Hunting Love, Local Dystopia @ Flight Deck   photo by Karla Hargrave

Hunting Love, Local Dystopia @ Flight Deck  
photo by Karla Hargrave

 
FSM, Stagebridge @ Berkeley Rep photo by Erin Merritt

FSM, Stagebridge @ Berkeley Rep
photo by Erin Merritt

 
Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show, Crowded Fire Theater Photo by Pak Han

Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show, Crowded Fire Theater Photo by Pak Han

 
Taming of the Shrew, Woman's Will photo by Erin Merritt

Taming of the Shrew, Woman's Will
photo by Erin Merritt

 
Happy End, Woman's Will photo Rick Silva

Happy End, Woman's Will
photo Rick Silva

 
Pericles, 2002 Woman's Will

Pericles, 2002 Woman's Will

 
Lord of the Flies, Woman's Will photo by Elizabeth Allen

Lord of the Flies, Woman's Will
photo by Elizabeth Allen

 
Romeo and Juliet, Woman's Will photo by Erin Merritt

Romeo and Juliet, Woman's Will
photo by Erin Merritt

 
Good Person of Szechuan, Woman's Will photo by Erin Merritt

Good Person of Szechuan, Woman's Will
photo by Erin Merritt

 
The Rover, Woman's Will photo by Elizabeth Allen

The Rover, Woman's Will
photo by Elizabeth Allen

 
hamlet (the melancholy dame), Woman's Will photo by Elizabeth Allen

hamlet (the melancholy dame), Woman's Will
photo by Elizabeth Allen

 
Antigone: As Played by..., Woman's Will photo by Erin Merritt

Antigone: As Played by..., Woman's Will
photo by Erin Merritt

 
Comedy of Errors, Woman's Will photo by Erin Merritt

Comedy of Errors, Woman's Will
photo by Erin Merritt

Hunting Love

Gracefully directed by Erin MerrittHunting Love is being given its world premiere at Oakland’s Flight Deck by Local Dystopia, a producing partnership between Harrison and Merritt. The characters in Hunting Love are straight out of Greek mythology, but the story takes them in a new direction …wonderfully compelling music by Rona Siddiqui on accordion, cello and bassoon… A sense of melancholy pervades the piece. But there’s a lot of beauty and philosophical eloquence, too, as well as splashes of humor. …an inventive and provocative riff on mythic themes that covers some difficult terrain.”

                                                                  —Sam Hurwitt, The Idiolect/Mercury News

 

FSM: The Free Speech Movement

“History plays present their own particular challenges. On one hand, the story is driven by the sequence of events in the real world. On the other, the drama has to engage an audience. The twain rarely meet. But Joan Holden’s FSM, under the able direction of Erin Merritt, with music and lyrics by Bruce Barthol and Daniel Savio, pulls off the still more daunting job of creating an evening of theater that entertains both those for whom the events include their own life stories and those for whom it is ancient history. ...The cast of 19 plays multiple roles—43, to be exact—and there always seems to be a crowd of protestors (fraternity hecklers, angry citizens, etc.) on stage.... Director Erin Merritt choreographs a visually arresting montage that keeps the action clear as actors segue from character to character. So, is it history or theater? Both. ....FSM is bigger, more entertaining, instructive and engaging, than just a play whipped up for a 50th anniversary. On its own, the production is dramatic and fun, the music catchy... As the director notes in her introduction to the play, ‘The promise of 1964 remains to be fulfilled 50 years later.’ Indeed it does. ...But FSM presents a hopeful solution: convince people to commit themselves, pack the plazas, and take the bastards on.”
                                                                         —Conn Hallinan, Berkeley Daily Planet

“...the truly exquisite moments in the production occur when FSM student leader, Mario Savio (Brady Morales-Woolery) and UC President Clark Kerr (Dan Hiatt) stand together on a podium in the middle of the darkened stage and reflect on the unfolding events. ...These delicate, confessional scenes complicate the issues presented in the story as both characters reveal a genuine belief that their solution is best for everyone involved ...allowing for a brief but nuanced look into the people behind the public personas. ...This play powerfully and effectively communicates with its audiences the influence that voices, especially young voices, have when they speak together. Even more importantly, though, it challenges current and future generations to take hold of the modes of protest available and utilize them to their fullest extent—to not just speak, but to ensure their words are heard."
                                                                               —Anne Ferguson, Daily Californian

 

Brahman/i: A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show

“...a nonstop laugh-a-thon. At more than an hour and a half, that’s a lot of hilarity to pack into what is essentially a solo show. ...Taken separately, the skits (including the myth of Odysseus, the construction of Stonehenge and more) could work well as stand-alone, “Saturday Night Live”-type spoofs. And Sheikh nails the assorted accents and cartoony characters. ...Any painful, multilayered story like this one can be told through humor, but Kapil, witty as she is, and Sheikh, as comically adept as he is, make us laugh until we’re laughed out."                                                               Jean Schiffman, SF Examiner

 

Taming of the Shrew

“What is surprising in departing Artistic Director Erin Merritt’s farewell staging of ‘Shrew’ is how well she and her leads succeed in making the group’s annual free show in the parks a satisfying love story between co-conspiring rebels. ... El Beh’s Petruchio and Kate Jopson’s Kate are beguilingly comic in their tempestuous courtship and enticingly affecting in the end.”                                                                             Robert Hurwitt, SF Chronicle

“In Merritt’s low-tech, high-concept version, Katharine (played by Kate Jopson) and Petruchio (El Beh) seem extremely well matched, aesthetically and temperamentally.... both seem progressive in their own right: He’s skeptical of marriage as an institution; she’s struggling to assert her will in a patriarchal society. Thus, the two keep jockeying for position even after she accepts the marriage. ... Neither Katharine nor Petruchio gets ‘tamed,’ but they do live happily ever after.”                                                Rachel Swan, East Bay Express

 

Happy End

Winner, “10 Best Shows of 2005” Oakland Tribune

“The results really couldn’t be any better…. The 16-member ensemble has all the necessary energy with none of the artsy attitude than can dog this kind of material… and all the participants seem to be having a great time… Weill’s stirring score is ably handled by the cast (and) the ensemble sounds terrific…  (I)t will be interesting to see if (ACT’s) big-budget production can match the vitality of this wonderfully rag-tag version.”
                                                                                        Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune

“… can (American Conservatory Theatre’s upcoming production of Happy End) possibly be as goofily adorable as the current one from Woman’s Will? If it’s hard to go wrong with Chicago gangsters doing a little soft-shoe to live accompaniment, it’s even harder to go wrong when those gangsters are played by well-cast women in big suits, the stage combat is downright silly, and the audience is seeded with fake prostitutes during the second act.… The well-chosen cast reeks of playful camaraderie. … Director Erin Merritt and choreographer Rami Margron keep the pack moving around at a tight pace, creating contrasting tableaux of criminals and saints. …any seat is a good one if you’re looking for screwball Brecht.”
                                                                                    Lisa Drostova, East Bay Express

“This was the most exciting theater I’ve seen in a long time. It is, bar none, the best production of a Weill show that I've had the privilege of seeing and that includes some big theater company versions. … It was engaging and, oh my god, it even had humor! SEE THIS SHOW WHILE YOU CAN!”                           “Sunny,” The Weill Wice  (Kurt Weill fan site)

“The show is definitely worth your time and money—in fact, I'm thinking of going back a second time.Good voices, good acting, great fun. If you’re a Weill fan, there is nothing like hearing the songs in context. And hey, cute girls in boys clothing doesn’t hurt one bit! (I think I have a crush on Bill Cracker....)”                                    “Spidra,” The Weill Wice  

“I’ve heard Bebe Neuwirth deliver the famous lyric ‘Take that damn pipe out of your mouth, you rat!’ But as the conflicted Lt. Holiday, Lisa Jenai Hernandez does it better.” 
                                                                                           —Chloë Veltman, SF Weekly

 

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Winner, “Top Ten Shows of 2002,” SF Examiner                                                                         

“The rarely performed ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’ doesn’t rank among Shakespeare’s most popular works. But after seeing Woman’s Will’s touching, entertaining production of the play, it’s difficult to understand why…. (Woman’s Will) again proves the adage ‘less is more’ with its clever, compact, no-frills show. Under thoughtful direction by Erin Merritt and (Assistant Director) Victoria Carter, the versatile actors—all but the lead in multiple roles—are the key to this production’s strength… In addition to the extraordinary acting and solid staging, a third element brings even greater depth to this production. It’s the new translation of the play, performed in American Sign Language…. Unlike some theater groups that are sidetracked by complicated trappings or convoluted reinterpretations of the Bard, Woman’s Will has the smarts to stick with—and enhance—the heart of the story.”                                                                                                                            Leslie Katz, SF Examiner

“Woman’s Will… has unfurled the best outdoor show of the season so far in ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’…. Woman’s Will artistic director Erin Merritt guides her company with the sure hand of someone who knows the power of simple storytelling.… What’s extraordinary about ‘Pericles,’ aside from this fine production, is that such a goofy, all-over-the-map plot can end up being so moving…. ‘Pericles’ wades through the worst of humanity to reward a glimmer of hope with a happy ending. This one is well earned on all counts."
                                                                                       Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune

“Director Erin Merritt and her cast have taken an awkward script… and made it absolutely transparent. Everyone’s motivations and machinations make sense, the plot moves smoothly, and the story unfolds in an orderly fashion. The device of having John Gower... delivering his lines in ASL and using the rest of the cast to speak the same lines aloud strengthens the separation between narrator and subject material, giving the story more of a fairy-tale flavor. …There isn’t a false performance in the batch... This production brings a seldom-seen treasure squarely into the light.”                                     Lisa Drostova, East Bay Express

 

Lord of the Flies

“This twist (the all-female casting of this text) is impressive. … Merritt’s show is unpretentious but potent…with simple, honest acting… The three acts of Nigel Williams’ adaptation warm up slowly, like a smoldering log; Merritt paces them well. …and with a cast as solid as this, there’s no reason to wish for boys instead of girls. Woman’s Will doesn’t have to tinker with a single line to make the play feel up-to-date.”
                                                                                 Michael Scott Moore, SF Weekly

“…this play hits painfully close to home for newer reasons, and watching it performed by women, even if they’re acting as young boys, works in unexpected ways. Lord features a magnetic triumvirate of Jenny Debevec’s Jack, Lizzie Calogero’s Piggy, and J. Tiffany Holland (last year’s Othello) as a sweetly dreamy Simon. ... The choice to cast eighth-grader Sarah Smithton as ‘littlun’ Percival was a smart one; she ends up seeming much younger than the others, and there’s one moment where Percival curls up under Simon’s protective arm that is completely believable, but then the whole play is full of little moments you have to watch for, many of them belonging to the near-silent Simon; while a group of hunters may be running howling around the outside of the (audience’s) seats, Simon is communing with an impaled boar’s head or solving the mystery of the Beast…"
                                                                                 Lisa Drostova, East Bay Express

“As usual, Merritt and her troupe throw themselves into this enterprise 100 percent… chances are you won’t see a more energetic or physically robust attack.”
                                                                                     Chad Jones, Oakland Tribune

 

Romeo and Juliet

“In this thoroughly captivating and smartly considered version of the tale, gender quickly becomes incidental. …The direction is crisply paced and uses the incredibly functional set to its utmost. …the acting, which is quite good, from the technical details of diction and clear presentation… to the nuanced and well-considered characterizations.”
                                                              Pat Craig, Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times

“…the lack of trappings, in a sense, brings out just how skilled the actors are, under direction by Woman’s Will founder Erin Merritt. The players are uniformly good, delivering their lines with clarity and emotion. The dialogue is easily understood, even with all of the distractions an outdoor setting presents….  Another fine distinction in this ‘Romeo & Juliet,’ typical of the attention to detail that characterizes Woman’s Will productions, is the thoughtful costume design. Romeo and Juliet and their young friends wear period dress, as do the oldest people in Verona. Meanwhile, the middle generation sports contemporary attire. As (Merritt’s) director’s program notes point out, the delineation suggests that the parents and the establishment hold responsibility for the bitter, divisive environment that ultimately brings about the young lovers’ tragic endings. It’s an effective device that casts ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in an exciting, new, radical light by presenting the audience with the option of considering, even if only for a moment, that these feisty teenagers could face a peaceful, positive future.”                                                        Leslie Katz, San Francisco Examiner

"Despite the relaxed outdoor atmosphere, the actors and director displayed a finely tuned understanding of the text that Shakespeare enthusiasts will appreciate.... Director Erin Merritt brings a ritualistic beauty to the end of the show, using a gong-like sound and unspoken montage to represent the scenes from Juliet's ingestion of the false poison to Paris' entrance to the tomb. In the face of the enduring relevance of Shakespeare's canon, the dearth of truly great women's roles is stifling for the overwhelmingly female acting world. Woman's Will bravely takes Elizabethan tradition and flips it inside out."   
                                                                                           Nara Dahlbacka, SF Weekly

 

The Good Person of Szechuan

“‘The Good Person of Szechuan,’ Bertolt Brecht’s charming, slyly provocative and timeless ‘parable play’... seems timelier than ever in Woman’s Will’s free summer production in Bay Area parks…. It’s not just the nation’s harsh economic realities that make director Erin Merritt’s smart (but scarcely updated) adaptation so immediate. The daily revelations of corporate and government malfeasance contribute to its impact.... (Merritt’s) adaptation is true to Brecht’s genius... her ‘Good Person‘ is well worth whatever contribution you feel moved to drop into an actor’s hat.”                                     Robert Hurwitt, SF Chronicle

“There is a charming informality to performances by Oakland’s all-female traveling troupe, Woman’s Will, which makes attending their shows a lot of fun…. The show was adapted and directed by Erin Merritt, but it retains the Brechtian stylistic touches... wit and the biting and hilarious scenes... The real strength of the show, however, is in the performers, most of whom play several roles and, with director Merritt, take a gleefully theatrical approach to the production.”
                                                             Pat Craig, Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times

 

The Rover

“…not only is 'The Rover' funny and relevant, it has sword-fighting and rampant bawdiness to recommend it. … If you like free Shakespeare in the park, this is exactly the same sort of thing, except that Behn is much easier to follow and all the parts are played by women…. And it’s some cast, made up almost entirely of actors new to Woman’s Will. Director Erin Merritt tapped the magnetic Rami Margron (the only WW regular) as loose cannon Willmore; it was an inspired choice, as Margron can buckle her swashes with the best of them. The chemistry between Margron and Bernadette Quattrone as Angelica is spot-on."                                                                                                      Lisa Drostova, East Bay Express

“With a plucky cast and spirited direction by Erin Merritt, it’s a fun, accessible play by a once forgotten Restoration master only recently restored herself.”
                                                                                   Robert Avila, SF Bay Guardian

 

hamlet (the melancholy dame)

“Strong on directorial concept, this stripped, two-hour ‘Hamlet’ goes by at warp speed with much of the play effectively rearranged by director Erin Merritt... the reconstruction works, as does the opening song — ‘Que Sera Sera’ (‘The future’s not ours to see!’)—which recurs, chillingly, as Ophelia’s mad song and the gravedigger’s ditty."
                                                                                  Jean Schiffman, bayareanow.com

“...a stunning theatrical coup.”                                          Ken Bullock, Commuter Times

 

 

Antigone: as Played by Three Fates on the Way to Becoming Three Graces

“Dense, clever, funny, frustrating, evocative, and as elusive as it is allusive… it’s an intriguing mind game graced with engaging performances.” Robert Hurwitt, SF Chronicle

 

Comedy of Errors

“Led by director Erin Merritt, these spunky gals crashed the Shakespeare scene in 1998, but they're no novelty act. In fact, this latest offering is one of the group's best shows to date. … It's a simple plot for Shakespeare—and Merritt takes full advantage of it by arranging a boisterous production of mistaken identities.... Woman's Will consistently turns in such quality, and this production is not to be missed.”                   Karen McKevitt, SF Weekly

“With their usual sense of style, humor and whimsy, the ladies buzz through this story... the acting in uniformly good... This version of ‘The Comedy of Errors’ amounts to nearly nonstop fun.”                                                                                        Leslie Katz, SF Examiner

“‘Errors’... shows how much better Shakespeare works when good actors give his words due weight.”                                                                            Robert Hurwitt, SF Chronicle

“Woman’s Will proves itself the most imaginative—and one of the best—Shakespeare companies.”                                                                         Theatre Bay Area Magazine