Posts Tagged ‘SJ Rep’

Two incredible performances in The Dresser render this writer speechless

Ken Ruta in "The Dresser"

Show reviews usually write themselves.  “Great show, great acting, beautiful scenery/costumes/etc, Go see it!”  Occasionally the shows are not great and the reviews are more difficult to write.  But it is very, very seldom that we see a show that is just too spectacular for words.

The Dresser, currently at the San Jose Repertory Theatre, is one of these shows.  I don’t know where to start!  This is one magical presentation.  Throughout the show I just kept whispering in my mind, “Stupendous!” (more…)

SECRET ORDER is worthy of research at the SJ Rep

James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

Thursday evening I saw Secret Order at the San Jose Repertory.  My guest and I were really interested to see just exactly how a “biomedical thriller” would play out on stage.  After finding out that playwright Bob Clyman is also a clinical psychologist, we’ve been looking forward to this show for a few months now.

When Dr. Shumway, a relatively obscure and naïve cancer researcher, is thrust into the high-stakes world of science, the notion of noble “truth-seeking” is dissected with a scalpel’s precision.  Shumway is in over his head when he and a young student researcher get swept up in the dangerous world of political maneuvering, corporate loyalty and scientific ethics…

I am not sure I would really use the word “thriller” or even “dangerous” to describe this show, but it definitely delves into the politics of scientific research and fundraising, and the moral implications that follow when research depends on funding, and funding requires results.  The play shows that the relationship between funding and research is a symbiotic one, yet also quite dysfunctional when the elements of time and results are thrown in.

There are no real “bad guys” in this play, just characters who make wrong choices, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes with questionable motives.  “Altruism vs. Capitalism,” state the dramaturgy notes in the program, but this does not mean that Capitalism is the bad guy either – these days the altruism of research does not exist without capitalism.  And this is what makes for a great morality tale.

Kathryn Tkel, James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

There are a few depressing points made in this show, one being that an actual cure for cancer is considered somewhat of a fairytale by “Old Science”.  Old Science vs. New Science is another theme of the show, and in this play Old Science wins that argument.  Old Science also wins the entire game in the end, and if we go back to Altruism vs. Capitalism, Altruism also comes out the loser.

When the play ends there is a feeling of helplessness.  The show makes clear the vicious circle of research needing funding needing results, and no results equals no funding equals no research.  And Time is the enemy of all.

The play is excellently acted, with my favorite being Julian López-Morillas as Saul Roth.  I last saw López-Morillas in the Spring production of Sonia Flew; he left quite an impression on me and is fantastic in this somewhat understated role as well.  But is Saul Roth a villain? Or just the voice of Reality?  Watch and you can decide for yourself.

James Wagner as William Shumway. Photo: Kevin Berne

The real star of this show (for me) is the set design and background projections.  Varying between art deco, 60s modern and ultra scientific, the constantly changing projections did a great job of quickly changing scenes from a scientific lab, to an office with a view, to an auditorium, and finally to a beautiful outdoor park.  Techno music sometimes accompanied the moving projections and your attention was always captured, wondering what formation of color blocks and pictures would show up next.  The complicated multi-level stage set up was also quite beautiful, and sitting near the front I wondered what kind of experience the audience in the balcony was having – I would bet their view of the entire set was even more amazing than mine.  The set sponsor was Billy Berk’s, and I’m going to make a point of eating dinner there soon to thank them for their generosity in making this possible.

(l to r) Robert Krakovski, James Wagner and Julian Lopez-Morillas. Photo: Kevin Berne

But there is another reason to see this show.  The San Jose Repertory is working with the Valley Medical Center Foundation to help provide free breast health screenings for underserved women at the Sobrato Cancer Center.  A portion of the proceeds from the October 14th performance were given to the foundation, and after every performance the actors accept donations at the doors to support this cause.  So bring some cash or your checkbook with you to help support this worthy cause.  Also, patrons who visit the Box Office wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness will save $6 off the regular ticket price (one discount per person) to any Tuesday – Thursday evening performance.

Secret Order
October 14 – November 7, 2010

by Robert Clyman
directed by Chris Smith

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio
Phone 408.367.7255
Tickets Online

“Black Pearl Sings” from her soul and straight into our hearts

(l to r) Jessica Wortham and Jannie Jones

We attended Black Pearl Sings! at the San Jose Repertory Theatre on Sept 9.  It has taken me a bit longer than usual to get this review up because I honestly am not sure what my opinion of this play is.  Did I like it? Yes.  Acting and singing? A+.  Story?  I think this is what bothers me.  But let’s take it piece by piece:

There are only two characters in the play.  First we meet Susannah, an ethnomusicologist for the Library of Congress who appears to have led a typical, privileged, white life, with the usual setbacks from being a woman.  But immediately we are introduced to “Pearl” Johnson through her beautiful, soulful voice as she sings on the chain gang.  Susannah is at the women’s prison to collect authentic, pre-slavery, African-American music, and she realizes she may have struck gold with Pearl.  Act I shows Susannah convincing Pearl to share as many songs as possible (through manipulation, bribery and pleading), learning Pearl’s difficult and painful history, and deciding the price for each of these pieces of Pearl’s soul.

Act II jumps just a bit into the future, after Pearl has earned parole, and the question of price per musical bit of soul continues along with the resolution of Pearl’s main issue: her missing daughter.

I was surprised in the beginning to learn that researchers had actually spent (are spending?) time collecting old folk music, and that this could have gotten Susannah a professorship at Harvard.  But throughout the show we hear Pearl beautifully belting out song after song, and often we hear Susannah singing other folk songs as well.  Jannie Jones and Jessica Wortham, as Pearl and Susannah, are amazing, talented singers and actresses.   It soon becomes quite clear, as we listen to Pearl pour her body and soul into each and every lyric, that collecting this music is an extremely important part of our history, no matter if we are black or white. (more…)

Sonia Flew – and took our hearts with her

Last night I went to see a play I had never heard of and barely knew anything about.  My friend and I had seen some Facebook comments calling Sonia Flew possibly the best production the San Jose Repertory Theatre had ever presented, but we didn’t know how much stock to put into those comments.  However, we are always game to see a new show, so we went into the Rep to see what this show was all about.

Miles Gaston Villanueva and Ivonne Coll as Zak and Sonia

When the lights went up for intermission we looked at each other and said, “HOLY COW.”  In the second act I’m pretty sure I saw my friend wiping away a tear or two (as I surreptitiously wiped away my own), and he was one of the first up to give a standing ovation at the end.

This play probably is the best production I have ever seen from the San Jose Repertory, and I have seen a lot of plays at the Rep.  It is one of the most brilliant, intertwined, powerful plays I have ever seen.  The set design and lighting was some of the most gorgeous and detailed I have seen at the Rep.  The entire cast of six was outstanding – though I give extra credit to Ivonne Coll for playing adult Sonia, the mother of two teens in the first act, who then manages to so completely age a decade or two to play Marta in the second act that it is hard to believe she is the same actress.  Tiffany Ellen Solano and Miles Gaston Villanueva are also incredibly amazing in their roles as the younger characters.  Kwana Martinez gives the moving performance as Pilar that brought tears to our eyes in the second act.  And just as incredible are Michael Santo and Julian López-Morillas who play the men in both families.  As a whole this was the best group of actors I have seen at The Rep.

I might run out of superlatives to describe this show, so let me tell you now if you are not clear yet – this is one fantastic production and I don’t just recommend it, it is a MUST see.

Miles Gaston Villanueva & Tiffany Ellen Solano as Jose and young Sonia

The story centers on Sonia, a woman who emigrated alone from Cuba as a teenager.  Now married with two teenagers of her own, she is told right before Christmas that her 19 year old son is enlisting and wants to go to Afghanistan to help make a difference in the world.  The first act is spent watching Sonia try to hold her life together while also openly falling apart at the thought of losing her son.  In the second act we are brought back to Cuba and back in time, where we meet Sonia as a 15 year old girl also struggling to separate and but still clinging to her family.  We see the struggles that Sonia went through of which her current children are unaware, and we see the struggles her parents went through which Sonia never understood.

The play is about so many things, but also about changes and how they affect us.  We see marriages affected by change, parents dealing with changes in their growing children, and everyone wonders how the changing political climates will affect them.  As a mother of adult teens myself, I was quite moved watching adult Sonia deal with knowing she must let her children go but struggling to stop them from making what she felt were very bad decisions.  And the play quite profoundly portrays how we really do not understand what our parents have gone through in their own lives, and how it affects the decisions they make about their own children.

Kwana Martinez, Coll and Solano as Pilar, Marta and young Sonia

From the beginning of the first act you are pretty sure you know where the story is going, but I can tell you that you will probably be wrong.  As much as this story brought tears to the audience it is also not a depressing story.  It is simply about Life and Love and Family.  There will be changes in Life no matter how much you struggle against them.  There is no controlling or stopping those changes.  All we can do is hold on to those we love as best we can, give them as much love as possible, and try to get through the changes together.

What an amazing production to end the SJ Rep’s 2009/2010 season!

Go see this production.  I promise you will be glad you did.

Sonia Flew
May 8 – June 6, 2010
Written by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Richard Seer

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio
San Jose, CA 95113
Phone 408-367-7255
Fax 408-367-7236

Spend a rainy evening with ghost stories at the SJ Rep

Weir JackIf you are looking for a cozy place to keep warm and dry one of these rainy evenings, the San Jose Repertory Theatre can transport you to a beautiful old pub in rural Ireland for two hours every night (except Mondays). Until February 21 you have the opportunity to see The Weir and share in the camaraderie of the pub patrons. This award winning play by Irish playwright Conor McPherson is the perfect way to spend a couple hours out of the rain and in front of the cozy fire in the pub, and it is well worth traveling downtown to do so.

The story revolves around Valerie, who is brought to the pub by Finbar, her real estate agent, and introduced to the bartender and other patrons. The play begins quite comically as everyone starts drinking and talking, but soon things quiet down and get serious as they begin to tell ghost stories by the fire. This is just about the entire plotline of the production; McPherson is recognized as a great narrative dramatist, and it is apparent with this play. There is not a great deal of action, and there are no scene changes; you remain inside the charming, warm pub throughout the two hours. So instead of coming to see a lot of complicated production trickery, you will sit down in front of the pub fire and relax as you listen to these haunted and haunting tales as told by a group of incredible actors. There are confessions of love, loss and loneliness, and half-hidden wounds revealed. It all leads up to Valerie’s most haunting tale of all.

Weir groupThe pub setting really is quite beautiful, and designed so that you feel you are sitting at a pub table yourself.  The actors are absolutely splendid as they draw you in to their stories.  The packed audience at the Rep on opening night loved the show and Metblogs absolutely recommends that you see this show before it ends on February 21.  It really is the perfect show to participate in during one of these dark and dreary, rainy evenings.

The show runs every day except Mondays from now until February 21, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets can be bought online.   Open, easily viewed set allows any seat in the house a great view for this show.

Counting down to Cinequest 20


It’s that time of year again, when you see red banners flying from the street poles, hoards of student interns running wild-eyed around the streets of San Jose, and your local film loving friends are suddenly speaking another language that sounds to your untrained ears like “Independent Halfdan forums the Maverick worldwide scheduling Babnik parties.”

What does it all mean?

It means there are less than four weeks until the Cinequest Film Festival hits San Jose. This will be the 20th year of our beloved festival, and if you live in the area without ever having attended, it might be time to start venturing out of your cave. Cinequest is one of the top ten film festivals in the world, and each year filmmakers from around the globe come to our beautiful city to take part in the fun and excitement.

World Premiere of Hell Is Other People

World Premiere of Hell Is Other People

This year the festivities running between February 23 and March 7 will include writer and filmmaking forums, a 3D Showcase, silent films from the 1920s, special visits and discussions with actor Benjamin Bratt and writer Deepak Chopra, over twenty different parties, and the premieres of 76 films from around the world.

Metblogs plans to give full coverage to the festival this year and you should make every effort to participate in this yearly event. Last year Cinequest pulled out all the stops to put on the biggest, most fun festival that our city could hold, but with this year’s 20th anniversary you can be assured that founders Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen Powell will guarantee an experience you’ll never forget.

You can buy a pass that will give you access to all the films and various forums and parties, depending on the level purchased. Or you can buy individual tickets ranging from $10 each, $7 for matinee, $5 student, or up to $12 for special screenings. From experience, Metblogs recommends purchasing some sort of pass which will help you avoid ticket lines the day of the desired show or will allow you to change your mind and see a different film instead.

North American premiere of Life in One Day

North American premiere of Life in One Day

You should definitely mark off the dates on your calendar and try to attend the festival for at least one showing. Last year the films were outstanding and they are sure to be even better this year. You have the chance to meet many talented independent filmmakers and actors, and also many established, well known names, as well as see outstanding film that much of the world will never get a chance to see.

Keep your eye on Metblogs for up to date information, and check out the film line-up at the Cinequest website.

You can also follow Cinequest on Facebook or Twitter.

As You Like It = Pay What You Will Tuesday










The SJ Rep is helping you help the community – AND see a play!

The San Jose Repertory Theatre has always been a leader in bringing the arts to everyone and giving back to the community. This season they are taking even broader steps in this direction.

In order to help community members who cannot afford regular priced tickets to the outstanding productions held at the Rep this year, they are offering Pay What You Will Tuesdays. The first preview Tuesday for each production of San Jose Rep’s 2009-2010 season, starting with the Tuesday, September 1 production of As You Like It, will be open to all members of the community for a suggested ticket price of $10, however any amount will be accepted. In addition, a canned food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank will have food bins in the lobby hoping for your donations. In this way any member of our community can not only see an exciting new production at the SJ Rep, but they can also help Second Harvest help those who are in even greater need.

Tickets go on sale at San Jose Rep’s box office one week prior to the scheduled performance. Seating is general admission and will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pay What You Will Tuesday:

Groundswell – Tuesday, Oct. 13

A Christmas Story – Tuesday, Nov. 24

The Weir – Tuesday, Jan. 26

Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Tuesday, March 16

Sonia Flew – Tuesday, May 11.

If you don’t make it to this Tuesday’s preview of As You Like It, you can still see the production of one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays at the SJ Rep from August 29 to September 27.

Sibling rivalry, royals in exile, mistaken identities, cross dressing (no kiddin’), and love at first sight, all make an appearance in this bewitching and sophisticated comedy about freeing oneself from the shackles of technology and finding oneself in nature. Really! The actors will be texting onstage, and you can too, during intermission and after the show!

Don’t miss this exciting new production. San Jose Metblogs is excited to attend the September 4 show and we will have our review up by Saturday afternoon. See you at the Rep!

A Hot Show in a Cool Theatre: Second City is at the SJ Rep this week only

If you haven’t noticed, it has been really hot in San Jose this week. A place that’s not hot? The San Jose Repertory, unless you count the entertainment they are putting on this week, because the Second City comedy team is setting the stage on fire.The crowd on Tuesday happily sat in the air conditioned theater waiting to be entertained, and we were not disappointed. This legendary comedy team has a perpetually changing show, with many of their skits and songs focusing around such current events as Michael Jackson and the resignation of Sarah Palin. There is much audience participation and interaction with the performers on stage, and a lot of great improvisation based on audience reactions.

The Second City - On Tour Cast: (Top Row L-R) Niki Lindgren, Megan Wilkins, Dana Quercioli (Bottom Row) Cody Dove, Tim Robinson, Mark Raterman

The Second City - On Tour Cast: (Top Row L-R) Niki Lindgren, Megan Wilkins, Dana Quercioli (Bottom Row) Cody Dove, Tim Robinson, Mark Raterman

This is an adult show and sometimes blurs the lines of appropriateness, however I never really cringed and certainly did laugh a great deal. I thought the Sing-a-long at the Retirement Center skit was hysterical but almost everything they did was hysterical. It was a really fun evening, and if nothing else, a really COOL evening.

This show is only at the Rep through Sunday, July 19, so you need to get your tickets now before you miss your chance. Due to the volume of ticket sales their ticketing server has been down so you need to call the box office at 408.367.7255 to reserve your seats. Do not miss out on this great show!

Become a fan of the SJ Repertory Theatre on FaceBook for alerts to great discounts to all their shows.

Follow San Jose Metblogs on Twitter to get instant alerts to local news and events.

And why not have dinner downtown before the show? My guest and I went to Gordon Biersch for a light dinner of several appetizers; I cannot recommend their current specials enough. Their coconut shrimp was to die for.

No Broadway fan is forbidden to see this show

Kevin B. McGlynn as Rafreaky in a spoof of The Lion King

Kevin B. McGlynn as Rafreaky in a spoof of The Lion King

On July 7 I attended a production of Forbidden Broadway at the San Jose Repertory Theatre. I knew little about this show before I attended. It is described as “New York’s longest running musical comedy revue that parodies, jeers and cheers American musical theatre,” but I would say that it skewers the business of Broadway just as much if not more. Because of this, I think it really speaks to those of us who are very much into the history of Broadway, who are familiar with “the business”, and who are aware of many of the personalities important to the Broadway scene. Those of us who are less up on Broadway news but know our Musical theatre will also enjoy it, just in a different way. The short run of this production should serve to keep the theater filled, and if you fall into any of the above categories you should definitely make time for this production and make reservations quickly.

poppinsThe show is a quick series of musical performances. Some parody specific shows or people, but many point to more than one. In a show that is less than 90 minutes long, I counted at least 30 specific musical or personality references, so you can see that this moves along quickly. The taking over of Broadway by Walt Disney is a running theme throughout the show, along with the new trend of valuing puppets and fuzzy costumes over actual meaningful content. Personality references include Patti Lupone, Liza Minnelli, Harvey Fierstein and Ethel Merman among others. Musical references run the gamut from Fiddler to Hairspray to Phantom to Wicked to Gypsy and everything in between. Special attention is given to producer Cameron Mackintosh, costumer Julie Taymor, choreographer Bob Fosse and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

If you are a Broadway fan you should definitely not miss this show. It runs through Sunday, July 12 so get your tickets now!

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose

July 14 – July 19 a brand new show will arrive at the Rep: The Second City on Tour! That’s right, Chicago’s legendary comedy theatre will pay a short visit to the SJ Rep and will feature some of the best sketches, songs, and improvisations from The Second City‘s forty-five plus year history. Another summer show you won’t want to miss!

Follow The San Jose Rep on Facebook to get information on special ticket offers!

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The Forbidden show you have our permission to see

I am SO excited to report that the San Jose Repertory Theatre is presenting Forbidden Broadway starting Tuesday, July 7.  Anyone with any experience watching American musical theatre would love to see this show.  Winner of a 2006 Special Tony award, it is New York’s longest running musical comedy revue that parodies, jeers and cheers American musical theatre.

forbidden-broadwayThe side-splitting savagery known as Forbidden Broadway is on the road again with their newest edition! Now celebrating its record-breaking 25th year in New York, this year’s victims include the puppets of “Avenue Q,” the witches of “Wicked,” “Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out,” and a new look at old favorites such as “La Cage aux Folles,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Les Miz,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Chicago.” Rounding out the laughs are Mel Brooks’ “The Producers,” ABBA’s “Mamma Mia” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie;”  with lots more Broadway past and present.

The show is running from July 7 through July 12 with a matinee show on Saturday the 11th. For the Thursday and Saturday performances you are invited to join the Rep after-hours in the Curtain Call Patron Lounge for live piano music and premium wine, and you may even see a cast member or two! I think the most interesting deal is the Cabaret Club Package. This “swanky and unique package” includes two seats at intimate cabaret tables adjacent to the stage and a bottle of premium wine for you to enjoy during the show! Having never been to a cabaret style show before I am sure this would be fabulous fun.

San Jose Metblogs will be attending the opening night show and we will have a review up as quickly as possible. It’s a great time to get a babysitter and have dinner and a show downtown! We hope to see you there!

Forbidden Broadway is the recipient of an Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the 2005 Drama Desk Award for Best Off Broadway Musical.

“Wonderful! There’s no Broadway like Forbidden Broadway!” -Entertainment Weekly
“Hilarious and brilliantly wicked” -The New York Times
“Gut-Busting Funny!” -New York Post

The San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio, CA 95113-2603
Purchase tickets online
Call 408.367.7255 for Cabaret Club Package

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