If when viewing Cal Shakes' "A Winter's Tale," running at the Bruns Amphitheatre in Orinda through Oct. 20, you feel a sense of déjà vu, you are not alone. The Commedia del Arte opening and exuberant energy throughout the show harkens back to last season's hit "Spunk."
That's no surprise, since the talented sister team of director Patricia McGregor and choreographer Paloma McGregor are responsible for both shows. The McGregors also brought back five cast members from "Spunk" to join the nine-member cast of Shakespeare's rarely-performed play "A Winter's Tale."
All cast members perform multiple roles in this family-friendly fairy tale complete with music, miracles and audience participation. Although I don't know why, Shakespeare's original title "The Winter's Tale" has been changed to "A Winter's Tale" for the Cal Shakes' production. While essentially Shakespeare's story of the King of Sicilia (L. Peter Callender), overcome with jealousy and suspecting his wife Hermione (Omoze Idehenre) and his good friend the King of Bohemia (Aldo Billingslea) in a love affair, the McGregors have added a fanciful touch to the work.
Told by a traveling band of entertainers with many tricks up their sleeves, the action takes place in Sicilia and beyond. Led by the multitalented Margo Hall and Cal Shakes' newcomer Christopher Rivera, the troupe keeps the action lively and entertaining as they play both storytellers and characters in the story. Two other fine additions to the show include Tristan Cunningham, who began her career at 10 years of age with Vermont's Circus Smirkus, and Tyee Tilghman, seen earlier this season in "Lady Windermere's Fan." MacKenzie Kowk and Veronica Larkin and Akili Moree and Zion Richardson alternate in smaller roles.
The fanciful creativity continues with set designer Michael Locher's wonderfully accommodating set consisting primarily of a small, colorful trailer easily converted from living space to elegant bar and more, and a large, multistory castle. Well lighted by Russell Champa, the engaging set piece has pop out windows revealing various actions and transforms into a luminous tree when turned.
While I found the creative show quite entertaining, Shakespeare aficionados might take exception to the liberties with the Bard's text and, especially, to the elimination of the "reveal" scene, in which the shepherd's daughter is shown to be the King of Sicilia's banished babe. Instead of playing the scene, the cast (now transformed back into the traveling troupe) does a fast-action synopsis of the scene.
For tickets to a lively interpretation of one of Shakespeare's last plays, call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.
"What's in a name?" asks Shakespeare's Juliet. Evidently, quite a bit -- at least according to the characters in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." The classic comedy about two young men about town and two young women obsessed with the name Ernest runs Oct. 11-27 at the Fetterly Playhouse in Vallejo. Presented by Bay Area Stage, the show features Chad Clevenger as John Worthing, Peter Warden as Algernon Moncrieff, Dee Marshall as Gwendolen Fairfax and Kristin Redford and Tara Dresbach alternating as Cecily Cardew. Jeff Lowe directs.
Call 707-649-1053 or go to www.bayareastage.org for tickets.
The Vagabond Players take on the Wild West in its latest production "Wagon Wheels a-Rollin,' " which runs Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. at El Campanil Theatre in Antioch.
The fun take on traveling westward finds Chuck Wagon's wagon train stranded at notorious Whistling Skull Rock outside the tiny town of Vinegar Bottle, known for its "I'm OK, You're OK Corral" and crawling with villains.
The fast-paced spoof includes such characters as heroine Candy Cane, the villainous Smiling Slade Clagget and Wild Bill Hiccup. Booing the villain and applauding the hero are encouraged, as are the wearing of cowboy hats and kerchiefs. For tickets, call 925-757-9500 or go to www.elcampaniltheatre.com.
"Beautiful -- the Carole King Musical," continues through Oct. 20 at SHN's Curran Theatre in San Francisco featuring Tony Award nominee Jessie Mueller as King. This is the pre-Broadway world premiere. The musical follows King's remarkable rise to stardom as a teen, her hit songwriting team with husband Gerry Goffin, her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, and finally her hugely successful solo career. Tickets are available at 888-746-1799 or go to www.shnsf.com.
Contact Sally Hogarty at email@example.com