to ensure that the more reticent M increases her own drive and boldness (sound familiar to wanna-be king you know?) as M more and more believes the prophetic signs she is seeing that it is inevitable the one admissions spot is hers/theirs.   The sisters never lose a minute of the play’s fast eighty to become ever more determined to outsmart, undermine, and overcome anyone (everyone) who gets in their way to ultimate success.  The two actors are shockingly good as they employ their entire beings in their initial frenzy and fury, their later posturing and plotting, and their eventual dives into final diabolism to secure admission.  The Bard would be so proud.

    Just as the Weird Sisters get a reluctant, unbelieving Macbeth started down a no-exit path to fulfill at any cost his ever-gnawing ambition, Dirty Girl does the same for M.  Rosie Hallett is that kid in school everyone knows but never talks to – the one in dreadlocks, all black clothes with lots of holes, over-sized boots, and gross smells from not having bathed in weeks.  She suddenly appears from nowhere, moves more on all-fours than upright, and tends to scream nonsensical sounds between her growls and grunts.  (Remember her from high school now?)  Each time she shows up, she seems to offer enough evidence of what is to come (e.g., how did she know M’s statistics test score before M did?), leading M with wide-eyes to tell L, “There’s something she knows.”  Rosie Hallett gleams from her darkened eyes a knowledge that hints at evil doings and spits with a venom her next prediction, all the while grinning a smile that could easily send shudders down most coeds’ necks – but no longer down M’s.  Dirty Girl is now her go-to, hallway seer.

    Into the sister’s road to The College lands a possible roadblock named D -- the nicest, most innocent, most trusting guy ever who is nothing if he is not also the most gawky, embarrassingly loud, and goofiest dresser in the school.  This otherwise average student just happens also to be one of thirteen left in his Native American tribe – and the other twelve are senior citizens.  And recall that D has already been the one picked to go to The College. 

    Jeremy Kahn pretty much steals the show in his spot-on portrayal of the baggy pants, aw-shucks D (for those Shakespeare buffs, the King Duncan of the cast), who can hardly shut up telling the twins how excited he is that he and his cystic-fibrosis-suffering brother (also played by Mr. Kahn) get to be their dates at the Hoopcoming dance.  As he nervously shifts the weight of his tall body with his long arms continually gyrating through the air while enthusiasm exudes his every pore, there is little he does not reveal to the sisters.  Without hesitation, he literally shouts with glee to the now-listening sibs about his fatal allergy to tree nuts and the EpiPen he always wears around his neck, ready to plunge its medicine quickly into his thigh if a walnut touches his lips.  Maybe he should have listened to his mother who told him not to talk so much.

    Rounding out this excellent cast is Cameron Matthews who is the studly, All-American (and also African-American) BF – ‘BF’ being his name and his boyfriend relationship to M.  He too is vying for that one cherished spot at “The College,” unbeknownst to his girl M.  As his prototype-of-sorts Banquo could tell him (if he were still alive), he might better think twice and just keep eating the candy bars he is always munching and forget “The College” – as well as his GF, M.

    The lightning speed of much of the dialogue and the sudden turns in events is enhanced by Kate Noll’s set design that sees scenes quickly come and go behind three, garage-size doors.  The three inserts are like frames of a cartoon script.  That feeling of a bizarre set of funnies is further enhanced by the high in bright color and wild in shape and style costumes that often are donned by the characters (especially the twins), all designed by Sydney Gallas.  (The twins in their prom dresses of bright blue that reach only to their knees but are a half-room in diameter, given all the petticoats under them, are such one example of the designer’s tongue-in-cheek approach.)

    Much of the looming mystery and portend of bad things to come is accentuated by the inspired lighting design of Heather Basarab, whose projected shadows often take on a life unto themselves in telling the story to come based on the action now occurring.  Palmer Hefferan’s original, musical compositions provide a familiar teenage pulse that also has a cutting-edge harshness to arouse suspicion that all is not as it seems in these high school hallways.  His sound design provides elements of increasing creepiness that fit the storyline perfectly.  All production elements and cast members are directed by Margo Bordelon with a timing that is split-second and a bent toward the uncanny.

    In so many respects, Jiehae Park’s peerless in fact has no peers among current, live theatre offerings – especially in the imaginative, inventive, and highly invigorating manner presented by Marin Theatre where the boundaries between comedy and tragedy are so vague for it to be a real mystery as to how to label the play.  No matter because how I label peerless is as first-class, must-see entertainment.

    — Eddy Reynolds, Theatre Eddy’s Read full review
  • ‘peerless’ comically probes schoolgirl obsession

    “peerless” is a lower-case title but higher-hilarity and even-higher-energy play that must be a must-see for anyone who loves theater.

    Especially innovative theater.

    Like me.

    “peerless” is a mostly comic but occasionally sinister re-imagining of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” by Jiehae Park that finds cut-throat twin sisters, “M” and “L,” obsessing to be admitted to “The college” by any means — including seduction and a murder spree.

    So they employ a fire, an explosion and a nut that’s a fatal allergen.

    For starters.

    Before they become desperate — after M’s early-admission slot is handed to a guy because he’s one-sixteenth Native American — they’ve excelled in classes, sports and extracurricular activities, even moved to the Midwest for a “geographic diversity” boost, and lean on the fact that they’re Asian and female and, thus, constitute a “double minority.”

    When all that’s not enough, well, homicide seems the only logical course.

    “peerless” — which the script says is a comedy “until it’s not” — is, in my eyes, a marvelously pungent riff on academia, teens and race, tied securely into one satirical bundle.

    But it’s actually tough for me to write about.

    Although my cerebral annotations can flow easily enough, the joy the play evokes is vastly more difficult to describe — especially when I want to draw word pictures of the carefully choreographed vigorous teenage dancing and singing, chattering that resembles a magpie symphony, and the kind of post-pubescent awkwardness I remember all too well from my youth.

    Wide-eyes and frowns also help create mental imagery that can make the over-the-top Marin Theatre Company outing almost believable.

    Margot Bordelon, who helmed the play’s world premiere by the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2015, when its title inexplicably still had a capital “P,” directs the 82-minute, intermissionless show. Her bullet train steering is so adroit and consistent that when the play bogs down for a few minutes two-thirds of the way in, it appears to me as a relief rather than a problem.

    The rest of the time, she conducts dialogue — particularly the relentless staccato of the psyched up sisters — as if she were leading two dueling rock drummers.

    And Bordelon joins with Park to make the witchy, crazy teenage character Dirty Girl, an amalgamation of the Bard’s three weird sisters, incredibly compelling (in a totally modern way).

    Rinabeth Apostol and Tiffany Villarin (as “L” and “M,” respectively), Jeremy Kahn as “D” (as well as his disabled brother), Rosie Hallett (as Dirty Girl and, later, as Preppy Girl), and Cameron Matthews (as BF — a boyfriend of color) are all superb performers.

    They’re aided by wondrous costumes designed by Sydney Gallas that the intentionally stark lighting of Heather Basarab shows off well.

    Add in the even more wondrous tri-paneled set of blank mini-stages that allow the characters to become moving Instagrams and it’s impossible to keep me from gushing.

    Occasionally, particularly when the girls switch hair flowers or swap one’s yellow backpack for the other’s red one, I’d momentarily forget which sister is which. Subsequent words and actions inevitably — and quickly — un-confuse me.

    The playwright, a Korean-born woman who now lives in New York City, likes to flaunt her whistling and tournament poker dealing skills as well as her writing chops. It’s noteworthy, though, that “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo,” her latest play, opens this month at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

    Park not only based “peerless” on the classic Shakespearian tragedy but on the fascinating true-life tale of the Silent Twins, two black girls who’d been incessantly bullied in England.

    In doing so, she wrote what I easily consider the MTC’s best play of the season.

    Although I heard no “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” or “Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble,” and truly believe Shakespeare might not recognize the echoes of his so-called “Scottish play” in Jiehae Park’s theatrical trampoline, I do suspect he’d appreciate its genuine, intrinsic value.

    And rest peacefully in his grave.

    Perhaps even smiling.

    — Woody Weingarten, –Marinscope Read full review

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