Archive for January, 2012

Big Dreams Online

A quick heads up: Director Dave Boyle has made his 2006 film Big Dreams Little Tokyo available free online “for a limited time.” The film is here.

To quote IMDB,

Big Dreams Little Tokyo is the story of Boyd, an American with an uncanny ability to speak Japanese. Boyd aspires to succeed in the world of Japanese business but finds himself mostly on the outside looking in. Meanwhile, his roommate Jerome, is a Japanese American who has always felt too American to be Japanese but too Japanese to be American…

The movie was filmed in San Jose’s Japantown (among other locations) so be on the lookout for some local landmarks.

Double Indemnity at the SJ Repertory

Double Indemnity is now playing at the San Jose Repertory, and what better way to enjoy this fun production than with a “Noir Fashion Night”?

Carrie Paff as Phyllis Nirlinger and John Bogar as Walter Huff. Photo by Chris Bennion.

The Rep is hosting the world premiere run of James M. Cain’s famous noir classic, co-produced with Seattle’s A Contemporary Theatre.  Five outstanding actors from Seattle and the Bay Area bring loosely set curls, fedoras, and a whole lot of talent to the stage in this intriguing tale of greed, lust and murder.

Carrie Paff plays Phyllis Nirlinger, the femme fatale who collects men (and bodies) the way insurance agent Walter Huff (John Bogar) collects deductibles.  The two come together to hatch a diabolical plan to kill Phyllis’s husband and collect a huge insurance payout – paying on the double indemnity clause by having him fall from a moving train.  The plot takes several twists and turns, the characters surprise you, and it was entertaining enough for much debate and discussion during intermission.  Will they get away with it? Who will end up taking the fall? What role will Lola play in the end?

Walter Huff contemplates what he's done for Phyllis. Photo by Chris Bennion.

Although I don’t think the initial connection the two main characters felt was well established in the opening scenes, after a slightly slow start the plot soon takes off and will captivate you.  The intricately revolving stage design quickly transformed from train yard to insurance office to different residences, and having one particular dead body slowly revolve in a complete circle was quite impactful.  For all the darkness in the plot, there is also quite a lot of comedy in the dialog and situations, and overall this is quite an enjoyable evening.

Noir fashion at its finest. Photo by Chris Bennion.

But why not take it to the next level by dressing in your own noir fashion?  On Saturday, January 21 during the 8pm performance The Rep is hosting Noir Fashion Night, featuring special fashion displays, themed drink specials, and a photographer to capture all the fedora-clad fun before the show.  Dress in your finest 1930s to 1940s fashion, and enjoy all the fun — included in the price of your ticket!  Doors open 1 hour prior to the performance, and you must have a ticket to gain entrance.  This is a guaranteed fun and special event.

Double Indemnity
San Jose Repertory Theatre
Through February 5

January Theater Round-up

Are you all ready for the second half of theater/music/opera season?  Well the season is ready for you, and it’s time to start marking the calendars.  These are the shows Metblogs is hoping to attend and review for you:

Double Indemnity

 

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DOUBLE INDEMNITY
January 12 – February 5, 2012
San Jose Repertory Company

THERE ARE THREE ELEMENTS ESSENTIAL TO A SUCCESSFUL MURDER

From the dark and dingy streets of LA comes a treacherous tale of love and murder. The beautiful and seductive Phyllis Nirlinger unveils a cold-blooded scheme to murder her husband, but not before first taking out an insurance policy on his life—one which pays double if her husband dies in a fall from a moving train. Smart-talking insurance agent Walter Huff falls victim to the persuasive femme fatale. Caught in a web of greed and lust, the adulterous couple commits the almost perfect crime leading to guilt, suspicion and betrayal.

Did we hear murder, greed and lust?  We’re so there.

West Side Story

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WEST SIDE STORY
January 17 – 22
Broadway San Jose
Center for the Performing Arts

More than fifty years ago one musical changed theater forever. Now it’s back, and mesmerizing audiences once again. From the first note to the final breath, West Side Story soars as the greatest love story of all time. Tony Award-winning librettist Arthur Laurents’ Broadway direction is recreated for the tour by David Saint, the Associate Director on Broadway. West Side Story remains as powerful, poignant and timely as ever.

One of my favorite musicals of all time! Metblogs has not yet received an invitation for review, but you should put this on your calendars regardless.  It’s a sure winner!

 

Social Security

SOCIAL SECURITY
January 26 – February 12
Hillbarn Theater

By Andrew Bergman
Director: Hunt Burdick

It focuses on trendy Manhattan art gallery owners Barbara and David Kahn, whose lives are upended when Barbara’s Mineola housewife sister, Trudy, deposits their eccentric mother, Sophie, on the couple’s doorstep while she and her husband Martin head to Buffalo to rescue their sexually precocious college student daughter from a ménage à trois with two men. Barbara and David introduce Sophie to suave nonagenarian artist Maurice Koenig, who offers to paint her portrait and soon begins to brighten her life in ways she never expected in her twilight years.

Hillbarn always produces winners and I’m really looking forward to getting back to Foster City for this show.

And for those of us looking ahead, Opera San Jose will produce Giuseppe Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA starting February 11.  Don’t worry, we’ll be reminding you at the end of this month!

Make your own reusable shopping bag

More than a year ago, my girlfriend found these instructions for sewing reusable shopping bags, using a disposable shopping bag from your favorite store as the pattern. She made up a set, and we’ve been using them ever since. I get lots of positive comments from clerks when I hand them over to be filled up with groceries.

My girlfriend made our bags using a Target bag for the pattern, but we found they’re more comfortable to carry if the handles are made a little bit narrower than the original. She used fabric from an old futon cover to make the bags, so they’re nice and sturdy, as well as being doubly-green as recycled goods.

I found other patterns and instructions for making shopping bags online (think Instructables and YouTube), but I think the instructions on craftster are the most complete, and the step-by-step photos make it easy to see how the bags are put together.

With San Jose’s new shopping bag ordinance in effect since Sunday, you might want to try your hand at making low-cost environment-friendly shopping accessories for yourself, too.

Photo: Michelle Wootton

New Vietnamese restaurants on Santa Clara Street

I’ve been very happy to try out a couple of new Vietnamese restaurants that opened in the past couple of months on Santa Clara Street in downtown San Jose.

The first of these, Lang Chay, offers the basic pho experience, complete with help-yourself chopsticks, hoisin sauce, and chili sauce at each table. The twist is that all of the food is vegetarian, and the pho is made with imitation meats, replicating (more or less) the texture of all of the common meat found in pho. Rice plates and other choices are also available.

I tried the basic pho, and later the crispy chow mein. Both were tasty and satisfying, and the crispy chow mein especially was the equal of the similar dish I’ve had at non-veg restaurants. Since many pho shops have absolutely no meat-free options on the menu, its good to find a place that offers the pho experience for vegetarians.

Lang Chay is located at the former Pho Lan location, immediately across the street from city hall.

The second of these new restaurants is Hoi An Bistro. Hoi An serves a varied Vietnamese menu in a slightly upscaled atmosphere at really reasonable prices. They’ve done a great job decorating with photo-murals of Vietnamese street scenes on the walls and decorative tile-roofed overhangs above the dining area.

The dishes I’ve tasted have been flavorful and also had variety beyond the pho-shop standards. I tried “farm chicken with Hoi An noodles” and got tender chicken cooked in a nutty curry-like sauce with a distinctive flavor mix that was new to me. On a previous visit, I tried both a vegetarian vermicelli bowl with egg rolls and vegetarian yellow curry (ordered green, but I think what we got was the yellow curry). The vermicelli bowl did a fine job of translating one of my favorite pork-based lunch standards to a vegetarian dish. The yellow curry was tasty, and surprisingly used cassava (?) and yams as the starch components where most local restaurants seem to use potatoes and carrots. These added a wonderful sweet flavor to a dish I thought I was fully familiar with. Prices were so low I felt compelled to tip according to what I thought they could have charged instead of what they actually did.

Hoi An Bistro isn’t strictly vegetarian, but they do dedicate a full page of their menu to veg options, and a vegan friend of mine has also given them a thumbs up. They’re located between 8th and 9th streets on the south side of Santa Clara Street, in the building that most recently housed Onyx Vietnamese fusion restaurant.

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