High on Cal Shakes’ spiffy Spirit

Aug 16

High on Cal Shakes’ spiffy <i>Spirit</i>

Noël Coward was a man of his time in many ways and maybe even ahead of his time in others. For instance, in the delightful 1941 play Blithe Spirit, now gracing the Orinda Hills in a handsome and well-tuned production from California Shakespeare Theater, Coward was way ahead of the ghastly Twilight curve.

No, he wasn't dealing with pale but attractive vampires and shirtless werewolves, but he did understand a little something about mixing mortality and romance. In the play, the ghost of a dead wife returns to haunt her husband and his new wife, but her real aim is to get her beloved to join her on the other side, and she's not above trying to kill him herself to accomplish that goal. To love someone enough to want to spend eternity with them is an intriguing concept, and thankfully Coward played it for laughs, with only a trace of the shadows poking through the peaked meringue of his comedy.

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Arresting cop drama keeps Steady in Marin

Feb 09

Arresting cop drama keeps <i>Steady</i> in Marin

I can't imagine what it was like to see Keith Huff's A Steady Rain when it was on Broadway almost three years ago starring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig as two Chicago cops navigating a tricky moral and ethical path through their demanding jobs. Was it possible to say anything but the two mega-watt movie stars flattening vowels to the best of their pretend Midwestern abilities? Was Huff's taut two-man play even visible underneath the star power?

The answer is: probably not. And that's OK. The play, as seen in its West Coast premiere at Marin Theatre Company, is an engaging, sturdily built vehicle to showcase two contrasting actors.

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