"San Francisco values, indeed," my husband, a native San Franciscan, intoned after thoroughly enjoying Town Hall's season opening production of "Sly Fox" this past weekend.
Adroitly directed by Soren Oliver and set on the city's post-Gold Rush Barbary Coast, the show continues through Oct. 20 at its Lafayette theater.
Larry Gelbart's 1970s take on Ben Jonson's timeless "Volpone" satirizes the foibles and greed of humanity as surely as his "M*A*S*H" skewered the absurdity and pathos of war with characters, even villains, that audiences loved. Gelbart's witty dialogue proves a perfect vehicle for a great cast and, especially, the ubiquitous Clive Worsley, Town Hall's artistic director. Worsley, who plays the deliciously rascally Foxwell J. Sly. Worsley even does a turn as the frontier judge, who tries the con man (a dummy sits in for Sly during the scene) for taking liberties with the beautifully pious Mrs. Truckle (Molly Rebekka Benson).
The entire cast finds just the right timing and pacing to deliver the goods, exactly what Lawyer Craven (Randy Anger), Jethro Couch (Remi Barron), and Justin DuPuis (Abner Tuckle) unwittingly do for Sly, whether those goods are gold goblets, a son's inheritance, or a wife's honor. In strong performances that accentuate the farce while still eliciting empathy for their characters, the entire ensemble, including Suzanne Dean as the aptly named Miss Fancy and Matthew Capbarat as Captain Crouch, move the action. Dennis Markham, Sly's indentured servant and flimflam acolyte, is remarkable even as the play's final con hits close to home.
The ensemble is as perfectly cast as the production's protagonists and antagonists. Oliver's conceit, staging the whole play as a Music Hall Vaudeville from the 1800s, works fabulously as scene changes are covered by the able cast who perform in numerous roles throughout and deliver quick sketches in between scenes to keep the audience engaged. Erika March, Reid Smith, Elias Slaman do this well. Ironically, March is fresh from her role as Kitty, the daughter in "Vaudeville," the last Willow Theater's cabaret production before that company's demise. Thankfully, local theater is still going strong as this Town Hall production attests. "Sly Fox" runs through Oct. 20. Call 925-283-1557 or go to www.townhalltheatre.com for tickets.
A thoroughly charming production of Joe DiPietro's "The Last Romance" plays through Oct. 6 at Diablo Actors' Ensemble. Unfortunately for those without tickets, the production (including an added performance) is completely sold out! The company's intimate theater space on Locust Street provides the perfect venue for this poignant story of friendship and love found late in life. Stu Klitsner (Ralph) and Barbara Grant (Carol) create a marvelous relationship as two lonely people who meet at the local dog park. Ralph is all energetic enthusiasm as he asks the reluctant Carol out on a date. While she attempts to rebuff his advances, she eventually succumbs to his charm. Ann Kendrick, as Ralph's sister Rose, adds a nice tension to the play as she nags but ultimately comforts the brother she loves so much.
It is truly a pleasure to watch three such consummate performers who create complex characters with ease. Christian McCooey portrays the younger Ralph, a would-be opera singer who misses his big chance. A high school senior, McCooey displays a strong operatic voice that belies his youth. For more information on Diablo Actors' Ensemble, go to www.diabloactors.com.
A group of local theater artists have been hard at work preparing the world premiere of dynamic family drama entitled "Bound By Blood." Written by Walnut Creek's Eric Inman, the former artistic director of the Willows Theatre, the show is produced by Concord's Michelle Ianiro and features several local actors. It runs Oct. 5-27 at the Boxcar Playhouse, 505 Natoma St. in San Francisco.
Originally a one-act play first produced in 2004 at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, this new full-length version details a family's anguish as it comes to terms with a son dying from AIDS. Although a very serious topic, Inman sprinkles humor and funny characters throughout to balance this powerful drama.
"Bound By Blood" runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. Call 925-550-7860 or go to www.ianiroproductions.com for more information and for tickets.
Cal Shakes has added performances of its final show of the season "Hamlet." The run is now extended through Oct. 21 with performances added on Thursday at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. For tickets, call 510-548-9666 or go to www.calshakes.org.
Contact Sally Hogarty at firstname.lastname@example.org.