Stage Reviews

Willie RatingDracula Dracula sucks—blood that is. And the production of Dracula at City Theatre is an enjoyable, if not understated, production. The campy melodrama that audiences around the world have come to know and love seems at first to have been sacrificed in an attempt at realism. But as Count Dracula steps on to the stage, surrounded by sound effects of screaming women, howling dogs and the ghost of a female victim who walks the stage throughout the production, classic Dracula is brought back to life—so to speak. Elly winner Bob DeLucia as Dr. Van Helsing and Tony Marchetti in the title role of Dracula lead the cast in this two-hour presentation. If an evening of light entertainment and a classic play is what you are looking for, Dracula is the ticket. But those expecting blood, gore and goth will be greatly disappointed. The only real danger Dracula presents is death by coughing from the cheesy smoke effects. City Theatre, 8pm F, Sa. $10. Sacramento City College Art Court Theatre, Freeport and 12th Avenue. 558-2228 Through Oct. 21. M.B.C.

Willie RatingMaster Harold . . . and the Boys Under the sure hand of co-directors Bob Devin Jones and Myrtle Stephens, South African playwright Athol Fugard’s semi-autobiographical Master Harold opens simply. The year is 1950; the place is a small tea shop (a miracle of a thing in Celebration Arts’ tiny stage) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, on a wet and dismal afternoon. Young Harold, or Hally (the mercurial Matthew Huffman) is tired of doing his schoolwork, so he engages the two workers, Willie (J.G. Gonsalves) and Sam (the stunning James Wheatley)—who have apparently been with the family forever—in conversation. Initially, Hally falls into reverie, recalling a cherished childhood memory about the time that Sam taught him to fly a kite. But when the dark moments come (be warned: they are very, very dark), the boy lets a few family secrets slip, relating how he and his father mock the black servants secretly, Sam lets loose the other half of the kite memory, with volcanic results. Everything about this production works; I can’t praise it highly enough except to call it required viewing material.
Celebration Arts , 8pm Th-Sa; 2pm Su. $10-$12. 4469 D St. 455-2787. Play until further notice. D.M.

Willie RatingMarvin’s Room Mark this one on your Day Timers, folks. Vista Players has done it again, this time collecting a grade-A Sacramento cast and bringing Scott McPherson’s best known comedy-drama to life. So just forget about the Meryl Streep/Leo di Caprio film version and get thee to the Actor’s Theatre. The cupid-faced Jan Ahders stars as the nurturing center of a very dysfunctional family that includes the local treasure Boots Martin, George Schau and Claire Lipschultz. As various forms of illness manifest themselves—the audience tours through cancer, mental health issues and a variety of personal difficulties—McPherson sets a model for a drawing back into orbit of the family circle, also known as the circle of life. The show gets a slight ding in that Ahders fails to veer from spunky mode (Is this a new form of movie illness?), and the show occasionally drags, buckling under its own weight. But these are minor faults, ones that the players more than make up for, Vista Players, 8pm F, Sa; occasional Sunday matinees, $10-$12.
Actor’s Theatre , 1616 Del Paso Blvd. 498-0477. Through Oct. 28. D.M.

Willie RatingOscar and Bosie Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of the eternal Oscar Wilde, local playwright Gregg Peterson has crafted a behind-the-scenes drama in his new work, Oscar and Bosie, which opens the Lambda Players’ 200-01 season. Rand Martin turns in a heartfelt performance as the famed writer and bon vivant, while Michael Hedges as Wilde’s much-younger lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, or Bosie—the man with whom Wilde had a 10-year affair that led to the writer’s two-year prison stint for gross indecency—comes off as a whiny homme fatale. Director Chad Cornwell has rounded up an enthusiastic cast who succeed some and fail some in the task at hand, but the show fascinates nonetheless.
Lambda Players , 8pm F, Sa. $10-$12. 2130 L St. 484-4742. Through Oct. 28. D.M.

Willie RatingThe Piano Lesson August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson is set in Pittsburgh between the world wars, a time when African-Americans, broken by the toil of a sharecropping system that kept them permanently mired in poverty, were migrating to the industrial North in great numbers. The play hinges on an argument between Berniece (Tammy Denyse) and her brother Boy Willie (Ed Willis) over the ownership of a family heirloom, an old upright piano. The piano has tremendous sentimental value for Berniece, but not for her ne’er-do-well brother, who wants to sell it in order to raise enough money to buy a farm. Director Bob Devin Jones is only partially successful in keeping his actors focused for the play’s entire three-hour-plus running length, making this production tedious at times. Standout of the night is Denyse as Berniece, the play’s most emotionally complex character. Jamal Kelly’s portrayal of Lymon is equally flawless; he plays Boy Willie’s less flamboyant sidekick with just the right amount of naivet?. The piano in The Piano Lesson serves as a symbol of African-American heritage; Berniece and Boy Willie’s argument over it represents the balancing act we all perform when we try to reconcile our pasts, presents and futures. Unfortunately, this production becomes so muddled by the end, it’s unclear just how we’re supposed to resolve the equation. River Stage, 8pm Th-Sa; 2pm Su. Call for ticket prices.
Cosumnes River College , 8401 Center Parkway. 691-7153. Through Oct. 15. R.V.S.

Willie RatingA Streetcar Named Desire Tennessee Williams’ 1947 gift to the world tells the story of faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois’ search for a safe harbor and her inevitable snuffing out a the hands of her bestial brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. For this production, Main Street Theatre Works has imported a number of players that Sacramento theatergoers will recognize: Scott Devine generates some real heat as Stanley, and Janice Jones makes a convincingly lamblike Stella. As Blanche, Cynthia Burdick is lost and dreamy, but while she’s got the delusion down, she fails to convey her character’s blend of sensuality and mania. The cast is uniformly sound, but I was disheartened that they rushed through the poetry of their lines as though it was first-come, first-served dinnertime.
Main Street Theatre Works , 8pm F, Sa. $5-$14. 44 Main St., Sutter Creek. (209) 267-1590. Through Oct. 21. D.M.

Willie RatingThe Sound of Music Despite stiff staging, a few awkward performances and the most painful rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” I’ve yet heard, American River College’s production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music is great, glorious fun, thanks to the winsome skill of its young problem-solving Fraulein Maria (Jenny Rand). That and a simply stunning cast of children, especially the wonderfully hammy Sarah Telford as Gretl, who was so enthusiastic about her song and dance numbers that two tiny audience members seated next to me insisted on singing along during opening night—to the mixed amusement and horror of the audience. One of my favorite local performers, Remo Gilbert, seems miscast as the mucho-macho Georg, despite his glorious voice. And Daniel Slauson gets in lots of zingers as Max, the man who brings the Von Trapp Family Singers to the stage. Perhaps the brightest star of the show is Kathryn Burleson, whose imaginative set and lighting work a mystical magic.
American River College , 8pm F, Sa, $5-$14. 4700 College Oak Dr. 484-8234. Through Oct. 22. D.M.

Willie RatingVivien You have to give the vibrant Janis Stevens, one-woman star of Vivien, credit for undertaking this project, a vacuum-packed, 85-minute portrait of the life of film star Vivien Leigh. From the moment we see her, only slightly decrepit at 54 in 1967, but choked up with TB and mental illness, musing over her very interesting life, we are swept along by the power of the narrative. From the star-struck young woman who was stage-bound from the moment she set eyes on Laurence Olivier, to the audacious gate-crasher for the much-coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara, to the mature woman of the theater and electric shock-therapy patient, we are fascinated with Leigh’s wit and complexity. Throughout the extended monologue, which flits, without intermission, between joyous mania and arch, depressive sarcasm, Stevens “interacts” with such luminaries as Olivier, Kate Hepburn, Charles Laughton, Noel Coward and John Gielgud, vamping it up like Theda Bara. It’s bold, literate stuff and fascinating if somewhat overwrought.
California Stage , 8pm Th-Sa, W; 6pm Su. $12-$18. 25th and R streets. 451-5822. Through Nov. 5. D.M.

Willie RatingVoice of the Prairie Set in the distant past between 1895 and the 1930s, the sweetly nostalgic Voice of the Prairie jumps all over the place telling the story of Davey (as a boy, Ben Hanowell; as a man, David Harris), a lost and lonely lad who falls for the blind girl Frankie (the winsome Camlyn McCracken). Together, the two run away and travel across the country, jumping freights and having adventures, with the law always on their heels. But that was long ago; it’s now the dawning of the radio age, when a slick radio man (a sputtering and squealing Peter Mohrmann) finds the adult Davey and convinces him to go on the air with the tales of his youthful adventures. Davey’s stories cause a sensation across the heartland, with everyone wondering whatever happened to the mysterious and plucky Frankie, including Davey himself. The story at the core of this show is a heart-tugging one, and the radio age is always interesting, but somehow this show seemed to slump and lag, despite the best efforts of its outstanding cast, which includes the always wonderful Jenni Stephenson and Greg Koski in a comic turn as an asthmatic, finger-pointing priest.
Synergy Stage , 8pm F, Sa; 2pm Su. Dinner and luncheon theater packages available. $12-$16 show only, $32-$41 with meal. 1000 Front St. 444-5464. Through Oct. 21. D.M.