Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West: “Sexy Tattoos – Great Dialogue!”; Micro Movie Reviews: Prodigal Sons/Shutter Island

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on March 5, 2010

In the 1880’s, cameras were considered a weird new device. In the play “Concerning Strange” the action glides between the present and the 1880’s. This exotic play is a great puzzle, as we try to unfold the meaning of full body tattoos.

An American tourist, who is rather mysterious herself, becomes more than engaged in a man’s half naked body. She discovers him in a Photographer’s studio. The Photographer – artist is at first off putting and arrogant. He takes a dislike to the tourist who will not be deterred. She wants to take a closer look at the gorgeous young man’s body.

She once saw a picture that her father had taken of someone in Japan. That is what sent her off on a trail to find out more about photography and the art of making tattoos.

In between all of this we discover why the Photographer is not friendly with the American Tourist. “I am attracted to men,” he says to her. That kinda stops her in her tracks – but not entirely.

The tourist is insistent. She wants to know where he found the model. “He is a rickshaw driver” – he says. Apparently, the young man does not speak English. But wait – later we find that he does speak English.

The delicate imagery is beyond belief. You’ll be swept into the dreamy sounds of Naomi Iizuka’s Madame Butterfly kind of musical strains – where your mind nestles between blackmail, truths and untruths and erotic sexual situations sprinkled with some pretty blunt language.

This is a great and gorgeous travelogue of how photography has captured time, lovers and beauty over the years. Faded Photos become treasures of today. Some are rare – others are just to hold and put them to your heart. We learn much about other cultures through that wonderful device called “a Camera.”

This is a superb world Premiere! It is remarkable — one of the most splendid imaginations of our time! I urge you to see it.

This powerful, flawless production has the actors to make it the Masterpiece that it is.

THE ACTORS: Pay attention to the photographer — Bruce McKenzie. Be Dazzled by Johnny Wu, who plays four different roles. The inquisitive Isabel Hewlett (Kate Eastwood Norris) keeps her eye on the prize. Teresa Avia Lim (Kiku/Woman in a kimono/Servant Girl) is dazzling. The other Tourist (Husband of Isabel Hewlett) Danny Wolohan has a strong presence.

Exciting Direction is by Les Waters.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-


(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS-KQEd)))


The Real Kimberly Reed and her adopted brother in “Prodigal Sons.” Courtesy photo


‘PRODIGAL’ is a docudrama about a family with a lot of issues. Documentary filmmaker, Kimberly Reed tells her story. And that story is about how when Kimberly Reed was not Kimberly but a young man who was on the football team. Reed later has a sex change and becomes a beautiful, but annoying woman. In the film she has to deal with an adopted brother who has mental issues. Reed inflicts herself into his life, which make matters worse for him. Even at their high school reunion where she announces to everyone that she used to be a man but is now a woman.

I liked the movie at the beginning. The story is intriguing – but Reed becomes to ‘in your face’. There are lots of arguments between Reed and the adopted son. Most have that staged feeling to it. Kimberly Reed went to San Francisco State. And some of the movie was filmed in San Francisco.

The most interesting thing about the film is a strange connection to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth. It seems that the adopted brother was a distant relative. That little discovery kept the movie going.

Opens Today at the Lumiere Theatre.


Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island. Courtesy Photo.


MARTIN SCORSESE has done it again. He has created a masterpiece mystery that is totally mesmerizing. Great performances by all — especially Leonardo DiCaprio. This thriller takes place in 1954 at a mental facility.

This bleak Island with crashing waves and sinister attendants and security keeps you guessing. And that lighthouse on the Rocks…are there secrets up there in the tower? You will find out, but not easily.

SHUTTER ISLAND harks back to the early days of filmmaking. It has that Noir feel to it. Scary stuff. But what is real and what isn’t? That’s what keeps you going. There are lots of great camera angles and some roughhouse scenes. It’s a turbulent emotional and fascinating story. You will never want to ever visit a mental institution. Reminds of the Olivia DeHaviland film “The Snake Pit.” She won an Oscar for that – and I’m sure that DiCaprio will be nominated for an Oscar next year.

RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-



The Photo of Lee Hartgrave Boy Reporter is by Jim Ferreira – Film Noir & Hollywood Glamour.



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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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