The Scene – ‘Crackling and Daring’; Curvy Widow – ‘Twisted Pleasure’; Nixon’s Nixon –‘Dark Gutsy’

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on February 8, 2008

THE SCENE:

It’s an ultra modern apartment with a killer view where Charlie (Aaron Davidman) and his long time friend Lewis (Howard Swain) – are suddenly confronted with party hopper Clea (Heather Gordon). This young beauty pulls out all the stops. She bends over to make sure that you see her ample cleavage, and makes sure that everyone within earshot knows that she is fresh from Ohio and just doesn’t know a thing about big City Life. She reminds of Marilyn Monroe in “All About Eve” – every other word that comes from her ruby lips seem to be “It’s all so surreal”. Well, it works for Lewis (Swain). He just about passes out from frustration every time she whirls around the room and sprawls out on the modern Chaise…exposing everything that she can. And that’s a lot.

This party is the beginning of many disasters as “Little Miss Swiss Miss” begins to spin her web. First of all, it doesn’t take long to find out the little sexpot is not as dumb (she is blonde) as she acts. But men are fools most of the time – and can’t pass up someone this gorgeous, and make total fools of them selves. Not to mention the lives that they mess up along the way. Yes, the web gets tighter. And when you are no longer useful to her – “Little Swiss Miss” would just as soon boil you in hot chocolate.

Charlie (whose wife is Stella) at first takes a dislike to Clea. He finds her to be superficial – which she is. So, he leaves her to his friend Lewis who is still panting as Charlie leaves the party. There are many twists and turns in this play. Some of them startling, sad and breathtakingly exciting. Like Mamet’s “Speed The Plow” – the crackling dialogue almost peels the paint of the walls. This is a neurotic play that appeals to me because I’m a neurotic.

Heather Gordon’s uncurbed enthusiasm is not tameable. She knows what she wants and she’s going to get it – no matter how many 16-inch Heel marks she leaves on their body. Gordon’s acting just gave winter some sunshine with her engaging and Purr-fect performance. She’s got the panache.

The exemplary Howard Swain is extremely compelling as he reaches for a nearly unimaginable goal. Wonderful!

Aaron Davidman takes the audience on an amazing personal journey with deeply touching intimacy. Passion trumps good sense.

Nancy Çarlin is the wife (Stella). On opening night a real problem occurred. The star that was to play Stella – Daphine Zuniga came down with a sore throat. Carlin jumped into the role and had to use a script from time to time. It didn’t affect the play whatsoever – Carlin as usual gave a strong performance.

The Director Amy Glazer balanced the line between love and fate flawlessly. The Bill English Set is not to be believed. Whole rooms seem to disappear in seconds with another taking its place. It’s a total wonder. And of course without the words of the playwright Theresa Rebeck, there would not be this blistering portrait of hormones out of control.

The Sum Up: Vibrant, Knockout performances

AT THE SAN FRANCISCO PLAYHOUSE ON SUTTER

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

EXTRA: Heather Gordon is Miss Marin County 2008. She will compete for the title of Miss California this coming June. And you know what? I have a vision that she’s going to win. Extra Two: Daphne Zuniga (of Melrose Place fame) should now be back in the play in the role of Stella.)


Cybill Shepherd (TV Photo)

CURVY WIDOW:

The first thing you see on the Post Street Theatre stage is the fascinating high tech modernistic set. The next thing you see is a still curvy Cybill Shepard who plays a recent widow who was married to her husband since she was eighteen. It was the first and only man that she had ever dated. Now alone, she is seeking some companionship, and turns to internet dating.

Curvy Widow places her ad, which in itself is bound to take her down the wrong path – “Curvy Widow seeks playmate.” What the Widow ends up getting is sex-craved nuts or worse. She goes through about 70 plus men over time. None of them live up to her expectations.

The whole premise of the show is supposed to show us how hilarious dating can be on the Internet. Not to mention dangerous. Bobby Goldman has written a lackluster play. It’s curious that someone as famed as Shepard would even appear in it. Oh, some of the lines are funny – but not nearly enough to carry the play. Shepard really tries hard to make it all work. However, she is fighting an up-hill battle with lame unfunny material and comic timing.

Shepard changes costumes (tops) for the various dates – but I wonder why she never changes from the pants? No wonder she is having trouble finding Mr. HotPants she’s wearing them. And, those nurse’s shoes. Doesn’t she have a pair of high heels in her closet? She looked like she just parked her 18-wheeler outside the Theater.

One god-awful scene is when Shepard is supposedly stomping on land crabs that have invaded her home. Not funny! This is the kind of sit-com stuff that just bogs the play down.

In Spite of Shepard’s energy this story never decides what it wants to be. There is Shepard as the Stand-up comic, Shepard as a lonely Widow, Shepard who finally meets Mr. McDreamy, dumps him when she decides that her work is more important to her. That was the little nod to femine-ism.

What is a marvel in this show are the gigantic screens that become part of the back wall. As Shepard is trolling the Internet for dates on her computer – we can see the words on the screens as she types. There are various graphics and projections used on the wall as well. Fascinating stuff.

AT THE POST STREET THEATRE

RATING: TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!! –trademarked-

EXTRA: CURVY CONVERSATIONS WITH CYBILL SHEPERD. Beginning Feb. 14 – every Thursday night you can submit questions that will be answered by Cybill following the show. The talkbacks are free to anyone who purchases a ticket for that performance. The talk backs will be Feb. 14, 21,28 and March 6.


Andrew Hurteau and Steve Irish in Nixon’s Nixon. Photo: Kevin Berne

NIXON’S NIXON:

— The Madness of King Richard!

It was fitting that I saw ‘Russell Lee’ “Nixon-Nixon” at the Dean Lesher Center for performing Arts on “Super Tuesday”. Somehow, ironic that we are into an election now to replace another Nixonian type president. Perhaps in time there will be a play entitled “Bush’s Bush”, or something similar. It would make Nixon sound like Snow White.

During 80 one-act minutes (no intermission) we watch two actors (Andrew Hurteau as Nixon and Steve Irish as Kissinger) on the eve of Richard Nixon’s resignation as President of the United States, in 1974, at the time of the Watergate scandal. Of course, the conversation between Nixon and Kissinger is imaginary. What we are watching on the stage is set in the Lincoln Room at the White House. We are the flies on the wall during the bizarre conversation. Kissinger is trying to get Nixon to agree to resign. It would benefit Kissinger and basically save his ass and his political future.

Nixon is portrayed as a petty, foul-mouthed, egomaniac that is convinced that he has King like powers. Kissinger is viewed as a power hungry wheeler-dealer, who is only concerned about himself, rather than the U.S. or his soon to be forgotten boss.

The two carry on the conversation with lots of booze under their belt, shouting, screaming, and cajoling each other with tales of past glories, mistakes and power plays. Nixon is worried about how history will remember him. Does that sound familiar?

Some of the highlights in this show, have the actors imitating Chairman Mao, Leonid Breshnev, JFK and Golda Meir. Steve Irish is excellent as Kissinger. His voice changes are a marvel. Andrew Hurteau, had all the gestures, tics, facial expressions of Nixon. Although he did not really look exactly like Nixon – he managed to make us believe that he was the ex-prez.

The set designed by Scott Weldin is fabulous. Especially interesting is the last scene when the helicopter takes off with Nixon giving his usual arms in the air greeting. The set becomes the Helicopter. Sharply directed by Michael Butler.

The Sum Up: Hypnotic…intense and revealing.

RATING: THREE GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE!!! –trademarked-

AT THE CENTER REP THEATRE — DEAN LESHER CENTER – WALNUT CREEK

EXTRA: Andrew Hurteau is no stranger to playing a royal. He was the Duke of Albany in King Lear and Lord Stanley in Richard III. He was also in the terrific “Nero” at the Magic Theater. EXTRA 2 — Steve Irish (Kissinger) was in the wonderful ‘Bot’ at the Magic Theater. He was also in Richard the III – appearing opposite Alfred Molina at the Odyssey Theater in Los Angeles. Lets hear it for the Royals!

IT’S SHOWTIME!!!!

BUZZSTAR CAFÉ

SHE’S GONNA BE BIG! That would be Terese Genecco. Yes, she’s already big in the music world – but her high voltage show with her Little Big Band is just too powerful to miss. Genecco takes a song and squeezes every little happy note out of it. Believe me – you will not be depressed when you leave. The strong rhythms will keep you going for a week without one cup of coffee. She’s the Caffiene that you’ve been searching for. Where is this Bauble – you ask? At the RRAZZ ROOM in the Nikko Hotel Saturdays beginning on Feb. 23 at 10:30 pm. Genecco is ‘utterly entrancing’!

Also coming up at the RRAZZ ROOM…Tony Martin, the legendary singer who is still going strong after several decades. Martin and his wife Cyd Charisse were main stays in the nightlife of Los Angeles then. But, it was in Dayton, Ohio where Journalist Richard Connema (Talkin’ Broadway) came across the singer. As Richard tells it…”Tony came over to our table and sang a love song to my mother. She was over the moon after that.” Bennett will be at the Club March 25 through March 30th. Celebs wanna know – “Was it really his Mom who was over the Moon, or was it Richard?” Those Celebs – always wondering.

Now Open at the New Conservatory Theatre “I Am My Own Wife.” It’s a good trick if you can do it. I mean – being your own wife. Well, at least it more convenient to have everything in one. Ed Decker directs Doug Wright’s engrossing play, and the SuperStar actor Andrew Nance will play the role. It’s a remarkable story about a German Transvestite that is caught up in the nightmares of Nazism and Communism. Fascinating stuff. I’ve seen the play before and found it to be extremely engrossing.

Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame will be on the Berkeley Rep Stage in “Wishful Drinking.” Entertainment Weekly” has called it “drolly hysterical”. What will we call it here? We will just have to wait to find out. It opens on Feb. 19. Directed by Tony Taccone.

WORD FOR WORD presents a program of the Z Space Studio — “Sonny’s Blues’ by James Baldwin. It will be directed by Margo Hall, with original musical score by Marcus Shelby. Where: The Lorraine Hansberry Theater, on Sutter/Mason. In the cast is the Icon of music – the dynamic Faye Carol. It starts Feb. 8 – March 2. www.zspace.org.

Now…just click your heels together – and off you go!

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

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME HERE: leehartgraveshow@yahoo.com

PRESS STUFF: buzztatler@aol.com

Podcasts, blogs, vblogs: web.mac.com/buzzmixer/

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.

More Posts

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment