July 10, 2008

Summer Takes Shows Outside for Busy Theater Weekend

By Pat Craig, Contra Costa Times, Walnut Creek, Calif.

Jul. 10--Livermore Shakespeare Festival, fresh in new digs in the Livermore Valley wine country, doubles its summer offerings this year with two comic plays -- Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and the frenetic "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised)."

Both shows play in repertory until the beginning of August on the grounds of historic Concannon Vineyards, 4590 Tesla Road, Livermore. A centerpiece for the production will be the former Dr. Cameron Gordon home, a Victorian built in 1895 at Fourth and K streets. The home, with its sweeping porches and trademark cupola, was moved to Tesla Road in 1966, when it was to be developed as a bed-and-breakfast. Instead, it stood empty for years until being transported to its present location to make room for a new winemaking facility.

The house will be used as part of the stage for the performances because parts of it look remarkably like the Elizabethan stages of Shakespeare's time.

"Twelfth Night," which opens at 7:30 tonight, is a comedy with the standard Shakespeare tools of mistaken identity, cross dressing, separated siblings and comic characters -- including, in this case, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

"The Complete Works" is a recently revised free-for-all parody of Shakespeare's work which attempts to perform at least a little bit from all of the Bard's works in less than two hours.

Performances start at 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 2. Tickets, at $30 (or $50 for tonight's opening gala), may be reserved at www.livermoreshakes.org (which also has a complete schedule of performance dates) or 1-800-838-3006.

"WEST SIDE STORY," the musical retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, continues Alameda Civic Light Opera's extended 2008 season beginning tonight in the Kofman Theater.

The musical puts rival gangs the Jets and the Sharks in a battle that focuses on the frowned-upon romance between Jets ex-leader Tony and Maria, a newly arrived Puerto Rican girl. The show features an incredible array of tunes, including "Tonight,""One Hand, One Heart,""America,""I Feel Pretty" and "Somewhere."

The musical plays at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 27 in the theater at 2200 Central Ave., Alameda. Tickets, at $31, may be reserved at 510-864-2256 or www.aclo.com. A special junior ticket for youngsters attending the Saturday Target matinee is available at $13.50.

"CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF," the steamy play by Tennessee Williams, opens at 8 tonight in Hayward's Douglas Morrisson Theatre.

The play begins as a family gathers to celebrate the 65th birthday of Big Daddy, the rough-hewn and profane head of the family. As usual, everyone in the clan works overtime to curry favor from the big guy, particularly now that it looks like he's dying.

Maggie (the Cat), wife of Big Daddy's favorite son, Brick, wants to announce that she's pregnant, finally. But Brick wants nothing to do with that, or with her, choosing instead to continue his constant drinking. Others in the family want to see Maggie fail, but for different reasons. The emotional roller coaster speeds along to an uncomfortable but satisfying conclusion.

The show plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 27 in the theater at 22311 N. Third St., Hayward. Tickets, at $22, may be reserved at 510-881-6777.

"HE AIN'T DONE RIGHT BY NELL" and "CURSE YOU, JACK DALTON," two Snidely Whiplash and Dudley Do-Right melodramas, are next up on the stage at Castro Valley's Chanticleer Theatre.

Producers point out the boo-the-villain, cheer-the-hero shows will be performed in the newly air-conditioned theater at 3683 Quail Court.

Performances run through Aug. 2. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, with matinees at 6 p.m. July 20 and 27. Tickets, at $16, may be reserved at 510-733-5483.

"EARTH VS. ALTAIR, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE!" by Daniel Dickinson: Mind-controlling Martians, UFOs and an intergalactic empress bent on destroying the human race come together in this original throwback to the cheesy movies of the Cold War era. Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 10 at San Leandro Museum/Auditorium, 320 West Estudillo Ave, San Leandro. Tickets are $15 general, $10 seniors, children younger than 12 and members of the military (with ID). The opening-night gala is Saturday; for information or reservations, call 510-895-2573. For tickets, visit www.sanleandroplayers.org.

"NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN," Brian Copeland's hit one-man show, makes a brief return to its first home, San Francisco's Marsh, where it became the longest-running solo show in San Francisco history.

Copeland, who still lives in San Leandro, delivers this remarkable piece about his growing up in the East Bay suburb, adjacent to Oakland, once named one of the most racist suburbs in the country. He talks about being a young black child in the community and then expands into a more wide-ranging autobiography. It became a hit all around the country, including New York, where it had a successful run.

Copeland's return to The Marsh is a benefit for the Mission District theater, birthplace of many successful works. It also serves as a tuneup run for the performer, returning to the stage after recovering from surgery for a severe spinal cord injury. After this run he will perform in the South Bay, where the book of his show has been chosen the 2009 selection of the Silicon Valley Reads program, a library activity that encourages Silicon Valley residents to read one book at the same time and engage in community-wide discussions on its relevance.

The show plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays and 5 p.m. Saturdays in the Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., San Francisco. Tickets, at $25-$50 (sliding scale), may be reserved at 800-838-3006 or www.themarsh.org.

"SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS," the stage version of the famous 1954 movie musical, opens the Woodminster Summer Musicals series tonight in Oakland's Woodminster Amphitheater.

The show, by Lawrence Kasha & David Landay, Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul, with new songs by Al Kasha & Joel Hirschhorn, is set in the Oregon wilderness of the 1850s. A young woman wants to civilize her six brothers-in-law and marry them off, but they get so excited about the plan, they kidnap six gals from a neighboring town to marry.

"Seven Brides" plays at 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays through July 20 in the outdoor theater at 3300 Joaquin Miller Road, Oakland. Tickets, at $23-$38, may be reserved at 510-531-9597 or www.woodminster.com.

Reach Pat Craig at [email protected] areanewsgroup.com.


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