Wednesday, Apr 09 2014 03:57 PM

CAMILLE GAVIN: In good 'Company' with Sondheim

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    By Peter Beckman

    Bobby's (Alex Neal) friends play tug-of-war with him in the rousing number "Side By Side By Side" in “Company,” which opens Friday night at Stars Restaurant Theatre.

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    By Peter Beckman

    Bobby (Alex Neal) leads the cast of “Company,” which opens Friday night at Stars Restaurant Theatre, in a rousing rendition of the song “Side By Side By Side.”

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    By Courtesy of Eric Taylor

    Eric Taylor, who has been called "an icon of the Texas-style of songwriters," appears on Saturday night at Fiddlers Crossing in Tehachapi.

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By CAMILLE GAVIN, Contributing columnist

As written, "Company" sounds rather complicated, because the performers frequently appear on various parts of the stage -- a living room, a cocktail bar, the balcony of a penthouse -- and in groups of two or three.

There's also plenty of singing and dancing in the Stephen Sondheim musical comedy, and it's a large cast, 14 in all.

Related Info

'Company'

7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday, Stars Restaurant Theatre, 1931 Chester Ave.

Dinner/show: $54-$60; show only $38; students dinner/show $39; show only $23

Information: 325-6100

Eric Taylor concert

7 p.m. Saturday, Fiddlers Crossing, 206 East F St., Tehachapi

Admission: $20

Information: 823-9994

Spring Break Art Camp

8:30 a.m.-noon Monday-Tuesday and 8:30 a.m.-noon Wednesday-Thursday, Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R St.

Cost: $30-$45 for each two-day camp

Information: 323-7219

Call for Artists

Submissions due May 18, The Empty Space Gallery, 706 Oak St.

Cost: Free

Information: jfidel@rocketmail.com

For Stars' production of the show, which opens Friday, director Hal Friedman has come up with an innovative approach that involves action on and off the stage and few if any moveable props.

"The staging is done environmentally," Friedman said. "Meaning it takes place all around the audience, making them part of the experience."

So does that indicate the possibility of an actor sitting on your lap? Sounds interesting but I guess we'll have to wait to see how it's played out this weekend at the dinner theater.

Essentially there is no plot in "Company," which is based on a book by George Furth titled "Threes."

Simply put, it's an amusing series of vignettes based on the theory that when you have a spouse, you are never alone. It could also be interpreted as two's company, three's a crowd.

The thread that holds it together is Robert, aka Bobby, played by Alex Neal, who's doing an about-face compared to his most recent role as the stoic butler in Stars' production of "Sunset Boulevard."

A carefree bachelor, Bobby is a bit timid about committing to a permanent relationship, especially if it involves a wedding ceremony.

In a surprise celebration of his 35th birthday his friends -- five married couples at various stages of matrimony -- are trying to convince him to give up the single life. In addition, he's being wooed by his three girlfriends and at one point gets propositioned by one of the wives who's on her third.

Marvin Ramey is the choreographer; Brock Christian is the music and vocal director. Performances of "Company" continue through May 3 at Stars.

Texan-style songwriter

This season, Fiddlers Crossing has been introducing Tehachapi to some of the best contemporary singer-songwriters now touring, says coffeehouse owner Debby Hand-Cutler.

On Saturday she'll present Eric Taylor, an acoustic guitarist she refers to "an icon of the Texas- style of songwriters."

Now in his 60s, the acoustic guitarist realized early on in his career that the Nashville style of country music was not for him. He has made his home in a small town near Houston since the 1970s.

In a recent interview for a Houston newspaper Taylor recalled what a fellow musician had to say about the difference between the two cities, saying: "Guy Charles (Clark) put it best: 'The only rule we had was there ain't no rules.' In Houston, the writers didn't draw any lines in the sand."

A winner of the "New Folk" competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival, in Texas, he has played on National Public Radio's "Mountain Stage" and "Morning Edition," appeared on "Austin City Limits" and on "Late Show with David Letterman."

Taylor is known for his storytelling style, and his songs have been recorded by Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith. His most recent album, "Studio 10," was released last fall.

Taylor has been touring California for the past two weeks with concerts in the Bay Area, on the Central Coast and as far south as San Diego. Tehachapi is his last stop before heading for the East Coast in May.

Kids' Art Break

For children, one of the joys of making art is their surprise at seeing the result, says Liz Sherwyn of the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

"Especially with wax resist," she said, indicating a process that's often done by painting watercolors over a crayon design. "It's like magic to them when (the project) reveals what they have done."

That's just one of the activities for kids ages 6-12 planned for the BMOA's Spring Break Art Camp, which is divided into two parts.

The first section, on Monday and Tuesday, is devoted to painting, drawing and printmaking. The second one, on Wednesday and Thursday, is centered on three-dimensional art including sculpture, clay and architecture.

"We break them up according to age, and each group goes into a separate classroom," she said. "We try to keep our class sizes small -- around 15 to 20 in each one."

Instructors for the camp are Andrew Hawley, Emily Becerra and Darla Kendrick.

"First, the teacher will show them a project, which is modified for the particular age group," Sherwyn said. "We keep them busy -- each child does two projects each day, and they get to take them home."

Students can sign up for one or both sessions. There's a discount for those who are members of the art museum.

Call for 'Mermaids'

Jesus Fidel, curator of The Empty Space Gallery, is using a broad definition of mermaids for an open call to artists.

"Although the show is called 'Mermaids,'" he said in an email, "I also added 'and other mythical sea creatures' to give the artists more freedom."

He's hoping that the exhibit, scheduled for June 6-21, will attract people who don't normally participate in group shows.

"I wanted to do something fun and out of the ordinary," Fidel said. "I feel this subject will spark the interest of a lot of local artists, and at the same time I'm hoping it will bring some new artists out of the woodwork."

Submissions are due on May 18. For details, visit the theater's website esonline.org.

Fidel said he's hoping to set a trend with "Mermaids."

"The Empty Space Gallery will be holding a few open-call group shows every year to give all of the local artists a chance to display," he said. "We're always looking for new talent, and doing open-call group shows, so far, has been the most productive way of doing so."

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