Monday, March 20, 2023

"Clue" ★ ★ ★ BANG!

It's silly, wacky, ditzy, impossible and choreographed. "Clue" reminds us of what it was like in the good old days, before atmospheric rivers and the ocean of depression we call the morning newspaper. Susi Damilano directs a cast of familiar actors paying even more familiar roles, for those of us who remember playing the Parker Brothers' board game when we were children - and then again with our own children. Surely, our house could not have been the only one where "Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with a wrench" became a standard excuse for "Who stole the cookies?"

No, it's not a world-class drama, and there is only one gender issue (and it's a brilliant one), thank you very much. The ensemble cast remains in character even as they trail en masse through imaginary doors, walking like Egyptians and bumping into walls, as they head into room sets that the backstage crew is desperately making ready as we all watch.

Every character is guilty. Of them all, Greg Ayers is the standout, as Mr. Green the, uh, FBI agent. as are Renee Rogoff as the treacherous Mrs. White, Stacy Ross as the spacey Mrs. Peacock and Michael Gene Sullivan as the pipe-smoking Professor Plum, though on Opening Night the role was voiced by Mr Sullivan but played on stage by Albert Hodge. Now, there's a trick.

We cannot forget Dorian Lockett's role as Wadsworth the butler, though since his part did not exist in the original game we tend to dismiss him as a Newbie. Courtney Walsh plays a fetching Miss Scarlett and Michael Ray Wisely the officiously daft Colonel Mustard. Special mention to the smaller but equally enjoyable roles of Margherita Ventura and Eiko Yamamoto as Yvette the maid and the especially ominous Cook with a cleaver. The ending is a tour de force of writing and performance, leaving us with the understanding that everyone is guilty and no one is guilty and life goes on in the English mansion of all our memories, with all the secrets as well as secret passages.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Sherlock Holmes Division for Whodunits awards "Clue" Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise for the delightful conclusion. See, people, this is what we all long for. A problem: an answer. More or less.


San Francisco Playhouse

450 Post St., San Francisco

Second Floor of Kensington Park Hotel

Through April 22


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer" ★ ★ ★ BANG!

Greta Oglesby's performance is the highlight of Cheryl L. West's "Fannie: The Music and Life of 
Fannie Lou Hamer." This is essentially a one-woman show, with a three-piece backup band (keyboards, guitar/bass, drums). It is labeled a musical, but although Ms. Oglesby plays the part of Ms. Hamer and sings the protest songs of the era with grace and energy, the songs themselves, which were important to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, are so simple and so familiar by now that at times the show feels bogged down by them. 

However, Ms Hamer's life and the times in which she lived, wherein Jim Crow made the laws of our country into such a hypocrisy that the Soviets could use our tv news broadcasts as examples of why our government was failing its people, should never be forgotten. Ms. West and Ms. Oglesby, along with Director Tim Bond, have done right to bring this history onto the stage. As Fannie says to us: "We've got a lot to be proud of and a lot to be ashamed of." 

Preach, Ms. Hamer. 

We love the way Ms. Oglesby mixes music with history. We believe her and feel for Ms. Hamer's personal trials. But the show still feels smaller than the stage. Perhaps these are kinks that will be worked out during this run.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division grants Three Stars with a Bangle of Praise to "Fannie: The Life and Times of Fannie Lou Hamer." The Bangle is, of course, for Greta Oglesby.

While we feel the show itself is a bit simplistic, Ms. Oglesby's performance is anything but. We would like to see the rest of the production, starting with the band, match her energy. This should not be a hootenanny with a camp director leading the audience in group sing. It is a powerful story that deserves more fire.

Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer

Lucie Stern Theatre

1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto

Through April 2, 2023

$30 and up