"The Mystery of Irma Vep" Spoofs Melodrama Audiences Extend Love for "Shirley Valentine"

If you're into slapdash comedy and have any familiarity with classic horror shows or Gothic mysteries, this is the place to be.  The loosely constructed plot begins with the realization that tonight’s acting company has only two actors remaining to portray the many characters in the melodrama.  Oh dear!  Naturally a madcap switching of roles has to occur. 

Two capable actors, Craig A. Miller of Santa Rosa and Ryan Schaback of Wisconsin, fill the richly decorated stage with more than 30 changes of costumes and voices.  They play up the zaniness with their voices and mannerisms, including a proper lord and lady, hungry vampire, Egyptian princess, droll servant, and a strange portrait.  Since there are only two actors zooming on and off the stage, the audience watches carefully to see if either one slips up.  They don’t.  It’s amazing to see how quickly these skilled actors can change characters, and how the clever setting allows this.  Kudos go to Director Marty Pistone for recruiting these two guys whose timing and talent keep us laughing.  Joining the two actors at the side of the stage is a very capable Janis Wilson, providing the amusing keyboards and old-time organ background. 

It’s fun, it’s silly, it’s colorful, and it’s campy entertainment.  The comfortable G. K. Hardt Theatre at the Sixth Street Playhouse, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa (free parking lot) features shows on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays with Sunday matinees through June 26.  Tickets are $32 to $15 at www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or (707) 523-4185.  Suitable for older children.

If you are looking for an entertaining, thoughtful, and charming play, get to the Cinnabar Theater soon for “Shirley Valentine” before it passes you by.  This one-woman show was scheduled to end its run June 12th, but due to high-demand ticket sales it has been extended through Sunday, June 18th.  It’s a heartwarming, truthful, and very humorous portrayal of a plucky middle-aged British woman who finds herself stuck in a predictable life, managing setbacks with practicality, yet dreaming of happier times. 

Mary Gannon Graham reprises her critically-acclaimed performance as Shirley, who reinvents herself with courage and giddiness during a daring vacation in Greece.  Graham’s formidable acting skills bring other characters to life, humorously including her silent kitchen wall.  Using minimal props, Graham fills the stage, all the while cooking eggs, playing servant to her spoiled daughter and chatting with a nosy neighbor.  The audience is enthralled and captivated to meet others who play a part of Shirley’s journey. 

It may take a few minutes to adjust your ear to Shirley’s cockney accent, but Willy Russell’s script and Graham’s acting are so brilliant, as the Brits are fond of saying, that you won’t need to catch every word.  The message is clear and inspiring; men and women gave the show a standing ovation at the end of Act II.  “Shirley Valentine” is well-directed by John Shillington, with colorful sets and costumes.  It’s an authentic performance that will leave you happy and hopeful.

Playing at 8 PM Fridays and Saturdays, 2 PM Sundays at the Cinnabar Theater, 3333Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, with free parking and comfortable tiered seats.  Tickets are $15 (under 30), $22/seniors, $25 general with reservations at (707) 763-8920 or go to www.cinnabartheater.org