"Hold Please" opens in Walnut Creek and Hunt for Red October screenwriter Larry Ferguson takes Ross Ragland audience on great adventure!

“Hold Please” is a modern comedy by Annie Weisman about workplace politics in today’s fast moving corporate America, currently in production at Diablo Actors Ensemble Theatre in Walnut Creek.

“Solomon/Xavier/Greenspan/Sachs” may be a law firm, a brokerage firm, an insurance office or any one of a dozen different types of offices in corporate America where the women on the front line, the women who answer the phones, type the correspondence and keep the machine running smoothly, most often become the first real line of corporate contact with their customers. It is in this little microcosm of corporate life that the four women in this play orchestrate their company’s most important basic operations, while attempting to maintain their present jobs and/or move up the corporate ladder. The play’s four women (two middle aged and two very young) muddle through their daily office duties. In reality, they each have their own private agendas, their own unique plans to get ahead or to survive in this corporate oven. All four of them have issues with the men in their workplace or their lives. They also have issues with each other, issues that arise out of jealousies brought on by personality and workplace conflicts and generational differences.

The most mature worker, Agatha (Sondra Putnam), is a real “plotter of plots”, a spinster who seems to have a personal vendetta against men, especially men whom she suspects as being playboy piranhas, preying on the younger, more naïve women. As the show opens, Agatha has called a meeting of the “girls” to discuss the process she and the girls in her department are using to get one of the corporation’s principals fired for sexual harassment. It quickly becomes evident that she is not interested in ferreting out “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, just in hanging another scalp on her belt! In fact, as it turns out, she helps to convict the wrong guy, a guy who did nothing more that demonstrate some personal comfort concerns that were misconstrued. We are not even sure why Agatha has taken up the cross to burn this guy.

Did she have some bad dealings with him, or did she get burned through another encounter earlier in her employment career, perhaps even with a totally different person, and now just has to get revenge on all males who make a casual misstep?

Grace (Heidi Abbott) appears to be a happily married woman, content in her relationship with her husband. At least she seems to be very happy with him, even if (as we later learn) he was her second brass ring taken on life’s marry-go-round. The first brass ring in her life is really a jackass who is still working for the same corporation. Here is a scalp that should be hanging on someone’s belt, but isn’t, and somehow manages to avoid justice.

The two remaining women are the younger gals, both in their first “real” office jobs and women who are only concerned with life in the “here and now”, definitely not in”the long run”. Jessica (Megan Briggs) is the ditzy dizzy one, chewing gum incessantly and talking a great deal, but in reality, saying very little! Erika (Xanadu Bruggers) is the sexy, perky, party girl who probably “has sex will travel” printed on her dance card. To her, the secretarial pool is just the first stop on her way to the bosses’ couch. It appears that she’s hoping to take a quick trip from the board-room to the bed-room.

Director Scott Fryer has selected four very talented actresses who are trying very hard to develop the characters as drawn by playwright Weisman. Unfortunately, while the actresses are really quite excellent, the play meanders all over the place. Weisman has some great potential in this play, but it fails to become focused enough for me to decide where she is trying to go with it.
A lot of verbal embellishment is delivered, but very little real substance emerges. There are few really memorable lines. Great plays have great characters and great characters develop! If the author has done the job, you should come to care about one or more of them. They should not be clichés of images we have seen numerous times in other plays, and that is basically what Weismann has given us. “Nine to Five” this is not!

Diablo Actors Ensemble has tried very hard to deliver a noteworthy production; the set designed by Loren Hoselton is exceptionally well done as is the lighting design by Ron Spaulding. The ladies do an excellent job, deliver a very interesting and thought provoking comedy with what they have, but in the final analysis, there is very little power in the words.

“Hold Please” plays in the Diablo Actors Ensemble Theatre which is located at 1345 Locust Street in downtown Walnut Creek. Call 482-5110 for reservations and ticket information or visit their website at http://www.diabloactors.com/. The play continues Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with a special “Rossmoor Matinees on Friday, November 14th at 2 p.m.. Once again, Rossmoor transportation will be providing free bus service directly to the theatre on the 14th, contact Gretchen Hansen at 988-7670 for more information. There will also be matinees on Sundays, November 2nd, 16th and 23rd (the closing performance). Tickets are a very reasonable $22 for Seniors and students, $25 for general admission, with a special Thursday evening show price of only $10. I usually park in the Marie Callendar pie shop parking lot at Mt. Diablo and California Street and walk one block to the theatre located around the corner from Mt. Diablo on Locust Street.

“Monday Night at the Movies” at the Ross Ragland Theatre, brought “The Hunt For Red October” screenwriter, Larry Ferguson, back to Klamath Falls, Oregon for an evening of personal insight into the screenwriting process.

I review live theatre primarily because there is a special excitement in seeing live actors deliver an author’s words live on stage, without the benefit of the many “re-takes” that provide motion pictures their final spit and polish. I enjoy the immediacy and the craft of those actors who come before audiences night after night, who have to be ready to act extemporaneously if something falls apart on stage, or an actor forgets his or her lines. Certainly there are movies that I enjoy and will even want to watch over and over again because of the excellence delivered by so many people behind the scenes that make a great movie story even greater. One such movie for me is The Hunt for Red October. While the book was written by Tom Clancy, the movie adaptation and re-write, was crafted by award winning screenwriter, Larry Ferguson.

This past week, I had the opportunity to return to Klamath Falls, Oregon where I graduated from Klamath Union High in 1958, to meet, photograph and interview Mr. Ferguson, who took the words from Tom Clancy’s book and condensed it into a workable, award winning screen play.

Larry Ferguson and I have several things in common; we both attended high school in Klamath Falls at the same time , both developed an appreciation for theatre and acting by the same drama teacher, Roberta “Blommy” Blomquist, at Klamath Union High School. Larry, however, took his love of theatre all the way, becoming a professional actor, noted screen writer, producer, director, playwright and author. As a writer and screenwriter he has contributed to such popular movies as “Rollerball”, “Maximum Risk”, “Alien 3”, “Beyond The Law”, “Beverly Hills Cop II”, “The Presidio”, “Gunfighter’s Moon” and many others. As an actor, he has performed in “Beyond the Law” and in “The Hunt for Red October” as Chief of the Boat, Watson, aboard the USS Dallas, the ship that pursues the Red October.

One of our old movie theaters in Klamath Falls, the Esquire, was rescued by a group of concerned Klamath citizens and converted into a beautiful community performance center called the Ross Ragland Theater. The facility hosts many different types of events, including a “Monday Night at the Movies” event, at which the facility presents a popular movie, and whenever possible, an opportunity for the audience to meet with and interview someone who was connected with the creation of the production being shown. Such was the case with Larry Ferguson being invited to attend the theater’s showing of The Hunt for Red October.

It was certainly enjoyable to see once again this truly remarkable movie, but when you learn from the movie’s writer how the story was modified to make it work better and even more exciting than if it had been strictly scripted it from the book, then the movie takes on an even greater meaning. Mr. Ferguson met with the audience before the screening and for almost an hour afterwards he answered questions from the audience and told the story of what happened behind the scenes, tales from the inner sanctum of movie making. Being able to meet with the screen writer makes the movie making process take on an even greater excitement.

I know that our own Rossmoor Film Club group shows movies for our residents once a month right here in Rossmoor and if it were possible for our residents to experience an “Evening with the Movie Maker/Creator”, it would be something you would long remember as well.

Larry is a terrific story teller as well as an excellent writer and his openness and candor about the movie making process makes him a superb draw as an informative speaker, anywhere in the country. He is a very personable guy and a pleasure to get to know. I only wish I could have taken you along with me so that you could have experienced what I did. Hopefully, something like this might be arranged for our local residents in the future!