Archive for the ‘Bay Area’ Category

Cinequest Film Review: ETERNITY

LOL.

I mean seriously, LOL.

This film is so awful it’s just about perfect.  And I mean that in the best way possible.

Look, I grew up in the 80s, I LOVED the 80s, and the 80s actually had some really great music, film and fashion.

It also had some of the worst music, film and fashion in history, no joke.

ETERNITY, because I’m 99% positive they meant it to be awful, hits every level of this.

Todd Lucas (Barrett Crake) and BJ Fairchild (Myko Olivier) meet in the 80s and decide to form the greatest R&B band in history, Eternity. The film follows their rise to fame and fortune, their loves, their lusts, their friendship, and finally their falling out and inevitable reunion.

ETERNITY: THE MOVIE is not a tribute to the greatness of the 80s.  I could very well be wrong, but I really think it’s a tribute to the awfulness of the 80s.  There was some really horrid music on the radio back then, and you’ll hear some very similar music in this film (although I actually like the last two songs of the film).  80s fashion could be mind bogglingly terrible, especially for men – and it’s here in all its cheap glory.  Don’t let nostalgia fool you, 80s television was not what you remember either.  And ETERNITY has all the overdramatic arguments from the after school specials, a melodramatic dying scene straight from the nighttime soaps, and the subtle undercurrent of homosexuality blatant homoerotic tomfoolery of the entire decade times infinity.  There is bad acting, bad writing, bad sex jokes, bad ideas and Ridgemont High.  Wait, Ridgemont High is awesome, what wasn’t awesome were all the copycat movies that came after it.

That’s what ETERNITY is, in the most perfect way.

Would *I* watch it again?  LOL.  No.  But I know a lot of people who will love this film and will want to watch it over and over.  ”I get it now, I get it,” says one character near the end of the film.  ”I don’t,” replies Gina Marie (Nikki Leonti) and I started cracking up.  Because that kind of summed up the movie.  I think there is going to be a section of the audience who will be rolling their eyes at this film, and then there is going to be the much larger section cheering and cackling with glee.  It’s all done in good fun, and I think they absolutely accomplished what they were trying for.

See ETERNITY: THE MOVIE at Cinequest!
My interview with the filmmakers!
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Follow the film on Twitter!

Cinequest film review: LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN

I finally had my first big belly laugh just eight minutes into LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN, and the laughs just kept coming in this must see dark comedy.

Holloman is a white bread and bologna type guy who just cannot win in life and intends to end his troubles, permanently.  But before he gets a chance he comes across the vocabulary challenged Lawrence who seems to win at EVERYTHING in life without even trying.  Promotions at work, great apartment, sexy girlfriend, and the adoration of everyone he comes across.  Lawrence is everything Holloman is not.

Holloman decides to follow Lawrence and see what his secret is.  Is it just the luck of a shiny new penny? Lawrence’s endlessly optimistic outlook? Fate?  Lawrence takes Holloman under his wing and tries to teach him the benefits of looking on the bright side of things.

But suddenly, Lawrence’s luck takes a downturn just as Holloman’s life appears to be suddenly looking up.  What will it take for Lawrence to lose his optimistic outlook?  Is there a reason for the change of luck, or is it the fault of the mysterious mustachioed man?

Daniel Arnold and Ben Cotton are perfectly cast as the unlikely duo.  Arnold morphs believably from a sad loser to a handsome man of luck, and Cotton just continues to be the insufferable optimist no matter how many anvils fall on his head.  The comedy is dark and so well written with that trademark humor I’ve come to expect from Canadian films.  I really enjoyed this film and I know Cinequest audiences are going to love it as well. Put it on your calendars and get ready for those belly laughs!

See LAWRENCE & HOLLOMAN at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!
“Like” them on Facebook!
Follow them on Twitter!
My interview with director Matthew Kowalchuk

Interview originally published at http://popcornandvodka.com/2014/03/04/lawrence-holloman/
 

Mike Whalen, Director/Writer: THE FARMER AND THE CHEF

Mike Whalen, Documentarian

Mike Whalen is a local filmmaker bringing to Cinequest a documentary about the chef from Manresa Restaurant, and the partnership they have with Love Apple Farms.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE FARMER & THE CHEF, from concept to financing.

I first starting thinking about making a “green” television reality doc series. Back in 2009 I had been approached by a number of production companies that I used to work for and they were looking for documentary reality series with a green-environmental theme. It was the “hot” topic back then. As a result it got me thinking about ideas and one of them that came to mind was the amazing work that David Kinch was doing at Manresa. I’m a huge fan of his and any opportunity to work with him was a dream job. I emailed Chef Kinch and we set up a meeting. At that first meeting he made it crystal clear that if we were going to do anything it had to include Cynthia Sandberg and the partnership he has with her farm, Love Apple Farms. That sounded great to me so we set up another meeting at the farm. Now, at this time the farm was Cynthia’s backyard – about an acre and a half worth. She had a couple of apprentices working with her and a handful of volunteers. As I do on any film I started hanging around my subjects to get to know their daily routine and what makes them tick. A guest chef was coming in from Spain to cook with David at Manresa so I decided to shoot that event – from the guest chef and David walking the farm, choosing the veg for the weekend to the actual cooking of the meal. It was an incredible experience but I realized then that this wasn’t a TV show. David and Cynthia were too “normal.” This wasn’t “Hell’s Kitchen” so no network would really go for it. What I saw was the makings of a great documentary film. A chance to really explore the genius behind both of their artistry because that’s what they are…. artists. They create these amazing masterpieces with food.
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I decided it was worth to spend a year filming to capture the essence of their work, their collaboration and their passion. I have access to all the equipment I want at Santa Clara University (where I teach filmmaking) so I could do this for very little money. As is my experience with all documentary films, the story tends to take on a life of its own. After one year of filming Cynthia decided to buy a new, 20+ acre property and sell the old farm. The problem with the new property is that it would take 2 years to get it going at full production. At the same time David decided to remodel the restaurant. I realized then that my little side project was going to take another three years to make but I wasn’t about to stop now because I had a front row seat to an amazing show.
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In the end I have spent about $1500 on the entire film. I paid a little to have some aerials shot of the farm and the final music and other than that the expenses went to hiring sound people and the occasional second unit DP. I have shot and edited almost everything in the film.
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2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of THE FARMER & THE CHEF.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?
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I love Cinequest and couldn’t be happier to be premiering the film in San Jose. It’s such an amazing group of people from Halfdan on down and they really embrace the independent filmmaking spirit.  I also love how the festival is so committed to empowerment – whether that be children, new filmmakers or social justice. It’s a perfect fit for the type of films that I make. I hope people enjoy my film, obviously, but I really want them to walk away with a new found respect for the commitment to their craft that both David and Cynthia have. These are two people who are going way out of their way to grow, cook and serve the best food you could possible think about. It’s so imaginative. It’s so precise. They really are artists working at the top of their field. I want people to be inspired by this. To be inspired to commit that much emotion and energy to something in their life. It’s not easy to do this. It means taking risks, but the rewards are amazing. Oh, and I hope they leave really hungry!
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3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making THE FARMER & THE CHEF?
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The best is easy… getting to know David, Cynthia and everyone they work with. That’s always the best part of being a documentary filmmaker – getting to know people you wouldn’t normally get to meet. They have become friends. David texts me about US soccer scores all the time and Cynthia constantly invites me and my wife up to farm for special occasions. Another aspect that was awesome was the food. I got to taste a lot of what was being cooked in the kitchen and all I can say is that it’s culinary heaven in there. The worst is the feeling that, as a filmmaker, I haven’t done the story justice. I always worry that I’ll let down my subjects and my film won’t honor their lives as strongly as it should. I hope I have, but until an audience sees it you never know.
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4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?  
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People should see this film because it gives audiences a front row seat to watch two of the most talented people in the world work their magic. I’m talking one of kind stuff here. Nobody else is doing this in the world and this film lets you get inside the minds of these two geniuses. That and the amazing shots of food. It’s almost like eating at Manresa!!
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5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Best Director Oscar for THE FARMER & THE CHEF.  Give us your acceptance speech.  
After picking myself up from the floor because the Academy actually honored non-fiction directing work I’d quickly thank David and Cynthia. We can’t make docs without amazing people letting us into their lives. It’s intrusive and I can’t thank them enough for graciously allowing me into their worlds. I also have to thank my wife – who grabbed a boom pole when I needed it, sat through three years of filming and editing and never let me settle. She pushes me creatively like only a loving spouse can.
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The music must be playing now.
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This interview originally published at http://popcornandvodka.com/2014/02/10/mike-whalen-directorwriter-the-farmer-and-the-chef/

Dana Nachman, director: THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT

Dana Nachman, director

Dana Nachman is a local filmmaker from Los Altos. This year she is bringing her film THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT to Cinequest.  See below for show times.

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT, from concept to financing.

I was a producer for NBC Bay Area and I was assigned a series about keeping your home toxic free. It was through that story that I learned that most products that we have in our homes are not tested for their safety before they get onto the market place.  I didn’t believe it was true and after a little bit of research I realized it was true! When I’m shocked about something it usually turns into my next documentary.

This film took a lot of research and a lot of pre-production because it is such a massive topic. I am not a lifelong environmentalist so it took me a while to understand and come to know the players working on this issue and it took a while to figure out which people and storylines we should focus the film around. Research started in earnest in 2010 and we began shooting in 2011.  Financing also took a while and still continues as we raise money for our engagement campaign.  We financed the film in three main ways.  We got investors for part of the budget. We received grants for another chunk and we deferred part of our salaries for the rest.  And finally after all that we had enough money to make the film we wanted to make!

2Q: THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT has done well at previous film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?

No, it’s always nerve-wracking to be at a film festival! Always!! It’s this kind of scenario that really brings out my insecurities!! If I sit for the film, I’m constantly analyzing the crowd. Do they like it? Do they get it? Why are they so quiet? It’s not fun to be in my head while the film’s going on! Then there are the Q and A’s… I really have a fear of speaking in public that I’ve had to get over. But still it’s hard. I always think of a better way I could have answered the questions two hours after the Q and A is finished.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT?

My best experience for this film and all my film is interviewing and then developing a relationship with the people in the film. It really is such an honor to be able to tell people’s stories and then after that to have such inspirational people in my life! I really feel like it is a gift!

The biggest challenge with The Human Experiment is that we feel so much pressure to get this film out into the world because we believe this is such a critical issue that is under exposed! Films take so long from inception to the time they can be seen by the world, so sometimes I get impatient (I’m a little like that) but I know in due time everyone will see this film and help make a change!

The very worst experience is always the raising of the money. I find that very difficult because it’s just a hard thing to do… to ask for money… over and over and over again! It’s hard to be a sales person when you’re really a filmmaker but I think all of us realize that at the end of the day we have to be both even if we don’t want to!

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

The Human Experiment takes audiences on a wild ride… if people want to sit back in their seats and be shocked about an issue that is very personal to them – guaranteed – this is the film they should make sure they come to see! And say hi when you do! I’ll be there answering question!

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT. Give us your acceptance speech.

Oh gosh…  I just watched the Oscars last night so I’m super inspired! But I feel like I’m going to jinx it if I really put a speech on paper!!

But I will say, there is so much self doubt and so much rejection in this business that I feel so thrilled for every artist who is given that amazing spotlight, because I know they have all been in a dark place at some point before, because when you put yourself out there as an artist there are always many critics!! I hope to be there one day for sure!!

See THE HUMAN EXPERIMENT at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!
“Like” them on Facebook!
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This interview was first published at http://popcornandvodka.com/2014/03/03/dana-nachman-director-the-human-experiment/

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell, Directors: LIFE IS LOVE

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell are the co-founders of the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA.  This year they have produced their own film, LIFE IS LOVE, premiering at Cinequest on Wednesday, March 5th.  

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of LIFE IS LOVE, from concept to financing.

HH: My wife, Roz, heard Somaly Mam speak in Hong Kong, when we were dating, and sent me an email about how moved she was by this woman whose philosophy was “life is love.” Roz brought me a business card. Inspired by that email, Kathleen J. Powell and I decided to do a Cinequest Picture The Possibilities (youth empowerment) session in Cambodia…As we developed this, Kathleen and I had the idea to do a feature film on Somaly Mam and her amazing young heroes, which she calls her Voices For Change YouthMarcela Villegas Castenon (line producer and PTP manager) and Kathleen put the relationships together and created the opportunity to make a very special movie. Kathleen and I decided to donate our time to the movie, since we believed very deeply in the stories of these women, and the rest of the costs of the movie were covered via donations from friends, family, PTP supporters and companies.

2Q: Cinequest is hosting the World Premiere of LIFE IS LOVE.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?  Does the “home turf” aspect make you more comfortable or more nervous?

HH: Kathleen and I started and run Cinequest because our first feature film (she produced and I directed) gave us a phenomenal experience at the Venice Film Festival and beyond. We wanted to give that back to other artists and to add the technology/empowerment component. What started off as a film festival focusing on discovery and empowerment of artists has led through time to a company with three divisions focusing on the empowerment of artists, innovators, audiences and global youth. PTP is the year-round youth movement where we give youth the tools, processes and inspiration to create their dreams from art to science.

KJP:  It feels incredible to bring LIFE IS LOVE before an audience.  This film is about amazing young heroes that have survived horrors most of us could not possibly imagine.  It is such an honor to be able to bring their stories, their words, their feelings to the world.  If this film were to help one victim realize they too can stand up, survive, and help others, than it will all be worth it.  I think the reaction to the film will be powerful.  I don’t believe it is a film that you can watch and forget about next week.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making LIFE IS LOVE?

HH: The film was an incredible blessing to make so there’s probably thousands of best experiences from the rich visual opportunities in Phnom Penh to the incredible women who shared their stories with such vulnerability and warmth. One of the ‘best’ experiences has been how much they’ve all inspired us from the initial encounters to the crying (many times) and joy in the editing room engaging with them further. A personal best was shooting in the rice fields of Cambodia on my birthday with these wonderful women and the team of Life Is Love. The ‘worst experience?’ Although I run a film and innovation company, I can’t say that the business side of releasing a movie is very easy for any artist.

KJP:  Every moment of the film shoot was rewarding.  We were shooting in the middle of August, it was 115 degrees in the shade.  Forget about trying to fix your hair or put on makeup. There was no complaining and you never thought about it.  We were with AMAZING young women that were sharing their stories.  Every interview we did, I sat there and cried.  Even if another language was being spoken, I could look in their eyes and feel throughout my entire body their pain, their joy.  I did not need the words translated, I knew.  And then when the camera was switched off, and we all were able to recompose ourselves, there was laughter.

My worst experience was the deep understanding I now have of the horrors young children, babies have experienced.  What was done to their childhood, to their bodies, to their foundation as a human being.  That understanding will never go away … and I would never want it to.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

HH: If you are willing to take a journey into the darkest and most inspirational sides of the human experience…all in one setting.

KJP:  We all experience trauma in our lives.  Some more than others.  From the loss of a loved one, trauma to our bodies, a lost job or relationship, we all are on these journeys thru life.   I LOVE the world of film because it allows you to step outside of yourself and go on a journey, to a place you have never visited, to somewhere that can only be imagined, to another culture, experience, world.  What a great honor that is, to be invited, even if only for a short period of time, to walk in someone else’s shoes.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for LIFE IS LOVE.  Give us your acceptance speech.  

HH: I’d use the platform to expose more people to Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and the incredible future we all will have because the new generations can create a better world than the one we currently have…if we help them and let them.

KJP:  In the end it is never about how much money you have in the bank, how many companies you launched, how many awards you have won.  It will always be about your connection with other people.  Did you help someone take that next step?  Did you open a door for them to walk through?  Did you inspire them not to give up?

See LIFE IS LOVE at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published at http://popcornandvodka.com/2014/02/06/halfdan-hussey-and-kathleen-j-powell-directors-life-is-love/

There is a Smell of Delight at City Lights Theater Company

 

 

Diahanna Davidson, Mandy Armes and Morgan Voellger. Photo by Mike Ko of SiliconValley Designs

City Lights Theater Company was kind enough to let us review their newest show, The Smell of the Kill, and hopefully we will be doing this on a regular basis because WHAT a great theater!

The Smell of the Kill is a dark comedy about three Chicagoan couples who take turns meeting for dinner.  This night it is Nicky’s turn to host.  Friends Debra and Molly join her in the kitchen to clean up after dinner while the three husbands are “playing golf” in the dining room.  We never actually see the husbands, but they are heard loud and clear throughout the show as they drunkenly yell at and complain to their wives, and generally behave like neanderthals off stage.

As the evening goes on it is revealed that the three women don’t actually like each other all that much, but they do have one thing in common: a hatred for their husbands.   Soon enough, an incredibly convenient way to murder all three of them arises, and the three women must decide whether they should let the men die or go save them.

Mandy Armes and Morgan Voellger discuss matters. Photo by Mike Ko of SiliconValley Designs

Mandy Armes is great as the brash wife who takes no guff from her husband with a criminal secret.  Diahanna Davidson channels Joan Cusack perfectly as Debra, wife of the cheating Marty.  And Morgan Voellger has perfect comic timing as the ditzy and beautiful Molly, whose husband is way too possessive.  I was disappointed that I would not actually see Max Tachis (Jay) as he was absolutely brilliant in Renegade Theatre‘s 9 Circles. But he, Jimmy Allan (Danny) and Frank Swaringen (Marty) fill their roles as the loud mouthed doomed husbands with exuberance.

The City Lights theater is on the small side, seating 100 people, but the stage is large and the setting for this play spared no expense.  The seating is first come first serve, but the chairs themselves are super comfortable and all have a great view of the stage.  There are also cash-only refreshments available, including wine.

The Opening Night after party was hosted extravagantly by Cafe Stritch, and the smells were incredible. Having sadly just started a diet, I crept out of the theater quickly when the show was over and tried not to look hungrily at the amazing spread of food available for the entire audience to enjoy.  Opening Night is always the best night of theater!

The Smell of the Kill 
City Lights Theater Company
Through February 23
529 South Second Street
San Jose, CA 95112

Coming up at City Lights:

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, March 20 – April 20

The Language Archive by Julia Cho, May 29 – June 29

Monty Python’s Spamalot!, July 24 – August 31

 

Little Women brings Big Surprises and Holiday Joy

(l-r) Arielle Fishman, Emily Koch, Sharon Rietkerk, and Julia Belanoff star as the March sisters - Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

Little Women the musical, produced by TheatreWorks, is quite simply one of the best shows I’ve seen this year (and this year has been full of some fantastic shows).  One of the best (and rare) parts of reviewing theater is coming across an unexpected gem, and Saturday evening’s Opening Night was the Hope Diamond.

“Little Women”, by Louisa May Alcott, is the story of four sisters who vow to stick together forever when they are young in the 1860s.  Father is off in the war, and while the family is short on money, they have an abundance of love.  Jo March, the second sister, narrates the story and has ambitions of being a writer.  For many young girls who read the book, Jo is the favorite as she insists on living life according to her own terms and not 19th century society’s.

(l-r) Jo (Emily Koch) and Professor Bhaer (Christopher Vettel) imagine a scene from Jo's novel, portrayed by Justin Buchs, Sharon Rietkerk, and Elizabeth Palmer. Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

I loved the book when I was young, but even so I never imagined a Jo as charismatic and exuberant as the one Emily Koch brings to the stage.  Her joy in narrating her stories to the audience is palpable, and her physical acting makes it clear this character is made for pants, not long and stuffy skirts.  I cannot state enough how much every single actor in this show is perfection, and yet Ms. Koch raises it to a level even beyond that.  Jo is the girl we want to be, and later the woman we look up to as a role model.

I was not so sure how well it would work turning Little Women into a musical, but this show is so perfect, and the actors are such incredible singers, that it becomes one of those shows you don’t even realize is a musical.  The songs fit so well they are just part of the story and the experience.

And what a story for the young women of today, or any day.  This is not merely a story of a girl who refused to put aside her wants and needs in life so she could be someone’s wife, but neither is it a story against marriage.  It is a story of deciding what you want from life and accepting nothing else – and sometimes that means changing your mind.  Sometimes it means getting married.  The right choice is the choice that a woman makes for her own self.  And every character in this story does just that.

It’s a joyful story and a heartwarming one, but of course it also has a couple incredibly sad scenes that left everyone in my row wiping their eyes, and the theater was full of sniffling and shaking shoulders when Marmee sings “Days of Plenty”.

Laurie (Matt Dengler) kisses Jo (Emily Koch). Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

I had had a very long day holiday decorating with my family, and neither my daughter nor myself were keen on driving to Palo Alto to see a show, but never have we felt more grateful that we had done so.  We were enthralled from the first moment, mesmerized by the balletic beauty of Meg (Sharon Reitkerk), the sweetness of Beth (Julia Belanoff), the spoiled petulance of Amy (Arielle Fishman), and the utter joyfulness of Jo.  We never for a moment wanted to close our eyes or miss one moment.  This show is for everyone, including kids perhaps as young as ten (they should be old enough to deal with a very sad death), and it is a perfect show for the holidays and a cold winter night.  My highest praise, from one who sees a lot of shows:  I would see this show again. And again and again.

Little Women the Musical
TheatreWorks
Extended through January 4
Lucie Stern Theatre
1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
Holiday Tea Luncheon at the Garden Court Hotel
with matinee this Saturday, December 14

 

Excitement growing for the 2013/2014 Theatre Season!!

It’s been awfully quiet around here over the summer, but let’s get real, even writers need vacations.  Hopefully we still have some Bay Area readers patiently waiting for us because we are BACK and ready to get back in the saddle!  Theatre opening nights for the 2013/2014 season are starting soon and the schedule is exciting!

Here are some of the shows we hope to review in the next months. Take a good look, mark your own calendars, and start calling for tickets because this season is going to be packed!

 

Other Desert Cities

Other Desert Cities
August 21 – September 15
TheatreWorks
Mt. View Center for the Performing Arts

A Hollywood star’s desert estate glows with Christmas cheer. But home for the holidays is daughter Brooke, a novelist whose tell-all memoir is sure to rip the politically-divided clan apart. Are we having fun yet? With dazzling wit and razor-sharp insight, this Pulitzer finalist balances fierce comedy and riveting family drama in the blockbuster hit of last year’s Broadway season. Contains adult language. 

I don’t think we’re going to make this show, but TheatreWorks is one of the best companies in the Bay Area. If you can get to this show, we recommend that you do so.

 

And Miss Reardon...

And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little
August 29 – September 22
Dragon Productions Theatre Company
2120 Broadway, Redwood City

The inaugural production of Chicago’s legendary Steppenwolf Theatre, this dark comedy explores the lives of the three Reardon sisters, who have recently lost their mother. During an uncomfortable dinner reunion, a well-meaning but obnoxious set of neighbors crash the party and set an already incendiary situation ablaze.

Dragon Productions has moved to a new theatre they are doing some great things.  I am really looking forward to this show.

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Monty Python's Spamalot

Monty Python’s Spamalot
August 30 – September 22
Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City

Lovingly ripped off from the classic film comedy MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, SPAMALOT retells the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and features a bevy of beautiful show girls, not to mention cows, killer rabbits, and French people. Did we mention the bevy of beautiful show girls?

We are likely going to miss this show, unfortunately, however it’s not often this show comes further south than San Francisco, and Hillbarn Theatre always has AMAZING season openers. If you haven’t yet seen Spamalot, or even if you have, try to get to Foster City for this one.

 

 

The Fantasticks

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The Fantasticks
September 5 – September 29
Los Altos Stage Company
97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos

The Fantasticks, the world’s longest running musical, is a funny and romantic fable about a boy, a girl, his father, her mother, and a wall. The narrator, El Gallo, bids the audience to draw on their imagination and follow him into a world of moonlight and magic. The boy and the girl fall in love, grow apart, and find their way back to each other after realizing the truth in El Gallo’s words that “without a hurt, the heart is hollow”.

I have never seen The Fantasticks, and, full disclosure, I know someone in this cast and cannot wait to see it.  But you should see it too, because how often do you see The Fantasticks in theatres around here?

 

One Night with Janis Joplin

One Night With Janis Joplin
September 5 – September 29
San Jose Repertory Theatre

This full-on concert experience is a musical journey into the life and inspirations of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest legends. With a voice like whiskey and a laugh like pure joy, Janis Joplin took the music scene by storm. Simultaneously rough and vulnerable, Joplin was dubbed the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” proving music wasn’t just a man’s world anymore.

ONE NIGHT WITH JANIS JOPLIN also shines a spotlight on the great African-American blues artists who influenced Janis’ musical style and career, including Bessie Smith, Etta James and Aretha Franklin. This new musical event includes a live onstage band and features Joplin hits and classic songs such as “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Ball and Chain” and “Summertime” – creating a compelling portrait of an artist through the words and music of one of America’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll icons.

There’s not a chance in the world that I’ll be missing this show, and I’ll be taking my daughter with me because I gave her good taste in music.  It’s another musical season opener at the Rep, and no expense is ever spared to put on the best shows ever for their openers.

 

Falstaff

Falstaff
September 7 – September 22
Opera San Jose
California Theatre, San Jose

A tale of greed. A travesty of stymied desires. An old knight’s ridiculous hunger to recapture his youth and gain riches through sexual liaisons is challenged when he meets his match in the form of two wily married women. This is the setting for Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic commedia lirica, Falstaff. Based on Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, this insightful opera is a humorous celebration of love and life that can be enjoyed by all. Sung in Italian with English supertitles.

This is one of those “can’t miss” operas that will be great for anyone new to the opera.  We wouldn’t miss it, and you should not either.

 

Priscilla Queen of the Desert
October 29 – November 3
Broadway San Jose
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts

This OUTRAGEOUSLY fun show tells the uplifting story of a trio of friends, on a road trip of a lifetime, who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback and end up finding more than they could ever have dreamed.  An international hit with over 500 dazzling, 2011 Tony® Award-winning costumes, Priscilla Queen of the Desert features a hit parade of dance-floor favorites including “It’s Raining Men,” “Finally” and “I Will Survive.” 

A friend notified me in June that this was coming up, and I have had this on my calendar ever since. I cannot wait for this show and I already know it will be amAAAAAAZZZZingggg!!!!

The Little Dog Laughed: Great theater in small packages

From left to right: (Mitchell) William Giammona - (Diane) Jennifer Lucas - (Alex) Henry Robert Nolin Photo by James Kasyan

My guest and I had the best time last night at Dragon Productions Theatre Company in Palo Alto.  Yes, even more fun than I had at the opera (review coming next!)!

San Jose and the Bay Area at large have plenty of great theatre, but sometimes it’s the little gems that get lost in the shuffle.  The Pear Avenue Theatre in Mountain View seats only about 45 people, but I saw an incredibly moving production of Death of a Salesman there. The small Renegade Theatre Experiment produced 9 Circles at the Hoover Theater in San Jose and the entire audience was not only moved to tears, but most of us could barely look at the actors on stage, we were so moved by what was going on.  And now I’ve seen the fabulous (and tiny) Dragon Productions Theatre where I had the pleasure of viewing 4 incredible actors put on an hilarious and moving show.

I could not wait to see The Little Dog Laughed because I had heard that the playwright was also the screenwriter for “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” which, sadly, might be the only drag queen road trip film available on Netflix. What my expectations received was a thought provoking comedy, and an adult show about love and sex and ambition, and all the problems that arise when you combine the three.

Mitchell Green is a small film star who could hit it big with one juicy role. Diane is his lesbian best friend and agent who plays Mitchell’s girlfriend for the public.  Yes, leading man Mitchell is gay, but because the film going public won’t accept an openly gay man in straight romantic roles, he’s forced to hire “rent-a-boys” (young looking but adult prostitutes) and hide his true self. One night in a drunken stupor he makes a call and hires Alex, a good looking “straight” boy who hustles for money.  Alex lives with his best friend and sometimes girlfriend Ellen, who runs her own money-making schemes with older rich men.  Soon it appears that Mitchell and Alex have fallen in love, but that poses problems for everyone involved.

Although the show is a comedy, it also raises many serious questions about living as a gay person in a straight world.  Mitchell laments at one point that we all learn about the American Dream, that anyone can have it all.  But he knew that really only middle class, straight white protestant men have easy access to the American Dream, and if he acted on his feelings towards other men, he could have that option taken away from him.

Dragon Productions plays in a tiny theatre, with a shoe-string budget for set design, yet still managed to find four incredible actors to play these intriguing characters.  William Giammona as Mitchell was both hilarious and heartbreaking as he showed us what a gay actor may have to give up in his personal life to be a success in his professional life.  Jennifer Lucas as Diane played Hollywood to perfection as the fast-talking agent who just wanted her friend (along with herself) to succeed. Maria Giere Marquis held my attention in every scene with her character’s quirky clothes and quirkier personality, but even as a hustler herself Ellen had our sympathy when she got herself into trouble.  And Henry Robert Nolin as young Alex is an incredible actor who you should look out for in the future.

The Little Dog Laughed is an adult show, but probably fit for older teens as well.  There are adult and sexual themes, but nothing too worrisome for anyone who knows the plot to begin with.  Tickets range from $16 (student) to $25 (adult), so it is a fantastic deal for an amazing theater production, and opening night was sold out.

Thanks also to Oren’s Hummus who provided an amazing Opening Night Celebration spread!

The Little Dog Laughed
September 14 – October 7
Dragon Productions Theatre
535 Alma Street, Palo Alto
(parking can be troublesome, so arrive in plenty of time to find a spot)

RUN FOR YOUR WIFE


I was a taxi driver here in San Jose for many years and that is how I met my husband Ken. He is a very busy taxi driver.

Between his job and his love for playing pool he wouldn’t have the time for another wife… But, then there is a taxi driver named John who is married to two wives!

Read all about it: RUN FOR YOUR WIFE

John, a taxi driver, is married to two wives who live in different parts of London. Things go well until he rescues an elderly woman from three muggers and winds up in the hospital. The ensuing treatment throws his carefully constructed life off kilter. John’s dilemma is not helped when an upstairs neighbor tries to help and only makes things worse. Add two police detectives, one sexually charged wife, one play-by-the-rules wife and a gay dressmaker and you have the elements of chaos and continuous laughter.

Cast:
Mary Smith……………….Lucy Littlewood
Barbara Smith……………Cynthia Branch Lagodzinski
John Smith………………..Jim Woodbury
Det. Sgt. Troughton……Joel Butler
Stanley Gerdner…………C. Conrad Cady
Det. Sgt Porterhouse….Spencer Stevenson
Bobby Franklyn…………Jimmy James Allan

Directed by John Baldwin
Assistat Director Gary Laidlaw

Broadway West Theatre Company
4000 B Bay Street, Fremont, CA

Call for info and tickets ~ 1 (510) 683-9218
Tickets are going fast! Final weekend, last three performances.

facebook: Broadway West Theatre Company

Ken with his other "wife"

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