Three short takes
Thoroughly Modern Millie, Struggling Truths, When It Goes Haywire
Thoroughly Modern Millie
Millie is a retro-retro effort. It looks like a 1920s musical, but it actually originated in movie theaters in 1967 as a vehicle for Julie Andrews. The film sank, but after a 35-year layoff, Millie was revived and revised for Broadway. That lavish 2002 production is now in Sacramento on tour as part of The Broadway Series. This show’s primary asset is actress Darcie Roberts, who plays Millie. She’s tall, cute and confident, with a great pair of legs (amply displayed below her flapper skirt). Past that point, the show’s a mixed bag. Composer Jeanine Tesori has worked in funny takes on classical music and Al Jolson’s “Mammy” (performed in Chinese). Director Michael Mayer’s eye-candy visuals are appealing, unlike actress Hollis Resnik’s scheming Dragon Lady. Perhaps transforming her character into an Anglo pretending to be Chinese was supposed to make the ethnic caricature acceptable. Alas, the pidgin English with a bad accent is still in poor taste. Ultimately, Millie looks anemic when you contrast it with other shows from the current Broadway Series season. Last fall’s 42nd Street did more with the small-town-girl-in-Manhattan myth, and Flower Drum Song was vastly better with Chinese themes. Millie is mild by comparison.
Thoroughly Modern Millie; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Friday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$65. Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street; (916) 557-1999.
Interactive Asian Contemporary Theatre (InterACT) was forced to switch locations for this show when repair work at the company’s usual venue took longer than expected, which explains the company’s current digs at Sacramento High School. Struggling Truths is an impartial, concept-driven polemic dealing with the Chinese takeover of Tibet. We get three points of view: that of the Dalai Lama and those of a brother and sister who unexpectedly find themselves on opposing sides in the conflict. There’s a lot of interesting dialogue about Buddhism, enlightenment and Eastern vs. Western thinking. The show earns an ‘A’ for ambitious intent and sincerity of effort but gets barely passing grades for overall acting and technical execution. It is recommended, with reservations, to those who are interested in the topic and to those who want to support this determined, struggling Asian theater group.
Struggling Truths; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday; $12-$14. No shows on May 21 and 22. Mel Lawson Theater, Sacramento High School, 2315 34th Street; (916) 452-6174. Through May 30.
When It Goes Haywire
Once each season, Foothill Theatre Company produces an original play set in the American West. Throughout several years, this aspect of the New Voices of the Wild West Festival has become one of this region’s most notable ongoing projects. This year’s show takes the series in an entirely new direction. For one thing, the setting is contemporary rather than historical. Andrea Becher’s eye-popping set invokes present-day Southern Utah, where ranches have both horses and satellite dishes that pull in MTV. Playwright Red Shuttleworth calls his script “a dark comedy of missteps, with the abyss not so far off.” When a scruffy stranger wanders into town, he unsettles the lives of a very odd assortment of characters. Included are a kooky old vet, a punk, a cowboy and a randy 16-year-old girl who’s ready to satisfy her curiosity about men—all of whom veer this way and that in this episodic story. Director Carolyn Howarth plays up the comic aspects, but there’s a distinct air of menace in several scenes. Shuttleworth’s story will be too unconventional for some, but if you’re willing to risk a few hours on something unusual, this one’s definitely worth a try.
When It Goes Haywire; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $12-$23. Foothill Theatre Company, 401 Broad Street in Nevada City; (530) 265-8587. Through May 16.