Nostalgia, tunes & time travel
Theatre on the Ridge, Chico Cabaret & Chico State present diverse entertainments
Right now in our area, there are three theater productions running with as much diversity of setting and theme as one could wish for.
Paradise’s Theatre on the Ridge is staging Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse’s Life with Father. Based on the nostalgic writings of Clarence Day Jr., the story follows a couple of months in the life of early 20th-century New York family the Days.
Clarence Sr. (Jim Williams), the “father” of the title, is an irascible type who works for the stock exchange. Vinnie (Judy Clemens), “Mrs. Day,” does a neat balancing act of allowing Clarence to think he’s running the house when in fact she does so through humorous manipulations and well-intentioned deceits. When it comes out during one of Reverend Lloyd’s (Bill O’Hare) visits that “father” has never been baptized, one of many subplots is set running.
Meanwhile, the Days’ older sons, Clarence Jr. and John (Allen Myers and Tim Hurt), are looking for jobs and, in the case of Clarence Jr. at least, quite possibly a wife. This last aspect is set aflame by the visit of Cousin Cora (Diana Huddleson) and her young, attractive friend Mary Skinner (Hannah Metzger).
The performers handle the material well, the costumes are sound, the set fabulous, and many of the plot twists and exchanges laugh-out-loud funny. Director Nancy Gimbal has done well.
Chico Cabaret has produced an occasionally delightful version of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors. Based on the early ‘60s film by Roger Corman, the play sets to music the tale of nebbish Seymour (Ben Ruttenburg) and his human-eating, alien plant Audrey II (voiced wonderfully by Tony Varicelli).
The production is buoyed mainly by the energetic performances of its mostly youthful cast. However, there were a few snags opening night. Headset microphones occasionally malfunctioned, the lighting downstage-center in the flower shop—where a lot of the action takes place—was distractingly murky, and sometimes the music, all of it prerecorded, was a tad too loud. Director Phil Ruttenburg announced before the show started that the crew had only four days in which to assemble the set. One is sympathetic but wishes they’d had at least another week.
Still, by the time you read this, all the show’s technical bugs should be nicely ironed out. The songs are fun and the absurd situations laugh inducing.
Chico State Drama Department’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s time-hopping tale Communicating Doors, while not a “gut-buster,” is definitely a delightful brain-tickler. As with Ayckbourn’s Henceforward, the setting is a future London where rival gangs conduct perpetual firefights along the south shore of the Thames, and offhand creepy remarks now raise post-9/11 hairs on the back of one’s neck ("It’s a shame Big Ben’s gone").
Elderly Reece Wells (Brian Kiunke) has engaged the dominatrix-for-hire services of Poopay (Allison Ward). However, once in his posh hotel room (great set) his requests are not what she expects. Wells’ sinister partner Julian (Padraig Downey) scares Poopay through a “communicating door” to an adjacent room; however, from there the tale tumbles straight into entertaining fantasy.
Poopay travels back through time, meeting Wells’ previous wives (Donya Walling and Jennifer Pfeiffer), attempting to warn them of their respective future fates and, perhaps, to alter her own reality for the better.
Chico State theater instructor/director Randy Wonzong has assembled an eager young cast. The full-dress rehearsal I witnessed suggested the prospect of high energy and laughs come opening night. The show will be running by the time you read this.