May 29, 2012


Doctors demonstrate the Vibrator - Courtesy Photo



LETS START OUT with the lavish splendid sets, sumptuous clothes and sexy hands in Victorian England, as we discover and uncover astounding delights – especially for the women. Two male doctors have discovered a way to keep women from becoming “Hysterical”. The women line up at the Docs office as the men make the women moan and groan. Good for the women, but very hard on the young doctors hand. Plus, it takes too long to get a reaction from the patient. 

As the story advances, the film becomes even more hysterical for the women. The Doctor and a friend knows about electrical elements. He comes up with an electrical spinning device. Of course today – it would be called an electric Dildo.

A very heavyset woman was extremely disappointed about the old hand procedure. But when the Doctor (Hugh Dancy) probes her with the vibrator machine – she starts to sing an Opera. Wow! I never knew that electricity would do that. Did you? Well, I will tell you that the woman got a good dose of Hysteria cure. When the Doc removes the device, the ladies are as happy as a clam. An exhausted one. 

The production is outstanding. The Acting by Jonathon Price is marvelous, Hugh Dancy is unbelievably charming and handsome. How does he stay so young looking? Maggie Gyllenhaal is volatile, and compassionate.

The bizarre treatment in Victorian times were a little on the weird side. But, they do things with all there clothes on – so that’s a relief right there. 

Hey, this movie is much more than I expected. It’s funny; it has great direction and excellent photography and a really terrific score. It’s hysterical and I might add, full of Hysteria. But, what do I know – the Docs have stronger hands than I do. OH, I do feel a buzz!


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

Chris Threatens Eli - Photo: Lois Tema


High school boy shows a little too much of his gayness in 2006. He dresses in bizarre clothes. His hair is dyed blue, and it appears that he might even wear a bit of makeup. I guess he thinks that because he is in San Francisco – that he can get away with it. Some at the High School may not mind, but in 2006 – there is still bully-ism. A couple of boys are attracted to the gay boy (who looks a little old for High
School) – One guy acts like he hates gays, and on the other hand he wants to F—k. And when he does the deed – he gets mad. It’s the Game to play.

There are flashes of nudity in the play – but not total bareness. Depends on where you are sitting. Some views are better then others. Another young man (Jake) (Benjamin T. Ismail) – seems to be more of a friend. He always sits and talks with the gay guy. He asks lots of questions. He’s curious to the point that we know what he’s after.

Not only does “Eli” the gay have troubles in the schoolyard – he has a problem. The problem is that he cuts himself on his wrists and arms. Mentally – I would suggest that he see a doctor. But it’s only a play. I wasn’t convinced that it was touching enough for me to care. It seems that Eli has had affairs in and out of school. That’s O.K. – many do it – but they are usually not going insane. Here’s a quote from the play “I’m like a 49 year-old at 17.”

Evan Johnson is Eli, who is confused about life. Eli’s role is fascinating, but runs thin as his problems seem to become too much baggage for him to deal with life.

Fernando Navales (Chris) comes across as the main Bully on the Campus. He treats Eli badly. Why, because Eli has a crush on Chris the bully of the high school. He threatens Eli a lot. Chris thinks he’s straight – but we wonder. It seems to me that he would screw a pine tree as long as it doesn’t move.

 Both boys have had sex with Eli. Something that Eli has done many times before, with others. 

Another strong performance is by Eli’s mother “Stacy Thunes) – She’s a little wacko also. No wonder Eli cuts himself.

 Some tense moments are in this play – but much of it seems a little repetitious. There are flickers of “Rebel Without a Cause.” But then, all Teens are “Rebels” aren’t they? 

The Direction by Andrew Nance is visionary.

Now playing at the New Conservatory Theatre

RATING: Three Glasses of Champagne!!! –trademarked- 

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

Courtesy of beyondchron


May 21, 2012



 Photo: SF Playhouse Courtesy.
Rod Gnapp (Carmichael) is mad as hell - and he's going to blow you up


O.K. HERE’S THE DEAL. In a Hotel Room is a rugged leather faced guy who seems as if he is completely drained of any pep. He is just sitting on the edge of the bed looking at his left hand that is severed. Then all of a sudden the man gets up. He hears a noise in the closet of his room. He opens the door of the closet and shoots at someone or something. It only took two bullets to make it quiet in there. The man sits on the edge of the bed again, just like nothing happened.

Christopher Walken, the actor, played the one-handed creepy guy (in New York) who is looking for his hand. When he was seventeen some young Hillbillies from the other side of the tracks grabbed the young man. A Train was coming down the track – the whistle was blowing as the hillbillies held the young guys hand on the railing. He lost his left hand.

The Author Martin McDonagh is known for his macabre stories. On the SF Playhouse stage we have Rod Gnapp as the creepy sinister guy. And Carmichael (Gnapp) has never forgotten his, forever-lost hand. But he is still looking. So much so that he buys hands from corpse dealers in Alleys and from young kids that try to sell a hand to the lonely Carmichael. He says: “All I want is my hand. Those damn hillbillies even had the nerve to wave my own hand at me. Can you believe it? -- They waved my own hand at me.”

In his plain hotel room, Carmichael runs across a couple of scammers. They are trying to sell him a black man’s hand. Tsk, Tsk! They made a huge mistake. Carmichael who is white, is enraged – so he ties them to the radiator. Then he lights a candle in the top of a Gasoline Can. He leaves – and they are trapped. “The candle will only last about 45 minutes, he tells them. Then – if you don’t find my hand – you’re going to blow up” – he furiously sez.”

This play is so kinky (and also fantastically funny) – the racist remarks between Carmichael and the Black kid and his White Girlfriend are extremely funny.  Also on the stage is one of the funniest deadpan and creepy actors I have ever seen. His name is Alex Hurt and he is terrific. Then we have Rod Gnapp – surely the most sensational actor in the world. And of course we had to let Daveed Diggs and Melissa Quine get free from the Radiator. So – you see, we didn’t lose that benefit. They are still alive. And the shot in the closet – Well, you’ll just have to figure that one out yourself. I will tell you this though. These sensational actors are the best acting ensemble that I have seen in decades.

Enjoy this irresistible classic thriller at the San Francisco Playhouse.

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

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


It’s not secret. Beckett’s plays are dreary. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t any good – but they do put you in the mood to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Curtain goes up and we see two small windows high up on the walls. Curtains cover the windows. Two ashbins are covered with sheets. In the center of the room there is a chair that is also covered with an old sheet. Under the sheet is “Hamm”. Clov  has many motionless moments. Finally he takes a ladder and climbs up to the Windows to let some light come in.

Yes, there are many yawns and pauses in Becketts plays. Expect sparse talk. Hamm (Bill Irwin), the grouchy old bastard sits and groans. He never gets up – he depends on Clov(the servant) to do everything for him. Clov removes Hamm’s sheet. Hamm yawns, takes off his glasses, wipes them and then puts them back on. Not too exciting – but the mystery of all this does keep your interest.

Hamm says to Clov – “You pollute the air!” There is another long pause. Hamm says to Clov(Nick Gabriel) – “Get me ready, I’m going to bed.” Clov answers – “I’ve just got up”. O.K. – I think you get the drift. Their conversation, which is almost non-existent – makes you want to push the old nasty fart right out of his chair. And so it goes. On and on and on.

Hamm’s elderly parents are in the ashbins, where they are confined. Nagg says, “Kiss Me!” Nell: - “We can’t”. Why? - Because their heads fail to meet. They are close, but not close enough.

Hamm takes lots of painkillers. I wish that he had given me some. In the small Beckett play before Endgame is “Play” that stars Annie Purcell, Anthony Fusco and Rene Augesen. There dead - Ya know! Yep, they must be dead because they seem to be trapped in huge funeral Urns. The characters bicker back and forth. It reminds a little of “No Exit”. Well, you wouldn’t want to miss this absurdist clipped conversation, would you? Can we put a lid on the urns? However, there is great atmosphere on the stage.

Love this comment: “Can there be misery loftier than mine?” No Mr. Beckett – there can’t be.

The sets are a wonder. Sparse, but fascinating. The dreary look keeps you in a dreamy state – and the acting is absolutely amazing. Their timing is perfection. And as was said in Endgame – “I haven’t suffered too much!”

THE ACTORS IN ‘PLAY’ are Rene Augesin, Anthony Fusco and Annie Purcell. In ‘Play’ they taunt us with a primal feeling of death.

THE ACTORS OF ‘ENDGAME’ ARE: - Nick Gabriel, Giles Havergal, Bill Irwin and Barbara Oliver. I marvel at their genius --
and, the knockout directing, by Carey Perloff. 


Hamm and Clov in Beckett play
Photo- Kevin Berne  


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May 18, 2012




PAYBACK – Amazing photography
‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – is a Joy


Awesome photography  fascinates us with injustices that the poor endure as the rich and powerful, abuse the few that can get work.

This movie is part documentary with lots of talking heads. However, the story is brave in its impressive moments on the screen.

The movie is based on Margaret Atwood’s book of essays. The book probably is more exciting – however, transferring real life to the screen really pops out the injustice, murder and the rights of migrant workers. Some of the best haunting scenes are about the oil-spill victims. This is not happy times in the old corral. The workers get treated as badly as the wild Horses around the world. No one seems to give a crap. Well, I do – and they have a right to live. After all – they are human beings. They shouldn’t have to go through physical pain just because some cowboy or farmer decides that you’re not working hard enough or fast enough.

Lets face it. There are people all over the world that are starving, while the Rich bloat themselves with expensive wines and exotic foods that is mostly picked by workers (Slaves).

But what do they care. The Gulf of Mexico still has not recovered from Oil Spills. The Rich are digging everything out of the ground to kill the planet. What we get now is not clear blue water – but water that looks brownish.

This is not a movie to entertain – it is a wake-up film that deserves to be seen. Find out what they are doing to “ordinary” people.




THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL also known as (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful) is a fabulous British Drama comedy-drama directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker. The movie is based on the 2004 novel, “These Foolish things" by Deborah Moggach.”

The seven retirees did not expect to find phones that are out of order and that the building is dilapidated. Plus, the Indian food is not what they are used to. And then there was the roach problem.

Yep – they were looking for a retirement place where they could live cheaply in what they thought would be an exotic Hotel in India. The advertisements said that the Hotel was newly restored. However, the environment is much less exotic than they had hoped for. It’s not the luxury retirement that the group from England pictured.

But don’t give up. The young man (owner) Dev Patel, is trying his best to make his crumbling Hotel comfortable for them. He may have lots of charm and big dreams – but little cash. Actually – the place is a total wreck—but there is good news that is coming his way. On the other hand the British visitors are just about to give up and go back home. But even at their older age—there is still a gleam in the eyes of the elderly. Most of the women are looking for new lovers. And a few find some – but one of the Ladies did not fare so well. The guy she was attracted to turned out to be Gay. Like everything in this saucy movie – it’s a hoot!

For some, the entire India Culture is not fitting into their dreams. One is a High Court Judge (retired). Another is looking to find a rich boyfriend, after she fails to pass herself off as Princess Margaret of England’s Royal Family. She drops into a swank Indian Hotel and tells the Hotel Manager that she is Princess Margaret. He says: - "That’s strange – Princess Margaret died nine years ago."

Mopeds are big on the street of India. How they manage to drive through the throngs of people on the streets I’ll never know. But amazingly an elderly couple from England took a spin on a Moped. They met at the “Marigold” and they were as happy as busy bees. So happy, that they even passed youngsters on a Moped.

This movie is “funny and fresh” – it’s hard to find a film with such sharp wit. I think you’ll find that “Marigold” is “Impossible to resist!”

Now playing at Local Theatres

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

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


May 8, 2012




VALERIE SIMPSON – Instantly won us over

TALK ABOUT ELECTRYING MOMENTS – I’m still tingling. The minute Simpson walked on the stage – she took us on an emotional musical thrill ride.

The evening was just “crackling” with the great songs she sang for the standing and cheering audience. Yep, they were jumping up and down to the beat of those famed melodies. Take the delicious “Ain’t No Mountain Higher” – sure does make you stand up and jiggle your butt. Everyone was doing it.

Simpson is also very funny, with her little asides – “I didn’t take notes I was too busy living” – “And, you know what they say – Loose Lips, sink ships!” Another of my favorites was “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”. And of course, what would a Simpson song be if she didn’t sing “Solid Like A Rock.” Valerie has great backup singers and a tremendous Orchestra on the stage. I’m still tingling.

When she sang “Solid as a Rock” – I could actually visualize Nick Ashford on that stage. This was an emotional tribute to the great Ashford. There is no doubt about it – he was “solid as a rock”! I’ll never forget him. But Valerie and Clayton bring him back in song. Life is a journey – but this was a trip! 

Simpson came out on the stage wearing a stunning white feathery dress. She looked like a beautiful Swan. Just fabulous! This is a must see show.


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



TOM JUDSON SHOW-  Vintage music/stories

ZORBA – 42nd Street Moon burns up the stage!


SCATHING CRITIQUE OF POP CULTURE is a hilarious film comedy that shows American shallowness boosted by a cruel layer, that is conjured up from media propaganda. Everyone wants to get on the bandwagon – even if means shooting someone to get yourself in the limelight. The take off of an American Idol type show shows the lengths that T.V. will go to get ratings. In this film – they make an Idol out of one of the worst singers ever. And, guess what – they even make fun of him.

As I was watching the movie – I got a little worried that some idiots may think it’s funny to shoot people. After all – it’s in a movie. What really worries me is that they don’t know a satire when they see it. Most young people are already shallow, seeking out insane stunts just to get their face on T.V.

Even the people in the movie, that are doing the erratic shooting, complain that their faces have not appeared yet -- on the big screen. Yes, it’s a revisit of Bonnie and Clyde. This Bonnie and Clyde are even more insane than the original ones.

Goldthwait (the Director) claims that this is not a political film. Well, yes and no. Some of the film has political hanging from trees. Then there are other times, when someone who feels that he hasn’t had a good deal lately just decides to shoot people at random. You know like if you get fired.

This movie is borderline insanity. You love it and hate it at the same time. And it also reminds of the ‘famed’ “Clockwork Orange.” But here is what we already know – the film points out in spades, that our society is shallow. I say – only use a Cell phone for necessity, and stop acting like robots, and watch your back. Remember people are generally stupid, and they probably don’t like you. And politicians are dictators! That’s what this movie tells us. And, you know what – its true! 


RATING: Four Boxes of Popcorn. (highest rating) – trademarked-

TOM JUDSON has a new show that brings back the era of the Elegant Supper Club. In those days plaid sport coats were the style. To give you an idea of what “those days” were like, just tune into Mad Man on AMC. Tom tickles the Ivories (Piano) with some old gems that are now shining again and Judson has polished them to their former glory.

Actually, the handsome Judson could turn any song into Gold. Not only does he sing – and he tells us Great stories about showbiz. They are bubbly tales that supply the audience with plenty of joy.

Judson is on the New Conservatory Stage where he is surrounded with a vintage look of a drawing room in a rich mansion. He fits nicely into this dreamy space with his beautiful tunes and inventive madcap stories.

As much as I adored his show at NCTC – I would love to see him in a Cabaret type show, where drinks are sold. Not that I drink – but Cabaret singers do seem to make the audience more receptive to frothy cocktail music. And Judson sure is a handsome looking lad. You just wanna hug him. I’d like to see him at The Rrazz Room for a couple of nights. He will instantly win you over.


RATING: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) – trademarked-

Michael Stevenson as Zorba. Stunning performance. Photo David Allan Studio



What a dream evening this is. There are gorgeous costumes, gorgeous guys and gorgeous music. How can a musical like “Zorba” go wrong? Well, I’m happy to say that nothing goes wrong. Oh, Well, -- Yes, there was a little innocent thing. A glass fell off a tray, it was not intentional. But, the cast picked up the pace immediately. It was fun to watch them go on with the show.

The musical score is unimpeachable. After all, that’s what keeps the romantic sparks going and the dancing is effortless and summons the spirit. There is nothing like a beautifully done love story. Sure, the musical is not all sweetness and love – there are some sad moments along the way. But again, the dancing summons the spirit of Greek Joy. Thanks to the spirited directing by Greg McKellan. And thanks to the music by John Kander and Lyrics by Fred Ebb. And a special “Clap Your Hands” for Musical Director Dave Dobrusky and Nick Di Scala on “Reeds”.

Here’s the strong and excellent cast: Michael Stevenson – Stephanie Rhoads – Ian Leonard – Alexandra Kaprielian – Teressa Byrne – Janine Burgener – Ben Euphrat – Gayle Dawn Hill – Stewart Kramar – Chris Macomber – Bill Olson – Ray Renati – Michael Rhone – Anna Smith and Kyle Stoner. And another Shout Out, for Choreographer Staci Arriaga.

AT 42nd STREET MOON (Eureka Theatre)

RATING: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!!

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