Monday, December 31, 2007

San Jose Mercury Top 10 Theatre List of 2007

The San Jose Mercury has picked it's top 10 list for 2007s Bay Area theatre scene.

Here's the list with my comments...

“Pillowman” (Berkeley Rep)... I missed this but I heard it was just amazing.
“Sweeney Todd” (ACT)... I saw this and it was wonderful except for the character of the Judge having been watered down.
“Anna Bella Eema” (Crowded Fire)
“Argonautika” (Berkeley Rep)
“Tings Dey Happen” (The Marsh)
“Man and Superman” (Cal Shakes)
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (Best of Broadway)... I saw this. I sat in the front row and was blown away. Stunning performances.
“Avenue Q” (Best of Broadway)
“Kiki and Herb’’ (ACT)
“Blackbird” (ACT).. I loved it. Some of the critics thought it was awful.
“Angels 2” (City Lights)... congratulations to City Lights! It's great to see a small theatre on the list. This was a wonderful show.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best of 2007: Bay Area Theater - From the Contra Costa Times

The Contra Cost Times chose it's best and worst shows of the year. The writer of this Blog (me) was one of the actors in their choice for No. 9! It's very exciting for our cast and crew because CTA Crossroads Theatre is a small theatre in the East Bay that most people don't even know exists. Our show is listed with shows from Berkeley Rep, A.C.T., Cal Shakes and others. Thank you Mr. Craig for recognizing our little play!

You can read the article here.
Or just take a look below..

Best of 2007: Bay Area theater
'Man and Superman' soared

To get an idea of just how good Bay Area theater was in 2007, consider that the first three picks here will likely end up on my lifetime Top 10 list; or that 2007's best-of list could easily have included at least 10 more entries.

This was also a good year for new works -- Bay Area audiences, particularly those consisting of middle-school-aged girls, were the first to fall in love with the musical version of "Legally Blonde," which launched here, then became a hit on Broadway. San Francisco's Magic Theatre launched a number of shows, including "Rust," "Pleasure and Pain" and "The Crowd You're In With."

It was also a season of new and exciting looks at older works, with American Conservatory Theater's presentation of "Sweeney Todd," Berkeley Rep's production of "Oliver Twist," and the Willows Theatre's innovative take on "Cats."

The Top 10

1. "Man and Superman," California Shakespeare Theater -- A three-hour production of a century-old work is risky, even if the playwright is George Bernard Shaw. That's particularly so when it is performed outdoors on often-chilly summer nights in the Orinda hills. But the gamble paid off big for Jonathan Moscone and his Shakespeare Theater. The production, which included the often-omitted "Don Juan in Hell" portion, was a flawless masterpiece of theater.

2. "Argonautika," Berkeley Repertory Theatre -- This piece of very contemporary theater gives an exciting new look at the old myth of Jason and the Argonauts. The

wildly innovative play offered a breathtaking blend of technical theater with sharp writing and memorable acting to be one of the season's best.

3. "Sweeney Todd," American Conservatory Theater -- The minimal retelling of Stephen Sondheim's astonishing musical about a revenge-seeking barber who slashes the throats of his customers so they can be made into meat pies offered a fresh and exciting look at the musical. It played in San Francisco at the start of its national tour.

4. "Defiance," Playhouse West -- The words from that old Buffalo Springfield song, "Nobody's right if everybody's wrong," echo through your mind during this short, troubling play about social and political ills bubbling just below the surface at a military training camp. The disturbing show unfolded in Playhouse West's tiny Walnut Creek theater and was an excellent reminder why this intimate theater company must stay alive.

5. "Oliver Twist," Berkeley Repertory Theatre -- The classic Dickens story of the plight of an orphan boy in 19th century London became a horrifying vaudeville show from the 1800s in this memorable retelling of the Oliver Twist story.

6. "Death of a Salesman," A Traveling Jewish Theatre -- Arthur Miller's signature play about the American Dream got a clear-eyed new look from the San Francisco theater group, which sought to explore the story's Jewish roots and hit the stage with a sparkling revival.

7. "Mousetrap" Center Repertory Company -- This Agatha Christie mystery, which has been playing London since Queen Elizabeth was young, is the play everyone knows, but nobody's seen. It got a rousing, attractive and wonderfully wrought production from Center Rep, who signed on an all-star cast to join in the whodunit fun.

8. "Cats," Willows Theatre Company -- This is not a play that normally makes Top 10 lists, but the Willows Theatre version is the exception. The production moves the cat tale from a junkyard to a schoolhouse to become a tribute to a teacher cat, and a show that makes much more sense and is considerably more entertaining then the overstuffed Broadway tabby. It plays through Dec. 30.

9. "Driving Miss Daisy," CTA Crossroads Theatre -- This is a touching tale of an older Southern Jewish woman and her relationship with her black driver. It was a wildly entertaining story, simply presented by the small Walnut Creek theater company by a hugely talented cast.

10. "Sex," Aurora Theatre Company -- Mae West wasn't just another come-hither face. The '20s prototype sex-bomb was also a playwright and an expert at highlighting and exploiting her particular charms. She wrote this show in 1923, the vice squad closed it on Broadway, and Berkeley's Aurora Theatre revived it hilariously.

The disappointments

These are the shows that were, for one reason or another, disappointments -- they weren't necessarily bad or poorly done, just presentations that didn't quite work.

1. "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish, & I'm in Therapy" -- This was a nice, gently funny show that played as if it had been written in the late '50s or early '60s. It was well done, but just didn't deliver the anticipated laughs.

2. "Moscow Cat Circus" -- Cats, onstage, doing tricks. There, that's everything you need to know about this. Now, find something better to do with the rest of the 90 minutes of your life.

3. "Romeo and Julian," Butterfield 8 Theatre Company -- This bold, gender-bending retelling of the Shakespeare play was a gutsy experiment, particularly for a suburban company, but it just needed a bit more work on adapting the script.

4. "Blackbird" -- This ACT show came with a hard-edged reputation, as it candidly explored the aftermath of a man's relationship with an under-age girl. It did, but the intimate story got lost in the enormous American Conservatory Theater.

5. "Expedition 6" -- This production at the Magic Theatre, about astronauts in danger of losing their lives in outer space as the Iraq war unfolds on Earth, had some promise, including actors dangling like puppets above the stage to simulate weightlessness. But the show opened too soon, and might have worked with some tinkering and editing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sweeney Todd on the Big Screen, Tim Burton's Masterpiece

Tim Burton has finally created his masterpiece. The new film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is one of the most provocative and artistic musicals ever made. You’ll barely realize that you’re watching a musical even though the actors are singing for practically the entire film. The entire cast is superb due precisely to the fact that none of them are primarily singers. They are all accomplished actors who have been able to deftly perform the musical numbers with subtlety and poignancy.

The film has the best opening credits I have ever seen. As the stars names cross the screen you follow a trail of blood through the sewers of London while a haunting orchestration of The Ballad of Sweeney Todd plays in the background. It’s mesmerizing.

The entire movie has a dark feel with some sort of blue filter on the lens that adds a kind of coldness. Johnny Depp is just magnificent. His Sweeney is troubled, loving, evil, hurt and compassionate all at the same time. Depp, one of the best screen actors of our time, deserves an Oscar for this performance.

Five Top Sweeney Todd Moments

5. Sweeney’s doing in of Judge Turpin. Damn that was nasty! But the Judge had it coming. All of Sweeney’s other murders were relatively painless – a simple slicing of the juggler. But he decided to give the Judge (played superbly by Alan Rickman) the daily special.

4. Sacha Baron Cohen’s sock. Here’s what I guess must have happened. During the shooting, Mr. Cohen’s irrepressible comic side took over and he stuffed the aforementioned sock in his pants giving his character, Signor Adolfo Pirelli, a quite tumescent package. Burton saw this, decided it was hilarious and used it to film the most hilarious two shot ever recorded in the history of film.

3. The musical score. It was simply wonderful. Listen to it. I’m not talking about the vocals, only the score.

2. The final scene. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s awful and touching all at once.

1. Johnny Depp. His acting is flawless, he can sing despite the doubts of many, and he embodies the character completely. Let’s be happy that Russell Crowe didn’t get the part.

Go see this movie on the Big Screen. Don’t wait for the DVD.

My Prediction: Oscar for Best Picture, Oscar to Johnny Depp for Best Actor.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

True West is Coming

Get ready for TRUE WEST at The Pear opening Jan. 11. As you can see the set is coming along and the actors are hard at work. You might want to wear a raincoat to this show as things may get a little messy near the end.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Three Tall Women" at The Pear

Edward Albee, one of our greatest playwrights, wrote perhaps his most biographical play in "Three Tall Women" showing at The Pear Avenue Theatre through November 18th. The play features three strong actors - Monica Cappuccini, Rebecca J. Ennals, and Diane Tasca. The play is written in two acts. The first act features Diane Tasca as the semi-senile character of "A" who reminisces about her life, her loves, her losses, and her sexual ups and downs. Apparently she is a reincarnation of Albee's real mother. The other two actresses play her caretaker (Monica Cappuccini) and her lawyer (Rebecca J. Ennals).

In Act II the two, helpers become younger versions of "A" and we see them struggle with what they are to become as it is reflected back to them by "A". There is much sardonic whit and humor written into this script. Albee's insights into the mind of his mother is remarkable and disturbing.

This play could have been done more comically, however, because of the sensibilities of the actors it seemed to lean more toward the dark and sardonic. The performances from all three were excellent and Tasca's ability to play a 90 something woman were a joy to watch.

Plays through November 18th.
For tickets call
The Pear Avenue Theatre

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Driving Miss Daisy at CTA Crossroads Theatre

I'm playing Boolie in a production of Driving Miss Daisy. Here's our first review. It's been a great experience to be in this production. My fellow actors and our director are wonderful people and dedicated artists.

Here's the review..

Subtlety drives powerful 'Daisy'
By Pat Craig

Contra Costa Times
Article Launched:10/23/2007 03:04:25 AM PDT
The movie version of Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Driving Miss Daisy" is so fondly remembered and loved, the original theatrical version is rarely produced.

Seeing a beautifully rendered production of the play, however, particularly the production that opened over the weekend at Walnut Creek's Crossroads Theatre, quickly reminds you just how powerful and immediate the work is.

The story is about the quarter century after World War II, seen through the eyes of Daisy Werthan (Scarlett Hepworth), an aging Jewish woman and lifelong Atlanta resident; her chauffeur, Hoke Coleburn (Darold Francis Holloway), a decade-younger black man who has spent much of his career as driver for wealthy Atlantans; and Boolie Werthan (Ray Renati), Daisy's son, whose feet are planted firmly in the moral certainty and obligations of faith and the changing dynamics of Atlanta's contemporary business and social scene.

These changes, which swept through the Jim Crow South following WWII, are chronicled along with relationship between Hoke and Miss Daisy from 1948 to 1973, with little effort on Uhry's part to hammer home any message.

It is simply the fact that all of this change is going on (and that many things are remaining painfully the same) that makes the play so compelling. That there are no wildly emotional outbursts or eloquent proclamations of injustice is what makes the piece so challenging for actors.

In fact, the most anger seen is when Hoke growls a bit at Miss Daisy when they are running late and he must use the bathroom. It's hardly a triumphant pronouncement of newfound freedom and equality, but the simple, charming scene speaks volumes on how things have changed.

Hepworth, Holloway and Renati all deliver masterful performances, giving Uhry's words an understated strength as they capture the nuance and subtlety of their characters. The intimacy of the Crossroads Theatre certainly helps create the warmth of the play, but most of the credit for the success of the production must go to the actors and the direction of Marilyn Langbehn, who moves her characters gracefully across a set where three elements -- Daisy's house; Boolie's office; and the car, represented by two stools -- are onstage nearly throughout the play.

One of the keys to making the story work so well is a subtlety in all things. The characters age quite subtly over the years; long-held attitudes change subtly over the years; and the relationships among the characters, particularly Daisy and Hoke, change subtly over the years.

The Hoke/Daisy relationship becomes a love story of sorts; not in the romantic sense, but in the growing fondness and respect the two strong souls gain for each other over time.

Reach Pat Craig at 925-945-4736 or


WHAT: CTA Crossroads Theatre Company presents "Driving Miss Daisy," by Alfred Uhry

WHEN: Thursdays through Saturdays, through Nov. 17

WHERE: 1277 Boulevard Way, Walnut Creek

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


CONTACT: 925-944-0597,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Free Tickets To Angels for TBA Members

Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika at City Lights
Don't miss the production hailed by the San Jose Mercury News as "brave," "visionary," and "extremely gratifying"! A limited number of complimentary tickets to City Lights Theater Company's acclaimed production of Angels in America, Part 2: Perestroika are now available to members of Theatre Bay Area only for the October 20 (8 p.m.) and October 21 (2 p.m.) performances. City Lights Theater Company, 529 S. Second St., San Jose, 95112. Call (408) 295-4200 or visit!

Monday, October 15, 2007

ANGELS IN AMERICA - Part II: Perestroika at City Lights

There's one more weekend left for you to see ANGELS IN AMERICA - Part II: Perestroika at City Lights Theatre Company in San Jose. The show which runs through this Sunday (Oct. 21), is directed by Kit Wilder and performed by a multi-talented cast of actors. City Lights has really done something spectacular here. They have tackled one of the most challenging plays of the 1980s. The play, written by Tony Kushner is the second of half of a story that City Lights performed last season. In ANGELS IN AMERICA - PART I Kushner pushed the envelope and City Lights took his text and created a wonderful production. But in PART II, City Lights pushed the envelope in a way that Wilder is apt to do and has succeeded beyond all expectations. First of all the set, a mish-mash of boards and boxes and cardboard is immediately recognizable to the Bay Area native as one of the many homeless camps in San Francisco or San Jose. The play constantly makes reference to the beauty of San Francisco and that heaven will resemble San Francisco. The contrast the words produce against the actual stage setting is a constant reminder of how we humans, faced with death and fear can idealize reality in order to keep going, to keep moving toward the positive. Gemma Beddo Barozzi as the angel is absolutely beautiful. Normally the angel in this play is portrayed as a balding kemo beaten anemic. But in Wilder's staging Gemma (one of the most perfect looking people on Earth) is portrayed as a beautiful Marilyn Monroe-esque sex kitten and the image works. Her sexiness reminds us constantly of how AIDS has taken away the life force - the sexuality - of Prior in a profound and saddening way. She becomes for him his destroyed libido and his mother-figure all at once.

Kevin Kirby is just fantastic as Roy Cohen, the malevolent lawyer, dieing an awful and painful death at the hands of AIDS. If you have ever seen the HBO version of the show. Al Pacino is fantastic in the role. Kirby takes some of his performance from Pacino's portrayal but makes it totally his own. The energy and hatefulness mixed with abject fear and helplessness that Kirby gives us is disturbing and amazing.

Tomas Theriot as Prior Walter gives a very authentic and painfully realistic performance. His understanding of the character and his sardonic wit are saddening and wonderful. Jeff Clarke as Joe Pitt plays his part with tremendous sensitivity and courage. The entire cast is wonderful and includes Jason Arias, Julianne Arnall, Gemma Beddo Barozzi, Jeff Clarke, Lance Gardner, Kevin Kirby, Shareen Merriam and Tomas Theriot.


By Tony Kushner
Directed by Kit Wilder
September 20-October 21, 2007
The conclusion of Kushner's saga of sex, love, religion, and politics in the mid 1980s, Perestroika is, like Part One, a testament to the human spirit. Challenging and uncompromising, the play has been widely heralded as a masterpiece for the ages, a celebration of the power of love and understanding to heal both body and soul.
For mature audiences: language, violence and sexuality.

Jason Arias, Julianne Arnall, Gemma Beddo Barozzi, Jeff Clarke, Lance Gardner, Kevin Kirby, Shareen Merriam and Tomas Theriot

Read a synopsis of Part One.

Read the San Jose Mercury News review

Read the Metro review
Read the San Jose Mercury News feature
Take an audio slideshow tour

September 20-October 21, 2007

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 at 7pm
Sunday Oct. 14 and 21 at 2pm

$30 GN/ $25 SR/ $15 ST & ED
$40 Saturday Opening Night Gala Sept. 22
$25 Fridy Preview Night Sept. 21
Group rates and subscriptions available!

Click here to buy tickets now
Or call the Box Office at 408-295-4200

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Diary of Anne Frank at San Jose Stage Company

The sad thing about attending a production of a play like The Diary of Anne Frank is that you know exactly how it's going to end. As you watch these people stuck in this little loft for years, trying their best to get along and stave off the terror that lurks in every corner of their minds, you know that in the end it's all an exercise of futility. The Nazis will come. The Nazis will throw them in trains like cattle and torture them and kill them.

So, for me, each time I have seen a production of this play, I get a tear in my eye from the opening curtain onward. What made this production particularly poignant for me was that the actors and director were able to find the humor in the script. As the family and their "guests" tried to survive this ordeal they often used laughter as a means of coping. I found this very touching. In particular, Mark Messersmith and Marie Shell really did a great job with this. Both characters ( Hermann van Daan and Mrs. van Daan) as portrayed my Messersmith and Shell were vibrant, funny, desperate, and so human in their struggle to manage the horror that had become their lives.

The entire cast was wonderful. Randall King did a wonderful job as Otto Frank, showing us his stoic patience and his sense of responsibility and duty that never wavered. Janis Bergmann as his wife Edith was wonderful as the long suffering mother who wanted so badly to take the pain away from her family but was helpless to do so. I don't have time to name everyone here, but the whole cast is wonderful, the direction sensitive yet energetic, and the sound and lights are often stunning. I highly recommend that you go see this show. It will remind you that there are real human beings whose lives are unalterably affected by any act of political or social aggression. Hopefully more of us can keep this in mind the next time we have to choose our own leaders.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Outstanding Weekend of Bay Area Theatre

Friday night I went to see Three Sisters by Anton Chekov at The Pear Avenue Theatre. What an absolutely wonderful job they did with this extremely difficult and tragically comic play. With a new translation by Craig Lucas, Chekov's genius was channeled by these actors at the forty seat gem of a theatre in Mountain View. The thing that's tough with Chekov is that his writing provokes deft humor and incredible sadness all at once. The actor and director must find ways to communicate Chekov's intentions without becoming over dramatic or on the other hand playing for laughs. It's a tough task, but the cast under the direction of Jeannie Forte made it happen. Three sisters is mainly a play about people who want what they cannot have. Their current life experience has brought them sadness and they all see possible happiness in other loves, but it's always just beyond their reach. This theme echoed brilliantly throughout every moment of this production. Bravo, to The Pear once again.

Sunday I took a short ride up to The Geary Theatre in San Francisco to see A.C.T.'s touring production of possibly the greatest musical ever written, Sweeney Todd. Usually I leave a play and feel sad, amused, touched or any number of emotions. But this, I believe, is the first time I have ever left speechless. I think the emotion that I felt, if it is an emotion, was stunned. Never before have I experience a theatrical event like this one. The remarkable and unique thing about this production was that the actors themselves were the musicians. Believe it or not, they acted and sang and played all the music themselves. I know this sounds impossible, but believe, me it isn't. David Hess as Sweeney was nothing short of magnificent. He was in fact the only one who didn't play an instrument. Even Judy Kaye, who played Mr.s Lovett, tooted a few notes on the tuba. From the opening moments of the show as Hess suddenly appears from a wooden coffin singing, "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.." I was captivated. His power and pathos and sense of humor along with his wonderful baritone made this Sweeney something to behold. Too bad the run is over. I believe that next they go to Boston for a couple of weeks. You can get all the details from the tour's web site.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Sisters" Has Only a Week Left

The Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View has developed quite a reputation for producing excellent classical theatre. The current production of Chekov's "Three Sisters" is no exception.
Keith Kreitman of the San Mateo County Times says,

"....As a result, director Jeanie Forte was able to gather together one of the best casts in memory."

And Kevin Kirby from the Palo Alto Weekly says,

"...Whether this is true or not -- whether the finished product is the result of canny casting choices or weeks of grueling work (or both) -- Forte deserves credit for putting together an accessible and quite moving production of this dramatic masterpiece."

I checked with the theatre and apparently there are seats left for the last weekend of performances but they are going fast. There are still seats available for Friday night, September 28th and the Sunday matinee on September 30th. Thursday and Saturday are sold out.

For tickets go to The Pear's web site or call: 650-254-1148

***Photo by Shannon Stowe***

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Little Rain Must Fall

A.C.T. has finished casting for their upcoming production of "The Rainmaker". I'm very surprised that A.C.T. is doing this play. I guess I associate it mostly with community theatre and acting classes. But it is a classic story and if done well, should be very entertaining. I am happy to see that the wonderful René Augesen will be playing the lead role of Lizzie. Ms. Augesen is always a delight to watch.

Casting Complete for Revival of Nash's The Rainmaker at San Francisco's A.C.T.

By Ernio Hernandez
19 Sep 2007

Complete casting has been announced for the upcoming production of N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre.

Mark Rucker (The Beard of Avon) directs the work, which is scheduled to begin previews Oct. 25 and open Oct. 30 at the Geary stage. The play's run will end Nov. 25.

Billed as "a classic American romance," the 1936-set The Rainmaker centers on the "charismatic huckster Starbuck, who travels the heartland selling snake oil and other dubious miracle cures," as a release states. "At the drought-stricken Curry farm, Starbuck promises to make it rain - for a price, of course. But when he and Lizzie, the lone daughter of the family, discover a genuine chemistry, they begin to consider the possibility of a real miracle."

René Augesen will lead the cast (as Lizzie Curry) with Geordie Johnson (Bill Starbuck), Jack Willis (H.C. Curry), Alex Morf (Jim Curry), Stephen Barker Turner (Noah Curry), Anthony Fusco (File) and Rod Gnapp (Sheriff Thomas).

The design team includes Robert Mark Morgan (scenic), Lydia Tanji (costume), Don Darnutzer (lighting) and Jeff Mockus (sound).

The season continues at A.C.T. with David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow (Jan. 3-Feb. 4, 2008), Athol Fugard's The Blood Knot (Feb. 8-March 9, 2008), Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector (March 20-April 20, 2008), Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class (April 25-May 25, 2008) and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (June 5-July 6, 2008).

Tickets to The Rainmaker at A.C.T., 415 Geary Street in San Francisco, CA, are available by calling (415) 749-2228. For more information visit

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sondheim's Bloodiest and Best Bonus

I've heard from a friend that the current production of Sweeney Todd at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco is "freaking AWESOME". This is a new take on Sweeney in which the actors actually play the instruments on stage in addition to performing the show. Today I just read that the two young lovers of the show, will also be singing at the Plush Room.

Lauren Molina and Benjamin Magnuson will offer a one-night-only performance at San Francisco's Plush Room Oct. 1.

The cabaret event, scheduled on one of Sweeney's dark nights, will also feature other cast members from that Stephen Sondheim-Hugh Wheeler musical.

Anyone out there see this Sweeney yet? I'm going on September 30th!

For more information and tickets:

American Conservatory Theatre

Tickets for the Plush Room Show

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti Sings

Rest in Peace, Signore. You were wonderful and will live in our hearts forever.Thank you for touching us all with your genius.

Tony Bennett - The Master

There are thousands and thousands of good performers in the world. There are hundreds of great performers and then there are those who transcend the abilities of all others. These rare artists are able to captivate an audience in ways that touch souls and transform lives in just an hour or two. Tony Bennett is one of these rare artists.

Last night at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, I was privileged to attend one of the most memorable musical performances I have yet to experience. The master vocalist Tony Bennett held an audience in the palm of his hand for ninety minutes of absolute bliss. This is the first time I have every been to a musical concert of this type where the audience with an average age of over 60 rose to their feet in five minute long standing ovations in the middle of the concert. After Tony sang the most amazing rendition of "For Once on My Life" the audience rose and clapped and cheered with complete adulation. It was one of the most beautiful renditions of any song I've ever heard. And, needless to say when he sang "I Left My Hear in San Francisco", at it's conclusion we all jumped to our feet with gratitude that Mr. Bennett, with that song, has made our wonderful city a place that the world adores.

The most touching and profound moment of the show occur ed near the end of the concert when Tony told the sound man to turn off all the microphones. He and his guitarist stood center stage and as the guitar played Tony sang an unamplified version of "Fly Me to the Moon" that left half the audience in tears.

What is it that he possesses that enables him to achieve such perfection in his art? Tony Bennett, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3rd, 1926 has had his share of sorrow and trouble in his life. A soldier on the front line in WWII he watched his friends die horrible deaths beside him. He suffered failed marriages, alcohol and drug addiction and a career that nearly ended many times.

Ironically, these are the very experiences that make him the soaring performer that he has become. When Tony Bennett sings to you, he sings completely and utterly from his heart. He is a man that has survived the worst that life can dish out. He survived and transcended his troubles, and he has become what we all can only hope to become as artists: people who are able to let down the walls of doubt and fear, and open our hearts with love to people we don't even know. Isn't this, coupled with talent and skill, what touches us deeply when we go to the theater? For this is when life is looked at through a mirror and given to us just as it is, unadorned, mysterious, awesome and wonderful.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Angel Face

Angel Face
San Francisco theater company, Word for Word perform a few scenes from Cornell Woolrich's Angel Face, a suspense-driven story from the pages of the famous pulp magazine, Black Mask. Angel Face is a wisecracking chorine with a beautiful face using all her charms to save her brother from a date with the electric chair. (Running Time: 7:48)

In Angel Face, Word for Word never lets up with this thriller by Cornell Woolrich, the godfather of noir. A forgotten noir gem, Angel Face is a suspense-driven pulp story from the pages of Black Mask. Angel Face is a wisecracking chorine with a beautiful face, a survivor who climbed up from the bottom rung through one speakeasy after another. Suddenly her life becomes unhinged by a murder. In a classic Woolrich plotline, she joins forces with a cop too tough to be crooked, and together they race the clock in an attempt to find a killer.

Angel Face runs August 10 - September 2, 2007 at Project Artaud Theater. For tickets and information visit

Cast:Angel Face: Laura LowryNick Burns: John FlanaganMilton: Paul Finocchiaro Rocco, Chick, The Manager: Danny WolohanDramaturg: Randall Homan

Directed by Stephanie Hunt and presented by Word for Word.

Music for this podcast was performed by the Kurt Ribak Trio.About the Author: Cornell Woolrich

Cornell Woolrich (a.k.a. William Irish and George Hopley) was born Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich in 1906. Known as the "Edgar Allen Poe of the 20th century," Woolrich, like Poe, led a fragmented and troubled life. He moved often as a child, suffered through parental divorce, and ultimately married the daughter of a Hollywood movie mogul (whom he adored), only to have her annul the marriage when she discovered that he was a closeted homosexual. For the next twenty-five years, Woolrich lived in a conflicted love-hate relationship with his mother. Even as he wrote his best work, Woolrich decayed emotionally and physically, eventually losing a leg to gangrene and becoming an alcoholic. His widely quoted aphorism, “First you dream, then you die,” sums up both his dark worldview and many of his plots, and also provides a clue to his undisputed mastery of suspense.

As the most prolific of the Noir writers, Woolrich is considered by many to be the godfather of the genre, and more films have been made from his work than from the work of any other Noir writer, including Hitchcock's Rear Window and Truffaut's La Mariée Etait en Noir (The Bride Wore Black). Following his mother's death in 1957, Woolrich's physical decline accelerated, and he died of a stroke in 1968, leaving behind two dozen novels and over 200 short stories.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Full Monty at City Lights

Last week I went to see The Full Monty at City Lights Theatre in San Jose. There are some fantastic performances in this show and a very revelatory ending. I highly recommend it, you'll have a great time. You might want to leave the kiddies at home.

Book by Terrence McNally
Music & Lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed by Lisa Mallette
Musical Direction by Gus Kambeitz
Choreography by Shannon Stowe

July 19 - August 26, 2007
Click here for a detailed schedule.

Buy tickets now online!
or call 408.295.4200

Weekend of July 26-29:
Get Street Closure Info

Join City Lights for the raucous,
heartfelt story of six unemployed
steelworkers in Buffalo, New York
who go to great lengths and
"bare it all" to make some extra
cash and help out a friend in
trouble. THE FULL MONTY features
an infectious pop score, outrageous
lyrics, and a surprise ending
that puts the “intimate” in
“intimate theatre”!

For mature audiences:
language, sexuality and nudity.

Click here for more info

Call 408-295-4200
or click here to
buy tickets now!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Amazing Ed Alonzo - "The Misfit of Magic"

Today I took my kids and our French exchange student to Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, CA. After riding about six different roller coasters and feeling thoroughly ill, my four year liked the idea of sitting in a cool theater to watch a magic show, so I jumped at the chance. My other son and our student continued riding the various head banging loop-dee-loops while me and the little guy headed over to the theater as quickly as his little legs would travel.

I figured we would see some kind of high school student wanna-be magician, but boy was I wrong. We were treated to a fantastic 40 minute show by a guy named Ed Alonzo. What a great performer he is! He sort of looks like a cross between Kramer on Seinfeld and Mandy Patinkin. Yes, he is mostly a magician, but his routine is filled with fantastic stand-up and a lot of very subtle but blue jokes that went way over the heads of the 200 or so teens and kids in the audience. I laughed my ass off, to the stares of a couple gang-bangers and a teeny boppers to my left. I didn't care, the man is fantastic. This show was worth the hefty admission price alone. I guess Great America must pay pretty well when they see real talent, because he has committed his entire July and August to the place.

So, if you happen to be going the Great America this month, skip some of the rides and make sure you catch this show. You will be very happy you did.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pete Wilson Dies

Pete Wilson, long time KGO anchorman and KGO radio host died last Friday during surgery for a hip replacement. I listened to Pete almost every day on KGO and he happened to be a neighbor of my parents. It's a very sad day for those who knew him in person or through the radio. Pete was the type of host who never hid himself from his audience. You always knew what mood he was in, if he was happy or bothered or angry or depressed. He made you feel like a friend and I think that's why so many people feel so saddened by his passing. I also know that he used to act in musical theatre when he was younger. Anyway, if you would like to express your thoughts and feelings about Pete, you can do that here.

We've all heard it a thousand times, but try to live each day as if it were your last. You just never know what will happen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The San Francisco Theater Festival

San Francisco Theater Festival Do you love theatre? Do you like to see cutting edge theatre for free performed by professional theatre companies? Then you need to head over to this years San Francisco Theater Festival at Yerba Buena Gardens at 3rd and Mission Streets.

Yours truly will be performing in Suzan-Lori Parks 365 Days/365Plays: Seven plays covering Week 36, July 16-22. My performances will be at 12:00 PM and 4:10 PM. But check out the entire schedule here, there's is really something for everyone.


About the International Festival

365 Days/ 365 Plays - The play cycle by Suzan-Lori Parks
On November 13, 2002, SUZAN-LORI PARKS got an idea to write a play a day for a year. She began that very day, finishing one year later. The resulting play cycle, called 365 Days/365Plays, is a daily meditation on an artistic life. Some plays are very short, less than a page. Others last forever.
SUZAN-LORI PARKS is a playwright, screenwriter and novelist whose plays include Topdog / Underdog, Fucking A, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom, The America Play, Venus, The Death Of The Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, and In The Blood, among others. In 2002, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Topdog / Underdog.
Would you like to read part of the play cycle? Click on the link to read today's play!
The 365 International Festival invites any theater in the world to join a grassroots premiere of this play cycle. Over 700 theaters are producing the plays in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Colorado, Greater Texas, Los Angeles, Midwest, New York, Northeast, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Southeast, Washington DC Area, West, Universities (365U) and all over the planet through 365Global. Produced by Bonnie Metzgar and Suzan-Lori Parks, the 365 Festival is being performed from November 13, 2006 through November 12, 2007.
Plays can be produced in traditional theater spaces or site-specific locations, opera halls or ice rinks. They can be staged readings or fully produced. Participating theaters will each present seven plays, representing one week of this play cycle, before then passing the cycle on to the next theater in a cultural relay race that celebrates the community of theater artists and audiences wherever they are found - online and around the world.
All performances are free to the public and all artists can participate. As we like to say at 365, there's pie for everyone. So whether you are an audience member or an artist, we invite you to join 365.


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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Nichole H

Originally uploaded by Thespis of the Bay.

Bay Area actor and director. Nichole is a true artist and a very funny person with unusual depth and intelligence. Working with her has always been nothing short of wonderful

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by Thespis of the Bay.

Local Bay Area actor, Heidi K., on the beach on Half Moon Bay. She is a wonderful model and person with huge talent and passion. I am a photographer and this is one of the photos I took of her recenlty.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Imaginary Invalid at A.C.T.

Here's something you should try just for yucks: park your car at the Sutter-Stockton Street Garage, jog/walk 4 blocks down the hill while you have awful back spasms which force you to take a posture similar to that of Pewee Herman, audition for a T.V. commercial for 10 minutes pretending that you are in perfect physical health, then jog/walk back up the hill four blocks quickly so that you and your 10 year old son can get something to eat before the 2 P.M. showing of Molière's, "The Imaginary Invalid" at A.C.T.

When you finally arrive at the Geary at 1:43 you realize that the two stomachs must be filled, and quickly. So, you dash across the street. In front of you is a Pizza by the Slice place that is pretty full of munching yuppies, and next door is a relatively calm looking Thai hole-in-the-wall. You ask your 10 year old son what he wants, and get the all to familiar "I don't know.. how am I supposed to know?" answer. So, being the health conscious father that you are you decide on the Thai place. After all, the pictures above the window show all kinds of healthy looking vegetable laden dishes. So you duck in, mentioning to the Thai-only speaking waitress that you need to eat quickly. She looks at you like you are from Mars. You dash about looking for a worker that understands English. You find one. "No problem," she says. So you sit, order and wait only a few minutes. In no time our healthy looking Thai food is before us. My son has a bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup large enough to feed a family of five. And in front of me lies a nice plate of rice and crab. Quickly we start downing or grub. "Not bad," we think, even though the soup is too hot, forcing me to dump my glass of ice water into the giant bowl so that my son wouldn't scald his tongue. Within minutes we are done. The show starts in seven, I pay, we dash out, head to the potty for a quick pee and up to our seats we go. We're there with a couple of minutes to spare.

My back is aching, more like killing me, but I will survive and I will laugh if it kills me. The show begins, hilarity ensues. Suddenly, and without warning my stomach feels like it has a small Thai child in it scratching and clawing to get out like the monster from "Alien". My back is killing me still, and now my stomach is about to explode from what must have been some rotten crab and there is an "imaginary" invalid on stage - a hypochondriac with nothing really wrong with him. And then there is me, sitting there watching him, the real invalid. Stabbing pains are pulsing through my lower back and hips, a small Thai child is trying to force it's way through my upper intestines, and yet I'm laughing. Yes, I am absolutely miserable from head to toe and yet I'm laughing and laughing with gusto!

That's how wonderful this production of "Invalid" is at A.C.T. Everything about the show is exquisite:the flawless comic timing, the physical hilarity, the set the music, the sound and the HAIR! The hair is fantastic.

Go see it!

A.C.T.'s 40th Anniversary Exits Laughing: With the World Premiere of Constance Congdon's The Imaginary Invalid
Directed by Bay Area Native Ron Lagomarsino

Production Features the Return to A.C.T. of Nancy Dussault (The Threepenny Opera), and John Apicella (Glengarry Glen Ross)

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, MAY 2, 2007––American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) lowers the curtain on its seminal 40th anniversary season with Constance Congdon’s world premiere adaptation of Molière's riotous send-up of wealth and wellness, The Imaginary Invalid. Directed by Bay Area native Ron Lagomarsino––who directed the original productions of Driving Miss Daisy (off-Broadway) and The Last Night of Ballyhoo (Broadway), as well as A.C.T.’s production of The Gamester two seasons ago––The Imaginary Invalid plays A.C.T. June 7 through July 8. Press night is Wednesday, June 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets—starting at $13.50––can be purchased at A.C.T. Ticket Services, located at 405 Geary Street, 415.749.2228; or via the A.C.T. website, Groups of 15 or more people are eligible for discounts; please call 415.439.2473.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New Play Readings at The Pear- May 2007

New Play Readings - May 2007

The Pear will be holding readings of new full-length plays in consideration for production in our 2007-2008 season. All readings will be on Sunday evenings at 7pm at the Pear. The public is invited, and there is no charge.

Address: 1220 Pear Avenue, Mtn. View, CA

Phone: 650-254-1148

May 6 at 7 PM

Whales in the Channel
by Richard Medugno

A group of strangers form a surprising connection with a whale that has mysteriously stranded itself.

May 20 at 7pm

Room 15
by Elyce Melmon

A new teacher finds herself bucking the system in a prestigious and competition-driven private school.

May 27 at 7pm

Homeland Prayer
by Jeff Carter

Members of a family struggle to keep hope alive when a badly wounded soldier returns from war.

June 6 at 7pm

Campaign Strategy
by Lynn Snyder

All's fair in love and politics? In this play the twists and turns of a political campaign intersect with those of complicated love affairs and friendships.

Live staged reading of “Perpetual Motion”, a new script by Jack Richards

I just wanted to let you know about a play reading that’s coming up at City Lights Theatre in San Jose. The script is great, and as always, the readings are engaging and informative. Plus you get to give feedback in a short talk-back session following the reading – so you become part of the creative process!

I know life is busy, but if you have a little time I would love to see you there. More info below and at



Live staged reading of “Perpetual Motion”, a new script by Jack Richards.

By Jack Richards

A black man and a white boy join forces to escape from abuse and persecution on the streets of Chicago. Based on a true story, PERPETUAL MOTION was originally written for the stage, then adapted for the screen, and has now been re-adapted for the stage.

Since taking an early retirement from teaching English in college to concentrate on writing projects, Jack Richards has completed seven screenplays (all of which have either won or placed in screenwriting competitions), two stage plays, and a TV pilot. He has also published seven books and a reading series for public schools.


Tuesday June 5, 8pm


City Lights Theatre Company

529 South Second Street

San José, California 95112


(408) 295-4200


From San Francisco

Take Highway 280 south. Take the 7th Street exit, staying in the extreme left hand lane. The road will curve to the left and you will come to a traffic light where you will turn left onto 7th Street. Follow 7th Street to the third light, William Street, and turn left onto William. Follow William 5 blocks until you come to 2nd Street and turn left on 2nd. City Lights is the 3rd building on the right; you will see our lighted marquee. Secure parking is available directly across the street from the theatre on your left.

From Oakland

Take Highway 880 south to Highway 280 South. Take the 7th Street exit, staying in the extreme left hand lane. The road will curve to the left and you will come to a traffic light where you will turn left onto 7th Street. Follow 7th Street to the third light, William Street, and turn left onto William. Follow William 5 blocks until you come to 2nd Street and turn left on 2nd. City Lights is the 3rd building on the right; you will see our lighted marquee. Secure parking is available directly across the street from the theatre on your left.

From Milpitas

Take Highway 680 south, which becomes Highway 280 North. Take the 7th Street exit. At the bottom of the ramp, turn right on 7th Street. Follow 7th Street to the third light, William Street, and turn left onto William. Follow William 5 blocks until you come to 2nd Street and turn left on 2nd. City Lights is the 3rd building on the right; you will see our lighted marquee. Secure parking is available directly across the street from the theatre on your left.


A black man and a white boy join forces to escape from abuse and persecution on the streets of Chicago. Based on a true story, PERPETUAL MOTION was originally written for the stage, then adapted for the screen, and has now been re-adapted for the stage.

Since taking an early retirement from teaching English in college to concentrate on writing projects, Jack Richards has completed seven screenplays (all of which have either won or placed in screenwriting competitions), two stage plays, and a TV pilot. He has also published seven books and a reading series for public schools.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2006/2007 Tony Nominations are Here

Nominees for the 61st Annual Antoinette Perry "Tony" Awards follow:

Best Play
The Coast of Utopia
The Little Dog Laughed
Radio Golf

Best Musical
Grey Gardens
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening

Best Book of a Musical
Curtains, Rupert Holmes & Peter Stone
Grey Gardens, Doug Wright
Legally Blonde The Musical, Heather Hach
Spring Awakening, Steven Sater

Best Original Score
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb, John Kander & Rupert Holmes

Grey Gardens
Music: Scott Frankel
Lyrics: Michael Korie

Legally Blonde The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin

Spring Awakening
Music: Duncan Sheik
Lyrics: Steven Sater

Best Revival of a Play
Inherit the Wind
Jouney's End
Talk Radio

Best Revival of a Musical
The Apple Tree
A Chorus Line
110 in the Shade

Best Special Theatrical Event
Jay Johnson: The Two and Only
Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play
Boyd Gaines, Journey's End
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brían F. O’Byrne, The Coast of Utopia
Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind
Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Swoozie Kurtz, Heartbreak House
Angela Lansbury, Deuce
Vanessa Redgrave, The Year of Magical Thinking
Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik
Raúl Esparza, Company
Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening
Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins
David Hyde Pierce, Curtains

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical
Laura Bell Bundy, Legally Blonde The Musical
Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade
Debra Monk, Curtains
Donna Murphy, LoveMusik

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play
Anthony Chisholm, Radio Golf
Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia
Ethan Hawke, The Coast of Utopia
John Earl Jelks, Radio Golf
Stark Sands, Journey's End

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia
Xanthe Elbrick, Coram Boy
Dana Ivey, Butley
Jan Maxwell, Coram Boy
Martha Plimpton, The Coast of Utopia

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
Christian Borle, Legally Blonde The Musical
John Cullum, 110 in the Shade
John Gallagher, Jr., Spring Awakening
David Pittu, LoveMusik

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
Charlotte d’Amboise, A Chorus Line
Rebecca Luker, Mary Poppins
Orfeh, Legally Blonde The Musical
Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens
Karen Ziemba, Curtains

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Grandage, Frost/Nixon
David Grindley, Journey's End
Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia
Melly Still, Coram Boy

Best Direction of a Musical
John Doyle, Company
Scott Ellis, Curtains
Michael Greif, Grey Gardens
Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Curtains
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear, Mary Poppins
Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening
Jerry Mitchell, Legally Blonde The Musical

Best Orchestrations
Bruce Coughlin, Grey Gardens
Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening
Jonathan Tunick, LoveMusik
Jonathan Tunick, 110 in the Shade

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bob Crowley & Scott Pask, The Coast of Utopia
Jonathan Fensom, Journey's End
David Gallo, Radio Golf
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Christine Jones, Spring Awakening
Anna Louizos, High Fidelity
Allen Moyer, Grey Gardens

Best Costume Design of a Play
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy
Jane Greenwood, Heartbreak House
Santo Loquasto, Inherit the Wind
Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Legally Blonde The Musical
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Susan Hilferty, Spring Awakening
William Ivey Long, Grey Gardens

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, Coram Boy
Brian MacDevitt, Inherit the Wind
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner, and Natasha Katz, The Coast of Utopia
Jason Taylor, Journey's End

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Spring Awakening
Christopher Akerlind, 110 in the Shade
Howard Harrison, Mary Poppins
Peter Kaczorowski, Grey Gardens

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Alliance Theatre, Atlanta, GA

The number of nominations each show received follows:
Spring Awakening - 11
The Coast of Utopia - 10
Grey Gardens - 10
Curtains - 8
Legally Blonde The Musical - 7
Mary Poppins - 7
Coram Boy - 6
Journey's End - 6
110 in the Shade - 5
Inherit the Wind - 4
LoveMusik - 4
Radio Golf - 4
Company - 3
Frost/Nixon - 3
A Chorus Line - 2
Heartbreak House - 2
The Little Dog Laughed - 2
Talk Radio - 2
The Apple Tree - 1
Butley - 1
Deuce - 1
High Fidelity - 1
Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! - 1
Kiki and Herb Alive on Broadway - 1
Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me - 1
A Moon for the Misbegotten - 1
Translations - 1
The Year of Magical Thinking - 1

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?

Yesterday I sat in the front row at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco and watched Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin turn my gut into a cauldron of anxiety. I've read Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf a couple of times, of course. But, I have never seen it done on stage. Edward Albee must have had an absolutely awful childhood. And, he must be an absolute genius. As is always the case with Albee, I find myself laughing often and with gusto, while inside I'm becoming slowly but surely upset at what I see unfolding before me. In the hands of this cast, which also includes Kathleen Early and David Furr and directed by Anthony Page, this Virginia Woolf is scathing, hilarious and very disturbing. Sitting in the front row didn't help ease my inability to escape the verbal violence going on before me. I literally felt I was sitting there in the living room with them. Kathleen Turner is just amazing. Never do you feel that she's acting. It's as if the part was written for her and she knows it in her bones and her soul. I actually found myself feeling profoundly sad for her. She was visibly exhausted during the curtain call. No wonder, her performance is an absolute master class in realistic theatre.

If you have a chance you must see this show. I won't say that you will leave feeling happy. You might even be upset, but it will change your life and make you examine your own grief.

There are only two days left.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

James Monroe Iglehart Making his Broadway Debut!

This is so fantastic! James Monroe Iglehart who has performed in so many Bay Area Productions is making his Broadway Debut this Friday in The 25th Avenue Putnam County Spelling Bee. You may have seen him recently in Smokey Joe's Cafe at AMTSJ. If you are a fan of Foothill's shows you will remember him from Sweeney Todd and Ragtime. Go James!

Want to go to New York to see the show? Get tickets here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Little Slice of Heaven - "Enchanted April" at Bus Barn Stage Company

How is your April going? Does it need a little magic? Yes, you say? Then you must get over to the Bus Barn Stage Company before May 5th and see Matthew Barber’s, Enchanted April. This production directed by the multi-talented, Shannon Stowe makes for an absolutely enjoyable night of theatre. Barber’s adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim is surprisingly well written. How often does a novel, turned into a movie, then finally a play, get nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play (2003)?

Barber’s script strikes a perfect balance between humor, sentiment and plot. Four women, with very different personalities and problems, sneak off on a holiday to an Italian villa in order to get away from men and their pasts. But when, Lottie Wilson, played wonderfully by Laura Jane Bailey, decides that she misses her husband and that she must send for him, and come clean on the scheme, the conflict and comedy burst forth as husbands and wives, a landlord, and a jilted lover are forced to live together in what Lottie keeps reminding us is supposed to be “paradiso.”

One of the funniest moments on stage involving the character of Mellersh, Lottie’s husband, and a bath towel, had me and nearly every audience member in absolute stitches. John Romano, who plays the role, displays an ability with physical comedy as good as anything I’ve ever seen. In fact, every actor in this production is absolutely wonderful. Laura Jane Bailey is funny, feisty and touching in the role of Lottie Wilton. Her scenes with Sally Clawson, who plays Rose Arnott, are priceless. Ms Clawson is perfect as the long suffering, Rose, who so wants to bust out but just can't seem to do it. Gemma Beddo Barozzi is perfect as the beautiful socialite Lady Caroline Bramble. The character requires an actress with outstanding acting ability and striking beauty. Ms. Barozzi fits the bill in both areas. Ken Boswell captures the complexity of his character Frederick Arnott with a multi-layered portrayal. Jeanie Forte provides many laughs as the Italian housekeeper Costanza. She speaks only Italian throughout the entire show both with her voice and her body. It was just delightful to see. William J. Brown III as Antony Wilding, the owner of the villa, plays his character with real charm. He seems so completely wonderful and selfless, until we see his disappointment when he finds out that his guests aren't widows. I found it hilarious to see his disappointment creep out. The most riveting performance of the show is given by Beverley Griffith who plays Mrs. Graves. Her physicality, voice, and her character's point of view and journey, were so full and rich that I left the theater talking about it for hours. I hope we see her again soon.

Something that really struck me was how each of the actors really seemed to grasp that wonderful conflict between propriety and desire that makes British comedy so enjoyable. Director Stowe has orchestrated something truly magical in Los Altos - this production is one of the best I’ve seen this year. Get over to the Bus Barn before May 5th for a little taste of heaven.

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber. From the novel by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

Directed by Shannon Stowe.

Scenic Design by Ron Gasparinetti.
Costume Design by Gloria Grandy.
Lighting Design by Brendan Bartholemew.
Sound by Rich Miller.
Properties/Production by Nichole Y. Hamiltion.
Stage Manager is Nancy Park.
Master Carpenter is Charles McKeithan.
Assistant Stage Manager is S. Conner.
Cast: Laura Jane Bailey, Gemma Barozzi, Ken Boswell, William Brown, Sally Clawson, Jeanie Forte, Beverly Griffith, John Romano

Theatre: Bus Barn Stage Company, 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos, CA
Through May 5, 2007