Actor Jerry Lee started his eccentric little SacImpulse production company as a creative way to fill in the blanks.
Even though Lee was regularly working professionally at several area theaters, he had some time to fill between commitments, so he put up an unusual, highly theatrical one-man version of “A Tale of Two Cities” at the little Geery Theatre in midtown.
Since that production in December 2012, Lee’s SacImpulse imprint has produced two other equally eccentric small-cast shows, “The Plexiglas Menagerie,” a subversive parody of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” and the gothic thriller “The Turn of the Screw.”
This week Lee and SacImpulse open their latest production, Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel “Orlando.”
The novel, a surreal, time-traveling faux “historical biography” covers more than 400 years in Orlando’s life as the character changes from a man into a woman. Woolf considered the novel a lark and diversion from her serious writing, though it has become a major work in both women’s literature studies and gender studies.
The production stars Melinda Parrett (B Street’s “Elemeno Pea,” “Robyn Is Happy,” “The 39 Steps” and “Wrong for Each Other”; New Helvetia’s “Next to Normal” and “[title of show]”) with Gail Dartez directing. Choreography is by the Sacramento Ballet’s Alex Stewart.
Dartez said Ruhl’s adaptation uses Woolf’s language to give the stage version a poetic theatricality. The playwright has written such plays as “The Clean House,” produced at B Street; “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play),” produced at Capital Stage; and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
“There’s a great deal of wit and playfulness inherent in Virginia’s book. And beautiful, beautiful language,” Dartez said.
“So Sarah is a poet with this wonderful sensibility that is also witty and playful. She’s got an inherent sense of humor. To me the matching of the two is just about perfect.”
Dartez feels the casting of Parrett as the sensual, elusive Orlando is ideal.
“She’s an incredibly intelligent actor, and she’s an intuitive actor. That role fits her like a glove,” Dartez said.
“Melinda has a wonderful sense of timing and real depth as actor. This has a very serious tone, but then the play turns on dime, and there’s a funny line or moment, and she can do it. She’s facile with that. I personally never tire of watching her onstage in this,” Dartez said.
Lee hopes to continue literary-based work with SacImpulse when he can.
“I’m drawn to really imaginative theatrical pieces like ‘Turn of the Screw,’ which had one actor playing the governess and one actor playing everybody else, creating the world of that play,” Lee said. “We’re an acting-based company, and the work that we do is based on classic literature.”
However, other work has been remarkably steady for the actor and singer, with Lee moving from “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Sacramento Theatre Company to the chamber musical “Closer Than Ever,” also at STC, and then “Les Misérables” with Contra Costa Musical Theatre. After working in “Orlando” (he’ll play Queen Elizabeth, among other characters), he’ll be Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” with Woodminster Summer Musicals, before going to Center REP for “Life Could Be a Dream.”
The creative partnership with Dartez, who also directed “Turn of the Screw,” has Lee thinking SacImpulse could find a niche in an active Sacramento theater scene.
“I found something that I could latch on to and was proud of,” Lee said.
“I thought, ‘OK, this is what I want to do and this is what I want to share in this area.’ ”
Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.