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March 6, 2007 > Douglass Morrison Theater opens "Play It Again Sam"

Douglass Morrison Theater opens "Play It Again Sam"

Local production well worth seeing

By Arnie Becker

For a bit of good clean entertainment go and see "Play It Again Sam" at the Douglas Morrison Theater in Hayward. The play, written by Woody Allen is set in New York City in 1972.

Kenneth Leeds plays the role of Allan Felix, a neurotic movie buff and writer for film magazines. Despondent after his wife leaves home for a life of doing rather than just watching, Allan lets his best friends, the married couple Linda and Dick (played by Robin Dunn and Briann Gagnon), attempt to fix him up with various women, all with disastrous results. Coaching him in the fine art of seduction is Humphrey Bogart (played by Jess Martinez). Bogart appears like the ghost of lovemaking past to boost Allan's self-confidence and dispense tough-guy wisdom about women and specific moves Allan should make in various romantic situations.

The only woman Allan does not go into an "act" with is Linda, whose marriage to workaholic Dick, is not doing too well. Dick goes off on a business trip and this is the opportunity for Linda and Allan to have a quiet, romantic dinner at his apartment. What you would expect to happen to two lonely people does happen. They fall into bed and wake up the next morning realizing that while it was fun and it was good, Linda wants to keep her marriage with Dick together. Allan actually seems to understand and while disappointed, wants to remain friends with Linda.

The result of Dick and Linda falling in love, and then realizing that it is the wrong path to pursue, results in a blend of Casablanca mystique, 1972 sexual hipness, and a verbally Allenesque homage to Hollywood romanticism. The play comes close to being a reflective period piece and since it is early Woody Allen, it is very funny.

Filling out the cast are Tasha Espinoza who plays Gina, Go-Go Girl, Intellectual Girl and Barbara and JoHanna Lohr who plays Nancy, Sharon, Sharon Lake and Vanessa.

The play is directed by Debra Blondheim, a long time Bay Area actor turned director. Scenic design is by George Ledo, lighting design by SRCarnefix, cosume design by Larry Jeane, sound design by Michael Sweeney and the stage manager is Carol Mietz.

As with all of the Douglas Morrison Theater productions, this one is well staged. It does start out slowly with Allen seeming to read his lines rather than spontaneity. As the play progresses however, the players warm up to their roles and by the second half, the play is flowing smoothly. The second half is also funnier than the first so this has to be factored into the enjoyment equation.

Briann Gagon (Linda Christie) plays her part looking totally relaxed and comfortable. It is obvious that in scenes leading up to the one night stand with Allan,
she is wooing him and hoping that something will happen the night that Dick is away. This is also when Kenneth Leeds comes into his own and the stage seems to become reality. It is easy to recognize real life situations that all of us face in our daily interactions and relationships.

In today's world where much of what is seen on television and in current plays is violent, openly sexual, depressing and negative "Play It Again Sam" is funny, has no violence and alludes to sexual activity in a very low key way. With each production the Douglas Morrison Theater group gets better and better and in all cases is an enjoyable way to spend an evening at the theater.

The play continues March 8, 9, 10 at 8 pm and Sunday March 11 at 2 pm and again March 15, 16, 17 at 8 pm and Sunday March 18 at 2 pm. For ticket information call 510-881-6777. Visit the theater's web site at www.dmtonline.org for further information.

Play It Again Sam
March 8 - 18
8 p.m. (2 p.m. on Sunday)
Douglass Morrison Theatre
22311 N. Third Street, Hayward
(510) 881-6777
www.dmtonline.org

Adults $20; Seniors (50 and over) $18; Students w/ ID $15; TBA Members $15; Juniors (under 18) $12

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