Saturday, May 30, 2015

RAY OF LIGHT - home of the best edgy theatre in the Bay Area is now HEATHERS


High School novelas don’t get as dark and vicious as the classic Teen cult film HEATHERS released back in 1988. The Sirens of the Odyssey and Witches of Macbeth - make their way to Ray of Lights, west coast premiere of the musical version of HEATHERS. “F me gently with a chainsaw” rings out at the Victoria Theatre, and these mean girls are the best. The Musical version of this “Chainsaw” and “Mallet Hammer” - is better than the film.

Book of Mormon - Rings our door bell for a third time

Book of Mormon - this mega hit Musical has returned to San Francisco for a third visit. You will find plenty of dates to see this tour. This time around - the show is NOT sold out - SHN always has tickets the night or show and lottery seats for 30.00.
It was eighteen years ago that Matt Stone and Trey Parker began creating the concept for Book of Mormon. 



Based on Ingmar Bergman's film, Smiles of a Summer Night, this 1973 chamber styled opus may be one of the most fun intimate soaps and soiree the American musical theater has ever embraced. I consider myself a true Sondheim, fanboy, yet this is the first time I have seen this musical. Regional theatre rarely if at all tackles this beautiful musical A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


David Mamet has hit the east bay two times this spring. Last April at the TheatreFirst theatre company and this month at Altarena Playhouse in Alameda. Mamet is regarded as one of America's still living iconic playwrights, but many still fear his work or are ill at ease with the language of his characters.  This production of the Pulitzer honored GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS now at the Altarena is excellent. Director John Maio drives his top rate cast to the darkest view of human nature. His direction is paced well and his all male company hits the Mamet target. What Mamet could have done with AMC’s MAD MEN would be something to see. But we get to sit in the Glen Ross office with these salesmen sharks face to face, and F bomb to F bomb. Its a powerful two hours of American Theatre.The story takes place in world of real estate salesmen attempting to survive, while they attempt to sell worthless Florida property. All five salesmen are under the gun to improve their sales or move on.  Keith Jefferds plays Shelly Lavene, once a the number one man on the sales team. Jefferds is superb in the role and brings that rumpled “once was” look to his character. Local favorite Michael Sally plays the cold hearted Office Manager John Williamson, Sally is perfect in this role and does an impressive performance.
The show stopper of this 2 hour non stop boys club of neckties, is Matt Manco as Ricky Roma.  Al Pacino made this role iconic in the 1992 film version, and Monaco brings this salesman to the Alameda black box with the same intense ego. Since this play is performed in a small space we are put face to face with these actors in the office desk to desk. The force of Monaco performance brings the crowd in the office to an applause after one of his better monologues. I do admit that Matt does do a bit or Pacino moves, but they are well deserved. As he delivers his meek client Mr. Lingk (Bruce Kaplan) a plot of BS about the wonderful Florida property. The classic line “always be closing” rings well in this office.
The company is non stop and well cast, bringing the story to the full edge. The pompous Charles Aaronow is played by Charles Evans who shows his emotional skills after being interviewed by Detective Baylen (Daniel Hollander). Ted Barker is perfect as survivor Dave Moss who loses the game. Director John Maio uses the small Altarena space well bringing the Mamet event face to face with the sold out audience. Maio says “GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS examines the sell-at-any-cost lives of real estate salesmen, baked in dripping sarcasm, layered with racism and frosted with desperation. However, it always maintains a sense of humor, allowing the audience a much needed release, that stops them from rising out of their seats and literally choking the actors on stage.”
Artistic Director Clay David created the office scene based mainly on the props we see scattered on stage as we return to Act II. A floor of paper and steel desks you could feel the cluttered office that you would hate to work at. Stewart Lyle designed the set including the opening act Chinese restaurant where we meet the players. Liz Martin brings it with the shark clothes design for the all male cast, most impressive are their over coats.  The lighting is simple but the street scene so subtle is done well by Anne Kendall.
There are other Glen Ross offices to check out this spring in the East Bay, but I recommend this cast and wonderful production. It will bring the Greek to MAD MEN, and the Reagan era to your lap. Congrats to the cast and production team, this office is a shark tank that needs to be seen, it is an American classic.
Glengarry Glen Ross
by David Mamet, Directed by John Maio.
  • May 15–June 14; Fridays & Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm
  • Special Thursday performance June 11
  • Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda,
  • TICKET PRICES: $26. Tickets available at,
  • (510) 523-1553
  • Photos by Melissa Nigro

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Richard Bean's riotous retake of the commedia dell'arte classic, "The Servant of Two Masters"


The crowds are laughing almost the entire 2.5 hours watching the bawdy in your face humor of ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS. Part vaudeville, slapstick, and musical, this retake of the classic commedia dell’arte “The Servant of Two Masters” written by Richard Bean, is non stop fun. Bean has set his script in 1963 Brighton England. As you walk into the Roda Theatre we are greeted by a mop top Beatles type pop band who set the mood for the evening.
As the story opens we meet Francis Henshall (Dan Donohue) who needs food money and takes a job working for two bosses. The first boss or “Guvnor” is Stanley Stubbers (William Connell) a smug upper class crook who longs for Rachel Crabbe (Helen Sadler) who is dressed as her dead brother Roscoe. The first act is the basic sit com of keeping both bosses happy and not letting each other know about the gig. The audience is brought into the story many times as Francis breaks the fourth wall and climbs down into the Roda to grab volunteers to help him steal food from his two Guvnors. Connells comic timing and improv with the audience is perfect and very funny.
The second story between Pauline (Sarah Moser) and Alan (Brad Culver) who’s love for each other is one of the best parts of the story. Brad is perfect as an actor playing an actor who talks to us throughout the show about the fact that he is in a play. James Corben (CBS Lateshow, Into the Woods) did this show on Broadway and took a TONY, it is a demanding comic role. Director David Ivers needed to cast a powerhouse for this part and that is Dan Donohue, a Conan O'brien look a like. Dan’s physical timing is splendid, he has played the “servant” in the play this is based on “Two Masters”.
The whole cast is impressive and funny, but Helen Sadler playing the double role of her dead brother is very convincing. The original songs by Grant Olding are performed by a talented four piece band. A British pub sound and of course a knock off for early Fab Four. They perform during scene breaks and before and after the show. As you leave the Roda they are in full swing in the lobby.
I need to mention my favorite “laugh out loud” in the show,Gareth an 87 year old waiter who is the scene stealer in the first act. Played to the slapstick perfection by Danny Scheie as he takes falls tumbles and hits. Local favorite Ron Campbell opens the evening announcing various ground rules before the evening begins. Ron plays Alfie and during the very funny dinner scene he is at his best. The cast hits their marks for their commedia timing as they are convincing at the 60’s British era. The costumes by Meg Neville are period excellent, the setting designed by Hugh Landwehr is Mod, colorful and busy.

This is the perfect romp to end the Berkeley Reps 48th season. If you don’t have a good time at this knee-slapper then I was on the wrong meds. See this show, it runs through June 21.
One Man, Two Guvnors
Written by Richard Bean 
Based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni
With songs by Grant Olding Directed by David Ivers.

Featuring: Ron Campbell (Alfie),William Connell (Stanley), Brad Culver (Alan), Dan Donohue (Francis Henshall), John-David Keller (Harry Dangle), Becca Lustgarten (Ensemble), Gerry McIntyre (Lloyd Boateng), Sarah Moser (Pauline), Todd Pivetti (Ensemble), Daniel Redmond (Ensemble), Helen Sadler (Rachel), Danny Scheie (Gareth), Steven Shear (Ensemble), Robert Sicular (Charlie Clench), and Claire Warden (Dolly) Creative team: Hugh Landwehr (scenic designer), Meg Neville (costume designer), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting designer), Lindsay Jones (sound designer), and Gregg Coffin (music director). Onstage Band: Casey Hurt (guitar and vocals and band leader), Andrew Niven (drummer), Marcus Högsta (bassist), and Mike McGraw (guitarist).

Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The Mississippi River is a live and well this spring at the Berkeley Rep west coast premiere of HEAD OF PASSES. 74 miles outside New Orleans lies the Head of Passes, the part of the mighty Mississippi river before it breaks up into three passages. At the Berk Reps Thrust stage is the house of Shelah Reynolds on the river's edge.
Writer Tarell Alvin McCraney’s very moving family saga and arch with the Book of Job works like a very deep dip in the river of life. Directed by Tina Landau this family drama is at times a soap, but has the power and raw voice of McCraney’s pen. The production was part of the Joyce Award in 2010 and was a hit at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. According to Alvin “I remember during Katrina, someone said why do people live there? they know it's below sea level- The Mississippi shifts and then our lives shift forever - I wanted to look at how we maintain our faith in the presence of tragic, disastrous events”
One of the stars of this Berkeley production is G.W. Skip Merciers show stopping set that becomes one of the leads in this story. Yes the set at times does upstage this story as the Mississippi makes its way into the Thrust Theatre - It is very impressive and will make you think about the drought we are now dealing with. Of course the subtext of water and the bible are the force of nature in the second act that overcomes Shelahs family.
The setting is one day and night in this families life. Its Shelah birthday and as the story opens we can see the wrath of the storm already over taking her home. Cheryl Lynn Bruce who opened this play at the Steppenwolf in Chicago, is superb as Shelah. She is the stern in keeping her family from knowing about her terminal illness, she is very connected to the bible and won’t even say or get near “deviled” eggs.

Shelah a bit groggy dealing with her terminal date forgets that it is her birthday, but her family has a party set to celebrate at midnight. Francois Battiste is cast as her son Audrey and plays the role well as he tries to convince mom he is the better son. Brian Tyree Henry is cast as second son Spencer also preparing a celebration for their illing mom that includes Dr Anderson her doctor played by bay area favorite James Carpenter. Mae her close friend is played by the wonderful Kimberly Scott and Michael Shepperd is Creaker. Jonathan Burke is cast as her young nephew Crier. I must admit the first act does take me to a few Tyler Perry moments and I didn’t want that “soap” feel to distract me from this family story  Shelah’s breathing is clear sign “The Angel” has arrived for her.

When her step daughter Cookie enters late in the first act, so intensely performed by Nikkole Salter, she is drenched in rain mostly caught while she enters the home as the storm takes hold of the failing home. Cookie brings in the dark side to the family high on her addiction and not caring about the news of her step moms end approaching.

As the second act opens the river has taken the lead and the house is falling into the passes. Deep secrets and sins are revealed and the Angel has come for Shelah. Scott Zielinski lighting design takes hold of you as the overhead patio lights and reflection of death are seen the flooding waters. I can't agree with this play's two hour plus flow, McCraney sometime loses me, but I can not disagree how this drama still held me till the haunting close and the final monologue from Shelah. Faith is held hostage and this wonderful play is worth a visit to the Berkeley Rep.
By Tarell Alvin McCraney, presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre
Directed by Tina Landau
Through: May 24 -  Berkeley Rep's Thrust Stage,
2025 Addison St.
Running time: 2 hours,
Cast: Francois Battiste (Aubrey), Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Shelah), Jonathan Burke (Crier), James Carpenter (Dr. Anderson), Brian Tyree Henry (Spencer), Sullivan Jones (The Angel), Nikkole Salter (Cookie), Kimberly Scott (Mae), and Michael A. Shepperd (Creaker) Creative team: G. W. Skip Mercier (scenic designer), Toni-Leslie James (costume designer), Scott Zielinski (lighting designer), and Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound design)
Tickets: $29-$79; 510-647-2949,

Sunday, May 10, 2015

TRI VALLEY REP has a NUNSENSE Benefit variety show for the Sisters.

The Little Sisters of Hoboken visit the Danville Village Theatre

What better way to add to a spring of Mormons across the bay, to an order of nuns visiting Tri Valley Rep this May. NUNSENSE by Dan Goggin is a madcap night of vaudeville and fun with a nice supply of puns and catchy songs that keeps the audience smiling. The mix includes a talented cast under the direction of Brian Olkowski, who keeps the show moving from the pre show to the nuns greeting the crowd at the shows end.
Goggin’s spoof first premiered 30 years ago in 1985 as an Off-Broadway hit that ran for over 36,000 performances. Honoring the Nuns as the second-longest running OB show to date. The “NUNSENCE” brand has off springed six versions and three spin offs with another version set to open later this year in Los Angeles.. The story is not plot heavy, but the set up is very funny as the five nuns attempt to raise funds to bury four dead Sisters after they ate some bad convent food. The Sisters set up a benefit variety show and the premise is an irreverent, non-stop ride.
The Sisters, part of a one-time missionary order that ran a leper colony discover that their cook, Sister Julia Child of God, accidentally kills fifty two of their convent residents. The five we meet have been saved while playing bingo and missing that last supper. Mother Superior has run out of funds to bury four of the nuns after buying a plasma TV. The show begins as you walk in the Village theatre to see two of the Sisters greeting the crowd and making sure we are comfortable.The cast of women are talented, Peggy Coleman plays the Mother Superior Sister Mary Regina. Coleman has the perfect comic timing leading the sisters in the various musical numbers. Sister Regina's’ rival is Sister Mary Hubert played by Shari Oret, they both have very a charming duet called “Just a Couple of Sisters”. Sister Robert Anne, a streetwise nun from Brooklyn with red converse, is very funny and played perfectly by local favorite Suzanne Henry. Sister Mary Leo, a novice who is set to be the world's first ballerina nun, is played by Sarah Sloan. Paula Glanetti fresh from NTC production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, is cast as one of my favorite nuns in this romp, Sister Mary Amnesia. Glanetti who also choreographed this show and is terrific as the clueless nun trying to recall her memory after being struck by a falling crucifix. Glanetti has a couple of solos in the show including the very funny “So You Want To Be A Nun”.
The five sisters are all excellent including the “one nun” orchestra Sister Sierra Nevada, the talented Sierra Dee, Music Director for this team. Dee is in the wings part of the “Grease” set the junior high kids left behind for the sisters to use, designed by Director Olkowski. The Sisters have as much fun as the audience, since frequently we are asked to interact with the nuns as they quiz us, and a few lucky ones get a “holy card”.As you come back for the second act break, you are in the middle of Bingo game that opening night went a bit long, but still entertaining as hosted by Paula Gianetti.  The final hour features fun songs including “A Minor Catastrophe” performed by the ensemble, “Just a Coupl’a Sisters” (Oret and Coleman),  “I Just Want to be a Star” (Henry), and the fantastic, rousing finale “Holier Than Thou” performed by the cast. I do feel the second act runs long and for me the joke ended in the first act. The cooking sketch is not needed. But a highlight of the final two hours is the short film “the Movie” shot around Danville downtown, its well done.
Olkowski’s direction is hand-clapping as he blended goofy comedy with Catholic school memories. The songs are delivered well and the show never takes itself seriously. Its a great night of fun and it is easy to see why this show has survived 30 years of sold out crowds and so many spin-offs. Congrats to the cast and crew, check out these Sisters and bring your Bingo cards.

Tri-Valley Repertory Theatre Presents:  
By Dan Goggin Directed by: Brian Olkowski

Playing at THE VILLAGE THEATRE, 233 Front Street in Danville, CA

May 8th through May 17th, Friday's 8:00pm, Saturdays 2:00pm and 8:00pm and Sunday's 2:00pm