Last week, while watching the Sebastiani Theatre’s terrific 80th anniversary celebration, I saw my friend Tina Luster.
She mentioned that she and her sweetie, Bill Hoban, had gone to see the local production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” Tina’s clear and enthusiastic advice: “Don’t miss it.” I trust Tina who doesn’t often gush about a local show. So, last Thursday, my own sweetie, another Bill, and I went to Narrow Way Stage Company’s latest offering at the Sonoma Community Center. Tina is right on: What a hoot. Entertaining, engaging, with snappy dialog that begs to be remembered. I’ll second what Tina said: you can’t miss this show. “Little Shop of Horrors” is a clear winner.
Directed to perfection by local kid grown to be a talented young man, Chris Ginesi takes this show to the top. I predict it will be one of the best shows of Sonoma Theatre Alliance’s spring and summer season.
Even as you take your seat in Andrews Hall, the stage backdrop, designed by Tony Ginesi, provides an awesome background. It’s a skid row scene, straight out of the urban jungle. This popular cult classic musical moves fast and furiously, with lots of action every minute and the stage set indicates that intensity.
Audience eats it up
Among the Glen Ellen folks in last Thursday’s audience were Craig Scarborough, who noted, “This is awesome.” Back a few rows sat Bob and Blythe Carver, who echoed Craig’s assessment, “Great show.”
The fellow sitting in front of me laughed so hard, I had to inquire, “You really seem to be enjoying this.” George Miller’s happy reply, “I love this show. I’ve seen the movie at least a hundred times, and I always find new lines.” I’m not surprised; the script is clever, but more than that, the cast is terrific.
Terrific horrific cast
Sweet, lovely Audrey portrays innocence with authenticity, while dressed like a two-bit skid row floozy. Nora Summers blesses us in that role. Seymour, played so well by Matlock Zumsteg, is so truly nerdy that you wonder how he manages on the street; probably, he doesn’t. My favorite character was the mad dentist Orin played by Dallas Munger. We can’t help but wonder if that’s a stage name (ditto for Matlock Zumsteg). But the odd monikers fit both fellows. Strange and twisted, hilarious and scary, Dallas makes the audience laugh, cringe and say “ahhh” all in the same breath.
Of course, I loved the chorus. No Greek throwbacks here. These ladies portray the passage of time by going from sweet sweater sets topping plaid pleated skirts in parochial school girl fashion to hustling babes of the 1960s with their mini-skirted Mondrian op-art dresses and brazen cash exchanges. They are hilarious, and can belt out a fancy tune, even while dancing across the stage and around each other. Thank you to the talented trio of Regie Padua as Ronette, Alexis Long as Crystal, and Laura Levin as Chiffon. Certainly Harry Duke plays the perfect Mushnik, nebbish-like until he see opportunity. Michael Hunter captures a variety of henchmen offering gilt-edge propositions to poor guilt-ridden Seymour.
While I hate to feed a plant that’s plenty strong already, I have to say that this is the best role I’ve ever seen familiar Sonoma actor Butch Engle play. He is a winning Audrey II. Flailing his flying arms about the upper stage, shouting, growling and grousing, Butch voices the part of Audrey II on the stage below with bitter pleading, a regular raucous demon.
Don’t miss this great production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It plays one final weekend, this Thursday through Sunday, May 1-4, at the Sonoma Community Center, downtown Sonoma.
Show times are 8 p.m. most nights with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday. See you there.
During intermission I ran into Glen Ellen neighbor Marti Dusty. Well, that’s not Marti’s real last name, but it works in this case. We were both admiring the oil painting in a hallway case by another Glen Ellen neighbor, Miles Votek, artist in residence at the Sonoma Community Center. Marti offered, “It’s amazing the stories you can make up with this,” gesturing toward Miles’ artwork.
Indeed, if I were still a language arts teacher I would assign just that to my students: What story do you see in this painting? Yep, 400 words, your fantasy. Send it to me, and if I think it’s “A” quality, I’ll print it. And I’ll even award you the portion of my salary that your words produce.
An effulgent (look it up) wretch takes the stage
Another fellow audience member was Santa Rosa theater reviewer, David Templeton, whose columns in the North Bay Bohemian are most popular. He mentioned that his own show, “Wretch Like Me,” which he performed last Monday, was so well attended that he’s planning another Sonoma viewing. It’s a hilariously witty and warm one-man show about his childhood Christian enthusiasms. The show’s purpose (besides bringing unique and personal theater to sleepy Sonoma) is to raise money for his trip this summer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He’ll be performing in Scotland Aug. 1 to 16. His fund-raising show here at the Sonoma Community Center is set for 7 p.m. May 21. Look for it then.
Correspondent Jan Mandrell wrote to me about a great fundraising event on May 5. The purpose is to raise sufficient funds to repair and re-plaster the Petaluma Adobe. Jan has volunteered to help organize this event for the Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association. So far, she shares, “We have raised $36,000 and are continuing our efforts to raise between $250,000 to $300,000 to re-plaster the Petaluma Adobe. Fourth-grade classes from throughout Sonoma County are bussed to the Petaluma Adobe for a history lesson and tour each year. It’s important to upgrade the facility to keep this important part of history alive. If you need more information please feel free to contact Jan Mandrell at 364-9468.
Strolling with Rousseau and Chagall
On a recent clear and sunny Sunday, several of the Glen Ellen tasting rooms were sponsoring parties for their wine club members. I wandered up to Laurel Glen Vineyards tasting room on Carquinez Avenue, not just for the wonderful, organic wine now being produced by Bettina Sichel since Patrick Campbell sold the vineyards to her.
Among the art shown throughout our town, Justine Gotthardt had a small display at Laurel Glen. Justine’s paintings come alive with a brilliant display of colors. Her style is a unique blend of Grandma Moses out on a stroll with Rousseau and Chagall. The paintings feel elemental and emotive, with fantasy dominating many, and color washing over the viewers in a great rush of feeling.
In one painting, “Owl,” an oil on canvas, a wise owl stares vacantly at the viewer while an affectionate woman leans into him. The vision is all a golden glow, a radiating warmth behind the owl, while his placid look remains an enigma.
In “Daydreaming on Bodega Bay” blues predominate, adding a tranquil look to the fantasy scene with a boat that could not sail into that bay. Wind whipped waves below a brilliant azure sky beckon. We are invited to daydream along with the artist.
Another watercolor that the artist calls, “Serenity” features a bold deer amid fanciful flowers ranging from bright orange to deep purple.
The watercolor Justine calls, “Boy” features a poignant, gentle boy in Turkish costume with an imploring stare. What does he want from me?
In all of these vivid and engaging paintings, the viewer is led to thought and speculation, though what draws one to examine the paintings initially is the lush use of colors, deep, strong, thoughtful colors.
Partners in art and life
Justine Gotthardt, a Glen Ellen resident for almost 40 years, is a self-taught painter who was inspired to paint when she decided she wanted to practice meditation. Painting became part of her spiritual practice. Justine employs her brush and board as a pallet of her mind and as new form of communication with the world outside herself. We, the viewers, benefit from her explorations and insight into her own life, as we are drawn to examine our own.
At the same show, Justine’s sweetie, Stephen Ashton, displayed his 1976 prize-winning photos of Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s Running Fence. Among the quartet of stunning and huge photos, my favorite was one showing the billowing sails of the running fence, alongside hundreds of feet of tottering, nearly broken-down field fences. It galloped over the hills, dipping into valleys and arising on the gentle slopes, almost a twin to Christo’s magnificent art. It was easy to see Christo’s inspiration and then to see the art in the simple fences that run throughout Sonoma County.
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Want to see your own name in the news? Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before your desired publication date.