Sex illuminates two shows in Walnut Creek, silent films brings smiles in Niles, and the Lafayette Improvement Assoc.celebrates 100 years!

This week we have two really unique theater offerings, Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight at the Diablo Actor’s Ensemble and The Story Telling Ability of a Boy, presented by Center Repertory Theater, both in downtown Walnut Creek. Both plays are wildly different from each other and wonderfully different in their delivery to you, the audience.

The Story Telling Ability of a Boy is a turbulent story about two desperately needy and troubled high school students and their dedicated and idealistic teacher. This story is sprinkled with humor throughout but there is a very dark undertow just below the surface. It is in some ways a frightening story that mimics the real and often acrimonious student experience as it may well be experienced in today’s violent and unforgiving scholastic environment. Peck (Jeremy Kahn) is a brilliantly gifted, socially inept and nerdy student, endowed with what his English teacher, Caitlin (El Beh), perceives as having an incredibly passionate fantasy and story creation ability. In large part because Peck is so different, and has such an unique command of the English language well beyond most of his peers, Peck is constantly bullied, beaten and picked upon by the ne’er-do-well but socially prominent sports jocks.

Dora (Monique Hafen) is his friend, his one and only friend. She comes to his defense again and again but she is an anti-establishment loner, a provocateur of authority, constantly uttering profane verbal embellishments and gutter based diatribe. We don’t know initially why she is so insecure and angry, but whenever Peck attempts to discuss sex or personal intimate relationships with Dora, she regurgitates offensive rhetoric, which is her primary verbal defense bastion against directly dealing with the issues at hand. At one point, when she is confronted with an unpleasant proposition, she retorts, “I’d rather have my vagina stretched over a fire extinguisher”, - - end of discussion, move on to something else! In addition, Dora is obviously very angry with Peck’s English teacher, Caitlin, for the teacher’s apparent one time connection with her, which has now turned to rejection. She was once greatly impressed with this teacher, but now feels great hostility and regurgitates erogenous epithets to color even the most benign attempts at discussion or the posing of questions by the teacher.

More than likely, what you and I experienced in high school as antiestablishment behavior and exploration of crude language would probably be classified today as naïve kinder-prep language, too tame even for Homer Simpson. This play brings us into the 21st century, where there is a huge difference in social media and communication outlets, more opportunities for bullying, belittling and dehumanizing. It definitely is a moving, emotional play. There is a huge range today of what must be considered normal, probably more than we realize. In retrospect, you have to come away feeling compassion for these young people in the end. In the first few minutes of this show I found myself wanting to get up and walk out because of the language. I am glad I didn’t. The language is course but it is integral to the story. It is the only way Dora has to level the playing field. Without it she would simply be irrelevant!

"Story Telling Ability of a Boy" is a superbly written play by Carter W. Lewis, and directed by Jessica Heidt. It is clever, funny, disturbing and it plays through this weekend, Thursday, Friday , and Saturday at 8:15 p.m., closing this Sunday at 2:15 p.m. in the Knight Stage III theater, downstairs in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts at 1601 Civic Drive in downtown Walnut Creek. . Tickets range in price from $20 to $30 each and can be purchased by calling Center REP at 943-SHOW (7469) or by visiting their web site at, and click on the “buy tickets” box or visit the ticket office in the Regional Center at the above address or in the Downtown Walnut Creek Library or in the Barnes and Noble book store in Walnut Creek.

Also in Walnut Creek at the Diablo Actors Ensemble Theater at 1345 Locust Street, a very funny, very risqué comedy awaits you in Peter Ackerman’s Things You Shouldn't Say Past Midnight. This play is a very funny bedtime story - - for adults - - definitely for adults! Talk about sexual overtones in playwriting. This story is not just bare bones overtones, this is like a sexual sonata, and a hotta sonata at that!

It begins with one straight couple “A” thrashing about under the covers in a bed demonstrating what appears to be copulating, complete with a sonorous lust laden sound track that reverberates with oh’s and ah’s aplenty! As couple “A” comes (no pun intended) to their last orgasmic gasp, an unexpected negative racial epithet is uttered by the feminine member of this passionate duet. This kind of comment is something that has no intelligent place in this type of romantic or sexual interplay, so the stunned and bewildered male partner, Ben, who is the apparent recipient of this epithet, struggles to deal with his feelings as to why this offensive phrase would even be uttered. Wait a minute, he asks, is there something going on under the surface of their relationship that needs to be examined? Nancy (Caitlin Evenson) tries to pass it off as simply interjecting something “dirty” into the sex play (she claims to not even being aware of uttering such a phrase) to enhance her experience, but her partner, Ben (Bryan Quinn), does not buy it.

After much discussion and argument, somehow, in the process of the give and take of two lovers having a tiff, Ben says that “we all say things sometimes that we don’t really mean”, and somehow there is an indication that he might have once had the feeling that he might even have had a “gay” moment. With that revelation, the evening ends with the angry female partner, Nancy, leaving and going to her girlfriend Grace’s apartment at 3 a.m. in the morning. The next couple “B” includes Nancy’s girlfriend, Grace (Hilary Hyatt), who is in the process of entertaining her “boy toy”, an older man named “Clean Gene” (Tony Rizzo), who is an exciting guy because he is more mature and he is also a nefarious character, at least on the surface. Gene is a mafia hit man known as a non-messy snuff artist and that turns Grace on! Clean Gene secretly wants to get out of his life of crime, but there is concern that his going straight (no pun intended) will diminish his sex appeal to Grace!
When Nancy tells Grace that her boyfriend might “be gay”, Grace opts to call her therapist, Mark (Nate Bogner), who is definitely gay and asks for his input. It turns out that at this time of the morning, Mark is in bed with his gay partner, Mr. Abrahamson (John Hutchinson), (couple “C”), and before long couples “A” “B” and “C” are in on the “is he”, “isn’t he” discussion, a 6 way therapeutic conference call at 3 a.m. in the morning. The acting is absolutely superb all around as is the “A B C’s of sexual discourse after intercourse”, after midnight. And you thought the “Late Show with Letterman”, the “Late Night show with Jimmy Fallon”, and the” Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” were entertaining? I’m sorry, but these shows were nothing compared to Pete Ackermans’ late night entertainment gem!

Outrageously funny, deliciously crazy and rampant with ribald sexual language, this play, directed very well by Vince Faso, is an absolute bizarre delight! You probably should attend, if you want to know “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight”.

This show continues through this week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., closing with the Sunday performance. Tickets range between $10 and $25 each. Call (866) 811-411 for reservations and tickets or visit their web site at for more information. The Theater is located next door to Peet’s Coffee on Locust Street in Walnut Creek, at 1345 Locust Street.

Silent Films in Niles are bound to bring lots of smiles, check it out!

If you have ever enjoyed the silent films that were so prevalent after the turn of the century and would enjoy going to a historical little town where many of those early films were actually made, right here in the Bay Area, then you ought to take a little drive down to Niles, California, near Fremont, where Bronco Billy and Essanay Films at one time actually made movies and held sway. Gilbert M. “Bronco Billy” Anderson and George K. Spoor formed the Essanay Film Corporation in Chicago in 1907 but by 1912 they had grown tired of the cold unpredictable weather in the East and Anderson began to look for more moderate climes to make his films. By 1912, when Essannay and 52 members of their company arrived in Niles by train, the company had already made more than 200 films. George Spoor was the “Ess” part and Anderson was the “anAy” part of the film company’s name. Before very long, local businessmen saw the great potential of a film making company and what it could do for the local economy, so they hustled Anderson into the backroom of Billie Moore’s Bar and made a deal to sell an old barn on 2nd avenue to Bronco Billy as a makeshift movie studio.

The film company bought more property, enlarged their operation and continued to grow modestly until December of 1914 when Charlie Chaplin was signed by Essanay. His yearly income was $75,000 and each film he made brought in around $125,000. All went well until Chaplin’s contract came up in 1915 and he demanded $10,000 per week plus $125,000 just for signing his name to the contract. Anderson was ready to go elsewhere. Spoor rejected Chaplin’s demands and Chaplin moved on. In February 1916, the Niles Essanay company was ordered to shut down. It was an end of an era, but in Niles the history lives on.

There is an Essanay Silent Film Museum on what was then known as Front Street, and now known as 37417 Niles Boulevard, in Fremont, California. In the back of the museum ( a truly historic building) there is a little film studio where you can join many other silent film aficionados on Saturday evenings at 7:30 pm or Sundays at 4 pm to kick back and join the faithful to watch those fun, silly and sappy movies of yester year.
Niles is now a tourist town with lots of antique shops, restaurants, gift shops, a couple of old bars, a fancy old fashioned train station and a great Silent Film Museum. You can find the details on the web page at or call them at (510) 494-1411. I am planning to head down there for the December 17th Comedy shorts night (which is usually sold out) to join in the fun. The only requested donation is $5 for the pianist Bruce Loeb who provides the background mood music.

Niles is a fun town to bum around in. My wife and I bought a terrific antique mirror years ago from one of those antique shops, which hangs in our living room. There are also some pretty good places for a “down home” type meal to round out the day’s adventure.

The Lafayette Improvement Association, originally knjown as the Lafayette Improvement Club was instrumental in the founding of the Lafayette Town Hall and even the City of Lafayette, and the orgainization is now about to celebrate 100 years this coming Friday, 11/11/11.

Lafayette has some pretty significant history to celebrate this coming Friday, November 11th, as the Lafayette Improvement Association celebrates its 100th birthday with a procession of 100 candles at 7 p.m., outside the Town Hall Theater, located at 3535 School Street.

I know of several Rossmoor families who at one time belonged to the Town Hall, the Dramateurs (the old resident theater company) or the Lafayette Improvement Association (originally known as the Lafayette Improvement Club), whom I am sure would love to be part of this celebration.

In celebrating this remarkable event in the old fashioned way, family and friends are invited to join in as cake and cider will be served in the Town Hall’s modern 1st floor lobby (or green room as we used to call it). Former officers and board members of the Lafyaette Improvement Association and the Chamber of Commerce and civic officials are all invited, but Clyde Long, the president of the Lafayette Improvement Association (LIA), wants to place the emphasis on Lafayette families joining in the celebration, first and foremost!

My wife, Karen, and I met in that Town Hall Theater as members of the Dramateurs back in the early 80’s and it holds many fond memories for us as both her mother and father were also members of both the Dramateurs and the Lafayette Improvement Association. My wife’s birthday is on the same day as this celebration so we may not be able to attend. To learn more, call 283-1848 or visit or visit the Lafayette Historical Society History Room in the Lafayette Library and Learning Center which is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., located at 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549-3360. It is best to enter from Golden Gate Way.