Sherlock send up
In the spirit of their 2011 production of "The 39 Steps" -- an on-stage send up of Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 thriller -- TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is currently staging a satirical take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's third Sherlock Holmes novel, "The Hound of The Baskervilles," a tale of "an ancient family curse, a spectral hound, a deranged killer and a pair of well-known sleuths."
TheatreWorks Artistic Director Robert Kelly says that if "The 39 Steps" is any indication of what local audiences appreciate, "The Hound" is sure to please as well ("39" was one of the company's highest selling shows to date).
Adapted by Steven Canny and John Nicholson of the British comedy troupe Peepolykus, the production was first staged in 2007 in England, where it garnered enthusiastic reviews.
The TheatreWorks version features just three actors -- Ron Campbell (fresh off a world tour with Cirque du Soleil), and TheatreWorks veterans Michael Gene Sullivan and Darren Bridgett -- who together play a wide range of male and female characters.
"Part of the fun is watching them change from one character to another -- in some cases in an astonishingly short period of time," Kelly says of "The Hound." But a great deal of the fun comes in the form of meta humor, which plays up both the tropes of the theater and of Doyle's famous dynamic duo. The play "makes fun of itself, while making fun of our obsession with Holmes and Watson."
"The Hound of the Baskervilles" runs Tuesday through Sunday (through April 27) at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, located at 500 Castro St. Tickets range from $19 to $73. For more information, call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.
Immersed in misery
Stanford University's student run theater company are on a mission to take audiences back in time. The Ram's Head Theatrical Society is staging an "immersive" showing of "Les Miserables," which begins before theatergoers even enter the main room of Memorial Auditorium.
According to Sammi Cannold, director of the production, those who attend will be transported back to 1860s France -- around the time the operatic adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel was first staged. The theater will be decked out with flowing cloth and guests will be ushered into a candle-lit arcade before the show and after the show and during intermission.
While there, 16 actors dressed in period costumes will meander about discussing the political and artistic topics of the day, as well as sharing gossip about their bourgeois peers, including Claude Monet, Richard Wagner and the man of the hour, Victor Hugo. The actors will also sit in the audience for the duration of each performance.
To further drive home the time warp, Cannold says the audience will take in a "particularly spectacular version of the show." The mid 19th century in France was "a real period of opulence, political turmoil and social changes." Aside from the stage lighting, Cannold said the company is attempting to present the show in the same manner it would have been presented at the time.
That means a "large cast of 34, complete orchestra of 22, grandeur, lavish designs, and focus on spectacle," according to the production's press release.
Cannold syas the experience will be "immersive, but not interactive." Theatergoers won't be able to engage with the period characters milling about. But that's justified, she explains. "The bourgeois of that time wouldn't have talked to the commoners."
"Les Miserables" runs April 11-12, and April 17-19 at Memorial Auditorium, located at 551 Serra Mall, Stanford. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $20. For more information go to musical.stanford.edu.
Determination after disaster
A small, unassuming whisk broom is one of the most arresting images on display at Roger Spinti's exhibit, "Rise Again," currently showing in the Keeble & Schucat Select Gallery.
The picture draws its power from its simplicity and through context. "Rise Again," is a collection of mostly color photographs taken when Spinti visited areas of the Philippines, which were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan late last year. Coming upon the tiny broom, after taking in so many images of destruction, really drives home the seemingly insurmountable task the people living in the hardest-hit areas have before them.
"It kind of symbolized what was being done while we were there -- cleaning up," Milpitas resident Spinti says of his visit, which he made with his partner, a registered nurse working with the aid organization Relief International and Kaiser Permanente.
Yet, while the reconstruction effort seemed daunting to Spinti, and although many of the people he met had lost almost everything they owned, he says a spirit of hope and resilience permeated the region. "That was the thing that amazed me the most," he said -- "everyone there seemed very good natured."
Spinti captures this enduring spirit with photos of locals going about their daily lives -- weighing seafood at an open-air market, children playing and smiling, a man giving a neighbor a haircut on the beach.
The photographer says he plans to donate all of the money raised through the sale of limited edition prints to aid organizations working in the region.
The gallery is located on the second floor of the Keeble and Shuchat Photography store at 290 S. California Ave., in Palo Alto. The exhibition is free, open to the public during store hours, and is scheduled to run through May 20. A reception is schedule for April 26 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Call 650-327-8996 or visit kspphoto.com for more information.