The Winter's Tale
The canon of William Shakespeare is mostly discussed by superfans and laypeople alike as split between dramas — be they blood-soaked epics of kings or more intimate affairs — and comic frolics. There are a few that can't be filed away so neatly.
The Winter's Tale, now onstage at North Coast Repertory Theatre, is one of the Bard's plays that defies an easy label and that generally works in its favor some 400 years on. Matters begin when pregnant queen Hermione (Andrea Zvaleko) is accused of adultery by King Leontes (Joel Ellinwood), a man brooding with suspicion, compounded further in his meetings with Polixenes (Scott Osborn), the king of neighboring Bohemia. Much drama ensues. Hermione gives birth to a daughter, Perdita, whom Leontes suspects is not his own, and he orders Hermione put on trial. Hermione then dies and Perdita ends up abandoned, upon the tacit orders of Leontes, in the wilds of Bohemia during a terrible storm.
It is at this point that The Winter's Tale undertakes a bit of a tonal shift and, while it's a hard pivot, it yields benefits. Shepherds adopt infant Perdita and the play leaps forward 16 years in the second act. Much of the remainder has to do with Perdita (Amelia Resendez) having found love with Florizel (Ivan Gamboa), who is no less than the heir to the crown of Bohemia, and the inevitable complications. Comic relief is a welcome trope for a reason in the Bard's plays and here it's accomplished exuberantly by Alex Service as the shepherd's son and Morgan Cox as Autolycus.
The Winter's Tale may not make the shift from a dour first act into a lively second one with the greatest of ease but the change doesn't detract from some strong performances in the cast. Especially impressive in director Megan Hughes' production, done in modern dress, is the great use of spare, basic set detail throughout. A play that can't be pigeonholed as drama or comedy works with greater ease in surroundings that leave room.
The Winter's Tale plays at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Eureka on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through April 13, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through April 14. For more information, call 442-NCRT or visit www.ncrt.net.
— David Jervis
Smokey Joe's Café
Smokey Joe's Café is a 34-song concert masquerading as a musical revue. All the songs were written by legendary songwriting team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the folks behind such hits as "Jailhouse Rock," "Hound Dog," "Love Potion #9" and "Stand By Me." ( "Spanish Harlem," written by Phil Spector and Jerry Leiber, is the one exception.)
I went into the show expecting a more standard musical revue, lots of singing with some brief dialogue exposing character and plot. That does not happen. It is song after song after song after song. There are no characters to speak of, only more singers. There's no plot, explanation of setting or era — at a couple of points one singer uses a smart phone but everything else suggests a '50s vibe so I'm not sure if the phone or the music is the anachronism.
The cast members — Carleigh Arnold, Jordan Dobbins, Tyler Egerer, Kiara Hudlin, Mathew Lewis, Carl McGahan, Sarah Traywick, Elizabeth Whittemore and Craig Woods — are all wonderful singers, harmonizing well with not a pitchy or nervous voice among them. The live band, too, is quite good. It's a simple jazz quartet with a saxophone, guitar, bass and drum. Woods does double duty, singing and playing sax.
The choreography is a bit languid at times but that's to be expected they're up there for an hour and 40 minutes singing and dancing nonstop. I think we can forgive them cruising through a couple of shimmies or eggbeaters here and there.
The band is up on a platform and below is a spare set: a couple of tables, some awesome neon lights, posters on the "walls" and a two-stool bar that has no bartender and is apparently free. The singers all take turns serving and imbibing, which they do heavily, and not a single one pays. Not even into an honesty jar or anything.
All in all, Smokey Joe's is jam-packed with nostalgia and it's a good time, but the constant deluge of songs gets wearisome. It clearly worked for the crowd on the evening I attended, though — once the performers started singing Elvis and some of the racier tunes in the second act, a good number of women in the audience got feisty, whooping and whistling, with cheers of "Ow-owww!" I thought a couple of them might try to hop on stage.
Smokey Joe's Café is playing at the Ferndale Repertory Theatre Fridays and Satrudays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 7. Call 786-5483 or visit www.ferndalerep.org.
— Thomas Oliver
Garberville's Redwood Playhouse features SoHum-written and directed short plays in Randomonium, performed by The Random People ensemble March 22-24. Visit www.redwoodplayhouse.com or call 498-2777.
Dell'Arte burns it up with adults-only comedy, music and dance March 22-23 with Keep the Fires Burning Cabaret at the Carlo Theatre. Call 668-5663 or visit www.dellarte.com.
The Sanctuary is the first stop March 23-24 for Any One of Us: Words from Women in Prison, a collection of narratives gathered from incarcerated women across the country. Call 496-9404 or visit www.sanctuaryarcata.org.