Onstage Theatre inaugurated its new space at the Martinez Campbell Theatre with a quirky little show by siblings David and Amy Sedaris entitled "The Book of Liz."
In its ongoing mission to be a true "community" theater and to expose audiences to new talent, the company presented an improv preshow featuring Martinis (a more mature group) and Mountain Dew (teens).
The two groups warmed up the audience together as they took suggestions and turned them into silly scenes.
Local actors, directed by Edwin Peabody, then took center stage as the "The Book of Liz" opened its pages.
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the Sedaris' tell of a cloistered religious order, the Squeamish, known for their tasty cheese balls.
When Sister Elizabeth Donderstock, who created the delicious recipe, feels unappreciated, she leaves to experience life in the outside world. In true Sedaris' fashion, Donderstock runs into such characters as a Cockney-speaking Ukrainian immigrant making a living as a giant peanut, and a group of recovering alcoholics running a local restaurant where everyone dresses as pilgrims.
While Donderstock begins a successful new career as a waitress, things are not going so well for the Squeamish.
They just can't seem to duplicate her cheese ball recipe, and their quaint lifestyle is suddenly in jeopardy.
The Onstage production features a cast of experienced and not-so-experienced performers. Producer Helen Means makes an appearance as the gossipy Sister Butterworth alongside her daughter Allison Means McKinney as Oxana, the Ukrainian peanut.
Don Tamblyn and Ryan Terry create a multitude of memorable characters, with Beth Chastain adding some nice touches as Donderstock.
In fact, the scenes with Tamblyn and Chastain are a highlight of the show.
Hopefully, as the run continues through Feb. 15, the pacing of the entire show will improve, generating the lively action needed to bring out the Sedaris' comedy.
For tickets, call 925-518-3277.
That tough, independent detective Sam Spade comes to Concord as Butterfield 8 Theatre Company presents Dashiell Hammett's "The Maltese Falcon."
Running through March 9, at Cue Productions Live in downtown Concord, Spade's iconic characters will come alive in their entire 1930s splendor, including the beautiful and mysterious Miss Wonderly.
John Butterfield directs with Chad Clevenger as Spade, Kerry Gudjohnsen as Brigid, Jonathan Spencer as Casper, Melynda Kiring (recently seen as Dolly Levi in "The Matchmaker" at Role Players in Danville) as Iva, and Ron Pickett as Lt. Dundy.
According to Butterfield, the production includes costumes by Shellie Award-winning Liz Martin, Kathleen MacKay's intimate lighting design, and Jim Lively's period soundscape.
For tickets, go to www.butterfield8.org.
The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County held the finals for its "Poetry Out Loud" competition recently.
A distinguished panel of judges had the task of choosing between talented teens from 12 high schools.
Congratulations to first-place winner Victoria Baca (Las Lomas High); second place Carlos Leal (Richmond High); and third place Natalie Hill (College Park High).
Baca now advances to the California State finals on March 23-24.
Contact Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org.