Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2017’

Worth more than a peek: 3 fairy tales, 2 superb shows

“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” isn’t the best Mountain Play I’ve ever seen.

But its costumes well may be.

Michelle Navarre-Huff’s designs — especially those in which inanimate objects are personified — are spectacular.

Then, of course, there’s the Beast himself.

Horned and somewhat horny.

I’ve never seen a bad musical at Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre atop Mount Tam in Mill Valley. This year’s is no exception.

It’s ideal family entertainment, likely to make you smile (especially Zachary Isen’s comedic antics as Lumière), tear-up a little and clap a lot.

But you have only one chance left to see this incarnation of the French fairy tale — Sunday, June 18 — and to revel in both sunshine and music.

Another fairy tale from another foreign country I believe worth the price of admission? “The Wedding Plan,” an Israeli-U.S. film at the Century Regency in San Rafael.

It focuses on a desperate 32-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman hell-bent on a landing a miracle.

She plans her nuptials minus one element: a groom.

The subtitled rom-com, with far more drama and poignancy than I’d anticipated after seeing the trailer, is all about faith — and, to some degree, hallucinations.

A third fairy tale worth more than a peek is “Roman Holiday — The Cole Porter Musical,” a pre-Broadway world premiere at the SHN Golden Gate Theatre through June 18 based on the triple Oscar-winning 1953 movie.

It’s the story of Anne, a runaway princess played by Stephanie Styles, who’s no Audrey Hepburn but no slouch, and Joe, a gallant American reporter portrayed by Drew Gehling, who’s no Gregory Peck but no slouch either.

And their magical 24-hour romance.

Plus the comedic charm of 69-year-old Georgia Engel, best known as a naïve lass on TV’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

The beauty part is that “Roman Holiday” features superimposed musical classics “Begin the Beguine” “Night and Day” and “Easy to Love” — and Porter tunes I’d never heard, “Experiment” and “Most Gentlemen Don’t Like Love.”

If you prefer less fairy-tailish, superb entertainment, I recommend a comedy-drama and a dramedy.

Robyn (Julia Brothers, left) offers to clean up a mess while moving in with her new Iowa gal-pal, Sharon (Susi Damilano), in “The Roommate.” Photo by Jessica Palopoli.

Watching two characters reveal themselves in “The Roommate” is like watching an onion being peeled flawlessly by a master chef.

In slo-mo.

Jen Silverman set out to “write a play for badass women in their 50s.” She succeeded.

And grabbed my funnybone and heart in the process.

In spite of my not being badass.

Or a woman.

Or in my 50s.

The 105-minute, intermission-less, one-act play, which runs through July 1 at the San Francisco Playhouse, features two remarkable performances by two remarkable actors.

The company’s co-founder, Susi Damilano, stars as Sharon, a frustrated, divorced housefrau in Iowa, who acquires — to make ends meet — a roommate (Julia Brothers as Robyn, a vegan lesbian con-artist who’s fled from the Bronx in a desperate bid to overhaul her life).

It’s about transformation — and unintended consequences.

And about two midlifers finding similarities — including each having an estranged offspring — despite their apparent differences.

Advance publicity drew comparisons with “Thelma & Louise” and I did find them.

But no one drives off a cliff.

The second first-rate play, “Grandeur,” is one of a spate of recent Bay Area dramas centering on black culture. But this world premiere, written by Han Ong and dealing with genius, crack cocaine and ambition, tops my must-see list.

Carl Lumbly (who I’ve never seen be less than fabulous) is magnificently multi-faceted yet nuanced as Gil Scott-Heron, often called “the grandfather of rap” and best known, perhaps, for having created the phrase “The revolution will not be televised.”

Lumbly helped me experience Scott-Heron, who I’d been unfamiliar with before this outing.

First as a worn-out hermit given to fondling a Rubik’s Cube.

Then as a poetic, old 61-year-old musician-writer who’s long battled life’s darkness and, while living in a shadowy apartment filled with clutter, has created an unrivaled album after a 16-year hiatus.

That timeframe parallels “Grandeur” playwright Han Ong’s elongated theatrical gap — he hadn’t created a drama in as long.

His 95-minute play contains more humor than I’d expected from this depiction of an ambitious magazine writer trying to detect the real person beneath a legend.

Because “Grandeur,” stunningly guided at the Magic Theatre by its artistic director, Loretta Greco, is easily the best current Bay Area theatrical experience (it runs through June 25), I have one word for you:


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