Written and directed by Woody Allen
113 minutes ( R)
Starring: Antonio Banderas (Greg) Josh Brolin (Roy), Anthony Hopkins (Alfie) Gemma Jones (Helena) & Naomi Watts (Sally)

Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself:
I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.
Groucho Marx
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER is about a lot of frustrated, insecure people chasing the dreams they believe will make them happy. The film is set in London and is wonderfully presented with a tongue–in–cheek narrator and scenes that highlight the ridiculous, the extreme, the illogical impulses that make us do the things we do. It is about aging and the unavoidable sense that we missed out on something but know not what; it is about a marriage that isn’t what it was meant to be and the fear too many of us have of being alone, being poor, being without. The story, if you can call this series of cameos a story, reflects Allen’s belief that most people are dysfunctional and grasp at fantasy to come to terms with their reality. He doesn’t believe that the so-called golden years are gold at all. “You don't gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens,” says Woody Allen. “People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you'd trade all of that for being 35 again. I've experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver. That's what happens to Anthony Hopkins (Alfie) at the beginning of YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER and from then on in, he did not want to hear from his more realistic wife (Gemma Jones) , "Oh, you can't keep doing that - you're not young anymore." Yes, she's right, but nobody wants to hear that.”
The multi-faceted and very slender plot line follows two married couples, Alfie and Helena, both on in years and their lovely ambitious, talented daughter Sally who is supporting her romantic dreamer of a husband, Roy instead of opening her own art gallery or getting some satisfaction from her relationship with him. Roy wrote one successful novel but cannot seem to duplicate his success and is so petrified of defeat that he does indeed fail. Alfie is determined to recapture his lost youth and does so by sprucing up his image and marrying a former prostitute who is as shallow as a puddle on a dry day. Roy attempts to find love with a woman he sees playing the guitar in the flat across the way (Freida Pinto) and Helena tries to find meaning without the husband she dedicated her life to nurturing by going to a fortune teller, Sally recommends. Helena consoles herself in daily doses of alcohol and becomes convinced that she had lived before and will have a new life after this one is over. She even goes to a medium with her new “boyfriend” to ask his dead wife’s permission to continue their relationship. Every character in the story is desperate to find some meaning in the existence that traps them. They grasp fruitless dead ends, creating false hopes that lead them nowhere.
Allen exaggerates each encounter so that every character appears ridiculous, empty and immature. He encapsulates the message of this film when he says, “I am operating within a nightmarish context that life itself is a cruel, meaningless, terrible kind of thing. God forbid the people who have bad luck, or even neutral luck, because even the luckiest, the most beautiful and brilliant, what have they got? A minuscule, meaningless life span in the grand scheme of things.”
Robin Weigel, a writer and a student of humanity, observed that the common theme that defines the characters in the film is that other people are leading the lives they themselves deserve. “They all thought ‘The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other
Side’ “, he says. “In some cases, literally, as with the mother, who knew she's going to live again (that other side!), and Josh Brolin's character, (Roy) who saw into the other woman's window on that other side and thought IT was better.”
The film ends with all the characters in worse shape than they were in the beginning despite heroic efforts to better their situations. No matter what absurd and illogical steps each took to remedy the lacks in their lives, they are still left dealing with defeat on every level.
YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER is a fascinating and very funny film, but it leaves the viewer with a sour taste. There is no resolution and perhaps that is the way Allen believes life is. We go on and on and never do find the answer to anything until we die and then it’s too late. The sense of futility reflected in the film is typical of the way Allen has lived his own life, wanting what he doesn’t have and acting inappropriately to get pleasure that once attained is hollow, after all. We are not guided by moral principle but ruled by our passions. “The heart wants what it wants,” says Allen. There’s no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that’s that.”

Have we so little control over the events we let into our lives? Perhaps. And then again, perhaps not.
We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of
getting something we don’t have, but rather
of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
Frederick Keonig


Marin Theatre Company Presents
Bill Cain
Directed by Kent Nicholson

War makes thieves and peace hangs them.
George Herbert

Bill Cain is a practicing Jesuit priest and an immensely gifted playwright. His writing reflects his concerns with heaven and hell and how traditional beliefs can warp the individual’s concept of the way to live his life.

Cain’s organization of the play is inspired by Dante’s INFERNO, an allegory that paints Hell as nine circles of suffering that represent the soul’s recognition and rejection of sin on his journey toward God. That is why the drama we see on the Marin Theatre stage is far more than a simple story of a soldier‘s execution for the deeds he committed in the name of war; it is a brilliant exploration of how mankind twists morality to justify his actions. “Life is not a battle, but a journey,” says Cain. “The ultimate goal is not the obliteration of the enemy. In Dante, when you achieve your crown, it is because you have become ‘lord of yourself.’ ”

NINE CIRCLES is fiction but its plot was inspired by the trial and conviction of Steven B. Green, who was accused of instigating the brutal massacre of an entire Iraqi family in 2006. “Stories are my way of understanding the world,” says Cain. “We can understand an event if we can fit it into a story.”

Green was described as “a petulant loner and a hard-drinking druggie” and after he was inducted he told one of his neighbors,” I’m gonna go over there and kill ‘em all.” And that was exactly what basic training taught him to do. A sergeant who was in Green’s platoon asked, “What does an infantry rifle platoon do? It destroys. That’s what it is trained to do. Now,… let slip the leash, and it becomes something monstrous.”

There were three other members of Green’s platoon who were part of the episode but they were exonerated because they testified against Green. They refused to take responsibility for joining in the horrific rape, murder and burning of an innocent family and allowed Green to take full blame for an incident that they too made happen.

Green’s personality is very much like Cain’s character, Daniel Reeves, played with unremitting honesty by Craig Marker. Reeves served in Iraq as a member of the United States Armed Services and was honorably discharged, against his will. He loved the army, the importance and sense of purpose it gave him as one of its soldiers. Upon his return to the states, he was arrested for acts he committed during his tour of duty. His record before he was inducted was less than laudable. He had served time in prison and had broken both civil and moral laws repeatedly before he was inducted. Yet, once he became a soldier, he was a loyal team member eager to do what it took to defend his country. He liked being part of something bigger than himself. The army gave him power and tried to teach him the responsibility that power entails. Reeves was comfortable in his military role and could not understand why he was arrested for acts he committed against the enemy. After all, he had been programmed to kill Iraqis. Wasn’t that why he was sent to battle? He was only doing what he had been told to do. “This was my one shot at being normal,” he tells the public defender after his arrest.

James Carpenter and Jennifer Erdmann play the other characters in the drama and their ability to become attorneys, chaplains, psychiatrists and social workers is nothing short of amazing. Thanks to director Kent Nicholson, the pace is as rapid as gunfire, the movement on stage almost military in its precision. The effect is as chilling as it is spell binding. NINE CIRCLES is a gut wrenching window into the kind of people we trust to defend us and how we brainwash them to make them succeed in combat.

The drama is performed without intermission on an almost bare stage. The audience cannot help but become part of the action and everyone in the intimate Lieberman Theatre captivated by the events happening before them. Michael Palumbo did a masterful job of creating mood and scene modulations with his use of light and dark emphasizing the choreographed movements of the actors. “NINE CIRCLES is very close to my heart,” says Cain. “It’s the journey of a young man who comes to understand who he is and what he has done, and that he can be empathetic with what he once thought was his enemy. It’s the story of a young man who achieves greatness by doing the one necessary thing – becoming himself.”

This production is theater at its best. It tells a story everyone needs to hear if he is to gather the courage to be the unique human being he is meant to be. “The MTC artistic staff was astounded by the power and grace of NINE CIRCLES,” says MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis.

Don’t miss this extraordiinary production. You too will be astounded, thrilled and inspired.

Never think that war, no matter how necessary
Nor how justified, is not a crime.
Ernest Hemingway

NINE CIRCLES continues through November 7, 2010
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday 8:00 PM
Wednesday 7:30 PM
Sunday 7:00 PM
Matinees some Saturdays & every Sunday 2:00 PM
WHERE: Marin Theatre Company
397 Miller Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
TICKETS: www.marintheatre.org
415 388 5208