Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Zombies, Psychos, and Severed Heads: Clairemont Act One’s Season 6 Opener is a Buffet of Halloween Delights

By Katie Turner, PhD
 A scene from "The Real Problem" directed by Patrick Castaneda.
L-R: Catherine de los Rios as Hecate, Victoria
Valenzuela as Katerina Minola, Danielle Billings
as the head of Anne Boleyn, and Caroline Amiguet as Desdemona

Clairemont Act One Community Theatre opened their sixth season last Friday with, “10 Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse (and Other One Act Plays).”  Consisting of 5 short plays, the show is a highly entertaining mix of silly and spooky, with plenty of laughs and excellent Halloween makeup throughout.  There are only two more opportunities to see little gem of a show—Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd at 7 p.m.

I had the pleasure of attending the opening night performance of the show.  The talented cast brought a great deal of energy to their performances, with many in the ensemble performing in two or more of the plays.  The cast is a mix of CAO veterans and newcomers to San Diego theatre.  Many of these actors boast professional stage and screen credits.  Overall, the performers showed great dexterity and exquisite comic timing in bringing the various vignettes to life.

This is especially apparent in “The Real Problem,” in which the all-female cast portrays various women of historical and literary fame, including Desdemona and the severed head of Anne Boleyn.  Victoria Valenzuela, Danielle Billings, Tamara Nau, Caroline Amiguet, and Catherine de los Rios (CAO co-president) excel in this witty commentary on the clichés of romantic love.

This is not to say that the other scenes lack strong performances.  Char Siverston is hilarious as a recovering chocolate addict in “The Chocolate Affair,” with Blake Pipeho and John Bode offering fantastic support as an M&M and Mr. Goodbar come to life.  Long-time CAO member Patrick Castenda offers a triple threat in his presentation of “The Trapp Sisters,” a story of unnatural appetites that he wrote, directed, and performed.

John Bode and Blake Piepho return in “Cheating Death,” joined by Jean Von Metzke (CAO co-president), Jason Miller, Tara Romanczyk, Caroline Amiguet, Sammy Cantu, John Bode, and DeZell Lathon.  “Cheating Death” is set in a psychiatric ward where a weekly group therapy session takes an unexpected turn.

In the title play, “10 Ways to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,” John Bode and DeZell Lathon narrate the outrageously funny efforts of apocalypse survivors Danielle Billings, Maria Iraci, Sammy Cantu, Victoria Valenzuela, Tamara Nau, and Blake Piepho to avoid death-by-Zombies.  Jason Miller and Patrick Castaneda play very convincing Zombies, a feat helped along by the fabulous makeup provided by Lauren Mooney Bear.

While the actors contribute immensely to the success of this program, credit must also be given to the show’s directors, who deftly navigate these quirky and high-energy scripts despite the bare-bones trappings of the small theatre.

CAO’s shows take place at Northminster Community Hall, an intimate venue that seats about 60.  CAO’s Technical Director Rob Elliott and his crew have gone to great efforts to transform what is essentially a social hall with a stage at one end into a real performance space, adding lighting, curtains, and a sound system.

The stage is simple, sporting black curtains and a few choice set pieces, but it definitely does the job.  A few well-chosen sound effects, executed by technician Celeste Bostian, help our imaginations fill in the sparse space.  Colorful and creative costumes are also used to great effect.

Show Details:
When: Friday October 21st and Saturday October 22nd, 7 p.m.
Where: 4324 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA  92117
Tickets: $15 adults, $12 student/senior/military/veteran*
Tickets are Available Online (https://actonetickets.ticketleap.com/zombie/) or at the Door
*use the online coupon code Clairemont or wear a costume to the show and save $2 off your ticket!

About the Author:

Katie Turner, is a theatre practitioner, teacher, and historian living in Clairemont. She recently completed her PhD in theatre at the University of California in Irvine. Katie now teaches classes in acting and comedic improv. Visit her website  for details on classes and to find blog posts about San Diego theatre events. http://www.sandiegotheatrelab.com/

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