Review: ‘Dance of the Holy Ghosts — A Play on Memory’ by Marcus Gardley (***)

July 26, 2015 Leave a comment

by Victor Cordell
Rating: ***
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

dance

Thanks for the Memory

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Oakland-reared playwright Marcus Gardley has impressed the Bay Area theatre community with his well-received “And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi” and “Head of Passes.” Currently, Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project offers a revival of his first produced play, “Dance of the Holy Ghosts – a Play on Memory.” Appropriately, the play is being performed at Oakland City Church.

The central character is Oscar Clifton, a live-alone, self-indulgent, 72 year old. While laid-back, Oscar is a man of passions — a guitarist by trade, a skirt chaser by nature, and a chess player by pastime. His life’s moments are recorded in a book of memories, which acts as a reference source for a time-layered reflection of significant periods of his adult family life. Oscar is deftly played by Keith Wallace, who exudes the charm, irritability, and irresponsibility of the character.

Oscar’s current nemesis is his grandson, Marcus G., and it is hard to ignore the playwright’s choice of his own name for this character. William Thomas Hodgson plays Marcus through various ages and, like Wallace, without the benefit of makeup changes. He, too, is very convincing in his portrayal, moving back and forth from the fourth grade through adulthood. His spotty relationship with his grandfather swings from domineered to demanding, and Hodgson commands the emotional tenor of each age well.

The key events in Oscar’s life center around relationship conflicts with his long estranged wife Viola and daughter Darlene, adeptly played by Candace Thomas and Megan Wells, respectively. Oscar is a recurring disappointment to the women in his life who want to rely on him and love him.

Dance of the Holy Ghosts plays at Oakland City Church through August 2. For further information, click here.

Rounding out a fine cast of principal actors is Halili Knox, listed in the program as “Woman of Wisdom.” As an apparition reading stage directions and narrative transitions, she provides an authoritative presence. The proceedings are rhythmically punctuated with original music and dance of both black American and Swahili origin, delivered by an always present lively choir that rings or fronts the stage.

Ubuntu is using site-specific locations for their current season, and the ambiance created by the church setting is suited to this work. The scope for staging and lighting is somewhat restricted, but the bare bones setting is appropriate, and the choir, informally draped around the stage, is an effective substitution for a more conventional set.

Two versions of this play have been previously produced, the original (with a three hour running time) and a 40-minute shorter revision. In consultation with the playwright, Ubuntu is performing the original. Although most all of the vignettes are engaging, not all are essential to the dramatic arc. In particular, a long episode concerning Marcus G. interacting with his fourth grade classmates is superfluous. One can hypothesize that Gardley is loath to relinquish something that he had invested effort in or that retaining this episode is a way to give a meatier role to attract an equity actor. And it is true that Hodgson stretches his acting chops with this scene, but it is a drag on the play’s momentum. Although the singing and dancing add considerable color, they provide sense rather than meaning and could also be reduced by a third without loss.

All things considered, this is the kind of work that deserves an audience, and hopefully it will attract regular theater lovers as well as underserved communities. Kudos to director Michael Socrates Moran for demonstrating that rewarding theater can come from very limited resources.

‘Dance of the Holy Ghosts’ plays at Oakland City Church through August 2. For further information, click here.

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“Dance of the Holy Ghosts – a Play on Memory” by Marcus Gardley, produced by Ubuntu Theater Project. Director: Michael Socrates Moran. Scenic Designer: Seren Moran. Props Master: Mary Hill. Lighting Designer: Stephanie Ann Johnson. Costume Consultant: Luther Michael Spratt. Choreographer: Latanya D. Tigner. Choir Director: Branice McKenzie.

Oscar: Keith Wallace. Marcus G.: William Thomas Hodgson. Woman Old as Wisdom: Halili Knox. Viola: Candace Thomas. Darlene: Megan Wells. Big Ass Willie Smalls: William Oliver III. Father Michael: William H.P. Precious Parquet: Katrina Allen. Princess Parquett: Leigh Rondon-Davis. Erma: Kimberly Daniels. Paramour: Vintre Scott. Musician: Elandis Brooks.

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Review: ‘Project Ahab; or Eye of the Whale’ at Central Works (*****)

July 22, 2015 Leave a comment

by Charles Kruger
Rating: *****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Izzy(Caitlyn Louchard) and Cree (Sam Jackson) join the crew of the Rainbow Warrior 2 on a mission to save the whales in Central Works’ new musical,

Izzy (Caitlyn Louchard) and Cree (Sam Jackson) join the crew of the Rainbow Warrior 2 on a mission to save the whales in Central Works’ new musical, “Project Ahab; or, Eye of the Whale.” Photo Credit: J. Norrena.

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

To say that “Project Ahab; or Eye of the Whale” is ambitious is an understatement. How could Gary Graves and the Central Works company possibly imagine squeezing the massiveness that is Moby Dick into the rectangular parlor that serves as both stage and house at the Berkeley City Club? It’s absurd. But a couple of years ago, this team (writer Gary Graves and Director John Patrick Moore) successfully and brilliantly staged the history of the revolutionary French Commune of 1871 (“Red Virgin“). If a revolution can fit, why not Melville’s whale of a tale? It can and, thanks to the brilliantly conceived script and staging, it does.

Well, it’s not exactly “Moby Dick” of couse.  “Project Ahab” is actually a contemporary tale about whale hunters and their whale loving adversaries, inspired and informed by Melville’s masterpiece. The spirit of Melville’s genius is fully present, but the details of the story have undergone a fascinating sea change. The story is revisioned in the tale of the “Rainbow Warrior 2,” an anti-whaling vessel, and its fictional Captain Franklin (clearly modeled after the very real Paul Franklin Watson). Gary Graves summarizes the piece as “Ahab goes after the whalers.” The summary is accurate enough, but fails to do justice to this fantastic and moving work of theatre.

It opens with a young sub sub of a lab assistant, Dr. Sponge (Clive Worsley), who humorously lectures us (like the opening passages of Moby Dick) concerning the history of whales and whale hunting, after which appears a young woman, Izzie (Melville’s Ishmael, of course), who seeks to find herself by going to sea to save the whales from aggressive hunters. In a lovely moment, she sings a sea chanty accompanied by recordings of whale song. It packs an amazing punch. Soon, at a commune, she encounters the mysterious and tattooed Cree (Queequeg), who after a night of LSD tripping and a desert sunrise, agrees to accompany Izzie on her quest to join the crew of The Rainbow Warrior on its mission to find and disrupt the cruel work of a Russian whale-hunting vessel. This will be accomplished by the  life risking tactic of placing themselves between the massive ship and the whales, while Cree, a professional photographer, documents the encounter. Clive Worsley briefly reappears as a mysterious street prophet who warns them of the mad Captain Franklin, after which they successfully join the Rainbow Warrior’s crew.

Captain Franklin (Clive Worsely) answers only to the whales, not the people. Photo Credit: J. Norrena.

Captain Franklin (Clive Worsely) answers only to the whales, not the people. Photo Credit: J. Norrena.

The subsequent story closely follows Melville’s tale. There is an earnest, idealistic first mate, Hunter (Melville’s Starbuck), the mad Captain Franklin (Melville’s Ahab, played by the impressively versatile Mr. Worsley), and the strangely moving, addled character of  Mel (Melville’s Pip). Despite Hunter’s pleas for sanity and concern for the safety of the crew, they are all caught up in Captain Franklin’s mad and dangerous pursuit of the whale hunters. The story builds, with increasing excitement, to the inevitable tryst.

‘Project Ahab’ uses traditional sea chanteys, original songs, poetry, science, superb acting and musicianship, and passionate commitment to tell the tale. This production has a soul as big as Melville’s masterpiece, and cannot fail to move. When I attended on opening night, I couldn’t help but notice my fellow audience members (we are seated across from one another) who, like me, were slack jawed in awe and awash in tears and laughter throughout the performance. At intermission, the excitement was palpable — we couldn’t wait to get back inside for more.

This is Central Works 48th world premiere, and it’s a wonder. “Project Ahab” is must see theatre! It’s work like this that keeps us coming back.

“Project Ahab; or Eye of the Whale” plays at Central Works through August 23, 2015. For further information, click here.

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“Project Ahab; or Eye of the Whale” written by Gary Graves in collaboration with the company. Directed: John Patrick Moore. Musical Direcction: Ben Euphrat. Sound and Projection Design: Gary Scharpen. Properties Design: Debbie Shelley. Costume Design: Tammy Berlin.

Cast:

Hunter: Michael Barrett Austin. Mel: Ben Euphrat. Cree: Sam Jackson. Izzy: Caitlyn Louchard. Franklin/Dr. Sponge/Elijah: Clive Worsley.

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Review: ‘Hay Fever’ at Stanford Repertory Theater

July 21, 2015 Leave a comment

by Mark Johnson
Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.

The cast of Noël Coward's

The cast of Noël Coward’s “Hay Fever” at Stanford Repertory Theater. Photo Credit: SRT.

Sometimes when going to live theatre, one gets to witness a performance almost too perfect for words. Such is Courtney Walsh’s performance in Stanford Repertory Theater’s engaging, yet uneven production of Noël Coward’s “Hay Fever.”

Every time Walsh steppped on stage, my eyes bulged in sheer incredulity at such a marvelous comedic performance. In “Hay Fever” she plays Judith Bliss, an aging actress and the indomitable matriarch of the highly artistic Bliss family. The action takes place at a country manor where each member of this family has invited someone to stay for the weekend. Typical mayhem ensues.

As the play is written by the great Noël Coward, it is a perfectly structured and highly amusing play.  The play itself is a very classy affair, but the production forces many actors to read their lines with way over the top delivery. This is often effective, and provides for several sequences in the play that are filled with hilarity, but it also seems overdone.

The best moments come when Walsh is onstage. With her strong figure and even stronger stage presence, every line she performs is a sort of micro adventure. The other actors onstage work excellently with her, though sometimes I wondered  if it is their performance that makes it work or if Ms. Walsh is just acting well enough for the entire company. The latter seems a likely explanation, as once she exits the stage, the production can be dead in the water. Sure, the Coward amusements are still there and the play drifts by amiably, but the production at that point appears to be just presenting the material instead of elevating it. When actors are forced to give such over extended performances while the miracle lady is onstage, they have to give that same performance when she isn’t. And it just doesn’t work as well, especially when the characters were clearly not written to be such caricatures.

It should be mentioned, though, that, happily, Ms. Walsh is onstage for a good three quarters of the production,  If Lynne Soffer, the director, had just let every character act naturally, not only would the play work better when she was offstage, but the contrast could have provided some additional hilarity. Still, the play delivers some hearty laughs throughout. Annie Dauber’s incredibly well detailed and very handsome set works well.

Overall, this production has more highs and lows than you might expect, but it is a very fun night at the theatre, and features a magnificently delirious lead performance.

“Hayfever” plays at the Stanford Repertory Theater through August 9. For further information, click here.

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‘Hay Fever” by Noël Coward, produced by Stanford Repertory Theatre. Director: Lynne Soffer. Set Designer: Annie Dauber. Costume Designer: Connie Strayer. Lighting Designer: Michael Ramsaur. Sound Designer: Brigitte Wittmer.

Sorel Bliss: Kiki Bagger. Simon Bliss: Austin Caldwell. Judith Bliss: Courtney Walsh. David Bliss: Bruce Carlton. Clara: Catherine Luedtke. Sandy Tyrell: Andrew Amarotico. Myra Arundel: Deb Fink. Jackie Coryton: Kathleen Kelso. Richard Greatham: Rush Rehm.

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Review: ‘Company’ at SF Playhouse (*****)

July 21, 2015 Leave a comment

by Charles Kruger
Rating: *****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Bobby (Keith Pinto) is put on the spot by the rest of the cast of

Bobby (Keith Pinto) is put on the spot by the rest of the cast of “Company.” Photo Credit: Jessica Palopoli.

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

The late ’60s and early ’70s were times of revolutionary cultural change in the USA, and it was reflected in our theatre. In 1969, the tribal love rock musical “Hair” was cause for celebration, but it was Sondheim’s “Company” that brought psychological sophistication and close analysis of the feelings of regular folk (not “hippies”) into the musical theatre mainstream. Prior to “Company,” musicals did not strive for sophisticated drama on a level comparable to other contemporary plays. With “Company,” for the first time, the words mattered as much as  the music. And what words! With amazing wit and psychological insight, Sondheim explored the doubts, dreams, hopes, and resentments of contemporary urbanites. Songs like, “The Little Things You Do Together” (about marriage), “Another Hundred People” (about urban alienation), and, most famously,”The Ladies Who Lunch” (about the quiet desperation of ladies of a certain age and class) explored themes new to musical comedy, and nothing has been the same since.

Forty-five years later, “Company” is  still fresh, still funny, still insightful, still Sondheim! Director Susi Damilano, an excellent production team, and a stellar cast demonstrate these facts in a lovely production, full of insight and joy.

Bobby, the ladies sing, could drive a person crazy. He’s charming, attractive, good in bed, straight, successful, but, somehow broken. He just won’t commit and nobody knows why. What’s so scary about marriage? In a wonderful series of scenes and songs, Bobby goes to parties large and intimate with his various married friends, and, boy, does he get an earful! Gradually, he begins to grasp both the dangers and rewards of married life, and, by play’s end, is ready to take on the risks of intimacy.

As Bobby, Keith Pinto is the heart of “Company,” and he is quite marvelous. Always sympathetic, always kind, always attentive, he makes us fall in love with Bobby just as he does everybody else. But Pinto also reveals the deep loneliness and fear that is behind Bobby’s impressive bon homie. He makes us care. Pinto brings down the house leading the entire cast in the delightfully choreographed “Side By Side By Side,” achieving a fine balance between pathos and panache. Pinto’s vulnerability and generosity as an actor are striking. (He demonstrated similar qualities as The Baker in last year’s SF Playhouse production of “Into The Woods.”)

In addition to Pinto’s gem of a performance,  excellent musical direction by Dave Dobrusky, and charming choreography by Kimberly Richards, this production of “Company” benefits from brilliantly considered casting decisions by Director Susie Damilano and Casting Director Lauren English. All the married couples are completely believeable but unexpected. The couples are mixed by temperament, race, physicality, age, and personality but are clearly, unmistakably married. The superb casting and performances of the supporting actors puts this “Company” over the top.

Among the highlights: Monique Hafen as Amy tearing into “[Not] Getting Married Today;” Teresa Attridge’s passionate “Another Hundred People,” and subtle, fully realized characterizations by Velina Brown as Sarah and Stephanie Prentice as Joanne. Prentice also does well with the challenging, “Ladies Who Lunch.”

“Company” plays at SF Playhouse through September 12, 2015. For further information, click here.

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“Company” by Stephen Sondheim with book by George Furth. Director: Susi Damilano. Music Director: Dave Dobrusky. Choreographer: Kimberly Richards. Set Design: Bill English + Jacquelyn Scott. Costume Design: Shannon Sigman. Projection Design: Micah Stieglitz. Lighting Design: Michael Oesch. 

Cast: 

Marta: Teresa Attridge. Sarah: Velina Brown. April: Morgan Dayley. Kathy: Michelle Drexler. David: Ryan Drummond. Larry: Richard Frederick. Paul: John Paul Gonzalez. Amy: Monique Hafen. Robert: Keith Pinto. Joanne: Stephanie Prentice. Harry: Christopher Reber. Jenny:  Abby Sammons. Susan: Nicole Weber. Peter: Michael Scott Wells. 

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Review: ‘Freedomland’ from San Francisco Mime Troupe (****)

July 21, 2015 Leave a comment

by Barry David Horwitz
Rating: ****
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

(l-r) Lisa Hori-Garcia (Emily Militis), Michael Gene Sullivan (Malcolm Haywood), Hugo E Carbajal (Cop), Keith Arcuragi (Cop) in

(l-r) Lisa Hori-Garcia (Emily Militis), Michael Gene Sullivan (Malcolm Haywood), Hugo E Carbajal (Cop), Keith Arcuragi (Cop) in
“Freedomland.” Photo Credit: mikemelnyk.com

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

What makes a great show in the Park? Well, this ain’t the ballet or the Opera or ACT. It’s the SF Mime Troupe in its 56th Season offering Free Agit-Prop political theater all summer long.  They are still doing it—and on Independence Day Weekend, they knocked it out of Dolores Park for hundreds of happy, laughing picnikers. This goes on in parks throughout the Bay Area till Labor Day weekend. The Mime Troupe brings award-winning issue-bending comedy right to your own backyard. For free.

So, how was the show, Mrs. Lincoln? Well, it’s an American show called “Freedomland” about freedom, re-defined by comic playwright and actor Michael Gene Sullivan, honing in on 21st Century Bay Area conflicts. He takes up our struggles with police brutality, drug wars, militarization of the police, military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, poverty, gentrification, corruption, and big city politics. He pushes the hot buttons, presenting an over-the-top comic, cartoon version of daily reality from the point of view of the poor and the dispossessed. How often do we see that? We still prefer to find out secret ways into the lives of “the rich and famous,” don’t we? What happened to the “reality” in life? How did we go from “Precious” to the Kardashians?

Well, funny agit-prop street theater can help us understand what is really happening in those parts of the City that many theatergoers never visit. We can still rock out to the antics of four actors playing multiple roles, using cartoon cut-outs for scenery, and singing Ira Marlowe’s political songs. These are actors with chops. The Mime Troupe brings us the City on steroids, with broad left-wing political jokes, ridiculous police break-ins, and biting connections between Middle-Eastern Wars and War in the Mission District. Its time to enjoy the high-powered, tightly wound antics of this one of a kind revolutionary troupe. Put them on your summer picnic agenda. It’s free, it’s fun, and there ain’t nothing else like it. Bring the kids.

And the motto of this Tony-Award winning SF Mime Troupe is: “Outspoken, Never Silent.”

Here we see a phoney drug war, and a family torn apart when the grandfather, Malcolm (Michael Gene Sullivan) tries to save his nephew Lluis (George P. Scott). Lluis has come back from Afghanistan and joined the SF Police Force. But despite the help of a local girl who has become an idealistic cop, Emily Militis (Lisa Hori-Garcia), he struggles to reconcile police oppression with his love for his family in the hood. We can enjoy the clever pinochle playing cop-diverting neighbor played by Hugo E Carbajal. The play makes the link between imperialist wars and the War at Home — as the Mime Troupe has been doing since the 60s and Vietnam, Cambodia — name your wars.

The humor is broad, the music is catchy, and by the end, the audience is on their feet to the tune of “There can be no law till there’s order / There can be no peace till there’s justice.” Folks in the Park jump up from their picnics on the grass, and applaud with gusto. Folks of all ages and kinds — the old-time Bar Area audience, thrilled to see the Mime Troupe one more time. “Freedomland” never gives up. This is a new play with top commedia standards.

“Freedomland” plays for free through Labor Day at various parks throughout the entire Bay area. For a schedule of performances, click here.

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“Freedomland” by Michael Gene Sullivan, by The San Francisco Mime Troupe. Director: Andrea Snow. Scenic Designer: Keiko Shimosato Carreiro. Music/Lyrics: Ira Marlowe. Musical Director: Michael Bello. Costumes: Dorothy Martinez. Sound: Lawton Lively. Stage Manager: Karen Runk.

 Cast:

Malcolm/Cadet: Michael Gene Sullivan. Lluis/Chief Parker: Hugo E Carbajal. Emily Militis/Gladys: Lisa Hori-Garcia. Nathaniel/Snorfman: George P. Scott. Cops: Hugo E Carbajal, Keith Arcuragi.

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Review: ‘Cymbeline’ at Marin Shakespeare Company (***1/2)

July 16, 2015 Leave a comment

by Charles Kruger
Rating: ***1/2
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

Paul Abbott in the tile role of Marin Shakespeare's  production of Cymbeline.

Paul Abbott in the tile role of Marin Shakespeare’s production of Cymbeline.

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

We have 37 plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Most educated Americans could easily rattle off at least seven titles, and most would recognize several more, but very few woud be familiar with the rarely-produced Cymbeline. It is a lesser work by a writer of genius, somewhat predictable, somewhat confusing, and, to be blunt, somewhat dull.  Still, it is Shakespeare and even at his least Shakespearean, that means it contains some beautiful poetry, deep themes, lifelike characters, humor, and moments of sublimity. And any Shakespeare company worth its salt will sooner or later stage every one of the plays, including Cymbeline. Well, Marin Shakespeare Company is worth its salt and pepper too and plenty of other seasonings so it’s no surprise to see them take this on.

And a good thing, too.

The great Shakespearean critic Harold Bloom (and other critics as well) has suggested that Cymbeline (like another “problem” play, Titus Andronicus) is a parody, rather than a serious play, and for all its violence and evil machinations, should be played for laughs. Themes of mortality, disappointed love, evil ambition, loss of reputation, hope and disappointment, sobriety and drunkenness, which Shakespeare treats elsewhere with extraordinary insight, empathy and compassion are here a source of fun, overplayed to the point of ridiculous exaggeration until we are moved to laugh and cry out, “lighten up, Willy!”

Director Robert Currier seems to have taken this viewpoint to heart, and he has coached his actors to deliver exaggerated, mugging, over the top, melodramatically comic performances that make this dullest of Shakespeare’s plays a laugh riot. To make sure we get the point, costumer Tammy Berlin has dressed them clownishly, including one of the most ridiculous wigs this side of drag heaven. To lighten things up further, Billie Cox has provided a clever, well composed series of songs that clarify obscure plot points, help us to understand the characters, and generally entertain.

It all adds up to a great deal of fun. Lovers of Shakespeare who are familiar with his many repeated themes and stylistic tropes will delight in the parody. Others will simply enjoy the over-the-top delight of seeing highly-trained and skilled Shakespearean actors make merciless fun of Shakespeare.

Purists may conclude that Director Currier has twisted and pulled on this play like it were salt water taffy or silly putty, with a result that is hardly Shakespearean. And they are probably right. But they couldn’t convince me that the result isn’t an improvement on the original, and damned good fun.

“Cymbeline” plays at the Forest Meadow Amphitheatre on the campus of Dominican University of California in San Rafael through July 26. For further information, click here.

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“Cymbeline” by William Shakespeare, with original music and lyrics by Billie Cox. Director: Robert Currier. Set: Jackson Currier. Costumes: Tammy Berlin.

Cast:

Cymbeline: Paul Abbott. Queen: Lee Fitzpatrick. Imogen: Stella Heath. Posthumus/Cloten: Tommy Gorrebeeck. Iachimo: Davern Wright. Cornelius: Debi Durst. Lucius: Glen Havlan. Pisanio: Jed Pisario. First Gentleman: Timothy Huls. Second Gentleman: Rory Keane. Guiderius: Zach Purdy. Avirigus: Patrick St. John. Violinist & Ensemble: Gabriela Schneider. 

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Review: ‘Club Inferno’ at Thrillpeddlers (**1/2)

July 9, 2015 Leave a comment

by Charles Kruger
Rating: **1/2
(For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)

SDOperaSpread

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Russell Blackwood’s “Thrillpeddlers” is a unique San Francisco institution. This bizarre but talented and enthusiastic troupe of amateur and professional performers is eccentric in the extreme, specializing in revivals of the “Theatre of the Ridiculous” (mostly, but not exclusively, focussing on works by The Cockettes), and original work in the tradition of Grand Guignol. If the goods are rather odd, and the quality often uneven, you can, nevertheless, always be assurred of something different, sparkling, and over-the-top. Blackwood means to celebrate a time in our San Francisco history (the relatively innocent 1970s, before AIDs, before the assassinations of Moscone and Milk, before the horror of Jonestown, before the cultural appropriation by the Marina bros) when ridiculous counter-cultural shenanigans were the order of the day, and a revolution fueled by glitter not guns seemed not only possible but happening.

The current revival of the glam-rock musical, “Club Inferno,” is fairly typical, although not as enjoyable as previous revivals of work by The Cockettes. The premise here is that an unfortunate night club performer (Dante, of course) has been electrocuted before it is her time to die. She therefore has an opportunity to escape Hell by traveling through its various circles to return to her earthly life. Each circle features a damned diva, ranging widely from rock stars to Judy Garland. My favorite sequence involved a duet between Mama Cass and Karen Carpenter. (Does that sound both tastless and funny? Damn right.)

About halfway through the performance, my companion turned to me to ask, “What the fuck is this?” At intermission, he complained, “I just don’t get it.” A helpful lady across the aisle leaned forward and said, “Honey, it’s SUPPOSED to be trashy. Don’t expect so much — have fun.” At the end of the evening, my friend told me, “I thought this was awful until that lady explained it to me. Then I could let my hair down and enjoy it!”

So, that pretty much sums it up. On a scale of one to ten the artistic excellence of “Club Inferno” is not going to break into multiples of two — but if you take it for it’s trashy worth, let your hair down and just have fun, you’ll probably have a fine time.

And I dare you not to get a kick out of Birdie-Bob Watt’s off-the-wall comedic turn as Dante’s guide, Xaron. As always, Watt is an expert performer of all things ridiculous.

“Club Inferno” continues at The Hypnodrome through August 8, 2015. For further information click here.

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“Cafe Inferno” by Kelly Kittel with music & lyrics by Peter Fogel, additional material, musical direction and arrangements by Birdie-Bob Watt. Director: Russell Blackwood. Choreography: Marilynn Fowler.

Cast: Peggy L’Eggs, John Flaw, Birdie-Bob Watt, Noah Haydon, Leigh Crow, Zelda Kosnofsky, David Bicha, Barney Ford, Lisa McHenry, Amber Sommerfeld, Carol Ann Walker, Crystal Why, Diogo Zavadzki, Jason Wade, Owen Asdell, Tommy Salami, Tim Purdue and Steve Bolinger.

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