Friday, April 26, 2019


The cast of “Disaster!” includes, from left, Nicole Sterling, Tim Stewart, Natasha Hause,
Jamie Jones and Michael Cross. The Sacramento Theatre Company
production runs through Sunday, May 12.
Charr Crail Photography/Courtesy photo
The laughter was so continuous at the opening night of Sacramento Theatre Company’s “Disaster!” that it was sometimes difficult to hear the dialogue. But that didn’t matter because the plot is more or less negligible to the zany nonsense going on on stage.

This jukebox musical, written by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick (with additional material by Drew Garaci), uses 27 popular songs of the ’70s like “I Am Woman,” “Feelings,” and “I Will Survive,” played by the five-piece onstage orchestra, to move the action forward — action that never stops, thanks to the nimble hands of director Michael Laun.

This is a parody of those silly ’70s disaster movies like “Poseidon Adventure,” “Jaws” and “Towering Inferno.” The setting is the opening of a new floating casino, and the first act pretty much introduces us to the players (a cast of 20 first-rate actors) who will be trying to escape the casino when disaster strikes in Act 2.

Tony (Tim Stewart), whose baby this casino is, has built it Trump-like, ignoring rules and regulations and taking shortcuts wherever possible. Professor Ted Scheider (Casey McClellan) is the disaster expert who knows what is going to happen but can’t get anybody to believe him. They’re all having too good of a time.

New York Times reporter Marianne (Melissa Brausch) is trying to write an article about Tony’s cost-cutting measures, which have made the casino unsafe.

Because there has to be a love story in there, Marianne runs into former lover Chad (Sam C. Jones) and the two rediscover their “Feelings” for each other, which may lead to their peril.

Lounge singer Jackie (Natasha Hause) is waiting for philandering Tony to pop the question. She has two children, Lisa and Ben, both played by Elizabeth Lamora (alternating with Kateyn Reeves), who proves that you can play two characters on stage at the same time if you stage it right!

The guests are great, particularly Nicole Sterling as Sister Mary Downy, a nun with a previous gambling addiction, trying to resist the lure of the slot machines as she attempts to let people know that if they gamble, they will go to hell. Her “Never Can Say Goodbye” is a highlight.

Maury and Shirley (Michael Cross and Jamie Jones) are a retired couple, celebrating Maury’s retirement (“You’re Still the One”). Shirley is a salute to Shirley Winters’ character in “Poseidon Adventure,” who ends up saving the young lovers. Winters’ character called on her swimming skills; this Shirley resurrects her skills as a former high school tap-dancing champion to tap out the morse code instructions to open a watertight door.

Miranda D. Lawson is Levora, a disco diva, who, in songs such as “Theme from Mahagony” and “Knock on Wood,” shows that she’s not quite ready for retirement yet.

Kudos to scenic designers Jarrod Bodensteiner and Renee Degarmo for creating realistic earthquakes and flooding, with the aid of Emma Bramble’s sound design and Craig Vincent’s lighting design.
If you like to laugh, and especially if you were a fan of either ’70s pop music or those crazy disaster films, this is the show for you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Self - Unseeing

There’s a new theater in town and if its debut production, “The Self-Unseeing,” is any indication, we are in for some exciting shows in the future. The Happy Hour Theatre was founded by area natives Shenandoah Kehoe and Christi van Eyken in August of 2018. Kehoe grew up in Sacramento and studied theater at Sacramento State. Van Eyken is a Davis resident and an alum of the Davis High School drama program.

The Happy Hour Theatre offers opportunities for theater artists to undertake new challenges and expand their ability to make compelling theater.

The company has no permanent home at the moment, but this first production is held at the Black Box Theater in West Sacramento and the Palms Playhouse in Winters. In the immediate future, the company will perform at various venues, without a single home base.

In addition to using local actors and directors, the company plans to produce original works by community members as well as published pieces in order to give local playwrights a place to bring their words to life. Incidental music for each of the five plays presented in this one-hour production is written by local musicians The Bad Barnacles, Mark Butterworth, Band of Coyotes, Odd Moniker, Lucinda H. Cone and Taeko McCarroll.

The debut production consists of five short plays not original to Happy Hour Theatre and which have been performed at least once before. The entire production takes just one hour, and in the West Sacramento location, there is a happy hour in the café downstairs after the show.

“Don’t Bleed on Me,” by Andy A.A. Rassler, directed by Michael Sicilia, features Christine Nicholson and Luther Hanson as white socks in a washing machine, appalled when a colored athletic sock is tossed into the machine, concerned about the proximity of the bright colors and what they might do to the snowy white socks. It is a very funny bit, with not-so-subtle implications about discrimination. The ultimate solution to the problem is very clever — if only it could happen in real life.

“What Are You Going to Be?” written by Steven Korbar and directed by Acme alum Betsy Raymond, pits parents against a stubborn teenager determined to have her own way in the choice of a Halloween costume. Kathleen Poe and John Ewing are marvelous, trying to explain to daughter Natalie Evans why it is not a good idea to go trick-or-treating in a burqa. The surprise ending is wonderful.

In “Mendacity, or the Herd of Elephants in the Room” by Carlos Murillo and directed by Andrew Fridae, Mauricio (Doug Williams) has developed a very strange physical condition to the consternation of wife (Lisa Derthick) and son (Matthew Hurley). This is a very funny 10 minutes. While not in the least political, it will have you thinking of the current administration. The best line in the evening came from this play, where Mauricio describes his pain as “imagine passing a kidney stone during natural childbirth without medication.”

The final two plays are “Sold!” by Donna Hoke, directed by Lucinda Hitchcock Cone, a familiar name to Sacramento audiences, featuring Christi van Eyken, Chris Scarberry and Kathleen Poe, and “Paper Thin” by Lindsay Price, directed by Vernon F. Lewis, featuring Matthew Canty, Emily Vernon, Chris Scarberry and Shenandoah Kehoe. Each of them is unique and enjoyable.

Happy Hour Theatre is off to a terrific start. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next.