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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. Harry Duke reviews live performances for Gazette readers, both in print and online. SEARCH Harry Duke for his reviews.

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2018-04-16Apr 16, 2018

Arthur Miller’s classic play. Tensions are strained between the old-fashioned father who is convinced that a likable demeanor will leverage a dazzling business career and his practical son, Biff, who prefers invigorating labor on ranches and farms.

2018-03-18Mar 18, 2018

The Elizabethan holiday season, crowned by Twelfth Night, was a boisterous atmosphere of inebriated celebration, where the Lord of Misrule held court, eventually banned by Puritans who were horrified at the unbridled pagan revelry. William Shakespeare draws on its festive mischief for his comedy of gender swapping and mistaken identities causing a romantic tangle “too hard a knot for me to untie” as Viola bemoans.

2018-03-15Mar 15, 2018

In our relentless, fast-paced society, taking time to figure out how to cope with problems such as addiction or health conditions is overwhelming. Jenny Sutter is a former marine who finds herself at a lonely bus stop, unable to take the final step that will lead her home. She is not ready for the stress of civilian life and responsibilities; she watches bus after bus go by while paralyzed to act.

2018-03-13Mar 13, 2018

Backstage at a poorly rehearsed play about to go on tour, a fictional director emerges from the audience, exasperated at the train wreck he is about to set loose on the world. The company is confused by when they should carry props in and out of scenes, their set is falling apart, and interpersonal dramas among the players lead to cactus and whisky wielding mayhem.

2018-03-06Mar 6, 2018

Withered flowers abandoned to decay surround the stage of this elaborate Gothic melodrama. Two sisters are trapped in a pseudo-Victorian world by the memory of a twisted, overbearing father, and cope by retreating into labyrinthine fantasies. The warped sanctuary is shattered when an escaped convict arrives, violently forcing the sisters to examine reality and break free of their self-imposed prisons.

2018-03-05Mar 5, 2018

Suburbia’s white picket fences and rows of neatly trimmed houses give the illusion of a well-ordered existence in this clever play byWill Eno. Meet the Joneses and Joneses, two neighboring couples who have moved into a small mountain town for similar unspoken reasons. Their blunt quips and friendly exchanges hide layers of denial and anxiety, “throwing words at each other” observes a frustrated character, during an inane conversation about the weather.


2018-03-02Mar 2, 2018

‘Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter’ from Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts follows a U.S. Marine returning from Iraq, and her transition into civilian life, through a misfit desert community called “Slab City” with quirky, amusing residents.

2018-03-02Mar 2, 2018

As I write this column, I am hoping that my friend Sam Rockwell wins the Academy Award for best supporting actor for“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.

2018-02-20Feb 20, 2018

‘Equus’ is a mesmerizing journey of metaphysical deduction by Peter Shaffer. Psychologist Dr. Martin Dysart seeks to understand why a teenager blinded horses under his care. Their court-appointed sessions are strained, leading Dysart to seek insight from the boy’s parents and tenaciously coax Alan Strang into reliving the choices leading up to his violent act.

2018-02-14Feb 14, 2018

Basking in tropical sunshine, “South Pacific” is set during World War II on an idyllic island. Restless sailors have been left to their own devices, until a marine lieutenant arrives with a daring plan to spy on the enemy fleet. Necessity brings together a diverse gathering of Americans, French, and the native population, which appear to be in harmony until romance blossoms, triggering the internalized racism simmering below the surface and ripping apart the lovers in self-imposed pain.

2018-02-14Feb 14, 2018

Thinking outside the box once again, Cloverdale Performing Arts Center opens their 2018 season with David Mamet’s November, in February. But the timing couldn’t be better. With everything going on in the real White House these days, it’s fun to compare that with Mamet’s vision of a desperate man’s last-ditch effort to hold on to power even when all hope is gone.

2018-04-11Apr 11, 2018

Gather for GlamaGore ScreamiCon, a convention celebrating low budget horror films and the ridiculous role of negligee-clad actresses shrieking and running from monsters. This raunchy parody with outrageous bangled costumes and fluffy blonde wigs by Taylor Bartolucci features silly, entertaining songs detailing the less-than-glamorous lifestyle of “B-Movie” acting, such as “Don’t Open That Door” and a melancholy “Happy Endings” lamenting a dearth of lasting relationships.

2018-02-05Feb 5, 2018

Ayad Akhtar’s chilling play ‘Disgraced’ explores the cultural identity of Muslim Americans struggling to belong in a society that inherently views them with suspicion. A diverse group of characters consider the multi-faceted issue, from an eager young man who believes in the Koran’s wisdom to a Caucasian artist accused of orientalism because she is drawing inspiration from Islamic tiling traditions in her paintings.

2018-01-22Jan 22, 2018

Vibrant country music inspires three women to give up their mediocre lives in favor of a one-way ticket to Nashville. Classic songs like “I Will Always Love You” and “9 to 5” link together to progress the story and deepen understanding of the characters, while causing laughs along the way.

2018-01-22Jan 22, 2018

What would you do if somebody offered you over half a million dollars to leave your rent controlled apartment?

2018-01-21Jan 21, 2018

‘The Dining Room’ by A.R. Gurney interweaves eighteen vignettes of family life—a daughter standing up for her independence, children prattling about politics with innocent enthusiasm, and a son struggling to accept his father’s passing. Shifting scenes overlap and flow in a collection of short stories, rather than a linear plot. The actors step into a wide range of personalities and ages; directorJoey Hoeber keeps the characters clear-cut, avoiding confusion and delayed transitions by relying on the cast, rather than elaborate set or costume adjustments.

2017-12-29Dec 29, 2017

It’s that time of year again for the usual “Best of…” lists where critics review their picks for the best (and sometimes worst) in music, movies, fashion, etc. and give people at holiday parties something to argue about.

2017-12-01Dec 1, 2017

The Holiday Season is upon us. That means not only shopping, decorations and more shopping, but also a slew of Christmas movie reruns and live shows. Cloverdale Performing Arts Center's contribution to the latter category isNutcracker . . . The Musical, a whimsical retelling of the classic ballet that's bound to entertain every member of your extended family.

2017-11-27Nov 27, 2017

Season  & Performance Tickets make great holiday gifts. Slip them inside a glass with a bottle of wine, beer, cider, a box of locally made food, a jar of popcorn kernels, wrapped around candy bars, whatever creative way you care to dress up a small package with a large experience inside.

2017-11-25Nov 25, 2017

In 1992, a retired truck driver named Teri Horton paid five dollars for a painting from a southern California thrift store to give as a gag gift to a friend. An incomprehensible series of dots, blotches and streaks, her friend refused her gift and Horton ending up trying to unload the gangly canvas at a yard sale.

2017-11-24Nov 24, 2017

At last count, Sonoma County had over twenty active theatre companies, ranging from the nomadic Pegasus Theatre Company to the theatre departments of the two local institutions of higher learning.

2017-10-28Oct 28, 2017

The unique bonds of female friendship are at the heart of Robert Harling’sSteel Magnolias, now in the middle of its run at Santa Rosa’s6th Street Playhouse. Based on the life of Harling’s sister, the show debuted off-Broadway in 1987 and shortly thereafter was adapted into the successful film starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine and Julia Roberts in an early Academy Award-nominated role.

2018-04-07Apr 7, 2018

Eccentric San Francisco residents wander through Nick’s waterfront dive bar, swapping outrageous tales, looking for jobs, and flirting with women who take their fancy. Premiering in 1939, the play’s age is evident in jokes about darkies, Indians, and midgets which are in poor taste. William Saroyan’s casual pace and shifting style augments these unfortunate details, coming to a hasty and violent denouement which seems out of place with the previous quiet, thoughtful monologues.

2018-04-06Apr 6, 2018

Cloverdale Performing Arts Center’s latest production is The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan. If the work of this author doesn’t immediately come to mind, that’s not surprising. Though this California native lived into the 1970’s, the bulk of his popularity in both stage and novels came during World War II. But this play has surprising relevance to the issues and tone of many debates going on today.

2018-04-03Apr 3, 2018

Overcome by medical bills and responsibilities, Eddie brings his children to stay with relatives, leaving them at the mercy of ferocious disciplinarian Grandma Kurnitz and capriciously cheerful Bella, who swings between offering ice cream sundaes to threats with the slightest misunderstanding.

2018-04-01Apr 1, 2018

Sonoma County theatres and artists took home five production awards and one Special Award at the 42nd Annual San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC) Excellence in Theatre Awards Gala. Over 300 members of the community gathered as 67 production awards for theatre produced in 2017 and four Special Awards were presented.

2018-03-29Mar 29, 2018

Sonoma State University Theatre Arts & Dance has developed an electrifying performance of rhythmic physicality with the Brooklyn-basedUrban Bush Women troupe, who emphasize the potential and strength of disenfranchised people when given opportunities to reach beyond traditional roles.

2018-03-29Mar 29, 2018

Thank you for the emails congratulating my friend, Sam Rockwell, for winning best supporting actor for “Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”.

2018-03-22Mar 22, 2018

Billboards warning of child sex trafficking remind Sonoma County residents that the devastating abuse of minors is closer to home than we prefer to imagine. Main Stage West’s ‘Blackbird’ is a challenging play addressing the topic of pedophilia in a stark, disturbing conversation. A young woman has returned to face the man who took advantage of her as a young teenager, searching for closure. Their stilted meeting transforms into an honest, painful exchange that is chilling in accuracy and content.

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