Super unique theatrical treats in Concord, Lafayette and Berkeley this week.

Carol of the Bells adds a new ring to Christmas offerings!

I will start with a totally new Christmas production entitled, “Carol of the Bells”, written by Artistic Director Kevin Morales in the Town Hall Theater in Lafayette.

I’ll bet you thought the Christmas gifts made in Santa’s Village were made by elves. Well, according to author Morales, that is a common misconception. In reality, they are made by the Tinkerbell Fairies! Actually, in Kevin’s mythology, there are two major groups of fairies remaining in the world today, one group, the Tinkerbell Fairies and the other, the Sugar Plum Fairies. While one group works exclusively with Santa Claus in the toy shop, the other have become mortal and travel throughout the world, going from village to village at Christmas time to help create an atmosphere in which kindness, good will and joy are rekindled.

Three Sugar Plum fairy sisters, Viola Bell (Amy Nieman), Miranda Bell (Jarusha Arial) and Juliet Bell (Laura Moran or Marissa Stevens), accompanied by their cat named Angel (Sean Robert Griffin) arrive in town, looking for a vacant shop where they can open their “Café of the Bells”, a special kind of coffee shop that serves up a cup of kindness to everyone, every day.

Boy oh boy, did they arrive in a town that truly needs help. Everyone is so tied up with material needs and wants, that buying and selling and shopping have become the paramount mood of the day, setting aside caring and sharing and play!

This delightful little tale is loaded with lots of caroling by a local choir, into which the youngest Bell, Juliet, is trying to become a part. There is even a town Scrooge by the name of Walter Lynch (played by Mark Hinds) who finally learns to loosen up. While this is a definitely work in progress, it has enough good concepts and enough good cheer to make it a story worth sharing with the entire family, a nice alternative to the many Christmas stories that are opening this time of year.

The acting is very good, with several professional or professional level actors and actresses sharing their talents and encouragement to the many young neophytes making their first debut on a theatrical platform. While there are far too many good performances to mention in this article, I simply have to mention a few, with Mary Gibboney as Mrs. Hammer, the landlord the Bells rent their shop from, delivering an outstanding performance. In addition, the black cat, Angel, played by Sean Robert Griffin, is absolutely delightful. The Bell sisters, deserve special kudos for their very believable performances and I could go on and on. There are a number of familiar songs to sing or hum along with and you come away with a real “Christmas spirit in your step”.

Call the box office at (925) 283-1557 or visit their website at for more information or reservations. The Town Hall is located at 3535 School Street at Moraga Road, in Lafayette. Tickets range in price between $12 for children to $29 for adults on Fridays and Saturdays. “Carol of the Bells” performances are at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday performances at 7 p.m. and 2 p.m., now through December 24th.

“Woman in Mind” - - is a delightful theatrical find!

Diablo Valley College has taken on a real challenge with their production of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s thought-provoking comedy, “Woman in Mind”, currently playing in the Arena Theater on Campus.

Student Director, Dennis Markham, is a shining example of the depth of the Student Directed Production Class at DVC. This production is in my estimation, above and beyond anything you will usually see in a college theatrical setting. I frankly was blown away by the professionalism show by the director, performers, scenic designer (Peter Michenfelder), costume designer (Kate Saville) and Lighting designer (Ashley Best). Faculty advisor, Beth McBrien, has given each team member just enough rope to hang themselves if they didn’t do this Ayckbourn comedy well.

I was more than a little concerned as my wife and I were taking guests along with us and I was really hoping this was going to be a good production. Ayckbourn is one of England’s most prolific and successful authors, with over 70 plays to his credit to date. He is considered very difficult to produce by many, as his plots are very convoluted, ripe with multiple meanings and subtle undertones and great diversity in his characters. This play has all the potential for a great flop, and in this case, a flop, it is NOT! Everything from the English dialogue to timing to characterizations from each and every actor is done VERY WELL. You see immediately that all of their hard work has paid off!

The story begins in a garden with the lead character, Susan (Kristie Maloney, a professional level actress) laying on the ground unconscious, having stepped on a rake, which flipped up and struck her in the head. Nearby, Bill Windsor (Danny Estrada) a doctor, is struggling with his medical bag trying to get it open, speaking in fluent “Gibberish”. Remember this, because it comes back into play at the end of the play, and is important in bringing all the madness together.

When Susan comes round, regaining consciousness, the doctor leaves her for a moment to check to see if the ambulance is on its way, when she is suddenly attended by her dashing and sophisticated husband Andy (played by Justin DuPuis); her carefree and playful brother, Tony (Ben Nakamura); and daughter, Lucy (Danielle Lazarkis). It seems that suddenly everything is alright, the injury is superficial and the world is wonderful; then just as quickly, these characters exit and are followed on stage by another family, her crude and cruel husband, Gerald (played by William Richard); snobbish sister-in-law Muriel (played by Shashoni Walton) and within a short time, her estranged son, Rick (played by Soren Santos). It doesn’t take too long before you realize that the blow to Susan’s head has separated Susan’s sensibilities from reality and that the first family is one that her head injury has created, a perfect family, rather than the not-so-perfect family she is really blessed with and the life she is really living. The play is very convoluted, contentious, comic and cerebral. An excellent play with a very unique ending, a play you absolutely have to see to fully appreciate.

Typical of Ayckbourn, “Woman in Mind” is a brilliantly clever play that keeps you on your toes. It is delivered with such skill and charm, that Director Markham has to be severely applauded for this outrageously delightful production. This is as good as anything that you will see in a college theater. This production only plays through this next weekend, December 10th, which is a real travesty; because that doesn’t give you a lot of time to make plans to see it. My wife and I and our guests (one in particular) laughed continuously. There is some clever staging and subtle detail that makes this a real jewel!

Call the Box Office at (925) 687-4445 for reservations. Tickets are a ridiculously low $10 to $13 for each performance. The Arena Theater is located on the Diablo Valley College Campus, behind the main theater at 321 Golf Club Road, in Pleasant Hill. Parking in the evening is free or at least not policed to my knowledge, during the Sunday afternoon performances; you probably should purchase a parking ticket as I’m not sure about policing. Productions continue this coming Friday and Saturday (December 8th & 9th) at 8 p.m., with the final performance on Sunday, December 10th, at 2:30 p.m..

Berkeley Rep’s “ALL WEAR BOWLERS”, delivers a world without gravity!

“All Wear Bowlers”, a modern pantomime piece, is currently in production at Berkeley Repertory’s Roda Theatre at 2015 Addison Street, in Berkeley. This is an incredible piece of theatre, unique to the point of being almost bizarre!

Actors Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford are aficionados of vaudeville, silent films, pantomime, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Samuel Beckett and absurdist theatre.

This show is all of the above rolled into one. These two clowns don the typical silent film era “bowlers” and “entertain in a world without gravity” (meant to be taken both ways). Two worldly wanderers, vicarious vagabonds traveling a lonely country road, emerge from celluloid into the stage lights of reality, then back and fourth, again and again. They take over the theatre, ushering patrons from their seats, literally turning the theatre into a surreal scene of chaos and slapstick comedy as they try to escape the confines of the theater, to return to their 1920’s world of silent movie scenarios.

I’m practically lost for words to describe adequately what these nuts are up to, without giving away an experience that simply has to be experienced to be appreciated. I highly recommend this production as one you should see if you have an ounce of adventurism in you, if you are at all willing to seek out the truly different and unexpected in theatre experiences. It is EGG-ceptionally funny!

“All Wear Bowlers” plays Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday evenings at 7 p.m., with afternoon performances at 2 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays, now through December 23rd. Tickets range between $45 to $61 per ticket. Call the box office at (510) 647-2949 for tickets and reservations or visit their web site at for additional information.