Remember when Coke used to be the real thing?

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The Blue Room Theatre, located above Collier Hardware, has kicked off its spring 2003 season with an extremely witty play by Tom Stoppard called The Real Thing. It’s got a great cast, but for my money Paul Stout, as the erudite Henry, whose world of ideas blurs the lines between the stage of life and the stage of theater, steals the show. Stout is a Blue Room repertory member, and as I recently heard somebody say to me, “The Blue Room presents plays that are as good as anything you would find in San Francisco.” I am apt to agree. Hats off to the entire cast, who have managed to pull together an incredibly “wordy” play in a mere two and one-half weeks!

Which brings me to a point that needs explaining: With a play like the The Real Thing, for example, you have 8-14 people working together five hours a day for several weeks to put together a show that hopefully entertains Chico. Almost all the actors put in these hours (plus performances) after working 40-hour-per-week day jobs. And then, if they can, they do it all over again for a new production the following month. Imagine a band playing an entire set of new songs every 30 days! Highly unlikely. And while the Blue has an “actors’ show” where the cast gets the door (Feb. 2 for The Real Thing), it never adds up to much. In other words, they do it almost for free. I find it quite remarkable and a real dedication to making Chico great.

This Friday and Saturday, Jan. 24 and 25, another new play is opening in downtown Chico, at the Senator Theatre. Haley Hughes, bon vivant and world traveler, is bringing us, with the help of her friends, an excursion into the watery domain of the mind with Aesophagus 3. I often complain that so many people in Chico are happy merely to review, but this collective of artists are an intimidating force of those who actually “do.” The lobby will be filled with an interesting collection from many different artists, and David Sisk’s brilliant life-size menagerie of folks and freaks still graces the inside of the Senator and are worth checking out.

In random news, The Red Room is now called The Riff-Raff Rock Room. JMAX Productions is bringing the Insane Clown Posse to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds the beginning of February, and Famous bass player Victor Wooten is at Sound Source Jan. 31. Phew, it’s going to be a great year!