Stage Reviews

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. Celebration Arts , 8pm Th-Sa; 2pm Su. $10-$12. 4469 D St. 455-2787. Through Nov. 19. D.M.

Willie RatingShirley Valentine This one-woman show stars Aviva Jane Carlin, who endeared herself to Sacramento Theatre Company audiences last season with her solo performance of Jodie’s Body. Carlin has the wonderful ability to sink into her characters, filling them with a kaleidoscope of emotions that make us really care for them. She certainly has everyone pulling for Shirley Valentine—she who talks to the wall about her various disappointments—from the moment she starts to speak until we witness a dream fulfilled. STC , various times and days, $10-$35. 1419 H St. 443-6722. Through Dec. 10. P.R.

Willie RatingSix Women with Brain Death The longest-running theatrical production in Sacramento has seen more than 25 cast members, been through two divorces, a marriage and assorted high school and college graduations. Boasting more than 700 performances, the show is continuously updated and rewritten to keep its biting edge on current events and pop-culture punch lines. Reminiscent of Mad-TV and early Saturday Night Live, the 10 skits that make up the production don’t always seem to have any rhyme or reason, but people don’t seem to notice because they are rolling with laughter. Written predominantly from the female perspective, without attempting to make the expected in-your-face social statement or feminist standpoint, Six Women with Brain Death is a great show for men as well. The Studio Theatre , 8pm Th-Sa; 7pm Su. $15-$18. 1028 R St. 446-2668. Runs indefinitely. M.B.C.

Willie RatingStop Kiss In what should be a dramatic, emotionally charged presentation, the well-meaning cast of Stop Kiss gives an uninspired performance. The story—the tale of a budding friendship between two New York City women (Theresa Huntington and Fusako Yokotobi) that veers toward romance only to end in tragedy—is an exciting departure for the multicultural troupe, but good intentions are not enough to overcome poorly delivered dialogue and weak technical direction. Nonetheless, it’s a delight to see theater companies such as InterACT branching out to experiment with non-standard formula productions that challenge traditional female societal roles. InterACT , 8pm F, Sa; 3pm Su. $10-$12. 4010 El Camino Way. 452-6174. M.B.C.

Willie RatingThe Turn of the Screw This intense portrait of a young governess’ (Stephanie Gularte) struggle to save two children while she uncovers the dark secrets of a haunted manor is based on a late 19th-century story by Henry James, and it delivers twists and turns through a variety of mysteries and revelations that occur over a six-day span in June 1872. Richard Malmberg plays both the narrator as well as every other part in the two-actor performance, which is pretty impressive. The best and most tense scenes occur between Malmberg as a strange little boy who knows too much (and isn’t telling) and Gularte’s governess. Although the action can get a little choppy and the ending is somewhat anti-climactic, The Turn of the Screw is a fun show. Delta King Theatre, 8pm F, Sa; 2pm Su, $12-$16. 1000 Front St., 444-5464. Through Nov. 18. G.K.

Willie RatingValley Song Veronica longs to leave the family farm in the Karroo Valley of South Africa to pursue her dream of a singing career in Johannesburg. Her aging grandfather, Buks, in a misguided effort to keep her from the same fate her mother met when she ran away from home, is determined to keep her in the valley, where he can make certain she is safe. Native South Africans of mixed race, their story is narrated by the character of the Author, a white man who is buying the farm they have spent their lives working. One of the many interesting twists of Valley Song is the stipulation by its author, Athol Fugard, that the characters of “Buks” and “Author” must be played by the same actor. Under the direction of Nancy Martis, Actor’s Workshop cofounder Edward Claudio tackles the dual role of Buks and the Author, bringing unexpected life and powerful emotion to the character of Buks. In what may be considered delicate subject matter (a white man playing a native South African man who still bears the scars of apartheid), Claudio manages to transcend race and prejudice and deliver a heart-wrenchingly emotional performance. In the part of Veronica is local actress Erinn Anova in her first production with the Actor’s Workshop. Known for her work at the Sacramento Theatre Company and Celebration Arts Theater, Anova shines in the role of the 17-year-old girl determined to dream big and to follow those dreams no matter what. Actor’s Workshop, 8pm F, Sa; 2pm Su. $10-$14. 1616 Del Paso Blvd. 925-6579. Through Dec. 3. M.B.C.