Will Marchetti and Anne Darragh cut loose for a new adventure in The Horses by Brian Thorstenson, playing through November 15th at AlterTheater, 1609 Fourth Street (at F Street), San Rafael. Photo by

THE HORSES, a world premiere commission by Brian Thorstenson. Directed by Tracy Ward. Storefront location: 1609 Fourth Street (at F Street), San Rafael. Tickets available online at, by email at, or by phone at 415-454-2787. October 22nd-November 15th


For the past five years, AlterTheater temporarily transforms storefronts along downtown San Rafael's Fourth Street into performance spaces. In their latest venue, sandwiched between Rebound Bookstore and FloorCoverings of Marin County they are producing The Horses, their first commissioned play written specifically for talented local favorite Will Marchetti and stage/TV/film actress Francis Lee McCain. It has been a collaborative effort with author Brian Thorstenson working with dramaturg Jayne Wenger and director Tracy Ward.

There are many plays, TV shows and movies reflecting on the changes we endure, and sometimes enjoy as we mature, the euphemism for getting older. The Horses is another play to add to the list and this time the AlterTheater group gets it right with a thoughtful, hilarious, bittersweet comedy with a mythical touch that is definitely must-see theatre. The storyline is recognizable but the writing and acting elevate the play beyond the ordinary. The impeccable performances by Marchetti (Marv) and McCain (Lois)are enhanced by Anne Darragh (Patsy) as the girl in Marv’s fantasy and Michael Ray Wisely (Michael) as the often put-upon son.

Marv, a retired 75 year old, living in a loving relationship with his wife Lois (Frances Lee McCain) is lounging on the sofa wearing his favorite old sweater, chinos and tee shirt. Lois, arranging a birthday party for his 75th, is preparing to ice his favorite German chocolate cake while encouraging slightly obstinate, yet loveable Marv to dress for the party. Their repartee displays the author’s ability to write brilliant conversational dialog that Marchetti and McCain nail to perfection. Within the conversations is more than a hint that Marv may be getting a bit senile, definitely forgetful but still with desires to take a one last fling trip. However, his forgetfulness does not interfere with his ability to fantasize that trip. In his mind, he visualizes Patsy who appears in the flesh and the sofa becomes his fantasy stick-shift Pontiac. Patsy disappears when Lois re-enters the multiple short scenes. Within the fantasy, rather than hear voices, he and Patsy hear the hoofs of free ranging thundering horses possibly symbolic of Marv’s desire to roam free. Anne Darragh has a tough job playing against scene stealing Marchetti with his mobile face, expressive body language and stage dominance. Sure, it’s a tough job but Darragh, the consummate professional holds her own and she is prettier than Marchetti!

Into the mix enters son Michael with a Bluetooth phone stuck in his ear and a new sweater for Marv. Here again Thorstensen displays his clever ability with realistic dialog when he intermingles Michael’s telephone conversations with the cross talk of Lois and Marv. It is uproarious. Further humor is extracted by superficial banter about Michael’s job of selling tassels. Wisely’s understated acting is the consummate foil for Marchetti and McCain but he never has the opportunity to test his skills against sexy Darragh.

The play takes 80 minutes with a charming twist at the end that will not be revealed here. Get thee hence, treat yourself to an evening of fun and at the same time supporting the AlterTheater.
Kedar K. Adour, MD
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