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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Earnest delights at Stanford Summer Theater

Jul 27

<i>Earnest</i> delights at Stanford Summer Theater

How nice to report that Stanford Summer Theater launches its 15th anniversary season with a crackling good production of Oscar Wilde's masterwork, The Importance of Being Earnest directed by Lynne Sofer.

I reviewed the show for the Palo Alto Weekly. Here are a few excerpts.

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TheatreWorks’ musical Earnest fun but unnecessary

Apr 07

TheatreWorks’ musical <i>Earnest</i> fun but unnecessary

In addition to some terrific songs and a perennial reason to scream at Dover to "move yer bloomin' ass," My Fair Lady has left an interesting legacy in the form a highly raised bar to which all classic plays turned into musicals must aspire. Most composers have all but given up trying to transform an already great play into an even better musical and instead turn to movies as grist for the musical mill.

But Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska are still aiming toward the Shavian/Lerner and Loeweian heights. Quite courageously, they have turned Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest into a musical. Being Earnest, their transformed work, is having its world premiere courtesy of TheatreWorks at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

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Just Wilde over Aurora’s Salomania

Jun 22

Just Wilde over Aurora’s <i>Salomania</i>

If only a 94-year-old scandal were sensational in ways we no longer understood, we could look back and wonder what all the fuss was about and why the media underestimated the taste of the general public and why the general public was so content to be constantly underestimated.

Alas, not much has changed since the early 20th century criminal libel suit that American dancer Maud Allan brought against British newspaper publisher Noel Pemberton-Billing after he described the interest in her dance piece Vision of Salomé as the "cult of the clitoris." That was the headline he used in his paper, the Vigilante, to describe the moral reprobates who were attracted to Allan's version of the play by Oscar Wilde, which had been banned since Wilde's very public downfall.

What we learn in Mark Jackson's fascinating and at moments electrifying new play Salomania is that the media, though their aims may be occasionally true, are a pawn in larger political games and panderers to public taste, which they help shape.

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Enter Stage Left: SF theater history on film

Oct 03

Enter <i>Stage Left</i>: SF theater history on film

Docuemntary film director/producer Austin Forbord (below right) has created a fascinating documentary about the history of San Francisco theater from the post-World War II days up to the present. The movie has its premeire at the Mill Valley Film Festival this week and will likely see wider release soon after.

I interviewed Forbord for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle. You can read the story here.

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Review: `Vera Wilde’

Sep 20

Opened Sept. 19, 2008 at the Ashby Stage   Sean Owens (center) is Ocar Wilde in Shotgun Players’ production of Vera Wilde, a musical play by Chris Jeffries. Owens is flanked by (from left) Danielle Levin, Edward Brauer and Tyler Kent. Photos by Jessica Palopoli   Shotgun’s revolution in Russian, Irish, musical stripes Oscar Wilde’s first...

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