Radio Theater - Town Hall Theatre The Rivals - American Conservatory Theater Francisco Noises Off

If you have been missing the Angry Reynolds (Randy Anger and Sarah Reynolds) Radio Theatre productions at Town Hall then Stop, Learn and Listen, there are more to come and they are a fun-filled revival of that wonderful form of entertainment that we used to know as “Radio Theater”. However, these shows are performed live in front of you (the audience) in the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. Last week a superb cast of well known local actors performed these classic shows from the 1940’s, “All About Eve” and “Baby Snooks and Daddy”.

Actors Cynthia Myers, Alan Cameron, John and Marcia Hetzler, Tina Walsch, Sarah Reynolds, Randy Anger ans Scott Alexander delivered a terrific show that brought back a ton of memories. Next week’s production, is a special tribute to a couple of famous comedians in a show that never actually was produced on radio, Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel. Written for Groucho and Chico Marx, this show’s entire script, in fact an entire series of scripts have been re-discovered and will be presented for the first time on the Radio Theatre broadcasts in Town Hall on April 10th at 8 p.m.. This show will present Jerry Motta and Mike Reynolds as Groucho and Chico. You will also be treated to another episode of “The Bickersons” , with Randy Anger and Sarah Andrews Reynolds as the Bickersons. In addition, the very talented Tina Walsch will be performing a radio monologue called The Waltz. Then, on April 24th, the company will present the second episode of Flywheel, Shyster & Flywheel and in addition, Sherlock Holmes and the Musgrave Ritual, starring Mike Reynolds, John Hetzler, Randy Anger, Tina Walsch, Gary Little, Harold Manishas and concert violinist, Ethan Filner. This evenings productions will be rounded out with the classic mystery thriller, “Sorry, Wrong Number”, starring Sarah Andrews Reynolds.

If you haven’t gone to these radio show re-productions, then its time to “tune in” by calling the Town Hall Theater at (925) 284-1557 for reservations and more information. The Town Hall Theater is located at 3535 School Street (corner of Moraga Road and School Street) in Lafayette. Tickets are a very reasonable $10. Hope to see you there next week!
A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a restoration comedy called the Country Wife which played at the Onstage Theatre in Pleasant Hill and gave it a pretty fair recommendation for a show performed by primarily amateur and aspiring actors. Another play from that same time period, or at least at the end of that time period, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, is called The Rivals. This was one of the best of this type of “Restoration Comedy” and it was produced in the Colonies after being penned by Sheridan in 1780. The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco is presenting a truly outstanding production that every aficionado of Comedia Del Arte or early American comedy theater should see.

Typical of this type of comedy, love was usually conditional, perhaps even more so than in real life. Everything was exaggerated in the theater to make fun of those with money, those in the aristocracy, and the social norms. In this play, the very lovely Lydia Languish (Rene Augesen) is a very attractive young lady whose family is very well off financially. She disdains her wealth and the need for wealth. She has fallen in love with Captain Jack Absolute (Anthony Fusco), a young officer whom she is led to believe is a low grade Ensign by the name of Beverly, but who is actually a higher grade commissioned officer. Captain Jack learns of her disdain for wealth and rank, so he continues to play the part of the lowly officer to continue his amorous attentions toward her.

When Lydia’s aunt, Mrs. Malaprop, discovers that her niece is illicitly entertaining a young man, whom she believes is nothing more than a “poor” ensign, she locks her daughter away hoping to find a more suitable marital prospect for her. Captain Jack’s father, the wealthy Sir Anthony Absolute (Charles Dean) has befriended Mrs. Malaprop and suggests to her that his son, Captain Jack Absolute, would make a perfect suitor for her daughter (Lydia), Mrs. Malaprop arranges for the father to bring his son to the house to introduce him to Lydia, which would in turn, destroy his deception. Poor Jack is forced to be his own rival for the hand of his beloved, while at the same time, stage-managing the complementary romantic disarray of his friend Faulkland (Gregory Wallace). The insecure Faulkland brings the skill and dedication of a Talmudic scholar to his persistent attempts to convince himself that his lover, Julia (Stacy Ross), Lydia's friend, is insufficiently enraptured and obsessed with him.

Typical of plays that lasted for three to five acts at that time, there are several sub-plots going at the same time. The multifaceted cast includes a country bumpkin, Bob Acres (Dan Hiatt), a feisty provocateur of duels, Sir Lucius O’Trigger (Andy Murray), personal servants such as Fag (T. Edward Webster) and David (Jud Williford) in addition to Mrs. Malaprop’s maid, Lucy (Claire Brownell), among others. The acting is terrific, the direction by Lillian Groag is sensational and the show is a historical kick in the derriere.

Mrs. Malaprop (Jill Tanner) constantly mixes up words that sound similar, declaring, for instance, “He is the very pineapple of politeness,” when she means pinnacle; and "She's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile!" (when she means to say alligator). So popular were her witticisms that they have become known as malapropisms in the English language.

This play performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., now through April 23rd. Call the box office at (415) 749-2228 or visit their website at for additional information. The Theater is located at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco.
The Willow’s Theater in Concord is currently presenting Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off”, one of the funniest, zaniest, absolute insaniest shows that you will ever see.

Under the artful direction of Richard Elliott, a superlative cast of professional and professional level actors deliver a wild and chaotic British farce that amounts to a show within a show, front and back, rightside up and upside down.

In other words, you get to see the show from three different perspectives. First, you see the show in rehearsal as the director attempts to get his mediocre band of thespians off book and on que the night before the show is supposed to open, in the Grand Theater, in Weston-Super-Mare. Second, after a short intermission, you see the show a month later after it has opened and moved on to the second theatre in its traveling circuit, Theatre Royal, Ashton-under-Lyne. Only this time, you see the show from backstage (the set is completely turned around) as you are treated to what goes on behind the scenes, including the back-stage romances and intrigues. Preceeding the third act, during another intermission, you actually get to see the stage hands move the very intricate set back the way it was when the show opened, set facing the audience. In the third act, which occurs two months later, the show has traveled again to a third theater, this time to the Municipal Theatre, in Stockton-on-Tees where the show is about to close. By this time the actors are about at each other’s throats and the high jinks get crazier and crazier.

The term, Noises Off, is a British stage term for “quiet” or “no noise” backstage. What happens backstage in this show is a riot, as the actors attempt to keep the audience from knowing what mayhem is going on behind the scenes.

The show within the show this company is presenting, is called “Nothing On”, in which a realtor brings a beautiful blond bimbo to a home his company is supposed to be renting, intent on a little extra curricular activity, probably a sexual liason. The home owners return home unexpectedly and the housekeeper cannot keep track of the er- - ah -- sardines, among other things.

Cassidy Brown, Brittany Ogle, Simon Vance, Holly Hornlien, Sue Trigg, Chris Ayles, Katie Anderson, John Butterfield and Julian Lopez-Morillas are pluperfect especially their timing, which is the key factor (besides superlative acting skill) in making a play like this work the way it should. For example: Chris Ayles plays an aging alcoholic actor who is experiencing hearing difficulties while playing a burglar, while pursuing his favorite pastime, imbibing scotch frequently. Chris takes this little part to new heights and proves that there are no small parts, not in the hands of a skilled professional. This production is funny, phunny, funee, No matter how you say it, write it or display it, you cannot get it wrong, it is a shear delight. I laughed again and again. I love this show and I strongly encourage you to call the Willows to see this production.

Director Richard Elliott has delivered a brilliantly conceived show, well worth the very, very reasonable ticket price of $30 to $35 per person. You don’t have to fight traffic or pay for parking at the Willows Shopping Center where the Willows Theatre is located. This production plays Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Sunday performances at 7:30. There are matinees on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., now through May 7th. The Willows Theatre is located at 1975 Diamond Boulevard, between REI sporting goods and Comp USA in the Willows Shopping Center. Call (925) 798-1300 for reservations or visit their website at for more information.

If you enjoy British comedy, somewhat akin to Benny Hill and Monty Python, then you will love this slapstick whirlwind of theatrical madness.