Fitzgerald’s Game

Ross Valley Players get in the head of ‘Great Gatsby’ author

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Find someone that looks at you the way Frankie Stornaiuolo looks at Emily Dwyer in ‘Scott & Zelda.’ Credit: John Navas

The venerable Ross Valley Players have a long history of presenting original works to their audiences. In 1984, they initiated the Ross Alternative Works (RAW) program, dedicated to staged readings and full productions of works by Bay Area playwrights. This season brings Scott & Zelda: The Beautiful Fools, running now through April 28.

Written by Sausalito resident Lance S. Bellville and directed by Lynn Lohr, it’s a look at the tumultuous relationship of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. It’s not a strict bio piece per se, but a “stream of consciousness” play that takes place in the mind of Fitzgerald.

Set in the late 1930’s, we first meet Scott (Frankie Stornaiuolo) in the apartment of his mistress, Hollywood gossip columnist Sheila Graham (Marissa Ellison).

The play zips back and forth between the times and places—when he first meets Zelda (Emily Dwyer), their time together in Paris, his friendship with Ernest Hemingway (Izaak Heath), their Long Island residency with next-door neighbor Groucho Marx (Peter Warden), his parenthood of daughter “Scottie” (Charlotte Curtin), and Zelda’s decline due to mental illness. It’s all sort of “book-ended” with comments and exposition from Fitzgerald’s literary agent Harold Ober (Warden again) and editor Max Perkins (Ron Talbot).

There’s little depth to the characters and the hopscotching around their lives amounts to a Classics Illustrated approach to their story. Performance-wise, Dwyer does well as Zelda, a fascinating individual who deserves to have her story told (better). Stornaiuolo, who overcame script deficiencies with his character in the last RVP production, has no such luck here and is given little to do other than resemble Fitzgerald. Among the supporting players, Warden’s agent and Heath’s Hemingway come off best.

To paraphrase Fitzgerald’s contemporary Gertrude Stein, when it comes to Scott & Zelda, there’s no there there.

‘Scott & Zelda: The Beautiful Fools’ runs Friday – Sunday through April 28 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Times vary. $20. 415.883.4498. rossvalleyplayers.com.
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