REVIEW – A THOUSAND CLOWNS – CALIFORNIA THEATRE CENTER – SUNNYVALE

Falling in love with a character in a play is generally considered delusion and I would tend to agree. One must keep the line between what is real and what is on the stage pretty distinct. I’m afraid however, the character of Murray Burns from A Thousand Clowns (the first of 4 shows to open in the California Theatre Center’s Summer Repertory season) is, an exception. I would like to publicly declare my love and adoration for Murray at this time and thus disclose my obvious bias upfront.
Oh, where to start. Murray, Murray, Murray. You are witty, creative, smart and you have a whimsical, albeit slightly immature and irresponsible, sense of adventure. You’re passionate and spontaneous, though, some might call you impulsively reckless and selfish, you’re principled (don’t mind those who call you lazy) and you are truthful, to a fault even, and I can see how some might see that as a turnoff but certainly not me.  You’re not the most tidy being, but really, what’s the big deal with a bit of mess, right? You’re prone to hollering at odd hours and true, that not’s totally logical, but logic is overrated I say. Although, you have unorthodox, okay, let’s call a spade a spade… we’ll say “questionable” parenting skills, it’s not your fault, because you didn’t ever intend to be a father. Wait, that didn’t come out right. What I meant to say is you gotta meet Murray. You’ll think he’s just super great once you get to really know him, I promise. He’s an admirable blend of deranged instability and adorable charisma. A catalyst for crazy and I’m totally crazy for you. I mean him. But, I think we covered that.
The other characters ( yes, I know my infatuation with Murray Burns as the future Mrs. Murray Burns, may have made it sound like it’s a one-man-show, my bad) do a fine job of rounding out the idiosyncrasies and neuroses that Murray’s character doesn’t possess and they are fantastically funny and a little bit sad too. The characters that these talented actors master, are full of quirks and flaws and I very much enjoyed watching them struggle to adapt and function in this play with a serious plot that has a hard time taking anything seriously. It’s a very endearing quality in a play for me personally, though admittedly not probably a very main stream sense of humor. It is irreverent and just a bit off for lack of a better description.
The strength to commit to potentially “unpopular” but plot-crucial choices are to be commended. The things that bothered me most, which I initially thought were acting and directing choices, or even mistakes, were actually intentional and very clearly explained in the script later on. This was a bit of a distraction for me up until the explanations, but once the issue was addressed in the text, it made up for almost all of the prior challenges I had.
Yes, the script was an onslaught of rapid-fire, superficial gags on the surface, but delightfully more substantial as it went on. Line after line I kept making mental notes of great phrasing. There are some real gems in this script, from snarky comebacks to philosophical, life-affirming thought threads. It really runs the gamut and does so especially well in the first act thanks to great production value and solid acting. A much slower second half with an end that seemed to leave a few too many loose-ends for my liking, hurt my love just a bit for the piece overall but it was a winner still. Best for kids over 13 I’d say and not a bad seat in the 8 row house for this show round out the recommendations.
Clearly, I was smitten with the production which seemed to come out of nowhere. I’ve not seen it produced around here before (though certainly it must have been?) and to be honest I hadn’t heard of it even. This was a nice surprise with tons of great things going for it including a set that made the majority of the audience crack up upon first sight. 4 out of 5 jewels in the review tiara for this charming and slightly damaged, but somehow still very light and refreshing comedy. Giving the actors and designers a real test of their craft,  A Thousand Clowns plays in true repertory style with 3 other plays this season at the Sunnyvale Community Theatre, with its last performance on July 21st.

Oh, and Murray? Call me.

Dinner Theatre Paring: Almost a decade a go I worked for a tech company in Sunnyvale and a group of us took a liking to an Afghani restaurant nearby called Kabul. I’ve often wondered if they were still around and since they’re only about 5 minutes from the theatre, I drove by to see if they were still open. To my delight they were and the food was even better than I remembered. The Chefs Platter which I LOVE, consists of 3 spiced ground lamb and spring onion dumplings, 3 deep fried potato slices, and three curry potato samosas. This sampling of their most popular appetizers is huge, delicious and smothered in yogurt. It’s flavorful, but not spicy and it comes with a small salad, bread, and fluffy white long grain rice called challaw. I added on a side order of the Pumpkin which is warm, tender, and also …smothered in yogurt. The kabobs are to die for as well but I didn’t have any room to order them this time. Although not a wine drinker paradise an $8 generous pour of a Ravenswood Shiraz actually went with the meal very well. All in all I had enough food leftover for two more meals for a total of 3 meals for $40 including tax of tips and I was served quickly and professionally and can’t wait to go back. I was so happy to see the family owned business still packing them in, serving quality food at affordable prices.

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