With the music of Chic Street Man framing the Harlem Renaissance stories of Zora Neale Hurston, "Spunk" will transform the Bruns Memorial Amphitheatre into a realm far different from the magical island of Cal Shakes' first production "The Tempest."
Adapted by George C. Wolfe, this blues-infused production celebrates the lives of early 20th century African-Americans and, appropriately, begins its run July 4. The story with music consists of a trio of tales: "Sweat" tells of a long-suffering washerwoman who give her husband his just desserts; "The Gilded Six Bits" deals with a young husband who must learn to forgive the wife who betrays him; and "The Story of Harlem Slang" is all 1940s uptown slang, burlesque zoot suits, and lots of strutting.
Chic Street Man, who starred in the original show, says the music "acts as another voice for the actors. The guitar acoustically accents and amplifies the story being told while never getting in the way of the other actors."
Harlem-based artist Patricia McGregor directs a cast that includes Cal Shakes' regular L. Peter Callender and Campos Santos founding member Margo Hall.
"Spunk" continues through July 29 in Orinda. Call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.
The libel trial brought by exotic dancer Maud Allan against right-wing journalist and member of Britain's Parliament, Noel Pemberton Billing, created quite
The company premiered Mark Jackson's new play "Salomania" based on the trial where Allan, known for her interpretation of Oscar Wilde's "Salome," attempted to defend her reputation against Billing's assertion that she was a lesbian, sadist and German sympathizer.
Wilde's conviction, prison and death were still fresh in everyone's mind at the time, and the trial provided a salacious respite from the horrors of World War I.
Jackson's play, which he also directs, begins with jarring sound effects that herald various overhead slides setting the time and place followed by Wilde's courtroom scene. Next, a group of British soldiers come crawling down Nina Ball's versatile set of multilayered crates that easily mutates into a courtroom, pub and other locales as well as providing closet space for the actors' many costume changes.
The action intertwines the soldiers' experiences on and off the battlefield with Allan's trial, including surreal scenes where Allan, in full Salome costume, walks/dances through the battlefield.
It's an intriguing play beautifully executed by the seven-person ensemble led by Madeline H.D. Brown as Maud Allan. The exceptionally talented cast also includes Kevin Clarke, Alex Moggridge, Anthony Nemirovsky, Mark Anderson Phillips, Marilee Talkington and Liam Vincent.
Costumer Callie Floor also does a brilliant job capturing the period dress.
But the play itself takes on too much as Jackson attempts to capture not only the trial but the horrors of war and larger societal issues as well. Time periods jump back and forth as the characters talk and talk. While fascinating at times, the play would benefit by trimming some of the lines and content.
"Salomania" runs through July 22, at the Aurora, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Call 510-843-4822 or go to www.auroratheatre.org.
Local playwright Bud Lembke has taken on the retirement community of Rossmoor in his new play, "Arthritis Be Damned."
A parody of the happy, or sometimes not so happy, days in Walnut Creek's well-known residential area will have a staged reading at 7 p.m. July 20, 27; and at 2 p.m. July 21, at Walnut Creek's Mt. Diablo Unitarian-Universalist Church, 55 Eckley Lane.
Directed by Dana Anderson, the production includes three cast members, as well as the author, who reside in Rossmoor. The plot revolves around a real-life controversy in the retirement community (renamed Harkmoor in Lembke's play) over the construction of a multimillion dollar event center.
For more information, contact Lembke at email@example.com.
Contact Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org.