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The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher

By Flora Lynn Isaacson, Go See

Ross Valley Players Presents
The Government Inspector
By Nikolai Gogol
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher
Produced by Kim Foulger
Directed by Lisa Morse

Never a dull moment – this production is not to be missed!

The acting, the understated costumes, the farcical business, the slapstick bits, staging, the clever period set design, lighting, the understated, well-designed costuming and the music – all work together to bring the audience into a time past (1836 Russia) with timeless hilarity.

This production, as directed by Lisa Morse brings out the best in her actors – Philip Coleman (the Judge); Robert Molossi (the School Principal/Pentelaeyev); Christopher Harney (the Hospital Director/ Chernaeyev); Steve Price (the Mayor); Greg Nelson (the Doctor); Natalie Mendes (the Postmaster); Raysheina de Leon-Ruhs (Bobchinsky); Benjamin Vasquez (Dobchinsky); Pamela Ciochetti (Anna); Hunter Candrian-Velez (Marya); Michael B. Harris (Hlestekov); Wood Lockhart (Osip); Alexandra Weitman (the Innkeeper’s wife/Grusha/the Corporal’s widow); and Daphne Cowlin (the Imperial Messenger/Flagel the Mute Boy).

Along with Director Lisa Morse, the marvelous Production Team includes Kim Foulger (Producer); Steve Price (Executive Producer); Dianne Harrison (Stage Manager/Light & Sound Board Operator); Daphne Cowlin (Assistant Stage Manager); Benjamin Vasquez (Lighting Assistant); Ron Krempetz (Set Designer); Michael Walraven (Set Construction); Ellen Brooks (Lighting Designer); Michael A. Berg (Costume Designer); Billie Cox (Sound Designer); Dhyanis Carniglia (Scenic Artist); Maureen Scheuenstuhl (Properties Designer); David Yen (Stage Combat/Intimacy Coach); Alexandra Weitman (Stage Combat Captain); Raysheina de Leon-Ruhs (Stage Combat Lieutenant); Dianne Harrison (Stage Intimacy Captain); Robin Jackson (Photography); Mark Shepard (Graphic Designer); Karen Topakian (Publicity); Eleanor Prugh (Volunteer Coordinator); Suzie Hughes (Program Consultant); and Andrew Wilson (Webmaster).

Review by Elle Alexa Simon
on behalf of Flora Lynn Isaacson, San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle

Go see this marvelous production on or before it closes June 5, 2022.  Ross Valley Players Barn, 31 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Ross CA.
Get tickets at RossValleyPlayers.com  Telephone number: 415/456-9555

Hotter Than Egypt at MTC

By Flora Lynn Isaacson, Go See

Marin Theater Company

Presentation of 
Hotter Than Egypt
World Premiere Co-Production
By Yousef El Guindi

 

Pandemic or not, the show must go on. This play continues through April 24, 2022.  MTC audiences are being treated to a very moving production, beautiful set design, and excellent performances.  Over all, as Directed by John Langs with Dramaturgy by Nakisa Etamad, this is theater at its best!

The cast includes: Jen Taylor (as wife Jean); Paul Morgan Stetler (as husband Paul); Wasim No‘mani (Seif); Naseem Etamad (Maha); and Ahmed Kamal (Boatman; Museum Guard; and Doorman)

The broken English dialogue was pleasantly spoken and easily understood. This production was absolutely engrossing. That said, inasmuch as nothing being said in Egyptian can be understood by the English-speaking audience, there should be a teleprompter/screen visible to the side or above the stage translating to English what is being said in Egyptian. Also, the particular music written for this play by Composer Nihan Yesil is a distraction (even to the ears of a music major).

The set and lighting were so well designed we could imagine the Egyptian hotel-setting on the Nile River.  Setting the tone for the character action, we see that the maitre d’hotel and female maid at this particular hotel, obviously, have a thing between them.

Another couple who is on their 24th anniversary vacation at the hotel is having marital issues/problems. After a not-so-loving discussion about “personal freedoms,” they give each other a good-night-kiss. The wife then simply shuts down…and the husband is simply not attracted to her. Instead of sleeping (or anything else), they then discuss divorce, during which he confesses to seeing a younger woman and tells his wife he’s leaving her for the younger woman. The wife is shocked.

The next day (as depicted by a wonderful staging of the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza), the tour guide and tourist wife are sitting with the Egyptian police because the guide is accused of “protesting.”

After a smooth set change, the wife is being quite flirtatious with the tour guide admitting that she’s concerned about zero contact with other people.  She complains about her “ungrateful kids” and her “small, wasted life.” We understand that the wife wants to leave her husband for a man she doesn’t know. She’s trying to encourage him to make love to her; however, he’s gracious but clearly not interested. They then have a very moving break-up.

Under an excellent starry sky, the husband comes back to the girlfriend and expresses a “moment of madness to appreciate what we have…I don’t remember being held in a way that made me feel anything.”  The girlfriend, however, wants to elope…and the story continues.

The staging of Pharaoh’s head was wonderful, and stage management during the set change was excellent. Most of the costuming was beautiful.

Stage Management by Michael Suenkel was excellent, as was the Scene Design by Carey Wong.

Dialect Coach Lynne Soffer
Costumes by Melanie Burgess
Fight Coordinator and Intimacy Director Ian Bond
Sound Design by Johanna Melamed
Lighting Designed and Operated by Jeff Rowlings

Performances of Hotter than Egypt continue through Friday and Saturday April 22-24, 2022, at Marin Theatre Company, located at 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley CA 94941. www.marintheatre.org  Telephone for tickets:  415/388-5200

Coming up next:  The Sound Inside by Adam Rapp from May 26 to June 19, 2022

Critique by
Elle Alexa Simon
Student of Flora Lynn Isaacson, SFBA Critic

Two New Exhibits at SF Legion of Honor

By Carol Benet, Go See

Pompeii and Wangechi Mutu at reopened Legion of Honor 

Carol Benet

With two huge volcanoes currently raging the world (Congo and Iceland), an exhibit on Pompeii could not be more timely.  Why is it that people like to revel in disaster and seek it out as part of their entertainment in movies and museum exhibits?

The recently reopened Legion of Honor presents two exhibits, “Last Supper in Pompeii” and “Wangechi Mutu:  I Am Speaking to You, Are you Listening”.  As different as they are, they both depict remnants of disasters and dwell on them.

“Pompeii” is a collection of items used in the preparation and the partaking of meals, with emphasis on wine produced in the volcanic soil surrounding Mt. Vesuvius.  Volcanic soil around both Etna and Vesuvius are rich for wine grape growing. The disastrous volcano that destroyed the entire city and its inhabitants took place in A.D. 79.   People have been fascinated by it since then.  This exhibit is part of this curiosity that has continued for centuries. 

Much of the exhibit is about the wine industry at the time.  Renée Dreyfus, Curator of Ancient Art at the SF Museums of Fine Arts, has contributed to this exhibit. and points out that people in the first century gravitated to Pompeii as a luxurious destination from Rome, much like the way pleasure seeking people head for Napa Valley to eat and drink.  

In the past Dreyfus has brought other interesting exhibits to the museums that shine a light on traditional viewing of Greek and Roman sculptures now seen in stark white where she points out and demonstrates the original colors they bore.  She also organized an exhibit on Thrace, an unusual and unknown subject for an art exhibition.

Most people know about the destruction of Pompeii by the volcano Vesuvius in A.D. 79.  In this exhibit their knowledge is expanding by knowing how they lived, ate, drank and spent their leisure hours. 

On display are many wine vessels, pitchers,  cups, bowls, often in silver with a myriad of designs.  The history of the wine industry in Pompeii is well labeled and introduced by a statue of Bacchus, the god of wine, is apparent.  

Cuisine is the other important subject of the exhibit with preparation vessels, plates, utensils on display. This part is not so interesting as it is predictable.  But a narrow room with a fresco, paintings and statue of a giant phallus attest to the love these people had for erotica as they used it as decoration of their homes.  This gallery is off-bounds to youth attending the museum.

The finale of the exhibit is a short video with computer graphics that recreates the volcano and show how it destroyed the buildings and the city,  bit by bit.  ‘Last 

supper in Pompeii:  From Table to the Grave” runs at the Legion through August 29.  Reservations are a must.

The second exhibit, upstairs, mainly in the Rodin galleries are the works of the Kenyan American artist Wangechi Mutu.  Her exhibit “I Am Speaking to You, Are You Listening” is a series of mostly sculptures and some paintings.  The works are spread among the standard Rodin sculptures as if they are in dialogue with this European male artist’s presentations of his reality.  It was the former director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Max Hollein who first starting putting the contemporary and sometimes shocking works next to the standard fare of the Legion.  He was much criticized for this.  This criticism didn’t matter to him because after San Francisco he took up the helm as director of the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

Mutu’s sculptures are many layered. Two greet the visitor in the courtyard before the entrance of the museum and at the the base of the famous “Thinker” of Rodin as if the figure is pondering the disaster below.  Here Mutu has placed  two bronzes, bodies covered by  blankets covering two figures, These are identifiable as female because of the pointy toed very high sexy heeled red shoes poking out.  An overt reference to violence against women. Also in the courtyard are two huge bronze sculptures that represent mythological female goddesses.

In the entrance hall of the museum is another reclining sculpture and beyond that in the main Rodin gallery is “Sentinel IV” made of several materials including wood, soil, branches, paper and black hair.  The standing sculpture is set apart by strands of large black beads.   This statue stands on a platform of earth red soil, a motif that is present in other of her sculptures.  

Three photographic prints of ink and emulsion are placed in the next Rodin gallery with three busts emphasized with mirrors.  A standing sculpture has  an exaggerated hairstyle and fringe replicating a skirt. 

Mutu uses a rich assortment of materials as she works in many genres.  She refers to questions surrounding feminism.  She has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the 2019 Whitney Biennial in New York. Her works are a welcome addition to the once staid collection of European art at the Legion.  This exhibit runs through November 7, 2021.  41 5 750 3600 or www.famsf.org. 

Test Review May 24, 2021

By Carol Benet, Go See

Manual Cinema performs Frankenstein as part of Cal Performances at Home, streaming premiere Thursday, October 29 at 7pm PDT; Performance will be available on demand until January 27th, 2021. Pictured: Sarah Fornace
(credit: Drew Dir)

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Listen to Me Marlon — Film Review

By Go See, Michael Ferguson

Listen to Me Marlon

Directed by Steven Riley

 

This is a superb rendering of the varied, complex, and deeply tragic life of Marlon Brando.  It is very moving.  I don’t know what could be done to improve this film.   I think it is as good a presentation of this subject as can be done within the time constraint of under two hours.  Obviously when you try to condense a life as rich and complicated as Marlon Brando’s into less than two hours some things have to be left out.  I am curious to know more about Marlon Brando’s life as a result of watching this film, but the film had both breadth and depth.  It covered everything that I would have wanted it to cover and it was a penetrating, thought provoking study.  This was made possible by the many hours of audio diaries that Marlon Brando recorded himself that were searching, thoughtful, and introspective, and formed the soundtrack for the film.  There was no narrator or commentator other than Brando himself.  There were photographs, documentary footage, and newscasts to illustrate events.

The film explored his difficult childhood growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, with alcoholic parents, and an especially cold, violent father.  The mother seems to have been somewhat better and he had a nanny that he felt close to, but who left him at age seven to get married.  He had a bitter divorce, his son was kidnapped and recovered.  The son later killed his half sister’s boyfriend in Brando’s house.  The half sister later committed suicide.  He suffered more than his share of horrendous tragedies.  He did not like the spotlight.  Like John Lennon, he realized what a world of illusion and misunderstanding it is, how isolating it can be, and how it makes authentic relationships with people difficult or impossible.  He was interested in the civil rights struggle.  He was a companion and supporter of Martin Luther King.  He refused an Oscar as a protest on behalf of American Indians and their treatment by Hollywood.  He was more than an actor.  He thought about social issues and the impact of films upon society.

The film does a good job of connecting Brando’s inner demons with his work on stage and in the movies as an actor.  His work as an actor grew out of his inner torment.  “When you are unwanted, you try on different identities in hope that you will find something that is acceptable.  Acting is survival.”  He was blessed with stunning good looks and natural charisma.   Many of his films are among the best films ever made.  There are reflections on the nature of acting and footage of his acting teacher, Stella Adler, at the New School in New York City.  He had been in psychoanalysis, which I think helped him focus on his inner self and use his own inner turmoil in his acting.  It probably motivated him to make the many tapes of his thoughts and comments, which are a fortunate treasure trove of information and insight.

I have never made a list of my ten best documentary films of all time, but if I ever did, this would likely be on it.  It is very hard to get any better than this.  Go see it.

CAMELOT rides into San Francisco on Harley motorcycles!

By Go See

Kedar [rating:5] (5/5 stars)

Lancelot (Wilson Jermaine Heredia*), King Arthur (Johnny Moreno*) and Guenevere (Monique Hafen*) at Knighting Ceremony Photos by Jessica Palopoli.

CAMELOT: Musical. Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner.Music by Frederick Loewe. Based on “Once and Future King” by T.H. White. Directed by Bill English. Music director Dave Dobrusky. July 16 – September 14, 2013.

CAMELOT rides into San Francisco on Harley motorcycles!

We aficionados (with synonyms of connoisseurs, devotees, enthusiasts, fanatics) of the SF Playhouse are mostly inured to seeing volatile productions of the under-belly of society parade the boards of their theatre. They have done it again with an ‘in your face’ staging of the musical Camelot. If any of their productions can be summarized with Harold Ross’s 1925 quote from “The New Yorker”, “It has announced that it is not edited [produced] for the old lady in Dubuque” , this staging of the once (and hopefully future) uplifting King Arthur/Round Table/Camelot story is it.

Last year Bill English’s re-imagination of My Fair Lady at their former intimate Sutter Street Theatre was a success and played to substantial crowds throughout the summer. It seems that the “summer musical” has become a standard for SF Playhouse to catch the vacation crowds that swarm San Francisco. This year they are in the substantially larger venue (up from 99 to 265 seats) that has a huge stage with a plethora of technical equipment. For Camelot Nina Ball has created a massive set using two or three turntables, an integrated rear stage screen for impressive projects and to hide the (count them) eight piece orchestra under SF favorite Dave Dobrusky. The well-known and acclaimed title of Camelot will surely attract crowds.

Those crowds will be overwhelmed with the colossal staging but they will not be humming the charming tunes associated with the musical but rather be shaking their heads as many were on opening night. Although there was appreciative applause at the curtain, the usual spontaneous standing ovation was absent.

Wilson Jermaine Heredia* as Lancelot prepares to battle knights

It was absent for good reason despite a spectacular performance by Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Lancelot. Heredia is a Tony and Oliver Award winner for his role as Angel in the Broadway and London productions of Rent.  Director English, using some of  his own words, has created knights in the mold of grungy (costumes by Abra Berman) bikers (Ken Brill, Rudy Guerrero, Robert Moreno, George P. Scott), Guenevere (Monique Hafen) as an angry Goth princess, King Arthur (Johnny Moreno) as a day-dreaming dolt and Mordred as a potential to play Richard III. Charles Dean a Bay Area favorite who brought the house down with his role as Doolittle in My Fair Lady is cast as both the magician Merlyn and Arthur’s confidant Pelinore.  Sadly, the only distinction in those characterizations is a change of costume.

There is much to like about this twisted version of what should be a romantic escapist evening that includes excellent singing voices (with exception of Johnny Moreno’s limited range), eye-catching projections, energetic acting and exuberant fight scenes staged by Heredia. The marvelous score and lyrics are still enchanting and include “Camelot”, “Follow Me”, “The lusty Month of May”, “How to Handle a Woman”, “Before I gaze at You Again”, “If Ever I Should Leave You”,  and “I loved You Once In Silence.”

Running time 2 hours and 40 minutes including the intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of  www.theatreworldinternetmagaine.com    

 

Madness on Madrona Drive

By Charles Jarrett, Go See

Sometimes, a very silly comedy that moves very quickly and does not require much contemplation of how ludicrous the plot actually is, can provide a delightful evening of entertainment. Such is the case of Madness on Madrona Drive, the delightfully funny comedy by Louis Flynn that opened this past weekend in the Orinda Starlight Theater in the Orinda Community Center Park.

As this play opens, quirky homeowner Louise Mc Hough (Maureen-Theresa Williams), is assisting her daughter, Mary (Virginia Blanco), to prepare for her wedding nuptials with a professional wedding planner, Helen Henderson (Betsy White) in her home. Even though the discussion should be entirely about the plans for Mary’s forthcoming wedding, the household, including housekeeper Millie (Susan England), is all excited with the recent revelation that their neighbor is a well known gangster.   In addition, an incident occurred a day earlier, where-in that same neighbor had purportedly had to vacate his house quickly due to suspicions that his life might be in danger. Mrs. Mc Hugh is a woman who envisions herself being the focus of attention and is thrilled that she might be interviewed by the local media, seeking information about her nefarious neighbor.

MR. TRAVERS (Ken Sollazzo, left) keeps a watchful eye as Louise (Maureen-Theresa Williams) tries to explain things to her brother (Al Guaraglia as Frank) in the Orinda Starlight production of “Madness on Madrona Drive,” at the Orinda Community Park amphitheater through Aug. 15.
Charles Jarrett photo

In the midst of the excitement and curiosity surrounding the reports of suspicious people coming and going from the neighbor’s house across the street, a disgruntled senior newspaper delivery person, Jimmy McMann (Tom Westlake), arrives at the Mc Hough house demanding payment for past due newspaper delivery service.  A confrontation ensues between Mc Hough and Jimmy brought about by Mrs. Mc Hough’s chiding of Jimmy over the newspaper’s content. Jimmy goes on to explain that his newspaper is a “family” newspaper that does not dwell on all the yellow journalism that Mc Hough seems to prefer reading about.

In the midst of all the discussions relating to the wedding preparations being made, another gentleman, Mr. Travers (Ken Sollazzo), unexpectedly  arrives early, stating that he is the father of the groom, whom Mrs. Mc Hough has never met.  At this time, the Bride-to-be, Mary, heads out to do some shopping for wedding party decorations and other essential wedding items.

Millie, the housekeeper, subsequentlyadvises Mrs. Mc Hough that there is a telephone repairman up on the roof.  Mrs. Mc Hough states that she was not aware that anything was wrong with the telephone, nor that there was any repair necessary. In short order, the repairman (identified as “Dick” on his coveralls (played by Ryan Terry), falls from the roof into the backyard from a ladder.  Mrs. Mc Hough questions the inept repairman as to who called for phone repair service and questions what repairs he has made, receiving answers that make little or no sense, setting the idea in her mind that something unbelievably criminal is about to take place in her beautiful, mid – 70’s style West coast neighborhood. Suddenly, she discovers that her guests, the telephone repairman, the purported father-in-law, and the wedding planner, are not who they claim to be, but in reality are an inept hit-man team out to do in the crime-boss across the street.

The frightened but now cocky and emboldened Mrs. Mc Hough decides that she is not going to let the bad guys “take care” of the criminal boss neighbor and she begins to think of ways that she can spoil their plans. Unfortunately, each and every one of her plans fall apart almost as quickly as they are conceived. Her brother, the Reverend Frank Fitzgerald (S.J. Al Guaraglia) arrives at the house and is also held captive by the bad guys. Mrs. Mc Hough enrolls her none-too-anxious brother into her plans to thwart the bad-guys. A short time later, one of her friends, Florabel (Kelly Hansen), stops by the house and almost finds herself an unwitting assistant to Mrs. Mc Hough’s plans. The plans and counter plans hatched by the criminals and the household of wanna-be heroes become a series of kooky failure prone disasters, all guaranteed to keep you laughing. There are several more contributing actors including a policeman played by Dan Phillips and a newspaper reporter, Mr. Harris (Bill Chessman) who add to the chaos and levity. The costumes are equally outrageous but quite appropriate for the hippie west coast setting of this fun-filled play.

The acting is really very good, making the cartoon like characters in the crime spoof very enjoyable. The set isoutrageously fitted in 60’s -70’s decor, bringing back a vivid memory of the lava-lamp, space flavored wall clocks and shocking color combinations of the 1970’s in which the event occurs.

Madness on Madrona Drive is a delightful community theater comedy and continues Fridays and Saturdays through August 15th, with one Sunday performance on August 9th at 4 pm and on Thursday, August 13th at 8 pm. Tickets are a very reasonable $16 for adults and $8 for children and seniors. The theater is the amphitheater in the Orinda Community Center Park adjacent to the Orinda Community Center and Library at 26 Orinda Way. Be sure to dress in layers because this is an outdoor facility and is subject to the fog that occasionally rolls over the Oakland/Orinda hills into the community center area. For more information, call (925) 528-9225 or check out their web site at www.orsvp.org or contact them by email the company at info.orsvp.org.