Eugene O'Neill honored in Danville & Thoroughly Modern Millie is fun-filled and silly!

I am reviewing two shows this week, but one of them, Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Days Journey Into Knight”, just ran for four days in the O’Neill Barn in Danville and if you didn’t buy tickets early, then the opportunity has passed for this year’s festival. The second show, Diablo Light Opera Company’s light-hearted and fun-filled musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is in full swing at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. I will get to that shortly, but first, a little trip to Danville is in order.

O’Neill Foundation celebrates 50th anniversary of “Long Day’s Journey into Night”, in Danville historical site.

In 1934, Eugene O’Neil and his third wife, Carlotta Monterey, moved to Danville, California and lived in what they called their Tao House, on a hillside above the town with a resplendent view of Mt. Diablo. That beautiful home has been turned into a fitting historic site, one of four National Park Service sites in Contra Costa County, known as the Eugene O’Neill Historic Site. The site includes the O’Neill home, restored and outfitted as it was in the day when O’Neill lived there, the original barn and some new service buildings to house staff, offices and maintenance facilities. While much of the original furniture was sold when the O’Neill’s moved back to New York in 1944, some of the families who subsequently acquired the furniture from the O’Neill’s have returned the furniture to the site so that visitors today may experience the home as it was when O’Neill wrote some of his greatest works.

The home is a beautiful home and certainly worthy of a visit just to experience this home as it was then and is today, fully restored structurally and somewhat refurbished with furnishings very similar to those in the home when the O’Neill’s lived there.

The Eugene O’Neill Foundation, the Tao House and the National Park Service just provided the community with the seventh annual Eugene O’Neill Festival which gave an opportunity to enjoy a number of free scholarly seminars, roundtable discussions and four performances of Eugene O’Neill’s superlative personal work, Long Days Journey Into Night.

O’Neill, a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author, wrote this painfully autobiographical play with instructions that it was not to be produced until 25 years after his death. Carlotta, as executrix of his estate, released the play in 1956, three years after his death, in order to perpetuate his place in American Theater. It was received with tremendous critical acclaim and is now considered by many to be his greatest play. This is the 50th anniversary of that production and the first time this play has been produced in the Eugene O’Neill playhouse/barn, on the property where the play was actually written.

His personal life was a tragedy in many ways and this play chronicled the torment and dysfunction that was leading his family down the path to self-destruction. It is an extremely dark and powerful play about family relationships gone astray. It certainly resonates with many, many people. I have seen the play at least four times and have enjoyed it for the message and poignancy it delivers. It is a very long play with some productions lasting over four hours. This excellent production by the Pear Avenue Theatre (of Mountain View) lasted three hours, but not once did I look at my watch.

The family in the play are identified as the Tyrone family with James Tyrone (played by Tom Amman) characterizing Eugene’s father, James O’Neill; Mary Tyrone (played to absolute perfection by Diane Tasca), characterizing his mother, Ella; James Tyrone (played by Eric Rice) portraying his brother, James and finally, Edmond (played by John Russell) who portrays the young author himself. In addition, the colorful household servant Cathleen, is played exceptionally well by Sarah Eismann.

The festival is an exciting opportunity to become acquainted with one of America’s greatest playwrights. It was thrilling for me to be able to stand next the actual desk, in the study, where O’Neill sat, contemplated, agonized and finally wrote this incredible work, a great play which delves deeply into “the essentials of life: loyalty, love, ideals, delusion, honesty; the past and present.” You can contact the Eugene O’Neill Foundation by calling (925) 820-1818 or visiting their web-site at for more information on visiting the site and up-coming events.

The Diablo Light Opera Company pulls out all stops, delivering a stellar theatrical event with their upbeat, fun-filled, toe-tapping musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie”.

Now for the light-hearted and fun-filled musical that will surely lighten your load and put a little spring in your foot, with DLOC’s delightful “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, currently playing in the Dean Lesher Regional Theater for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Under the astute overall direction of locally born Ryan Weible, the brilliant choreography of Sheri Stockdale, the music direction of Cheryl Yee Glass and their entire team of producer directors, a truly exciting musical and dance production has been unveiled for your enjoyment.

Based on the popular movie starring Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, this high energy show re-created for stage by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan, with new lyrics by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan, is an absolute winner in every respect.

From cast selection to costumes (Pam Gill), to set design (by James Fouchard), to lighting by Kurt Landisman and even sound design by William Carrico, this show is thoroughly modern, in an old fashioned way.

The main characters, Office steno-pool worker Millie (played by Brandy Collazo) and Matthew Brandon Hutchens who plays her true love, Jimmy Smith are great, but so are all the supporting actors and actresses.

In supporting roles, Cynthia Myers plays the inscrutable (phony Chinese) manager of the Hotel Priscilla absolutely brilliantly, as does Mylinda Kyring who plays wealthy confidant and elitist party thrower, Muzzy Van Hossmere, with pluperfect pizzazz. Even Millie’s unmarried boss, Trevor Graydon (played by Eric Nieman) and her girlfriend, Dorothy Brown (played by Angilique Lucia) almost steal the show with their individual portrayals. And the list could go on and on as performers such as the two Chinese hotel workers, Ching Ho (Michale Cabanlit) and Bun Foo (Austin Ku) steal scene after scene. In addition, Heidi Schidt delivered a sterling performance as Miss Flannery, the office pool manager.

Millie, is an upbeat, gutsy young lady who came to New York from a small town in the mid-west to get a job and find an eligible bachelor husband with plenty of financial wherewithal. She makes friends in a hotel filled to the rafters with aspiring young actresses. The hotel is run by a nefarious landlady, Mrs. Meers, who pretends to be Chinese to divert people from recognizing her as former actress whom the police are looking for. As well as supplying a place of residence for beautiful young women, this hotel seems to have a duel role, in that those who seem to have no family or close friends outside of New York suddenly disappear. Could it be that the hotel staff is in reality a “White Slavery” group, suspected of sending young women out of the country, never to be heard from again, as slaves in illicit brothels in the Far East?

This is a superb up-beat, toe-tapping musical that has incorporated the best in tapping dancing talent under the excellent direction of Sheri Stockdale. I was enthralled by the talent of the many dancers in this production, dancers that varied in height, weight and shape that proves that talent is talent and under the right direction they can put on “One Hell of a Show”.

Mylinda Kyring plays the eccentric society and social personality (Muzzy Van Hossmere) with vibrancy and gusto. She makes the part come alive and adds considerably to the overall feel of the show. Lead actress, Brandy Collazo, is absolutely superb, beautiful and so talented it’s hard to know where to begin. She really brings fireworks to this show! There is nothing to criticize here, just plenty to laud and applaud!

Don’t miss “Thoroughly Modern Millie”, a terrific production that plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with midday performances at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, now through October 29th. Call (925) 943-SHOW (7469) or visit the web-site at . The theatre is located in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. Tickets range between $26 to $38, which is an absolute steal of a deal! There is plenty of parking next door in a public parking garage.