John Fisher's "Sex Rev: The Jose Sarria Experience" PELLEAS AND MELISANDE AT CUTTING BALL THEATRE Smuin Ballet New Fall-Winter Season Review "In the Maze of Our Own Lives" at Traveling Jewish Theatre

A Wild and Brash Production of Sex Rev: The Jose Sarria Experience
Theatre Rhinoceros

Sex Rev: The Jose Sarria Experience by John Fisher returns after it’s sold out run in 2010 at Mama Calzo’s Voice Factory. It is now playing at the CounterPULSE Theatre on Mission Street, San Francisco through December 4th. John Fisher also directed this impetuous musical celebration of America’s first queer activist. It’s a no holds production that features everything from interactive slapstick comedy,( the audience stands and sings “God Save Us Nellie Queens” in the first act), disco dancing, a flourishing of anachronisms , compassion, intelligence and a lot of satire. It’s enough to make you dizzy but that is what Jose would have wanted. There is even a scene when the young Jose played exceeding well by Jean Franco gets into a rhetorical argument within the play calling John Fisher for miscasting the play by using an Anglo man for the older version of Jose Sarria.

Jose Sarria stared as a drag performer in San Francisco’s Black Cat Café a great Bohemian and Gay bar in the early 1950’s. It closed in 1964 due to some legal problems. I had the good fortune to meet Jose in 1961 and became friends with him during that year. I was part of a Warner Brother’s film crew filming a “B” 60 minute movie called “The Threat” at what this city was called “Hollywood North” in 1961(.A “B” film was a cheaply made quick film running anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes to fit the lower half of a double bill of movies that were popular at the time. )

A regular feature of the “Black Cat” was Jose’s mad interpretations of grand opera composers with him in full drag playing the heroine of operas like “Madame Butterfly”,” La Traviata” and “Aida”. These occurred every Sunday afternoon. I went to several of these Sunday’s soirées and got to know to Jose as a charming and outgoing individual who was willing to help in anyway the gay community. We also tried to find a scene in this film for him but the bosses in Burbank said NO.

“Sex Rev:” is a romping biography of the famous San Francisco drag queen from serving in the United States Army during World War 2 in France, to being a waiter and then a famous entertainer at the notorious “Black Cat”, to running for San Francisco supervisor (he lost but received over 6000 votes making the start of gay power in this city) to being the first to form the yearly “elections” of Emperors and Empresses (usually gay men and drag queens respectively). Today the Imperial Court is international and raises millions for AIDS patients. Jose also encouraged gay people who were caught in embarrassing situations to plead guilty and request jury trials when they were arrested on sexual offense charges. This would clog the court system with these cases that were difficult to sustain for lack of evidence. Throughout this 2 hour romp he would say “Swallow the evidence and ask for a jury trial”.

Donald Currie the narrator and kind of Everyman spins stories of his early sexual discovery in grade school, of trying to get into the Black Cat during his teen age years, of trying to make a statement of his gay life by being arrested and later wanting to be a wannabe drag queen. He gives a stand out performance as the narrator. Tom Orr plays one of the three Jose’s and his performance is mesmeric. He recreates those famous opera afternoons at the Black Car and selects members of the audience to be his costars. Orr even sheds his clothes for a moment of gratis frivolousness that stuns and amazes the audience.

Carlos Barerra is excellent as Jose Redux and asked the audience if anyone knew Jose personally. Yours truly gave the audience my little story of one afternoon at the Black Cat. No one else in the audience had met this legendary drag queen which made me feel a “little old”. Sean Keehan nicely plays Jimmy who was Jose’s lover and Robert Kittler is very good playing various roles from a cop, a corporal in WW2 and some HR types.

John Fisher successfully attempts to bring some sense of perception and order to the sane lunacy that defined Sarria’s public notoriety.
Sex Rev, The Jose Sarria Experience plays through December 4th at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission, San Francisco. For tickets call 1-800-838-3006 or on line at
San Francisco’s cutting-edge Cutting Ball Theater is presenting a dreamlike production of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Symbolist drama “Pelleas and Melisande” in a new translation by the company’s artistic director Rob Melrose who also has directed this lovely 90 minute production. The play about the forbidden, doomed love was first performed in 1893 in Paris. The work was very popular and then set as an opera by Claude Debussy where it had its first performance in Paris 1902. This drama has inspired other composers like Gabriel Faure, Arnold Schoenberg and Jean Sibelius. I saw the Debussy work performed at the Metropolitan Opera House in the 90’s

“Pelleas and Melisande” has been ignored on the stage for many years however many avant-guarde plays have been influence by Maurice Maeterlinck such as plays by Pirandello, Samuel Becket and Stanislavski. Rob Melrose has adapted this fairy tale into a modern 21st Century language. He has succeeded in give us a fresh approach to this symbolic drama.

Maeterlinck’s plot is simple. Prince Golaud (Derek Fischer) discovers Melisande (Caitlyn Louchard) by a steam in the woods. She has lost her crown in the water but does not want to retrieve it. They marry and win the favor of Arkeil (Paul Gerrior), Golaud’s grandfather and king of Allemonde and his queen Genevieve (Gwyneth Richards). Melisande meets Pelleas (Joshua Schell) Golaud’s brother at a deep well one day. She has lost her wedding ring and Pelleas has come by to help her retrieve it. It’s love at first sight. They begin to keep each other company almost like brother and sister. Golaud grows suspicious of the pair and has his son Yniold (Jessica Jade Rudholm) spy on them. The boy discovers them caressing and kissing and tells the brother. Golaud in a jealous rage kills Pelleas and wounds Melisande who later dies after giving birth to a small girl.

Ron Melrose’s script is sharp and slightly formal sounding. The drama fells like something that the famed Actor Studio would have done in the 30’s. Joshua Schell and Paul Gerrior have a certain monolithic style when talking. It is perfect for the ghostly atmosphere of the drama. The love scenes between the appealing Caitlyn Louchard and Joshua Schell’s concentrated Pelleas are ardent and yet physically chase. Derek Fischer is very good as the distressingly fixated as Golaud. Gwyneth Richards gives a fine performance as the wife of the king and a servant. She especially shines in a beautiful soliloquy toward the end of the play to explain what has happen to the three lead characters. Jessica Jade Rudholm is excellent both as the son of Golaud and a servant of the court. Paul Gerrior gives a polish performance as the king. Brittany Kilcoyne McGregor and Carla Pauli offer graceful performances as servants.

Michael Loucher has devised a very clever set which is a long wooden pier that bisects the small theatre upon which all of the action takes place. Above the stage there are 13 veils though which by Wesley Cabral scenes are projected. Sound designer Cliff Caruthers evokes the sound of water and bubbles in the scenes that involve water. Choreographer Laura Arrington has staged stark dances for the company.

“Pelleas and Melisande” plays through November 27th at the EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco For ticked call 800-838-3006 or on line at
Smuin Ballet the outstanding counterpart to the San Francisco Ballet opened their new season several months ago with a diverse mix of classical and modern ballet with the premiere of “Dear Miss Cline” a new ballet by Amy Seiwert to the country music of songstress Patsy Cline at the Palace of Fine Arts.

The renowned ballet company opened with the sensual dancing of the tango by the entire company “Tango Palace” choreograph by the late Michael Smuin in 2003. The ballet group consisting of Jane Rehm, Shannon Hurlburt, Robin Cornwell, Jonathan Dummar, Terez Dean and Christian Squires each added a classical touch of what could be considered as a belligerent and fleshly dance as performed by the group known as “Tango Argentina” However the pure beauty of these exciting dancers was a great opening of entertainment of erogenous dances. Outstanding were the two men sensually dancing together a tango “Una Lagrimita” who had great precision in their movements.

Michael Smuin’s “Stabat Mater” choreograph to the music of Anton Dvorak was exquisite. Smuin created his ballet as a response to the destruction of the New York Trade Center on September 11. This was a serious piece of political theater as well as a deeply moving dance piece.

“Stabat Mater” began with four women standing still looking like ghostly statues. One by one each woman fell into her male partner’s arms. They were lifted gently and even more gently laid down. Erin Yarbrough-Stewart and John Speed Orr lead a group of dances who graphically portrayed the raw feelings of the tragedy of 9/11.

Quickly following was Michael Smuin’s "Eternal Idol"based on Rodin’s figurine. Robin Cornwell and Jonathan Dummar performed with grace and classiness to Frederic Chopin’s music.

The final ballet was the lively "Dear Miss Cline" to songs sung by country singer Patsy Cline. There were sizzling dance numbers that were sinuously executed by Erin Yarbrough-Stewart, Christian Squires and John Speed Orr dancing to Patsy Cline singing “Tra le la la Triangle”. Terez Dean and Christian Squires were marvelous dancing to Patsy Cline singing “Foolin Around”. Susan Roemer did some fancy footwork in “Stop the World and Let Me Off” back by the spirited dancing of the cast. "Dear Miss Cline" was a pure delight, full of showbiz energy, sexy costumes and even some great tap dancing by Shannon Hurlburt in “There He Goes”.

The Sumin Ballet program will be repeated in February 2012 in Walnut Creek, Mountain View and Carmel. For more information go to
Traveling Jewish Theatre is presenting its final 34th season production with the world premiere of Corey Fisher’s “In the Maze of Our Own Lives” running through November 13th. Corey Fisher who also directed his drama has wonderfully recreated the conflicts, passion of the actors and directors who formed The Group Theatre from 1931 through 1939. This group presented a new art form for the theatre. Their intention was to form a new kind of realistic theatre focusing on naturalistic acting a la Stanislavsky and socially relevant plays. They believed in a forceful and highly discipline artistry. Later this group was target of the infamous McCarthy hearing in the 50’s. This is a play for people who love theatre and theatre history.

The Group Theatre produced many important American playwrights, most notably Clifford Odets and Irwin Shaw. There most successful hit was the 1937-38 Broadway hit Clifford Odets “Golden Boy” starring Luther Adler and Francis Farmer. Many famous actors came from the group including John Garfield, Will Geer, Lee J. Cobb, Morris Carnovsky and Howard Da Silva. I knew these persons when I worked in films. There are snippet from Odet’s “Waiting for Lefty”, “Awake and Sing” and “Paradise Lost” also.

“In the Maze of Our Own Lives” is veneration covering the life of the Group over an almost three hour timeline. We see personality conflicts, passions of the actors and directors on presenting a new art form for the theatre and the internal struggles over the technique and artistic styles of the Group. The dialogue is sharp, clever and very realistic.

Director Corey Fischer has also assembled a great cast to present this intriguing production. Michael Navarra’s is excellent as the garrulous academic Harold Clurman the co-founder of The Group. Joshua Roberts gives an absorbing performance as Clifford Odets. He morphs successfully from a young independent rebel writer to a person who capitulates to the lure of Hollywood money. Galen Murphy-Hoffman exemplifies the magnetism that made Luther Adler a star. Cassidy Brown is charismatic as Morris Carnovsky and composer Kurt Weill and even a scene as a madcap borscht belt emcee. David Mendelsohn gives a polish performance as the neurotic Lee Strasberg also a co-founder of The Group. Sarah Overman provides a magnetic portrayal of the vain and restless diva Stella Adler. Melissa Quine exudes naïve idealism as actress Phoebe Brand and a world weary actress Frances Farmer. Nancy Carlin is excellent as the practical and dedicated Cheryl Crawford a co-founder of The Group.

Fischer’s vibrant staging is heightened theatricality by the staff of Citizen Film. Every time a character is introduced, a photo of the real life counterpart is shown on screen in the background. Sam Ball’s projections have moving backdrops of period traffic and crowd scenes and even several newsreels of the period.
“In the Maze of Our Own Lives” runs through November 13 at the Traveling Jewish Theatre, 470 Florida Street. San Francisco. For tickets call 800-838-3006 or on line at