Registered Critic: Paul Myrvold - Theatre Notes

Paul Myrvold has been writing theatre commentary for over thirty years, first in the Bay Area covering every kind of performance including plays, musicals, ballet, opera, circus and even a Portuguese-style bull fight. He has written about theatrical performances at all levels in all kinds of venues from the premiere theatres, such as A.C.T., Berkeley Rep and TheatreWorks, to smaller, high quality venues such as San Jose Stage Company, City Lights Theatre Company and Pacific Repertory Theatre in Carmel. He has also covered community theatre productions, college and university productions and, on occasion, high school productions. Now residing in Southern California, Paul has been commenting on shows throughout Los Angeles County and has stretched his beat to Orange County and South Coast Repertory. An Equity actor for over forty years, Paul played Jonathan Jeremiah Peachum in San Jose Stage Company’s award winning production of The Three Penny Opera and the dual roles of Sir Walter Elliot and Admiral Croft in the world premiere of Jane Austen’s Persuasion also at San Jose Stage Company. He earned a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for “Outstanding Performance” in the supporting roles of J. V. “Major” Bouvier and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale in the musical Grey Gardens at TheatreWorks (2008). In the summer of 2018, he appeared in the highly acclaimed Open Fist Theatre production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood as Reverend Jenkins and Narrator. Paul has performed on Broadway (most notably in the hit show Shenandoah with John Cullum), off Broadway, off-off Broadway, in regional theatres, summer stock and as a Guest Artist at colleges and universities from coast to coast. He has performed his signature role Cervantes/Quixote in Man of La Mancha eight times over four decades, the latest of which was an intimate, theatre-in-the round production at Pacific Repertory Theatre. Some other favorite roles include King Lear, Fred Graham/ Petruchio in Kiss Me, Kate, Trigorin in The Sea Gull, Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music and Caldwell B. Cladwell in Urinetown. Paul is never happier than when he is in the theatre, either on stage or in the audience, and he hopes to see you at intermission or after the show.
Dec

Disposable Necessities

In a fictional land of the future created by playwright Neil McGowan in his astonishing new play, Disposable Necessities, the wealthy can dispose of their bodies and occupy new ones through a company that has developed the ability to extract, at enormous cost, the conscious soul of a person and put it into whatever body they choose to buy. So, for example, the old can refresh themselves with young bodies. A woman can become a man, and vice versa. They can change bodies for the sport of it. They can do this multiple times, theoretically forever.

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Dec

The Christmas Present

Guy Picot’s smart black comedy, The Christmas Present, is a terrific deviation in holiday fair, taking a left turn into the dark alley of repressed desire and yearning need. The scene is set in an upscale hotel room that boasts expensive-looking red sheets on the bed, and, judging by the text of the script and the accents of the cast, takes place somewhere in the still United Kingdom. Colin (dynamic, energetic Troy Blendell), a fit-looking, middle-aged businessman, has booked a room and hired a prostitute for a thirty-six hour stint as a Christmas present for himself. Still smarting over his failed marriage and his sad, self-generated social isolation as upper management type, he is looking for the hooker to give him some kind of connection that, of course, includes sex and something more that is undefinable.

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Dec

Max and Willy’s Last Laugh (A staged reading for Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills)

Max and Willy’s Last Laugh, written by Jake Broder and Conor Duffy, a dark musical comedy, is inspired by the true story of Max Erhlich and Willy Rosen, popular Jewish cabaret stars who plied their trade in Nazi Germany. The racial laws and the onset of war caused the duo to flee to Holland, where they were caught and imprisoned in the Westerbork Transit Camp, a holding place where 94,643 persons were eventually put on trains to the death camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor. The commandant of the camp recognized the comedians and put them to work. They were charged with the task of creating and performing a cabaret show every Monday night. If they were successful in delivering laughs, skits and songs, they could do it again next week. If not, they were on the train to Auschwitz in the morning.

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Dec

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER

The third act ushers in a character named Banjo (the insanely funny, totally uninhibited, outrageously inventive Barry Pearl), clearly based on the antics of Harpo Marx. I have never seen anything like this performance and it is worth the price of admission all by itself.

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Nov

Embridge - Jane Austen Meets Oscar Wilde in World Premiere

I am continually amazed by Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro. This ambitious company again and again puts up shows of quality and excellence both in production and performance. There may be a show now and then that doesn’t quite hit the mark, but for the most part, I have seen great revivals of classic comedies and dramas, as well as newer, contemporary works. The latest Little Fish offering, Embridge, is doubly unique. Written by company member Kathryn Farren, this romantic comedy is set in a great house in Victorian England sometime after the American Civil War. Ms. Farren also takes the lead role of Mabel Martin, a Hepburn-esque beauty and protofeminist who is not immune to the lures of romance. As playwright, Ms. Farren successfully creates a fusion in styles of her two favorite authors, Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde, while juggling three romantic pairings.

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Nov

For The Loyal

If you ever wondered about the term, in medias res, the first moments of Lee Blessing’s 2015 play, For the Loyal, is as good as any. A story that begins that way is without preamble, in the middle of the action, often, in the height of the action. At lights up at For the Loyal, now in production by Sixty-Six Theater Company at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre, Toby (Torrey Drake), is a highly agitated grad student at a major state university in the Midwest.

His wife, Mia (Hilty Bowen), blurts out, “What kind of crime?”
“A sex crime, like you know, with a kid,” says Toby.
“A kid?”
“You can’t tell anybody!”
“I can’t?”
“No, Christ, no! I shouldn’t even be telling you…!”

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Nov

Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room

Without looking at the press release for Colin Speer Crowley’s play, Fifteen Men in a Smoke-Filled Room, I conjured up mental images of political comedy with over-fed men puffing on stogies while they harangue and scheme and plot ways to subvert the republic and line their pockets with filthy lucre. That is not the game plan for this play. No, it is rather a drama about the sadness of Warren Gamaliel Harding, a reluctant candidate for the 1920 Republican nomination for president.

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Nov

From Baghdad to Brooklyn

The structure of Ms. Azar’s show is not linear, but rather a construct that leaps back and forth in time to reveal the individual stories of the essential family unit. The passionate recounting of her family’s history begins in Baghdad with her father, Shaul Azariahu (later Americanized as Saul Azar), an Iraqi-born Jew. She first portrays him as a mischievous young boy who loves to jump, an action that she performs repeatedly throughout with giddy delight. Her mom, Marsha Singer Azar, is portrayed as an accomplished, “vivacious…dynamic woman with a powerful voice,” who grew up in Brooklyn. Her bubbi, Ada Pickelney, was born in Poland and, at the age of thirteen, suffered the untimely death of her mother while on the boat to Ellis Island. Fearful of her father, who came to New York ahead of his family, she went to Brooklyn to live with her sisters, where “she found her interest in academia and acting.” It is easy to see where and how Michelle Azar became a scintillating talent…

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Nov

Salvage

Salvage is set in “a rundown, out-of-the-way bar” in real time, that in my mind conjures a place somewhere in the hinterlands of rural California between Barstow and Bakersfield, but could be anywhere across our vast country. The barkeep, Johnson (Earl Howze), is seated behind his bar and country music spins on the jukebox. Preacher (David Atkinson), a tall, slim, bearded guy with a handsome, weary face enters dangling an absurdly large metal lavatory key. He lurches over to the jukebox, yanks out the cord, gets his guitar, sits down next to a table and a half-filled bottle of whiskey and starts to sing a mournful song, “I’m So Tired of It All.” His guitar playing is impeccable; his unique voice matches his mien. His singing goes straight to the heart, drawing an audience in to share his woe. He is deep into his cups and drinks steadily throughout, calling for another bottle when he drains the present one. He is a not a falling-down, slurring drunk, but a rough, eloquent one like Dylan Thomas.

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Nov

Before

When it comes to the great Pat Kinevane, an Irish national treasure and Olivier Award winner, the word that comes up, after trolling through my mental hard drive, is “incomparable.” I really can’t liken him to any other performer that I know of, and I get around and have done so for decades. A solo performer who writes his own scripts, he is in town once more at Odyssey Theatre to kick off the national tour of his new play, Before. Previously seen in Underneath, Forgetten, and Silent, his new show, Before, is his most ambitious.

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Nov

Defenders

Three American soldiers are shipwrecked on Hrisey Island, a tiny bit of land just north of the Icelandic mainland. They stumble through a vicious storm fraught with lightening, thunder, and rain, into a defunct chapel. Cold, wet and disheveled, they are a sorry lot, their supplies and equipment lost, save for a radio that works sporadically and a jammed, tripod-mounted machine gun.

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Nov

Eight Nights

Eight Nights is awesomely complex and superbly directed by Emily Chase. The emotional impact of the show is enormous and gripped this theatre goer from beginning to end. The power of the players is extraordinary.

sweet

Nov

Waiting for Waiting for Godot

Playwright David Hanson’s Waiting for Waiting for Godot is its own inspired tragi-comedy nestled into a backstage dressing room where two understudies wait to be called to the stage to perform their roles of Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot in the event of an emergency. Hanson’s play tilts rather a bit more on the scale towards comedy than tragedy and it soon becomes clear that the two schmucks, Ester (Bruno Oliver) and Val (Joe Hernandez-Kolski) will never get to set foot in front of an audience. The title says it all.

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Nov

Tonight only. All other dates cancelled - La Vie En Rose

I fell for her big back in 2015 in Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill, admired her Debussy: His Letters and His Music in 2017, and now I hope against hope that La Vie en Rose isn’t really the last time I get to applaud her.

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Nov

Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evil Doers

The artist bonds with the audience with his lively manner, which is utterly engaging and filled with humor, as he adopts no fewer than nine characters who tell their individual stories...

...It is a revelation of historical fact, and an accounting of the current political situation, all delivered with highly entertaining vigor. José Torres-Tama is a performance artist of the highest calibre.

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Nov

Orry

Suffice it say that Nick Hardcastle’s tale of Orry-Kelly’s rise from obscurity to fame, his fraught love-life, and his heroic consumption of alcohol is a great tale splendidly delivered. Throughout the show, the delightful Soubrette acts as his faithful aide-de-camp, singing and dancing with him and so much more. The splendid Anthony Zediker at a piano downstage left plays continually throughout the show.

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Nov

Romeo and Juliet in Hell

This mash up is patently outrageous and undeniably, groanably funny, with a cast that is having the time of their life and the audience gets sucked in like a doomed ship in a whirlpool. Don’t think, just enjoy the fun.

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Nov

Between Riverside and Crazy

Stephen Adly Guirgis’ script deserves its accolades and in the sure hands of director Guillermo Cienfuegos, Between Riverside and Crazy is an exciting, engrossing piece of theatre with cast of seasoned pros, and that definitely includes Liza Fernandez as the mysterious Church Lady who shows up in the second act. I can say no more.

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Nov

Art is Useless When You're Being Mauled by a Bear

Under the keen co-direction of JJ Mayes and Bree Pavey, Art is Useless When You’re Being Mauled by a Bear is an exciting production in so many ways. First and foremost, it is imaginative in the extreme and highly entertaining. The ensemble is extraordinary in its commitment to style. The scenic design by Jennifer DeRosa and Madylin Durrie supports the simultaneous locales of house and fantasy with a lightly cluttered downstage and whimsical, painterly upstage. Choreographer Tavi Stutz, a veteran of many companies around the world, including Cirque du Soleil, has done wonders with dance and movement that is energetic, athletic, and beautiful.

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Oct

Pit of Goblins

With people steadily disappearing, the local community pressures the sheriff (Bisschop) to do something. But he is an inept sort whose only ambition is to get up stage and sing a song in a local festival. It doesn’t help that a local radio shock-jock of the Alex Jones ilk (Bisschop) broadcasts odious conspiracy venom. These two bumwads deliver most of the questionable comedy. Enough for snickers, but not guffaws.

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