January 9, 2012

TWO CHARACTER PLAY - EXHILARATING! Plus Tonight Russ Lorenson at Rrazz Room

Ryan Tasker and Aexandra Creighton (Felice and Clare) Photo: Kent Taylor



WILLIAMS’s play is loosely based on Williams’ sister Rose, and the actor as the brother in this play is based on Williams himself.

It took the famous playwright over ten years to write “The Two-Character Play”. Years ago in the mid-eighties, I first saw the play at the now defunct One-Act Theatre on Mason. It now houses a nightclub of sorts. What a shame.

Tennessee came to town especially to overlook the play in San Francisco. We had lunch together at the Donetello Hotel nearby the Theatre. It was a pleasant experience as he told me about a new play that he was working on for A.C.T. That play just never made it very far. But, I will say that his “Two Character Play” is totally mesmerizing.

The Actors at the One-Act Theatre in SF did a fantastic job in The Two Character. I gave it a “Four Glasses of Champagne” then. Alas – the Williams play never did really take off the ground as much as he would have liked. Now, it has resurfaced at the Eureka Theater. And you know what? The Actors at this Revival (rarely performed) is all of this: – Charming, funny, irresistible, hypnotic, poignant and sad. The two characters Felice and Clare (brother and sister) crackle with magnetic force. You can’t get any better than this.

The play is a little confusing at times due to the double plot in the play within a play. Both of the characters are on the edge of insanity. What is reality and what is acting? The actors dip in and out of performance. It is sometimes hard to differentiate the actors from the characters and reality. But that is what is so exciting and intriguing about the play. Tennessee told me that he originally named the play “Out Cry” – but changed it later to “The Two-Character play.” Oh, and there is this: Incest between the brother and sister. Those Boots were definitely rocking.

Like a magician – this play is an illusion within an illusion. The panic and tension keeps you squirming in your seat. I would say that “Character” under the guidance of John Fisher, is a giant achievement.

Here’s an excerpt from the script: “ Clare: No press reception? Artists’ Management? Magnus personally promised, no opening without maximum press coverage on this fucking junket into the boondocks – Jesus, you know I’m wonderful with the press…(She laughs hoarsely). You’ll notice right off, the insanity going on here.

THE STARS: RYAN TAKSER (Felice) and Alexandra Creighton (Clare) are “DELIGHTFULLY STRANGE!”

DIRECTOR: JOHN FISHER gives an astonishingly accomplished evening. He gets everything right! Now playing the Eureka Theatre. http://www.therhino.org/

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

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



Lorenson highlights many of Darin’s songs with sensitivity and stunning musical arrangements. Every number that he sang in this show is so well done – that you will swear that Bobby Darin is up on that stage. Lorensen belts out those great standards like "Mack the Knife (Kurt Weill music/Bertolt Brecht (English Lyrics).
 Lorenson gives this show a great treatment of the pop classics. The strong vocals are put right in the spotlight where they belong. Songs "Beyond the Sea." The Band, who I will mention further on down along with  Russ gives a show with upbeat gusto that gives this show immense pleasure. Lorenson has that certain force that few entertainers can impart to their audiences. But this guys got it!

Russ chats a lot with the audience, many of them from other cities and countries. They really warmed up to the singing with the strong Horn Section. Kelly Park worked on the original musical arrangements to keep the show as close to Darin as possible. Of course, we know that Kelly Park is one of the best musicians in town, if not the best. What would San Francisco do without him?

Lorenson went into musical territory that I didn't know that his talents extended into that realm. He said: "If you don't like Country music -- It'll be over before you know it." But, gee gosh -- I not only liked it, I was mesmerized by it. I had to slap myself  from thinking that I was in Elvis's World. Will Russ make a move into Elvis's territory with a tribute to him?

There are lots of fun songs in the show like "If I Had My Druthers" - lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Richard Whiting. Getting back to the Country for a moment - in 1962 Darin wrote the Country style song (music and lyrics - Darin). The audience loved 'You're The Reason I'm Livin'.

Brendan Getzell (in the band) arranged the gorgeous "Eighteen Yellow Roses" - it is more fantastic than anything else I have ever heard. Then there is the tearjerker (music & lyrics: Darin). Darin wrote "Once Upon A Time" and Russ Lorenson delivered it to us in this magical evening. Here's a lyric: "Once upon a time - this world was sweeter than we knew!" All in all this was an enormously satisfying and astonishing evening of music and Darin History. Russ told very interesting stories about the famous singer that I didn't know about.

This is a huge evening of breathtaking songs with a bonus of non-stop sensational music. It was a magical experience.

Here are the excellent muscians: Kelly Park, piano/musical director - Daniel Fabricant, bass/guitar - Kent Bryson, drums - Brendan Getzell, guitar/vocals - Tony Malfatti, Sax/clarinet/flute - Max Perkoff, Trombone - Rich Armstrong, trumpet. Also -- to take us back to the 60's there are the backup singers: Jennifer Essex, Alyssa Stone and Sheelagh Murphy. With this show you get it all...Singing, a tremendous band and the lead Singer who put the show together -- Russ Lorenson.

If you're not exhilarated and rejuvenated at this show -- then you might want to check your pulse

Note: Almost sold out. Hurry to Goldstar or call the Rrazz Room for a reservation. http://www.therrazzroom.com/

Read more stories: "War Horse" and others. Just Scroll down.

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