Posts Tagged Jeffrey Bracco

Mothers and Sons – Play Review


Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsThe play “Mothers and Sons” by playwright, Terrence McNally and directed by Jeffrey Bracco is a funny and poignant tale of loss and love.  When Katharine (Lillian Bogovich), Andre’s mother shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep of Andre’s former boyfriend, Cal (Damian Vega), 20 some years after losing her son to AIDS, she is bitter, angry, hurt and in search of a target. Cal has also gone through deep loss but has found love again, in his husband Will (Max Tachis), and they have a son Bud (Izaiah Gutierrez), they deeply love. Still mourning and reeling from the loss of her son, Katharine sinks deeper into gloom at seeing Cal’s life. She asks, “why did your life got better after Andre and why did mine get worst”?

Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsAs per my observation however, this story is less about mothers and sons and more about one mother and her son. It is Katharine’s nature and temperament that has put her into an indefinite period of gloom and bitterness. She describes herself as “I am not a joiner, I did not like to cook, I am a widow”. Katherine could not cultivate intimacy and closeness with either her husband or her son, Andre.  She recalls Andre being “remote” and observes with some contempt that she was relegated to being a mere chauffeur. Many mothers might have experiences of similar moments but they put aside those moments and find more enduring closeness and love with their children.

While Katharine’s temperament may have precluded her from enjoying a close relationship with her son, this story is also wrapped in time when gays did not find acceptance in society and were subjected to biases and stereotypes. Katharine, found it hard to reconcile her preconceived notions about gays. She says, “I hate that word. It could be something nice, joyful. But we lost that battle too”. Sadly, her life is an endless series of battles she has brought onto herself.  And sadly, reeling in her own misery, she misses completely how an entire young generation of her son’s age was lost to AIDS epidemic, “a living, breathing generation, not a footnote in history”. Image result for citylights, mothers and sonsJust when it seems, there would be no hope for Katharine, then in the midst of sorrow, the characters find moments of compassion and glimmer of hope, and even love.  Mothers and Sons is a heartbreaking, emotionally nuanced story of unending mourning and loss and it is also a tale of human compassion where it is never too late to reconcile with one’s loss, only to stumble onto enduring nature of love. Lillian Bogovich as Katharine is absolutely amazing. This is a must-see play if only to watch the brilliant cast playing out the complex human drama with all the emotional nuances and with deep sensitivity. Mothers and Sons is running at the CityLights Theater in San Jose, till February 17, 2019 and tickets can be obtained at www.cltc.org .

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Calendar Girls: Play Review


Image result for calendar girls, city lightsBased on a feel-good true story, “Calendar Girls” is adapted by Tim Firth from his original screenplay, for Nigel Cole’s 2003 British film, by the same name.  The play focuses on six women and their resolve to make a difference in the world, with meaningful contribution.  Members in a women’s club, these six women, Chris (Anne Younan), Annie (Deb Anderson), Cora (Caitlin L. Papp), Jessie (Ruth E. Stein), Celia (Karen DeHart), Ruth (Mary Lou Torre) often spar with the club queen bee Marie (Patricia Tyler) about how their club could be a more meaningful group.  Opportunity presents itself when Annie’s husband, John (Ken Boswell) passes away and in memory of John, the women decide to raise funds for a new couch in the waiting room of the local hospital.

They imagined that ordinary, run of the mill calendars with flowers and landmarks would not sell easily.  Chris and Annie came up with a unique idea (something they had jokingly discussed earlier in John’s presence). They decided to do a calendar with pictures of their group of mature women doing traditional Women’s Institute activities like knitting and baking, with a little twist. The women would pose in nude as they do these activities, with discreetly placed props to cover specific body parts with little exposure but more of a titillating suggestion.

Image result for calendar girls, city lights   Image result for calendar girls, city lights
Image result for calendar girls, city lights     Image result for calendar girls, city lights

The women were not prepared for the notoriety and eventually international fame the calendar brought them. It took a toll on their friendships and personal lives. Sometimes they lashed out at each other and at other times in their frustration they lost sight of the fact that they had far exceeded their set goal.  While they had imagined raising a few hundred pounds for the couch, they ended up raising nearly 3 million pounds that enabled building of an entirely new hospital wing.

Eventually, these classy women found their footing and solace in their friendship. They recognized that “out of John’s tragic death came something very special; and acknowledged that “everything we do is born out of love for him”. Clearly their little act stood as a symbol of something much bigger than they had imagined. It was sexiness combined with spunk, mixed with a dose of sass that set them free and enabled them to create a work of art, in favor of a worthy cause, and the world took notice and found inspiration.

While the story is played on world stage, Director, Jeffrey Bracco, Scenic Designer, Ron Gasparinetti and Stage Manager, Kimberly Scofield did a fabulous job in bringing the world to the women, on stage. Calendar Girls will be playing at City Lights Theater in San Jose, CA till December 18, 2016 and tickets are available at www.cltc.org .

 

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Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War – Play Review


In World Premiere of “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War“, at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through telling of the story of the historic event that occurred in December 1914, both the mindlessness of war and the mindfulness of peace, become abundantly evident.   Playwrights Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder have made this historic story personal, by telling it through four main characters, George Krieger (Max Tachis), the German patriotic soldier, fighting for honor, glory, and fatherland; Anna Friedmann (Cailin Papp), the German nurse who questions the wisdom of war; Tommy Williams (Drew Benjamin) English poet who is compelled to go to war by parental pressure and also pulled to write and pulled by his love for his young wife and by his friendship with Krieger; and Maggie Williams (Allison Meneley), young wife of Tommy who encourages him to write and waits for his return from war.

A little piece of history along with the events in the play

For most of World War I Allied Forces, predomi...

For most of World War I Allied Forces, predominantly those of France and the British Empire, were stalled at trenches on the Western Front. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This history was also expertly and succinctly narrated at the  beginning of the play.  The world was polarized and battle lines were drawn, long before the actual event that ignited the region, the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, in Sarajevo in June, 1014.   As Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia (Serbian ally) mobilized its military.  Like a game of dominoes, one by one the countries were pressured or pulled into the war, as Germany declared war on Russia, France, and Belgium; Britain declared war on Germany; soon thereafter, Japan, Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire entered the fight; and ultimately US entered the war in 1917.  Ultimately, 70 million military personnel were mobilized.

While the obsession of the generals is with moving the pushpins on a map, war has an entirely different impact on the soldiers, in the trenches.  As the characters recount, it was widely believed by common people that the “Great War” would be over within a period of months, if not sooner.  Everyone expected their loved ones to be home  by Christmas.  Then Pope Benedict XV suggested a temporary halt in fighting for the celebration of Christmas, in December 1914, but the warring countries refused to create any official cease-fire.  In fact, the generals declared penalties for what they considered amounted to fraternizing with the enemies.

A cross, left near Ieper in Belgium in 1999, t...

A cross, left near Ieper in Belgium in 1999, to celebrate the site of the Christmas Truce during the First World War in 1914. The text reads: 1914 – The Khaki Chum’s Christmas Truce – 1999 – 85 Years – Lest We Forget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During the four years that the world was at war, several deadly battles were fought.  Nearly 27,000 French troops were killed in a single day, in the Battle of the Frontiers, in August, 1914.  In the battle of Verdun in 1916, over one million soldiers were wounded or killed.  In the end, more than 9 million soldiers and over 7 million civilians died, as a result of this “Great War”, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in history.  It is then all the more remarkable that in the midst of the most deadly period of fighting, there was a brief period of calm, friendship, and camaraderie, moments of hope, reflection, and humanity.

This was a one time event. All future attempts to halt the fighting were squashed by generals’ threats of disciplinary action.  It is even more astonishing that this period of calm emerged spontaneously, in the trenches.  Those who were there, not to reason why, but to do and die, disobeyed orders, and for a brief shining period in history, humanity prevailed.   The soldiers declared their own truce; they began singing Christmas carols to each other across the enemy lines.  Entirely a different domino effect was observed, as soldiers in various places, crossed the no man’s land, and shook hands with the enemy soldiers and exchanged presents of cigarettes, plum puddings and beef jerkey and sang carols.  Some soldiers even used this short period of “truce” to retrieve bodies of their comrades, from the no man’s land, between the enemy battle lines.

It is the brilliance of Jeffrey Bracco and Kit Wilder, in how this remarkable historical event is captured and reproduced on stage, in “Truce: A Christmas Wish from the Great War”.  After deep research and from various documents and anecdotes, Bracco and Wilder put together the script.  Ron Gasparinetti created the scenic design to conjure up images of the long ago war, Jane Lambert provided the costume design and Nick Kumamoto provided lighting and video projection to keep the time and place real.  George Psarras composed music from popular WWI songs.  (One popular song “pack up your troubles in your old kit bag” was one of the biggest hits of the Great War time).

This is truly a must-watch play of this theater season, and it beautifully captures the spirit of the holiday season.   Truce will be running at CityLights Theater in San Jose, through December 21, 2014.  For tickets, go to www.cltc.org .

In the aftermath of the #FergusonDecision, this respite is exactly what we need.  Let us call “truce” and renew commitment to create conditions of

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“Monty Python’s Spamalot” – Play Review


The musical, “Monty Python’s Spamalot”, a hilarious spoof on the motion picture, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, has been showing at the City Lights theater in San Jose, to sold out audiences.  It is based on the book and lyrics by Eric Idle and Music by John DuPrez and Eric Idle, and is brilliantly directed by Jeffrey Bracco.

Cover of "Monty Python's Spamalot: 2005 T...

Cover via Amazon

King Arthur (Ken Boswell) along with his squire, Patsy, gathers his knights, The Knights of the Round Table, and goes about in search of the Holy Grail, as instructed by God.  When King Arthur encounters Dennis in the countryside, Dennis challenges his claim to the throne.  King Arthur responds that the Lake Lady herself (who emerged from the Lake with an Excalibur), proclaimed him to be the king.  Dennis says, “executive powers are bestowed by the masses, not derived from some strange acquatic ceremonies”.  The tone is set for rip roaring and blunt humor that is daffily delivered.

In the quest for the grail, the king and his knights go to the French-controlled castle and try to sneak into the castle in a Trojan Rabbit.  Only problem – they forget to hide themselves in the rabbit!  As the quest continues, each of the knights encounters various perils, including Arthur and Bedevere’s strange encounter with the dreaded Knights who say Ni, and the Three-Headed Giant who calls Sir Robin to a fight, a challenge that Sir Robin resolves by running away, as his minstrel sings, “Brave Sir Robin ran away”.  When they try to enter the caves where the location of the grail is written, they have to defeat the rabbit, and they can only do it by using the Holy Hand Grenade.  They have to consult the book of armaments to figure out how to operate the grenade and with great pomp they read, “And the Lord spake, saying, First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three.”

In Monty Python, the irreverence is extended to everything, including the religion, the monarchy, as well as the Broadway, and Spamalot is “lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy”, with great music, lots of dance numbers and a fantastic and large cast that rises to the challenge.   Special shoutouts to Ken Boswell (King Arthur), Clara Rose Walker (Lady of the Lake), Nick Manfredi (Sir Robin & the Guard), Josiah Frampton (Patsy), James Snell (Sir Galahard), and Jeremy Ryan (Sir Bedevere). The entire cast participated with aplomb, in the tomfoolery, delivering one-liners and puns with slapstick wit and the effect is, the musical will have you laughing from the opening scene to the very end.

Monty Python’s Spamalot will be running at the City Lights Theater in San Jose, till August, 31.  Tickets can be purchased at www.cltc.org.

 

 

 

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The Language Archive – Play Review


“What is death to a language.  There are 6900 languages in the world,  Every two weeks, a language dies.  This statistic moves me more than any other.  It is death of imagination”.  This heartfelt dialog comes from in Julia Cho’s play, directed by Virginia Drake, “The Language Archive”, currenty running at Citiy Lights Theater www.cltc.org in San Jose.  George (Jeffrey Bracco) is a linguist and he documents and catalogs rare languages, their idioms expressions, before the language fades away, but he is at total loss for words, when it comes to speaking the language of the heart.  Though he is troubled by his wife’s sadness and though he uses a lot of words, George can’t talk about feelings.  George’s wife, Mary (fabulous Lisa Mallette) wears her heart on her sleeve and is looking for some passion and emotion, a spark, any spark.

Language archiveGeorge’s assistant, Emma (Kendall Callaghan) is deeply in love with George, so much so, that she is willing to sacrifice her own love for the sake of George’s happiness, and get him back together with his estranged wife.  George and Emma are recording last known speakers of Elloway, Resten (Ben Ortega) and his spunky wife Alta (Deb Anderson),  However, Alta and Resten refuse to speak in Elloway, since they are fighting and we are informed, English is a better language to express anger.  While George is deadly serious about preserving dying languages, Mary is preoccupied with unexpressed emotions.  Alta and Resten on the other hand, don’t seem to be interested in preserving the language or expressing love, but they like to talk.

Are there lessons in Alta and Resten’s relationship?  What turn will George and Mary’s relationship take?  Will Emma express her feelings to George?  But most importantly, will George, the master of words, brimming with ideas and brilliant in mind, learn to verbalize what is in his heart and express his feelings?  Can one learn to speak the language of the heart?  What is your experience with words; words like a starter of a loaf of bread, that give sustenance and give rise to more nourishing stuff or words as ornamental expression of ideas?  See for yourself and you be the judge of how well you speak the language of the heart.  Audience also gets an opportunity to learn a lesson in speaking the language of love, as they repeat after George, “Mi estas amita”, “I have been loved”.

“The Language Archive will be running at City Lights in San Jose, till June 29, 2014.  For tickets go to www.cltc.org.

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Ching Chong Chinaman – Play Review


Ching Chong Chinaman – Play Review

Written by Lauren Yee and directed by Jeffrey Bracco, this is a beautiful and funny yet irreverent and witty play, tackling the complex subject of race in California.

The ultra-assimilated Wong family is materially comfortable and has a stay at home mom, Grace (Chiho Saito), who mostly orders takeouts or makes canned meals, a brilliant daughter, Desdemona (Monica Ho), who cannot speak any Chinese language, a son, Upton (Anthony Chan), who has made winning video games a sole focus of his life and has employed the services of freshly arrived Jianquing (Nick Louie), an indentured servant (with his own American dream) , and Ed (Lawrence-Michael C. Arias), the father who for the most part, feels no tug from the past, from history or culture or the circumstances that brought them their children.

What does it mean to be a Chinese, a Japanese, an Indian, in Silicon Valley?  Ultra competitive Ho who has her eyes set on gaining admission into prestigious Princeton and must win every competition including canned food drives, whose parents assure her that they will love her just the same if she gets into Stanford instead, flies into a rage at their inability to understand the importance of her getting into Princeton.  Is Ho a product of culture or of growing up in the competitive environment of Silicon Valley?  And is it a mere co-incidence that she is growing up in Silicon Valley?  Ho gives a brilliant performance as this complex character, one minute deeply embarrassed by the cultural insensitivity of her parents who cannot pronounce Jianquing and call him Ching Chong, the next, avoiding Jianquing altogether because she is unsure of how to relate to him; one minute, engaged in desperate attempts to find something terrible in her own background that she can use to write a winning college essay; next minute, showing utter and complete disregard for the orphan child abroad, who is supported by her contribution and now aspires for the same American dream.

Chan’s performance is just as brilliant as a teenager, whose focus is so solely occupied with winning video games that he chooses to skip the family vacation and goes instead to Korea, to compete in a video game competition.  In the end, Chan emerges as a more authentic character, and his words of affection give comfort to his family.  Despite the language barrier, Saito and Louie find something akin to soul-matism in their mutual love for dancing, which soon transforms into something less platonic.  Their dance moves are fantastic and serve as beautiful distraction when the dysfunctionality of the family gets too intense.   Performance of Arias is nothing short of amazing, even as he finds himself at times incapable of fulfilling the needs and desires of his wife, his daughter, his son, even as he begins to use the services of Louie in pursuing his own dreams and later just accepting Louie’s out of place transformation as part of the family.  Arias finally holds his family together, embracing all of it’s dysfunctionality.  Anna Lee’s performance in multitude of diverse roles is awesome and Yee’s use of magical realism, to bring in characters otherwise unavailable due to distance in geography or time, is brilliant.

Kudos to House Manager, Robyn Winslow.  This play is running at the beautiful City Lights Theater in San Jose.  For tickets and more information, go to www.cltc.org .

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