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David Hirzel

David Hirzel

Lear’s Shadow at the Marsh: More than a shadow, held over until June 27

By David Hirzel

If you’re familiar with Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear—betrayal and heartbreak within family, betrayal and rebellion without—then you might recall the role of his jester, his Fool, his confidante, his source of wisdom to ignore.

Still nameless, the fool is now unemployed, and applying for work in his trade. This small conceit allows for an ever-blooming expansion of his place in Lear’s life. From that particular intimacy springs the fool’s taking on the roles, one by one, of the principals of Shakespeare’s original play: the daughters Goneril, Reagan, and Cordelia, and most powerfully that of the old king himself.

In a stunning solo performance Geoff Hoyle slips effortlessly from one to the other, veering away into powerful tangents of his and David Ford’s own making, keeping to one rule:  “when Lear speaks, his lines are from Shakespeare’s play.”    Stepping back, Hoyle becomes the Fool again, commenting on what he’s seen in his forty-seven years of service with the old king, reaching back to his connections with the girls as a stand-in stepmom taking them as children to the beach.

The Fool has his own connections, his own love, his own trust about to be broken, with all of these characters. He is both inside the story, and outside it, a witness, a commentator with no real force but that of observation that only he—and, lucky us, the audience—can see.

Likewise Hoyle is both inside and outside the Fool, feeling his own sense of loss and betrayal—”What about me?”—when the power shifts, and for all his shared history with that dysfunctional family, he’s about to be left behind. There are storms marauding this tortured kingdom, blows against the empire that his strives manfully to close the door against, with only small success.

The play builds slowly from a trivial-seeming introduction, but steadily gains power with each successive scene, relieved by the Fool’s comic appearance to comment and cajole the audience. In one particularly moving scene, Hoyle as the doddering, confused Lear reaches out to one of the audience, takes his hand and spreads it against its own, comparing the fingers and the miracle of humanity. In another, the Fool strikes back literally at the king, and in an intricate bit of staging delivers and receives the blow. It is not just a physical blow. Others lie in wait, tragic in the most moving sense of the word.

Well, you’re just going to have to see it for yourself. The magic of black-box in the hands of a master of the art. It helps to be familiar with the original King Lear, but even those who are not cannot fail to be moved to this Lear’s farewell to Cordelia, the most pure and precious of his daughters.

Written and performed by Geoff Hoyle, in collaboration with David Ford.

NOW EXTENDED! June 4-27, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 8pm | Saturdays at 5pm
Extended dates run Thursdays at 8pm & Saturdays at 5pm only (no Wednesdays)
80 minutes | No Intermission | 12 and up

Box Office: The Marsh

Theater:  The Marsh San Francisco.  1062 Valencia St. SF 94110       415.282.3055

Review by David Hirzel


Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco: Eight Plays in 24 Hours–try it, you’ll LOVE it!

By David Hirzel, Uncategorized

Time is just nature’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once.”

In case of the talents producing the 24 Hour Play Festival at the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, who needs time anyway? Twenty-four hours is such a small slice of it, here-and-gone before you know it.

Picture this: a little over twenty-four hours ago, starting at precisely 8:00 p.m. Friday night, the names of eight of the Center’s gang of playwrights were drawn out of a hat. Literally, out of a silk topper. Those eight were assigned a theme, unknown to any of them before that moment: “The Devil Made Me Do It!” Now each of the playwrights pulls the name of a director from that hat. Now each director draws the names of actors from. . . .

Deadline for script delivery: 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

No matter if the genders, ages, or other physical attributes of the actors drawn matched the requirements of the scripts. The assignments are whatever they are, and the challenge is for everyone involved to pull it off. Rehearsals begin about 9:00 a.m. Saturday. Curtain is 8:00 p.m. Saturday night, the Tides Theater in SF, one of four in the Shelton Theater building on Sutter St.

The Tides is a black box, so what curtains there are conceal the narrow space backstage. Lights. Showtime!

Now, you might think, “How can any of this be any good, given the ridiculously brief 24 hour between assignment of playwrights and the theme they are to write to?” Do not underestimate the power of theater. Although some of the participants must have day jobs, the level of professionalism on display here is truly astounding.

Eight plays making one hell-of-a-festival, each of them so memorable in its own write that it is a disservice to everyone involved to name even so much as a favorite. Here follows a bullet-point list of names. Everyone deserves a standing ovation.

  • Are We There Yet?” by Lorraine Midanik, directed by Paula Barrish. Actors: Emily Marie Grant and Jason Thompson.
  • The Loss Temple” by Sara Judge, directed by Charley Lerrigo. Actors: Chris Nguyen, Karly Schackne, Stephanie Whigham, Preeti Mann.
  • The Lab” by Gaetana Caldwell Smith (my friend who introduced me to this marvelous evening of one-act plays), directed by Sinouhui Hinojosa. Actors: Miyoko Sakatani, Jerren V. Jones, Edith Reiner.
  • Audition from Hell” by Mary Blackfore, directed by Tatiana Gelfland. Actors: John Ferreiro, Genevieve Purdue, Richard S. Sargent, Lee-Ron.


  • The Latest Small Triumph of Levia Stand: by Vonn Scott Bair, directed by Ted Zoldan. Actors: Merri Gordon, Lisa Klein, Chris Maltby.
  • Brothers in Arms” by Jeffrey Blaze, directed by Kris Neely. Actors: J. D. Scalzo, Alesander Delgadillo.
  • Barbie Pink, Barbie Yellow. . .” by Elizabeth A. Rosenberg, directed by Nathanael Card. Actors: Roberta J. Morris, Sara Leight.
  • The Dance Card” by Jacqueline E. Luckett, directed by Don Hardwick. Actors Louel Senores, Katrina Kroetch.

The offerings ranged from the farcial through insightful into truly amazing. The genuine laughs were frequent, the surprising turns of events many. If I mention “The Lab” for its black-humored look at the real problems facing coming generations, or “Brothers in Arms” for its subtle reworking of dominance in a family, it is not to diminish the amazing contributions of all the other artists at work in this phenomenal all-in-a-day work of theatrical production.

That day, for this event, has already closed. A capsule review such as this is pointless, unless it calls your attention to the next such 24-hour festival, and brings you down to witness theatrical art at one of its many highest levels.

Website: Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco

Review by David Hirzel:

King Lear at the Lark: Up close and personal like you’ve never seen him

By David Hirzel, Uncategorized

You may think you know him, the tragedy of a doddering old man whose senses are beginning to leave him, and whose children use his failing powers to take what is his in the name of protecting him. It must have been as common an occurrence in Shakespeare’s day as it sometimes seems to be today. To hear the arguments of King Lear’s daughters Goneril (Maev Beaty) and Regan (Lisa Repo-Martell) it only makes sense to do so. Seen through the filter of his still sound mind in its lucid moments, it is betrayal that he calls out and confronts with all the passion his soul can muster. In Colm Feore’s King Lear, that is a lot of passion, and his early face-to-face confrontations with his daughters it spills out with volcanic fury, and is met with the same.

There are other betrayals—son against father, brother against brother, wife against husband—and they are played out with equal, unbridled passion, to their ultimate Shakespearean tragic and ruthlessly bloody end. But this performance is Lear as you’ve never seen it. Stratford Festival  has filmed the play live in their great theater in Ontario, Canada. Those in the audience are watching and responding to the performance, but they see it only from a distance.

This film brings us into the play in a way that watching it on stage can never do. The miracle of modern film brings the action, the faces, the tears of sorrow right to your own eyes. At its most beautiful moments—Cordelia reunited with her father, Lear comforting the blinded Gloucester—we the audience are moved to tears ourselves. At its most horrid—slash of the knife to the eyes, the brutal deaths by blade—we recoil in fear. Mercifully some of the deaths at the end of the play occur offstage. Lest anyone think the Bard was unusually bloodthirsty in his depictions of eye-gouging and murder, one has only to look to the recently discovered, violently mutilated remains of another medieval monarch, Richard III.

The performances are of the highest caliber, and we view them with the greatest clarity in detail, lighting, and sound. The one-night showing at the Lark is over now, but this is one version of King Lear you can see if it comes again to an art-house theater near you, or by renting a DVD to watch at home. It casts a whole new light on a play you may have thought you already knew.  Directed by Antoni Cimolino.

Look for two more of Shakespeare’s finest—King John and Anthony and Cleopatra—coming later this year to the Lark. Mark these dates on your calendar:  April 8 and May 21, 2015.  Don’t miss them.

If you haven’t already been to the Lark theater in Larkspur, give yourself plenty of time. It’s not easy to find, but believe me, if this is your only chance to see Shakespeare this close and personal, it will be well worth the effort.

 Lark Theater:  549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur CA  415-924-5111

Review by David Hirzel





Review by David Hirzel link



“Better Never than Late”–Contra Dance in Sebastopol

By David Hirzel

If you’re not familiar with Contra Dance (and bear in mind that I am only just barely so), think square dancing-mingled with line-dancing spun to the old-timey tunes of a three-piece acoustic band. On Saturday night last, the band Ruby Mt. String Band consisted of fiddle, banjo, and guitar, the tunes were long-winded reels and waltzes.

The outward-reaching contra dance community welcomes newcomers to the art, and so novices like me and Alice and Sharab are provided with a short introductory lesson 1/24/15 at Wischemann Hall in Sebastopol CA, in the very basics of the dance before the fun begins.

The dance is made up of squares of four, interweaving with each other as they move in opposite directions, so that every sixty-four beats or so, you have a new partner with whom to run through the same figures. The figures include “balances” and “do-si-do’s” and “hays” and “swings” two or three or four times during the course of each reel. Since you might have six or eight squares constantly moving through each other, caller Celia Ramsay‘s admonition “better never than late” is particularly apt.

The music is fast-moving, as are the twenty-four or so dancers. If the newcomer gets behind in the beat (we always do), there is no chance that by moving faster he will recover and be in place when his new partner is reaching out, balancing, or getting ready to swing. Don’t even try. “Better never. . .”

Now, in my view the best thing about contra-dance, indeed all the social dances of a bygone era, is this: every two minutes you get a new partner. And two minutes after that another. And you get to interact with each in a prescriptively chaste manner, with the “swing” a closed box with only two occupants, each holding the other around the waist or at the shoulder. “Swing” is a vigorously rhythmic spin to the music. The key to not getting dizzy is to look into your partner’s eyes.

Now, picture this. You are spinning across the dance floor and looking deeply into the eyes (is there another way?) of a complete stranger. Behind that stranger’s face the whole world is spinning. To your own new eyes it appears as though you are the lead actor in a romantic movie, and your partner is, well, your partner. And, from sheer joy, you are both laughing like hell. There is no other way you will become so intimate with a total stranger in under two minutes. And in another two minutes, you will have another with whom to become so engaged.

And everything about this moment is so completely chaste.

And you won’t get to have this moment, if you don’t make it happen. So, in this case it’s “better late than never.” But when you’re the newcomer on the Contra Dance floor, it’s the other way around. You could say that’s the magic of it. . . . And if you’re lucky like me, you get to leave the dancehall with the one you came in with.

Info and calendar:  North Bay Contra Dance Society

Review by David Hirzel


Antarctica: A Year on Ice for the brave and stouthearted

By David Hirzel
We may all think we have an idea of what today’s Antarctica must be like, but thanks to this documentary’s compelling mix of time-lapse photography and everyday life in the Antarctic over the course of a single year, we now know better. These two elements are nicely interwoven to show the personal aspect, the interaction of human life and environment meeting in the extremes of each.
It isn’t for everyone, the movie makes clear, but for those who have chosen it—or those whom this life has chosen—there is no other.
Other movies may focus on the stark reality of cold and ice, wind and sky, the importance of science and its discoveries in shaping or saving our planet, the trials and triumphs of geographical exploration. This movie focuses on the people there, and we the audience are let in just a little bit into their unique world. A great deal of it revolves around what we in the rest of the world call “work,” six days of it a week, almost all of it in a captive indoor environment, but for those interviewed who have come here don’t seem to mind. It’s all a part of the package they’ve chosen.
The year begins with the landing of a C130 as it ferries in hundreds of people, the supplies needed to sustain the polar stations over the course of a year. McMurdo looks from the air, and from within, like a mining station posted on a bleak landscape. The station itself never gets prettier, but generous views of the surrounding mountains, seas, ice and sky leaven the film. We meet the people at their work and play, but as the year rolls on and the spools unwind, some of them come to the fore. We get to know them, the firefighters, the administrators, the shop clerks, and get some sense of why they keep coming back. There’s a wedding with the whole base is invited, engagement ring carved from ice and the wedding rings made by the machine shop of brass. As the saying goes regarding finding a mate down here, “the odds are good but the goods are odd.”
In the autumn, August, the C130 takes away the hundreds of summer people, and leaves behind the 90 or so who will winter over, making good the damage done to equipment and keeping the station over. The long day ends with a brief and welcome few weeks where the sun sets and rises the way it does in the rest of the world, and the people here enjoy waking up with the sun. Until it rises no more. Cold drops to the -70s, the wind blasts at 220 mph, snow finds its way into the tiniest cracks and fills entire well sealed rooms with snow. Overhead the aurora curtains drape their mystic curtains, the stars wheel round with a clear view into the outer reaches of the universe that can never be known elsewhere. A curious mental lapse called T3 interferes with normal thought patterns. In the firehouse, the men stop talking about women and dream incessantly about food, anything fresh. During this long dark night they change, evolving into other selves, different from and irrevocably altered from the selves they left behind.
This is never more evident than when the new crop of summer people come, and the winterovers retreat into their rooms, away from the crowds, the inexperienced. Still, they miss their homes, their families, the births and deaths that happen during their self imposed exile. And when that exile is over, the things they crave most are the aromas of fresh fruit and vegetation, the feel of grass beneath their toes, a proper sleep in a proper bed. For those of us who live out our ordinary lives, it is a longing we can never share, or fully understand.
Director: Anthony Powell. (New Zealand 2013) 91 min.
Through December 11, 2014 at the Rafael Theater, 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901
415.454.5813 Main Office
415.454.1222 Info-Line for Showtimes
Review by David Hirzel.

“Rocks in My Pockets”–more than just an animated feature film

By David Hirzel

Signe Baumane‘s new feature-length animated film “Rocks in My Pockets” makes good use of this medium to enter a territory that more conventional films cannot reach—that of your own mind. Her characters, simply rendered in two dimensions, wind their way through fanciful paper mache landscapes into some of the darkest, bleakest recesses of the mind—Baumane’s, her extended family’s, your own. Her deeply personal statement becomes universal.

It begins with the courtship of her Latvian grandparents and the unasked, unanswered questions of the madness in her family background, that we might today call mental illness. Their marriage evolves, as many do, into something less than romantic, with growing disillusionment and a concurrent resolve to do our best with the choices we have already made. There are moments of joy, but more of resignation, of sorrow, and they seem to resonate through succeeding generations in the film.

In 1941 war comes to Baumane’s native Latvia, laying waste with singular ravages such as we in 21st century USA can only imagine. Those who claim to defend and protect individuals and society instead betray and destroy them. These calamities give her family history a weight that bears down on her, and them. The hardships of their lives gave that depression, a richer, more fertile ground in which to thrive. We all of us have dysfunction in our families, in our own lives. Denial is woven through the narrative of this movie, as it is in all our lives.

The story takes place in Latvia. It is narrated in English entirely by Baumane; the accent of her native tongue places it outside our comfortable United States, in a foreign land where we find ordinary people in their inward human hearts no different from us. The artwork is entirely hers, thousands of handmade drawings moving through dozens of richly decorated paper mache sets giving a three-dimensional feel to this patient singleminded animation, produced in her apartment/studio in Brooklyn. Lighting, technical effects, script advice and voice coaching by Baumane’s long-time companion actor/director Sturgis Warner.

When asked how her family reacted to such exposure, Baumane indicated that some were aghast, some indifferent, and some appreciated that someone who know from inside who knew the truth had chosen to shine a light on it. This was one of the choices that she had to make on her own, free of the preconceptions of how others might respond drive her decisions of what to say, and how to say it.

Whether the film would make money, or find a wide audience, did not really enter into the decisions. This was a story she wanted to tell, in her own way. The essence of art.

There is light within, through, and beyond the darkness. Moments of joy, of dark humor, of connection and redemption. The rocks in our pockets have a dangerous weight, but with insight and resolve their weight can can be reduced; they can be cast away.

At Rafael Theater Monday, November 24 at 7:00.

1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901 415.454.5813 Main Office 415.454.1222 Info-Line for

Film Website:

Review by David Hirzel

Three great things about Golden Gate Opera’s “Madama Butterfly” (11/9/14)

By David Hirzel

As is occasionally the case with my posts here, this one comes after the close of Golden Gate Opera‘s very short run of “Madama Butterfly” (two performances in one weekend, now ended) and can’t have much impact on filling seats. However, here are three things that made this performance particularly memorable.

1. Although the producer’s pre-performance comments from the stage included an apologia for a solo pianist (Andrew Dixon) filling in for the orchestra, this one fact, this substitution added instead a wholly unexpected and marvelous aspect. For some of us, especially us novices in the art of opera-appreciation, there is already almost too much going on for our brains to accommodate: a story of great drama told in a completely foreign language, superb acting in a uniquely operatic manner, beautiful vocal arias and duets, costume, staging, backdrop. . . . By taking out 39 pieces of orchestra, there is that much more mental capacity to take in all these others. For me, this was an enhancement, not a detriment.

2. The libretto in English was not posted for all to view. For reasons just cited, my brain was not distracted from the performance. Reading is reading, it is not watching, it is not listening, it is not feeling. This allows the philistine opera-goer’s mind to pay attention to the drama unfolding before him, rather than reading and then interpreting as the show goes along. By filling in the intellectual gaps with the content of his own imagination, the listener becomes a part of the creative process, in a way one with Puccini, and the singers. A much better way, I think, to absorb the story, the drama, and Puccini’s memorable, often familiar music.

3. While a full house was missed for this matinee, and thousands of potential audience missed their opportunity to enjoy this wonderful opera—“A True Story: A diary, a novel a play”—in masterful performance, right here in San Rafael, those who did come had a chance to meet the performers in the Green Room after the show. You just don’t get this everywhere.

Among those performers in the Sunday matinee (11/9/14) were Miwako Isano as a lovely and poignant Madama Butterfly, and Alexandra Jerinic as her faithful maidservant Suzuki. The friendship between these two characters is the cement that holds the whole opera together, no better shown than in the stunning duet that ends Act One. David Gustafson‘s Pinkerton was tender and loving on his wedding day, and passionately distraught holding his one-time bride as her sad life passed away. Special note also for the set, the backdrop scrim and the lighting showing the passage of dusk to dawn.

In having seen the opera, in this way, I find my life that much the fuller.

My suggestions to you:

1. If you have a chance to see this or any opera with less than a full orchestra, view it as an opportunity rather than as a loss, a chance to see the familiar an an entirely new light

2. A streaming libretto does not necessarily add to your understanding of the story or your appreciation of the show.

3. When you can meet the cast and crew, take advantage. There is much more to them, their lives and yours than the show you have must shared.


–Review by David Hirzel


Inside Stax and Memphis Music: “Take Me to the River” at the Rafael

By David Hirzel

You can see the music emerge from the first riffs, watch it evolve into an elaborate tapestry woven from drum intros, rhythm riffs, bass lines into a foundation for some compelling vocals. You watch it happen live in the studio, or in Mavis Staples’ living room, and you get the sense that this is how it happens whether or not there is a camera in the room taking note of everything going on. And, believe, me, there is a lot going on.

Take Me to the River is one of those movies that has you dancing as you leave the theater for the street, still dancing to Ms. Staples powerful rendition of the gospel song “Wish I Had Answered.” A movie that lets you watch music being made, watch the color lines disappear into the music, watch seemingly unconscious creation arising from a collaboration of artists in the same room, and boy is that exciting. It’s not all about the music, though. This movie takes you into the heyday of  Stax Records recording studio in Memphis, the hope of Martin Luther King’s oratory and the tragedy of his assassination and the following riots that devastated the city. Stax was devastated too, fell into bankruptcy, and disappeared into an abandoned storefront on a graffiti-disgraced street. Co-owner Al Bell refused to have his enterprise subsumed into the vast wasteland of corporate music that followed.

But mostly it’s about the music. Today’s—live in the studio, some of it in the distinctly low-rent Royal studios in Memphis, with blankets thrown over frames and rolls of insulation hanging from the ceiling over the backup singers’ balcony. Yesterday’s—grainy live footage of these older musicians on stage fifty years ago, juxtaposed with today’s live footage of Booker T. Jones, Charlie Musselwhite. Charlie “Skip” Pitts, talking the creative process then and now. The real joy is watching that creative process across the generations—the youngest performer is Li’l P-Nut (age about ten at the filming)—working with Bobby “Blue” Bland in his last studio outing.

This movie is a must-see for every young person who dreams of a career in music and thinks it can be accomplished by rapping to drum-beats and samples. “If we keep sampling,” said singer Bobby Rush, “we’ll run out of things to sample.” It’s the live music that is exciting, but it’s the intimacy of this movie that makes it memorable.  For those of us coming of age in the 1960s, much of the soundtrack for those years came right out of Memphis, right out of Stax Records and in this movie you’ll hear it again, some of it made anew by the original performers.

Stax lives on today as a music academy training young people in the art of music creation. Seventy-five percent of the proceeds from your watching this movie go to the support the Stax Music Academy and other music-related charities.

Now playing at your local art-house movie theater, but not for long. Don’t wait for the DVD; this is one for the big screen, and more importantly the theatrical sound system that has it all over the one in your living room. And in this case, it’s all about the music.

Through September 25, 2014 at the Rafael Theater in San Rafael CA

415.454.5813 Main Office or 415.454.1222 Info-Line for Showtimes

Review by David Hirzel.

“An Ideal Husband” comes home to Marin Shakespeare

By David Hirzel

The best theater hands us situations in which, though we may not want to, we see ourselves, and even then only after some reflection. Sometimes that reflection is infused with laughs, until an actor standing at the edge of the stage shows in her face the grief that can arise when trust is destroyed by the exposure of a lie. A lie from which she has, no doubt, unwittingly received great financial benefit.

Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband does this, bringing across the span of a century the same sorts of moral dilemmas some of us grapple with even today. Some things never change, and one of those is the temptation toward wealth and power at the expense of honor. This is with us as much today as it was when the play was first shown in London (the very seat of British wealth and power) in 1895. That is what had us talking over breakfast the next morning, after seeing Marin Shakespeare’s premier of the play last night.

The setting is London high society 1895, but could just as easily be Washington DC 2014, except for an underlying sense of morality beneath the gloss and hypocrisy of that long ago day, that one suspects no longer influences today’s extremes of wealth and power. But I digress. . . .

Our glimpse into that society lingers on Sir Robert Chiltern (Nick Sholley), an influential undersecretary of the cabinet, who had bought his place in society with an act that remains to this day a secret. Until it surfaces in a threat of blackmail by Lady Cheveley (Cat Thomson). He knuckles under, of course, until the secret is discovered by his adoring wife Gertrude (Marcia Pizzo). His best friend Lord Goring (Darrin Bridgett), “a bachelor” offers to help, and the plot entangles itself in a convoluted plot of Shakespearean dimension.

Each of the principal characters is flawed, even the most virtuous Gertrude. Each has some twist of the plot reveal these flaws in their multiple dimensions. And Wilde’s genius is this: each of those flaws we can recognize in ourselves. Some of them make us laugh, others make us think. And if we’re paying attention, we come away with a better mirror to our own selves than we had going in.

Now this might be a personal preference, but I’ve found that any production with Darren Bridgett and/or Cat Thompson in it will make you (a) laugh, (b) think, (c) feel more than you expected, in spite of yourself. Reason enough to check out Marin Shakespeare every season, every year.

But in this season’s An Ideal Husband, Marcia Pizzo’s Lady Gerturde Chiltern (Marcia Pizzo) steals the show. The Lady adores her husband for his idealism, is devastated when he proves a bad fit for the pedestal on which she has mounted him, is conflicted as the target of his anger and (as she supposes) the jilted wife, and then relieved when a lie of her own seems to resolve all the conflicts. All of it shows in Pizzo’s manner and her face, and the catbird seat to catch the best of her acting is up close, center-right. There, she’s speaking to you.

Also don’t miss: Julian Lopez-Morillas as the Earl of Caversham, Lord Goring’s lordly father, harrumphing his disdain for all the weaknesses of his offspring and Goring’s friends, then happily endorsing their faults when at last they all meet his approval.

As An Ideal Husband is sure to meet yours.

Review by David Hirzel


Andy and Renee in House Concert: Catch Them When You Can!

By David Hirzel, Uncategorized

House concerts—what a concept! Invite a few musicians over to your house to make music all afternoon, invite all your friends and their friends over to your impromptu venue bringing something to drink and something to share, and some cash for the band, and there you have it.

All the logistics are the same as for any party, with live music. It helps if you have a good-sized living room, a nice yard in sunny weather, or a clubhouse at your condominium. It helps even more if the musicians have the outsized talent of Andy and Renee. This L.A. based duo have been performing together for twenty years, and make a west-coast tour every August up to Canada and back, stopping to do house concerts along the way. If you hear of one of their stops near you, by all means go.

I’ve seen them performing six times now, in bars, on stage, and best of all in the Living Rooms of mutual friends. Last night in the clubhouse at Pacific Point Condominiums was in its own unique way the best of them all (but I think I say that every time. . .) Not the best room, hard walls and floors with too much echo, but Andy and Renee made the best of it. The music—almost all original, always thoughtful and intriguing, and always performed at the highest level of profession and art—comes through wherever they play. They both sing, play keyboards and guitar, and write songs you aren’t likely to hear anywhere else.

Andy and Renee at Telluride

Andy and Renee started out following a printed setlist (a handy reference for those who really like a song, and want to buy the CD), but about the fourth song in abandoned the sequence, and went for the flow. Some of my favorites—”Murder on the Pier,” “14thof February,” “New Orleans I’m Coming Home”-— some new to me—“Insignificant Other, “ “Kids These Days” –performed in this intimate setting to just the few of us gathered, was on transitory moment of absolute purity, one to return to in memory, every time wondering how anything could be so beautiful.

Well, until they turned off the amps, gathered the chairs into a circle, and sang to us as friends not audience, and the evening turned from amazing to magical. Two guitars, two voices, eight or ten songs. Among the songs Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson,” my own favorite Andy and Renee song “Everything Disappears,” Renee’s unique take on “Sweet Home Chicago,” Andy’s powerful “The Night that I Left Town” with its extended guitar coda, an acoustic miracle that amazed even Andy this night out. All this, and the dozen or so of us on hand to share this moment.

Here’s a comment from one of our friends last night: “ Wowowowow! They rock! It was the absolute sweetest concert I’ve ever attended. So much talent and so much heart! I love them!! Just fabulous!!! Bravo!! What a way to start the weekend, and going forward I’ll be driving up and down 280 rocking out to their cds. . .”

So, take my advice. If you ever have the chance to catch these two on their west-coast house-concert tour, do it.  Until then, hover your icon over some of the song titles above for a preview.


Review by David Hirzel