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April 1, 2009

THOM PAIN - THE STORY - KITTEN ON THE KEYS

Lee Hartgrave reviews
April 1st, 2009

THOM PAIN

This Will Eno one-man show is sharply crafted. Thom Pain (Johathan Bock) is like a sand storm that constantly swirls and whirls around the Theater as Pain drags us along through the wreckage of his life. This is a very intricate and difficult play to put over. In lesser talents (Bock) it could turn out to be a true disaster.

If you squirm easily as the Star stares into your eyes for moments that seem like an eternity, then this play would not be for you. You also most not be afraid of the dark, because there are some moments when we are all in the dark along with the actor. Uncomfortable yes, but it does give your mind some time to think over your life – and the wreckage you might have been lucky enough to avoid in your life.

Johathan Bock gives a chilling, almost insane performance. It’s a gripping revelatory tale that brings visualization to the fore. Tom Pain takes us on quick takes of his life as he transits from sanity to someone who is possessed by something. One minute he is sweet and kindly and the next, he is shouting at the audience with obscenities and sometimes physically. Oh, don’t worry – no one is actually attacked.

Like a Beckett character, Thom Pain lives in a miserable world. As the play goes on you sometimes hate the character – but on the other hand, you also want to reach out and hug Pain. There is something that is vulnerable about him. When you look into his eyes, you see a cry for help. But, do you dare? He could snap at any moment. He’s not the type that you would want to bring home. Think of the things that he tells us. They come rolling out of his mouth sometimes covered in honey and sometimes with venom. You might call these outbursts “Twitter Size’ rants. Here’s one: “It would be wonderful to take you home – then leave you there and go somewhere else!”

FA-LASH! -- EXTENDED!

NOW PLAYING AT THE CUTTING BALL THEATRE (Exit Theatre on Taylor Street)

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

THE STORY

A GRIPPING TALE TOLD WITH SWEEP AND FLAIR

It’s a Newspaper office. There are of course Reporters, writers and department managers. They all have there own agenda’s. It is possible for various members of the audience to identify with many of the people in ‘The Story’.

This Story starts out with a brutal murder in a dangerous part of town. Racism becomes a part of the story. Did a black man murder a white man who was in the neighborhood to build bridges for people that don’t have a portfolio? That’s what happens to do-gooders. They sometimes become victims. You read about it everyday – and this particular Newspaper (The Daily) is trying to dig deep to find out what actually went on, than night and on that street.

Meanwhile in the Newsroom – racial tensions run rampant. There is the Black outreach section at this otherwise White Newspaper. The Black Contingent is separated from the White Metro Section. As we follow the lives of the people in “The Story” we find that a new Black woman reporter has conjured up a completely false story about a young Latino girl who belongs to a Gang. She is so convincing in telling the story – that we believe her. We want to believe her. She seems to be a good reporter – but it turns out that she is a ‘Bad Reporter’. It was all a hoax to get her name out there – and to break into the sacred “Metro” part of the paper. And it almost works. Her razzle-dazzle routine worked until her supervisor in the Black Section began to unravel her story.

This is a peculiar play, in that it is not that pro-black. Oh, sure the Whites also get their knocks in this play, but it is the African Americans that don’t come out as the heroes in this Story. It’s all about street smarts, imagination, and a desire to become famous. None of this worked for the Young Reporter who has faked her education, her story and her writing skills – that others have to re-write before it is published.

To add to the secretive goings on at this Newspaper is a White, good-looking Editor who is having an affair with the young black reporter. He doesn’t want anyone to know about it, because he is afraid that it will lead to problems with the higher ups. This is a dark, sexually provocative tale of Crime on the Streets mixed with Office politics. The tone is dark and sinister. But it is an unforgettable wallow in the wicked newsprint of the Newspaper world. Its classic Noir!

“The Story” is based on a True Story.
Here’s the rest of The Story: Play by Tracey Scott Wilson. Sensationally directed by Margo Hall. Featuring these creative actors: Afi Ayanna, Dwight Huntsman, Halili Knox, Awele Makeba, Craig Marker, Allison L. Payne, Ryan Peters, Rebecca Schweitzer, Kathryn Tkel.

EXTEE, EXTREE! Lisa Clark – Scenic Design. Valera Coble – Costume Design. Cy K. Eaton – Lighting Design. “Will McCandless – Sound Design. Allison Jones-Manson – Properties Artisan and Tatjana Genser – Stage Manager.

PRESENTED BY THE SF PLAYHOUSE & LORRAINE HANSBERRY THEATRE

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

GREASE – APPEALS TO MASS AUDIENCE

GREASE is set in the fifties, but has a seventies feel to it. Even the car looks more seventies. It was a freewheeling decade with it innocence and attitude. Think Elvis Era. Still, after all these years we all can relate to this coming of age story. The music is doo-wop style as the dancers and singers dance on top of a classic sports car and in the High School Gym. What fun those days were. It’s a celebration of friendship and youth.

The clothes on the boys are pretty much back in style again. Rolled up Jeans, Leather Jackets and Tee shirts never seem to go out of style. The girls however have evolved. They no longer wear poodle skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes in todays high schools. The sexuality is just above the surface as the boys and girls get dangerously close to each other, but they knew the boundaries then -- and pretty much stayed in them. Oh, and underwear was worn under other garments – not over the garments like High School Kids today. How refreshing!

The story is sweet, simple and classic. Boys meet girls. They fall in love, run into some rough times, argue, and get back together. Sandy gives up the Sandra Dee look and turns into a hot number on the campus as they all dance to energetic and exciting dance sequences. My only complaint is that in the song “Sandra Dee” they left out Troy Donohue who was a big star when the musical first premiered. Yeh, I know he’s dead – but he is part of the history.

Here are some of my favorite songs: “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, “You’re the One That I Want”, “We Go Together”, “Beauty School Dropout” and “There Are Worse Things That I Could Do.” For this production they added some new songs that were just O.K. The songs just didn’t have the same feel for the time frame. They were out of place.
Taylor Hicks sang “Beauty School Dropout” – and it is terrific. However, I wonder why they made the Teen Angel an over the top Gay Man? I think it was overdone.

The principals were great. Eric Schneider (Danny is a look-a-like of Adrian Brody) – really put it across. Emily Padgett is a terrific Sandy and Taylor Hicks, who is probably the best-known name in the cast, sounds and looks better in person. This show has a lot going for it – energy and fun. It’s a Comfy show.

AT THE GOLDEN GATE THEATRE

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

CAFÉ EXTRA

KITTEN ON THE KEYS – PURRRR!

THIS IS A WORLD PREMIERE of “Does This Piano Make My Ass Look Big?” – performed by Kitten On The Keys, aka Suzanne Ramsey. This unique show includes original song, live performance, and video. It’s a new work (words & music) written by Suzanne Ramsey. This limited engagement will be for two weekends only March 27 – April 5, 2009 on Fri., Sat. & Sun. Where you might ask: O.K. I will tell you. It’s a quaint little Artsy Theatre complex Mission near Van Ness. Your gonna love the name of the place – “Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory in SF. More info and Tix: www.suzanneramsey.net. I can’t wait to see it.

These would be good for you also: Keely Smith at the RraZZ Room. The War Room at A.C.T. SUEDE – great singer and more at the Rrazz April 6 & 7. Evita, the musical in Walnut Creek (Lesher Center) and The Cast of Grease and Wicked join up together for a wild and fun evening at Club Fugazi on April 13 for REAF and Equity fights Aids. Better get those Tix now – before it’s Too-Two late. Friday April 13, you can get Baptized. Aha – caught you on that one. No you can’t actually get baptized, but you will feel like it after seeing “Baptized to the Bone” at The New Conservatory Theatre that debuts on April 3.

AND THAT’S A WRAP!!!!

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