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Sonoma County Gazette

Theater - Performing Arts

Live theater thrives in Sonoma County with stages in every city and even small towns. From entertaining musicals to deep dramas, performers bring entertainment into our lives in intimate theaters. Alexa Chipman wite PREViews for our print edition so readers can get a glimpse of what is coming up int he next month in live theater - and REviews on our website all month long.  Please see current and past reviews online.SEARCH: ALEXA CHIPMAN and Harry Duke for their reviews.

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2018-05-18May 18, 2018

The difference between seeing a play again and watching a movie more than once, is that the play will necessarily be different every time you see it. Even if it’s the same cast, a play is a living thing with changing moods and nuances. I’ve seen Sam Shepard’s True West several times and each endeavor has been different. Director Christopher Johnston’sproduction at Cloverdale Performing Arts Center is full of energy, truth and brilliant acting.

2018-04-25Apr 25, 2018

Managing dichotomous personalities in a relationship can rend an otherwise loving couple into quarreling combatants. She might wish to attend a party, chatting eagerly with friends, and he might prefer relaxing at home with a book relishing peaceful silence. For the married psychologists in ‘Just My TYPE’ that sort of challenge is familiar—they have been counseling couples for years. When Ben and Kate decide to co-author a book, their writing retreat of friendly banter descends into open hostility with the looming deadline, testing their theories of mutual understanding.

2018-04-25Apr 25, 2018

Cinderella dashes through thickets in a dazzling ball gown, Jack burgles the giants atop his beanstalk, and Red Riding Hood searches for her grandmother’s house in this mashup of classic fairytale architypes. Driven by Stephen Sondheim’s rhythmic music, with brief interludes of prose from James Lapine, ‘Into the Woods’ delves into trauma and uncertainty. Cinderella assures that “No One Is Alone” as they journey through the woods, while the Witch recommends staying away from trouble in “Our Little World.”

2018-04-16Apr 16, 2018

Arthur Miller’s classic play. Tensions are strained between the old-fashioned father who is convinced that a likable demeanor will leverage a dazzling business career and his practical son, Biff, who prefers invigorating labor on ranches and farms.

2018-04-11Apr 11, 2018

Gather for GlamaGore ScreamiCon, a convention celebrating low budget horror films and the ridiculous role of negligee-clad actresses shrieking and running from monsters. This raunchy parody with outrageous bangled costumes and fluffy blonde wigs by Taylor Bartolucci features silly, entertaining songs detailing the less-than-glamorous lifestyle of “B-Movie” acting, such as “Don’t Open That Door” and a melancholy “Happy Endings” lamenting a dearth of lasting relationships.

2018-04-07Apr 7, 2018

Eccentric San Francisco residents wander through Nick’s waterfront dive bar, swapping outrageous tales, looking for jobs, and flirting with women who take their fancy. Premiering in 1939, the play’s age is evident in jokes about darkies, Indians, and midgets which are in poor taste. William Saroyan’s casual pace and shifting style augments these unfortunate details, coming to a hasty and violent denouement which seems out of place with the previous quiet, thoughtful monologues.

2018-04-06Apr 6, 2018

Cloverdale Performing Arts Center’s latest production is The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. If the work of this author doesn’t immediately come to mind, that’s not surprising. Though this California native lived into the 1970’s, the bulk of his popularity in both stage and novels came during World War II. But this play has surprising relevance to the issues and tone of many debates going on today.

2018-04-03Apr 3, 2018

Overcome by medical bills and responsibilities, Eddie brings his children to stay with relatives, leaving them at the mercy of ferocious disciplinarian Grandma Kurnitz and capriciously cheerful Bella, who swings between offering ice cream sundaes to threats with the slightest misunderstanding.

2018-04-01Apr 1, 2018

Sonoma County theatres and artists took home five production awards and one Special Award at the 42nd Annual San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC) Excellence in Theatre Awards Gala. Over 300 members of the community gathered as 67 production awards for theatre produced in 2017 and four Special Awards were presented.

2018-03-29Mar 29, 2018

Sonoma State University Theatre Arts & Dance has developed an electrifying performance of rhythmic physicality with the Brooklyn-basedUrban Bush Women troupe, who emphasize the potential and strength of disenfranchised people when given opportunities to reach beyond traditional roles.

2018-03-29Mar 29, 2018

Mother’s Day is what May is all about. If you’re lucky enough to have your mom in your life, start a new tradition and take her to a movie after brunch this Mother’s Day!

2018-05-18May 18, 2018

Creative Sonoma announces recipients of Arts Education Innovation Grants totalling $88,000 to fund fifteen innovative arts education programs serving students in the County who may have limited access to arts training. 

2018-03-29Mar 29, 2018

Thank you for the emails congratulating my friend, Sam Rockwell, for winning best supporting actor for “Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”.

2018-03-22Mar 22, 2018

Billboards warning of child sex trafficking remind Sonoma County residents that the devastating abuse of minors is closer to home than we prefer to imagine. Main Stage West’s ‘Blackbird’ is a challenging play addressing the topic of pedophilia in a stark, disturbing conversation. A young woman has returned to face the man who took advantage of her as a young teenager, searching for closure. Their stilted meeting transforms into an honest, painful exchange that is chilling in accuracy and content.

2018-03-18Mar 18, 2018

The Elizabethan holiday season, crowned by Twelfth Night, was a boisterous atmosphere of inebriated celebration, where the Lord of Misrule held court, eventually banned by Puritans who were horrified at the unbridled pagan revelry. William Shakespeare draws on its festive mischief for his comedy of gender swapping and mistaken identities causing a romantic tangle “too hard a knot for me to untie” as Viola bemoans.

2018-03-15Mar 15, 2018

In our relentless, fast-paced society, taking time to figure out how to cope with problems such as addiction or health conditions is overwhelming. Jenny Sutter is a former marine who finds herself at a lonely bus stop, unable to take the final step that will lead her home. She is not ready for the stress of civilian life and responsibilities; she watches bus after bus go by while paralyzed to act.

2018-03-13Mar 13, 2018

Backstage at a poorly rehearsed play about to go on tour, a fictional director emerges from the audience, exasperated at the train wreck he is about to set loose on the world. The company is confused by when they should carry props in and out of scenes, their set is falling apart, and interpersonal dramas among the players lead to cactus and whisky wielding mayhem.

2018-03-06Mar 6, 2018

Withered flowers abandoned to decay surround the stage of this elaborate Gothic melodrama. Two sisters are trapped in a pseudo-Victorian world by the memory of a twisted, overbearing father, and cope by retreating into labyrinthine fantasies. The warped sanctuary is shattered when an escaped convict arrives, violently forcing the sisters to examine reality and break free of their self-imposed prisons.

2018-03-05Mar 5, 2018

Suburbia’s white picket fences and rows of neatly trimmed houses give the illusion of a well-ordered existence in this clever play by Will Eno. Meet the Joneses and Joneses, two neighboring couples who have moved into a small mountain town for similar unspoken reasons. Their blunt quips and friendly exchanges hide layers of denial and anxiety, “throwing words at each other” observes a frustrated character, during an inane conversation about the weather.

2018-03-02Mar 2, 2018

‘Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter’ from Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts follows a U.S. Marine returning from Iraq, and her transition into civilian life, through a misfit desert community called “Slab City” with quirky, amusing residents.

2018-03-02Mar 2, 2018

As I write this column, I am hoping that my friend Sam Rockwell wins the Academy Award for best supporting actor for“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.

2018-02-20Feb 20, 2018

‘Equus’ is a mesmerizing journey of metaphysical deduction by Peter Shaffer. Psychologist Dr. Martin Dysart seeks to understand why a teenager blinded horses under his care. Their court-appointed sessions are strained, leading Dysart to seek insight from the boy’s parents and tenaciously coax Alan Strang into reliving the choices leading up to his violent act.

2018-05-17May 17, 2018

Slapstick British comedy turns a sophisticated 1920s bachelor pad into a tangled web of intricate deceit for a worthy cause.

2018-02-14Feb 14, 2018

Basking in tropical sunshine, “South Pacific” is set during World War II on an idyllic island. Restless sailors have been left to their own devices, until a marine lieutenant arrives with a daring plan to spy on the enemy fleet. Necessity brings together a diverse gathering of Americans, French, and the native population, which appear to be in harmony until romance blossoms, triggering the internalized racism simmering below the surface and ripping apart the lovers in self-imposed pain.

2018-02-14Feb 14, 2018

Thinking outside the box once again, Cloverdale Performing Arts Center opens their 2018 season with David Mamet’s November, in February. But the timing couldn’t be better. With everything going on in the real White House these days, it’s fun to compare that with Mamet’s vision of a desperate man’s last-ditch effort to hold on to power even when all hope is gone.

2018-02-05Feb 5, 2018

Ayad Akhtar’s chilling play ‘Disgraced’ explores the cultural identity of Muslim Americans struggling to belong in a society that inherently views them with suspicion. A diverse group of characters consider the multi-faceted issue, from an eager young man who believes in the Koran’s wisdom to a Caucasian artist accused of orientalism because she is drawing inspiration from Islamic tiling traditions in her paintings.

2018-01-22Jan 22, 2018

Vibrant country music inspires three women to give up their mediocre lives in favor of a one-way ticket to Nashville. Classic songs like “I Will Always Love You” and “9 to 5” link together to progress the story and deepen understanding of the characters, while causing laughs along the way.

2018-01-22Jan 22, 2018

What would you do if somebody offered you over half a million dollars to leave your rent controlled apartment?

2018-01-21Jan 21, 2018

‘The Dining Room’ by A.R. Gurney interweaves eighteen vignettes of family life—a daughter standing up for her independence, children prattling about politics with innocent enthusiasm, and a son struggling to accept his father’s passing. Shifting scenes overlap and flow in a collection of short stories, rather than a linear plot. The actors step into a wide range of personalities and ages; directorJoey Hoeber keeps the characters clear-cut, avoiding confusion and delayed transitions by relying on the cast, rather than elaborate set or costume adjustments.

2017-12-29Dec 29, 2017

It’s that time of year again for the usual “Best of…” lists where critics review their picks for the best (and sometimes worst) in music, movies, fashion, etc. and give people at holiday parties something to argue about.

2017-12-01Dec 1, 2017

The Holiday Season is upon us. That means not only shopping, decorations and more shopping, but also a slew of Christmas movie reruns and live shows. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center's contribution to the latter category isNutcracker . . . The Musical, a whimsical retelling of the classic ballet that's bound to entertain every member of your extended family.

2017-11-27Nov 27, 2017

Season  & Performance Tickets make great holiday gifts. Slip them inside a glass with a bottle of wine, beer, cider, a box of locally made food, a jar of popcorn kernels, wrapped around candy bars, whatever creative way you care to dress up a small package with a large experience inside.

2018-05-15May 15, 2018

Fairy dust lifts the Darling children soaring through starry skies to a fantastical realm of pirates and eternal youth. Since 1904, J. M. Barrie’s tale of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up, has captured the imagination; deep down we want to believe in happy endings. Spreckels’ enthralling production includes midair fight scenes, Tinkerbell rifling through drawers and shifting pictures through practical effects, and elaborate costumes. Director Sheri Lee Miller has honed an effective ensemble for Neverland exploits.

2018-05-13May 13, 2018

‘Eurydice,’ performed at Main Stage West in Sebastopol, may have the reputation of tragic love, but inSarah Ruhl’s reimagined legend, the tender connection between father and daughter is what gleams beyond the Underworld’s restrictive rules that the dead should not remember or yearn for lost family.John Craven’s Father takes a central role, with childlike gentleness toward Eurydice, determined to keep her grounded and aware in a madcap world of chanting stones and creaking caverns where no one is allowed to cry.

2018-05-11May 11, 2018

‘Women in Jeopardy!’ is an irreverent glimpse into hysterical flights of fancy and the lengths to which people will go in defense of friends, even if that means hiking a narrow mountain trail in the dark with a potential killer on the loose. Left Edge Theatre’s vivacious cast and tight direction from Carla Spindt create an engaging adventure. Pull your hiking boots on for a creepy, entertaining camping trip with the ‘Women in Jeopardy!’

2018-05-07May 7, 2018

‘La Cage aux Folles’ is a mix of night club performances, comedic squabbling, and romantic ballads in the moonlight. Its relaxing atmosphere and endless parade of shimmering, festooned costumes, designed byMarcy Frank, is a pleasant divertissement. Director Russell Kaltschmidt emphasizes its central theme of love, from tentative and freshly discovered to a well-aged relationship, like a rich cellared wine.Harvey Fierstein’s high-spirited book andJerry Herman’s playful songs embellish the rather frivolous, yet enjoyable story.

2018-05-02May 2, 2018

Interacting online can be an odd combination of genuine encounters and superficial clamoring for the sake of sounding clever.Quiara Alega Hudes has captured snarky banter and pleas for help found on an internet forum and chatroom for recovering addicts.Vincent Mothersbaugh’s simple set design creates multiple locations, from a mango-themed internet café in Japan to a typical corporate desk environment.

2018-05-02May 2, 2018

Main Stage West’s ‘Eurydice’ is an inventive retelling of the Greek myth, empowering characters with unexpected choices and relatable personalities. Sarah Ruhl’s contemplative play explores Eurydice’s relationship with her father and the tragic tale of lost love. A water feature of the forgetful river Lethe meanders through Ruhl’s tale of missed connections and fleeting bliss.

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