Monthly Archives: May 2016

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

Review of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music by Jimmy Roberts
Directed by Larry Williams
Music Direction by Craig Burdette
Lucky Penny Productions
For tickets / schedule :
http://www.luckypennynapa.com
Lucky Penny Community Arts Center, Napa

RUN: May 13 – May 29, 2016
RATING: 5 of 5 stars

(May 27, 2016)

Photo by  Kurt Gonsalves, KMG Design

Photo by Kurt Gonsalves, KMG Design

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is a series of musical vignettes following the lifespan of relationships from the awkward first date to married “bliss” and beyond. It is a smorgasbord of biting sarcasm, contemplative laments, tongue-in-cheek commentary, and deeply felt romance. Nestled in Napa, Lucky Penny Productions is a welcoming, lively environment, complete with full bar and enthusiastic volunteers. The production has been tailored to the wine country, with references to the di Rosa Preserve and Napa’s fine wine, and updated from its 1990s origins with smart phones dominating the dating environment.

Four stellar actors trade off between scenes in a whirlwind of costume changes, darting between tempo and styles while maintaining a common thread of focus. Standouts include Waiting Trio with one husband glued to watching football, while the other is trapped in Macy’s while his wife shops for shoes and On the Highway of Love accurately portraying couples fighting in the car. My personal favorite is He Called Me, which captures the euphoria of receiving a text or phone call when the man said he would call, instead of days later after staring at the phone in agony.

Photo by  Kurt Gonsalves, KMG Design

Photo by Kurt Gonsalves, KMG Design

The play is not entirely composed of comedic settings; Daniela Innocenti Beem’s soliloquy The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz is tragic in its awkward plea for love after a cutting betrayal by her ex-husband. Versatile Danielle DeBow maneuvers through scenes with expressions that would make Lucille Ball jealous. Barry Martin and Michael Scott Wells shine in Why? Cause I’m a Guy. I noted many an elbowed wink between couples in the audience while realistic situations played out on stage. Classic dilemmas, such as the parents shock when their son breaks it off with a long-term girlfriend, lead to harmonious counterpoint accompanied by the glorious Craig Burdette (Keyboard) and Matthew Vincent (Violin).

Costume designer Taylor Bartolucci built on a simple base of white to quickly place new locations with elegant simplicity. Barry Martin and Larry Williams’ set is rough painted graffiti and minimalist furnishings to keep the interaction of actors at the forefront, rather than a complex set distracting from the scene.

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is the perfect date night, or a diversion for singles in a slump who need a good laugh. There is a hilarious moment for everyone; it is a fun evening of silliness mingled with provoking insight into the madness that is love, skillfully directed by Larry Williams.

Novato Theater Company ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’

Review of Dancing at Lughnasa
By Brian Friel
Directed by Patricia Miller
For tickets / schedule :
www.novatotheatercompany.org
NTC Playhouse, Novato, CA
Novato Theater Company

RUN: May 20-June 12, 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars

(May 20, 2016)

Dancing at Lughnasa Novato

Photo by Mark Clark

During hardship and loss, relishing wild, unfettered dancing creates a cleansing experience. In the Middle Ages, ferocious forms of dance were popular in times of suffering; the two have lived hand-in-hand for centuries. There is a poignant joy and disturbing agony in shrieking with delight and bounding about in the face of adversity. The Mundy home struggles for basic human needs, trying to spread a couple of eggs into a meal for the entire family, and losing the opportunity for what little income they have due to outside pressures. When the wireless set blares cheerful dance music, the women fling themselves into a flurry of action, forgetting for the moment their worries and burdens through Patricia Miller’s choreography. Dancing at Lughnasa is not an idealized Irish household; it demonstrates the reality of poverty and sisters slowly growing apart, written by Brian Patrick Friel, a true Irishman.

Dancing at Lughnasa Novato

Photo by Mark Clark

A subtly beautiful choice is using Michael Evans (John J. Hanlon) who was a child at the time the play is set, as the narrator. His presence and reaction to memories playing out before him is nostalgic and distressing when he relates the future. His soliloquies are quiet and emotionally charged, bringing a darker mood to superficially lively scenes. Bubbly and energetic, Maggie (Shannon Veon Kase) has a folk song on her lips and endless array of terrible riddles. Beneath the careful façade of gaiety, she is lonely and terrified, concealing it in a stream of merriment.

Kate (Kristine Ann Lowry) is the opposite of her sister; stern and uptight on the outside, she slips up and reveals an open heart with unerring love of family. She is dismissed as a teacher by the parish priest when it is revealed that her brother Father Jack (Jim McFadden) went native during his time in Africa. Judgmental attitudes of the community toward what is perceived as an unforgiveable sin have a direct impact on Kate, but she does not allow them to color her relationships. Despite initial shock at Father Jack’s behavior, his earnest, child-like appreciation for native rhythms and culture win her over. Oozing his way in and out of the Mundy sisters’ lives is Gerry Evans (Mark Ian Schwartz), a complete cad with unshakable charisma. His charm wins over Christine (Lily Jackson), who realizes they cannot be together, yet hopes for it despite herself.

Dancing at Lughnasa Novato

Photo by Mark Clark

It is the characters who form the central focus of this staging, supported by primitive, rustic set design by Mark Clark, realistic 1936 props from grocery packaging to the old-fashioned iron, and unassuming yet impeccable costumes by Misha Murphy. While director Patricia Miller also served as dialect coach, the cast slipped back and forth with their accents rather frequently, other than John J. Hanlon, who remained consistent throughout. Keeping up full brogue is a challenge, and the attitudes of the characters shone through, despite lapses in speech patterns.

Dancing at Lughnasa is a window into fleeting moments of optimism for the Mundy family; it is a plea to enjoy life as it happens, rather than brood on the future or lost opportunities. Enter a world where daily survival hangs in the balance, infused with the passion of five sisters who refuse to back down from their right to live.

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in Cloverdale

Review of The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Jason Edington
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center
For tickets / schedule :
www.cloverdaleperformingarts.com
Cloverdale Performing Arts Center

RUN: May 13 – May 22, 2016
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(May 14, 2016)

Photo by John Gobeille

Photo by John Gobeille

The Importance of Being Earnest crackles with wit; I have seen it staged more times than I can count, and it remains highly diverting. Oscar Wilde reveals the triviality of upper classes with devastating effect, while presenting characters who are easy to fall in love with. Cloverdale’s cast enunciates clearly, and hits most of the right beats that are crucial to Wilde’s cheetah paced dialogue.

Photo by John Gobeille

Photo by John Gobeille

Costume Designer Holly Werner brings the early 20th century to life with billowing sleeves, clean lined Edwardian skirts, and outrageous hats that reflect both the time period and personalities of the wearers. Creating historical costumes for theatre is no easy feat; I have seen it badly done indeed, and it is refreshing to see fairly accurate designs. Shawn Olney’s set designs are elegant, although the scene changes took rather long. The garden is worth the wait, using live rose boxes scattered about the stage.

Jonathan Graham as Jack Worthing keeps his poise, until his friend eating muffins in such an alarming manner sets him off, causing hilarity. He is adept at Wilde’s rhythm, and an excellent Jack Worthing. His partner in bunburying, Dan Stryker as Algernon Moncrieff, flounces in full Algie fashion, consuming everything in sight, and enjoying himself immensely. He struggles with the accent, but is so likeable as the character, that it is possible to overlook. The two beauties, Nichole Phillips as Gwendolen Fairfax and Corey Sceales as Cecily Cardew, are true English roses. Cecily is portrayed with genuine youthful fervor, and Gwendolen, although unsure of where to put her hands in some scenes, has a confident allure.

Diana Grogg as Lady Bracknell and Janet M. Denninger as Miss Prism need more rehearsal time, and hesitate over the lines, but Dee Dee Robbins’ Lane and Jeff Terauds’ Merriman are stoic and deliberate in their delivery as the “straight man” butlers within a whirlwind of wit.

Despite an uneven cast, this is one of the better productions I have seen. The Importance of Being Earnest at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center is charming, bringing Edwardian manners on stage with accomplished style thanks to Jason Edington’s skillful stage direction.

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