Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This North Coast Weekend

Dell'Arte School first-years present their original clown show, titled clownishly enough, Clown! Thursday through Saturday (May 1-3) at 8 p.m. in the Carlo.  This year's students come from Sweden, Greece, Zimbabwe, Iran, Georgia, Spain, Brazil, exotic Canada and the U.S. (707) 66-5663,

It's the final weekend for the HSU Theatre, Film & Dance production of Playhouse Creatures , reviewed in the Mad River Union by Beti Trauth.  Last shows are Thursday-Saturday (May 1-3) at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee Sunday at 2, in Gist Hall Theatre. 826-3928, HSU Stage & Screen.

Continuing: the musical  I Love You Because at Redwood Curtain in a co-production with Humboldt Light Opera Company.  Busy Beti Trauth gives it a rave at Tri-City Weekly.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

This North Coast Weekend

Ophelia, Lady Macbeth and all female characters in Shakespeare and English drama were played by males before King Charles II decreed in 1660 that henceforth they must be portrayed by actual women. Playhouse Creatures by contemporary British playwright April DeAngelis is about those first actresses, backstage as well as on stage.  Its Old Vic production was billed as a “tragic-comic burlesque.”

 An HSU production opens on Thursday (April 24) for a two-weekend run. Directed by Mark Swetz, it features Queena DeLany, Anna Duchi, Michelle Purnell, Ambar Cuevas, Vanessa Fragoso, Adrienne Ralsten, Giovanni Alva and Kyle Rispoli. Scenic and prop design are by Derek Lane, costumes by Kaden O’Keefe and lighting by James McHugh. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. in Gist Hall Theatre Thursdays through Saturdays, with a matinee on Sunday May 4 at 2 p.m. 826-3928,

 The Dell’Arte School MFA Class of 2015 presents I Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Dust, their self-created exploration of tragedy, Thursday through Sunday (Apr. 24-27) at 8 p.m. in the Carlo Theatre. Creator-performers are Hannah Gaff, Alyssa Hughlett, Christopher Kehoe, Sarah McKinney, Moses Norton, Kaitlen Osburn, Drew Pannebecker and Cooper Lee Smith. 707-668-5663,

At the Arcata Playhouse on Saturday (Apr 26) Cirque du Shwazee presents a family-friendly comedy cabaret, in a benefit for the Arcata Playhouse Summer Youth Programs.  It all begins at 6:30 p.m. with local band Bandamonium and a circus midway for kids that includes face painting and a puppet show.  The main performance begins at 7:30, with aerialists, clowns and circus theatre acts, featuring Amy Tetzlaff as the giant rabbit, Guapo the Handsome One, and Cirque du Soleil clown Mooky Cornish.  822-1575,

While strictly speaking not a stage event, Ferndale Rep opens its two weekend event Music From the Hart on Thursday.  The night-by-night lineup is here at Brown Paper Tickets.  If you asked me I would guess that, despite the success of Spamalot, this is the direction the Rep Board is taking, if indeed there is a direction.

I Love You Because, the HLOC musical at Redwood Curtain, continues Thursday through Saturday (until May 17).  See review directly below.

Imperfect Love

My review of I Love You Because at Redwood Curtain runs in this week's NC Journal with changes that I didn't see in time to respond to, and still don't agree with.  In particular, I didn't write the subhead, which lifts a line I wrote about the music and applies it to the show as a whole.  The other changes mostly shifted shades of meaning to other shades, or were less than precise.

So I'm posting the review here as I wrote it, without any of these changes(including the ones that improved it.)  I had a particularly hard time finding the words for one overall impression.  Though I think I finally came up with a decent way to say it, I'll take this opportunity to make it a critique note.  At the performance I attended (Friday preview) I never got the feeling that the appropriate characters were attracted to each other, sexually and otherwise (though of course they said so and sang so.)  The closest moment was the very last, in Sarah Mullen's eyes.  This is something that might have been peculiar to the energy of that performance (the night before opening night), or if it is true, there is plenty of time in the run to figure out if it is true (or just my delusion) and see if anything can be done about it.  Because it is something that on stage as in life can make a lot credible that otherwise isn't.

Imperfect Love
Twentysomething Musical at Redwood Curtain

Humboldt Light Opera Company typically mounts a big production in late summer and a smaller musical in spring, often staged at CR with accompaniment by a single pianist. Meanwhile Redwood Curtain, which tends to specialize in contemporary “relationship” comedies, occasionally does a small musical with that theme. A few years ago the two groups actually did the same show within months of each other (The Last Five Years.)

 So a partnership of sorts seemed natural, resulting in I Love You Because, the small musical about “relationships” now on stage at Redwood Curtain in Eureka. Directed by HLOC’s Carol Ryder and featuring a HLOC cast, it benefits from the intimacy of the small house, where it is possible to be practically sitting in the pianist’s lap.

 As to be expected from a HLOC production, the singing was strong and the direction was fluid and inventive. The comic acting met the high standards of both HLOC and Redwood Curtain. And then there’s the play.

 I Love You Because is a contemporary musical comedy about twentysomethings in New York City. Austin, a conservative greeting card writer (played by Craig Waldvogal) and Marcy, a free-spirited photographer (Sarah Mullen) are each facing the end of a “relationship.” Marcy’s mathematically inclined friend Diana (Amy Chalfant) counsels her on the correct number of months she should allow before getting serious about someone else. Austin’s buffoonish brother Jeff advises him to play the field. Shaelan Salas-Rich and Carl McGahan play the chorus of barkeep, waitress and barista.

 Austin and Marcy, Diana and Jeff meet cute, then wobble into sexual liasons until the end of the first act when all of them are breaking up and desolate. Guess what happens in the second act.

I Love You Because was written by Ryan Cunningham (book and lyrics) and Joshua Salzman (music), at least partly while they were students in New York University’s musical theatre graduate program. The play has the seams-showing quality of a thesis, layered with a lot of what’s euphemistically called “language.”

 The mostly upbeat music is dominated by the kind of wordy, wandering pop that’s become standard since early Alanis Morissette. It can express contemporary self-consciousness and emotion, while also exposing banalities. The lyrics like the script vary alarmingly from the witty to the moronic.

 Still, the score is mostly pleasant and has some variation, from do-wop to a couple of second act songs that might fit nicely into a 40s or 50s musical. And it has the proper mixture of solos, duets, quartets etc. likely learned from the NYU curriculum, that with this cast yield some transcendent musical moments.

There are funny bits in a formulaic script. The original producers billed it as a gender-switched version of Pride and Prejudice, but except for a few Austen puns and distant, incoherent echoes, the claim is so disingenuous as to be counterproductive. People who don’t really know Pride and Prejudice won’t care, while Austen devotees may be so offended that any chance of appreciating the evening on its merits is lost. If Jane herself got wind of this claim she’d likely be throwing up in her grave.

 The competitive and superficial frenzy of New York may well have spread among twentysomethings with the speed of Instagram. This potential audience, dealing with real emotion in their lives, may appreciate the musical’s observations and messages, especially about accepting imperfection. But a better script and more of a sense that the appropriate characters are actually attracted to each other might make this a convincing experience: more of a show than a tell.

 During scene changes, this production played vivid taped testimonies written by North Coast people about their actual love lives.

 Laura Welch is musical director and accompanist, Jayson Mohatt is scenic and lighting designer. I Love You Because is on stage at Redwood Curtain through May 17. This unusually long run is meant to compensate for the small number of seats, so reservations are highly recommended by management. 443-7688,

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

This North Coast Weekend

Redwood Curtain and Humboldt Light Opera Company team up to produce the musical I Love You Because, with book and lyrics by Ryan Cunningham and music by Joshua Salzman.  It's directed by Carol Ryder and features Gino Bloomberg, Amy Chalfant, Carl McGahan, Hannah Mullen, Shaelan Salas Rich and Craig Waldvogel.  Previews are Thursday and Friday (April 17, 18) with official opening night on Saturday.  It's scheduled for a five week run but it's in the relatively tiny Redwood Curtain theatre, so reservations are highly recommended., 443-7688.

At North Coast Rep, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Revised) [Abridged] concludes its run with shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This North Coast Weekend

Closing out its Family Fun series, Arcata Playhouse hosts Santa Barbara's Boxtale Theatre Company with its production of The Odyssey Friday and Saturday  (April 12-13) at 7 p.m. plus a 2 p.m. show on Saturday.  Using physical theatre, masks, stilts, shadow puppets and live music, the show dramatizes the homeward voyage of Odysseus and his encounters with Poseidon, Athena, Zeus, the Cyclops, the Sirens, etc.  This is of course a family-friendly event (school classes will see it in addition to these public performances.)  (707) 822-1575,

Dell’Arte presents a work-in-progress, Elisabeth’s Book, Friday and Saturday (April 12-13) at 8 p.m. in the Carlo Theatre.  (There will be no Thursday show for the public, as previously announced.)  This original piece uses movement, music and images to tell the story of three women who survive concentration camps and further trials after World War II. Based on a true story and conceived by Joan Schirle, it is a collaboration among performers Schirle, Laura Munoz and Ruxy Cantir, and director Alain Schons (a French designer/director and former director of the Dell’Arte School.) Audiences for this in-progress version will help shape Elisabeth’s Book for its official premiere at Dell’Arte in July. Tickets are pay-what-you-can. It is deemed not suitable for young children. (707) 668-5663 ext. 20.

After the weekend, Dell'Arte also presents a one night reprise of Three Trees, the anti-militarist clown show created and performed by Lauren Wilson, Stephanie Thompson and Joe Krienke, on Tuesday April 15 at 8 p.m. in the Carlo.  It's a warm-up for a subsequent tour.  The Dell'Arte publicity quotes the North Coast Journal as describing it as "Alice in Wonderland meets Mother Courage."  I guess that was me.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] continues at North Coast Rep Friday and Saturday at 8 . Then on Sunday at 7 p.m., another film in "NCRT's Night at the Movies" series is screened: the classic 1950 Cyrano de Bergerac, with Jose Ferrer, directed by Michael Gordon.  It's free to season ticket holders and five bucks for everybody else.

Physical Reality, the HSU Dance Concert, completes its run Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 in the Van Duzer, with a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m. Maia Cheli-Colando reviews it in this week's NCJ.  HSU Stage & Screen.  Tickets: 826-3928.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

This North Coast Weekend

The annual HSU Dance show, this year entitled Physical Reality, opens tonight (April 3) at 7:30 in the Van Duzer Theatre.  It continues Friday and Saturday evenings, Thursday-Saturday next weekend, with a matinee on Sunday April 13 at 2 p.m.  Tickets: 826-3928.  Information: HSU Stage and Screen.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] continues at North Coast Rep.  My NCJ review includes the following sentences--see if you can spot the multiple puns. (Yeah, well I've got to have some fun.)

So the authors of this more recent revision had the benefit of hundreds of audiences to fine-tune a perfect laugh machine. If the highly lubricated opening night audience at North Coast Rep is any proof, it works.