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RAW Presents Reservations by Joe Barison

By Flora Lynn Isaacson No Comments

Each season, Ross Alternative Works (RAW) presents an original play by a local playwright.  This year’s show, Reservations by Joe Barison is superb! Director Michael Cohen says Barison’s play “hilariously captures the absurdity of artistic aspirations including the highs, lows, the insecurity and lack of acceptance…I am honored Joe has trusted me with his art…I hope we can make you laugh and give you something to think about!”

The play delves into the lives of creative individuals unable to make a living through their artistic pursuits.  The story is set in the present, at a hotel in Manhattan. Melissa (Kara S. Poon), the hotel bellhop who is also a documentary filmmaker, shows Alan (an aspiring writer played by Evan Held) to his room.  He discovers the hotel is sold-out and since no other hotels have space, the second bed in his room has been mistakenly reserved for someone he has never met–a painter named Gail (TinaTraboulsi). Alan and Gail agree to share the space and as the story progresses, the artists are forced to come to terms with their shared hopes, dreams, pain and despair. Humor carries them and the show through.

Actor Evan Held (last seen in RVP’s fall production of Picnic), Poon and Traboulsi are all a delight to watch. Held’s portrayal is truthful and emotional, while Poon and Traboulsi beautifully capture the essence and nuance of their characters. Michael-Paul Thomsett, Helen Kim, Maxine Sattizahn and David Noll round out this fine cast of actors. Bravo to Michael Cohen for his outstanding direction and kudos to the production team including Lyra Smith (Stage Manager), Michele Samuels (Lighting Design), Michael Berg (Costumes) and Isaiah Tweed (Set Builder).

Reservations runs through February 12 at the Barn Theater, Marin Art & Garden Center, Ross.

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players is Pride and Prejudice, the Musical adapted from Jane Austen’s novel by Josie Brown featuring music and lyrics by Rita Abrams and directed by Phoebe Moyer, March 17-April 16.

Daddy Long Legs at Cinnabar Petaluma

By Flora Lynn Isaacson No Comments

Cinnabar Theater’s recent two-person show, Daddy Long Legs, featured married actors Brittany Law Hasbany (Jerusha Abbott) and Zachary Hasbany (Jervis Pendleton aka Daddy Long Legs) in starring roles. They carried the show with a great sense of timing and energetic performance. They broke into song as the story, set in 1908, progresses into a letter exchange and finally romance. The music and lyrics by Paul Gordon are charming.

The imaginative set (Designer Wayne Hovey) was divided into two sides—one the orphanage where a young woman, Jerusha lives and later the college she attends; the other side is the office of Jervis Pendleton, Jerusha’s “secret” benefactor.

The live orchestra featuring Brett Strader, Issac Carter and Gwyneth Davis accompanied the players wonderfully and made the show worthwile.

Coming up next at Cinnabar is Tiger Style opening April 27, 2023.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comic jogs with a dog, finds meaning in life in ‘He Wants to Run’  

By Woody Weingarten No Comments

 

David Kleinberg, a Renaissance man who has appeared as a standup comic on the same bill as Robin Williams, Dana Carvey and Richard Lewis, is only mildly obsessed with killing.

He’s fond of saying that when you succeed at comedy, you “kill the audience,” and when you don’t, you “die on stage.” He adds: “‘Kill or be killed,’ as my old drill sergeant used to say.”

Kleinberg was fully aware of those well-worn aphorisms as he painstakingly prepared a new one-man show. But just when he was ready to perform it in Marin, the pandemic peaked and — what else? — killed in-person performances.

“It was the worst possible timing,” laments the San Francisco native.

Now, though, “He Wants to Run,” his updated, improved monologue about a guy who doesn’t particularly like jogging or dogs — yet befriends a neighbor’s boxer and runs with him for almost 13 years —will open at The Marsh San Francisco on Feb. 4.

The truth-based show — written and performed by Kleinberg, directed by Mark Kenward and developed with David Ford — also focuses on the pleasures and pitfalls of owning a vacation home in an impoverished area on the Russian River in Cloverdale, as well as what the pooch, Butler, taught him about dying and living.

Kleinberg insists he’s always preferred basketball to jogging. The 79-year-old quit shooting hoops only two months ago after getting a pinched nerve that was painful: “ I took it as a signal to stop — I wanted to walk off the court rather than be carried off,” he says.

But he started running at his summer place for add-on exercise.

Despite his intense desire to run alone, he remembers that whenever he’d start, Butler would follow and go after him: “Essentially, he wore me down. He’d wait for me to come out, then fly across the road, jump in the air, put my running pants in his teeth, and pull me toward the road so we could run.”

David Kleinberg’s latest show covers what happened to him after he took up running. (Courtesy David Kleinberg)

As he aged, Butler got fatter and slower.

And despite their longtime connection, Kleinberg adds, “The ironic thing is there isn’t one single picture of us running together. Our relationship was never about Instagram.”

Kleinberg transitioned from comedy to one-man shows long enough ago to have created three others: “The Voice,” about his sex addiction and subsequent two decades of recovery, as well as his homophobia; “Hey, Hey, LBJ!,” about his four years as an information specialist in Vietnam (“My job was to go out with soldiers and to shoot pictures when people were shooting us”); and “Return to the Scene of the Crime,” about his traumatic trip back to Vietnam, where some of his buddies had been killed or wounded half a century before.

On his website (davidkleinberg.weebly.com) under the heading “upcoming gigs,” it says he’s recently “been hibernating in the solo theater world. We’ll warn you when he thinks about returning to standup.”

Kleinberg’s interest in comedy stemmed from going to the hungry i in North Beach while he was in his early 20s, seeing Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Mort Sahl and Bill Cosby. (Tangentially, his prime memories of Robin Williams aren’t about his appearance with him, but the two times he interviewed him for the San Francisco Chronicle where he spent 34 years, including a long stint as Datebook editor, after starting as a copy boy at 17).

“I interviewed him just before ‘Good Morning Vietnam.’ It was really hot, and I agreed with him that it was ‘a beautiful global-warming day.’ The other time, we were again talking about climate, and he said about it, ‘People are like addicts. They won’t do anything until they hit bottom.’”

After Kleinberg left the Chronicle, he and his wife Pat ran Elderhostel education-travel programs in Tiburon for two decades. “We were a great team,” he recalls. “I work fast and sloppy, she works slow and meticulous. We’d have three courses at a time, as diverse as ‘Operas of Puccini,’ ‘Middle East Conflicts’ and ‘French Impressionist Art.’”

What lies ahead? Possibly another one-man show: a dark social satire (that he started as a science-fiction novel some 35 years ago) about a 495-pound gorilla trained to play fullback for a professional football team.

“He Wants to Run” runs Feb. 4-12 at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St., from Feb. 4-12. Tickets are $20- $100. Call 415-282-3055 or visit themarsh.org.

 

This story was first published on LocalNewsMatters.org, a nonprofit site supported by Bay City News Foundation http://www.baycitynews.org/contact/

Woody Weingarten can be contacted by email at voodee@sbcglobal.net or on his websites, https://woodyweingarten.com and https://vitality press.com.

 

 

“Birthday Club” at Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester Hills MI

By Greg & Suzanne Angeo

 

Reviewed by Suzanne Angeo (member, American Theatre Critics Association; Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle), and Greg Angeo (Member Emeritus, San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle)

Photos courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

Clockwise from left: Tamara PiLar (with glass), Lynnae Lehfeldt, Debbie Williams, Dani Cochrane, Sarah Kmiec

“Birthday Club” is Good, Raunchy Fun

Continuing its 56th season, Meadow Brook Theatre, located on the campus of Oakland University, offers a delightful Michigan premiere, “Birthday Club” by Minnesota playwright, author and sports star Phil Olson. Several years ago, MBT staged another of Olson’s works, “Mom’s Gift”, starring Cindy Williams (star of TV’s “LaVerne and Shirley”) and one of the current “Birthday Club” cast, Dani Cochrane. Olson specializes in lightweight, slightly risqué but very entertaining comic shows, set mostly in the upper Midwest. They have yet to see the lights of Broadway, off-Broadway, or even off-off Broadway, but they are very popular with community theatre groups all over the US.

The story takes place entirely in the home of small business owner Cheryl, one of five members of a club she and her friends created some years earlier to celebrate their birthdays and to support a dying friend – no men allowed. During each birthday celebration, the ladies really let their hair down and spend their time together dishing dirt, poking fun, complaining about menopause, their kids and the men in their lives, all the while drinking much, much too much. Besides Cheryl, there’s the hugely pregnant Kathy who knows she shouldn’t be drinking but does, anyway, for her own reasons. And Abbie, a homemaker married to a wealthy man, has too much time on her hands. Plus the slightly trashy and flirtatious Emily, looking for the ultimate “brown chicken brown cow” experience, a source of a big part of the laughs onstage and in the audience. If you need to, look it up. You’ll be surprised at the absolutely transcendent cultural significance of this phrase!

The audience surrogate, if there is one, has to be club newbie Sarah, who’s a cultural symbol all by herself as a member of the super-strict “Heemish” religion. According to Sarah, they’re just like the Amish, except the Heemish use coasters. Sarah doesn’t drink, cuss, gossip or even think about sex – even though she’s engaged. The perfect setup for many moments of low-brow humor, lame jokes, and amazing plot twists. Through her, we learn about the other ladies, and of the touching origins of the Birthday Club – the friend who died and whose spirit presides over their gatherings like a cooling breeze.

The cast, all MBT veterans, is nothing short of spectacular, with great timing and really strong characterizations, all vividly drawn in attitude and movement under the guidance of director Travis Walter. This worthy ensemble takes what could be mediocre material and transforms it into something special. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of “The Women”, Clare Booth Luce’s Broadway smash and hit film from over 80 years ago, with an all-female cast who loved to dish and gossip.

Lynnae Lehfeldt as Cheryl leads the way, skillfully balancing snark and sympathy. Sophisticated Abbie, the envy of her friends because she “doesn’t have to work”, is played with lively, likeable charm by Tamara PiLar. Dani Cochrane tackles the role of the expectant Kathy with just the right amount of tough, crusty bitterness, a nice contrast to Sara Kmiec’s babe-in-the-woods innocent Sarah. She’s goofy, naïve but non-judgmental, always chirping and optimistic. Which, naturally, really irritates everybody. Debbie Williams plays mankiller Emily with sexy gusto, strutting her stuff at every opportunity, and soon has all of her friends up in arms.

A really nice touch: At the beginning of each scene, the cast makes a flamboyant entrance (courtesy of choreographer Debbie Williams), one-by-one, dancing to various birthday-themed songs, each in character.

The audience at a recent matinee performance included what looked like many groups of women, seated  together and all having a great time. If you’re looking for laughs and raunchy fun, join the “Birthday Club” and bring some friends.

 

Now through February 5, 2023

Tickets $37 to $46

Meadow Brook Theatre at Wilson Hall

Oakland University

378 Meadow Brook Rd

Rochester Hills, MI 48309

(248) 377-3300

www.mbtheatre.com

A special note: As Covid-19 is a constantly changing situation, MBT will be monitoring and adhering to the guidance given by the CDC, the State of Michigan, the Actor’s Equity Association, and Oakland University. Check the Meadow Brook Theatre website at www.mbtheatre.com for the latest information on efforts to keep everyone safe.

This theater operates under an agreement between the League of Resident Theatres and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers of the United States. The theater operates under the agreement with the International Alliance of Theatre Stage employees, Local 38.

Meadow Brook Theatre’s season is supported in part by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kresge Foundation, the Fred and Barbara Erb Family Foundation, the Shubert Foundation and the Meadow Brook Theatre Guild.

Legacy film fest on aging offering a variety virtually

By Woody Weingarten

The documentary short “Eddy’s World,” about 98-year-old toy inventor Eddy Goldfarb, screens in the Legacy Film Festival on Aging. (Courtesy Sheila Malkind)

In May 2021, Sheila Malkind, the executive director of the San Francisco-based Legacy Film Festival on Aging, was recovering from a stroke.

“Of course, I’d like to have my body functioning better, but I’m glad I’m alive and still vital mentally and physically,” says the still sanguine Malkind.

The event she founded in 2011 has expanded significantly. Last year’s virtual festival screened 30 films; this time 40, mostly documentaries, will be split into 18 feature programs available online from Jan. 6 through Jan. 22.

A team — Malkind, a curator and a handful of reviewers — pores over possible selections. “If we all say ‘maybe,’ we probably won’t pick the film,” says the 84-year-old festival founder, “but many times we all say ‘yes.’”

This year, several flicks that focus on music won a consensus. Among Malkind’s favorites from the event’s 11th annual edition, she names two: “For the Left Hand” and “The Ten of Us.”

Norman Malone, who mastered the piano and went on a concert tour at age 78, is the subject of “For the Left Hand.” (Courtesy Kartemquin Films)

She loves the first, she explains, “because a man who’d been disabled at an early age, Norman Malone, still mastered some of the most difficult and beautiful music with just one hand.”

The second, which she calls “a fun film,” is about a group of friends who started as teens doing folk music who now have embarked on what the festival website calls “a tour of love, unity, and addressing aging and death with humor and inspiration.”

That pair, as well as many choices in the fest that for the second consecutive year will be 100% virtual, accentuate the positive.

“We want to avoid doom and gloom,” Malkind says. “I believe that no matter what our age, we’re still interested in being alive, in doing whatever we can do. Life can still be exciting in many ways, and we have to take advantage of that possibility, of making old age palatable.”

Former teen folk musicians address “aging and death with humor and inspiration” in “The Ten of Us.” (Courtesy Sheila Malkind)

Other films she touts are:

• “Eddy’s World,” a documentary short by Lyn Goldfarb that centers on the filmmaker’s father. Reports Malkind: “It’s about a toy inventor who’s now 101 (he was only 98 when the film was made) and shows a man who’s delightful.”  Eddy, best known for “chattering teeth” (but who created more than 800 other toys), cheerfully states in the film, “I think that when you do create work, it stimulates your brain and that helps keep your body healthy.”

• “Dear Audrey,” is, Malkind says, “a beautiful film on Alzheimer’s that shows kindness and understanding. It’s very moving — at one point [the husband] goes into the facility where [his wife] is and sleeps in the same bed that she’s in, showing his love and tenderness.”

• “My Mother Dreams: The Satan’s Disciples in New York,” a short film about a widowed Midwestern housewife who becomes obsessed with a Hell’s Angels-ish bikers’ club, won a 1999 Academy Award for best live action short.

• “Golden Age Karate,” a very short short, is about a 15-year-old martial arts champion who teaches senior citizens self-defense at a local nursing home, “giving them the tools to feel in control, connected, and cared for.” It’s part of an 84-minute festival program with a self-explanatory title: Vitality.

Sheila Malkind (Courtesy Sheila Malkind)

With a U.S. Census forecast that by 2035, there will be 78 million people age 65 and older in the country, Malkind aims to flip the attitudes and depiction of older people in Hollywood movies, who “are often still portrayed as irrelevant, sometimes absurd, or they are stereotypical wise elders with limited face time, who give sage advice to the younger, more active characters.” She says, “Most American films do not attempt to portray the richness and variety, nor the triumphs and challenges, of older people.”

Malkind, who grew up in Brooklyn, moved to Chicago, and then relocated to San Francisco in 2003, earned two master’s degrees from Chicago schools. Despite wearing a brace since her stroke, she often walks 40 or 50 minutes in the hills with her son beside her.

It’s seemingly impossible for her to have anything but an upbeat attitude.

A quote on the festival’s website from 19th century writer and philosopher Amos Bronson Alcott, who said, “To keep the heart unwrinkled, to be hopeful, kindly, cheerful, reverent. This is to triumph over old age,” contrasts nicely with a playful quote from Malkind: “I always looked forward to getting older — it’s a part of life, so what the heck.”

Screenings in the Legacy Film Festival on Aging cost $12 per program and $65 for a pass. Visit http://legacyfilmfestivalonaging.org/.

This story was first published on LocalNewsMatters.org, a nonprofit site supported by Bay City News Foundation http://www.baycitynews.org/contact/

Woody Weingarten can be contacted by email at voodee@sbcglobal.net or on his websites, https://woodyweingarten.com and https://vitality press.com.

3 Jewish comics can make you laugh out loud — even if you’re not Jewish

By Woody Weingarten

Lisa Geduldig

It’s not too late.

To see this year’s Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, that is — an event that features three standup comics who can make you laugh out loud. Repeatedly.

My wife and I did.

It might help if you’re Jewish, living with a Jew, have best friends who are Jewish, or have spent hours and hours of stimulating and amusing conversations with seatmates on El Al plane trips to or from Israel.

Truthfully, though, non-Jews are just as apt to find the show extremely funny.

That’s because all three comedians on the bill, despite each occasionally leaning on a Semitic background, mostly launch anecdotes and one-liners about everyday stuff from their own lives.

The headliner, deadpan Mark Schiff, who’s toured with Jerry Seinfeld worldwide for 15 years and had specials on HBO and Showtime, relies on material about medical conditions and his wife; Ladman, a 67-year-old who holds the record for appearances on Kung Pao with five and has appeared on The Tonight Show nine times, deals mostly with her aging issues; and Orion Levine is a 29-year-old funnyman who rips into his family.

The event has been produced for 30 years by mistress of ceremonies Lisa Geduldig, who capitalized on the idea that hordes of Jewish people spent every Christmas Day in a movie house followed by dinner in a Chinese restaurant, the only kind generally open on the holiday.

So, calculating that she had a built-in audience, she conjured up the idea of an in-person comedy dinner show in spite of never having produced anything before. Her intuition was right, of course, and she had to turn away 200 people her first time out.

Geduldig has noted that the “audience began as 99% Jewish and has expanded to include Chinese-Jewish couples, interfaith ones, singles, families, gays, straights, undecideds, those who are far from home, and just generally people who like smart comedy mixed with Chinese food.”

This year’s anniversary show can be viewed in-person or via a YouTube Live livestreaming. Dinner begins at 5 p.m. with both the in-person show and its live livestreaming cousin an hour later — tonight and tomorrow night.

The show also highlights one lighthearted video anecdote from Geduldig’s 91-year-old mom, Arline, from Boynton Beach, Florida.

The Chinese restaurant site this go-‘round, believe it or not, is Sherith Israel, a synagogue at 2266 California Street in San Francisco — because the New Asia Restaurant, where the event had been held since its fifth year, was closed by the pandemic.

In-person attendees, by the way, receive a special swag bag that includes a pair of wooden custom-printed Kung Pao chopsticks, a packet of Yiddish-proverb fortune cookies, and sundry knick-knacks.

Masks — to block Covid, the flu, and RSV — are recommended when not eating or drinking.

Tickets, which range from $30 to $100, are available at https://www.koshercomedy.com. Part of the proceeds will go to the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Helgi Tomasson’s Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet

By Jo Tomalin
Photo above: Nikisha Fogo in Tomasson’s Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet. Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton

 

San Francisco Ballet presents Nutcracker, December 8-27, 2022 at the War memorial Opera House. Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson in 2004, and set to music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, orchestra conducted by Martin West. This joyous Nutcracker is set in San Francisco, 1915. It is a ballet for everyone to enjoy in the holiday season, and this Nutcracker is a wonderful return to live performances.

The story of young Clara is first told through visual and physical storytelling as we see her uncle Drosselmeyer – expressively played by Pascal Molat, putting the finishing touches on his special present for Clara at her family Christmas party. Then guests are welcomed into the elegant family house and the magic begins!

 

Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s Nutcracker
Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton

Clara’s friends are played by Students of the San Francisco Ballet School, and they interact gleefully, play games expressed though dance in delightful sequences and combinations while the parents gather together and gifts arrive. Clara receives her specially crafted present from her uncle, a beautifully carved nutcracker character, and the dream begins. Clara, played by Ruby Rosenquist with charm and verve is taken to a magical world where everything is sweetness and wonder.

San Francisco Ballet comes into its own with the corps and soloists presenting the traditional characters of Nutcracker. There are many different characters and dances in this ballet, that entertain and surprise – with dashes of excitement and humor!

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker
Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton

A standout partnering is Yuan Yuan and Henry Sidford as the Queen & King of the Snow supported by a glorious corps of Snowflakes. This is a memorable scene that is precise in footwork and lifts, it is certainly a beautifully transporting moment.

Isaac Hernández is charming and dynamic as The Nutcracker Prince when he meets Clara, and later when he partners Sasha De Sola in the iconic Grand Pas de Deux. De Sola is mesmerising as she takes command of the stage in her virtuosic solos and the elegant duet with Hernández.

Wona Park is the magical Sugar Plum Fairy followed by the energy and precision of the dramatic Spanish dance. A particularly lovely vision with delicate choreography is the Waltzing Flowers, an ensemble of sixteen dancers creating combinations of groups and images in movement that is breathtaking.

This ballet is strongly supported by a team of outstanding creatives who all produce exquisite results that work together so well in Nutcracker:

Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan; Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz; Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington; Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls; Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington.

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is simply a heart warming and beautiful experience!

More Information and Tickets:

SFBallet.org


Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin
www.forallevents.com  Arts & Travel Reviews

Alyssa Mitchel presents Here Now at San Francisco’s Exploratorium

By Jo Tomalin

Above:

Dancers Aidan O’Leary, Vincent Chavez, Sawako Gannon, Jessica DeFranco, Ashley Burdick, Donivan Harding, Jasper Sanchez and Olivia Holston photographed by Kyle Adler.
November 21, 2021

Choreographer Alyssa Mitchel in partnership with The Exploratorium presented Here. Now. on the spacious plaza outside the museum at Pier 15 San Francisco, 6-14 November 2021. Here. Now. performed six one hour shows on two weekends with Mitchel’s company of ten dancers. These free dance events brought audiences of dance fans, passengers on passing street cars peering out the windows and people passing by – some on their bicycles – to pause and reflect.

They were all drawn by the soundscape and beautiful music of composer Julian Drucker and the vibrant dancers in colorful costumes designed by Jamielyn Duggan, on the picturesque waterfront by the Bay. Here. Now. comprises six sections, with no intermission: Section 1: Loving Kindness; Section 2: Tonglen; Section 3: Noting; Section 4: Four Noble Truths; Section 5: Eightfold Path; Section 6: Body Scan.

The contemporary dance style and Mitchel’s creative choreography, with touches of athletic physicality, ritual, balletic turns and hip hop combine ensemble, duos and a solo, each section with it’s own tone and based on the Buddha’s Teachings. Highlights are – Section 2: Tonglen, a duo with dancers Ismael Acosta and Jessica DeFranco; an outstanding dynamic solo with fast speeds and intricate choreography to spoken word about meditating, thinking, feeling and distraction with dancer Fabiana Santiago in Section 3: Noting; and the final piece danced by the ensemble, which mirrors some formations from the opening section and further explores movement and footwork styles, speed changes and incorporated fast changing complex lines using the entire space of the plaza.

That these two entities would collaborate and present this dance work together is inspiring. The Exploratorium is well known as an imaginative space of science, inquiry, curiosity, community and transformative experiences. Mitchel, a dancer and choreographer has a long time fascination with mathematics and together with a deep interest in exploring mindfulness, meditation and fulfillment.

This is a true melding of art and science! Mitchel began working on Here. Now. during the pandemic and it is appropriate that it is presented outdoors and offered to the public now – not only as an entertainment, but also as a generous and visceral way to bring community together, to reflect and enjoy the live performance.

More Information:

https://alyssaevemitchel.weebly.com/

https://www.exploratorium.edu/

Jo Tomalin

Dance and Theatre Reviewer

www.ForAllEvents.com

Bravo to Cast of RVP’s Picnic-runs Sept. 9-Oct.9

By Flora Lynn Isaacson

Before Ross Valley Players’ 2020-21 season was canceled, Director Adrian Eifenbaum and the actors cast in Picnic, met on Zoom and read William Inge’s play together.  All were surprised at how the story, set in a small town in 1950’s Kansas, still resonates with our world today. The show was postponed, but as the saying goes, all good things come to those who wait.  Picnic finally opened September 9 at the Barn Theatre in Ross. It is the first offering of RVP’s 93rd season and runs Thursdays-Sundays through October 9.

The play revolves around a charismatic drifter, Hal Carter (played by Max Carpenter), who jumps off a freight train to look up his former college pal Alan (Evan Held).  Time has changed Hal. Once a popular college football star, he’s now fallen on hard times. Before he goes to see Alan, Hal meets a local widow, Mrs. Potts (Tamar Cohn), and asks if she has any work. Happy to see a new face, she offers to clean his shirt and give him breakfast in exchange for doing some chores around her yard.

As he goes about his work, Hal’s good looks, muscles and vigor are soon noticed by Mrs. Potts’ neighbors–all women–who are busy getting ready for the town’s annual Labor Day picnic.  Flo (Tori Truss) is the mother of two daughters Millie, the smart one (Lizzy Bies) and Madge, the beautiful one (Dale Leonhart). Flo’s hopes are pinned on Madge marrying Alan for the security his wealthy family can provide. Flo also has a boarder, Rosemary (an “old maid” school teacher played by Valerie Weak), whose boyfriend Howard (Steve Price) arrives later with Alan. Alan is surprised but happy to find Hal in town and invites him to join the group leaving for the picnic.  As the day goes on and the night/morning follows, the characters come to terms with their relationships, disappointments, hopes, dreams and desires. Inge’s plot and dialogue is so well written that it is no surprise he won a Pulitzer Prize for the play.

Choreographer Jannely Calmell and Stage Combat/Intimacy Director Richard Squeri deserve special recognition for the artistry conveyed by the actors’ onstage movements.  The sequences involving fighting, dancing and intimacy were especially good and emotionally moving.

The subtle Set, Lighting and Sound Design (by Tom OBrien, Robin DeLuca and Billie Cox respectively) rightly puts the focus directly on the impressive acting from all of the cast including those in supporting roles–Dalton Ortiz (Bomber), Raysheina de Leon-Ruhs (Christine) and Jen Marte (Irma). Each one of the actors shines bright and the audience is carried away–captivated every moment– thanks to their extraordinary talent!

Coming up next at Ross Valley Players is Gypsy, A Musical Fable, a Mountain Play production, directed by Zoe Swenson-Graham running November 11 to December 18, 2022.

Flora Lynn Isaacson, SFBATCC (with Lori Wood)

 

 

Catch Dunsinane at MTC-through Oct. 16

By Flora Lynn Isaacson

The title of Marin Theatre Company’s current production, Dunsinane, refers to Shakespeare’s Battle of Dunsinane where Macbeth was defeated. The play by David Greig explores what happened in the year following the battle beginning with Spring and ending with Winter.

The show features actors from Tamalpais High School’s Conservatory Theatre Ensemble (CTE). Aldo Billingslea steals the show with his superb acting as Siward. Josh Odess-Rubin is an intriguing Malcolm and Lisa Anne Porter shines as the Queen. Brendan Barger, Daniel Duque-Estrada, Jack Hochschild, Kira Keane, Molly Lyons and Michael Ray Wisely round out the fine cast.

Jasson Minadakis and Rob Lutfy deserve a big round of applause for their superb direction. The lighting is especially interesting (Mike Post) and the costumes (Brooke Jennings) authentic. The fight scenes (Josh Odess-Rubin, Coach) are precise and emotional.

Dunsinane continues through October 16 at Marin Theatre Company. Coming up next at Marin Theatre will be August Wilson’s Two Trains Running, Novemer 25-December 18.