Friday, October 19, 2018

Pain follows tragedy in 'The Resting Place'

James Carpenter as Mitch challenges daughter Annie (Martha Brigham, right) as Angela (Emilie Talbot, second fron left) and Macy (Emily Radosevich) listen. (Photo by Jennifer Reiley)

A family’s pain is raw and visceral in Ashlin Halfnight’s “The Resting Place,” being given its world premiere by Magic Theatre.

Mitch (James Carpenter) and Angela (Emilie Talbot) have been joined in Detroit by their adult daughters, Annie (Martha Brigham), who works for an environmental group in San Francisco, and Macy (Emily Radosevich), who works on political campaigns in New York City.

Their reunion is not happy. Travis, oldest of the siblings, has just committed suicide. 
He was a gay man, teacher and longtime pedophile who victimized local boys.

Annie wants him to have a funeral and burial in the family plot in the Catholic cemetery next to his beloved paternal grandfather. The rest of the family, concerned about the angry uprising over his actions, wants to cremate him and quietly scatter his ashes.

As the play continues, the issues go much deeper, leading to angry shouting matches, blame and feelings of guilt on top of profound grief. Nevertheless, familial love is palpable.

Also involved are Travis’s former partner, Liam (Wiley Naman Strasser), and one of Travis’s victims, Charles (Andrew LeBuhn), now a recent high school graduate.

The final scene is especially wrenching as Annie delivers an eloquent eulogy and reveals her own reason for feeling guilty.

Sensitively directed by Jessica Holt, the six actors carefully navigate the play’s ups and downs.

Carpenter’s Mitch is the voice of reason as conflicts arise, but he has moments of extreme emotion. Talbot’s Angela drinks too much, but she, too, can be both reasonable and highly upset.

The sisters, Brigham as Annie and Radosevich as Macy, sometimes clash, especially when Macy calls the take-charge Annie self-righteous.

Both Strasser as Liam and LeBuhn as Charles are believable in their pain.

Design elements are outstanding with the set by Edward T. Morris, costumes by Shelby-Lio Feeney, lighting by Wen-Ling Liao and sound by Sara Huddleston.

According to artistic director Loretta Greco, the play “investigates what happens to those who are left behind in the wake of unimaginable tragedy.”

Despite the difficult subject matter, it’s a brilliant, absorbing, utterly human play that doesn’t skirt the issues. This profound work of art is worth seeing.

Running about two hours with one intermission, “The Resting Place” will continue through Nov. 4 at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd., Building D, third floor, San Francisco.

For tickets and information, call (415) 441-8822 or visit

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hillbarn Theatre stages Frayn farce, 'Noises Off'

Luisa Sermol (left) is Dotty, Max Tachis is Garry and Michelle Skinner is Brooke. (Mark and Tracy Photography)
As things get worse in the play within a play of Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off,” Hillbarn Theatre’s production gets better.

This farce is set in England, where a third-rate theatrical troupe is rehearsing and then staging the world premiere of “Nothing On.”

As the action begins, Lloyd (David Crane), the director of “Nothing On,” is trying to get Dotty (Luisa Sermol), housekeeper for a country home, to go through a scene answering the phone and returning to the kitchen. She forgets the receiver, the sardines (which figure prominently in the play) and the newspaper.

Subsequent scenes involve the arrival of Garry (Max Tachis) and Brooke (Michelle Skinner), who are there for an affair. As they tour the house, its owners, played by Ross Neuenfeldt and Heather Orth, return unexpectedly.

Also involved in the action are the stage manager, Tim (David Blackburn); assistant stage manager, Poppy (Brigitte Losey); and another actor, the drunken Selsdon (Lawrence-Michael Arias).

During this act, most of the actual actors try too hard, blunting much of the humor.

In Act 2, after the set has rotated to back stage of “Nothing On,” the actors refine their timing, resulting in some frantically funny moments. By this time in the troupe’s tour, it’s a month after the rehearsal, and nerves are frayed.

Finally, in Act 3, after the set has rotated again to become the set for “Nothing On,” everything has unraveled. Nothing goes right, in part because of sabotage by some jealous actors, resulting in more laughs.

Directed by Jeffrey Lo, most of the actors do well, especially in the latter two acts. Sermol’s Dotty is aptly named, while Skinner’s Brooke is blithely dense. So too is Neunenfeldt as one of the home’s owners.

Orth as the other owner is the one who tries to keep everyone under control. Tachis is amazingly athletic as his Garry becomes the victim of most of the sabotage.

Losey and Blackburn as the harried stage managers also do well.

Christopher Fitzer’s two-level set not only rotates but also features multiple doors – a must for farce with its split-second exits and entrances.

The character-specific costumes are by Mae Heagerty-Matos with lighting by Meghan Souther and sound by Jon Covey.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission and a pause, “Noises Off” will continue through Oct. 28 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City.

For tickets and information, visit or call (650) 349-6411, Ext. 2.

Friday, October 12, 2018

'Sweat' shows human cost of lost jobs

Jessie (Sarah Nina Hayon, left), Tracey (Lise Bruneau) and Cynthia (Tonye Patano) are friends and co-workers.

It’s one thing to read or hear about the loss of blue collar jobs when a factory closes. It’s quite another to actually see how a closing can devastate lives.

That’s the lesson made clear in “Sweat,” the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama written by Lynn Nottage and presented by American Conservatory Theater.

Nottage switches the action between 2000 and 2008 in Reading, Pa., a once-thriving factory town. It opens in 2008 as a parole officer, Evan (Adrian Roberts), separately questions two young men, the white Jason (David Darrow) and the black Chris (Kadeem Ali Harris).

He asks what they plan to do now that they’re out of prison. Why they went to prison doesn’t become clear until much later in the play.

After that, most of the action takes place in 2000 in a bar managed by Stan (Rod Gnapp) and frequented by workers from a nearby factory.

Besides Jason and Chris, the regulars are Tracey (Lise Bruneau), Jason’s mother; and Cynthia (Tonye Patano), Chris’s mother; along with the women’s friend Jessie (Sarah Nina Hayon).

They’ve heard rumors that the plant’s new owners might close it and move to Mexico, but they believe their union will protect them.

However, when Cynthia is promoted into management and the owners want to negotiate a new contract with major concessions, her friends accuse her of betraying them. She counters that she’s doing everything she can to help them.

Tracey (Lise Bruneau) holds up
 the Spanish language flyer
 she got from Oscar (Jed Parsario).
A strike ensues. Oscar (Jed Parsario), Stan’s Hispanic helper in the bar, turns scab and crosses the picket line. Tensions reach a boiling point until the brawl that sent Chris and Jason to prison.

Subsequent scenes in 2008 show just how hard life has become for nearly everyone. Their fate was previewed in 2000 by Brucie (Chiké Johnson), Cynthia’s ex-husband. He became strung out on drugs after losing his job at another factory.

Directed by Loretta Greco, artistic director of Magic Theatre, the ensemble cast is terrific at building the tension, its climax and the aftermath. 

Stan (Rod Gnapp) pours another drink for Jessie (Sarah Nina Hayon).
Gnapp is especially effective as Stan, the bartender who offers sage advice, mostly keeps the peace and truly cares about his customers.

Greco is aided by Andrew Boyce’s set design augmented by Hana S. Kim’s projections. Costumes are by Ulises Alcala, sound by Jake Rodriguez and lighting by Allen Lee Hughes.

“Sweat” is painfully relevant to what’s happening today. Although it premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015, before the 2016 presidential election, it shows how Donald Trump’s rhetoric and his “Make America Great Again” slogan could resonate so deeply among some voters.

It’s a powerful, theatrical work that is must viewing for those who seek insight into some Americans’ malaise.

Running about two and a half hours with an intermission, it will continue through Oct. 21 at ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco.

For tickets and information, call (415) 749-2228 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Two generations grapple with sexuality in 'Fun Home'

Erin Kommor (left) as Medium Alison, Lila Gold as Small Alison and Moira Stone as Alison.

How a young woman comes to terms with her sexuality in the 1970s is the theme of the 2015 Tony-winning musical, “Fun Home.”

Presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, this memory play also explores her complex relationship with her father, who, she eventually learned, was gay, too, but deeply closeted.

It shifts back in forth in time as the protagonist, Alison Bechdel (Moira Stone), a successful cartoonist, recalls her experiences as Small Alison (Lila Gold), about 10 years old; and Medium Alison (Erin Kommor), a college freshman.

Alison’s father, Bruce (James Lloyd Reynolds), was a high school English teacher, meticulous restorer of the funeral home where they lived (set by Andrea Bechert), and funeral director in Beech Creek, Pa.

She had an older brother, Christian (Jack Barrett), and a younger brother, John (Billy Hutton). They had fun together, but their father could be alternately kindly and demanding.

Joan (Ayelet Firstenberg, left)  and Medium Alison (Erin Kommor) meet in college.
Although there were hints that Alison could be gay – she hated wearing dresses as a youngster and was enthralled when she saw a butch UPS driver – it wasn’t until she was a freshman at Oberlin College that she came out to herself and had her first lover, Joan (Ayelet Firstenberg).

In the flashbacks, Bruce’s own sexuality becomes apparent when he initiates contacts with former students (all played by Michael Doppe). There also is the time he took his three young kids to New York City and left them alone for a few hours at night, apparently to go cruising.

His story ends tragically. Apparently unable to continue living a double life, he commits suicide by stepping in front of a truck.

Much of the story unfolds in music written by Jeanine Tesori with lyrics and the book by Lisa Kron, who adapted it from Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel of the same name.
TheatreWorks artistic director Robert Kelley directs the excellent cast, eliciting strong performances all around. Kudos especially go to the three actors playing the Bechdel children.

Under the guidance of musical director William Liberatore, who conducts six instrumentalists from the keyboard, the singing is quite good. However, some of the lyrics aren’t always clear.

Small Alison (Lila Gold, foreground) imagines a favorite TV show coming to life in her living room with (from left) Ayelet Firstenberg, Michael Doppe and Erin Kommor.
Dottie Lester-White, associate director, choreographed numbers like “Come to the Fun Home,” the kids’ attempt at a funeral home commercial with a coffin as the centerpiece; and “Raincoat of Love,” the family disco number imagined by Small Alison as a favorite TV show.

The lighting is by Steven B. Mannshardt, costumes by B. Modern and sound by Cliff Caruthers.

This autobiographical show rings true and reveals just how much social attitudes have changed between Alison’s generation and her father’s. It’s well worth seeing.

Running about 100 minutes without intermission, “Fun Home” will continue through Oct. 28 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

For tickets and information, visit or call (650) 463-1960.

Photos by Kevin Berne

Thursday, October 4, 2018

'Oslo' tells story behind historic Middle East accord

Norwegian mediator Terje Rød-Larsen (Mark Anderson Phillips, left) discusses the possibility of back channel peace negotiations with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin (Aaron Davidman). Photo by Kevin Berne

Hopes for Middle East peace brightened considerably in 1993 when the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization were signed.

“Oslo,” the 2017 Tony-winning drama by J.T. Rogers, tells how this historic agreement came about. It’s being given its West Coast premiere by Marin Theatre Company.

It focuses on the top-secret negotiations brokered by Terje Rød-Larsen (Mark Anderson Phillips), founder of a research organization that studies international politics; and his wife, Mona Juul (Erica Sullivan), a Norwegian diplomat.

They brought together two representatives each from Israel and the PLO in a Norwegian country mansion and sent them into a private room to talk.

Although the two sides were openly hostile at first, they gradually established some rapport and began agreeing on points of contention.

As these talks continued in fits and starts over several months, others from each side became involved.

MTC artistic director Jasson Minadakis skillfully guides his superb 14-member cast through the play’s changing moods, character clashes and character development.

Among the actors, Phillips and Sullivan are especially noteworthy as the persistent brokers. Most of the other actors play only one character, while Marcia Pizzo, Charles Shaw Robinson and Ryan Tasker display their versatility in several roles.

The cast also includes Ashkon Davaran, Aaron Davidman, Joe Estlack, Corey Fischer, Brian Herndon, Peter James Meyers, J. Paul Nicholas, Adam Niemann and Paris Hunter Paul.

The spare, flexible set is by Sean Fanning with dramatic lighting by York Kennedy and projections by Mike Post.

The costumes are by Fumiko Bielefeldt with sound by Sara Huddleston and music by Chris Houston.

Although the Oslo Accords raised hopes for an end to hostilities, the play’s epilogue makes clear that peace quickly became elusive and still is today, 25 years later.

Running about two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission, “Oslo” is a powerful, riveting drama. It will continue through Oct. 21 at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.

For tickets and information, call (415) 388-5208 or visit

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Blood flows freely in 'Lieutenant of Inishmore'

Never was so much blood spilled on account of one cat until “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” penned by Irish playwright Martin McDonagh and presented by San Jose Stage Company.

Set on the Irish island of Inishmore in 1993, this absurdist drama begins when young Davey (Trevor March) finds a dead black cat in the road and takes it to Donny’s (Randall King) home.

The cat, named Wee Thomas, is the only friend of Donny’s son, Mad Padraic (Rob August), who has been kicked out of the IRA because he’s too violent.

Donny calls his son and says the cat is doing poorly, so Padraic heads for home. In the meantime, Davey finds a light-colored cat and covers it with black shoe polish in hopes of passing it off as Wee Thomas.

Padraic discovers the deception and plans to kill both Davey and Donny, but he’s interrupted when three men involved with an IRA splinter group arrive with plans to kill him. They’re foiled by Davey’s 16-year-old sister, Mairead (Carley Herlihy), who wants to join up with Padraic.

There are few survivors by the end, which follows some ironic twists and one of the most gruesome scenes ever staged.

As directed by Joshua Marx, the eight-member cast does well, especially the principals.

The set is by Christopher Fitzer with costumes by Abra Berman, lighting by John Bernard and sound by Steve Schoenbeck. Tunuviel Luv deserves credit for the props and blood designs.

The play is billed as “satirical comedy (that) jabs at the absurdity of terrorist mentality,” according to press materials. While that may be, it’s not for the squeamish.

Running about 95 minutes without intermission, “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” will continue through Oct. 21 at San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St., San Jose.

For tickets and information, call (408) 283-7142 or visit

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'Doll's House, Part 2' picks up where Ibsen left off 15 years ago

John Judd as Torvald and Mary Beth Fisher as Nora square off in 'A Doll's House, Part 2.'

It has been 15 years since Nora Helmer famously slammed the door and scandalously abandoned her home, husband and children in Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 “A Doll’s House.”

Now she’s knocking on that same door in Lucas Hnath’s 2017 “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” presented by Berkeley Repertory Theatre in a co-production with Huntington Theatre Company.

Nora (Mary Beth Fisher) returns home.
Elegantly dressed, Nora (Mary Beth Fisher) has become a successful writer of pro-feminist, anti-marriage books though she uses a pseudonym.

She has returned because she has recently learned, contrary to her assumption, that her husband, Torvald (John Judd), hasn’t filed for divorce.

Without a divorce, she faces legal trouble. However, if Torvald does file for divorce, he faces his own problems because he had allowed people to assume she had died.

Caught in the middle is Anne Marie (Nancy E. Carroll), who served as nanny to Nora and then to her three children. She still lives in the Torvald home even though the children have grown up and left.

Finally, the Torvalds’ daughter, Emmy (Nikki Massoud), is a foil to Nora because she is eagerly looking forward to being married.

None of those left behind can understand why Nora left and why she never contacted them afterward.

Except for Massoud as Emmy, who talks too fast, director Les Waters guides the actors through finely nuanced performances covering a range of emotions.

Playwright Hnath never tips his hand on where everything will lead until the very end, keeping the audience enthralled.

All of this is accomplished on a spare set by Andrew Boyce with handsome period costumes by Annie Smart. The lighting is by Yi Zhao with sound by James Ballen. 
One of his subtle touches is Carole King’s “It’s Too Late,” heard just before the play begins.

Running about an hour and a half without intermission, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” will continue through Oct. 21 in Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St., Berkeley.
For tickets and information, call (510) 647-2949 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dragon tackles 'The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence'

Stephanie Crowley as Eliza tries to program robot Watson, played by Tasi Alabastro. (Photo by Scott Ragle) 
Four characters named Watson find their way into Madeleine George’s “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence,” presented by Dragon Theatre.

All of them are played by the same actor, Tasi Alabastro.

The other characters are named Merrick and Eliza, also played by the same actors, 
Gary Mosher and Stephanie Crowley, respectively.

The first Watson is a man-like computer named after the IBM computer that bested human contestants on TV's "Jeopardy!” He’s a companion to the Eliza who’s programming him in 2011.

The second Watson is a computer geek hired to fix the computer of Merrick, a local political candidate and Eliza’s jealous ex-husband. He hires this Watson to spy on her, but they wind up falling in love.

Going back to March 1891, the third Watson is the fictional Dr. John H. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ associate. He encounters another Eliza, who wants Holmes to spy on her husband, Merrick.

Then in 1931, Thomas Augustus Watson, the associate of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, is being interviewed by yet another Eliza.

This Watson received the very first phone call in March 1876 with the message “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”

Times shift, but the focus is on the romance between the computer geek and Eliza, the computer programmer.

Despite the play’s intriguing concept, it doesn’t work well in part because it’s so talky and episodic. Direction by Doll Piccotto doesn’t help.

Another shortcoming of this production is that Alabastro is miscast. He does well as the robot Watson, but he doesn’t have the depth and versatility demanded by the other roles.

Crowley does the best in her varied roles, making all of them sympathetic. Mosher adequately handles the challenges of playing the unlikeable Merricks.

The versatile set is by Emilia Wysocka-Treder with costumes by Kathleen Qiu, lighting by John Bernard and sound by Ryan Lee Short.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” will run through Oct. 7 at Dragon Theatre, 2120 Broadway St., Redwood City. 

For tickets and information, call (650) 493-2006, Ext. 2, or visit

Friday, September 14, 2018

'Tarzan' takes to the stage at Palo Alto Players

Tarzan (Jimmy Mason) meets Jane (Jessica LaFever) for the first time. (Photo by Joyce Goldschmid)

Palo Alto Players transports its audience to the jungles of coastal West Africa many years ago with its production of “Tarzan.”

This stage musical is based on the Disney film and was adapted from “Tarzan of the Apes,” the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In the book by David Henry Hwang, an infant and his parents are washed ashore after a shipwreck, but a leopard kills the parents.

A gorilla, Kala (Phaedra Tillery), finds him, calls him Tarzan and takes him up as her own despite the objections of her mate, Kerchak (Michael D. Reed), leader of their family of gorillas.

Tarzan, played by Oliver Copaken Yellin as a boy and Jimmy Mason as a man, becomes a part of the family even though he knows he’s different from the others.

Things change for him with the arrival of a group of researchers, including Jane Porter (Jessica LaFever) and her father, Professor Porter (George Mauro).

Tarzan and Jane are increasingly attracted to each other. When it’s time for the expedition to leave, Tarzan is torn between going with her or staying with the only family he has known.

Much of the story is related through rock-flavored music and often repetitious lyrics by Phil Collins.

PAP artistic director Patrick Klein directs the fine cast with musical direction by Nick Kenrick and energetic, athletic choreography by Claire Alexander.

The set, with its many ropes for swinging, is by Klein and Nikolaj Sorensen. Costumes are by Patricia Tyler.

Although Brandie Larkin’s too loud sound design distorts most of the lyrics, most of the singers excel, especially LaFever and Mason. They also are convincing in their roles.

Running about two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission, the show was enthusiastically received at the Sept. 13 performance.

“Tarzan” will continue through Sept. 23 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Everyone has a good time at Center Rep's 'Mamma Mia!'

Leanne Borghesi (left), Lynda DiVito as Donna and Alison Quin as Tanya recall their disco days.
Some of the bounciest music ever written and a terrific cast add up to one very good time at Center Repertory Company’s production of “Mamma Mia!”

Featuring songs mostly by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus made popular by the Swedish band ABBA in the ’70s, “Mamma Mia!” is set on a Greek island in 1999.

Sean Okuniewicz as Sky and Giana Gambardella as Sophie look forward to their wedding.
Sophie (Giana Gambardella) is to be married to Sky (Sean Okuniewicz) and wants her father to walk her down the aisle. 

There’s just one hitch: Three men might be her father. They are Harry (Mark Farrell), Bill (Keith Pinto) and Sam (Noel Anthony).  

Her single mother, Donna (Lynda DiVito), has had no contact with them since Sophie was conceived, and she doesn’t know who’s the father. Nor does she know beforehand that Sophie has invited them to Donna’s taverna.

Among the other wedding guests are Tanya (Alison Quin) and Rosie (Leanne Borghesi), who were part of a ’70s disco girl group with Donna. They have great fun reminiscing and reprising some of their songs, such as “Dancing Queen.”

As directed by Marc Jacobs, everything works out for the best at the end.

Before then, the audience is treated to more hits like “Honey, Honey,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” “One of Us,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “Take a Chance on Me” and the title song.

All are sung well under the leadership of musical director Brandon Adams.

There’s some great dancing, too, thanks to choreography by Robyn Tribuzi.

Kurt Landisman’s lighting puts on its own show during the overture. Costumes by Maggi Yule are sometimes wildly imaginative, as in the nightmare scene that opens Act 2.

The flexible set is by Kelly James Tighe with sound by Jeff Mockus.

Even after the curtain call, some of the best-known songs are reprised, giving the audience a chance to join in and have as much fun as the 20-member cast seems to be having.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Mamma Mia!” will continue through Oct. 7 at the Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek.

For tickets and information, call (925) 943-7469 or visit

Photos by Kevin Berne

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Hillbarn stages the timeless 'West Side Story'

Ana Paula Malagón as Maria and Jeffrey Brian Adams as Tony fall in love in 'West Side Story." (Mark & Tracy photo)

Inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” four giants of 20th century musical theater created a timeless classic, “West Side Story,” being presented by Hillbarn Theatre.

The concept came from Jerome Robbins, who directed and choreographed the 1957 original. He was joined by Arthur Laurents for the book, then-newcomer Stephen Sondheim for the lyrics and Leonard Bernstein for the memorable music.

Besides its own merits, Hillbarn’s production honors Bernstein’s centennial, which occurred only six days before the Aug. 31 opening.

Instead of the Bard’s feuding 16th-century Italian families, “West Side Story” focuses on feuding street gangs in New York City in the 1950s. One is the Sharks, who are recently arrived Puerto Ricans. The other is the Jets, who are mainland-born white Americans.

In his program note, artistic director Dan Demers writes of the show’s “unflinching engagement with contemporary concerns of racial unrest, urban gang violence, rape, immigration, and confrontations with the police.” He adds that the nation is still dealing with those divisive issues.

Caught between the gangs are star-crossed lovers Tony (Jeffrey Brian Adams), who founded the Jets but is pulling away, and Maria (Ana Paula Malagón), a Puerto Rican whose brother is a Shark. Their story doesn’t end happily.

Before it ends, though, the show offers some terrific dancing and one memorable song after another.

Music director Rick Reynolds adroitly leads the singers and 14-member orchestra through Bernstein’s intricate rhythms and soaring melodies.

Adams and Malagón have convincing chemistry and sing well alone and together. Malagón has an operatic voice she showcases in their touching duet, “One Hand, One Heart,” as well in ensembles like “Tonight” and “I Feel Pretty.”

Other great songs include “Something’s Coming,” “America,” “Somewhere” and more.

Director Erica Wyman Abrahamson, choreographer Kim Harvath and fight choreographer Zoë Swenson-Graham efficiently marshal the large cast on the small stage, overcoming the drab set by Ting Na Wang.

Costumes by Raven Winter and lighting by Pamila Gray complement the production, but the sound by Grant Huberty is spotty.

Eye- and throat-irritating theatrical haze (a lobby sign announces its use) unnecessarily permeates the stage and audience. 

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “West Side Story” will continue through Sept. 16 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City.
For tickets and information, call (650) 349-6411 or visit

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Neighbors get territorial in 'Native Gardens'

From left: Pablo (Michael Evans Lopez) , Virginia (Amy Resnick), Tania (Marlene Martinez) and Frank (Jackson Davis) get acquainted in Virginia and Frank's back yard. (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Relationships between new and established neighbors begin cordially in Karen Zacarías’s “Native Gardens,” presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.

A young couple, Pablo Del Valle (Michael Evans Lopez), an attorney, and his pregnant wife, Tania (Marlene Martinez), who is completing her doctoral dissertation, have just bought a fixer-upper in Washington, D.C.

Living next door are longtime middle-aged residents, Frank Butley (Jackson Davis), a government contractor, and his wife, Virginia (Amy Resnick), a Lockheed Martin engineer.

When the Del Valles tell the Butleys that they want to replace the unsightly low chain-link fence between their back yards with a higher wood one, the Butleys are delighted.

Their reaction changes when the Del Valles discover that their property is 2 feet wider than had been thought. Reclaiming that 2 feet will intrude into the yard that Frank has so carefully created and tended.

This discovery leads to increasing rancor between the couples. Racism, ageism, politics, entitlement, environmentalism (Tania wants only native plants; Frank has non-natives) and other issues fuel the dispute.

After the play’s basic premise is established, much of the action consists of often nasty and sometimes humorous confrontations.

The outcome, however, is summarized by the four characters a year later.

Director Amy Gonzalez keeps the action moving smoothly and elicits fine performances from all four actors.

The set by Andrea Bechert (with lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt) readily shows the differences between the two back yards. Costumes by Noah Marin and sound by Jeff Mockus enhance the show.

Running about 90 minutes with no intermission, “Native Gardens” will continue through Sept. 16 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View.

For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit