Peer Gynt

ACT successfully takes on Ibsen's hard-to-stage epic


Through March 16

Admission is $7.50-15


Zeum, Yerba Buena Gardens, 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), S.F.

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Ibsen's epic about a self-aggrandizing scoundrel who grows old without growing wise is nearly impossible to stage, but usually worth seeing anyhow. (Ibsen wrote it for readers, not for playgoers; a full production would last almost six hours.) ACT dramaturge Paul Walsh has adapted the original verse into a three-hour prose play, a translation that sometimes curls into rhyme and sometimes sounds playfully colloquial, but has the virtue of going mostly unnoticed. In this ACT Conservatory production there are two Peers: Sky Soleil as the young rebel who kidnaps Mads Moen's bride from the wedding, and Ryan Farley as the sophisticated world traveler who once dealt in American slaves. Both actors have excellent solo scenes. Soleil does well in an encounter with an unseen character, near the beginning; Farley has an effective onion-peeling speech near the end. Farley stands out as a clear stage presence -- he's nuanced, natural, and charismatic. Saba Homayoon also does vivid work as a troll tramp and as Anitra, the Arabian princess. Parts of the show feel like the student production it is -- they lack urgency -- but it's a rare M.F.A. class that can even think about Peer Gynt. This version never stalls completely, and Jennifer Charles' singing as Solveig is actively beautiful.

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