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THEATER REVIEW: ‘Hello Out There’ and ‘Stirring Stu’

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Artists’ Repertory Theatre combines the classic and the brand new in a program of two one-act plays at Cal Arts Severance Theatre. You get a rare opportunity to see a William Saroyan play in his hometown, combined with a new work by local playwright Thornton Davidson of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival.

Saroyan’s  “Hello Out There,” which opens the double bill, is a searing and brutally economical piece of theater. It packs into little more than half an hour not only two “ordinary” lives but a steely glimpse at the loneliness and despair abundant in a hard-scrabbled country that handsomely rewards those individuals hard-working or lucky enough to rise to the top — but often shrugs over those not destined for wonderful things.

The Young Man (an accomplished Aaron McGee), who calls himself Photo-Finish, is a drifter in jail in a tiny Texas town so small that a prisoner is left overnight locked in alone. The only person around this evening is The Girl (Katharine Dorian), named Emily, the jail’s part-time hesitant cook. She has lingered, she admits, so she can talk with this interesting stranger.

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Donald’s weekend picks

Besides doing “The Time Warp” with the outstanding local production of “Rocky Horror” at the Severance Theatre …

1. LISTEN TO A GREAT PIANIST
Israeli-born pianist Alon Goldstein has performed with many of the great orchestras of the world — San Francisco Symphony, London Symphony, you name it — but he’s just as well known for his solo work. He’ll perform tonight at Fresno State as part of the Philip Lorenz Memorial Keyboard Concerts series. I had a terrific and fascinating phone conversation with Goldstein that I wrote up for Friday’s 7 section. If you’re interested in the mind of a classical pianist, check out his intriguing blog, which I reference in the story. [Details]

 

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THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

“Rocky” still rocks.

Daniel Chavez Jr. does it again — and then some — with his smart, tart revival of Artists’ Repertory Theater’s “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Severance Theatre. With a production design a couple of notches higher up on the sophistication ladder from Chavez’s last go-around in 2009 with “Rocky,” an improved quality of overall vocals, and an energy level so elevated that if it were a pulse it’d be in heart-attack territory, this vibrant new production is a stellar experience.

Even before the official downbeat, the enthusiasm in the theater is palpable. Various “Phantoms” — the show’s hard-working ensemble — cavort in the Severance Theatre space, dancing and singing, enticing audience members into the mix. By the time the spiffy band (a ragin’ Nate Butler, Tim Pugsley, John Shafer, Rick Wood and Tweed Jefferson) kick things off with “Science Fiction Double Feature,” the stage is set for a vigorously fun “Rocky” experience.

My only big reservation after Friday’s opening-night performance, was alas, something I often am concerned about in the Severance space: the sound. There has to be some way to tone the volume of the percussion down. This may be a rock ‘n’ roll show, yes, but it’s also a musical, and you can’t drown out the lyrics of some songs (and even some of the other instruments) without things sounding like mush.

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Brandon’s back

Sure, it might not have quite the production values of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” but Fresno’s wacky talk show “Basically Brandon” has something the big network stars don’t: lots of local guests. This plucky, low-budget Internet-streamed show also has gobs of personality thanks to hosts Brandon Delsid and Camille Gaston, both stalwarts of the local theater scene. Tonight’s episode, which kicks off the show’s second season, airs at 10:30 p.m. at centralvalleytalk.com. The lineup looks great:

The season premiere will host a slew of local Fresno talent including cast members Danielle Behrens, Dominic Grijalva, Daniel Hernandez and Paige Parker from Good Company Players’ current production of “Singin’ in the Rain” as well as Bryce Moser, Alexis Garriott and Javier Padilla from Artists’ Repertory Theatre’s upcoming revival of “The Rocky Horror Show, Live!” Fan favorite musical guest Greg Ruud will also make an appearance with his trusty guitar. The show has undergone some revamping and has added new segments, new title cards and even a theme song!

Viewers will have a chance to win some prizes including movie tickets and and “Basically Brandon” T-shirts.