Rumor mill: Downtown SF theaters closing?

UPDATED 5:45 p.m., April 29, 2009
The rumors have been swirling for days that the Post Street Theatre and the Marines Memorial Theatre are closing down.

Roberto Friedman in the Bay Area Reporter reported that the most recent Post Street show, the ballroom dance extravaganza Burn the Floor, would be heading to Broadway but added: “Uncorroborated word that both Post St. and Marines Memorial theaters are to go dark…That would be a real loss to the theater community of San Francisco. Shouldn’t there be a hue and cry over this, like there was over the loss of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre? Or the Tonga Room?”

The Post Street and the Marines, both mid-size professional houses conveniently located near Union Square, were taken over in the early 2000s by brothers Scott and Robert Nederlander Jr of the Nederlander Company. Click here to see some of the more recent shows that have played both theaters.

So far, the only official notice is this:

The Nederlander Company has concluded negotiations with the Post Street and Marines Memorial Theatres and they will no longer be the permanent lessee for either theater. However, this doesn’t preclude them from producing in those theaters in the future.

Review: `Dame Edna: Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour’

Dame Edna warbles her way through songs and insults audience member like nobody’s business in her new show, Dame Edna: Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour, at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre. Photo by

Familiar shtick hobbles grand Dame’s latest outing
«« ½

Nobody works an audience like Dame Edna.

Ten years ago, Bay Area audiences were gleefully brutalized by Australian actor Barry Humphries’ most celebrated creation in Dame Edna’s Royal Tour. That show injected new life into the Dame’s late-life career and eventually landed her on Broadway, where she won a special Tony Award.

The last couple times Edna has been back to San Francisco, she has played the Broadway-size Curran Theatre, but now that she’s back to celebrate both her 10th anniversary revival in San Francisco and her 50th year in show business, she’s back in the cozy confines of the Post Street Theatre, where we fell for her a decade ago (when the space was called Theatre on the Square).

In Dame Edna: Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour, which opened Sunday and continues into early January, the glittery, mauve-haired dame holds court in all the usual ways – and that’s both a joy and a problem.

When it comes to interacting with – and insulting – audience members, Edna is in a class all her own. She insults the folks in the balcony, chiding them for their poverty, though instead of calling them paupers this time out, she describes them as “nouveau pauvre” and calls them Les Miserables.

She makes fun of a woman near the stage for attempting to make her own clothes and failing miserably, and then chides senior citizens for being old and attempts to dazzle them by jiggling the rhinestones on her glittery dress.

There’s the traditional tossing of the gladioli at the end of the show and references to her gay son Kenny, though Edna is still hoping he’ll meet Ms. Right someday. She leads the audience in the sing-along “Friends of Kenny,” which she says has become her signature song since introducing it during the Royal Tour. Andrew Ross capably accompanies Edna and gives her a few polite nudges when she veers off track.

The frocks (designed by John Van Gastel and Stephen Adnitt) are garishly gorgeous – the puffy, rainbow jacket that opens the second act might actually be a parade float – and the winged spectacles are as sparkly as ever.

Even though we meet Edna’s estranged daughter Valmai (played by the wonderful San Francisco actress Erin-Kate Whitcomb, who really could stand to be more than just a glorified stage assistant), there’s not much new in this outing.

Edna befriends women in the audience and later invites them up on stage to be part of a proposed HBO talk show. Opening night’s group was less than scintillating, though there was a woman celebrating her 93rd birthday who had been singled out by the Dame at a show 10 years ago.

The first act ends with Edna marrying two of her audiences members (never mind that one was gay and the other was already married), and that’s a cute bit. This is where Edna hauls out the telephone and attempts some improv comedy with a stranger. After a few answering machines, Edna finally got a livewire human, and the show, as Edna had predicted, did not go down the toilet.

As a big Edna fan, I have to express disappointment that this show offers us very little we haven’t seen before. In interviews leading up to his show’s opening, the 74-year-old Humphries said that this show would see the American debut of one of his other characters, cultural attaché Sir Les Patterson, but he’s nowhere to be seen. He appeared in the Austin run of this show but has disappeared.

There is a surprise guest in the show, but the appearance is part of an awkwardly structured ending that isn’t nearly as satisfying as it should or could be.

As familiar as much of the material seems, Humphries is still a deft comedian, and Edna gets off some very funny lines. She says she has adopted a baby from “the same village where Madonna shops for her loved ones.”

And she bought Sarah Palin an Atlas and sent it care of the North Pole. But Palin, though happy with the gift, was disappointed in it because she couldn’t find “overseas.”

The subtitle of the show is “A meditation on gender and post-election trauma,” which is a bit of a joke because the show is neither. If Edna mentioned President-elect Obama, I missed it. She did mention Lehman Brothers and the bombed-out crater that is the stock market, but the focus of the show is on audience interaction.

When you go to the show – and if you haven’t ever seen Dame Edna, you really should at least once – dress nicely or you’ll hear about it. And if one-on-one interaction with an Australian gigastar who’s actually a man in a dress scares you, consider sitting in the balcony.


Dame Edna: Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour continues through Jan. 4 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $58-$78. Call 415-771-6900 or visit for information.

Nothin’ like this Dame: Humphries returns, Edna in tow

Creative schizophrenia is a common occurrence in show biz. You’ve got actors, writers and sometimes even directors donning different personalities in the name of storytelling and entertainment.

Nowhere was this fascinating split personality more evident than when interviewing comic genius Barry Humphries and his most famous creation, Dame Edna Everage.

The goal was to talk to creator and creation for a Theatre Bay Area magazine story (coming soon to in conjunction with the Dame’s new show coming to San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre (where it’s in previews now and officially opens Sunday, Nov. 23).

I was delighted by the assignment, having been a fan of both Edna and Humphries for years. I had interviewed both before and was excited to experience some of Humphries’ improv brilliance.

But let me tell you, interviewing a character is a strange experience (as it must be for Humphries to be interviewed in character – talk about concentration and chops!).

When I spoke to Humphries, he was doing a quick stopover in San Francisco and the previous night had appeared as Dame Edna at Macy’s Passport fashion fundraiser. In addition to kissing Mayor Gavin Newsom, Edna had auctioned herself off to the highest bidder (all in the name of charity, of course).

“I don’t know what will come of that,” Humphries mused.

We talked about Edna’s golden jubilee – 50 years since her creation – last year, and how this year’s return to San Francisco marks 10 years since Edna’s appearance at the Theatre on the Square (now the Post Street) sparked a late-career renaissance that led to a special Tony Award on Broadway.

Humphries is an erudite man, and conversation with him always takes surprising turns.

From Edna’s outrageous onstage high jinks, we skittered around to Humphries’ early days in comedy when he would play outrageous pranks on the public such as planting food in a garbage can near a busy restaurant, dressing as a street person and then wandering by, digging through the trash and eating what he “finds.” And then there was the trick with the canned soup and the air sick bag, but that’s a little gross.

“I’ve always thought of myself as Dadaist in the old European sense,” Humphries says. “I’ve always been very entertained and stimulated by that particular art movement. Through that I drifted into the theater. I really didn’t consciously choose acting. I did shows at university intended to outrage people.”

Humphries, it seemed, loved to shame the audience by enticing them to boo and heckle someone on stage, then reveal the person was blind and not really part of the show.

“I would trick them into derision and then trick them into feeling terrible shame and regret,” he says. “I enjoyed doing things of that kind.”

In later years, even as Edna, Humphries would still pull tricks such as having stunt people seated in a box in the theater, then when Edna begins hurling gladioli at the end of the show, they’d overreach to grab a flower and fall out of the box (they were outfitted with a safety harness, but the terrified audience didn’t know that).

“The whole audience was standing up, trying to assist and practically climbing up the stucco walls,” Humphries recalls. “Then Edna would say something like, `Isn’t that awful! Wouldn’t it be terrible if that happened every night!’ The audience was tricked into feeling terrible alarm and panic, but the stunt itself was very expensive – more than it cost to have four dancers in the show. But it was worth it.”

Humphries realizes the interview has hit the 30-minute mark, and politely signs off. The plan was to switch personae and spend the next 30 minutes as Dame Edna, but apparently he’s pooped and begs off the Edna interview.

A few weeks later, I call Humphries’ native Australia to talk with the Dame, and this is what I was greeted with: “Hello, darling Chad. You’ve caught me doing my toenails. I like to do them myself. I don’t like a strange woman fiddling with my extremities.”

Discussing how happy she is to be returning to San Francisco, Dame Edna says when in town, she often stays with society doyenne Denise Hale. “I don’t understand a word she says, but I adore that little Serbian minx. Hence the term `acerbic.’ Every aspect of San Fran I love.”

The grand Dame likes to work personal details of her interviewer into the conversation. She offers congratulations on a recent marriage and sends greetings to the new spouse. Then she offers an astrological observation: “You are such a typical Leo. It’s that growling thing you do. And you’re carnivorous.”

Last time she was in San Francisco, Edna revealed that she had been to local gay author Armistead Maupin’s wedding. “There was no sign of the bride. But something very excited happened. I caught his bouquet.”

Trying to get the conversation back on track proved impossible, but the ride was an awful lot of fun.


Dame Edna: Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour continues through Jan. 4 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $58-$78. Call 415-771-6900 or visit for information.

Here’s footage of Humphries and Dame Edna meeting:

Review: `Siegfried and Roy Present Darren Romeo: The Voice of Magic


Musical theater turns magical – somewhat
«« ½ Flash, bang, wallop

Darren Romeo is many things over the course of his 90-minute magic and music show with the cumbersome title.

He’s a magician, as promised, and a singer, as promised. He’s also, as the title reminds us, the protégé of master Vegas magicians Siegfried and Roy. But Romeo is also a magic enthusiast eager to share his hobby, a musical theater aspirant who wants to move people with the sound of his voice and an old-school Vegas entertainer with a lust for flash over substance.

That’s a lot to pack into a small frame, but Romeo does it. He’s also a young man – I’d guess around 30 – so he has the need to make it all fresh while paying homage to all the magicians (and boy have there been a lot of them) to come before him. Being classic and new is a tricky maneuver and one Romeo is still working his way through in The Voice of Magic at the Post Street Theatre.

There’s still a lot of Vegas cheese in the show and a few Branson, Mo., clunkers left to smooth out. But Romeo has his charms, nowhere more apparent than when all the set pieces and flashing lights and overstrained songs are set aside and he goes one-on-one with a kid from the audience. On Tuesday night, that kid was 10-year-old Ashley, a charmer in her own right. She and Romeo sat at the edge of the stage, in front of the curtain, and Romeo did a simple but impressive (and slightly icky – in a good kid way) card trick. The number was meant to recall Romeo’s Long Island youth as a kids’ party entertainer and to show us how far he’s come. But Romeo would be wise to build a little more of that human element into his show.

Just as Romeo is attempting to be many things as a young, singing magician, so too is his show attempting to be spectacular and intimate, romantic and funny, impressive and silly. It doesn’t all work, but Romeo has the energy to keep it all together. He builds nice rapport with the audience, even if his fake giggle grates from time to time, and when he’s more natural and less “on” he’s quite appealing.

Romeo seemed to have a case of opening-night nerves on Tuesday and probably wasn’t as slick as on other nights when his mentors aren’t sitting in the orchestra (Siegfried and Roy, who is still recovering from a near-death encounter with one of their famous white tigers, received a standing ovation from the crowd). Some of the tricks and entrances were a little rough and revealed maybe more than the magician would have liked.

And he seemed to be suffering some vocal troubles that plagued certain numbers. But Romeo is enough of a pro that he pulled it all off with panache.

I can neither sing nor do magic tricks, let alone do both at the same time, so Romeo is well ahead of me in both departments. What he’s doing on stage is much harder than he makes it look, and some of it is beguiling. He serenades an audience member while singing Billy Joel’s sweetly sad “And So It Goes” while making a paper rose then, in a fiery flash, turning it into a real rose. He changes places in a flash several times with his leading lady, Kristy Michelsen, who also does some tricks and sings some songs of her own.

And then there’s the bit with the animal puppets on sticks and the furry little wormy things that dance and talk following “Talk to the Animals.” Cheesy. And so’s the “sawed in half” number, when it’s clear Romeo is wearing something bulky apparatus under his black T-shirt (the same Darren Romeo T-shirt available for sale in the lobby). “Gethsemane,” from Jesus Christ Superstar, is probably better when Romeo’s voice is stronger, though the Roman centurion contraptions worn by the dancers (Mariko Takahashi and Terrin Kelly) looks like a leftover from Siegfried and Roy’s show at the Mirage, and the finale of that number, when Romeo levitates, is awkwardly Christ-like.

He sings show tunes from Barnum, The Fantasticks, My Fair Lady and Kiss of the Spider Woman and even throws in a Melissa Etheridge tune and some originals. Somehow it all seems a little retro with the sparkly curtains and overly-flashy lights. When Romeo goes acoustic as it were, when it’s really just music and magic and a whole lot less flash, that will be something to see. If he really wants to take the show out of Vegas and the Vegas out of the show, there’s still some work to be done.

Siegfried and Roy present Darren Romeo: The Voice of Magic is at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco through JUNE 29 (earlier than previously announced). Tickets are $45-$65. Call 415-771-6900 or visit Darren Romeo’s Web site is

Darren Romeo makes magic sing

One of the first things Darren Romeo wants you to know is that yes, his name is really Darren Romeo – Darren Robert Romeo, to be exact. And his first name is a tribute – with a slight spelling change — to his parents’ love of crooner Bobby Darin.

Growing up in East Meadow, N.Y., Romeo developed a love of magic at the same time he was doing musicals in school, but he never put the two together. His goal was to be a magician along the lines of one of his heroes, David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy.

Sitting in a suite at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton, the diminutive, handsome Romeo has the enthusiasm of a kid about to make a key purchase in an overstuffed magic shop. He’s in town to promote an upcoming gig. And it’s a big one, proof that the young magician from the ‘burbs has achieved his goal and then some. Look no further than the imposing, blond German man sitting next to Romeo: Siegfried Fischbacher

From doing children’s birthday parties in New York to playing conventions, Romeo paid his dues as a struggling musician. His father actually had the idea of adding music to the act. Romeo displayed his voice in musical theater, so why not add it to his act? And while he was at it, why not pay tribute to his namesake and sing a Bobby Darin song?

“I said, `Please stop. Come on.'” Romeo recalls. “I wasn’t at all sure about that ’50s music. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I tried to do something to `Mack the Knife,’ but I couldn’t make it work organically. Then I tried creating a trick set to `Dream Lover’ with my first assistant, who’s still my assistant, Kristy Michelsen, and it worked.
The trick remains a cornerstone of my act.”

San Francisco audiences can see the trick beginning tonight (June 3) at the Post Street Theatre when Siegfried & Roy Present Darren Romeo: The Voice of Magic begins performances.

Romeo is the first young magician that Siegfried and Roy have presented to the world. But even getting Siegfried to see young Romeo was quite a trick in itself.

An old friend of Siegfried and Roy’s, Irene Larsen, whose husband, Bill Larsen, co-founded the Magic Castle – sort of American magic’s unofficial home – in Los Angeles, suggested that Siegfried go to a club on the Las Vegas strip and see a promising magician. Oh, yes, and he sings.

” Irene dragged me, she DRAGGED me,” Siegfried says. “I said to her, `A singing magician? No way.’ But Irene had never asked me to see a magician before, so I went. And here on the stage, the music started, and out comes this little, short guy. He started singing, and within 10 minutes he had made a connection with the audience. I thought his voice was good, sometimes a little high.”

At this last recollection, Romeo’s eyes widen and he feigns shock. Did Siegfried just say his voice was too high? “You’re in quite a mood,” Romeo says with a laugh. But then he adds: “I was honored to have Siegfried come see my show.”

As one of the premiere magicians in the world, Siegfried says he’s used to having young magicians ask him for advice. “They want to hear something wise,” he says. “I never know what to say. They always want to know about tricks, about their show and all that. Darren he surprised me. The first thing he said to me was, `I’m writing a musical!’ That blew me away and caught me completely off guard. Darren is not like the others – he talked about entertaining, he talked about theater. I saw a little of myself in him, though I did not have such wonderful, supportive parents.”

This meeting was about nine years ago, and Romeo, who seems to be hovering around 30, is still writing the musical, which he started when he was doing a stint in the long-running off-Broadway musical phenomenon, The Fantasticks.

Some of the musical has found its way into his show, which also includes musical theater nuggets from The Phantom of the Opera, Barnum, Aspects of Love, Jesus Christ Superstar and, of course, The Fantasticks. He also throws in some originals (from the musical), a little Billy Joel and some Doctor Doolittle as a way of making light of the fact that Romeo isn’t nearly as fond of animals as his mentors, Siegfried and Roy. There will be no white tigers in Romeo’s show.

If there have been singing musicians before, they certainly haven’t made the kind of splash Romeo is making. Once he started combining his love of singing and music with his love of magic, it seemed a natural match.

“I know people hear `singing magician’ and want to run from it, not to it,” Romeo says. “But music is universal, and magic is really just another form of theatricality, especially if you use magic to tell a story. That’s what interests me.”

Siegfried adds: “For me, magic is an emotional experience, and that experience gets deeper with Darren’s singing. Theater is magic anyway, even without the technology and all that. Darren can captivate just with his talent, his voice and his whole approach. And believe, me, I tested him all the time.”

“Still does!” Romeo says.

“But that’s what Roy and I have done for 45 years, we test and challenge each other,” Siegfried continues. “That’s what our life is. You test the audience, me, the show every night. You’re always in charge of it.”

For Romeo, developing a magic show with Siegfried and Roy, is something he literally dreamed of. There’s a video floating around of Romeo at age 14 while attending magic summer camp. Siegfried has seen the tape and describes it: “There’s Darren with his big eyes and Long Island accent. They ask him why he wants to be a magician, and he says, `Siegfried and Roy have a quote in their show: Within all of us there is an illusive melody, which when heard and followed leads us to the fulfillment of our fondest dreams.'”

The kid has come a long way from watching his Uncle Vic make a handkerchief disappear to getting his first magic kit to playing Vegas to becoming the first protégé of Siegfried and Roy.

“I’m really lucky,” Romeo says. “Believe me. I know.”

Siegfried and Roy present Darren Romeo: The Voice of Magic is at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco through June 29. Tickets are $45-$65. Call 415-771-6900 or visit Darren Romeo’s Web site is


Heads up, possums: Edna’s back!

Mega-superstar and truth teller Dame Edna Everage (aka Barry Humphries) is coming back to San Francisco, her spiritual home, and, if the dame is to be believed, the home of her fashion designer son, Kenny, and her lesbian pit bull trainer daughter, Esme.

The International Housewife, Therapist, Gigastar, Fashion Icon, Guru and Swami today proclaimed she will appear at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre for a limited engagement beginning Nov. 20 and continue through Jan. 4, 2009. Opening Night is set for Nov. 23, 2008. Tickets go on sale today at the Post Street Theatre box office, by phone at 415-771-6900 and on the web at

Dame Edna is currently crafting a new and uniquely intimate offering on her private multi-million-acre, possum-infested luxury estate in her native Australia.

All will soon be revealed with Dame Edna – Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour to her adoring and loyal American audiences. She will display her unique genius with a new and vibrantly stimulating theatrical infrastructure (to use her own vivid phrase), addressing an exciting range of cutting edge comedy solutions.

On making the announcement, Dame Edna said today “I don’t do shows Possums, I make History! In a spooky way I am theater in the making. My shows are really not shows at all, they are not Events; they are MIRACLES which you can proudly tell your grandchildren you witnessed.”

Dame Edna has been revealing her Entertainment Solutions both on Broadway and the length and breadth of America for the last nine years, and never have Americans needed to laugh, cry and give standing ovations as much as they do today. Dame Edna’s performances have won a Tony Award and one Tony Nomination and countless critical awards.

Dame Edna says “I am coming to your hometown with the glorious gift of laughter for a night you will never forget. See you there Possums”

Tickets range in price from $58-$78 for regular performances. All seats for preview performances (November 20 – 22) and Opening Night are $55.

Visit Dame Edna’s official Web site here:

Here’s Dame Edna interviewing k.d. lang:

Review: `Billy Connolly Live!’

Opened April 2, 2008 at the Post Street Theatre, San Francisco

Connolly unbound: Comedy sets Scot free
3 1/2 stars — Big, bulky laughs

Billy Connolly must tell you something. He simply must.

The Scottish comedian, best known for replacing Howard Hesseman on the sitcom “Head of the Class” or starring (quite admirably) opposite Judi Dench in Mrs. Brown, is a stand-up legend in Britain and Europe, where he sells out arenas.

In the more intimate confines of the Post Street Theatre, he’s adorable (it’s the accent) but with edge (it’s the material and his love of a certain four-letter word beginning with f and ending with uck). The 65-year-old’s exuberance and energy is unflagging for two nonstop hours, and once your ears adjust to the Scottish brogue, he’ll keep your energy zooming right along with him.

Connolly reminds me a little of Robin Williams in that his comedy seems to come from his very core, and that core is a little manic, hence the constant running up to the edge of the stage with, “Oh, I must tell you this!” There doesn’t seem to be a lot of writing or shaping to this material — it feels genuinely part of Connolly himself and not part of some well-thought-out joke machine. There’s a lot of improv going on, some of it quite physical. All of it very funny. He’s also got a little Eddie Izzard vibe in that he riffs on curious things, both personal and cultural, and then weaves them into the evening.

On opening night, he began with thoughts on the movie Rob Roy and what “shite” it is because Rob, though portrayed as a hero on film, was a “thief and an asshole.” Then he explained that he loves cursing, especially through the use of the aforementioned f-word. “I may sally into the area of c—,” he added, noting that in his native land, that c-word, so dreaded here, is no big deal.

For the next couple hours, Connolly rambled most marvelously about things as varied as: the balaklava his Auntie Agnes knitted him; a one-eyed man’s puce Porsche; sneezing with your eyes open; evolving air quotes into other air punctuation (my favorite bit of the night); terrorism in Glasgow (“Imagine bringing terror to Glasgow! We love it!”); his father’s many strokes; shagging a lady dwarf (that was one of the evening’s more interesting side roads); and pranks — or “frights” as he called hem — that he and his fellow band members inflicted on members of society.

We learned a few things about Connolly, like he worked in the shipyards, played drums and is devoted to the elimination of “beige-ism” from the world — a noble pursuit to be sure. But the most important thing we learned about Billy Connolly is that he’s a true original, a comedy voice we haven’t heard and a style that knocks us about a bit and gives us a grand time. Judging from the number of times he cracked himself up, Connolly seems to be having a grand time as well.

I leave you with two of my favorite Connolly-isms: “You couldn’t hit a cow on the ass with a banjo,” and “If you’re on fire, and someone kicks you in the balls, it’s not your day.”

Billy Connollly Live! continues through April 12 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $50-$55. Call 415-771-6900 or visit or for information.

Review: `Curvy Widow’

Opened Feb. 3, 2008, Post Street Theatre, San Francisco

Shepherd’s charms can’t enliven bleak Widow
Two stars (Light, long)

Cybill Shepherd is moonlighting these days in the thee-ah-tuh.

The movie and TV star, famous for being blonde and beautiful, is doing a brave thing by taking on Curvy Widow, a one-woman show by Bobby Goldman, who points out in her program bio that she is the curvy widow.

Shepherd’s fame has always been curious to me. There’s no doubt about her beauty – she has always had that. Still does. And she’s got warmth and humor, but neither in abundance. And as for acting talent, well, I’ve never been quite convinced that she’s convinced she’s an actor.

She has done good serious work (Taxi Driver, The Last Picture Show), but her forte, as we learned on TV with “Moonlighting,” is light comedy.

Alone on a stage for 90 minutes, Shepherd is somewhat adrift. She’s working hard, and she certainly has charm. But she’s not a good enough or charming enough actor to compensate for Goldman’s aggressively charmless script.

After its premiere in Atlanta last fall, Curvy Widow has apparently undergone serious revision after critics savaged it. From what we saw Sunday night at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre, there’s not much to savage. The play is hardly the disaster the Atlanta critics suggested. Nor is there much to savor.

Shepherd only occasionally bobbled lines, and after a wobbly start, she warmed up and threw herself into the role of a 57-year-old widow grieving two relationships: her 20-plus-year marriage and a just-ended six-year affair with a married man.

Being a hugely successful businesswoman with multiple business and homes in New York and Vero Beach, Fla., simply isn’t enough for our widow. She needs a man, and she needs him now, so she turns to and Yahoo! Personals to hook herself up (“no tattoos, piercings or walkers”). She fixes herself with the moniker Curvy Widow, and she’s off and running toward the title of cyber skank (a word she uses late in the play).

The character of the widow is, in many ways, an older version of Samantha in “Sex and the City.” This is a woman who proudly owns her sexuality and her lust for sex. She’s a powerful businessperson who deals with the world on her own terms (as snooty and as close-minded as those terms may sometimes be).

But here’s the thing: She’s not terribly likable. She’s incredibly self-centered, and her journey, rather than opening her up, seems to close her up even more, and we’re supposed to join in her self-congratulations for having “evolved.”

Goldman can write a snappy line (“Men 25 to 35 are like having a snack… but I want more than a Frito-Lay”), and she’s not afraid of being frank and honest. But this widow is crass, judgmental, privileged, whiny and so stuck on herself that the rest of the world is shut out of her view.

The bottom line is that I just didn’t care if she dated 65 men in four months. I didn’t care that she fired seven gynecologists on her way to finding one who could fix her up with a miracle cure for vaginal dryness.

I just plain didn’t care – and not caring for 90 minutes feels like not caring for three hours.

Shepherd really does try hard to make something of the script. She hits all her marks, comes across tough and sexy, and establishes a nice rapport with the audience. She looks great in David C. Woolard’s costumes, and she survives with dignity intact, even when Goldman’s script makes her extol the virtues of her beautiful behind.

Director Scott Schwartz surrounds Shepherd with projections (by Michael Clark) and silly special effects, but there’s just no disguising the fact that Goldman’s script is a tirade insisting that women can be tough and unlikable and loved if that’s what they want.

No arguments here. But just don’t tell me that’s entertainment.

Curvy Widow continues through March 9 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $50-$75. Call 415-512-7770 or visit for information.

Freda’s band of `Blues’

“At this point in my life, I’d rather do the standards. I’m not exactly the hip-hop type.”
So says Freda Payne, the 58-year-old pop/R&B singer best known for her million-selling single “Band of Gold.”

Payne is in San Francisco singing her heart out in Blues in the Night, a jazzy, blues-y revue featuring a bunch of great songs by the likes of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Johnny Mercer, Vernon Duke and Bessie Smith.

The show opens Aug. 15 at the Post Street Theatre.

Payne’s relationship with the theater stretches back to 1967 when she was an understudy for Leslie Uggams in Hallelujah, Baby! (Payne went on five times, she says). Through the years, she has performed with multiple companies of Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Sophisticated Ladies. Bay Area audiences saw her about 12 years ago in the touring company of Jelly’s Last Jam, which starred Maurice Hines, who happens to be co-starring with Payne in Blues in the Night (as are Carol Woods and Paulette Ivory).

For Blues, Payne will be singing chestnuts such as “Lush Life,” “Rough and Ready Man” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.”

“I love this music,” Payne says. “Music is a healer. It soothes the soul, makes you happy and kind of sad, too.”

Blues in the Night continues through Sept. 30 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post St., San Francisco. Tickets are $35 for previews and $40 to $75 for regular performances. Call (415) 771-6900 or visit

Review: ‘One-Man Star Wars Trilogy’

opened Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007, Post Street Theatre

For fans only: One-man `Star Wars’ has major dork appeal
three stars Geek mythology

Charles Ross is saving the galaxy one geek at a time. I use the word “geek” with love. It takes one to know one.

Ross goes so far as to call himself a “professional geek,” and it’s hard to argue with him. For nearly six years, this amiable Canadian has been performing One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, which made its Bay Area debut Tuesday at San Francisco’s Post Street Theatre.

The title pretty much says it all: One hard-working guy performs three classic sci-fi movies in just about an hour.

If you know your Star Wars movies (and we’re talking the original three, not those more recent, nominally human debacles), you’ll love every obscure reference in Ross’ vast repertoire of obscure references.

If names like Jabba the Hutt or Lando Calrissian mean nothing to you, this is not the play for you. Granted, the show will be over before you can grab much of a nap, but it’ll be torture for you, and Ross’ exertions will look like the weirdest, least effective exercise class you’ve ever seen.

But for those who cherish every R2-D2 beep (and Ross does terrific R2 squeaks, whistles and grunts), One-Man Star Wars Trilogy is better than Shakespeare.

Dressed in black coveralls, Ross begins at the beginning, with the yellow letters crawling across the screen and John Williams’ bombastic score blasting. We get a hint of Ross’ somewhat cavalier approach when he turns all that scrolling verbiage into so much “blah, blah, blah.” Apparently he doesn’t care about that stuff either.

He jumps right into the first movie, which he dispatches in about 20 minutes.

Highlights include a petulant Luke Skywalker, who comes across as a whiner with ’70s feathered hair, an asthmatic Darth Vader and a crotch-grabbing Han Solo, who’s not above uttering a little “schwing” whenever Princess Leia is around.

Ross’ revisionist version allows us a moment of indignation when, at the award ceremony that closes Star Wars, poor Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal of honor.

Just as in real life, the second movie is better than the first and not quite as silly as the third. Ross doesn’t do a very good Yoda — he sounds like a prospector staking a claim on the Yukon — but he makes up for it with his dead-on impersonation of a disabled AT-AT (all-terrain armored transport, those giant machines that look like the loading cranes at the Oakland docks).

By the time he gets to Return of the Jedi, Ross is cracking himself up because with all the light saber action, he can’t help spitting on the people in the front row.

The true Star Wars geeks — and the opening-night audience was full of them — howl over the minutiae that baffles the rest of us. I mean, is Ross slicing open the belly of a dead tauntaun on the frozen planet Hoth or what?

If you haven’t ever seen the movies or have mostly forgotten them, you can pretty much forget figuring out what’s going on. Between the breakneck pace of T.J. Dawe’s direction and Ross’ liberties taken with both plot and character, it’s sort of a free-for-all.

No one, however, whether you know the movies or not, will be able to resist Ross’ depiction of Jabba the Hutt, the giant worm-like baddie that chains up Leia and makes her wear a golden bikini that only Cher would envy.

Mercifully, Ross keeps the Ewok references to a minimum, though he does a very funny version of their song that ends Return of the Jedi.

Ross calls his show a sketch that has “gone very wrong…or very right depending on how you look at it.”

For Star Wars fans, he’s a rock star, and this show is heaven. To others, he’s a talented, energetic geek performing for other geeks. The force is strong in this one. Long may he geek out.