Tales of Romance at the Lobero, Tuesday, February 13
We never get tired of having stories read to us, particularly in the evening, reminding us of bedtime narratives. After all, Scheherazade is said to have bargained for her life with a tale well told. For Valentine’s Day, the popular Santa Barbara institution Speaking of Stories artfully engaged love for their evening theme Tales of Romance. The Lobero was packed with couples, on the eve of Valentine’s, and there was an aura of romance in the air. As each actor, reader, writer took to the podium, and the hush fell over the room, we were enthralled, enchanted, delighted. It was a selection not necessarily of sappy tales, or hushed erotic journeys, but romance that was poignant, thought-provoking, evocative, real. Moments throughout called for a handkerchief, a hand to hold, and sometimes, a collective giggle or guffaw.
T.C. Boyle ended the evening, his periodic presence on the Speaking of Stories stage never fails to enliven. Predictably eclectic, he is an unsurprising master at reading his own work aloud, providing the proper inflections and scattered irony for Hope Rises. In Hope, we were treated to the tale of an unlikely frog enthusiast, and where one will take the train for love. Faline England, glorious on stage, and familiar to many Santa Barbara theater-goers in a number of roles, brought Isabelle Allende’s Two Words to life. Allende is one of my favorite writers, for her imagery, her nod to the fantastic, her firm grasp of the foibles of humanity. Two Words did not disappoint. John Fink gave a poignant reading of Richard Bausch’s Letter to the Lady of the House. The letter than began with one sentiment, rambled in another direction, leaving the audience to reflect on a lifetime of love and all its permutations. This was where I wanted a handkerchief. Dan Gunther, another expert reader, provided a compelling read of prolific author Russell Banks’ tender and moving The Moor.
Speaking of Stories selects a different theme each month, appropriate to the season, allowing us to daydream. I have to admit, Stories is one of my favorite performing arts events in town. At face value, it wouldn’t seem so interesting, being read a story. But there’s something about it that is enticing, magical, even. March’s line-up features baseball, with stories by John Updike and Chet Williamson, among others, read by another group of skilled actors including Irwin Appel and Tom Hinshaw. April’s selections are culled from The New Yorker. Enough said. And in May, well, appropriate for the embedded holiday, Stories will be Speaking of Dad. If your curiosity is piqued, visit www.speakingofstories.org; tickets are available at the Lobero.