A charming ‘Heiress’ navigates love and money at 2nd Space

Good Company Players production is an adaptation of Henry James’ ‘Washington Square’

THEATER REVIEW

Is the matrimonial-minded Morris Townsend, with his smooth talk and good looks, every father’s nightmare? Or is he a principled and upstanding young man who only cares about marrying for love — and not a big, fat, juicy inheritance? Just what do we know of his background, his education, his propriety?

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Suzanne Grażyna, left, as Catherine, and Amelia Ryan, as Aunt Lavinia, in “The Heiress.” Photo / Good Company Players

In 2018, these questions could probably be answered in about 0.37 seconds. But in the 1850s, the era in which Henry James set his celebrated novel “Washington Square,” Ye Olde Ghoogle wasn’t available. The uncertainty of Morris’ intentions — is this guy a gold digger or not? — helps give “The Heiress,” a resilient 1947 theatrical adaptation based on the James novel, a crisp dramatic punch.

But the bigger appeal in the well-done Good Company Players production at the 2nd Space Theatre, co-directed with aplomb by Karan Johnson and Elizabeth Fiester, is the chance to watch two fascinating women characters portrayed in strong performances.

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Starting tonight, Selma is ‘Under the Sea’

Selma Arts Center opens its big production of ‘The Little Mermaid’

Calling all fishes and their friends: It’s opening night for the Selma Arts Center production of “The Little Mermaid.”

The show, which opens 7 p.m. Friday, May 11, and continues through May 26, is the musical based on the Disney film.

I featured Maria Monreal, who plays Ariel, and Joshua Plowman, who plays Prince Eric, on the May episode of “The Munro Review.” They sat down to talk with me a little about the production and then performed a musical number:

Tidbits from the interview:

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From Gershwin to Elton John, pianist/singer Tony DeSare brings keyboard magic to Fresno Philharmonic

You can win a pair of tickets to Saturday’s pops concert at the Saroyan Theatre

CONCERT PREVIEW

With his recordings and busy touring concert schedule, Tony DeSare has lots of admirers. But it’s easy to figure out his No. 1 fan.

“My mother,” says the celebrated pianist, singer and songwriter, who headlines Saturday’s final Fresno Philharmonic pops concert of the season, titled “Great Balls of Fire.” (I’m giving away two pairs of tickets to the event; details are below.)

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Tony DeSare performs Saturday, May 12 with the Fresno Philharmonic.

It’s only fitting that on this Mother’s Day weekend, he will play one of his mom’s favorites, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” he tells me in a phone interview. Here’s a rundown on the concert:

The program: Along with Gershwin, DeSare will join with the orchestra to play songs by such favorites as Elton John, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Jerry Lewis and Irving Berlin. You can look forward to boogie-woogie, ragtime, straight-out pop and rock ‘n’ roll. “It’s for people who really love piano music,” he says. “I based the program on what I loved when I was a 10-year-old kid.”

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In a potent ‘Streetcar,’ Fresno State explores the Williams classic with finesse

THEATER REVIEW

Long before the #MeToo movement, audiences were perplexed by Stella, the younger sister in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” (Yes, that Stella, memorialized in one of the most famous lines in theater history.) Why, a viewer might ask, would Stella put up with her domineering husband, Stanley, whose misogynistic impulses are magnified when he drinks? Stanley can be aggressive and volatile. He considers himself “king” of his household. He sometimes belittles Stella.

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Jalen Stewart, as Stanley, and Reshma Meister (Blanche) in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Photo / Fresno State

And, worst of all, he beats her.

Yet she stays with him. Why?

In the carefully crafted and emotionally potent new Fresno State production of “Streetcar,” which runs through Saturday, May 12, I found myself wrapped up in this question more than ever. Much of the reason, I realize, has to do with the times in which we’re living. Issues of sexual harassment and assault seem ubiquitous these days. Plot points that would have sailed smoothly by audiences in the 1960s, say, can feel jarring to contemporary viewers. “Streetcar” might be a fiercely period piece, steeped in the societal attitudes and expectations of the 1940s, but you can’t help but view it through a lens of today.

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Pound for pound, Drum TAO delivers a world-class performance

The Japanese taiko drumming company, which was brought to Fresno by the Lively Arts Foundation, offered an exhilarating evening at the Saroyan

DANCE REVIEW

Catching up from the weekend:

How do you describe the way a drumbeat can fill and overwhelm you? Such a moment is easy to experience but tough to articulate. Chalk it up to being human. One of the first uses of percussion was to rally warriors to battle, and it’s easy to see why. A drum is a natural jolt to our nervous systems.

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Thanks to the taiko drummers of Drum TAO, the acclaimed Japanese troupe that made a stop on Saturday night at the Saroyan Theatre, I felt as if I’d experienced drumming on a higher level. With impeccable musicianship, flowing choreography, top-notch athleticism and a healthy dose of wit, the company made a lasting impression. Five impressions from a pounding good show:

1.

It’s all about the buildup. By increasing tempo and volume, drummers can make your heart rate soar. Or at least feel like it. (And, thus, the war connection.) Early in the show, which was titled “Drum Heart,” three drummers lined up in front of the biggest taiko drums in the show — which looked as big as aircraft engines — and whacked at them with long, long drumsticks. The drums were stacked pyramid style, and it reminded me of the front of a train. As the intensity increased and the dramatic lighting intensified, it suggested a steam engine lumbering out of a station.

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You fill in the blank: ‘Men are From …’

That whole “Mars and Venus” thing really took off, right? A one-man stage adaptation comes to the Tower Theatre on Saturday, May 12, and you can win a pair of tickets

THEATER PREVIEW

Consider this as a title: “Men Are from Pluto, Women Are from Neptune.” Not quite the same ring to it, wouldn’t you agree?

But “Mars” and “Venus” seemed to do the trick, somehow perfectly encapsulating author John Gray’s premise that most common relationship problems between the sexes can be chalked up to fundamental psychological differences between the sexes. After selling more than 50 million copies, “Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus” has been adapted into a number of genres, including infomercials, audiotapes and videotapes, weekend seminars, theme vacations, a one-man off-Broadway show, a TV sitcom, and a proposed movie.

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Perhaps most successful is a one-man stage version that premiered in Paris in 2007 and was seen by 1 million people throughout Europe. It debuted in the U.S. in February 2013 and has been touring the country ever since. (It last played in Fresno in 2016.)


You can win a pair of tickets to Saturday’s performance of “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus” (8 p.m. Saturday, May 12, Tower Theatre). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us 1) if you’ve ever read the book; and 2) whether you ever used anything from it in a relationship. (Or, if you’re too shy to share about your personal life, just tell us why you’d like to go.) Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 9.  I’m giving away three pairs of tickets, and I’ll pick the winners at random. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to use the tickets. I’ll be informing the winner by email, so check yours on Thursday.


The touring stage version makes a stop at the Tower Theatre for one performance only (8 p.m. Saturday, May 12). It stars Ryan Drummond, an actor, singer, juggler, mime instructor, and voiceover artist (he was the original voice of “Sonic The Hedgehog” for Sega Gaming Corp.).

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Feel the beat. No, really feel the beat.

The Lively Arts Foundation presents Drum TAO’s national tour of ‘Drum Heart’ at the Saroyan Theatre. You can win a four-pack of tickets

If you think you work long hours in your job, consider a typical day in the life of a Drum TAO company member on tour:

Meet in the hotel gym at 6:30 a.m. to hit the machines. After a vigorous workout of cardio and strength training, take a shower and eat breakfast. If it’s your first day in a city, arrive at the theater by 10:30 a.m. In Drum TAO, you do your own load-in — you unpack the trucks, carry in the equipment, set everything up on stage, tune the drums. Lunch is at 2 p.m. Continue pre-performance prep, any needed rehearsals, warm-ups. Shows are usually at 7:30 or 8 p.m. After the vigorous, high-octane production is over, you help strike the set and load the trucks. You’re back in the hotel after midnight.

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Drum TAO presents “Drum Heart” on Saturday, May 5, at the Saroyan Theatre.

Next day: Meet in the gym at 6:30 a.m. to hit the machines.

“We manage to keep in shape,” says Taro Harasaki, who has been in Drum TAO for 14 years.


You can win a family four-pack of tickets to Saturday’s performance of “Drum Heart” (7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, Saroyan Theatre). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling why you’d like to go. Deadline to enter is 10 p.m. Friday, May 4, so this is a quick turnaround. I’ll pick the winner at random. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to use the tickets. I’ll be informing the winner by email, so check yours Saturday morning.


That’s an understatement. Then again, the promotional image for the tour pretty much says it all: Most of the company members are clad in costumes baring their washboard abs. These guys and gals are not gorging on American fast food.

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All you ever wanted to know about Fresno State’s ‘Streetcar’

Journalism students cover the production in an in-depth special report

Fresno State’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” opens today (Friday, May 4) and continues through May 12. Normally I’d offer one preview story to my readers.

Today I’m giving you eight.

They aren’t written by me but by students in my Fresno State journalism class (MCJ 104). For our final group project, they each picked a different aspect of the production to write about. Director Kathleen McKinley, promotions guru Miguel Gastelum and various members of the cast and creative team graciously offered their time and assistance. The result is an in-depth report.

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We went through every step of the editing and reporting process: brainstorming ideas; coming up with a story budget; editorial conferences and coaching; arranging interviews and visuals; peer editing; writing headlines and captions; and designing a standalone website that will continue, as far as I know, until the end of time (or until WordPress turns it off).

You can find that website here:

streetcarfresno.wordpress.com

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