Amadeus by Peter Shaffer
Cinnabar Theatre, Petaluma
Runs through April 15, 2018

Aaron Wilton, Greg Foushee, Richard Pallaziol, Tim Setzer in Amadeus. Photo: Victoria Von Thal.

In Latin, “amadeus” means “God’s love” or “loved by God,” an apt name for an individual whose protean gift of music could well be construed as a divine blessing, such as one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There is no Latin coinage for the person whose gift is admirable, but, well, not as brilliant. Could this describe Antonio Salieri, the 18th century composer who was much celebrated in his day but whose music faded into obscurity shortly after his death? Peter Shaffer, the British playwright of Equus fame, doesn’t really care if you’ve ever heard of Salieri, and isn’t really interested in promoting his music. He wants you to muse on something deeper, something more universal in the human condition. Cinnabar Theater’s production of this Tony-winning play brings together some excellent acting to do Shaffer’s play justice.

We first meet Salieri (Richard Pallaziol) in 1825 as an ailing old man, ready to end his earthly existence. …

To continue reading about this production, see my Talkin’ review:

Noises Off!

Noises Off!
by Michael Frayn
Runs through March 31, 2018, at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa

Cecilia Senocak, Ginger Beavers, John C. Browning and Erik Weiss. Photo: Eric Chazankin

On the silliness scale, this farce by Michael Frayn is about as silly as you can get. Often called “the funniest play in the English language,” Noises Off! pulls out all the stops in its play-within-a-play structure, giving us an utterly delightful and hilarious peek behind the scenes when everything that can go wrong, does. The 6th Street Playhouse production fully embraces the silliness, the slamming doors, the sight gags, the falling trousers, and, of course, the sardines.

It’s the eve before the opening of a new farce called Nothing On, and the cast is rehearsing diligently, trying to remember their lines and the intricacies of the action, and get through it at least once. Is it tech? Is it the dress? No one seems to know, not even the director, Lloyd (Devin McConnell), who seems to have the patience of a saint as he coaches Dottie (Ginger Beavers) on her actions as the housekeeper character, Mrs. Clackett. “I take the sardines.” “No, you leave the sardines.” “I leave the sardines?” “And you take the newspaper.” “Have we changed that? Is that what I’ve been doing?” “I wouldn’t say that, Dottie m’love, but it is what needs to happen.” …

To continue reading about this production, go to the full review on Talkin’
Noises Off!

The Realistic Joneses

The Realistic Joneses
by Will Eno
Runs at Left Edge Theatre through March 25, 2018

Melissa Claire & Chris Ginesi. Photo: Argo Thompson.

Two couples become neighbors in one of those little towns near the mountains, and they coincidentally share the same last name. Bob and Jennifer (Chris Schloemp and Melissa Claire) moved there a while ago, whereas John and Pony (Chris Ginesi and Paige Picard) have just arrived, eager to make the new place home and get acquainted with their neighbors. That, however, is just the surface in this recent work by Will Eno, being given an excellent, stylish production at Left Edge Theatre. Soon we’re caught up in the intrigue of overlapping lives and desires, even as we chuckle at the witty dialogue and amusing situations. The play tackles questions of love and mortality and connection with a light touch, but is sure to continue surprising your thoughts long after.

Bob and Jennifer are enjoying a quiet evening in their yard, although not getting very far with their conversation—”It just seems like we don’t talk,” laments Jennifer, to which Bob replies, “What are we doing right now? Math?” …

To continue reading about this production, go to my review on Talkin’
The Realistic Joneses

Dead Man’s Cell Phone

Dead Man’s Cell Phone
By Sarah Ruhl
Ross Valley Players through March 25, 2018

American playwright Sarah Ruhl has made much success over the last 15 years, garnering awards and the prestigious MacArthur Foundation grant, with plays that celebrate the quirky, emotional, messy and unpredictable in life. Dead Man’s Cell Phone is no exception, surreal in style, lost in non-linear time, and occasionally feeling disjunct and scattered. The Ross Valley Players production brings the play to life with some laugh-out-loud moments and touching human connections.

Steve Price and Deborah Murphy in Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Photo: Gregg Le Blanc.

Enjoying lunch in a cafe, Jean (Deborah Murphy) is at first annoyed, then slightly outraged at a persistently ringing cell phone. Finally approaching the man at the nearby table, she discovers he isn’t just being rude—he’s actually in rigor mortis. …

To continue reading about this production, go to my review at Talkin’
Dead Man’s Cell Phone

South Pacific

South Pacific
Music by Richard Rodgers, Book/Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II,
Book by Joshua Logan
Spreckels Theatre Company through February 25, 2018

Heather Buck & William O’Neill. Photo: Eric Chazankin

When South Pacific first hit Broadway in 1949, it was expected to be a hit, but no one, not even its originators Richard Rodgers (music), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics/book), and Joshua Logan (book) foresaw just how massive a hit it would become. Pulitzer Prize, multiple Tonys, numerous tours and revivals later, it’s still one of the highest-grossing, most popular musicals of all time, sure to rouse good feelings from appreciative audiences. Spreckels Theatre Company hits the right notes in its production of this beloved show, with impressive vocal talents and straightforward staging.

The plot was based on stories from James Michener’s book, “Tales of the South Pacific,” intentionally emphasizing and enhancing the issue of racism. They gave us not one, but two tales of romance interrupted by prejudice, showing a cultural phenomenon rather than an individual failing. …

To read more about this production, continue to my Talkin’ Broadway review:
South Pacific


Ayad Akhtar
Through Feb. 18, 2018, at Left Edge Theatre

Jared N. Wright, Ilana Niernberger, Mike Schaeffer, 
and Jazmine Pierce

Photo by Argo Thompson

Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Disgraced pulls no punches in its 90-minute exposé of modern culture’s angst over faith and identity. The play offers perspective from the top—four highly successful people of diverse fields, diverse colors, and different backgrounds spar about the resonance of Islamic art, Jewish identity, immigration, terrorism, discrimination and more, in a witty, intelligent and ultimately biting exchange—one that simultaneously entertains and yet challenges its audience. Kudos to Left Edge Theatre for tackling this difficult and timely piece, and giving it a stimulating staging.

Amir (Jared N. Wright) is posing in his underwear and Emily (Ilana Niernberger) is sketching him in their upscale Manhattan apartment. He’s a well-paid M&A attorney, angling to make partner in his firm, while Emily is poised to make her big breakthrough in the heady New York art world. Amir’s Pakistani-Muslim past has been covered up by a change of his last name to Kapoor, which comes out when his nephew Abe (Adrian Causor) arrives to plead for his help. Abe’s own given name is Hussein, but “life has gotten so much easier” since he changed it. Nevertheless, he’s here to ask Amir to speak for a local imam charged with funding terrorism, arguing that the other attorneys on the case aren’t Muslim and therefore can’t help in the same way Amir can. Amir agrees to do what he can, and lives to regret it. …

To read more about this production, continue to my Talkin’ Broadway review:

Good People

Good People
David Lindsay-Abaire
Through Feb. 18, 2018, at Cinnabar Theater

You may have seen David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People in one of the fine productions

Liz Jahren, Sarah McKereghan, and Kate Brickley
Photo by Victoria Von Thal

around the Bay Area already, but this one makes it worth seeing again, with a terrific cast, superb scenic design, and creative staging. The play itself scores high for its rampant humor, intriguing plot, and thoughtful exploration of class divide in America.
Lindsay-Abaire is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole, which was also put on film (starring Nicole Kidman). That was his most naturalistic and dark play at that time, his earlier plays sharing a whimsical, absurdist landscape. Good People is also naturalistic, focused on real people struggling with real issues, but it’s far from dark, and includes laugh-out-loud dialogue and endearing characters. …

To read more about this production, continue to my Talkin’ Broadway review:
Good People