Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chinese Objects : Susanna Leinonen Company : Simply Sublime

(I don't normally review dance, but a recent performance at the 2012 San Francisco International Arts Festival by a Finnish dance company left me utterly awestruck. I just had to share my personal thoughts!)

An exemplary performance of contemporary dance as the ultimate form of artistic expression through the perfect integration of sight, sound and motion. Its precise movements were executed with fluidity, grace and undeniable power. 

It transcends the mere physical and engulfs one into a visceral experience that reaches the sublime. It was as if time had been suspended for the entire seventeen minutes. It left me breathless. 

This is why I love the dance. Thank you to dancers Elina Hayrynen, Natasha Lommi, choreographer Susanna Leinonen, designers Kasperi Laine (sound) and Hanna Kayhko (lighting), and all who made this wonderful production possible!*

(*Here's a video snippet from a different performance from a year ago - it must be seen live in its entirety, however.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play : City Lights Theatre Company : A Capsule Review

Thomas Edison’s practical application of electricity highlighted the end of the Victorian Period, and heralded the beginning of an era of relaxed social mores and feminine liberation. At least that’s the premise and backdrop of the curiously offbeat and sexually charged In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play.

Suffice it to say a pioneering inventor and scientist Dr. Givings, played more debonair than geeky by the talented Jeffrey Bracco, utilizes the new technology by employing experimental “devices” to provide a novel form of therapy to stimulate his depressed – and repressed – patients (see title of play).

His fixation on his work, however, is at the expense of his lonely wife who finds the traditional female role of devoted spouse and motherhood less than satisfying – and would love nothing more than to partake of the new treatment! Elissa Beth Stebbins (as Catherine Givings) evinces a comedic melancholy that is an uncanny display of acting skill.

The rest of the ensemble is equally polished and impressive, among them the beauteous and exceptionally versatile Sarah Moser (as enthusiastic patient Sabrina Daldry suffering from "hysteria"), who’s fresh on the heels of her magnificent turn as “Ophelia” in City Lights’ recent production of “Hamlet.” And company veteran Adam Magill also lights up the stage as the charismatic artiste Leo Irving.

The playwright’s awkward tone is deliberate and may at times shock you, but this production manages to infuse it all with a rare energy and comic aplomb. It’s highly recommended.*

(*a preview performance attended)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Million Plates Drive : Support the Arts in California!


Did you know that California ranks 49th in per capita funding for the arts? The only state with less funding is Kansas - and that's because they provide ZERO in public funds to support the arts.

California's annual state budget for the arts is a paltry five million dollars! That less than 14 cents per person!

But there is something you can do about it. Click this link to the "The Million Plates Drive" and order a specially designed "arts plate" (standard or personalized) for your vehicle through the DMV.

If one million plates are ordered, forty million dollars will be earmarked each year (via renewals) to support California's public arts fund - that's eight times the current amount (about one dollar per person).

That's forty million dollars to support arts education and local arts programs for children, schools and communities - in every county across the entire state.

Buy an "arts plate" now!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Producers : Hillbarn Theatre : A Capsule Review

Mel Brooks’ The Producers is a hilarious – albeit shameless and decidedly politically incorrect -  backstage send up that doesn’t miss an opportunity to exploit every comic stereotype imaginable. Unless you’re easily offended, however, one can’t fathom how anyone would take serious umbrage.

Perhaps the greatest compliment one can give Hillbarn Theatre’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical is that one forgets that it’s “community theatre.”
Inspired and spectacular design elements across-the-board serve to amplify the lunacy, enhanced by visionary staging, casting and direction by the inimitable Bill Starr (aided immeasurably by choreographer Gary Stanford, Jr.).

The entire company of players is uniformly strong, with the principle cast among the best comedic ensembles I’ve seen in years, including Dan Demers (Max Bialystock), Luke Chapman (Leo Bloom), Kate Paul (Ulla), Ron Lopez, Jr. (Franz Liebkind), Raymond J. Mendonca (Roger DeBris), and Greg Lynch (Carmen Ghia).

Although the thrust stage venue does not have a bad seat in the house, it does not provide the best configuration for this type of show. It did not, however, in any way diminish the enthusiasm of the opening night crowd who literally leapt out of their seats with an unbridled standing ovation.

Head on down to Foster City to catch this must-see performance before it’s too late.