Auditions are now open for RPE's 2018 Fund Raiser: They're Playing My Song. We'll be saluting Broadway's Favorite Composers. March 17, 2018 at The Village Theatre in Danville. Positions open for male and female singers/movers. Stipend paid. Rehearsals in Danville, to be scheduled. Ed Goldfarb on the piano!  Contact Sharon Sprecher at .">. or call 916-768-9785 for details.
 

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The Lion in Winter

Goldstar: 5 STARS:

“This was a
 wonderful, talented performance. First time we’ve been to this
 theater, but we will return. Their performers who played Henry,
 Eleanor, Richard, Geoffrey, John and Alais were all first rate
 performers, as good as many of the performers we see in our front
 row seats in San Francisco with Best of Broadway. All 6 of them gave
 top quality performances. Especially want to see more of Henry and
 Eleanor. We arrived early and were impressed that the box office
 opened 1 hour before the performance, that everyone was so nice and 
that the performance began on time. We are delighted with this 
theater and the quality of the performances and we will tell
 everyone about it. Thank you so much for a wonderful experience on a
 beautiful sunny day in Danville.”“We enjoyed the
 production very much. The Queen and King were outstanding in “acting
 out” their difficult roles. BRAVO”“Great performance
– wonderful actors, witty script, simple but effective scenery.
 Danville’s Village Theatre is a great little theater and the staff 
is very friendly.”“A definite must
 see. Wonderfully acted and staged. Special kudos to all the actors.”
“The acting was outrageously superb for such a 
small production. The punch lines were right on and very funny. I
 particularly enjoyed the believable and relatable spite and
 wittiness of the Queen.”

4 STARS:

“Liked it very 
much. Acting was superb.”
“Especially enjoyed
 the acting of the actress who plays Eleanor of Aquitane. The actor
 playing King Henry 11 was also good.”“A most enjoyable
 evening. We were there on opening night. Great Script. Sylvia
 Burboeck as Eleanor was phenomenal.”
“Excellent Play. The two leaders outstanding, definitely experienced and classy 
professionals next to the lesser experienced supporting cast.”“Very witty, especially Eleanor’s
 performance.

Lost In Yonkers

A Poignant Neil
 Simon Play

Review By Charles Jarrett

I have seen this next
 show so many times that I can almost repeat the lines verbatim. Role 
Players Ensemble Theatre in Danville is currently in production with
 a truly marvelous and superbly directed Neil Simon play, “Lost in 
Yonkers.” Again, the genius of Simon takes us on a journey down a 
stony path, a near heartbreaking story of a family on the verge of 
disaster in 1942. Yet, this poignant
 story of a dysfunctional Jewish family held together by the thinnest 
of family ties is immersed by Simon in rich and wonderful humor -
 humor that allows the story tellers and the audience to survive this
 tale of “coming of age” in a most difficult time, with heartfelt 
and touching moments of fractured familial love. The show opens with 
two boys, Arty (Cole Cloud) and Jay (David Kahawaii) sitting
 somewhat impatiently in the living room of their grandmother’s house 
in Yonkers. Their father, Eddie (Ryan Terry) is in the other room 
having a serious meeting with their grandmother, about what, they 
haven’t a clue. It turns out that 
their mother has passed away recently from cancer and while their 
parents provided a reasonably comfortable and respectable home for 
them, they were basically living hand to mouth, paycheck to 
paycheck. With mother’s illness came horrific hospital and medicine
 and doctor expenses that their father struggled to pay by borrowing 
from loan sharks at exorbitant interest rates. Their dad is being 
threatened with a long walk off a short pier if he doesn’t pay back 
the loans immediately, and of course, he has no money to pay the 
piper. Eddie has found that he can go to work for a metal savage 
company as a salesman in a traveling job that will keep him on the 
road for at least eight to nine months straight. This means he
 cannot take care of his young boys and he has come to his mother to 
ask her to take care of them. yonkersboygrandma 2The grandmother
(Janice Fuller Leone) is a German Jewish immigrant who lost her 
husband prematurely and had to run her deceased husband’s candy 
store and has raised six children by herself. She is tough as nails 
and unloving, emotionally drained and difficult to get along with.
 She exercised fear and intimidation to keep her children under
 control and that painfully tight control has damaged each of her 
children to some extent. She didn’t like
 Eddie’s wife and has been estranged from her grandsons due to that
 relationship. She is not willing to take on this new burden at this 
time in her life. Grandma also has a “child-like” daughter, 
Bella, who although in her mid-30s, is very simple and immature, but 
loving and hopeful. The story chronicles
 the family’s arduous journey for the year that Eddie is away earning 
the money to pay off his loans. It is not a happy journey, but it is 
really a wonderful story of a family coming of age, an entire
family, coming out of the darkness of the past, into a new 
understanding of the importance of family and the love it can
 eventually create. All of the acting is
 quite excellent. The young boys, Cloud and Kahawaii, are
 exceptionally mature for their age and acting experience and they 
absolutely nail the Brooklyn accent and their characters. Eddie is
played well by Ryan Terry who has made some significant growth in 
this role and is now really becoming a full-fledged actor. Sister
 Gert (Sukanya Sarkar) was delightful. I loved her wonderful 
portrayal. Brother Louie, Willem Long, was right up there on the 
level with true professional actors, calculating, purposeful, with
 perfect timing and perfect diction. He enunciates (even with an
 accent) so that you can clearly understand every word. Perhaps the best, I 
had to save for last, that nasty grandma, who is the icing on the 
cake. Fuller Leone, cold as ice, was perfect in her role. The support team is as important to this overall
 production as the actors and director themselves. Costumer Lisa Danz
found costumes that absolutely enhanced the story, most especially 
the soot suit worn by Louie. It spoke “hood” real good! The 
proper costuming adds that certain zing of authenticity and Danz’s
 work brought this production up another level with her expertise.
 Super job! This terrific production, under the expert
 direction of Robin Taylor, plays through Nov. 13 in the Village
Theater at 233 Front Street in Danville.

The Hairy Ape

By Susan Steinberg, Reviewer, The Independent

James Hiser is finally doing Hamlet. His own
 personal Hamlet: Yank in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Hairy Ape”.
 And he’s electrifying the genteel audiences of Danville’s annual
 O’Neill Festival with his gutsy intensity. Yank is an ingenious perversion of Jean-Jacques
 Rousseau’s “Noble Savage” and Walt Whitman’s idealized 
modern laborer. Ignorant, filthy, and foul-mouthed, but 
strong-bodied and bull-headed, he is O’Neill’s more realistic image of the rough merchant seamen he worked with on long voyages in 
the early 20th Century. Theirs is a world of infernal heat, backbreaking 
toil, and miserable living conditions. There men survive only by 
hard drinking, joshing and squabbling, reminiscing, dreaming, and
 cursing, creating a crude sort of fraternal community. One man, a hefty stoker named Yank, stands out
 with his confident pride – in himself, and in the work he does 
that makes this new world of steel really move. To him, everyone
 else is just living off the results of his work, his sweat. HE is 
the one who really drives the machine! It is a pride that keeps him going in the hellish
 pit of the stokehole. Mocking his weaker complaining mates, he slaps 
his chest in a boastful show of strength and stamina, urging them on
 with a coxswain’s steady rhythm as they shovel coal into the
 ship’s hungry roaring furnace. It is a pride that is suddenly destroyed by the
 visit of a rich “slumming” passenger, the Bessemer Steel
 heiress, whose father owns the ship. Perversely curious to see the
 stokehole, she is shocked and revolted by Yank, whom she perceives
 as a savage beast, recoiling in horror from the “hairy ape”.

Yank, in turn, is shocked to realize how he is
 viewed by his “betters”, and his sense of humiliation quickly
 turns into furious rage. A primal lust for revenge drives him to a 
mad frenzy, like a whipped cur ready to bite and tear his enemy to
pieces. But, like a whipped cur, he has been hurt too deeply to ever
 erase the pain. Bent on revenge, first against this scornful
 “skirt”, and then against her whole class, he embarks on a 
painfully quixotic pursuit of personal justice in an uncaring
 society. Raging against the soul-less cardboard cutouts of
 wealthy Fifth Avenue New Yorkers only earns him 30 days in jail.
 Attempts to join the “Wobblies” (International Workers of the
 World) so he can “blow things up” bring him only scorn and
 rejection.

Through his eyes, we see the vast world in which 
he has no place, and from which he gets no respect, even from 
lowlifes and laborers like himself. He wanders New York without 
friends or supporters, estranged even from the clean streets, clear
 air, and bright sunlight, so different from his familiar world of
 dirt, darkness, and choking coal dust that it is intolerable to him. Yank’s increasing isolation and desperation 
become movingly palpable with Hiser’s every darting glance and the 
nervous movements of a trapped animal. His constant mantra of
threats against “the enemies” grows weaker and less assured with
 each repetition.

Gradually the audience sheds its initial distaste
 for this “uncivilized brute”, and begins to hope against hope that some comforting resolution can come to him. It is as futile as
 wishing a happy ending for King Kong. Both are primitive creatures,
 at home in their own environment, but incompatible and threatening 
in a world outside their comprehension, and both doomed to
 destruction by “civilization”. It is a tribute to Hiser’s heartbreakingly
 visceral portrayal that the opening night full house held its
 collective breath during his final heroic moments. Many even wept. A
 thunderous standing ovation from a sedate more-than-middleaged crowd
 paid well-deserved homage to his bravura performance.

The strong supporting cast also received audience 
plaudits, especially seasoned actor Dean Creighton, weighing in as
 an old Irishman, nostalgic for the brave days of real sailing ships,
 and craftily able to calculate just how far he can push Yank’s
 volcanic temper. Charles Woodson Parker, a Bay Area newcomer, gave
 an earnest turn as a young idealistic Socialist, sincerely trying to 
help Yank realize the futility of his solo attack on the greedy
 capitalists, and to enlist him in the Great Class Struggle. Two outstanding women played a brief bitter scene 
as genteel-looking wealthy passengers, lounging casually in deck
 chairs, but spitting and scratching at each other like common alley 
cats. Beneath their stylish attire and proper outward appearance,
 they proved even nastier than the stokers, whose physical dirtiness
 and coarse language pre-prejudiced viewers at first sight. Trish Tillman as willful pampered young Mildred 
(the heiress) and Liz Ryan as her snapping-turtle aunt/chaperone
obviously had a wonderful time with their roles, and perfectly 
represented O’Neill’s jaundiced opinion of the privileged upper
 classes. Ryan Terry and Robert Allen Shattuck also have 
wonderful cameos as a ship’s engineer nervously deferential to the
 “big boss’s daughter”, and a tough surly prison guard. All of the cast members played multiple ensemble 
roles, both on and off-stage, and were kept in constant motion by
 visionary director Eric Fraisher Hayes. A multi-talented actor,
 educator, and now Artistic Director, he has restored new vigor to 
the Role Players Ensemble Theatre at the start of a promising
 season.

Physical and aural details of his devising
 emphasized the deliberately Expressionist style of the work, and a 
corresponding exhibit of famous Expressionist artists, from Franz
 Marc to Vassily Kandinsky, adorns the newly-renovated lobby, now the
 Village Theatre Art Gallery. New Managing Director Robin Taylor also brings a
 wealth of talent and experience to Role Players, as an award-winning
 performer, sought-after teacher, and Manager/Director of several
 theater companies. A well-known dialect coach, he trained the 
immigrant seamen in their excellent mastery of authentic accents. Particularly sensitive sound and set design by Bo
 Golden and lighting design by Chris Guptill evoked the specific
 settings of each scene, and brought the audience into the stokers’
 world, the infamous NYC prisons, and the primate jungle area of the
 zoo, an amazing accomplishment.

Although not as well-known as O’Neill’s later
 autobiographical plays, early works such as “The Hairy Ape” are
 still amazing in their emotional impact and the passionate humanity
 of his new ultra-realistic style. These are hard-hitting and 
important plays, and thanks to the Eugene O’Neill Foundation, they
 are receiving excellent revivals that should renew audience
 enthusiasm and respect. Just don’t miss James Hiser’s knockout
 performances while they still explode on the Danville Theatre stage
– it’s the opportunity of a theatergoer’s lifetime!

Charles Jarrett Review

The Hairy Ape keeps you 
on the edge of your seat in The Village Theatre in Danville!

The Hairy Ape, written by Eugene O’Neill in
1921 and first performed in 1922, addresses O’Neill’s concerns
 about the personal, dehumanizing toll capitalism was taking on the
 working man everywhere, and the fears he had about the growing
 threat of socialism. The play takes us down into the boiler room and 
firemans’ forecastle (living quarters) of a transatlantic
 passenger ship, where the men are drinking and cursing their lives,
 their hopes, fears and failures. The principal character, a brutish 
laborer named “Yank” (James Hiser), identifies himself with the 
raw power generated by the boilers he stokes. Without him and his 
kind, he boasts that the ship would be worthless, a hunk of iron
 sitting idle in the middle of the ocean. This is his world, a world 
in which he imagines himself as the master.

When Trish Tillman as Mildred Douglas, 
the beautiful daughter of a very powerful steel magnate is escorted
 down the gangways into the belly of the ship, Yank’s bullying,
 raging tirade against her for being allowed down in an area where
 she does not belong, evokes her assessment of him as a “filthy 
beast”. Her words (still ringing in his ears), begins to wear on 
him, eventually bringing about an identity crisis. In his search for 
identity outside of his ship’s confines, he finds he is not
 equipped by education or social mores to fit in anywhere else, only 
finding solace with the gorillas in the zoo. Yank, the character, 
has also been interpreted by some as being representative of the 
human condition, alienated from nature by his isolated
 consciousness, unable to find belonging in any social group or
environment.

This play under the direction of Eric
 Fraisher Hayes, and the superb acting of James Hiser, is a
 heart-stopping powerhouse of emotion. Hiser truly becomes the “filty 
beast”, feared and respected for his strengths in his ship-board
 confines, yet awkward, confused and uncertain in the outside world.
 The excellent cast includes Dean Creighton as the sadder but wiser 
Irish alcoholic, “Paddy”; Charles Woodson Parker as the cockney
 socialist, known simply as “Long”; Willem Long as the Industrial
 Workers of the World Union organization’s local leader; Ryan Terry 
and Robert Allen Shattuck as boiler room shipmates; Liz Ryan as 
Mildred’s aunt and Trish Tillman as the spiteful, self-centered
 rich-girl, Mildred.

“Thoroughly enjoyed The Hairy Ape.
 The acting was superb and the visual effects were creative. James
 Hiser was brillant in his portrayal of “Yank”. It was a 
thought provoking play – timeless struggle to belong.”
“I think it was very well done. 
Eugene O’Neil was an excellent playwriter, a profound observer of
 humanity. If you want to experience something over the top and want
a play that will give you food for thought, you’ll enjoy munching
 on this one! James gave an intense performance and the supporting
 cast helped make the play shine. Don’t miss it.”
“OMG! The production was the best I 
have ever seen at this venue. It was opening night and they all 
performed superbly. They even invited us to a champagne reception
 after the show. The seats assigned by the box office were perfect.
 Way to go Goldstar!”

Sally Hogarty, Curtain Calls, Walnut 
Creek Journal, 8/16/2010

Role Players Ensemble joined forces with the 
Eugene O’Neill Foundation to open its season this past weekend and 
the foundation’s annual festival with a production of O’Neill’s “The
 Hairy Ape.” The show and the festival continue through Sept.
25.

Written in 1922, O’Neill’s play fits perfectly 
into the festival’s theme — the birth of expressionism.
In “The Hairy Ape,” O’Neill uses Yank, 
a stoker in the furnace room of a trans-Atlantic steam liner in the
 1920s, to express his concerns about workers and the failure of the
 capitalistic system. Director Eric Fraisher Hayes uses bold choices 
to convey Yank’s increasing inability to relate to his fellow 
humans. His stylized production includes the ensemble wearing masks, 
manipulating puppets or hiding in the shadows as Yank becomes more
 alienated.
Dean Creighton, Charles Woodson Parker, Ryan
 Terry, Bob Shattuck and Willem Long create diverse characters from a
variety of countries, mostly with convincing accents. But it’s James 
Hiser who carries the show as Yank.
Hiser has the powerful body essential to this
 role, but he also manages to develop a complex character whose 
intimidating, raw animal power constantly threatens to explode.
Trish Tillman as the self-absorbed little rich girl and Liz Ryan as
her aunt/chaperone provide nice comic relief to Yank’s long
socio/political tirades.
O’Neill’s play can be a bit preachy, but Hayes’ 
briskly paced direction, Lisa Danz’s costumes and Bo Golden’s
set/sound design keep it interesting

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