Saturday, October 6, 2018

Lauren Gunderson's "The Revoluntionists" at the Town Hall Theatre through October 20

The Town Hall Theatre Company's empowering and deeply moving production of Lauren Gunderson's magnificent, comedic play, "The Revoluntionists," plays through October 20. Directed by Susan E. Evans.

-Stephanie Wright Hession


(L-R background) Heather Kellogg (Charlotte Corday), Kimberly Ridgeway (Marianne Angelle), Suzie Shepard (Marie-Antoinette) and (foreground) Sarah Mitchell (Olympe de Gouges) in "The Revolutionists." 

Photo: Stu Selland/Courtesy of the Town Hall Theatre Company


"The Revoluntionists." Through October 20. $25-$30. Town Hall Theatre Company, 3535 School St., Lafayette. Tickets: 925.283.1557, www.townhalltheatre.com/the-revolutionists


Friday, September 28, 2018

Christopher Chen’s “You Mean To Do Me Harm,” at San Francisco Playhouse through November 3


Christopher Chen’s provocative, jarring and compelling play, “You Mean To Do Me Harm,” centers upon a dinner party attended by two interracial couples. Despite all being witty, sophisticated urbanites, their casual conversation takes a disturbing turn and escalates into the real and the surreal, the actual and the imagined.
Directed by Bill English, the San Francisco Playhouse production stars Jomar Tagatac as Daniel, Katie Rubin as Lindsey, Charisse Loriaux as Samantha and Cassidy Brown as Ben.
-Stephanie Wright Hession


Left to right: Samantha (Charisse Loriaux), Ben (Cassidy Brown), Daniel (Jomar Tagatac) and Lindsey (Katie Rubin) in “You Mean to Do Me Harm” at the San Francisco Playhouse. 

Photos: Ken Levin



Samantha (Charisse Loriaux) and Ben (Cassidy Brown) in “You Mean to Do Me Harm” at the San Francisco Playhouse.


Left to right: Lindsey (Katie Rubin), Ben (Cassidy Brown) and Daniel (Jomar Tagatac)  in “You Mean to Do Me Harm” at the San Francisco Playhouse.


Daniel (Jomar Tagatac)  in “You Mean to Do Me Harm” at the San Francisco Playhouse.




Ben (Cassidy Brown) Daniel (Jomar Tagatac)  in “You Mean to Do Me Harm” at the San Francisco Playhouse
“You Mean To Do Me Harm. Through November 3. $25-$100. San Francisco Playhouse, Second floor of the Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post St., S.F. Tickets: 415-677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/get-tickets/


Bay Area Cabaret opens its 15th season with Matthew Morrison in “Song and Dance Man” September 30 at the Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room, S.F.




Matthew Morrison makes his San Francisco solo concert debut with “Song and Dance Man.” The show celebrates a 20-year career in television, film and on stage that includes “Glee,” “What to Expect when You’re Expecting,” “Finding Neverland,” “South Pacific” and “Hairspray.”

“Song and Dance Man,” 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30. $125. The Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F. Tickets: (415) 392-4400, www.bayareacabaret.org

-Stephanie Wright Hession

Friday, July 13, 2018

Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” at San Francisco Playhouse through September 8


The cast helps recreate Georges Seurat's painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," (1884) on stage at the San Francisco Playhouse. Photos: Ken Levin

Stephen Sondheim's endearing musical, "Sunday in the Park with George," follows the days leading up to the completion of one of French painter Georges Seurat's greatest works, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." (1884)

The San Francisco Playhouse production features John Bambery as Seurat, a Parisian artist who founded Neo-Impression—a technique using minute brushstrokes of divergent colors to convey light—eventually known as Pointillism. It also stars Nanci Zoppi as Dot, the artist's lover and model.

With "Sunday in the Park with George," director Bill English, musical director Dave Dobrusky, choreographer Kimberly Richards and the cast create a visual feast on stage.

-Stephanie Wright Hession

Seurat (John Bambery) sketching Dot (Nanci Zoppi) in the park.



Best friends Celeste 1 (Emily Radosevich) and Celeste 2 (Corrie Farbstein) on the Ile de la Grande Jatte watching George (Bambery) and Dot (Zoppi).

Xander Ritchey portrays the Boatman depicted in Seurat's work.


(L-R) Louise (Gwen Herndon) and Yvonne (Abby Haug) posing for George's painting.
"Sunday in the Park with George." Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim with book by James Lapine. Through September 8. $20-$125. San Francisco Playhouse, Second floor of the Kensington Park Hotel, 450 Post St., S.F. For tickets: 415-677-9596 or https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2017-2018-season/sunday-park-george/








Friday, October 13, 2017

"The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale," at Town Hall Theatre, Lafayette through October 21

Playwright Min Kahng's,"The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale" at the Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette. Based upon a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, it's powerful, beautiful and deeply poignant.

Foreground from left: Lisa Woo as Madame Wu, Pauli Amornkul as the Nightingale and Ted V. Bigornia as Bing Wen joined by the ensemble cast in "The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale."

From left: DC Scarpelli as the Emperor, Pauli Amornkul as the Nightingale and Isabel To as Mei Lin in "The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale."


Foreground from left: DC Scarpelli as the Emperor, Lisa Woo as Madame Wu and Ted V. Bigornia as Bing Wen in "The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale." Photos: Jay Yamada. Courtesy of the Town Hall Theatre Company


The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale: Written and composed by Min Kahng. Directed and choreographed by Michael Mohammed. Through Oct. 21. $20-$30. Town Hall Theatre Company, 3535 School St., Lafayette. (925) 283-1557, www.townhalltheatre.com




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Enchanting weekend getaway to Sonoma County

Story and photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession

Turning off Highway 12 at the Quarryhill property in Glen Ellen, we rambled down a paved road flanked by vineyards, where a rafter of wild turkeys appeared and goldfinches chattered in the fields.
Just up ahead, we spied the guest cottage perched on a knoll. Next to its rustic front steps, gentle trickling sounds emitted from a small pond dotted with water lilies on its surface. Inside the living room, windows afforded views of oak trees draped with gauzy, lace lichen, hilltop vineyards, fields and woodland.
Vintage and antique objects adorned shelves throughout the airy space, which features a living room, kitchen with a window seat, dining room, two bedrooms and a bathroom with a bathtub. There's also a laundry room with a washer and dryer. 
In the midst of this haven you'll find Quarryhill Botanical Garden, a lush, 25-acre Asian woodland. The flowering plants and trees grown here began as wild-sourced seeds collected during more than 20 annual expeditions to East Asia. 
Among the walking paths, waterfalls and ponds you’ll find dogwoods, magnolias, lilies, roses, maples and much more. Open to the public, Quarryhill Botanical Garden offers self-guided tours or docent-led tours by advance reservation. It encourages visitors to meander, explore and enjoy lunch brought from home at one of the picnic tables in this peaceful, tranquil place.
The focus of the garden is upon conservation and education. The staff works with the California Academy of Sciences, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and other research organizations to preserve exotic and endangered Asian plant species threatened by rapid development and climate changeIt conducts tours for local fourth and fifth grade students and tours, workshops and lectures for adult
Founded in 1987 by the late Jane Davenport Jansen on part of her land, which she purchased in 1968 to escape the chilly, San Francisco summers, this breathtaking garden continues to flourish under the care of Bill McNamara, its main plant hunter, executive director and president, staff, volunteers and members. 
In the late afternoon, we headed over to Jack London State Historic Park to see the Transcendence Theatre Company’s production of  “Fascinating Rhythm,” part of its annual “Broadway Under the Stars” outdoor summer concert series. The sun cast a golden glow over the Beauty Ranch meadow as we listened to pre-show music and munched on tasty picnic fare from The Girl and the Fig.

The high-energy cast sang and danced through Broadway numbers and songs including “Arthur in the Afternoon,” “Greased Lightnin’” Andra Day's “Rise Up” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” If you missed this concert, you can still attend the company's gala celebration, September 8-10, which promises more dynamic performances, community tributes, etc.































The next day we drove  to downtown Sonoma for brunch at The Girl and the Fig.

 At this beloved restaurant, proprietor Sondra Bernstein and executive chef/business partner John Toulze continue to serve up delectable, French-inspired fare in an inviting and unpretentious atmosphere. Guests savor an unhurried meal from a seasonal menu featuring locally-sourced ingredients and receive attentive service by a knowledgeable, amicable staff.
In the main dining room, we sipped fig royale aperitifs created with a house-made fig liqueur and French sparkling wine. 

The cheese and mano formate cured meat platter featured the server's superb choices: Bleating Heart's Death & Taxes, a creamy, pasteurized cheese made with organic Jersey cow milk; St. George, a tangy, semi-hard cheese made with raw cow's milk and a silky, sheep's milk cheese from the Central Coast Creamery Ewenique. 
We rounded out the meal with hearty entrees. The first, a ham hash, made with roasted onions, bell peppers and crispy potatoes tucked beneath two fried eggs along with a swipe of harissa aioli. The second, a croissant sandwich, stuffed with fluffy scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and thick strips of house-cured bacon, accompanied by a side of crunchy potatoes.
All in all, an enchanting weekend.

Quarryhill Botanical Garden, 12847 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen. (707) 996-3166, www.quarryhillbg.org

Transcendence Theatre Company’s “Broadway Under the Stars,” Jack London State Historic Park, 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen. (877) 424-1414, https://transcendencetheatre.org/


The girl & the fig, 110 West Spain St., Sonoma (707) 938-3634, www.thegirlandthefig.com





Saturday, August 26, 2017

Works by women artists who helped build the Abstract Expressionist movement on display at Foster-Gwin, San Francisco

Works by women artists who helped build the Abstract Expressionist artists including Jay DeFeo, Emiko Nakano and Nell Sinton are currently on display at Foster-Gwin art & antiques in San Francisco.

-Stephanie Wright Hession


“February Painting,” (1960), oil on paper, by Emiko Nakano. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.


“Summer Landscape, Dusk,” (1982), oil on paper, by Jay DeFeo. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.



“Untitled,” (1990), oil on canvas, signed and dated verso, canvas, by Kazuko Inoue. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.



“Untitled,” (1995), acrylic on linen, by Kazuko Inoue.
Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.

“Untitled #13,” (1950), oil on canvas, by Ruth Wall. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.


“Untitled,” (1960), oil on paperboard, by Nell Sinton. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.


“Still Life with Poster,” (1959), oil on canvas, by Nell Sinton. Courtesy of Foster-Gwin.

Foster-Gwin, 38 Hotaling Place, San Francisco 415.397.4986, www.fostergwin.com/