ASR Theater ~~ “A Raisin in the Sun” Still Potent Decades Later

By Mitchell Field

Lorraine Vivian Hansberry’s play A Raisin n the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on Broadway. At the age of 29, she became the youngest American playwright to win the The New York Drama Critics Award for Best Play. It was nominated for four Tony awards. Five years later, Hansberry died of cancer.

Her subject was life in oppressive circumstances. The current production of Raisin at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. On designer Jared Sorenson’s intentionally claustrophobic set, the living-room of a cockroach-infested 1950s Southside Chicago apartment, three generations of an African-American family deal with racism, housing-discrimination and assimilation, while awaiting a $10,000 insurance settlement from the death of the family patriarch.

…family, love and forgiveness are more important than money…

For Mama, (KT Masala) it’s money to escape crushing poverty and move to a suburban home of their own–the American Dream. For her married son Walter (Terrance Smith) a discontented chauffeur, it’s a business of his own. For her daughter, bright high-schooler Beneatha (Amara Lawson-Chavanu) it’s to finance college and medical school, while she playfully holds-off suitors including a “fully-assimilated” black man named George (Mark Anthony) and Yoruban-Nigerian immigrant Joseph (Rodney Fierce).

Amra-LawsonChavanu (Beneatha Younger,) Terrance Smith (Walter Lee Younger) and Ash’Lee P. Lackey (Ruth Younger.) Photo by Eric Chazankin.

Walter’s long-suffering wife Ruth (Ash’Lee P. Lackey) and young son Travis (Bless Johnson) do their best to keep the peace.

Mama puts some of the money down on a new house, choosing an all-white neighborhood over a black one because it is cheaper, while Karl Lindner (Jeff Cote) a white representative of their intended neighborhood, makes an offer to buy them out, despite the family’s insistence that they are proud of who they are and will try to be good neighbors.

With the proviso that he bank $3,000 for Beneatha’s education, Mama gives the rest of the money, $6,500, to Walter, to buy a stake in a liquor store with his two streetwise pals, Willy and Bobo, What could possibly go wrong?

Terrance Smith (Walter Lee Younger,) Kai Nguyen (Travis Younger #2) and KT Masala (Lena Younger “Mama”). Photo by Eric Chazankin.

The New York Times called Raisin “the play that changed American theatre forever” and in recent years, publications such as The Independent and Time Out have listed it among the best plays ever written.

The lesson learned from first-time director Leontyne Mbele-Mbong’s excellent 6th Street Playhouse production is that family, love and forgiveness are more important than money.


Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionRaisin in the Sun
Written byLorraine Hansberr
Directed byLeontyne Mbele-Mbong
Producing Company6th Street Playhouse
Production DatesThru Mar 26th, 2023
Production Address6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Telephone (707) 523-4185
Tickets$22 to $48
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!

ASR THEATER ~~ “The Children” a Compelling Production at Left Edge

By Mitchell Field

Lucy Kirkwood’s 2016 play The Children, was Tony-nominated for Best Play of 2018. Writers for The Guardian placed it third on a list of the greatest theatrical works since 2000.

In the Left Edge Theatre production, a married couple, Hazel (Priscilla Locke) and Robin (John Craven) both retired nuclear scientists, are living in a drab cottage near the English seaside, after a disaster at the local nuclear power station where they were formerly employed.

…theater stalwarts Locke, Craven, and Cain provide absolutely superb, quite touching performances…

Despite problems with rationed electricity and water, and the threat of airborne radiation, the couple are trying, in a stiff-upper-lip British way, to live a normal existence. Robin farms so that Hazel, the mother of four adult children, may eat organic greens to maintain her healthiest life possible.

Their post-apocalyptic tranquility is interrupted when former colleague Rose (Danielle Cain) shows up at their door after almost four decades. The childless Rose has a secret but is she there with sinister intentions or merely to rekindle her prior affair with Robin?

The cast of “The Children” at work at Left Edge Theatre.

Under Sandra Ish’s insightful direction, North Bay theater stalwarts Locke, Craven, and Cain provide absolutely superb, quite touching performances, in a story in which reparation, redemption and whether having children of one’s own should make one more socially responsible. Combined, those are the point of this darkly comical play.

This reviewer enthusiastically recommends this show.


Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionThe Children
Written byLucy Kirkwood
Directed by Sandra Ish
Producing CompanyLeft Edge Theater Co.
Production DatesThru Feb 19th, 2023
Production AddressCalifornia Theatre
528 7th St.
Santa Rosa, CA
Telephone(707) 664-7529
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?----

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “Gypsy” an Oldie but Still a Goodie!

By Mitchell Field

Marin County’s venerated 110 year-old Mountain Play, which bills itself as a “Great Outdoor Theatre Adventure” is currently producing the 63-year-old Broadway smash musical Gypsy indoors. Neither is showing its age.

Nor is the venue, The Barn Theater at the Marin Art and Garden Center. Normally the home of the 92-year-old Ross Valley Players, the theater has undergone a recent face-lift, including brand new seats and a remodeled concession area.

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by the then 30-year-old Stephen Sondheim, 1959’s Gypsy is a much-beloved American musical about a fame-obsessed stage-mother during the waning days of vaudeville, with her itinerant troupe of ‘kids’– including her own two daughters, one of whom grows up to become the world-famous burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, on whose memoir the show is loosely based.

Director/choreographer Zoe Swenson-Graham’s well-cast group of thirteen exuberant performers, including two Equity actors, play thirty-seven different roles in this three-hour extravaganza, on choreographer/scenic artist Zachary Isen’s clever yet spare set, with musical-direction by Jon Gallo.

…Is Gypsy a superb black comedy or an American tragedy? Decide for yourself at this smashing production.

Even those who are not musical-theater aficionados will probably be familiar with the show’s hits: “Some People,” “‘Together, (Wherever We Go),” the classic strip-tease number “Let Me Entertain You” and Broadway belter favorite “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

“Gypsy” guys: L to R – Anthony Maglio as Yonkers, Alex Alvarez as Tulsa, Lucas Michael Chandler as L.A., and Michaela Marymor as Broadway Boy. Photos: Robin Jackson

This over-the-top musical, which American essayist Frank Rich described as, ” . . . nothing if not Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear . . .” demands that performers give their all to pull it off successfully. Swenson-Graham’s troupe does just that, led by Dyan McBride as the ultimate likeable-but-nightmarish stage mother.

Jill Jacobs as Gypsy Rose Lee. Photos: Robin Jackson

McBride’s Mama Rose drives ahead constantly, no matter the difficulties, financial setbacks, slap-downs, fleabag accommodations and poverty. She’s ready, able and willing to digest even canned dog food to achieve her ambition of propelling her daughter June to stardom. It’s hard not to despise the ego-driven Rose, whom theater critic Clive Barnes described as “one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical’ and yet not admire her at the same time for her grit and spirit, as she harangues and uses her own children and everyone else around her, including her long-suffering boyfriend/manager Herbie, played charmingly by Bay Area stage veteran DC Scarpelli.

Her awkward, yearning-to-be-loved daughter Louise’s ultimate transformation into the glamorous, sexy Gypsy Rose Lee is quite extraordinary. The talented Jill Jacobs absolutely kills it. While the primary plot is Mama Rose’s struggle to keep her act afloat in a changing market, the secondary plot is a wonderful ugly duckling story.

Alexandra Fry as ‘Baby June’ in “Gypsy” at The Barn.

Alexandra Fry and Julia Ludwig, as daughter June at different ages, also shine. Swenson-Graham’s supporting cast is terrific. In the show’s most hilarious burlesque scene, showgirls Michaela Marymor and Libby Oberlin and the outstanding Tanika Baptiste, as stripper Tessie Tura, dance and prance in Adriana Gutierrez’s fabulously ridiculous outfits, one of which even lights up! Kudos to Marymor who cutely ad-libbed when one piece failed to fire up on opening night.

The lighting of a stage show is critical to its ambiance and drama. Ellen Brooks and Frank Sarubbi handle the Barn’s lighting design with aplomb. Bruce Vieira’s sound design follows suit.

There’s no live orchestra for this production, unlike regular Mountain Play performances, but the recorded tracks directed by Sean Paxton work well, although sometimes the music seemed to overwhelm the vocals. Perhaps the volume might be lowered for the music or the lead performers should be miked.

Is Gypsy a superb black comedy or an American tragedy? Decide for yourself at this smashing production.



Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


Written byBook: Arthur Laurents.
Music: Jule Styne
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Directed byZoe Swenson-Graham
Producing CompanyThe Mountain Play Association / Ross Valley Players
Production DatesThrough Dec 18, 2022
Production AddressThe Barn Theater @ Marin Art & Garden Center 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Ross, CA.
Telephone(415) 456-9555
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Classic Comedy: “The One Act Play That Goes Wrong”

By Mitchell Field

In an era when so many live entertainment venues have closed down, how encouraging it is that a new one has opened: The California Theatre of Santa Rosa, California.

Before the end of 2022, the cabaret-style venue will host blues music, comedy nights, cabaret, a solo show, soul music and a “Mardi-Gras Style” New Year’s Eve party on Dec. 31. Unlike many other Bay Area theaters, The California offers beer, wine, cocktails and a menu of snacks, plus pizza and salads.

The California is also the new home of Left Edge Theatre, featuring through November 20, the hilarious farce, The One Act Play That Goes Wrong. It’s a condensed version of the comedy-collective Mischiefs’ world-famous The Play That Goes Wrong that originally premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2012 and went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

… the terrific eight-person cast all manage to find the foolishness in every turn…

This production is a classic 1920s murder mystery, involving the totally inept and accident-prone Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, attempting to stage a production of The Murder at Haversham Manor. A police inspector has been sent to a country manor to investigate a mysterious death. It might be murder and everyone is a suspect in this Monty Python-style riot.

With falling props, missed cues, forgotten lines, hilariously mispronounced dialog, slapstick antics and a secret romance, the whole sidesplitting debacle ends with a total collapse of the set. Giving away the ending is of no consequence in this case because everyone (except of course the play’s characters) can clearly see what’s coming . . . and it does.

The secret to success for this type of show is in the actors not playing it for laughs but being absolutely serious and in the moment, no matter what happens, allowing the audience to split their sides with laughter. That’s exactly what they did on opening night. Well directed by North Bay theater veteran, actor/director David L. Yen, the terrific eight-person cast all manage to find the foolishness in every turn.

A big welcome to The California! This theatergoer hopes that it finds its audiences and that it thrives in the Bay Area.


Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionThe One Act Play That Goes Wrong
Written byHenry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Musical Direction
David L. Yen
Producing CompanyLeft Edge Theater Co.
Production DatesThru Nov 20th, 2022
Production AddressCalifornia Theatre
528 7th St.
Santa Rosa, CA
Telephone(707) 664-7529
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “The Moors”: a Brontean Treat at Main Stage West

By Mitchell Field

When attractive young Emilie (Katherine Rupers), arrives to take a governess position and perhaps find love at a manor house on the foggy Brontean English moors, instead of encountering any children (nor indeed her possible suitor, a Mr. Branwell, who has apparently been writing her increasingly romantic recruitment letters), she finds instead his two odd sisters, the older starched-and-strict Agatha (Brenda Reed) and Huldey (Madison Scarbrough), the younger lonely scattered diary-scribbler.

The sisters are served by a grumpy, typhus-ridden and perhaps pregnant scullery-maid named Margory (Taylor Diffenderfer), mysteriously named Mallory when she acts as the parlor-maid in the house where little is as it appears.

Cast of “the Moors” at work.

Indeed, during the ponderous first act of The Moors, Jen Silverman’s beautifully crafted, pitch-black absurdist romance, even the home’s rooms take on different names and functions, while Emilie wanders about the house in her own foggy haze, trying to figure out what’s going on and whatever happened to Mr. Branwell, who’s purportedly “unavailable” in the attic. While Agatha has her own reason for wanting Emilie around, her woman-child sister Huldey appears willing to consider murder to get the attention she craves.

…Silverman’s delightfully quirky play about love and loneliness…

There are two other characters in the play, the home’s desolate, browbeaten dog “The Mastiff” (Kevin Bordi) who conducts a love-affair with an injured Moorhen (Nora Summers) although precisely what this charming and heartbreaking story-line has to do with the play’s plot is also murky. But no matter.

Kevin Biordi as the Mastiff in “The Moors” at Main Stage West

The second act of The Moors figuratively burns down the house as all hell breaks loose in director James Pelican’s cleverly-staged production on David Lear’s sumptuous set, featuring Tracy Hinman’s period-perfect costuming.

In Silverman’s delightfully quirky play about love and loneliness, every one of Main Stage West’s perfectly-balanced cast-members turns in a tremendous performance. When was the last time you were brought to tears by a lonely dog’s inner feelings or charmed by a skittish Moorhen with a game leg due to a poor sense of direction?

Reed’s Agnes is as frosty as ice and more brittle, even while talking love. Rupers is sexy yet sweetly naive as Emilie, until she isn’t, while negotiating her future real-estate, Diffenderfer’s Margery/Mallory is deliciously sly and as dry as the dust she sweeps, while Scarborough’s Huldey absolutely kills it with a hilarious yet completely unexpected cabaret-style song.

The New York Times called The Moors — “Truly clever and intelligent, You really ought to see this.” This reviewer agrees completely.


Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:


ProductionThe Moors
Written byJen Silverman
Directed byJames Pelican
Producing CompanyMain Stage West
Production DatesThrough Oct. 23, 2022
Production AddressMain Stage West
104 N Main St
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Telephone(707) 823-0177
Tickets$20– $32
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK!YES!

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ “Fun Home” Hits the Mark at Left Edge Theatre’s New Location

by Mitchell Field / Sue Morgan

Intro by Mr. Field…

Reversing the Covid-related nationwide loss of theater venues, a brand new one has opened its doors in the North Bay: the “California” in Santa Rosa, CA.

Last week the 200-seat venue hosted a partisan opening-night crowd for Left Edge Theatre’s “Fun Home,” one of Broadway’s most controversial and ground-breaking productions, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s rich and complex 2006 tragicomic graphic memoir of the same name, with music by Jeanine Tesori, and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron.

A multiple Tony Awards winner, “Fun Home” was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It’s a deeply personal yet refreshingly honest show, about family, gender identity and seeing one’s parents through one’s grown-up eyes.

The non-linear story follows Alison through her early life, as she recounts her fraught relationship with her long-suffering mother and her late father, a closeted gay man, who may or may not have committed suicide shortly after Alison’s confession of her lesbianism to her family. Despite having some pre-adult cast members, this show is intended for mature audiences and includes adult language and discussion of sexuality and suicide. At the same time it’s funny, sad, poignant, charming, endearing and surprisingly fun!

“Fun Home” is enjoying a number of local productions since its performance rights were recently released. Left Edge Theater has assembled an excellent cast, including Elizabeth Henry, Bethany Cox and North Bay stage veteran Anthony Martinez. Lucas Sherman (keyboard) and Grant Bramham (percussion) provide the music and Maureen O’Neill ably directs a troubling, charming, touching and entertaining evening of theater. Hurrah for this new venue!

Review by Ms. Morgan…

What joy to attend the Grand Opening of Left Edge Theatre’s new California Theatre in downtown Santa Rosa for the opening night performance of “Fun Home.“ Based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, “Fun Home” garnered five Tony Awards in 2015, including Best Musical and Best Original Score.

The September 3 sold-out performance at the California Theatre was packed with friends and family of performers and production company, and many fans of local theatre. Abuzz with excitement before the performance began, the audience generated appreciative, electric energy which remained throughout the night.

…there are…moments of poignant introspection, fun, and joyful revelation.

“Fun Home” is an exploration of Alison Bechdel’s memories of her family, her sense of alienation from her once-beloved father, and her awakening to her sexual identity as a lesbian, her first love, and the impossible cost of hiding her innermost self. “Fun Home” (short for “funeral home”) was the ironic nickname given by the Bechdel family to their family business, a mortuary run by Alison’s father Bruce, who was also a high school teacher, restorer of historic homes and a closeted gay.

The play begins as contemporary Alison, a graphic novelist, (capably played by Emily Jansen-Adan) stands at her sketch board trying to remember the details of her childhood as they unfold on the stage in front of her. Alison is also played as a young child and as a college student by Addison Sandoval and Rae Lipman, respectively.

While the subject matter is deeply fraught and sometimes tragic, there are also moments of poignant introspection, fun, and joyful revelation. The outstanding music elevates the production, contributing to a sense of intimacy as the audience listens in on the otherwise secret thoughts of the characters. The actors were clearly chosen for their singing, as well as acting chops, and all songs were deservedly met with enthusiastic applause.

Two performances stand out among many. In “Ring of Keys,” Addison Sandoval, (one of three child actors) playing “small Alison,” brilliantly conveys the dawning of her understanding of herself as “different” than other girls when she first encounters a very butch delivery woman and, with wide-eyed wonder and a foreign sense of yearning, sings, “. . . with your swagger and your bearing and the just right clothes you’re wearing, your short hair and your dungarees and your lace up boots, and your keys, oh, your ring of keys . . . I know you . . . ” Whether speaking or singing, young Addison does an excellent job throughout “Fun Home,” with a self-possessed sense of confidence and ease that make her a pleasure to watch. Addison, surprisingly, is a self-taught vocalist and has never had professional instruction.

Bethany Cox (Joan) & Rae Lipman (Medium Alison). Photo by Eric Chazankin

The second standout was Rae Lipman’s rendition of “Changing My Major.” Waking beside her new lover the morning after their first sexual encounter, Lipman’s Alison emanates a sense of passion, wonder and gratitude at the miracle of the liaison. As she sings, “I’ve never lost control due to overwhelming lust, but I must say that I’m changing my major to Joan. I’m changing my major to sex with Joan, with a minor in kissing Joan . . . ” she brings the audience along with her as she circles the bed staring with a mix of ardor and tenderness at her sleeping beloved.

In his sixth performance with Left Edge Theatre, Bay Area theater veteran Anthony Marinez manages to portray Alison’s father Bruce with nuance despite the fact that the character is an egotistical, tyrannical husband and often overbearing father. Evoking enthusiasm, passion, righteousness, explosiveness, violence, sadness, and overwhelming desperation, Martinez is deeply compelling, and his exceptional voice lends itself beautifully to the production.

Elizabeth Henry plays Alison’s mother Helen with determined self-control. We can feel her inwardly seething, even when smiling politely as Bruce talks to members of the Historical Society about his restoration of the family’s museum-like home, which she is expected to maintain to gleaming perfection. Her rendition of “The Hours” brought me to tears.

Every member of the cast performed their roles admirably, both in terms of acting and vocals. In a few songs the performers sang different lines simultaneously in an attempt to express the chaos in the home despite the placid exterior. Unfortunately, the ensuing cacophony was too much for this viewer.

There were a few minor technical difficulties, not a surprise given that it was the first outing for Left Edge in their new performance space. There were problems with microphones, the live orchestra was at moments too loud, and the seating to the far left of the stage sometimes left us looking at the backs of the actors.

Minor issues aside, Left Edge Theatre’s production of “Fun Home,” with wonderful acting and superb vocals and music behind an exceptionally well-executed script is one not to miss!


Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. Contact:










Mitchell Field is a Sr. Contributing Writer for Aisle Seat Review. Based in Marin County, Mr. Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact:










ProductionFun Home
Written byBook & Lyrics by: Lisa Kron.

Based on Graphic Novel by: Alison Bechdel.
Musical Direction
Maureen O’Neill
Lucas Sherman
Producing CompanyLeft Edge Theater Co.
Production DatesThrough Sept. 18th, 2022
Production AddressCalifornia Theatre
528 7th St.
Santa Rosa, CA
Telephone(707) 664-7529
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?Yes!

PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Maximum Nostalgia: “Follies” at SF Playhouse

By Mitchell Field

Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical “Follies” first opened April 4, 1971. It was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, won seven, and has enjoyed many revivals.

During her 1987 West End performance, Eartha Kitt sparked a comeback and went on to perform her own one-woman show to sold-out houses after “Follies” closed. Several songs from the show—“Broadway Baby,” “I’m Still Here,” “Losing My Mind”—have become standards.

…an awesome, great, and exhausting show, done with San Francisco Playhouse panache!

The latest version of “Follies” arrived at the San Francisco Playhouse July 20, after five years in development and delays due to Covid. The show had never been performed in its entirety by a professional troupe in The City, according to director Bill English, also co-designer of the show’s imposing set and projections with Heather Kenyon.

Phyllis Rogers Stone (Maureen McVerry*, center) reckons with life’s choices through ‘The Story of Lucy and Jessie,’ accompanied by (L-R) Jill Slyter, Chachi Delgado, Anthony Maglio, M. Javi Harnly, Cameron La Brie, and Ann Warque. Photo courtesy SF Playhouse. (*Equity Actor)

Set as a reunion of past performers of the “Weismann’s Follies,” (a musical revue based on the Ziegfeld Follies, that played in that theater between the world wars) in a soon-to-be-demolished Broadway theater, the show focuses on two mature married couples at the reunion: Buddy and Sally (Anthony Rollins-Mullens and Natascia Diaz, respectively) and Ben and Phyllis (Chris Vettel and Maureen McVerry, respectively).

Sally and Phyllis were once showgirls in the Follies; both marriages are in trouble. Ghosts of former showgirls as youngsters glide through the crumbling theater without being seen by the revelers. Thus begins a series of musical numbers performed by the Follies’ many veterans, exploring their lives and desires, while “invisible” younger performers mirror them in counterpoint. Other ghosts from former shows appear and the characters try to recapture their youth in re-creations of past performances.

The ghosts of Follies past (L-R: Catrina Manahan, Samantha Rose Cárdenas, Ann Warque, Danielle Cheiken, and Emily Corbo) welcome you to Dimitri Weismann’s theater. Photo courtesy SF Playhouse.

Broadway producer/director Hal Prince said of the show: ” ‘Follies’ examines obsessive behavior, neurosis and self-indulgence.”

Spirited, emotional and touching musical numbers performed by a perfectly-cast blend of seasoned professionals and talened newcomers fill this production with energy and verve, as do many lively and dynamic dance routines.

While the book by James Goldman is thin on plot, as one of the show’s characters opines: “Facts never interest me, what matters is the song!” Originally a one-act show, “Follies” was later expanded into two acts. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote: “It wasn’t until the second act that I fell in love all over again with ‘Follies’.” This reviewer concurs.

As with several Sondheim shows, the second act is often “where the beef is.” The second act of “Follies” is wildly divergent from the first, as in “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Into the Woods.” In “Follies,” the first act is primarily the introduction of characters and their back-stories. It’s a lot of exposition in the midst of glittering showgirls and assorted middle-aged matrons at the reunion party. Either by design or possibly due to opening-night nerves, act one got off to a stilted start, making the second act all the more spectacular.

Benjamin Stone (Chris Vettel*, center) reevaluates his priorities during ‘Live, Laugh, Love,’ accompanied by the Follies company (L-R: Emily Corbo, Anthony Maglio, Samantha Rose Cárdenas*, M. Javi Harnly, Catrina Manahan, Chachi Delgado, and Danielle Cheiken). Photo courtesy SF Playhouse. (*Equity Actor)

In the ‘Loveland’ scene, (“the place where lovers are always young and beautiful, and everyone lives only for love”), Sally, Phyllis, Ben and Buddy, perform in a dream-like pastiche of vaudeville-style numbers in which each acts out their own particular folly.

The scene culminates in total hysteria, as the characters reveal their true emotions for all to see, before returning to the theater, the end of the reunion and the rest of their lives.

A long odyssey for SF Playhouse, “Follies” is an enormous undertaking for any theater company, requiring a large cast of triple-threat performers. The late critic Martin Gottfried wrote: “Follies is truly awesome and, if it is not consistently good, it is always great.”

This production lives up Gottfired’s description. Expertly directed by Bill English, with gorgeous costumes by Alba Berman and choreography by Nicole Helfer, it’s an awesome, great, and exhausting show, done with San Francisco Playhouse panache!


Contributing Writer Mitchell Field is an actor and voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle based in Marin County, California. Contact:










Written / Music byBook by James Goldman. Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed byBill English
Producing CompanySF Playhouse
Production DatesThru September 10th, 2022
Production AddressSF Playhouse
450 Post St., San Francisco, CA.
Telephone(415) 677-9596
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review Pick?YES!