Saturday, 27 May 2023

Arts & Life

Barbara Clark and John Tomlinson in a production of “Romantic Fools” 10 years ago. Photo by Craig Eve.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — This Valentine's Day there is something romantic happening.

Here's the story: about 10 years ago, a young theater couple decided to put on a play together.

That play is “Romantic Fools” by Rich Orloff.

It is about a couple that searches for love, finds each other and settles in together to get married. It was the actors' exact story, except for, at the time, the marriage.

Now, 10 years later, the couple, Barbara Clark and John Tomlinson, are married for three years now.

“Romantic Fools” was the first play presented by their shared production company, New Vintage Productions.

With 10 years of perspective to reflect upon, they are ready to bring the show back.

“It's a fun, funny show, with a little bit of romance in time for Valentine's Day,” Tomlinson said.

The story focuses on Lori (Barbara Clark) and Andrew (John Tomlinson), two singles who relate the struggles of single life through a series of scenes.

Each is able to take on different characters in the vignettes that show blind dates, and even imagined dates, until the two finally meet at the end of the first act.

The second act has scenes of the two figuring each other out and how to make it work.

“When we first did this, in many ways we were just like Andrew and Lori when they first met. Now we feel like we have lived their lives and get to do the play again,” said Clark.

The production also marks the directing debut of Tiffany Harz for New Vintage Productions. She has been involved with the company before with “A Night at the Speakeasy.”

Audiences may also recognize her from her appearances on stage with Shakespeare at the Lake, a Lake County Theatre Co. and Mendocino College co-production.

Harz said, “I am very excited about this play! It has been such a pleasure to work with John and Barbara; they are such talented and funny actors. I cannot wait for an audience to enjoy it as much as I have.”

The play has mature themes, and is recommended for adult audiences. Still, the production team believes it is tastefully done.

“I mean it's not obscene, however it does discuss things that happen between men and women, and, well … what do you discuss between men and women?” Clark commented jokingly.

When asked what it would be like to bring back this show, Tomlinson said, “We are super excited. We've grown so much as actors, and so much as people, that it's really exciting to get to reflect on a piece that we did when we were so youthful and hopeful. And we're trying to recapture some of that now, and we hope you'll come check it out.”

“Romantic Fools” by Rich Orloff will be performed Feb. 10 to 12 at the Lower Lake Historic Schoolhouse Museum, and Feb. 17 to 19 at the Soper Reese Theatre in Lakeport.

Fridays and Saturdays shows are at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

For more information call John Tomlinson at 707-355-2211.

In the Paramount Pictures production notes for “Babylon,” this epic film is described as a tale of outsized and outrageous excesses that traces the rise and fall of multiple characters during an era of “unbridled decadence and depravity in early Hollywood.”

This description of the period in 1920s Los Angeles is on the mark as well as oddly candid for the usual adulatory promotion that oozes out from a studio’s publicity machine. In fact, absorb the idea of rampant decadence and depravity as a warning.

From the beginning moments when an elephant defecates on a worker transporting the animal to the debauched party set for that evening at the mansion of a Hollywood mogul, you should know it’s not the only grotesquerie that awaits.

The party scene introduces the primary characters whose lives will intersect in different ways as the silent film era transitions to the talkies. The top star is dashing Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), who evokes the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert and Rudolph Valentino.

Jack arrives at the party with his soon to be ex-wife Ina (Olivia Wilde) and partakes in so much alcohol that he needs a ride home from Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a wide-eyed dreamer desperate for a spot in the film industry.

As a Mexican-American outsider, Manny needs all the help he can get for a break, but a series of circumstances will find him reaching the upper levels of studio management.

Another partygoer is Margot Robbie’s free-spirited Nellie LaRoy whose rise to stardom will be marred by her gambling addiction and inability to maintain a sense of dignity and poise in certain social situations.

Interesting minor characters include Jean Smart’s gossip columnist Elinor St. John, Tobey Maguire’s creepy gangster and Eric Roberts as Nellie’s dodgy money-grubbing father who fights rattlesnakes.

Writer and director Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”) spent years researching the darker side of the story of the shift from silent film to the talkies, and what he delivers in his film causes one to wonder what was his target audience.

“Babylon” revels in the depraved, hedonistic folly of the movie business in a way that will disturb many. The opinion of the critics as well as the audience seems to be split, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes.

In my view, “Babylon” is a three-hour-plus slog that is such a struggle to endure that if it had an intermission the temptation would have been to leave and cut my losses.


The premium and commercial-free linear and streaming service EPIX is rebranding as MGM+ with a launch on January 15th timed with the Season Three premiere of the acclaimed series “Godfather of Harlem.”

MGM has always been an archetypal brand in the world of cinema, and Michael Wright, head of MGM+ stated that the streaming service is a place for viewers to “find television that reflects and celebrates the legacy of the iconic MGM brand.”

Simply stated, “MGM is television for movie lovers,” according to the streaming service’s desire to trade on its legendary brand to deliver “cinematic programming with sophisticated storytelling.” Current EPIX subscribers will be transferred to this new platform.

One of the first programs to air on February 5th is the new true crime four-part docuseries that pulls back the curtain on America’s most infamous jewel thief Jack Roland Murphy in the provocatively titled “Murf the Surf: Jewels, Jesus, and Mayhem in the USA.”

In October 2019, the New York Times published an article celebrating the 150th anniversary of New York’s American Museum of Natural History. One of the most momentous events to take place on site was an epic jewel heist.

This was the biggest caper in American history, mastered by a band of “surfer dudes” from Miami in 1964. The key to the operation was Jack Roland Murphy, otherwise known as Murf the Surf, whose name was propelled into pop culture after the heist.

The heist created a notoriety that would stretch far beyond the caper. What followed Murf’s meteoric rise is a spiraling tale of unspeakable crime, murder, deception and mayhem which, to this day, remains shrouded in mystery.

The documentary series explores the tumultuous life of the man behind the legendary nickname. Featuring exclusive access to Murphy himself prior to his death in 2020, the series addresses the blurred line between fact and fiction, faith and delusion, sanity and madness.

The six-episode series thriller “A Spy Among Friends,” based on the New York Times best-selling book written by Ben Macintyre, dramatizes the true story of two British spies and lifelong friends, Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby.

Intelligence officer Philby became the most notorious British defector and Soviet double agent in history. His deeply personal betrayal, uncovered at the height of the Cold War, resulted in the gutting of British and American intelligence.

Although a premiere date for “A Spy Among Friends” has not yet been set, it’s good to know that the cast features Emmy-winning actors Damian Lewis (“Billions”) and Guy Pearce (“Mare of Easttown”).

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


The challenge of writing about a whodunit is to impart enough information about the characters and the basic setup without divulging too much about the twists and surprises.

A murder mystery should be peeled back like the layers on an onion. The title alone, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” suggests the same, even though the onion in question is an architectural feature of an island estate.

“Glass Onion” may be considered a sequel to Rian Johnson’s 2019 “Knives Out” in the same way that the James Bond franchise was launched when “From Russia with Love” followed “Dr. No.”

Just as Sean Connery was the common thread of the 007 character in those early films, Daniel Craig is the Hercule Poirot-type detective Benoit Blanc holding together a budding new whodunit franchise.

The fun begins with longtime friends and associates of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) receiving puzzle boxes containing invitations to a weekend on his lavish private estate on a Greek island.

The guest list includes Miles’ former business partner Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monae), Connecticut governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn) who’s running for the senate, and cutting-edge scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.).

Fashion designer and ditzy former model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick), and Twitch influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) and his sidekick girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline) round out the party.

Not in the circle of Miles’ group is world famous detective Benoit Blanc, but here he is on the dock with the other guests for the boat ride to Miles’ hideaway. Since the event is a game about the billionaire turning up “dead,” why not involve a real sleuth?

On our first glimpse of Benoit, he’s in his bathtub playing an online murder mystery game with friends Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim, Natasha Lyonne and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Suffering from ennui and lack of a challenge from a great case, Benoit tells his gaming buddies that his “mind is a fueled-up racing car, and I got nowhere to drive it.” This is all the more reason for the famed sleuth to join the eclectic group for the murder mystery game.

Miles is fond of calling his guests “disruptors” and in a sense, some of them seem more so than others. Claire appears to be an idealistic candidate for higher office, but she’s being bankrolled by Miles.

Others have a connection to Miles’ bounty as well. Lionel actually works as a scientist for Miles. Former partner Andi has been estranged from Miles due to bad blood over their business breakup.

As in all the best murder mysteries, where writer-director Rian Johnson has crafted a really good one with thrills and humor, each character harbors their own secrets, lies and motivations.

Here’s hoping that Netflix will deliver another crowd-pleasing “Knives Out” installment, and that we will learn more about the enigmatic Benoit Blanc and how he came to be as resourceful as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.


Presented as the ultimate celebrity social experiment, “Special Forces: The Ultimate Test” is an all-new series on FOX television in which ostensible household names endure some of the harshest, most grueling challenges from the playbook of the actual Special Forces selection process.

Unlike other survivor reality shows, there are no votes and no eliminations in the expected sense. No one will be voted off the island. These celebrities, who are so used to being in the spotlight, quickly learn the meaning of “no guts, no glory.”

Selection for the Special Forces is a test unlike any other. Sixteen celebrities from all genres will take on, and try to survive, demanding training exercises led by Directing Staff (DS) agents, an elite team of ex-Special Forces operatives.

In this unique series, the only way for these recruits to leave is to give up on their own accord, through failure or potential injury, or by force from the DS agents.

Viewers will see the recruits face the harshest of environments that simulate the highly classified selection process.

The celebrities will push themselves in a way they never have been challenged before. They face the ultimate test of their physical, mental and emotional resilience, revealing their deepest and truest character.

Who are these celebrities? Who will quit, who will survive? Some of the celebrities are known better than others. Mike Piazza, a Hall of Fame catcher mostly with the Mets and Dodgers, played for 16 seasons in the MLB.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, known nationally as “Dr. Drew,” has been a ubiquitous figure both on television and radio for the entirety of his career. Kate Gosselin might be remembered for the reality series “Jon and Kate Plus 8.”

Anthony Scaramucci was the Communications Director in the Trump White House for a day or two. No, actually it was a full ten days before he was caught up in controversy.

He’s authored five books, so that should go a long way in making him fit, or not, for the Special Forces challenge.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Frankie J, Spencer Brewer, Barney McClure, Elena Casanova, Charlie Seltzer, Elizabeth MacDougall and Ed Reinhart. Courtesy photo.

UKIAH, Calif. — On Jan. 21 and 22, the 30th Professional Pianist Concert will once again hit the stage with two exciting concerts featuring eleven different pianists at the Mendocino College Center Theatre in Ukiah.

Performers letting the keys fly this year are Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Wendy DeWitt, Barney McClure, Frankie J, Tom Ganoung, Chris James, Elizabeth MacDougall, Ed Reinhart, Ben Rueb and Charlie Seltzer.

The musical styles range from classical to jazz, boogie-woogie to Cuban, Broadway to ragtime. Each performance will be completely different.

This utterly fun and stimulating series features the finest regional pianists on stage in a living room environment.

Throughout the performance they trade stories and melodies with two pianos on stage to accommodate impromptu collaborations.

The event is an annual sellout because of the diversity and quality of music in a multitude of styles, and the humor that takes place throughout the evening.

“Lost and Found,” a special assemblage sculpture show featuring artists Spencer Brewer and Esther Siegel, will also be on display at the Mendocino College Art Gallery throughout the weekend.

Saturday, Jan. 21, at 7 p.m., will feature Spencer Brewer, Wendy DeWitt, Chris James, Frankie J, Elizabeth MacDougall and Barney McClure.

Sunday, Jan. 22, at 2 p.m. will include Spencer Brewer, Elena Casanova, Tom Ganoung, Ed Reinhart, Ben Rueb and Charlie Seltzer.

No two concerts are the same, so if you love piano and piano music, please consider enjoying more than one performance!

The concerts benefit the Ukiah Community Concert Association, Mendocino College Recording Arts Club and the Allegro Scholarship Program.

Tickets are on sale at Mendocino Book Co. in Ukiah, Mazahar in Willits and online at

Tickets are $25 general admission and $30 "I ‘Wanna’ See the Hands" limited seating. For more information call 707-463-2738.

Sponsors are Fowler Auto Center, Sparetime Supply, Savings Bank of Mendocino, Ukiah Community Concerts, Willits Furniture Center, Waterman Plants, K-WINE/MAX, KOZT-The Coast and KZYX/Z. Wine & refreshments will be provided by Ukiah Community Concert Association.

The Mendocino College Center Theatre is at 1000 Hensley Creek Rd in Ukiah. There will be autographed CDs, music and books by the artists for sale in the lobby.

From left, Alvon Johnson with Guitarist David Landon. Courtesy photo.

UPPER LAKE, Calif. — The dynamic blues and popular vocalist and guitarist Alvon Johnson will perform at the next Tallman “Concert with Conversation” on Sunday afternoon, Jan. 22.

Johnson will be backed by blues guitarist, vocalist and songwriter David Landon.

This intimate and informal series of “house” concerts takes place in the Meeting House next to the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake.

“Alvon, backed by David’s band, starred at our outdoor Blue Wing Blues Festival last September,” said Tallman owner Bernie Butcher. “In the middle of their rollicking set, the band took a rest, with Alvon and David doing a captivating acoustic set. At that moment I knew they would be perfect to have back for our Tallman concert series. And fortunately they said yes!”

Formerly a vocalist with the rock and roll Hall of Fame group The Coasters (“Yakety Yak,” “Poison Ivy,” etc.), Alvon Johnson went out on his own and was voted 2005 Blues Guitarist of the Year.

A polished musician and engaging personality, Alvon travels the world singing and swinging blues and jazz standards with various big bands.

When he performs in Poland and other European countries, he’s referred to as the “King of the Blues.”

Singer, songwriter and guitarist David Landon brings over 20 years of experience from the stage and studio to every note he plays.

In the early days of Landon’s professional career, he lived and performed in Paris and was a fixture in the European club and festival circuit.

Since his return to the United States, Landon has formed his own band, released five solo CDs, and played in countless recording sessions.

The events run from 3 to 4:30 p.m., offering plenty of time for a late lunch or early dinner at the Blue Wing Restaurant.

Tickets, which cost $30 each plus tax, can be purchased online at or by calling the Tallman Hotel at 707-275-2244, Extension 0.

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

This poem will be my statement for a rather abrupt and unexpected ending to my role as the editor of American Life in Poetry.

The poem is one of resilience — the resilience of my ancestors and those that carry the fact of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade as a defining moment in our making.

It is also a poem about resilience, about looking hopefully, even if with some caution, to the future, and I believe that Marguerite Harrold and Ber Anena who have been laboring with me to make American Life in Poetry a weekly occasion, share this spirit.

My great hope is that the legacy left by Ted Kooser will be continued into the future.

By Kwame Dawes

I cannot speak the languages
spoken in that vessel,
cannot read the beads
promising salvation.

I know this only,
that when the green of land
appeared like light
after the horror of this crossing,

we straightened our backs
and faced the simplicity
of new days with flame.
I know I have the blood of survivors

coursing through my veins;
I know the lament of our loss
must warm us again and again
down in the belly of the whale,

here in the belly of the whale
where we are still searching for homes.
We sing laments so old, so true,
then straighten our backs again.

American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1996 by Kwame Dawes, “Land Ho” from Requiem (Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 1996) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

Upcoming Calendar

05.27.2023 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lakeport Speedway Memorial Weekend Opener
05.28.2023 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Lower Lake Daze & Street Fair
05.28.2023 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Lakeport Speedway Memorial Weekend Opener
Memorial Day
05.31.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Konocti Unified walking school bus event
06.01.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
06.03.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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