Posts Tagged ‘review’

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
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
Through February 5


THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Lights up the Stage with the Glitz and Glamour of the 20’s

Annmarie Martin as The Drowsy Chaperone, toasts the upcoming wedding of Janet Van de Graaff (Courtney Hatcher) and Robert Martin (Trevor Meacham). Photo: Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler

My theatre buddy and I were lucky enough to be able to attend Opening Night of Hillbarn Theatre’s last show of their 70th season, The Drowsy Chaperone. We really enjoyed this fun, clever story, which is a good introduction to musical theatre.

I had heard of Hillbarn before, but had never been. Well worth the drive to Foster City from the South Bay. Hillbarn is a nice sized house, about 140 seats. Intimate, yet still large enough to have a great audience and to hold all the amazing song and dance numbers and extensive set from the Tony Award-Winning musical, The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Drowsy Chaperone is different than most musicals I have seen. It is narrated by a lonely, agoraphobic man who loves musical theatre, the Man in Chair. He plays for us the record of his favorite musical, the fictional 1928 musical comedy, The Drowsy Chaperone, and his apartment comes to life with the sights and sounds of the roaring 20’s, full of tap dancing, vaudevillians, gangsters, starlets, impressive sets, and of course, a drowsy chaperone. I even noticed some Shakespearean aspects, like mistaken identity and multiple weddings. Staples in most of Shakespeare’s comedies.

Ron Lopez, Jr. who plays the Man in Chair did an amazing job of engaging the audience into his world. It is just a normal night at home for him, listening to music to cure his blues. As the musical comes to life before us, he starts and stops the record, which stops the action on stage, to explain what is going on, what makes a good musical, and the gossip behind the actors who originally played the roles of this musical within a play. Ron’s neuroticism, flamboyance, and excitement to share the story of The Drowsy Chaperone with us made me chuckle again and again.

Courtney Hatcher who plays Janet Van de Graaff, the 20’s showgirl who is giving up her career to marry an oil tycoon, Robert Martin, definitely has some singing pipes and acting chops. Her song and dance numbers blew me away. Not just because of her extraordinary charisma and talent, but all the cute costumes she wore, fun props, the great background dancers, and the humor in it all.

Annmarie Martin who plays The Drowsy Chaperone, is an amazing singer and has a great stage presence. Annmarie was spot on as the Drowsy Chaperone. The Chaperone is a woman who enjoys a drink, or five, during prohibition. She reminds me of Karen in the sitcom Will and Grace. Karen was always drinking, saying something funny, and stealing the show. That’s exactly what Annmarie’s Chaperone did.

The show is full of humor and physical comedy. There are the Vaudeville-like characters such as Mrs. Tottendale, played by Melody Cole, and her butler, Underling, played by Don Cima. Mrs. Tottendale and Underling have an amusing scene where Tottendale repeatedly spits vodka at Underling.  It is spit take after spit take. Also Vaudevillian are the gangsters, Stewart Kramar and Joey Montes, who are disguised as pastry chefs to threaten Janet’s producer, Feldzieg, played by Michael Carey, to get Janet to call off the wedding and stay in show business. I love the gangsters’ dessert and food puns and their side-splitting physical comedy and dance numbers. Very memorable.

Also memorable were Eric Ribeiro as Aldolpho, the bumbling romantic, hired by Feldzieg to seduce Janet so as stop the wedding. And, of course, Trevor Meacham, Robert Martin, who has many enjoyable scenes. I especially liked the scene where he is blindfolded on roller skates as well as the entertaining tap dance number with his best man, George, played by Daniel Lloyd Pias. I can’t forget Michelle Foletta, who played Kitty, the dumb blonde who, according to Feldzieg, has no talent but thinks she can take Janet’s place as the starlet. She has some very cute numbers and scenes. The rest of the ensemble was very talented as well.

I’m glad I finally made it to Hillbarn Theatre and was able to experience this pleasurable, entertaining musical. Even if you aren’t into musicals, you will hear the Man in Chair’s opinion about what makes a good musical, and you might just agree with him. And I know you will agree that going to Hillbarn to see The Drowsy Chaperone makes for a fun evening out.

The Drowsy Chaperone Through May 29th at Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd. Foster City, CA 94404
Tickets available at Hillbarn Theatre or call 650.349.6411

Michelle Foletta, as Kitty, has a run in with Gangster #1 (left - Stewart Kramar) and Gangster #2 (right - Joey Montes) as Feldzieg (Michael Carey) looks on. Photo: Nancy Fitzgerald-Metzler



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…)



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…)



BURIED PRAYERS is an emotional documentary about the search for buried items from holocaust victims sent to the gas chambers.  In 1943 one of the worst death camps was Maidanek in Warsaw, where before the victims were sent into the camp they were held in these open fields right outside.  After interviewing many survivors of the camp the filmmakers started hearing multiple stories of some of the Jews having buried their jewelry and valuables right in the field.  They were well aware they would never exit Maidanek alive, but in a final act of defiance they refused to let the Germans get hold of their possessions so they buried them in the field.  The film is about Maidanek itself, the stories of many witnesses from Maidanek, and finally the search for the items.

The pluses of this documentary are the witness accounts and the information about Maidanek itself.  There are heartbreaking stories from the survivors who were mostly teenagers in 1943 and lost their entire families – their parents, siblings, everyone.  Most had never spoken of what had happened in Maidanek until this documentary, and they were extremely touching and tales that needed to be told. (more…)



Thursday was a great day at Cinequest.  Although I didn’t enjoy GREEN WATERS at all (other people did), I did see two films that I thought were outstanding.  My review of 1981 is below, but before that I had the great pleasure of introducing THE ROBBERS.

Quite the crowd pleaser, this film had everything:  Comedy, Tragedy, political commentary, Chinese culture, beautiful feisty women, exciting battle scenes, romance, and a fabulous soundtrack (not available, to the audience’s disappointment).

Two robbers with hearts of gold come across a village in the middle of a Tang dynasty forest.  After robbing one of the village families they are forced to step in and save the same family from some soldiers who were trying to rape one of the daughters.  This sets off a domino effect of circumstances as the village chief must now hold the robbers responsible for killing a soldier – even though the robber was trying to save a villager.  There is much talk of law vs. mercy and a lot of commentary on the political and judicial systems in China. (more…)


Jean-Carl Boucher in 1981

For some reason, 1981 was not really on my radar at Cinequest.  I had seen it in the program but nothing really sparked my interest, so when I was assigned to be presenter for this film my reaction was:  Meh.

I was won over within a minute of the film starting, and I believe the entire audience was.  This is a film that belongs on your Must-See list if you were ever 11 years old and made it to adulthood.  Think Neil Simon directs GOONIES or STAND BY ME without the adventure (No, really, go with me on this).  Narrated from an adult point of view, it’s a look back at being a regular 11 year old kid and the trials and tribulations that we must go through to grow up.

Ricardo Trogi is not an outsider, not a loser, not a nerd or a dork.  Neither is he the popular kid.  He’s just your plain old average 11 year old boy.  He has plenty of friends (who he found with the promise of some non-existent Playboys – as it is done in the world) and he has a loving, average family, which means that no one in it is either perfect or dysfunctional. (more…)



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…)



The following review is written by a person who neither knows nor cares about fast cars (or slow cars, or vehicles in general).  So keep that in mind.

That said, I am not really sure what to say about LOW LIGHTS.  I think I kind of liked it, even though I mostly hated it until the halfway point.

Twenty minutes in, my first note says “I have no idea what’s going on.”  And it was true, there were two men who just seemed to be chatting ABOUT NOTHING, and they were driving around.  Chatting.  About nothing.  And then there was a woman who did not speak AT ALL and kind of just hung around the gas station snack shop until she got picked up by some young punks in one of those (lame) cars with the (really stupid) doors that raise up to open.  Oh, did I say that in my out loud voice? (more…)



Completely filmed in black and white, BUMMER SUMMER is a beautifully shot film.  I can’t say this enough.  Every single scene was brightly lit and interesting and could be used as a terrific advertising still for the film.  There were scenes in this film that just took me unaware:  a boy and girl filmed only from their mouths down making out in the back seat of a car, or a girl just running down the path in a sundress and boots.  This is a black and white indie film, but it’s no Clerks… whether a shot of a couple sitting on the grass in the park, out on the porch at night, or waking across a bridge in the dark, every scene is beautifully lit and gorgeous. (more…)

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