September 24, 2010


ACT’s ‘Scapin’ – “Amazing”

Berkeley Rep ‘Compulsion’

ÅIDA – “Enormously Gorgeous!”

RRAZZ has superb lineup;


SCAPIN is as close to a huge hit as any play could be.  The play has seen many changes over the years and around the world.  But in San Francisco Bill Irwin the adaptor, has written into the already tangled plot many new visual stunts and some interesting new words that were not in the original Moliere play.  The audience reveled in the anachronisms and funny business.  Bill Irwin (Scapin) – “When you chase them sir – they stay Chaste.” I think you can figure this one out: - “Now, SHE has a nice trunk!”

Here is the somewhat tangled plot: Without the knowledge or permission of his father Argante, – Octav (the son) married Hyacnith. Then there is Geronte’s son Leander, who falls in love with the gypsy girl Zerbinetta. He needs and gets a large amount of money to ransom his Gypsy love away from the Gypsy band.  Scapin tricks Leander’s father to get the money.

The scenic design is terrific.  The buildings on either side really stand out in a deep Courtyard. With the two twin buildings, it gives the actors plenty of doors and windows to play some of their hijinks.

A lot of the fun comes from the wonderful costumes. Most especially Scapin’s outfit has that Circus Clown look. But, there is a big difference in the clothes of the Wealthy and the workers.  If you were thinking ‘Scapin’ as one of the workers – you would be right.

This Scapin is a work of pure, awe-inspiring Fantasy. A surprise package of fun with untamed imagination.  The Actors are deranged and inspired. You’ll find yourself smiling all the way home.  I did.

THE WACKY AND GREAT CAST: Gregory Wallace – Jud Williford (Got most laughs) – Bill Irwin – (perfection) – Keith Pinto – Ben Johnson – Ashley Wickett – Steven Anthony Jones – Geoff Hoyle – Patrick Lane – Omoze Idehenre – Rene Augesen (The Gypsy Woman).  They are really TOO Cool to miss!

GREAT AND AMUSING MUSICIANS: – Randall Craig and Keith Terry.


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

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many Articles to the San Francisco Sunday Datebook and Hosted and Produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))


The big draw to this strangely creepy play is of course Mandy Patinkin (Tony & Emmy Award winner) who probably will be showered with more awards as the show moves on to New York.  But, the big question is, will Patinkin stay with the show?

Based on the obsession that Meyer Levin had for Anne Frank. Levin wrote a review of the Diary of Anne Frank. I became a best seller.  He wanted to turn into a play on Broadway. He didn’t get what he wanted.  The producers and others thought that his play was “Too Jewish”. Levin thought it was not Jewish enough. He wanted everyone involved with the play to be Jewish. Someone else wrote a play that was similar. There was, of course lawsuits. Levin claimed that the other author took his material.  Meyers claim did not hold up.  In this play he is not called Meyer – the name is changed to Mr. Silver to avoid any problems with the play.

Along the way we hear about a bitter feud between Mr. Silver and Lillian Helman. Frank Silver says: They snatched my book and they raped it!” Frank is told again and again that his play will never be heard. Franks wife was getting weary of the entire play thing. After all Levin had written many successful scripts for the screen. And, all of his books (including Anne Frank) were best sellers. It still was not enough. His family life was crashing down around him.  Here is one of his outbursts: “They have De-jewized the thing. Those ‘Double Day’ Wasps!”  The more he seethed and ranted, the worse things got.

Look, here’s the thing. It is an engrossing story – but I didn’t quite see the reason for the Life Size Puppets. They didn’t do much. Sure, their hands moved a little and the Puppeteers made them walk a bit. It was interesting for a brief time. There was one scene while Frank and his wife was in bed – and the puppet of Anne Frank suddenly appears in-between them.  Yes, strange and creepy, but it was effective.

My guess is that without more changes (which will happen) the play will not be a ‘Buffo hit’.  Not the fault of the cast. They couldn’t be better. Here is another oddity. Levin wrote a book “Compulsion.” – and that’s were they got the title to this play. Maybe it’s a reward for his play not making it to Broadway.

One last thing --  How many Anne Frank stories and plays are we going to see? Yes, it’s a sad story about Anne Frank – but we all know it. There is no new way to present it.  You can throw all the Puppets at it you can find – but it’s still all about Anne Frank. In the end – Mr. Silver was heading for a nervous breakdown. I also, was almost there.

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! (Mild Review) –trademarked-


TONIGHT through the 26th is Mary Wilson. Not only is she one of the original “Dream Girls” – she has written some Best Selling books based on her showbiz career. She has been requested to sing before Kings and Queens all over the World and she made notes of every conversation while making a curtsy.

Her method of writing is to keep notes. When she performed with big Bands and Groups – they would talk backstage and Wilson made notes in her diary so that she would not forget what was said. Those notes became a Book. At the show tonight in the glamorous Rrazz, Wilson will sing some songs from the beginning of the “Dreams” to some current songs.

At the Marines Memorial will be a memorable evening with adored comic KATE CLINTON. She is incisive, biting and hip. I hope she will do the “Cell Phone Routine” it is so funny. But if not – she will still have us laughing in the aisles as she brings to the front of the stage all of society’s absurdities.

Kate Clinton will fire you up with Political jabs. It’s no secret that Kate Clinton is a Lesbian – but everyone will be able to relate to the jokes. It’s not all about being Gay – her show is more of a window on the world – and the situations that elected officials have made fair game for all comics.  It’s fun for all ages – however a few remarks may be only for adults.  She came out of the closet many, many years ago and is still enjoying the daylight.  The closet is dark and stifling.

The Kate Clinton show starts at 8pm. Tix are selling fast – so get yours now.  Sat.*Sep. 25*


AIDA AT THE SAN FRANCISCO OPERA HOUSE IS A VISUAL STUNNER from beginning to end. The richly imaginative sets and the colorful costumes bring to life the mystery of a Princess that has been captured and made a slave. Her cult immortality gets more interesting as we follow her journey in song, as she dreams of being freed and able to return to her country.

I really was very fond of Scene Two – the “Temple of Vulcan. ” It is stately good listening. In Act Two the Victory march, though Grand, seemed to be a little crunched together as they all came in from the left side of the stage. I liked it better in other versions, when they came down a stairway (middle stage) marching into the City. The attractive dancers were a little too vigorous for the Ancient times. It certainly wasn’t Egyptian style.

Although the singing was not always what I had hoped for -- there were excellent moments. It is easy enough to follow what is going on with the very readable subtitles above the stage.  Always dramatic is the Male Chorus. No need to crank up the volume for them.  Their voices are truly glorious.

Aida tugs at your heart as her father is dragged in front of the crowd in Chains.  The distressed Aida can hardly control her emotions.  But, there he is – her father and King in Chains. What an emotional scene.

This production is a visual feast of beauty. It ends of course with Radames grieving from his tomb. The Lovers Aida and Radames have both been sentenced to a long and slow death. Heartbreaking.

THE CELEBRATED CAST: *Italian Soprano Micaela Carosi (Aida) – Dolora Zajick plays Amneris, and tenor *Marcello Giordani  debuts as Radames. – *Marco Vratogna is Amonasro and baritone *Hao Jiang Tian sings the role of Ramfis.  And of course cheers to the fantastic renowned San Francisco Orchestra and Chorus.

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




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