"Becoming Julia Morgan": Theater Review

This life story of California's first licensed woman architect was written by Belinda Taylor, described in the program as "playwright, journalist, and arts marketing consultant." And the play itself, spread thin with related but divergent aspects, reflects that description: It is stagy, journalistically scrupulous, and essentially a public-relations effort on behalf of its protagonist — mounted here in a building she designed. Well, fine; Morgan's talent and determination were self-evidently great. After the uphill battle of her education at UC Berkeley and Paris' Ecole des Beaux-Arts came the steeper hill of a career more or less launched by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and sustained by association with the megalomaniacal William Randolph Hearst. Although that story is less dramatized than described, Janis Stevens plays the part of Morgan with aplomb and generosity (and, in director Barbara Oliver's production, with Paul Baird, Sally Clawson, and Dave Garrett in multiple supporting roles), making the character hers and ours. Lines like "I am not one of those talking architects" and "I don't need anyone to mediate my work" will attest to Morgan's biography-blocking reticence on matters of her private life. But Taylor and company's undauntedness seems like a fitting tribute.

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