If ever a show was appropriately named, "Spunk" at Cal Shakes certainly is. The sassy show adapted by George C. Wolfe takes three tales by Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston, adds blues music by Chic Street Man, and creates a window into the past that also has much to say about relationships today.
An anthropologist by training, Hurston excels in capturing the essence of a time and culture. Although not appreciated in her own time with her legacy all but obliterated, Hurston's work was rediscovered in the mid-70s thanks to writer Alice Walker.
Impressed by Hurston's gritty, complex writings, Walker made it her mission to introduce Hurston to contemporary audiences. She not only unearthed Hurston's work for a new generation but when she found the writer's unmarked grave in a segregated cemetery, Walker purchased a headstone for it.
"Spunk" takes us from the rural South to the streets of Harlem and, finally, to a small town as Hurston weaves her poetic magic with the hypnotic blues music of Chic Street Man holding it all together. Director Patricia McGregor finds Cal Shakes outdoor amphitheater the perfect venue for "Spunk" with its "musicality and expanded theatrical space."
She has put together an incredible cast of seven who bring Hurston's multifaceted characters to life. Anthony Michael Peterson (aka Tru) as Guitar Man provides the rhythmic link with L. Peter Callender and Margo Hall leading the fine ensemble
While the cruelty in the first story can be startling, the stylized movement of the Zoot "suitors" in the second provides a colorful glimpse of a bygone era, and the third story adds a touch of pathos and trumpets the power of forgiveness. All three stories are beautifully performed.
"Spunk" continues through July 29. For tickets, call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.
Diablo Theatre Company's Stars 2000 not only features its talented teens in its upcoming production of "Hairspray," but one of those teens is co-choreographer with Stars 2000 founder Diane Kamrin.
"I wanted some new inspiration for this show that is familiar to many people," says Kamrin. "I found Braden's youthful interpretation of dance moves from the 1960s very exciting."
Entering his senior year at Granada High School in Livermore, Braden Sweeney hopes to make a name for himself in dance and theater. Trained in ballet and jazz, Sweeney also brings some contemporary lyrical dance and hip-hop to the production.
You can check out Sweeney and Kamrin's dazzling dance numbers in "Hairspray," running July 20-29 at Diablo Valley College, 321 Golf Club Road, in Pleasant Hill. Call 925-324-7359 or go to www.diablotheatre.org.
Local performers have teamed up to benefit a local children's shelter at a special dinner show at 6 p.m. July 21, at Zio Fraedo's Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.
"Summer in the City" features Sheilah Morrison, Rhonda Taylor, Lynne Chapman, Marisa Barley, the singing group Q'ed Up, and Ka'Ohi Nani o Mana 'olana Tahitian Dance Troupe.
Proceeds from the show will go to the Love-A-Child Homeless Recovery Shelter in Pittsburg. Go to www.herotheatricalproductions.com for tickets.
Next up for the Orinda Starlight Village Players is John Murray and Allen Boretz's crazy comedy "Room Service," which runs July 20—Aug. 11, at the Orinda Community Center Park amphitheater.
Directed by Chris Constantouros, the cast includes Starlight artistic director Geotty Chapple as Gordon Miller, the nimble-witted producer who is living on credit along with his cast at a Broadway hotel.
Miller's immediate staff includes his director, Harry Binion (Ken Sollazzo), stage manager Faker Englud (Vickie Zabarte), writer Leo Davis (Charles Guitron), and leading lady Christine Marlowe (Laura Martin-Chapin).
Shows are at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a 4 p.m. matinee Sunday, Aug. 5, and an 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 performance. For more information and tickets, call 925-528-9225 or visit www.orsvp.org.
Walnut Creek's Unity Center (1871 Geary Road) has introduced a jazz series complete with your choice of a gourmet picnic dinner or lawn seating with your own picnic fare. The July 28 performance features saxophonist Sonny Fairley while the Aug. 25 concert features reggae band O Street. Doors open at 5 p.m. with the music staring at 6 p.m.
For more information and tickets, call 925-937-2191.
Contact Sally Hogarty at email@example.com.