Posts Tagged San Jose Stage Company

Postman Always Rings Twice – Play Review

San Jose Stage Company premiered a new stage adaptation by Jon Jory of “Postman Always Rings Twice”, directed by Kenneth Kelleher, as a part of their 35th anniversary season. Adapted from 1934 novel by James M. Cain that was also made into a 1946 classic film with Lana Turner and John Garfield, this is a crime thriller with some twists and turns.

Image result for postman always rings twice, san joseSince its first appearance in 1934, this story captured the minds and gained high popularity.  Frank (Jonathan Rhys Williams) is not only morally bankrupt but is a hobo without a sense of purpose or ambition in life. He makes a pit stop at a rural California diner for a meal and is offered a job by Nick Papadakis (Robert Sicular), the Greek owner of the diner. Franks ends up staying and soon begins a passionate affair with Nick’s wife, Cora (Allison F. Rich).

Image result for postman always rings twice, san joseCora swoons to Frank’s rough and tumble approach to life but is unhappy with her inconvenient husband standing in the way. The first part in the play moves rather slowly and mostly focuses on Frank and Cora plotting to remove the inconvenience out of the way. In part two the story picks up speed as the duo attempts to put into practice their questionable motives and intentions. A murder plot is hatched but gets botched, elopement is planned and then abandoned, even the confession after a crime does not turn out as intended.

Apart from keeping the audience guessing, the play’s many twists and turns inevitably make one wonder (especially give the current monumental political reality), as to how much and how far can lies be stretched without consequences, and if not the law, then would fate catch up to it ultimately? The play is running at The Stage in San Jose till May 6, 2018 and tickets can be obtained at .

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Reefer Madness – The Musical —— Play Review

“Creeping like a communist, it’s knocking at our doors
Turning all our children into hooligans and whore”

ReeferMadness 12

ReeferMadness 12 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Originally released as “Tell Your Children”, Reefer Madness is a 1936 anti-cannabis moralistic propaganda film that depicts, through a series of melodramatic events, the effects of cannabis.  It was so over the top and ridiculous that it made a great cult topic for originally unintended subject.  The film became an item of unintentional comedy among advocates of legalizing marijuana and cannabis policy reform.  The musical satire had a challenge to make it even more ridiculous.

The musical, currently playing in San Jose, is based on a book by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, with music by Dan Studney.  Giulio Perrone, Michael Palumbo, Stephen Massott, Lydia Lyons, and Jean Cardinale deserve major kudos for fantastic set, lighting, stage, and costumes design.  And hilarious lyrics by Kevin Murphy, steal the show.

“someone’s got to dare to take a stand
Can’t ignore any more, it could be your son or daughter
With a deadly stick of reefer in their hand!
They’re heading straight for
Reefer Madness! Reefer Madness! Reefer Madness! Reefer Madness!”

As high school students are lured by pushers to try marijuana and one unintentional puff gets them addicted, their lives go on a downward spiral.  It starts with giggles and a pretty woman walks the stage with a board that says “reefer makes you giggle for no good reason.”  But the decent into madness continues, as Mae and Jack  (superbly played by Allison F. Rich and Gabriel Grilli), lure high school students.  Mae however, prefers to sell to customers her own age but is not able to contradict or leave Jack, who is controlling and abusive, because it’s “the stuff” that makes her stay.  Ralph (Will Springhorn Jr. and) and Sally (Jill Miller) help sell cannabis to young students, and they get Jimmy Lane (Barnaby James), a young college student with a sharp mind and in love with a young woman, get hooked on cannabis.  Story of Jimmy’s decent into madness, and later of his girlfriend, Mary (Courtney Hatcher), who comes to the “cannabis headquarters”,  looking for Jimmy, is a tale of manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, murder, electric chair, and finally redemption, by Jesus himself.

As the ridiculous story unfolds, despite the divine call, “Just say no to the marijuana! (Listen to Jesus, Jimmy!)”, Jimmy refuses to listen.  The warnings are uncanny, from relatively benign to extreme, “reefer gives you potty mouth”; “reefer makes you a pathological liar”; “reefer kills poor old men”; “reefer makes you sell your babies”;” and more.  Finally, destined to go to hell, from his electric chair, Jimmy appeals to Jesus, “if you save me, I will heed the words you gave me” only to be reminded by Jesus (Gabriel Grilli), “You didn’t (Listen to Jesus, Jimmy) It’s too late for absolution, I’m just here to watch the execution”.  But all’s well that ends well and there comes a last minute, Presidential pardon, forgiveness by Jesus, and the play ends with these lyrics.

“Now you’ve learned the truth about the menace dark and dread
Take a stance or there’s a chance that God may strike you dead
For putting up with Reefer madness!  Reefer madness!

This satirical comedy is certain to throw you in uproars of laughter at how far the society can go and whip up the frenzy, in the name of righteousness.  Reefer Madness is currently playing at The Stage in San Jose .

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Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” – Play Review

Persuasion by Jane Austen – Play Review

Jane Austen's Persuasion

Beginning April 3, San Jose Stage Company is showing Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, adapted by local Bay Area playwright, Jennifer Le Blanc and directed by Kenneth Kelleher.  In the words of Randall King, Artistic Director of the San Jose Stage Company, “The intimate setting of The Stage venue is the perfect environment to revel in Miss Austen’s characters, who must negotiate a complex code of conduct in order to survive, much less achieve their ends.  The story is indicative of Austen’s great talent, razor sharp, laced with irony and wit, and remarkably phrased.”

Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, who allowed herself to be “persuaded” to end her engagement with Captain Wentworth, a man she loved, but one without fortune.  Maryssa Wanlass, in the role of Anne Elliot, is beautiful, calm, cerebral, poised, and graceful.  In the opening scene, she second guesses her earlier decision about Captain Wentworth, and confides to her guardian, Lay Russell, “But I am now persuaded that in spite of the disapproval at home and the anxiety attending his prospects that I… I should have been happier, had I…”  Jane Austen was unhappy about the level of persuasion employed by the society, on young people, particularly young women, regarding their marital choices.  It is ironical that matronly and kind Lady Russell (played by Susan Gundunas), appears to be the only voice of maturity and reason, in the family, while she was in fact the reason Anne had first rejected Captain Wentworth.

As for Anne Elliott’s father, “Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation.”  Paul Myrvold does a superb job in the role of Sir Walter Elliot and later as Admiral Croft.  Mrs. Mary Musgrove, (played by Halsey Varady), Anne Elliot’s younger sister, is nervous, fretful woman, fortunate to marry Charles Musgrove (very well played by William J. Brown III).   While Anne was looking after her sister Mary, Captain Wentworth (superbly played by Will Springhorn Jr.), reenters her life.  Everyone around Anne and Captain Wentworth, including Charles Musgrove, his sisters Louisa and Henrietta (Juliet Heller & Allison F. Rich), and his mother (Donna Federico) are completely unaware of their earlier relationship and the emotional turmoil brewing inside Anne and her love.  While Captain Wentworth is occupied by attentions of Louisa Musgrove, Anne is also pursued by her wicked cousin, Mr. Elliot (played by Paul Stout).

Circumstances have given Anne a second chance to marry for love.  Will Anne now follow her heart?  Austen makes fine arguments about women as “rational creatures”, whose stories would take different turns, but for the fact that the women’s stories are recounted “through history and books, nearly all of which have been produced by men, and many of which castigate women’s inconstancy and fickleness”.  During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, for women, marriage was the only ticket out of the class they were born into.  Practicality dictated that they use reason, over emotion.  Despite these constraints, Austen’s heroines demonstrate that they can think rationally, display a fair measure of autonomy, and crave independence.   Jane Austen’s heroines marry for love, not practicality.  And it just happens that guided by love, their chosen path leads them to the man who is worthy of their love, is well regarded in society and very wealthy.  Isn’t it every woman’s dream, even today? Not surprisingly, time does not dim the popularity of Jane Austen.

Persuasion is playing at The Bay Area’s Premiere Off-Broadway Theater, The Stage , in San Jose, from April 3 to April 28, 2013.

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