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Sonoma County Gazette

Theater - Performing Arts

Live theater thrives in Sonoma County with stages in every city and even small towns. From entertaining musicals to deep dramas, performers bring entertainment into our lives in intimate theaters. Alexa Chipman wite PREViews for our print edition so readers can get a glimpse of what is coming up int he next month in live theater - and REviews on our website all month long.  Please see current and past reviews online.SEARCH: ALEXA CHIPMAN and Harry Duke for their reviews.

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2019-05-14May 14, 2019

‘Lungs’ is an unusual play with jarring, realistic dialogue that feels like eavesdropping on a private conversation.Duncan Macmillan’s writing captures the unreasonable, messy arguments that couples have about relationships, depression, and the daunting task of raising a child.

2019-04-02Apr 2, 2019

Community is faith at its strongest, and for settlers in the remote Appalachian Mountains, it is everything. When an Episcopal bishop arrives to properly civilize them, he is met with wary skepticism. Superstition, not theology, rules their tiny valley. Leaving behind his companion Starns as Deacon, the bishop continues his mission elsewhere. So begins an intense narrative of blood rituals, passion, and salvation.

2019-03-27Mar 27, 2019

The end of the world is coming to Spreckels Performing Arts Center in a shrewd, visceral comedy by Matt Lyle. “I chose Barbeque Apocalypse because it made me laugh out loud when I read it” explains artistic director Sheri Lee Miller. “It had a fresh voice…I am more and more drawn to plays about community.” “Born Yesterday” at Sonoma Arts Live is a glimpse into an era when women were often underestimated. Pompous, corrupt Harry thinks that the impressionable Billie will be easy to manipulate but discovers that his girlfriend will have none of it. “Billie Dawn is one of the most wonderful roles in theater” director Carl Jordan suggests.

Live Theater by Alexa Chipman

2019-03-24Mar 24, 2019

“Crisis demands art” cries Olympe de Gouges, an 18th century playwright and focus of ‘The Revolutionists.’ As she faces execution, clutching the platform railing as a lifeline, she gazes out at the assembled audience, fear and willful courage mingling in her eyes. This metaplay takes place in that drawn-out moment, while she processes the horror through a comfortable world of imagination. 

2019-03-19Mar 19, 2019

Think about the people you often interact with—grocery clerks, neighbors, and friends from the gym. Imagine if they suddenly turned against you out of misplaced terror.

2019-03-12Mar 12, 2019

“All the Great Books (Abridged)” is a frivolously comic attempt to cover a lengthy syllabus of classic literature in a matter of hours. Set in a high school, the lecture is led by a random assortment of faculty members—the gym coach, drama professor, and an enthusiastic student teacher, who is more interested in the “Lord of the Rings” films than deciphering “War & Peace.” Their hapless attempts to inform the audience involve slapstick skits and a plethora of costumes and props. If you sit in the front row, be prepared for buckets of water tossed around, and the occasional flying wig.

2019-03-09Mar 9, 2019

The program prompts that Only Kidding! is “a wry look at being funny and making it big.” Or not. There is often a great deal of tragedy where comedy is concerned. How many stand-up comics have we lost through the years to accidental drug overdoses and suicides?

2019-03-06Mar 6, 2019

Clover Sonoma has sponsored the Santa Rosa Symphony's series of free concerts for local students. The series of free concerts, six across three days, are expected to reach 7,000 children, parents and chaperons.

2019-03-05Mar 5, 2019

Science fiction is a rare theater genre. In playwright Jennifer Haley’s near future setting, children go to school in virtual reality and “shades” spend more time online than with their families. The neglected planet with its vice-like rules has propelled humanity to yearn for a life entirely based online, instead of dealing with harsh reality. The artificially created Nether is a place to live out fantasies, isn’t it?

2019-03-04Mar 4, 2019

With political and cultural tensions rising in America, it is important to share our experiences in a way that is respectful and empowering. Fire Circle Theater was founded by friends who met at Santa Rosa Junior College with a shared vision of positive artistic expression.

2019-02-27Feb 27, 2019

Flawless harmony fills the intimate Lucky Penny theater through synchronized melodies in ‘Forever Plaid.’ This combination comedy and musical act is a feel-good performance of favorites like “Heart and Soul” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” Held together by a minimal plot, four men step forward to give a phenomenal performance of lyrical beauty.

2019-05-07May 7, 2019

Tantalizing connections are just out of reach in the experimental ‘This Random World’ bySteven Dietz. A series of vignettes follow seven characters who have fleeting interactions, without realizing that there are actually reasons for them to build deeper relationships. The audience is in the know, but not the characters, creating a strange and mesmerizing dichotomy. For example, Tim and Gary have an awkward conversation about red licorice while waiting at the hospital, completely oblivious to the fact they are both ex-boyfriends of the same woman.

2019-02-20Feb 20, 2019

‘After Miss Julie’ is a tightly-written, captivating play with the steamy rhythm of a sensual tango. Raucous celebrations of the 1945 Labour party victory reverberate around the cozy kitchen of an English country manor. Christine, the hard-working, amiable cook is looking forward to a romantic evening with John, the chauffer. Instead, the bewitching lady of the house, Miss Julie, flounces downstairs, where she does not belong, and shamelessly attempts to carouse with the staff. Their consternation simply amuses her, and Julie chuckles at their “feudal anxiety.”

2019-02-20Feb 20, 2019

Are you ready for an adrenaline-fueled ride through classic literature? Santa Rosa Junior College is presenting ‘All the Great Books (Abridged).’ Over eighty works are referred to in passing, although the humor centers around well-known authors such as James Joyce and Charles Dickens. And at the Cloverdale Performing Arts Center,  ‘Only Kidding!’ delves into the competitive world of stand-up comics who are dreaming of a big break in the spotlight. From a quarreling duo to Jackie, who is desperately trying to stay relevant, director Jeremy Boucher assures that “the audience will find themselves rooting for someone. We get to see behind the scenes of a comic’s life in the green room.”

2019-02-12Feb 12, 2019

‘Hamlet’ is often over-embellished, rather than allowing the spectacular wordsmithing of William Shakespeare to shine through. This unapologetically classic staging uncovers natural moments of humor and heartbreak. Sheri Lee Miller’s direction does not insert superfluous devices designed to impress; it has a sweeping cinematic style that augments the original text. Projections of monochromatic stone and swirling Northern Lights add an ominous, supernatural quality to the mist-strewn setting.

2019-02-05Feb 5, 2019

Financial woes are the driving force of ‘Room Service.’ Broadway producer Gordon Miller (Schuyler Marcier) is holed up in his brother-in-law’s hotel, running up absurd bills while housing himself and the entire cast of his current play. The scheme is going perfectly, with a financial backer set to arrive, and rehearsals nearly completed.

2019-02-02Feb 2, 2019

“Growing up, my family would read slave novels and I became interested in the history of my people specifically that which took place on the plantations duringslavery said Dr. Jacqueline Lawrence, founder of Legacy Showcases, a black history production company in Santa Rosa. As time went on, Dr. Lawrence became interested in collecting black memorabilia and turned her home into what appeared to be an African American Museum.

2019-02-01Feb 1, 2019

What dark secrets could two polite Edwardian ladies with teacakes possibly have? Surrounded by dainty lace tablecloths and floral arrangements, the Brewster sisters have quietly been stacking up murder victims in their cellar for years.  ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ is a suspenseful comedy with delightful absurdity and a superb ensemble. It deserves a congratulatory toast of poison-free elderberry wine. 

2019-01-31Jan 31, 2019

Have you ever wondered what happens to a book when it is not returned to the library? ‘Underneath the Lintel’ follows the adventures of a curious librarian (John Shillington) who searches for a 113-year overdue volume, uncovering mysteries and miracles. Shillington calls it “one of my favorite plays” and comments that it incorporates a literal and figurative journey “the universal tour of the human condition as well as the comic slipping on a banana peel. On another Stage, consumed with an insatiable desire for revenge and utter lack of empathy, Sweeney Todd (Noah Evans) and his accomplices are drenched in the blood of their victims in ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’. Music Director Dr. Lynne Morrow muses that “the music is, by turns, haunting, hilarious and surprising. The story…is a look at what happens when the powerful corner the wrong personality.” 


2019-01-22Jan 22, 2019


‘Moon Over Buffalo’ is a slapstick farce set backstage of a rundown theater. In a final bid for stardom, a married couple must set their differences aside to appear in ‘Private Lives’ and impress a visiting director from Hollywood. Their nervous preparations explode into chaos due to a series of melodramatic twists leading to a catastrophic performance.

2019-01-16Jan 16, 2019

‘Swallow’ is an eccentric, captivating experience. Scottish playwrighttef Smith uses first-person narration, which is rather like hearing a book read aloud. It is odd at first, but once settled, the style is mesmerizing, filling in small details like smells and the quiet beauty of drifting snow. It is especially fascinating to hear characters reacting to each other with astute observations.

2018-12-30Dec 30, 2018

For those of you who haven't experienced the magic that is “Mary Poppins Returns” you still have a chance to see this breathtaking movie in a theater. The Golden Globes nominations came out and both Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda were nominated for their roles in “Mary Poppins Returns”. The film itself is nominated for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy. Their biggest competition is “Green Book” which also is still in theaters. Both Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali were nominated for their roles in “Green Book”. “A Star is Born” was nominated for Best Picture, Drama.

2019-05-06May 6, 2019

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is an important part of the American canon of literary works. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center’s production of this classic will be a comfort to those who know the story and a pleasant discovery for those who don’t. This production proves how powerful live theater can be.


2018-12-19Dec 19, 2018
2018-12-18Dec 18, 2018

Mary has the perfect holiday season planned out with her fiancée, when to her horror, instead of being at home with food poisoning as claimed, she sees him making out with a co-worker on live TV during Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her dreams shattered, Mary sets off on a whirlwind of dating disasters that turns her sparkling Christmas spirit into a fury that makes Scrooge’s attitude seem festive. In a holiday miracle, she recaptures her optimism and determination.

2018-12-10Dec 10, 2018

Eve (Maisy Gibson) is unhappy with the prospect of another Christmas with pink dolls and easy bake ovens that she has no interest in; she would rather be a swashbuckling hero with her own pirate ship. Brandishing a wrapping paper tube, she defies the idea that girls cannot have a life of daring exploits. ‘Yo Ho Ho, A Pirate’s Christmas’ is the product of Eve’s imaginative dream, complete with a dance off between the pirates and Santa’s elves.

2018-12-10Dec 10, 2018

The selfish, twisted relationships in 'The House of Yes' will make your family seem refreshingly normal. This brilliant comedy by Wendy MacLeodis like watching a fast-paced tennis match of snappy zingers, with disturbing sexual tension amongst the narcissistic characters. A hurricane is howling outside when Marty and his fiancée Lesly arrive for Thanksgiving dinner, stumbling into a hive of neurotic family members, from the flamboyant mother to Marty's twin sister, who is prone to hysteria when not given her way.

2018-12-08Dec 8, 2018

If you are looking for a live show to take the family to this holiday season, look no further than Cloverdale Performing Arts Center where both scalawags and elves are having a rollicking good time in Yo Ho Ho, a Pirate’s Christmas! Even if that exclamation mark hadn’t been included in the official title, I’d have added it because this show is so much fun, it deserves some over-the top punctuation!

2018-12-05Dec 5, 2018


Rather than a formal staging, the solo performance ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ feels like the audience is relaxing in a living room, listening to an enthusiastic anecdote told by a beloved relative. The lights are up throughout the play, interaction is encouraged, and Ron Severdia’s casual persona is easily approachable.

2018-12-02Dec 2, 2018


Vibrant garlands and glistening lights festoon storefronts and neighborhoods in December. For David, holiday enthusiasm has become an obsession. His imaginative, careful planning ensures a perfect fictional Santa Claus for his children, with detailed rules like “packaging from ‘Santa Gifts’ must be disposed of at least two blocks away from the house.” When the festive spirit is clouded by a sudden, tragic loss, he struggles to maintain the magic for his family, as they face a new, sorrowful reality.

2018-11-28Nov 28, 2018

Generosity and holiday cheer infuse this sentimental story of a lonely orphan who discovers wealth and familial love with a crotchety old bachelor. Daddy Warbucks has striven for commercial success his entire life, and finds himself looking back to realize that it means nothing without companionship. When he invites Annie to stay for Christmas, she sweeps him away with her childish charm and irrepressible zeal for looking on the bright side of any situation. As a musical, it is rather repetitive, depending heavily on a few catchy tunes to carry the show.

2019-05-01May 1, 2019

‘Born Yesterday’ is an animated, empowering story of what happens when women are given the education and space to become their best selves. It has moments of silliness and horror, maintaining a healthy balance between the two. Have a few laughs and enjoy this talented ensemble at Sonoma Arts Live.


2019-05-01May 1, 2019

Left Edge Theatre offers a Season Showcase presenting snippets of potential plays for the upcoming season, and ‘This Random World’ was an audience favorite from last year. Director Phoebe Moyer. ‘Billy Nobody’ is a flamboyant romantic comedy centered around vivacious Aurora (Elizabeth Henry) and Billy (John Rowan), who has allowed the pressures of responsibility and toxic relationships to transform his worldview into one of fear. Written by local playwright Stanley Rutherford, it uses ordinary situations like frustration at the Big Value checkout stand to create a relatable setting. Sharon Hawthorne is the director, 

2019-04-24Apr 24, 2019

Looking back at a life filled with regrets, a family struggles to reclaim their sense of identity and repair damaged relationships. Vanya and Sonia spend their hours sniping at each other, wishing they had taken more risks in their youth, while Masha has taken her career to the extreme, never stopping long enough to nurture genuine love. In a whirlwind arrival, Masha appears on the doorstep with her newest boyfriend, Spike, announcing that they are all to attend a costume party. In the ensuing clashes and revelations, the estranged siblings gain a new appreciation for each other and hope for the future.


2019-04-24Apr 24, 2019

Benjamin Pither is portraying Joe Copeland, one of the ranchers. “He and his family are on the brink of losing everything if the rain doesn’t come” Pither explains. “Joe is fueled by the newfound faith he brings to the town and begins to cling to his belief in the impossible.”

2019-04-22Apr 22, 2019

Impressive artistry and movement take center stage in the annual ‘Spring Dance Concert’ at Sonoma State University. Esteemed choreographers gather to create moving, contemporary works with the students, who embody them wholeheartedly. In the final weekend, the ensemble is joined by a group of alumni who will perform “Perceptual Realities” in addition to the core dance pieces    

2019-04-09Apr 9, 2019

The San Francisco Film Festival opens April 10th and goes to April 23rd. For those of you who enjoyed last month’s Sonoma International Film Festival and the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, this one is much bigger and more celebrities attend. The highlight for me at Sonoma was meeting Julia Ormond, who came for her opening night premiere of “Ladies in Black”Opening this month at your local theater is “The Best of Enemies” starring my friend and recent Oscar winner Sam Rockwell and Taraji P Henson. The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. Could Sam earn his third Oscar nomination in 3 years? Let’s hope! It opens April 5th. Also opening this weekend is “Shazam!” starring Zachary Levi. A fun superhero movie where teenager Billy Batson tests out his newfound powers. For my live theater fans there is “Jesus Christ Superstar” directed by the very talented Lesley McCauley who has been directing at the Junior College for over 20 years. And so much more...

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