Posts Tagged TheatreWorks

The 39 Steps – Play Review


The 39 Steps is a theatrical spoof on the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 film by Alfred Hitchcock. Authors of the parody, Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon envisioned the theatrical spoof in 1996 and was later rewritten by Patrick Barlow, with four people playing many roles. At Theatreworks, Lance Gardner, Ron Campbell, Cassidy Brown, and Annie Abrams do a fabulous job of quick role changes as the fast paced spoof moves on, drawing the audience into the murder mystery, with a twist. 

Image result for the 39 steps, theatreworks

As the story evolves, Richard Hannay, a man with a boring humdrum life meets an exciting woman who confides in him that she is a spy and requests him to take her to his home. Soon she is mysteriously murdered at his home, leaving the bewildered and scared Hannay to go on the run, both from law enforcement and the people who murdered the spy woman. As Hannay expected, he is accused of murder. As he goes on the run in search of the murderers, Hannay has encounters with constables, spies, village farmers, traveling salesmen, inkeepers, newsboys and he crosses streams, assumes false identity, meets a blonde and even dangles from the bridge.  All this makes for lavishly theatrical and hugely hilarious production. 

Image result for the 39 steps, theatreworksImage result for the 39 steps, theatreworks

The 39 Steps at Theatreworks, mixes an engrossing masterpiece with juicy characters and hilarious role changes with exciting staging by Leslie Martinson, perfect scenic designs by David Lee Cuthbert, and all the excitement unfolds inside a fast paced whodunit murder mystery, brilliantly directed by Leslie Martinson. This play has been extended to run through September, 22 and tickets are available at www.theatreworks.org .

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

“Triangle – A New Musical” – Theater Review


World Premiere of the musical “Triangle”, at www.theatreworks.org kicked off 2015/2016 season, with heart rending lyrics by Thomas Mitzer, music by Curtis Moore, based on a book by Moore, Mitzer, and Joshua Scher.  The Triangle features a superb cast with Laura D’Andre, Ross Lekites, Megan McGinnis, Zachary Prince, Sharon Rietkerk, and Rolf Saxon, who take us on a fascinating journey through time, sometimes playing double roles, in the past and the present.

While the tragedy of 9/11 is more fresh in our minds, the play links it to a sorrowful past tragedy, that took place in 1911, a fire at Triangle Shirtwaist Corporation, where 146 workers mostly women, perished, in brief 19 minutes, before it was put out.wpid-20150729_151225.jpg

At this point, a little history lesson is in order.  The below information is from Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States”.  This was a time when there were 500 garment factories in New York.  Here’s how a woman described the conditions: dangerously broken stairways, windows few and so dirty…. The wooden floors that were swept once a year…. Hardly any other light but the gas jets burning by day and by night….. the filthy, malodorous lavatory in the dark hall.  No fresh drinking water….. mice and roaches…. During winter… we suffered from the cold and in summer from the heat……. and we toiled seventy and eighty hours a week…. Saturdays and Sundays included!  A sign would go up on Saturday afternoon “If you don’t come in on Sunday, you need not come in on Monday”….. We wept, for after all, we were only children………   In 1904, in one year alone, 50,000 accidents took place in New York factories.  Hat and Cap makers were getting respiratory diseases, quarrymen were inhaling deadly chemicals, lithographic printers were getting arsenic poisoning etc.

wpid-20150729_151132.jpgAt the time when fire started in a rag bin at Triangle factory, despite the law to not lock the doors, the doors were locked so the company could keep track of the employees.  One door that opened, opened inward, despite the law for doors to open outward.

If ghosts can speak, what stories might they tell?  Despite the hardships and the harsh conditions, there must be hope for a better life, families waiting for loved ones to come home, and relationships that must have blossomed.  In “Triangle”, a young factory girl sings “how does a girl like me, end up in the middle of all the madness?”, while the manager sings “we are in America, you want to go back; is that what you want?”   The eyewitnesses said that when the fire began, as the horrified crowd watched from below, “girl after girl appeared at the reddened windows, paused for a brief terrified moment and then lept to their death, at the pavement below. The firemen stood helpless as their ladders could not go beyond 7th floor and most of the young girls were trapped on the 8th and 9th floors.

In the play, a young factory girl, Sarah (Megan McGinnis) is looking to escape from being engulfed in the fire by jumping to her death from the window, and sings, “Tell me how not to be afraid”, as her boyfriend, Vincenzo (Zachary Prince) holds her out and lets her go, so she would not have to do it.   This is also story of love.  Amidst great adversity, young love is blossoming  in 1911, while the present day love is blossoming between two young men, Ben (Zachary Prince) and Brian (Ross Lekites), pulled together by the experience of 9/11 tragedy, and attachment and curiosity regarding the events of 1911.  

Stage Manager Justin D. Schlegel, Assistant Stage Manager Emily Anderson Wolf and Scenic Designer Daniel Zimmerman deserve great kudos in creating simple yet mesmerizing set design where quick shifts between two different centuries are clear and concise.  The orchestra under the direction of Musical Director, James Sampliner provides rich delineating sound for lyrics of each period.   This play has tremendous heart in it and is centered around significant historical events.  It is a must-watch play of this theater season, in the bay area.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Andhera Hone Tak – (Wait Until Dark) – Hindi Play Review


NAATAK company has exceeded all expectations in its production of “Andhera Hone Tak”, hindi version of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller, “Wait Until Dark”.  The play is performed with English subtitles projected above the stage, and that makes it a must-see play, for a wider range of  audience.

Stage versions of thrillers are rare because suspense and elements of a thriller, including murder, robbery etc. are hard to create on stage.  Producer Surender Singh has made a bold attempt in bringing this production and the suspense filled thriller does not disappoint on any count.  Clearly, Mukund Marathe has once again proved that he is simply one of the most brilliant directors.

Suneeta Saxena (Sareeka Malhotra) is a housewife, who is also blind, and is married to Sameer Saxena (Puneet) and they live in Shivaji Park, Mumbai.  Sameer becomes an innocent transporter of a doll stuffed with contraband, when he brought it home, at the request of a woman, who is now surfaced as dead.  Soon thereafter, Sameer is traveling again for business and Suneeta becomes target of three con-men, looking for heroin hidden in a doll.  The doll is nowhere to be found because unbeknownst to anyone, a little girl, Aneesha, living in the apartment upstairs, has stolen the doll. The trio play initially manage to get Suneeta worried that her husband will be suspected of murdering the woman and the only way to protect him would be to enable them to have the possession of the doll.

Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sareeka Malhotra’s performance as a blind heroine, is brilliant, both vulnerable and at the same time courageous and determined.  The three con men, played by Varun Dua, Sanjay Apte, and Amit Sharma are so good at being bad that their performance holds you at the edge of your seats.  Aneesha Nema, the little child star gives a phenomenal performance as a bratty but precocious kid.  The set design is superb, easy for a supposedly blind person to navigate and yet complex for her to figure out the movements of the intruders.  Juhi Mohan has done a great job with lights, helping create the perfect “dark”, that would give Suneeta an edge against the intruders.

Every theater season, I give my recommendation of a “must-watch play of the season” from among South Bay Theater companies, including (NAATAK – www,naatak.org, CityLights – http://www.cltc.org, San Jose Stage – http://www.thestage.org, Theatreworks – http://www.theatreworks.org, EnActe Arts – http://www.enacte.org etc.) and this season, unequivocally, I recommend NAATAK’s “Andhera Hone Tak”, as the “must-watch play of the season”.  While the play is performed in Hindi, the English sub-titles, projected above the stage, make it easy for all to enjoy.  So remember, you don’t need to understand Hindi to enjoy the suspense, heart stopping tension, spooky lighting, and climactic end, all delivered by flawless performance, in real time.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Sweeney Todd – Play Review


“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” opened at Theatreworks, Saturday night, and received a standing ovation from the full house.  The story, based on the book by Hugh Wheeler, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is about the power of evil to infect everything and everyone, in its wake.  And in the words of Theatreworks’ Artistic Director, Robert Kelley, Sweeney Todd is “about our ways of dealing with evil: countering it with virtue, disarming it with humor, crushing it with force, or transforming it into art”.  And what a fine work of art it is in this theatreworks production.

The story of Sweeney Todd is set in London in 1940s, during the time when London was blasted by German bombs. Fifteen years prior, a barber was unjustly convicted and sent to Australian prison and has now returned to extract his revenge from the system.  Specifically, he wants to extract revenge from the evil Judge Turpin (Lee Strawn), and his lackey, a portly, greasy, evil man, Beadle Bamford (Martin Rojas Dietrich).


Kevin Berne/TheatreWorks David Studwell stars as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd.David Studwell, in the role of Sweeney Todd, is devilishly magnificent and the first person he charms and snares into his evil scheme, is Mrs. Lovett (Tory Ross, who is equally magnificent).  While Sweeney Todd has been deeply wronged by the system, is motivated by vengeance, and does the disturbingly gory work with his bare hands, Mrs. Lovett, a pie seller, trying to run a challenging business at a difficult time, is entrepreneurial, charming, and is purely driven by profit motive.  She works with her hands, tenderizing the meat (if we forget for a minute the source of that meat) and baking it into artful, tasty pies.  The force of evil is so powerful, it sucks you right in.  When Mrs. Lovett declares, “we got a nice respectable business now”, it almost makes you want to root for her to rescue Sweeney from his obsession with vengeance and escape with her to a cottage by the ocean.  When smug judge Turpin comes for a shave, to get ready to seduce his ward, Joanna (gorgeous Mindy Lym), who is Sweeney’s daughter, whom he has kidnapped and raised, you almost root again for Sweeney to complete his task and give the judge his due.

When the judge escapes, instead of heaving a sigh of relief, you almost want to tell Sweeney, “what made you wait, you had him”!!  This timeless tale is as much about the demon barber, as it is about the evil lurking in all of us.  If it is not consciously checked, the evil will suck you right in, if not by doing, than by thinking.  Special kudos to fantastic musical direction by William Liberatore and superb staging by Marcy Victoria Reed and Emily Anderson Wolf.  Don’t miss this incredible production by theatreworks.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .

I had him!
His throat was there beneath my hand.
I had him!

His throat was there beneath my hand.
No, I had him!
His throat was there and now he’ll never come again.
Mrs. Lovett: Easy now, hush love hush
I keep telling you, Whats your rush?
Todd: When? Why did I wait?
You told me to wait –
Now he’ll never come again.
There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people who are filled with sh*t
And the vermin of the world inhabit it.

But not for long…
They all deserve to die.
Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why.
Because in all of the whole human race
Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two
There’s the one staying put in his proper place
And the one with his foot in the other one’s face
Look at me, Mrs Lovett, look at you.

Don’t we all deserve to die?
Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I.
Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief
For the rest of us death will be a relief
We all deserve to die.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Other Desert Cities – Play Review


The 2013-2014 season has just begun and I am declaring “Other Desert Cities” currently playing at www.theatreworks.org as an absolutely “must watch” play of the season.  Playwright Jon Robin Baitz was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and received a Tony nomination for Best Play.  “On the edge of the sea”, in Palm Springs, California, in the land of “endless sunshine”, lives a patriarch of the family, a kind, affable man, Lyman, who is professionally the GOP chair, his wife Polly, the matriarch of the family who embodies Republican values in words and deeds, and is fiercely disciplined and demanding of perfection, from her family, and her sister Silda, who is a writer and a liberal.  James Sutorius, in his first Theatreworks appearance as Lyman, and Julia Brothers as Silda, are absolutely fantastic, and Kandis Chappell, who has appeared in over 30 productions, in the Bay Area, carries her role as Polly, with marvelous perfection.    They are joined during Christmas holidays, by their two children Trip and Brooke, superbly played by Rod Brogan and Kate Turnbull.

The family drama that unfolds when two extremely liberal grown children join their highly conservative parents and a liberal aunt with problems of her own, is a reflection of the broader cultural and political divide, in the country, where each side is often determined to impose its vision of America on the other, where each side fiercely believes that their vision for the country is ethically and morally superior, and any compromise would be akin to betraying these deep moral standards.  And yet, in this family, under highly contentious and razor sharp retorts, there is deep love.  The complexity of issues is so intense, depth of characters is so masterful, the dialogs are packed with so much punch, that this is a play that can be watched more than once.

Polly, the matriarch, demands a lot from her family, but also holds her family together, and is like a rock on whom everyone leans for support.  When she says, “the only way to have someone not be an invalid is to not treat them like they are invalid”, it evokes a sharp retort from her liberal sister, Silda, “and there you have it, entire GOP platform, in a nutshell”.  Her children, especially Brooke is constantly at odds with Polly.  In response to her children’s sharp retorts, Polly says in exasperation, “Why is it that children are allowed endless series of free passes in life”.  This play contains so much and offers so many thought provoking issues.  There is family drama, political divide, mystery, intrigue, cultural and ideological war, razor sharp wit, humor, tragedy, love that tugs at the heart and love that holds the family together, in its divided state.  I laughed and I cried and thought and rethought and I am ready to see the play again.

Theatreworks and Artistic Director Robert Kelley deserve the kudos for bringing the most awesome plays to the Bay Area.  Director, Richard Seer has done a superb job.  Stage Manager, Radall K. Lum, Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf, and Scenic Designer Alexander Dodge have done a masterful job in the set.  The stage reflects a multi-million dollar Californian home and the many symbolic elements on the stage include a beautiful free standing fireplace that gives the chills, when the air in the room gets too heavy, and the characters get lonely in their own home.

If you love theater, you must watch this play.  If you are not sure about the power of live theater in touching you deeply, then watch this play.  If you are a liberal, you will love the wit and the humor.  If you a conservative, you will enjoy the characters of Lyman and Pollie who despite the potshots directed at them, create a loving and supporting home.  If you enjoy unraveling the mystery, dialogs that make you laugh, dialogs that make you cry, then watch the play.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org.

 

Desert Cactus flowers.  Teutonia Peak Trail ha...

Desert Cactus flowers. Teutonia Peak Trail has the best Joshua Trees Yucca brevifolia) in the country. Yucca brevifolia is a plant species belonging to the genus Yucca. It is tree-like in habit, which is reflected in its common names: Joshua tree, yucca (Photo credit: mikebaird)

Enhanced by Zemanta

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Wild With Happy — Play Review


Deeply personal, hysterically funny, also sad, full of wit and humor, the play “Wild With Happy”, by nationally acclaimed, OBIE award-winning and Tony award-nominated, actor and playwright, Colman Domingo, opened at TheatreWorks, at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts.  Domingo is a gifted actor and has previously played in various well known productions, including “The Scottsboro Boys” – http://bit.ly/KIBadN .  In “Wild With Happy”, he plays alongside Sharon Washington, who is superb in her duel role, and was nominated for an Outstanding Lead Actress, Lucille Lortel Award, for her performance as “Adelaide/ Aunt Glo.

English: American actor Colman Domingo at the ...

English: American actor Colman Domingo at the premiere of “Dreamgirls” in december 2006 at the Gotham Hall in New York taken by Maurice McRae. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gil (Domingo) in his early forties, has returned from NYC, to his home in Philly, to make arrangements for the funeral of his mother, whom he calls “Adelaide”, to the disapproval of his “Aunt Glo” (both roles played by Washington).  He continues to have conversations with his mother, now dead, as he also remembers the earlier times he spent with her, like the time when she decided to join a church and told him, it was to “get us some Jesus”.  His mother says, “you are just like me, probably more me than me”.  (Isn’t that how it always turns out?)  She wants to call Oprah on his behalf, has dreams for him, and believes in magic and fairy tales.  She advises, he let go of the past and be open to love, even as he insists, he is a middle aged grown man with $80K in student loans that has yet to be paid back, and magic does not happen in real life.

Aunt Glo, mother’s twin, is a feisty, energetic, zany woman, who gulps down pills to manage her blood pressure, and insists that they have a funeral befitting the tradition, even as she is cleaning out her sister’s closet, for her shoes, dresses, scarves and jackets.  Gil prefers a quiet end to mark his mother’s passing away, and questions the need for ceremony.  Aunt Glo insists that “tradition has to be maintained”, “because that is what our people do”, “because we are common people”, and that after the limo, hearse, and procession, there should be a reception, so as to not “get talked about afterwards”.  She stands her ground, insisting that while her sister was nearing the end of her life, she was the one taking care of her “onliest sister”, as Gil who was pursuing his career in theater, was “missing in acting”.

Gil, meanwhile, discusses the funeral arrangements with the funeral director, Terry (superbly played by Richards Prioleau), who tries to sell the best package, while Gil insists that he is looking for “best on a budget”.  To great consternation of his Aunt Glo, Gil settles on cremation, and drives with the urn, with his friend Mo (Duane Boutte), followed in hot pursuit by his Aunt and Terry.  Gil and Mo have some conflict along the way, but finally they all end up in Florida, in Disney’s MagicKingdom, in the Cinderella Suite.  And magic happens as they make peace.  Even as Gil realizes he cannot escape from grief, that “grief becomes part of you that never goes away”, he also understands, “love is a story that never ends”, and he must “shake some fairy dust and keep on believing”.  And acknowledging that love is a journey, Aunt Glo also concedes that “love is not a box of cherries, nor a bowl of chocolates,” but is a “trip down the winding lane”.  Finally, Gil is not running away from, or running towards, not escaping neither chasing, anything.  “I want to just sit”, he says.

Director, Danny Scheie has done a fantastic job.  Great kudos to Scenic Designer, Erik Flatmo, Stage Manger, Karen Szpaller, and Assistant Stage Manager, Emily Anderson Wolf.  Absolutely loved the beautiful set of Cinderella suite that briefly seems to transport the audience to the magicality symbolized by Disney.  Great kudos to Casting Director Leslie Martinson, for excellent casting.  And Costume Designer, Brandin Baron did a splendid job in bringing out the personalities of Adelaide and Aunt Glo, as well as other characters.

The dialogues are funny, they make you laugh; they also made me cry.  I absolutely loved Sharon Washington who plays both distinct roles and a brief Cinderella role, with aplomb.  I highly recommend this brilliant performance and pick it as not-to-miss play of this season, in South Bay Area, CA.  For tickets, go to www.theatreworks.org .

Enhanced by Zemanta

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: