Los Altos Stage Company’s executive artistic director Gary Landis came up with a winning formula for their production of Harold and Maude, which opened April 14 and runs through May 7.
Landis relates that he decided to include Harold and Maude in the 2022-23 season because it was the 50th anniversary of the beloved movie of the same name. LASC produced the same show (with the same actor playing Maude) eight years ago.
It’s easy to see why. That actor, Lillian Bogovich. personifies the “almost 80-year-old Maude” in look, sound and manner. Her own long, gray-streaked hair looks exactly how an aging hippie would style her hair, and her low, gravelly voice is precisely right for the role. That she is able to appear guileless and even childlike makes her characterization complete.
As Harold, the boyish Max Mahle is every bit Bogovich’s acting equal – though his innocent-looking face conceals a troubled youth who acts out in the most perverse, devilish ways possible. Those diabolical pranks are sometimes the works of Landis’ clever scenic projections, while other times are simply a matter of good-old-fashioned magic tricks.
As the play begins, Harold’s haughty upper-class mother, Mrs. Chasen (a marvelous characterization by Katelyn Miller), is showing her new maid (Erika Racz) around the house, explaining to her what her household duties will be. They enter the Chasen living room and the maid looks out the large backyard window to discover a body hanging from a branch of a tree.
It’s Harold, yet Mrs. Chasen pays her son no mind. She revives the poor maid and tells her that her son has “staged his own suicide at least fifteen times.” She arranges for psychiatrist Dr. Matthews (an earnest Steve Althoff) to come to the house to chat with Harold. After a few uncomfortable minutes together, Dr. Matthews tells Mrs. Chasen that Harold will soon grow out of it, and decides to leave.
Next up is the sweet, pious priest (a perfectly cast Jonathan Covey). He first meets Harold at his parish where the young man is attending a funeral. When the priest asks Harold how he knows the deceased, Harold looks at him innocently and says he doesn’t. “I just like to attend funerals,” he says matter-of-factly.
Fifteen times he’s staged his own suicide….
Asked what he likes to do for fun, Harold says in all sincerity: “I go to funerals.” But Mrs. Chasen has other plans for her son: She finds a dating app and arranges for three young women to come to the house to meet Harold. She’s so anxious for Harold to find a young woman he likes and wants to spend time with.
That’s when Michelle Skinner gets her moment in the spotlight. She plays all three young ladies (Sylvie, Nancy and the hippie Sunshine Dore), but Harold makes a resolute effort to scare each one out of their wits. The result: All three get out of the Chasen house in short order.
To his mother’s amazement, Harold suddenly starts dressing nicer and talking about someone he met who has the same interests he does. He even met her at a funeral!
He’s talking about the sweet, kind, totally artless Maude. One of the best scenes in an already fabulous production is when Mrs. Chasen goes to Maude’s house to meet the “young girl” who has so smitten her son. The look on her face when she discovers that the older-than-she Maude is the “girl” Harold loves is simply priceless.
If you want an absolutely terrific evening of theatre, call LASC or go online to get tickets before this show is completely sold out.
Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: email@example.com
|Harold and Maude
|Los Altos Stage Company
|Thru May 7th
|Bus Barn 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos
|$32 - $40
|Max in each category is 5/5
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?