The Count of Monte Cristo Director Luther Hanson’s outdoor production for the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival is user-friendly and pleasantly cohesive. The linear, fast-moving story features heroes and villains who are easy to spot. There are fateful meetings, dastardly deceit, a prison escape and swashbuckling vengeance. The play’s straightforward language poses less of a challenge for the cast of community actors than the festival’s companion production (The Taming of the Shrew), but there’s the rub. Though it’s easier to speak, Monte Cristo never rises to the level of Shakespeare, and the plot line features too many melodramatic turns. But we can still recommend this show as good, clean fun for a warm summer evening.
William A. Carroll Amphitheatre, 8:30 p.m. on July 30 and August 1, $10-$12. The box office opens at 6 p.m., and the gates open at 6:30 p.m. No reserved seats or children under 6. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. J.H.
Fully Committed Think of this one-man “comedy of interruptions” as a high-speed endurance run. Your heart goes out to Sam, the stressed-out reservations specialist manning the constantly ringing phones in the basement of a popular, upscale restaurant. The frantic customers are desperate to get a table, while the staff upstairs keeps barking contradictory commands. It’s also a test for versatile actor Gary Alan Wright, who constantly shifts between portraying the long-suffering Sam (running between three phones and an intercom) and the three dozen other characters who pound him with demands. Wright rises to the occasion.
Foothill Theatre Company; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $19-$23. 401 Broad Street in Nevada City, (530) 265-8587. Through August 15. J.H.
Henry IV This is the final weekend to catch this highly entertaining, elaborate and slickly professional adaptation that telescopes Shakespeare’s two Henry IV plays. The setting is moved from the 1400s to England in the jazz age. Falstaff—that boastful, rotund, self-serving corrupter of youth—becomes a big-talking black blues man, carrying a saxophone and hanging out in smoky clubs. It’s a marvelous update, and it’s well-played by Reg E. Cathey. This show won’t satisfy purists—Matthews’ cuts reduce Falstaff’s sidekicks to walk-ons, and several lords become sword-wielding ladies (in order to give the women of the acting company more to do). But it’s an enjoyable, fast-moving and thoughtfully presented evening, containing some of Shakespeare’s best lines and scenes.
California Shakespeare Theatre; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday; $10-$52. Bruns Amphitheatre in Orinda, off Highway 24; (510) 548-9666. Through August 1. J.H.
Much Ado About Nothing It’s the battle of the sexes, as strong-willed Beatrice (Rebecca Dines) and Benedick (Dan Hiatt) are led to the altar despite their protestations. Dines and Hiatt, who have credits with major companies in the Bay Area and elsewhere, give this production a pair of very capable, smart and sexy leads. Hiatt also plays Dogberry (though you might not recognize him). Director Philip C. Sneed moves the setting to Sausalito in 1899, where American soldiers are returning from war in the Philippines. (There’s even a flag-draped coffin solemnly carried on stage in the first scene.) The shift opens the way for a bit of ragtime, some Chinese paper lanterns and other interesting touches.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday; $20-$65. Show dates are July 29 and 31, and August 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 20 and 22. Sand Harbor, on the Nevada shoreline southeast of Incline Village; (800) 74-SHOWS. J.H.
Sci Fi Hotel: The Musical Ver 2.0 You might subtitle this one Fandom: The Musical. This show by Beyond the Proscenium Productions references famous science-fiction titles again and again, including many from the 1960s and 1970s. The creators have absorbed the customs of science-fiction conventions: the huckster room, the masquerade (where fans dress up as aliens, robots, etc.), the parties and the hangovers. Having framed these scenes from sci-fi subculture as a musical, there are songs—some quite catchy—linked to pulp-fiction-style plotting. And there’s the requisite love story (it’s nearly impossible to stage a musical without one). Alas, the alternating mix of genre in-jokes; romance; and campy threats from a ruthless, time-traveling scientist becomes unwieldy. And while the show apparently has been revised and reorganized since last summer’s Ver. 1.0, it still feels a tad long. There are lots of interesting and enjoyable elements, but Ver. 2.0 hasn’t entirely jelled.
Actor’s Theatre; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $14-$17. 1616 Del Paso Boulevard, (916) 922-9774. Through August 8. J.H.
Sugar As a male musician who witnesses a gangster murder and then hides in disguise as a female bass player, Daniel Slauson simply steals the show. The whole cast in this sweet, silly musical version of the classic movie Some Like It Hot is a fun, kooky crew. Much effort went into this production, from the great 1920s costumes and clever sets to fun sound effects and creative dance numbers, all under the skillful direction of Bob Irvin. The Fair Oaks Theatre Festival is housed in the small, outdoor Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre—a comfortable theater under the stars, complete with backed benches and a cool river breeze.
Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre; 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday, with Thursday shows on July 29; $10-$12. Plaza Park, at California Street and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Fair Oaks; (916) 966-3683. Through August 1. P.R.
The Taming of the Shrew Director Kim McCann actually stages William Shakespeare’s induction to the play. These two seldom-produced scenes transform the story of Petruchio and Kate into a play within a play that is staged for everyone’s merriment, rather than as a pointed message to the ladies in the audience that they’d better obey the men. Petruchio (big, stylish Ed Gyles Jr.) and his intended Kate (spunky Katharine Pappa) don’t go in for heavy-duty fisticuffs, though they do raise their voices. The show, produced by Sacramento City College for the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival, features community actors having a go at this 400-year-old classic. Some supporting actors are unpolished, but in the main, this show is good, clean fun.
William A. Carroll Amphitheatre, 8:30 p.m. on July 29 and 31, $10-$12. The box office opens at 6 p.m., and gates open at 6:30 p.m. No reserved seats or children under 6. William Land Park, (916) 558-2228. J.H.
The Underpants There’s a lot of Steve Martin in this broad comedy filled with sexual innuendoes, crazy characters and slapstick humor. Martin adapted a classic 1910 German farce about a young wife who loses her knickers just as the king rides by, creating a social scandal and marital upheaval. Underwear humor becomes a running gag and sets an over-the-top tone. Adding to the madcap mayhem are a nosey neighbor, a couple of randy roommates and the king himself. There isn’t an ounce of subtlety or a smidgen of sophistication to be found, but amusing absurdities abound.
B Street Theatre; 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday; $25. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300. Through August 15. P.R.
While We Were Bowling The setting is Buffalo, New York, in 1957. Playwright Carter W. Lewis begins his script by dishing up images of family domesticity paralleling the TV comedies of the time. But life was never that tidy, and several underlying family issues you couldn’t dwell on in a ’50s TV comedy come spilling out, albeit in a gently funny way: alcoholism, marriage at 17, closeted homosexuality, and racism, among others. The playwright’s take on each is sentimental and not particularly deep, but the simple presence of these topics gives the show a bit more bite than most summer laughers. What lifts this production into a high category are the sharp performances by B Street regulars Julia Brothers, John Lamb, Kurt Johnson, Dana Brooke and Greg Alexander, who are by now familiar with director Buck Busfield’s nimble style.
B Street Theatre; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $18.50-$23.50. 2711 B Street; (916) 443-5300. Through September 5. J.H.