Scheie shines in SJ Rep’s poignant Next Fall

Oct 26

Scheie shines in SJ Rep’s poignant <i>Next Fall</i>

As an actor and director, there is seemingly nothing Danny Scheie cannot do. Over the summer, he dazzled in several drag roles in California Shakespeare Theater's Lady Windermere's Fan (read my review here), and now he's doing a serious about face in the drama Next Fall with San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Geoffrey Nauffts' play is formulaic to a degree, but it's a sturdy formula, and Scheie – not to mention the rest of the excellent cast – bring out the best in this play about faith, love and family.

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Looking at the stars: Cal Shakes fans flames of Wilde’s Winderemere

Aug 18

Looking at the stars: Cal Shakes fans flames of Wilde’s <i>Winderemere</i>

If you want, as Oscar Wilde did, to make cogent and funny points about men and women, husbands and wives and the notion of good people vs. bad people, what better way to do that than by putting Danny Scheie in a dress and letting him unleash his inner Dame Maggie Smith?

Scheie's performance as the Duchess of Berwick in the California Shakespeare Theater's production Lady Windermere's Fan, Wilde's first major theatrical it, is one of many pleasures in director Christopher Liam Moore's beguiling production.

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A wildly Happy homecoming at TheatreWorks

Jun 09

A wildly <i>Happy</i> homecoming at TheatreWorks

In his wildly cynical, angry, sad and, ultimately, happy new play Wild With Happy, playwright/actor (and former San Franciscan) Colman Domingo is doing several admirable things. In telling the story of a 40-year-old man who has just lost his mother, he is telling a modern fairy tale in which the mother – so often long dead and gone in such tales – is the driving force. And he's pushing hard against the enormous cultural boulder that goes by various names – cynicism, snark, realism – but is really just the absence of hope.

In its West Coast premiere from TheatreWorks, Wild With Happy is a light farce until it isn't.

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Berkeley Rep’s Troublemaker is freakin A for awesome

Jan 11

Berkeley Rep’s <i>Troublemaker</i> is freakin A for awesome

The joy, turbulence and agony of being a tween are so effectively conveyed in Dan LeFranc's Troublemaker, or The Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright, that you forgive him his excesses. After all, if you can't be excessive telling the story of a troubled 12-year-old, when can you?

LeFranc's play, now having its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a coming-of-age story cleverly disguised as a hyperactive, hyper-verbal adventure story invented by a bright kid with some deep-seeded emotional problems. Constructed in three acts with two intermissions, the play begins as spin on the noir genre. Instead of hardboiled detectives and criminals, we have Bradley Boatright, a Rhode Island seventh grader. And instead of all that cool Sam Spade dialogue, we have Bradley's own invented slang that's a whole lot more lively and fun. The words "freak" and "freakin" carry much of the load, as do "spangles, "intel" and "a-hole." It's pretend swearing to such an outrageous level that it's actually beautiful in its own poetic way.

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Cal Shakes’ Shrew anything but tame

Sep 25

Cal Shakes’ <i>Shrew</i> anything but tame

If you think you've seen The Taming of the Shrew, you might want to think again. Director Shana Cooper's production – the season-closer for the California Shakespeare Theater – is fresh, feisty and full of insight. Many a Shrew can make you cringe, but very few, like this one, can actually make you lose yourself in the comedy, the provocation and the genuine emotion underneath it all.

Cooper brings a sense of contemporary flash and fun to the production, from the bright yellow accents in Scott Dougan's double-decker set (backed by a colorful billboard-like ad for a product called "Tame") to the zippy song mash-ups in the sound design by Jake Rodriguez. The music is especially fun. You can hear strains of Madonna's "Material Girl" followed by a flash of the "Wonder Woman" theme song one minute and revel in almost an entire number ("Tom, Dick or Harry") from Kiss Me Kate, the next.

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Marvelous Much Ado closes Cal Shakes season

Sep 26

Marvelous <i>Much Ado</i> closes Cal Shakes season

Much Ado About Nothing can be one of Shakespeare’s trickier romantic comedies. It’s full of sparring lovers, great lines and thoroughly entertaining comic bits. But it also contains some harsh drama, faked death and edgy mischief making. Capturing just the right tone can help ease the audience through all those shifts, and that’s what eludes so many directors of the play.

Thankfully, California Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone finds fresh ways to meld all of Shakespeare’s fragments into a seamless and captivating whole.

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