Comedy and dramatic history, three great shows!

This week I have found two terrific comedies and one brilliantly thought-provoking dramatic mystery, all within a very short drive from Rossmoor! The Butterfield “8” Theatre Company in Concord has brought back an outstandingly funny early Noel Coward comedy with their production of “Blithe Spirit”. The Role Players Ensemble in Danville has just launched a hilarious and outrageously funny version of Neil Simon’s, “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”. Then, in Lafayette, at the Town Hall Theater, Kevin Morales has delivered a highly unique, thought provoking look back into time, when in 1941 two of the greatest living pioneers in the filed of physics met in one evening in “Copenhagen”. Since Copenhagen is a rather complicated and convoluted play, I will save it for my final review this week.

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a fun filled Show with one week to go!

Blithe Spirit is a delightful tale about a writer, Charles Condomine, who is infatuated with the idea of writing his next novel about the world of the paranormal. Director John Butterfield has gathered a superb cast of professional level, highly entertaining actors and delivers a lively, delightful performance.

Charles (played by Donald Hardy) and his current wife of several years, Ruth (played by Maureen Theresa Williams), have invited Dr Bradman (David Hardie) and his wife, Mrs. Bradman (Kathleen MacKay) to join them for a séance conducted by Madam Arcati (Ruth Kaiser). Mrs Arcati believes the Condomines to be genuinely interested in the world of the occult. In reality, the whole purpose of the evening’s search for enlightenment is really a matter of entertainment to the Condomine’s and their guests and at the same time nothing more than a way for Mr. Condomine to gather material for his next book.

Mrs. Arcati arrives and the maid, Edith (Ashley Wellman), escorts her into the household. Following dinner the séance quickly gets underway, when questions arise as to whom the Condomines would like to contact in the realm of the dead. They inadvertently connect with Charles’ first wife, Elvira. Elvira (played by Kerry Gudjohnsen) passed away in this same home several years earlier. Her spirit is summoned and brought back to the home, on this very night. Elvira is not a happy camper (or ghost). She doesn’t like Charles’ newer wife, Ruth, at all and before you know it, we discover that she is trying to get Charles back. Of course the only way she can get him all to herself is if Charles should die. What a discouraging thought!

There you have the plot, but you have to see the play to even begin to understand how this clever story by Noel Coward turns this morbid subject into one of the most delightful of comedies. Coward is marvelous at poking fun at people from higher society. Coward’s play on words is delightful, such as “Life without faith is such an arid business,” and Charles is accused of being an “Astro-bigamist” and Elvira retorts, “I’m not dead – I’m just passed over!”

This play is being produced in a rather new venue to local theater, known as ”Cue Productions”, primarily seen as a sound recording studio and musical entertainment venue. It has the feel of an upscale cocktail lounge, located in downtown Concord, just a block from Todos Santos Plaza, at 1835 Colfax Avenue, practically at the corner of Colfax and Willow Pass Road. This fun-filled show plays through next weekend, with performances at 8 p.m., on Thursday, October 19th, Friday October 20th and Saturday October 21st. The prices are only $12 for seniors and students and $18 for general admittance. Call (925) 798-1300 for reservations and additional information. There is plenty of parking nearby, on the street or in the Sugar Plum Restaurant parking area practically adjacent to the theatre building at the corner of Colfax and Concord Blvd. The venue sells light refreshments, beer and wine for your enjoyment at their café style tables and chairs. This is a thoroughly delightful show and Mrs. Arcati is a shear delight. A real knock out performance!

Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” has never been better!

Role Players Ensemble Theatre in Danville has their audiences practically rolling in the isles with an outstanding comedic adventure in Neil Simon’s terrific comedy, “Last of the Red Hot Lovers”.

Once again, Jerry Motta, one of my absolute favorite comedic actors here in the Bay Area is chalking up a ton of chuckles as the man with a serious serial mid-50’s life crisis. As Barney Cashman, Jerry Motta proves that a good guy attempting to be a bad guy ain’t likely to make it. Barney has been a perfect husband for at least 30 years, but now at age 52, he’s getting blue - - he’s never committed an act of infidelity, and now he feels cheated! Barney has served lots of shrimp to a middle aged woman who comes back to his restaurant day after day, flirted with her and even gone so far as to slip her an extra shrimp or two on the sly. As the show opens, Barney is opening the living room door to his mother’s apartment, where he plans to meet for the first time, his amoral lover for an afternoon delight. Unfortunately, Barney is not really a playboy, he’d like to get to the sex part, but his guilt and lack of experience continually gets in the way.

His first attempt at adultery is with an Elaine (played by Sue Trigg) who is more than ready, but Barney talks the adventure to death. The following summer, he gets up courage enough to try again, but the bountiful, beautiful, and ballistic bombshell Bobbie (Leslie Noel), whom he gets up to momma’s apartment, is the epitome of the wierd. Granted, by this time he is a little more at ease with his search for illicit adventure, but he still doesn’t get it. Finally, six weeks later, he hits on his wife’s unhappy girlfriend, Jeanette (June McCue), only to end up chiding himself, “Boy can I pick ‘em”. You will have to see the show to get the full meaning but I can practically guarantee that you will love this witty tale about a witless fantasy. The women are wonderful, in fact, outstanding, and once again, Jerry Motta is absolutely pluperfect!

Director Scott Fryer sure “knows how to pick em” when it comes to casting and you get the benefit of his many years of directorial expertise. Fryer is one of the absolutely most consistently good directors in this area. He quietly works his perfection with a terrific cast and the end result is a sterling production. This show is funny, funny, funny and sad and poignant and truthful. By utilizing actors a little more mature than you usually see in this play, it addresses a whole new set of issues and urgencies and puts a whole new face on this wonderful old chestnut of Neil Simon’s.

This terrific show, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., now through November 4th in the Village Theatre at 233 Front Street in Danville. Tickets range between $18 and $24 with group rates for 10 or more. For tickets visit their ticket web-site at or call (925) 314-3400 or (925) 314-3463 for additional information or reservations. You can also visit their general web-site at for more information.

Traveling down that Nuclear Road, 2006? No, it’s 1941 in Copenhagen!

If you enjoy theatre with meat and meaning, intrigue and adventure, then by all means, go to Copenhagen. As I explained earlier, Town Hall Theatre’s Artistic Director Kevin Morales has provided us with a vehicle that is both a highly acclaimed, award winning theatrical experience and opens our eyes to a little told story about a real life event that occurred during the Second World War that may have had consequences that are affecting us today. The play’s author, Michael Frayn, has given the world a number of great plays and comedies, including the often staged comedy “Noises Off”.

Niels Bohr, the Nobel Prize winning Physicist, considered by many as the father of Quantum Mechanics, and Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winning Physicist and creator of the Uncertainty Principle, had worked together as mentor and student at the University of Copenhagen in the early 1920’s. Through their association as colleagues they developed a close personal relationship, almost like father and son, at times supportive and cohesive and at times estranged and combative. They became two of the most highly regarded physicists in the world, pioneers in the field of nuclear physics.

Between 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and April 9th of 1940, when Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, the world had changed significantly as Germany began to regain and solidify its position in the world’s political arena as a conquering combatant.

Copenhagen was the first work by Frayn to be commissioned by the National Theatre. The new play is something of a departure for him. It takes as its starting point a historic event--the visit made by the German physicist, Werner Heisenberg to Neils Bohr during World War Two in September of 1941. The two physicists, who had collaborated for so long on the development of quantum theory, were now on opposite sides. Bohr was half-Jewish and a citizen of occupied Denmark. Heisenberg was a professor at Leipzig in Germany, but unknown to Bohr, he had become head of the Nazi regime's project to harness atomic energy. Both men were under surveillance.

The play explores a number of issues: the possible motives for this visit, whether it could have taken a different course, and if so, whether this might have produced a different outcome to the Second World War, since it is known that Heisenberg broached the subject of the work being done to produce an atomic bomb. This raises the further issue of the morality of scientists working on atomic energy, which had the capability to produce a new weapon of incredible destructive power.

The means by which Frayn explores such possibilities is innovative and effective. We are in the presence of the "spirits" of Heisenberg (played by Sean Robert Griffin), Bohr (Clive Worsely) and his wife, Margrethe (Mary Gibboney). They are trying, long after the events, to fathom the reasons that they followed the course they did. To do so, they replay the events in different permutations and combinations in order to examine alternatives, explaining their feelings as they do so. The effect, heightened by convincing performances by the cast, is to spirit the audience back into the presence of Heisenberg, Bohr and Margrethe, and permits the spectator to share in the protagonists' secret thoughts as they make split-second decisions that played a part in shaping history.

Heisenberg asserts that the German scientists working on the project under the Nazi regime did not want to develop an atomic bomb. They knew that a bomb was possible, but tried to keep their own research focused on a reactor. This claim is supported by the conversations, referred to in the play, between German scientists when they were kept prisoner at Farm Hall in Britain after the war's end. (These were secretly recorded by British intelligence and transcripts have now been published.)

Heisenberg describes the horror felt by the German physicists upon learning of the detonation of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military. He did not believe initial reports until he heard it for himself on the BBC news.

The two scientists had disagreements, but they did take tremendous strides forward--the result being the Copenhagen interpretation[6] of quantum mechanics.

The play is not so much about the science itself, however, as it is about how scientific ideas can help us to understand the manifold possibilities the future holds, and how history consists of a constant transformation from this indeterminate future, through the present to a single past.
Copenhagen asserts that human motives are knowable only within definite limits. The characters in the play argue that even the past is difficult, and, in terms of motives, impossible to determine. Frayn compares the psychological difficulty of understanding motive with the difficulty in simultaneously measuring the movement and speed of subatomic particles, which is the subject of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

Although Frayn is using scientific concepts outside their proper range of application, his intention is to inspire the audience to ask questions and not accept a fatalistic and shallow view of events. The artistic device is effectively brilliantly used to illustrate the uncertainties animating the play. It is also meant to urge the audience on to a consideration of the great uncertainties that lie in front of the human race. And this the piece does very well!

This is a very wordy play that requires a much greater degree of attention by the attendee to begin to grasp the depth of Frayn’s brilliant discourse. I have no doubt that I will have to see this play more than once to begin fully understand its many levels and concepts. I will be glad to do so. This is an innovative and excellent play, played brilliantly by this cast under the articulate and artful direction of Kevin Morales.

This thought-provoking play continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with Sunday performances at 7 p.m., along with two matinees at 2 p.m. on 10/22 and 10/29 (Sundays) now through November 5th. The Town Hall Theatre is located in Lafayette at the corner of Moraga Road and School Street, at 3535 School Street. Call (925) 283-1557 for reservations and any additional information and or visit their web-site at