September 30, 2013



So, you want to see a delightful colorful movie. Well, 'Populaire' is a wonderful tribute to the 1950's. Those were the days when movies were filled with love and charm. 

This is a story of a young and naive pretty Typist. Young Rose Pamphyle (Deborah Francois) Dreams of getting away from her family. So she looks for a job in an office. At first Rose doesn't get very far with her boss Louis Echard (Romain Duris). 

Rose only knows how to type with two fingers on an old style typewriter. Her boss Louis, shows her how to type. In fact, she is so good that her fingers actually fly across the typewriter. Her boss Louis decides to put Rose into a typing test. The boss enters her in a typing contest. Her fingers actually speed along the keys like nothing else I ever seen. 

This French Comedy has many twists. Rose is beginning to get tons of attention at the contest. She has become a Typewriter Star. She gets all the attention from many other typists. Oh, by the way in the fifties only women typed. Men were not allowed. 

There is a touching and poignant moments. The ending will surely captivate. I never would have thought that the lowly typewriter could be so intensely interesting. At first Rose is kinda plain. But she turns into an accomplished and beautiful woman. You'll smile at the finish. 

Here is another plus -- it's stunning art direction keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you're a fan of romantic comedies -- you certainly will certainly fall in love with this romantic comedy. You'll be inspired and feel wonderful. I'd see it again!

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


September 26, 2013


The Reporter 


CARRIE THE MUSICAL - a *West Coast Premiere* will open on October 4th at the charming Victoria Theatre (16th/Mission), San Francisco. I'm sure that you remember Carrie - the Movie, it was great -- however the Stage musical is based of course it's based on Stephen King's novel. You know the story: Carrie White is bullied by kids at school. I think you're gonna love this musical. I can't wait. After all -- Ray of Light Theatre knows how to mount a blockbuster production. Remember "Jerry Springer the Opera"? It was a winner -- and I'm looking forward to meet "Carrie". The West Coast Premiere (16th/Mission) close to the Bart Station. 

SHOTGUN PLAYERS is bringing another awesome story 'Strangers, Babies' - written by Job Tracy. Have you tried to escape your past? Maybe you haven't tried hard enough. You'll find out more in McLean's circular drama. There are five vignettes that bring to the stage sharp humor and raw emotion. Begins on October 15th at the Ashby Stage. A perfect warm-up for Summer. 




He's young and still in school. Jack had not met anyone quite like Brad before. But, he seemed a little fey. This may have started out as a friendship -- but soon blossomed into something else. They had problems -- but they seemed to always fall back on "You're my best friend!" Brad opens up to Jack about everything -- but both boys do lots of flirting. The story is interesting - but it is overly long. The silliness of the boys gets to be a little boring. The only thing that goes on is the constant change of clothes (every few minutes). I suppose it's supposed to let us know that they are in different time frames. I give it a mixed review. It has its ups and downs. Eventually they go down on one of them - but very hidden. Going to school can make young men nervous wrecks. And many of them try to hook up with girls to make believe that they like the girls. We still don't know if the boys are truly Gay -- or if they are just having fun. But in this version -- they seem to want to jump all over each other. 
Now playing at the New Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco.


September 25, 2013

SAM SHEPARD'S 'BURIED CHILD' - Directed by Loretta Greco

Patrick Alparone (standing) and Rod Knapp
Photo - Jennifer Reiley
BURIED CHILD is one of Sam Shepard's amazing stories. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And from that, he became one of the nations most exciting playwrights. 

"Buried Child" tells us the story about a family that is falling apart rapidly. It shows us how a traditional family can have a breakdown that will break your heart. 

There are two sons (Tilden and Bradley). Both sons are handicapped - Tilden emotionally and Bradley physically. Neither can take care of their parents. If there was an American Dream here -- it's not the American Dream. It's a horror story. 

They live on a farm. The house is a mess. No one takes care of it. Some of the Boys are mentally disturbed. They are supposed to take care of the crops around the Farm, but nothing is planted. Their father (Rod Knapp) is pissed off with his kids. He drinks a lot -- and he tells them to leave him alone with his bottle of whiskey. He was at one time the Breadwinner of the family. However, a child dies -- and then 'Father' goes on a daily binge. 

Buried Child is one of Sam Shepard's most realistic plays. It sure is surreal. Dysfunctional is an understatement for this crazy family. The gruesome ending kinda telegraphs throughout with some very heavy handed exposition. However, the high octane performances make it a thrilling ride. 

No need to worry about your mind. You will get involved with all the surrealism and symbolism in this family drama. The aging dysfunctional patriarch (Knapp) is a dying alcoholic. He is ashamed that his wife (Halie) conceived a child that is not his. 

Then there is Tilden. He has no purpose in life. No direction at all. He's confused/ashamed and embarrassed about a child and its death. Plus - he is bullied by the other characters. He wanders around and brings vegetables to the house. They are not their veggies -- he steals them from another farmer. 

Then there is the aggressive brother. He lost his leg in an accident. He is emasculated by the removal of his leg. 

Halie is the wife and mother. She hates them all except for one. She nags her husband Dodge. He tells her to shut up. She still nags. 

Vince is the only Son left that seems to know what he is doing. Halie (his mother) worships him. No one recognizes him when he comes back to the farm. Maybe they really do recognize him -- but they may want to ignore him. 

There is lots of stuff going on in the Farmhouse. There is incest and a child is murdered when born. There is a priest that kinda hangs out at the house. He likes Halie. But he fails as a moral guardian. It's another breakdown of morality. 

Vince's girlfriend (Shelly) thinks that they are all Nuts! And she's right. If ever there was an insane asylum -- this is it. Shelly -- leaves this alcoholic place where everybody bullies each other. 

This is the best version I have ever seen of "Buried Child". There is crackerjack action and really strong performances. This Shepard play has everything - A strong story, superb cast and plenty of surprises. 

HERE IS THE AMAZING CAST: Patrick Alparone*/Denise Balthrop Cassidy*/Elaina Garrity/Rod Gnapp*/Patrick Kelly Jones*/Lawrence Radecker/James Wagner*/  "A TRIUMPH!" 

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



September 18, 2013


NEXT TO NORMAL is by Brian Yorkley (book and lyrics) and Music by Tom Kitt. The music throughout is touching and the lyrics tell us the whole story. Here's one of my favorites: "Your'e not a scary rock star anymore." This is a story about a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder. Her illness has torn her family apart. 

The music in the show tells us about issues of loss, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry, and just life in general. The singing calms us down. It flows like honey on the stage. Sure, the Mother Diana Goodman realizes that she is bipolar. The show has won many Awards for outstanding Score and it also received nominations for 'Drama Desk'. And that is exactly what you will get at the Custom Made theatre. I expect that this show in San Francisco will also receive many nominations from the Critics Circle. 

Diana's husband has to deal with his own depression. Natalie (the daughter) meets Henry. They are both young. He Professes his Love for Her. And they kiss for the first time. 

Diana (Mom) treats the family to dinner. ("It's Gonna Be Good"), but when Diana brings out a Birthday cake singing "Happy Birthday" to her son - is a shock to the family. The Son died when he was very young. He died sixteen years ago (Song- "He's not here")

Diana eventually gives in to therapy by Doctor Madden. She's comes out of it alive -- but her memory has left her. Oh, she does remember bits and pieces -- but she will never be the same. 

Diana Broods as she listens to a music box. Some of her memory comes back, but she has a relapse. Diana refuses. Henry awaits to comfort and embrace Natalie. Her father grabs the music box from Diana. 

Henry comes in to sooth Natalie with the song (Hey #3)/"Perfect for you" (reprise.) And it is perfect.  

The score is magical. You respond to it immediately. It's in perfect synch with the plot. The songs are not just any 'songs' but extensions of the characters. It sure as hell brings tears to your eyes. A mere musical phrase or dramatic moment brings out memories of all the times of our lives. 

This is one of the best musical scores around. It brings out many emotions. The entire show is as slick as glass. This Cast Gives a performance of astonishing complexity and passion. They are: Lisa-Marie Newton, Danny Gould, Lamont Ridgell, Mackenzie Cala, Jordon Bridges, Perry Aliado*. 

Amazing Director - Brian Katz. Fantastic Music Director - Armando Fox. Fabulous Set Design - Erik LaDue. Plus - a wonderful Band - Armando Fox/Mark Dietrich (Piano/Conductor) and others.  

And a another treat. At the end - the cast all get together to sing. It's somewhat like "Hair" at the end. 

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



What is so great about this 'Bonnie and Clyde', is that it is played on a stunning stage. The elements all come together as two people (Bonnie and Clyde) are hiding out in a Barn. 

Amazing effects of the lighting boosts sound along with an unusual mixture of humor and fear. It's more than I could have ever imagined. 

Everything about 1930's Depression-era bring out much sadness and playfulness. And meanness. 

This play takes a little artistic license on historical accuracy. The depression look however, is spot on. Of course the real Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were not as attractive as the players on this stage. They are stunning. 

A yes I love you and 'No I don't' story brings Romeo and Juliet to the forefront. There are haunting moments of Ballet -yes, they did some of that, as they carried guns with them. They are hoping that everything will turn out marvelously. Not so. But, they still fancied themselves as Romeo and Juliet. It was a sexy sequence. 

This new take of Bonnie and Clyde -- is brilliant, even though they glide around the Barn doing Ballet. Sweet and Charming -- but you have to remember that they do kill people. This stage presentation is "Very Noir". It's not a film -- but pop-art sensibility. You love em' but they also scare you. 

What we have here, is not the film version of the two gangsters. What we get on the Shotgun Stage is real life brilliance. It's reality in a joyless world. 

The music in the show is wonderful in itself, and wonderfully appropriate. It evokes many dramatic lighting effects, that tell much of the story. 

This is a fast and furious ride. I don't think you've ever seen anything like it.

NOW PLAYING AT THE SHOTGUN PLAYERS (near the Ashby Bart Station)  

Rating: Four glasses of Champagne!!!! -trademarked- 



Play one: 
It's a Psychopathic thriller for the evening. A Google employee dies & goes to heaven. A woman works in the admission office with the now dead - Steve J. Guess what? He invents computer stuff. And even if he is dead now -- he is still making new pads.

Play 2: 
A Former kidnap victim was released after 10 years in a cellar now live with her brother who may have fathered her lost baby. Isn't that fun? 

Play 3: 
You'll really love this one. Of course I also love the one's above -- But you'll get extra love from the Famous Dead Authors that run a Phone Sex Service for Famous Fictional Characters. 
And - oh yes...there is much confusion. And laughter. Put a Quarter in the phone. 

Play 4: 
A Celebrated poem full of familiar quotes by T.S. Elliot is brought dramatically to life. Gee, I hope I can do that. Tee-hee. 

Play 5: 
Two female workers clean up after a high school massacre. One has a crush on the other. They seem a little strange -- maybe Lesbians? Cleaning up after a massacre is more than I can clean up. 

Play 6: 
It is the end of the world. Zombies roam the streets. You know, just like San Franciscans that lean against a Burger King. While a gay couple seeks last therapy session. Confusion ensues.

Here is most of the fantastic Cast. Don't be appalled -- their the TOP! Rem Myers  (Director and Producer. David Myers (Steve Jobs), Wesley Newfarmer (Video Coordinator),
 Grace Ng, Amy Nowak, Madeleine Oldham, (Sound Designer). Michael Phillis (Playwright), Shaun Plander, Tracer Held Potter - Playwright. Scott Ragle (Melvill, Write Dirty to Me). There is more fun at The Tides on Sutter Street Playhouse - 2nd floor. Next: Thursday will be another talented fun-fest on Bay One Acts Festival. WOW! ARE THESE ACTORS INGENIOUS! IT'S A HIGH-OCTANE CIRCUS! IMPRESSIVE in EVERY WAY!

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

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Sunday Datebook and he also produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED))) -7-years- 


September 12, 2013


Courtesy Photo 

'Closed Circuit' -movie  

ERIC BANA AND REBECCA HALL keep us on the edge of our seats in this exciting legal thriller. You'll will get much insight to the British legal system. Yes, every Country in the World hides everything in secret. 

Here's a quickie. A Middle Eastern terrorist makes a truck bomb that kills people in the heart of London. It killed over one hundred people. Secrets? Yes, there are many. Who can you trust. An Attorney has just committed suicide. Or did he? Maybe someone did it for him. Sometimes I fall asleep at movies and sometimes I don't. This time my eyes were wide open. No tooth picks needed here. 

This is one of the most exciting movies that I have ever viewed. Many Government's make us believe that everything is just hunky dory for Governments. It's just like "Fracking" below the surface. Ooops - there goes another house. Thanks Mr. Governor. Oil is your Jewels. 

Closed Circuit Cameras track British dissidents everywhere. And not just in England. They are watching everyone in every Country. There is Syria, North Korea and other bad asses. But all the Cameras in the World will just create more millions of dying people. 

The Acting by Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall is fantastic. We get a terrific portrayal of English barristers. Think of Alfred Hitchcock. I still like to see his Black and White Films. Secrets plots come out in the open. This is the real raw deal behind the curtain. 

This Spectacular Movie makes you ponder about the World. 

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



Don't miss "Shocktoberfest 14: Jack the Ripper 
Playing Sept. 26 - Nov. 23 - 2013. And you won't want to miss the Special Halloween Performances on Oct. 29 & 30 at the Hypnodrome in San Francisco. 

"I GIVE IT A YEAR" is one of the most fun movies that I have seen in years. And yes, it's a British movie now playing in San Francisco at the Opera Plaza Cinema.

RANDY ROBERTS - Famed Female Impersonator will be at The AlcoveTheatre - Oct. 10 - Nov., 2013 at 9pm. 

At 42nd Street Moon will Celebrate the Man of Steel's 75th Birthday with the fun 1966 musical "IT'S A BIRD...IT;S A PLANE...IT'S SUPERMAN." Metropolis is in danger and it's up to Superman to defeat Dr. Agnes Sedgwick, a ten-time Nobel Prize-losing scientist who seeks to avenge the scientific world's dismissal of her brilliance. Starts - October 5 - 6pm Saturday. Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco. 

ALSO PLAYING... THE SHOTGUN PLAYERS, in the East Bay. Remember "Bonnie and Clyde" on the Huge Screen. Now the Shotgun Players near the Bart Exit is performing live on the stage. I will be seeing it this weekend. From everything that I have read -- this is one of the most spellbinders of the season. Maybe I'll get to meet you at the Shotgun Stage Door.    

September 5, 2013


James Sutorius and Kandis Chappell. Courtesy Photo


There are parts of 'Desert Cities' that are compelling. Also their are moments of comedy -- but those few moments don't weave together. 

It's a Bitch Fight between the rich. Usually I love to see and hear tense talk about family chit chats, but this family just isn't all that interesting.

Oh yes -- there are some good lines in-between the drinking and the walking back and forth in their plush Palm Springs digs. In fact the set is about the best looking thing about this play.

There is a sameness that is a lot like "Edward Albee's hit play "A Delicate Balance". Both plays (Desert Cities and Balance) have a dead brother that the family tries to avoid talking about. We never see him.   

Secrets abound in this family drama. That's fine, but the secrets are uninteresting. Now, there is nothing wrong with the cast -- the actors are superb! It's the play that drags.

There is an angry daughter and no sympathy for her parents. You see, the daughter is writing a tell-all book about this family. Sure, some of that might be engaging -- but really, do you have to tear your mother and father to pieces? 

All their children like to mow down their parents and each other, all the way through this mess, everyone is ungrateful. Oh, that's O.K. -- have another drink. And they do -- every two minutes. 

What really dazzles me from the beginning to the end, is the modern Palm Springs house. It's worth seeing. You won't have to stuff anything in your ears, you can't hear them very well anyway. And I was only in the 11th row. 

What would help? 'Other Desert Cities' could work miracles, if they planted some mikes around the stage. Oh, by the way -- the people who live in this fancy home, are all republicans. Just saying. But, they do wear great looking clothes.

HERE IS THE TREMENDOUS TALENT: Rod Brogan, Julia Brothers, Kandis Chappell, James Sutorius and Kate Turnbull. 

Playwright: Jon Robin Baitz
Director: Richard Seer 

RATING: Three Glasses of Champagne!!! 

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