Posts Tagged ‘drama’

Amazing things come in tiny packages at The Pear Avenue Theatre

We were recently invited to attend a show at the most darling theater in Mountain View.  Started in 2002 and tucked away in the back of some warehouses, the tiny Pear Avenue Theatre (seats about 40) apparently has access to some of the best talent in the Bay Area.  I was not thrilled to be going out in the freezing temperatures Friday evening, but I am now very excited to have found this theater and look forward to seeing more shows there.

Currently they are playing Death of a Salesman, the classic Arthur Miller drama that takes place in the 1940s and introduced the world to Willy Loman.  I have studied this play several times over the years but have never seen a live production; my 19 year old daughter, who attended with me, did not know anything about the story – and I had not told her anything beforehand, afraid that she would decline my invitation.  But when we left the theater she was quite affected, and though she said she was emotionally worn out by the play, she really liked it.

I was in love as soon as I walked in and saw how tiny the place was.  I have been to other extremely tiny theaters before, and for some reason these venues seem to attract the highest level of talent.  The set was the very detailed interior of a bi-level house, comprised of a kitchen, downstairs master bedroom, and the boys’ room upstairs.  The full area of the theater was put to use as Uncle Ben often stood at the top of the bleachers to speak to Willy, and other characters also ran up and down the bleachers.  The stage was right at the feet of our chairs, giving the feeling of being directly in the middle of the action.

I cannot imagine a more perfect production of this particular show.  Every single actor played their characters beautifully.  I keep thinking, “Particularly impressive was Don DeMico as Willy, oh but also Alex Shafer as Ben, but also Larry Raboy as Charlie, and Jeffrey Adams was awesome as Happy, but Jeff Clarke really pulled it out as Biff, but I can’t forget Jackie O’Keefe in her heartbreaking portrayal of Linda Loman…” So who do I single out?  I cannot. (more…)

Not your grandma’s Shakespeare

The taunting of Malvolio

Anyone who still had their doubts about injecting steampunk into one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies had their fears quelled instantly at the opening night of SJSU‘s Twelfth Night. Excitement started growing as soon as we were let into the University Theatre and saw the grand beach scene with what appeared to be the skeletal remains of a downed zeppelin.  The logic of the steampunk theme became clear when we meet Viola on the beach (and later Sebastian).  Viola and Sebastian clearly come from Shakespeare’s time.  It is the fictional Illyria, where they had been shipwrecked, that was filled with fantastical steampunk characters.  This is a world where women rule their own lives and have (somewhat) control over their men.  It is a world of mischievous antics, sexual innuendos and games, much drink, music and dancing, and, most important, fun.  It’s a land that draws in the audience, and one that we definitely did not want to leave.

Sir Toby plays with Maria

I knew I had been taking a chance in promoting this show before it opened, but I had been intrigued from the moment I had heard “steampunk + Shakespeare”.  However, my own high expectations were so far exceeded that all I can say is this is the must-see production of the year in San Jose.  I had more fun in this show than at any other show I’ve seen in recent memory and plan to see it again.  The audience — packed full of SJSU students, professors of Shakespearian literature, theater fans, and even dressed up characters from the Bay Area Steampunk Association (yes, it’s a real thing) – all had a blast as we danced along with the music, lusted after the corseted women, laughed at Sir Toby and Malvolio, and simply enjoyed Shakespeare the way the Bard himself would have wanted us to.

There was some questioning of the portrayal of Orsino as an emo rock star with “a posse”, but in this imaginative interpretation it still worked – and even the Shakespeare experts in the audience gave the show a thumbs up overall.  My guest at the show had never seen Twelfth Night or even read the play, but he loved it so much he plans to read the play now.  What more can you ask?  The steampunk theme was used partly as a way to bring Shakespeare to a new audience, to show how much fun it can be, and this production passed with flying colors on all counts.  Not only was the audience packed in both Friday and Saturday, but they had the highest grossing opening night in the last four years.

"Cesario" looks over the tortured Orsino

Although the set design, lighting, costumes and excellent choices in music (White Wedding! Dubstep! RAP!) were all outstanding, a drama production always rests on the actors.  With this fantastic group it is very hard to single anyone out, but I would be remiss in not mentioning three specific stand-out roles:

Kayleigh Larner as the sexy Maria was my favorite.  It is quite a feat to be so brilliant in her comedy while simultaneously making hearts pound as she strutted the stage in her corset, playfully whacking Sir Toby with her riding crop.  I could watch a whole show starring only Kayleigh Larner as Maria.

The recipient of those crop swats was the lucky David Scott, and his drunken portrayal of Sir Toby was both fun and slightly creepy.  Drunk through most if not all of the show, Sir Toby was playful, mischievous, and yet in full control of his senses.  Scott took his character right to the limits of bawdy humor but never once went over the top.  It was barely restrained perfection.

And finally, no review of this show will go by without mention of Drew Jones as Malvolio.  This man has been honing his comedic genius in other plays I have seen and is ALWAYS a stand-out and major scene-stealer.  As each scene goes by, the audience wants more and more of Malvolio, and the yellow stockings scene is just something…  that can’t… be missed.

The homoerotic themes of the show were not ignored

Congrats to Director Kathleen Normington for putting together a fantastical and original interpretation of Twelfth Night, and for all the help given the production by Dramaturge Dr. Adrienne Eastwood.   There was an incredible amount of work put into this show by a very large group of set designers, costumers and makeup artists, and every bit of that work shows and is appreciated.

You still have a chance to see this OUTSTANDING production, and I stake my reputation as a drama reviewer that you will not be disappointed.  Whether you are a steampunk fan, a lover of Shakespeare, ordinary theater goer, or just looking for something to do, you will not be disappointed.  You certainly can’t beat the price, and after Thursday’s show there will be a chance to ask questions of the actors, director, and dramaturge.  Don’t miss it!

Twelfth Night
November 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20 7pm
SJSU University Theatre
Fifth and San Fernando next to the San Jose Public Library
Tickets $10 students/seniors; $20 general admission
Tickets Online
Or call 408 924-4555
Wheelchair Admissable

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: STARRING MAJA (PRINSESSA)

STARRING MAJA

STARRING MAJA (PRINSESSA) is a lovely Swedish film about an overweight, unattractive and clumsy young woman who wants to be an actress.  Most of the movie is spent watching her deal with harassment and being used as an object by others for their own purposes, but there is a quite satisfying ending that I found delightful.  I loved the film.

Initially I was not sure I wanted to see this film as friends of mine had said it was difficult to watch.  Indeed it is difficult to see the emotions Maja cannot help but reveal as she realizes the bit part in a TV show she was offered is actually for “fat, grotesque, ugly girl”.  The audience also feels the betrayal that Maja feels as she realizes her only friend was using her as almost everyone else in her life has done. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: THE EXPLODING GIRL

THE EXPLODING GIRL

THE EXPLODING GIRL is a quiet, sweet film about a young girl trying to deal with a waning love-life and her own epilepsy.  However the slowness and lack of anything really happening left most of the audience cold.

Young Ivy is home on summer break and a few times we see her dealing with the idea of her epilepsy, but we rarely see her actually physically dealing with it.  She also has a boyfriend who we only encounter through phone conversations such as this: (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE

HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE

It turns out that Morty IS the HELL IN OTHER PEOPLE.  Morty embodies everything in ourselves that we dislike.  And yet Morty, perhaps because he IS us, is someone we can’t quite help loving.

A clumsily manipulative loser, Morty shuffles through this film pissing off his friends, offending strangers, and generally making sure he never gets ahead.  “Sounds like you’ve got some stuff to work out,” says one character to Morty.  Don’t we all.  And if we’re not working through things now, everyone has at some point in their life – which is why we all cringe as Morty lets himself be degraded by one of the crazier characters in the film after he has run out of people to manipulate on his own.

If this is a mumblecore film, it is most definitely a mumblecore of a different sort.  The lilting Tennessee accents of the characters quickly drew me in, and even with the sometimes blurry handheld camera work the film has a beauty that director Jarrod Whaley’s incredibly touching short film PASSION FLOWER also exhibited.  There was a clear path to the story (a downward spiral, but still), the characters had dialog of value to speak, and there was a great deal of humor amidst the sadness that is Morty. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: FrICTION

FrICTION

FrICTION played to a packed Repertory Theater on Saturday afternoon, only to have director Cullen Hoback turn the audience’s heads inside out.  Those of us who know Cullen and have seen his previous films were perhaps more confused than anyone, but in the best way possible.  Billed as a feature film gone wrong, FrICTION will leave you scratching your head and wondering just exactly what was real and what was not, even after listening to the Q&A.  FrICTION is simply an enigma wrapped in a mystery and then possibly wrapped in bacon.  FrICTION is the kind of film that Cinequest is all about. (more…)

CINEQUEST FILM REVIEW: THE ESCAPE

THE ESCAPE

THE ESCAPE is easily going to be one of the best films at Cinequest.  Just as in HURT LOCKER, we have another female director dealing with the troubles in the Middle East, and doing a masterful job.  This film revolves around the Afghan occupation by European countries and the US.  It is filled with suspense and a hundred twists and turns.  In fact, I am not clear to which escape the title is referring:  this film had easily 25 different escapes, at least, both literal and metaphorical.

It begins when Rikke, a Danish journalist in Afghanistan, is kidnapped by the Taliban.  They want the Danish troops (and others) out of their country, and if it doesn’t happen they threaten to kill Rikke.  But their deadline runs out and they realize that Rikke is “just another journalist” to the media and Europe, so they devise a new plan:  ten days, ten fingers.  Be warned, there are some violent scenes in this film. (more…)

Creative Dramatic Workshop for kids

hamlet1If you have a creative child with a lot of imagination who needs something to do this summer, check out the San Jose Repertory Theatre‘s Creative Dramatics Summer Workshops.

San Jose Repertory Theatre is a great place for children and teens to spend their summer. The Creative Dramatics Summer Workshop is a series of two-week programs that teaches youth improvisational and play-building skills. Sessions are offered for children and teens between the ages of 5-16, starting June 22 through July 20. All workshops are held at San Jose Repertory Theatre’s Fourth Floor Studio Theatre, located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, in downtown San Jose.

“We’re delighted to offer a summer program for kids and teens that focuses on their ideas and their creativity,” comments Karen Altree Piemme, San Jose Rep’s Director of Outreach. “There are many opportunities out there for kids to perform in a play. At the Rep, we celebrate kids’ imaginations by giving them the opportunity to create their own plays.”

Led by San Jose Repertory Theatre professionals, participants develop their improvisational acting and play-building skills. In each two-week program, the first week focuses on character creation, communication, scene building, storytelling, and the collaborative nature of the improvisational process. During week two, participants use those skills to develop their own short play or improv showcase. At the end of each two-week session there is a final presentation of the participants’ finished works. Families, friends and the community-at-large are invited to view the final presentations.

“The program was originally started to fill a void in the offerings of summer arts programs in the community. There were lots of great programs that allowed kids to perform in plays or musicals that already existed,” Altree Piemme continues. “There wasn’t much available, though, that focused on the creative process. Kids’ natural impulses are to imagine – characters, stories, whole new worlds. We see it in children from a very young age. The Rep’s Creative Dramatics Summer Workshops help kids capitalize on those imaginative impulses and learn to use them in a nurturing, supportive, collaborative environment.”

 Creative Dramatics Summer Workshops Sessions:
 • Session I:   Ages 5-7   June 22-July 3,  9:00am-12:00pm
• Session II:   Ages 11-13   June 22-July 3,  1:30pm-4:30pm
• Session III:   Ages 8-10   July 6-July17,  9:00am-12:00pm
• Session IV:   Ages 14-16   July 6-July 17,  1:30pm-4:30pm
• Session V:   Ages 5-7   July 20-July 31,  9:00am-12:00pm
• Session VI:   Ages 11-13   July 20-July 31,  1:30pm-4:30pm

For more details contact Melissa Locsin at 408-367-7292 or MelissaL@sjrep.com

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