Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

It’s time to prepare for 2017-2018 Opera San Jose!

Opera San Jose has been busy preparing for its new season, and it’s time for us to start marking our calendars.  Opening night is September 9, and the first show is Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

Thinking himself worldly and experienced, Don Alfonso decides to relieve his young friends, Ferrando and Gugliemo, of their faith in sexual fidelity. He challenges them to a bet, promising that within 24 hours their fiancées will prove unfaithful. Outraged, they accept, but find the challenge too painfully revealing and too difficult to withstand. Dressed in clown’s clothes, these young men break their own hearts and the hearts of their fiancées. A comedy that is a tragedy underneath is the perfect stuff for the uncanny genius of Mozart, so clearly revealed in this dazzling score.

There will be only six performances of this amazing show at the California Theatre, so check your calendar and buy your tickets now! Prices range from $10 for students, ages 25 and younger with a current student ID, and $56 to $176 for adults. Box office phone: 408-437-4450 or go to operasj.org.

Can’t make the show? Check out the preview!
Così fan tutte Preview: August 29, 2017 from 12 – 1 p.m., California Theatre, 345 S. First Street in  downtown San José; Free vocal preview with members of the cast. For information, call 408-437-4450.

For opera beginners (and pros!) there’s never a need to feel like a novice:
Introduction to Opera
: General Director Larry Hancock will present a free 45-minute talk to ticket holders about the opera at the California Theatre before each performance of Così fan tutte. The talk begins at 6:30pm prior to evening performances and at 1:30pm prior to Sunday matinees. No reservations required.  

Così fan tutte
Opera San Jose
September 9 thru September 24
California Theatre
345 S. First Street, San Jose

Palo Alto Players presents The Graduate

Benjamin (Max Tachis) and Mrs. Robinson (Betsy Kruse Craig).
Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid

“One word, Benjamin. PLASTICS.”

Palo Alto Players is currently presenting The Graduate, one of my favorite novellas by Charles Webb. Even for those who have never read the 1963 book by Charles Webb, or seen the film starring Dustin Hoffman, Mrs. Robinson’s stocking-ed leg is still an iconic image. The question here is can it work as a stage production?

Max Tachis inhabits Benjamin Braddock on stage as perfectly as young Dustin Hoffman did on film. I have seen the very talented Tachis in many shows now, and he was a large reason why I agreed to come review the show. There was absolutely no disappointment.

Betsy Kruse Craig plays boozy Mrs. Robinson and is just as sexy as Anne Bancroft. Her lines are delivered in a perfectly dry and deadpan manner, and she smoothly brings Mrs. Robinson from the unsatisfied alcoholic wife who finds a bit of fun with young Benjamin, to a deeply unlikable, caustic and resentful mother who is likely more jealous than protective of her daughter.

Mrs. Robinson (Betsy Kruse Craig) and Benjamin (Max Tachis).
Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid

Raegena Raymond-Brunker plays Mrs. Braddock and was one of my favorites on Opening Night. Her looks of utter confusion and shrieks of surprise and despair made me laugh hysterically. She is entertaining every moment she is on stage and had me giggling constantly.

My guest’s favorite actor was Mark Novak who plays Mr. Robinson. He puts his all into the part, and his visceral outrage toward Benjamin was such that I was praying he wasn’t going to have a very real heart attack on stage. Kudos to you, Mark Novak, and please take care of your blood pressure when yelling at Benjamin – we want you around for future shows!

Special notice needs to be made for Karen M. Sanders, who plays the be-tasseled stripper. Her twirling breasts were a hilarious surprise when they appeared on stage and I applaud her courage and most especially, her talents.

These were my favorite performances, but all involved are talented and entertaining. I enjoyed the show immensely, and director Jeannie K. Smith has done a fantastic job. The stage design is on the simple side with quite a few changes to take us from Benjamin’s childhood bedroom to a hotel to a stripper bar to the iconic church scene, and the costume design very subtly but clearly mimics the film.

Mr. Braddock (Shawn Bender) asks why Benjamin (Max Tachis) isn’t coming downstairs to show off the diving suit, his graduation present. Photo credit: Joyce Goldschmid

Now we go back to the question: does it work as a stage production? My problem is that I cannot definitively state that the entire essence of the novella comes through on stage, especially regarding the social commentary and satire. The production hits most of the highlights of the book and film, but I am so familiar with the work that I’m not clear if someone unfamiliar with it would enjoy it as much as I did. I can confidently state that if you are familiar with The Graduate (novella or film) that you will enjoy seeing your favorite characters brought to life again on stage by these talented actors. If you are not familiar with the work, I’m going to err on the positive side and say to give it a try – the very worst that will happen is you’ll spend a couple hours in a nicely air conditioned theater.

The Graduate
Palo Alto Players
Lucie Stern Theater
Through July 2, 2017

TheatreWorks’ Crimes of the Heart: Sweet, Charming, Fantastic

Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe (Lizzie O'Hara). Photo: Kevin Berne

Meg (Sarah Moser), gets a reaction from her sisters Lenny (Therese Plaehn) and Babe (Lizzie O’Hara). Photo: Kevin Berne

I saw a show at Theatreworks last night that not only had me laughing, but completely kept my mind off politics for two and a half hours. The show is worth the price of admission just for that.

But aside from that. Crimes of the Heart is playing at the Mountain View Center of Performing Arts, and they have done a stupendous job. This is the story of three adult sisters who must come together at their Southern family home after one has been arrested for shooting her husband. The eldest sister is neurotic Lenny, turning 30 that very day and well on her way to coming an old maid. Middle sister Meg has come in from Hollywood where she claims she’s been making it big as a singer. And then the youngest, pretty Babe, who is insisting she shot her husband purely because she didn’t like “his stinkin’ looks”.

The sisters try to suss out exactly what happened between Babe and her husband with the help of young lawyer Barnette Lloyd (Joshua Marx). Mr. Lloyd has a little crush on Babe and also a lifelong vendetta against her husband. Cousin Chick (Laura Jane Bailey) pops in and out, and she has her own longstanding issues with the sisters. And then there’s Doc Porter (Timothy Redmond) whose heart had been crushed by Meg when they were young.

Crimes of the Heart 5_Kevin Berne

Barnette Lloyd (Joshua Marx) acts as lawyer to Babe Botrelle (Lizzie O’Hara) who is out on bail. Photo: Kevin Berne

The show is sweet and it is charming. It walks up to the line of tragedy and then pulls back and has you in tears from laughing. The sisters are played by three incredible actors: Therese Plaehn (Lenny), Sarah Moser (Meg) and Lizzie O’Hara (Babe). The characters could easily veer into over-the-top portrayals, but these women hold tight and present amazingly real and tender yet hilarious performances. No matter what any sister has done, no matter what happens, you see and believe there is an unbreakable family bond of love between them.

There were a few other unsung stars of this show. Andrea Bechert is the Scenic Designer, and the Mississippi home where the play is set was just incredible in detail, and an unfathomable amount of work was put into it. Cathleen Edwards was the costume designer and did an excellent job of dressing every one of the characters according to the time (1974), place and status of each. And because the entire show was fantastic, much applause must be given to director Giovanna Sardelli.

We all need a break now and then. This weekend I really needed the happy escape from reality that I found at TheatreWorks. If you need a moment to take your mind off world events or life in general, I definitely recommend you see this show, and the amazing women who star in it.

Crimes of the Heart
TheatreWorks
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Through February 5

 

A Streetcar Named Desire – Opera Style!

Opera San José resident artist Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and guest artists Ariana Strahl as “Blanche” and Stacey Tappan as “Stella”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artist Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and guest artists Ariana Strahl as “Blanche” and Stacey Tappan as “Stella”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San Jose has really been outdoing itself this year, as it does every year.  February’s Carmen was outstanding, and now they have taken a dip in the theatre-pond, bringing us Mr. Tennessee Williams. Did you know A Streetcar Named Desire was also an opera by André Previn? Well there was no way I was going to miss this. I was so excited to see this show, in a completely different way than I usually am.

As soon as you step into the California Theatre you can see this opera is going to be different. The curtain was already up and there were actors already on stage sitting on chairs! And not a velvet gown in sight. These were manly men, shirtless and dirty, drinking from bottles as they lounged in the chairs waiting for us to sit. Also, the orchestra was behind the stage. All of this was so different from anything I’d seen at the opera before, I was bouncing in my chair waiting for it to begin.

Opera San José resident artists Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and Kirk Dougherty at “Mitch”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artists Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and Kirk Dougherty at “Mitch”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Now I’ll be honest. It had to grow on me. When Ariana Strahl as Blanche DuBois strolls onstage and starts singing my mind had a terribly difficult time connecting what I was seeing to what I was hearing.  My heart fell just a tiny bit as I realized I might not enjoy it as much as I had anticipated. But the music was outstanding, it has the feel of a 1950s film score.  And of course the story of Blanche, and Stanley, and STELLAAAAAAAAA is fantastic no matter what, so I sat and tried to enjoy the show as much as I could.

Fear not, it was already growing on me before the first intermission (there are two).  And it wasn’t long before I realized Streetcar is actually your typical opera story: the male is somewhat of a… trying to come up with a family friendly adjective here… jerk.  Yeah, let’s call him that.  So your main male character is a big, fat, jerk, and the main female that the story revolves around is basically a whore.  Sigh.  And because Streetcar is no Comedy, we know what’s going to happen to the “whore” in the end.

If you’ve never seen or read Streetcar in any version before, note that this is not a show for young children. There is talk of homosexuality, suicide, “loose women”, domestic violence and a choreographed rape.  The setting is a tough time in a tough neighborhood where men earn the money and the women do what they’re told. But it is also an amazing, touching story, and the entire production is done extremely well.

Stacey Tappan is a luscious Stella, Matthew Hanscom is as manly a Stanley as you can get, and I adored Kirk Dougherty as Mitch. But another standout for me was Cabiria Jacobsen as Eunice. She has a smaller role, but it was a great one.

Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Mitch” and guest artist Ariana Strahl as “Blanche”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Mitch” and guest artist Ariana Strahl as “Blanche”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

The finale of the show at opening night got the standing ovation that it deserved.  From the catchy, more “modern” music, to the 1950s era costumes, to our amazing resident opera singers, and even the sparse, perfect staging, this is an outstanding production. It did grow on me, and then it bloomed, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see the show. I think the show might be a very good introduction to opera newbies, but the music and voices are the usual perfection to please long-time opera fans as well. Perhaps even some English majors can get their noses out of their books and get out for a night to see a story really brought to life.

I’m so glad the show is going to be playing all the way through May 1. It is a great show to end the season with, while we look forward to next year which will include:

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
Rossini’s The Barber of Seville
Puts & Campbell’s Silent Night
Puccini’s La bohème

Don’t miss this amazing modern opera at the California Theatre.

A Streetcar Named Desire
Opera San Jose
playing through May 1
Tickets

 

A Magical Evening at Opera San Jose

Well, I was at the afternoon matinee, but still. It was one of the best times I’ve had at the opera, and I’m so happy that there is still time for you to see it. The Magic Flute is a show for adults and children, oldies and newbies, opera and theatre lovers. And it includes a majestic dragon!!

The dragon attacks Tamino in The Magic Flute. Photo credit Pat Kirk

The dragon attacks Tamino in The Magic Flute. Photo credit Pat Kirk

This may not be the best show I’ve ever seen at Opera San Jose, but I still enjoyed it so much and it is a great show for other Opera Novices and Newbies.  As always, the performances were incredible, the story was great, the music was beautiful, the costumes were gorgeous, …but there are some stand-outs that make this a show you should not miss.

1.  This is a great opera for Newbies and families with children.  The Magic Flute is sung in German but has spoken words in English. It always throws me off when an opera is not entirely sung, which is probably the only issue I had with this show, but for newbies and children this is a great plus and makes for an easy introduction to opera.  As always, the lyrics (and spoken lines) are projected in super titles above the stage so you can follow along.  The show has children involved, though they are not the stars, and there were many children in the audience. Although I wasn’t sure they would be able to follow the story entirely, there was not a peep from any of them during the entire three hours.

2. Chris Salinas, Daniel Ostrom and Winter Felton-Priestner are three very young men who can now add “Soprano, Opera San Jose” to their resumes and I don’t think they’ve even hit middle school yet. This certainly trumps my own resume and I might be a tiny bit jealous.

3. There are a couple scenes with children silently wearing beautifully painted animal masks, and the animal-like choreography was riveting. Kudos to both the choreographer and the kids for nailing each of their parts and creating a magical tableau whenever they were on stage.

4. The show is often very funny, usually thanks to Matthew Hanscom as hapless Papageno.  Papageno just wants a wife to love him, but how will he find a woman who wants to marry a poor bird trainer?

5. Isabella Ivy (soprano) is breathtaking as the Queen of the Night.  Two of the songs she sang were so intricate and complicated that any Newbie could see these must be some of the most difficult pieces in opera.  Even more amazing, she sang one of these very complicated pieces in the upper ranges of the scale, while kneeling down, and as she stood her foot got tangled in her skirts. She not only calmly untangled herself, but she never missed a beat or a note in one of the most amazing sections of music I have ever heard. Every jaw in the theater was hanging open. She was incredible.

6. THE DRAGON.  The dragon was simply the most beautiful prop I have ever seen. It was huge and graceful and gorgeous and majestic.  Its wings moved, it spouted smoke from its mouth (the kids in the audience LOVED this), and for me it was the star of the show.  During intermission I voiced my hopes that the dragon would make another appearance, and it did when everyone came out for a bow. That dragon earned its ovation, and so have the operators, the designers and creaters of that piece.  More dragons like that need to be in opera!!

When the entire thing was over I realized that I had had a really fun time. I haven’t always enjoyed every opera I’ve attended, and it has taken me a while to appreciate some parts of opera. But ever since Madama Butterfly, Opera SJ has been drawing me in. I may still be the Opera Novice in most aspects, but I am also quite certainly becoming an Opera Lover.

Recently I have noticed the shows have not had two casts, and are instead having one cast do a shorter run of each show. I don’t know if this is a financial decision (or just a coincidence), but I can say that the performers have upped their game, and the performances are tighter than I’ve ever seen. Try if you can to make one of the last performances (I have heard they are close to selling out all shows) but if you don’t make this one, mark your calendars quickly to get seats for next season. It starts with Puccini’s Tosca, and after that come The Marriage of Figaro (YAY!), Carmen (YAY!), and then A Streetcar Named Desire. That is going to be one amazing season and this Opera Novice is looking forward to it more than ever.

The Magic Flute
Opera San Jose
Thru May 3

SJ Opera: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as "Padrona, the innkeeper" and Lisa Chavez as "Harriet Herriton," guest artist Jennie Litster as "the Opera Singer, " and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as "Philip Herriton".  Photo credit Pat Kirk

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as “Padrona, the innkeeper” and Lisa Chavez as “Harriet Herriton,” guest artist Jennie Litster as “the Opera Singer, ” and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Philip Herriton”. Photo credit Pat Kirk

This weekend I attended the World Premiere of Opera San Jose‘s Where Angels Fear to Tread, based on the novel by E.M. Forster, and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. I was very excited to see a brand new opera. Good or bad it is great to occasionally see something new, and that is a pretty rare occasion with opera. I felt like it had a shaky start, and I had some issues with the story itself, but as an opera it was completely enjoyable and I would definitely go see it again – something I do not often say.

I have not read Forster’s story, but the opera was quite an emotional roller coaster and I’m still not sure if this is considered a tragedy or comedy.  It opens with Lilia, a young English widow, and her friend Caroline Abbot vacationing in Italy. Lilia’s brother-in-law Phillip has rushed to see them because he has heard that Lilia has fallen in love with a young Italian, Gino, and not only that, but the young man is – hold on to your hats, folks – the son of a DENTIST. I know, it can’t get much worse than that, right??  Well, this is apparently a horrific situation to the English, but Phillip is too late as Lilia has impetuously gone out and married the young man already. Several months later we see the marriage has not gone well, but Lilia is now pregnant, so once again it is too late. But then Lilia dies in childbirth and her English in-laws have decided there is no way they will let the child be brought up by those wretched Italians (especially the son of a dentist! *GASP*) so Phillip and his sister come back to Italy to try to convince Gino to give them his son. Caroline Abbott also wants to adopt the boy, and is upset that the English family is really only concerned about appearances.

But then another tragedy strikes, and it is so upsetting I thought the woman sitting next to me was going to collapse in a fit. She could not stop exclaiming and clutching her hands to her heart until the end of the opera, and I have to agree, it was shocking and truly tragic.

And yet there is a lot of comedy in this opera too, including an adorable dachshund who completely steals the show at the end of Act I. I have heard the dog was trained to howl on cue, but it appeared to the audience that he was barking for everyone to STOP THAT SINGING and Act I ended with the audience in hysterics.  Later, almost immediately after the tragedy in Act III, Phillip gets his heart broken by the woman he loves, and it was a bit funny so we all laughed at him while also feeling weird for laughing so soon after the tragedy. The play ends with both Phillip and Gino deciding to live it up and be happy in Italy while the two women seem to sulk back to England, alone. How nice that the men, once again in opera, get to have the happy endings.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

The story may have given me some problems, but opera storylines often do with me. The opera itself however was spectacular. I was not too thrilled in the beginning, when I had troubles understanding the connections with the music, the libretto, and what was going on, but by the end of Act I I was all in, and from that point on the music and singing were simply amazing.  Jenny Litster has a small part as the Opera Singer, but she was adorable and completely won over the audience (along with the amazing dachshund). Guest artist Christie Conover plays Caroline Abbott and did an outstanding job, and I hope we can see more of her in the future. But the winner of the night was Brian James Myer, who stepped into the role of Gino when Matthew Hanscom was unable to perform. Brian James Myer made the show. During intermission the audience could not stop talking about the song he sang to his baby. It was a moving performance and made the later tragedy that much more horrendous and upsetting. When he is given his tragic news later, he sobs into Caroline’s lap in a scene that tore at our hearts. At the end he was given the loudest applause, and he deserved it. Brian James Myer is a name to look for in the future.

Aside from the bumpy beginning, which may have been problematic for no one else but me, the Opera Novice, the rest of the opera was incredible. Conductor Joseph Marcheso did a masterful job leading the orchestra. I particularly loved a short piccolo (possibly flute) solo, and there are plenty of oboe parts which are always my favorite. This is the World Premiere, and I look forward to hearing the music in the future and seeing the opera again as well.

The stage was set beautifully in Italy, with several tall columns that were turned to create slightly different scenes: a hotel lobby, a sitting room, a dining room, etc. The lighting, especially in the opening scene, was simply breathtaking.  The opera is in English with supertitles in English.

I may have issues with the story, but I have no problem recommending this opera or the music. I commend Opera San Jose for giving a new piece a chance and obviously putting a lot of time, effort, sweat and tears and money into this production. It was well worth it.

Where Angels Fear to Tread
Opera San Jose
Through February 22
California Theatre

 

“ART” and friendship at City Lights Theater Company

Serge (Jeffrey Bracco) and Yvan (Max Tachis) checking out the all-white painting in "Art" by Yasmina Reza. Photo by Mike Ko / siliconvalleydesigns.com.

Serge (Jeffrey Bracco) and Yvan (Max Tachis) checking out the all-white painting in “Art” by Yasmina Reza. Photo by Mike Ko / siliconvalleydesigns.com.

ART is a Tony Award winning play (1998 Best Play) now showing at City Lights Theater Company in San Jose.  Directed by Veronica Drake and starring Kit Wilder, Jeffrey Bracco and (always my favorite) Max Tachis, it is both a very humorous and very French show.  Playwright Yasmina Reza is also known for the plays Conversations After a Burial, Winter Crossing, and God of Carnage, and to be honest, she is not my favorite playwright.  City Lights however has gathered a very talented cast and manages to pull off a show that had the entire audience laughing throughout.

Serge, Marc and Yvan have all been friends for many years until one day Serge buys a very expensive piece of art.  He is delighted with his purchase, and shows it proudly to Marc, who promptly calls it “Sh!t” and then loses his mind when he finds out that Serge has paid 200,000 francs.  Why is Marc so upset?  Because the painting is a 5′ x 4′ canvas that has been painted white.  All white.  And while you can see three very very light diagonal white lines and one white horizontal line on the white background, the painting is indeed, entirely white.

What follows is 90 minutes of Marc belittling and berating Serge, Serge feeling very hurt and offended by Marc’s opinions, and both of them having little patience for young Yvan who appears to take whichever side is easiest at the moment. They angrily debate whether the painting is actually entirely white, or whether there are shades of grey, yellow, or even red in it.  The arguments get more and more vehement, hurt and broken feelings rise to the surface, relationships within and without are questioned, and three friendships are soon on the rocks.

I have been awed by Max Tachis’ talent since I saw him starring in  Renegade Theatre‘s 9 Circles; he also voiced a character in The Smell of The Kill, and wrote the play Perishable, Keep Refrigerated which is still playing at Renegade Theatre Experiment (Hoover Theater) through September 27.  Nine Circles was a traumatic, cathartic performance, but here Tachis plays a more humorous role, and does it splendidly, with the most hilarious expressions and body language.  He is an amazing local talent we are all very lucky to have. Kit Wilder and Jeffrey Bracco inhabit their more serious roles very well also, playing well with the three very different character personalities.

This play is for anyone interested in how relationships form and unravel or how the ties that bind in friendships can also lead to great pain.  If you enjoy God of Carnage you will likely also love Art as they are very similar in tone, experience, and some themes.  It is a quick, fast paced show with no intermission, and the audience on opening night had an excellent time!

ART
Through October 19
City Lights Theater Company
529 South Second Street, San Jose

Serge (Jeffrey Bracco), Marc (Kit Wilder), and Yvan (Max Tachis) in City Lights Theater Company's production of Yasmina Reza's "Art," translated by Christopher Hampton. The show runs Sept. 18-Oct. 19 at 529 S. Second St. in San Jose. Details: cltc.org.

Serge (Jeffrey Bracco), Marc (Kit Wilder), and Yvan (Max Tachis); photos by Mike Ko/siliconvalleydesigns.com.

Water By the Spoonful at TheatreWorks

watershowflash

TheatreWorks, one of my very favorite theater companies, has an amazing show now playing through September 14.    Water By the Spoonful is a Pulitzer Prize winning drama by the Tony Award winning playwright of In the Heights, Quiara Alegría Hudes.  It combines drama and comedy as it works through the never ending trials of being an addict, specifically a crack addict.  In one of the two main storylines, we follow a calm, reasonable woman known as “Haikumom” as she runs an internet support group for a group of addicts.  Among the other members of the chatroom are “Orangutan”, a brash and caustic young woman who is lonely for human contact, and “Chutes&Ladders”, a man who has lost everything but is struggling to regain some sort of meaningful life and manage to stay sober with the help of his chatroom friends.

In the other main story apart from the chatroom we have Eliot, a troubled Iraq war veteran who now works at Subway, and his cousin.  A woman in their family has passed away, and they are at the foreground of the stage as they work out the logistics of the funeral.

But what do these stories have in common?  Quite a lot, it is eventually revealed, and every character in the story has their own back story and a future to live as well.  There are many things happening in this play, and the great stage design really helps clarify where each character is at any time without confusing the audience.  The lighting and projections make it clear whether we are in an online or offline world, and we also get to see the hidden situations of each character.  It is an amazing, complicated work, and everyone involved in this show has done an incredible job creating a very touching and thoughtful production.

I found it interesting to discover later that Water By the Spoonful is part of a series called the “Elliot Trilogy”, portraying the coming of age of the young Elliot Ortiz. This explains a lot, as Elliot appeared to be such an important part of this show, yet his story was the least clear of any of the characters.  It is not that his story was incomplete, just that the others were mostly wrapped up (as tidily as a crack addict’s story can be wrapped), but Elliot’s background and future were not as clear to me.  This not only makes me want to see more of Elliot’s story, but necessitated some discussion with my guest after this show as we pondered Elliot.  There were several questions I had about Spoonful after, but in a good way; instead of a review, I wanted to write a literary essay about all the different layers at play here.  I wasn’t satisfied with the end result of every character, and that caused me to think about them after the show.  Any time I am left pondering and wanting to have conversations after a show, that is when you know theater has been done well.  This show captures such a range of emotions, and really enforces the value of family and community.  It also shows how, even if those can’t be had, just a bit of kindness and human contact can save a life.

Water By the Spoonful
TheatreWorks
Through September 14
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

Theatre Round-Up: Season Openers

Are you as excited as I am for the 2014/2015 theater season openers?  There are so many amazing shows coming up, there is no excuse to not see at least one.  These are the shows we have our eyes on and will be reviewing most of them:

 

watershowflashWater By the Spoonful
TheatreWorks
August 20 – September 14

In this healing, Pulitzer-winning drama, strangers share secrets in a chat room for troubled souls, a safe haven for lives in recovery. A sensitive webmaster moderates this community, but in real life her relationships crumble. As living and virtual worlds weave together, the true meaning of family becomes apparent, proving that no one is above reproach—or beyond redemption. From the Tony Award-winning playwright of In the Heights.

 

2014-15_Rigoletto_524x412Rigoletto
Opera San Jose
September 6 – 21

A tale of innocence lost. A vengeance gone tragically awry. A deformed court jester wants nothing more than to protect his virtuous daughter from a licentious duke who seduces and then abandons her. Giuseppe Verdi’s famous masterwork, Rigoletto, leads us on a chilling whirlwind of revenge that has entranced audiences since its first performance.

 

perishable-posterPerishable, Keep Refrigerated
Renegade Theatre Experiment
September 6 – 27

What would you do if a time portal opened up inside your refrigerator? Would you be excited or scared? Would you tell anyone? Would you go through it? What if people from the late 1800’s came into your kitchen through the portal? What would you do? Find out with the WORLD PREMIERE of PERISHABLE, KEEP REFRIGERATED by Max Tachis and directed by Kathleen Normington.

 

BF-Postcard-v3-662x1024Big Fish
Palo Alto Players
September 12 – 28

In this whimsical fantasy set in the heart of Dixie, the charismatic Edward Bloom tells his son, Will, stories about his life – but these aren’t just any old stories, they’re mythic tales of impossible magic, complete with witches and giants. As Will prepares to become a father, Edward faces the final chapter in his life’s story. Will sets off on an epic journey of his own to uncover the truth about his father, and generations collide as the lines blur between fact and fiction. A feast for the eyes, as well as the heart, BIG FISH is a tender tribute to family and the magic of storytelling.

 

Art2aArt
City Lights
September 18 – October 19

What would you pay for a white painting? An all-white painting? With gut-busting hilarity and biting poignancy, ART tells the story of three men whose years-long friendship is put to the test when one buys an all-white painting by a trendy artist at an exorbitant price. As Serge, Marc, and Ivan square off over the canvas, lines are drawn, sides are taken, and the bonds that tie each man to the others are stretched to the breaking point. Only a pointed act of self-sacrifice can save a friendship from destruction — proving that there is, indeed, a limit to what one might pay for “art.”

 

marcario1Macario
Teatro Visión
October 9 – 19

Often compared to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the parable-like story features three spirits who attempt to persuade a poor working man (Macario) to reflect on his choices when he comes into the fortune of having a full turkey to eat. It is a work steeped in magic and history that has become part of the fabric of Mexican culture. The play is set in old Mexico, but its themes are universal and just as relevant in the United States today — especially in these tough economic times.  MACARIO incorporates culturally vibrant music and dance to create a visually exciting spectacle and celebration of the Day of the Dead.

King Arthur visits City Lights Theater in SPAMALOT

 

King Arthur (Ken Boswell, in crown) has a jolly old time with the folk of Camelot

King Arthur (Ken Boswell, in crown) has a jolly old time with the folk of Camelot

City Lights Theater Company has gone ambitious this summer as it presents the comedy extravaganza Monty Python’s Spamalot!  This is one of my favorite shows because it’s just so irreverent and complete fun.  There is nothing serious in this show, there are no deep hidden meanings, and there is so much going on at any and all times that glitches are guaranteed to happen every single night… and it is always fun and hilarious to see how these professional performers manage to overcome the unexpected.  When you are in need of a show that is strictly fun entertainment in its purest form, Spamalot is the one to see.

The show recreates many scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, with a lot of Broadway mixed in.  You will see killer rabbits, and cows tossed from the ramparts, the Black Knight receives a flesh wound or four, and included in the show is the one thing the film is missing: a plethora of dancing girls.  The story is of King Arthur’s search for a team of worthy knights who will help him on his quest to find the Holy Grail.  On the way they must all avoid the plague, find a nice shrubbery for the Knights Who Say Ni, and rescue a Damsel in Distress Prince Herbert.  Watching the film first is not necessary, so if you have been deprived of the Monty Python movie experience, rest assured you will still have a rollicking great time (and then go rent the film for gosh sakes, why haven’t you seen it yet??).

Almost all the actors play multiple parts, requiring many costume changes, and there is constant choreography and singing.  There is a lot of acting and singing talent required to put this show on, and stage and set work behind the scenes that is unimaginably difficult.  City Lights does a tremendous job with their smaller theater and budget, so that you don’t miss a thing and an amazing time is had by all.  Kudos to director Jeffrey Bracco for pulling off this amazing feat so well, and to Jennifer Gorgulho for managing to choreograph an incredible number of constantly moving people.

Spamalot is running through August 31, but shows have already started to sell out, so get your tickets now before you miss it.  And before you get to the theater, stop off at Psycho Donuts for their special Spam Wellington Donut, a savory creation filled with layers of Spam and mushroom duxelle.  This surprisingly delicious treat was served at the Opening Night Gala along with mead from Alderin’s Meadery and catered food from Cafe Stritch A big thanks to all these companies for supporting City Lights Theater Company and local theater!

 

Monty Python’s Spamalot
Through August 31
City Lights Theater Company
529 South Second Street, San Jose

Main Stage Ticket Pricing:
Adult: $30
Student: $17
Educator: $17
Senior: $25

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.