Stage Reviews

Willie Rating
As Things Remain Melissa has come to America determined to find the answers to questions that have plagued her ever since she was a small child. Why did my father send us away? Who was he? Melissa discovers that the answers to all of her questions may be locked in an old trunk her father had kept. To her dismay, the trunk is now in the possession of her lovelorn neighbor, who is more interested in getting her to have dinner with him than in revealing the contents of the old trunk. As Things Remain is the B Street’s seventh world-premiere holiday comedy, following in the theater’s tradition of presenting original works during the holiday season. (Written by B Street cofounder and producing director Buck Busfield, As Things Remain is the sixth original play penned for the B Street holiday presentations.) It is unfortunate, however, that this season’s efforts fall short with awkwardly incomplete scenes, forced plot points and underdeveloped, clichéd characters. Actress Josephine Hall delivers a delightful performance that is perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of this production. Greg Alexander, as James, manages a nearly flawless and quite enjoyable performance. The character of Ginger, played by Anthony Shank, the electrician hired to rewire the inherited house, is sadly little more than poorly added comic relief, providing some laughs but mostly pointless distraction in an already muddled plot. As Things Remain is an enjoyable, romantic comedy with a plethora of potential and some truly inspired moments, but this production will need a few rewrites before it takes its place among Busfield’s better works.
B Street Theatre, various times Tu-Su. $15.50-$19.50. 2711 B St. 443-5300. Through Jan. 7. M.B.C.

Willie Rating
A Christmas Carol
Presented in a narrative style originally adapted for the Solano College Theater in 1999 by local actress and director Christine Nicholson, this version of A Christmas Carol is a refreshing change from the traditional, filled with unexpected laughs and a number of touching moments. Director David Harris keeps the show, which could easily go awry with continuously changing characters, sight gags and a number of potential technical nightmares, on a steady and seemingly effortless trip from start to finish. Elly award-winning actor Blair Leatherwood stars as Ebenezer Scrooge; with a loud “bah humbug” and an equally loud nightcap, Leatherwood delivers a solid performance. Nygel Ellis is delightful as both the youngest member of the family and as Tiny Tim. Another delight in the production is George Schau as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Schau steals many of his scenes with over-the-top antics and well-timed humor. With more than four productions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol playing in local theaters, it is rare to have versions that are as diverse as the ones being offered this season to Sacramento audiences. Synergy Stage’s offering will be a delight to audiences of all ages who may be looking for a holiday classic told with a twist and a dose of fun.
Delta King, 7:30pm W-Sa; 2pm Su. Ticket prices vary. 1000 Front St. 995-5464. Through Dec. 23. M.B.C.

Willie Rating
Sacramento Theatre Company’s non-holiday holiday offering Cinderella is a delight from start to finish. This musical version of the glass slipper caper has something for everyone and delivers what it promises—entertainment for both adults and children. For the purists, there’s the romantic true-love fairy tale; for the children, there’s enough silliness and magic to keep them enthralled, and for the “elders,” there are naughty double entendres galore. What makes this production particularly fun is the audience participation portions, which the kids enthusiastically embrace. The show is mercifully nonsaccharine, saved by sly ribald humor and endearing characters. And not a sugarplum to be seen. The schedule is kid-friendly with lots of matinees and early evening start times.
STC, various times and days. $10-$32. 1419 H. St., 443-6722. Through Dec. 24. P.R.

Willie Rating
The Boys Next Door
Norman loves his donuts and keys. Arnold frets over Russia and rugs. Lucian has a library card but can’t read, and Barry gives golf tips for a quarter. And watching over this foursome is their mental aid counselor, Jack, whose patience is waning while his caring goes into overdrive. In this Tom Griffin comedy, we are introduced to four roommates of various mental capacities who are trying to negotiate through the many land mines of everyday life. With much of the first half played for humor, the illogical seems logical and the simplest tasks are bungled badly. There is an uncomfortable feeling in witnessing all this, though, which leaves you unsure whether you are laughing at the boys next door or with them. It’s only the strong performances by the entire cast and a second half that gives the characters more depth that brings a tender, bittersweet warmth to the play. Director Bill Voorhees gets credit for clever staging and a well-chosen cast.
Thistle Dew Dessert Gallery, 8pm F, Sa. $10-$17. 1901 P St., 444-8209. Through Dec. 16. P.R.

Willie Rating
Six 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.