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It's a Woman's World 

Women in Jeopardy! and Charlotte's Web

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Charlotte's Web

Who among us has not winced at a friend's seemingly inadvisable romantic choice? Fortunately, however, most of us to do not as a result find ourselves at the center of a murder mystery involving a missing dental hygienist, a collection of antique surgical instruments, a lovelorn policeman and a misguided snowboarder.

This antic collection is at the heart of Wendy MacLeod's very entertaining Women in Jeopardy! now at Redwood Curtain Theatre. Liz, a divorcee of a certain age (Bethany Lamoureux in a promising local debut performance), has fallen hard for Jackson, the new dentist in town (George Inotowok in an equally auspicious Redwood Curtain debut). But Jackson has some rather strange ways about him — barking like a dog when he sees Liz and lending his hygienist a DVD of Silence of the Lambs right before she disappears — not to mention the bizarre habit of carrying throwing stars in his pockets. Liz's closest friends and fellow divorcees Mary (a wonderfully solicitous Leslie Ostrom) and Jo (Jennifer Trustem dealing out a hefty dose of snark) are understandably concerned about Liz's choice, but the alarm bells really go off when Liz tells them Jackson is taking her buxom teenage daughter Amanda (Skyler Carlsen in a delightfully ditzy performance) on a camping trip — just the two of them.

Determined to stop what they're now convinced is a murder plot, Mary and Jo enlist the help of Kirk, a local policeman who just happens to be the spitting image of Jackson (and played with considerable aplomb by Inotowok – clearly a versatile addition to the local acting pool). Further confusion ensues when Kirk falls for Mary, who meanwhile has also enlisted the help of Amanda's ex-boyfriend, snowboarder Trenner (a nicely timed comedic turn by Ivan Gamboa), who thinks Mary is trying to seduce him. This does not turn out to be the camping trip anyone envisioned but it's a whole lot of fun for the audience!

Director Justin Takata, who also designed the sound and lighting, keeps the action moving along at a cracking pace, ably supported by stage manager Nicole Mobley. Jordan Lampi's scenic design is spare and flexible, keeping the focus on the performers, and Megan Hughes' costume design serves the characters well.

Women in Jeopardy! is the first production in Redwood Curtain's 20th season and if this is any indication of the quality we can expect for the rest of 2018, we're in for a treat of a year.

Redwood Curtain Theatre's Women in Jeopardy! runs through March 18 with shows Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Call 443-7688 or visit www.redwoodcurtain.com.

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You know you're going to be in for some fun when you cross a midway to reach the auditorium at the Van Duzer Theatre for the Humboldt State University theater department's production of the delightful morality fable that is Charlotte's Web — and you won't be disappointed.

In Joseph Robinette's adaptation of the E.B. White classic, we first meet Wilbur the piglet in the form of a fuzzy pink hand puppet operated by Cate Hatfield, who also endearingly plays the grown-up Wilbur with an adorably upturned snout. His sweetly innocent personality ensures his owners Martha and John Arable (Taiquira Williams and Merrick Yra) let daughter Fern (Izzy Ceja) keep him, despite brother Avery's mockery (Evan Miller). He even wins over the folks at Zuckerman's farm (Amy Beltran, Isaiah Alexander and Kyler Teske), even though they're secretly fattening him up for bacon.

But because he's such an engaging little pig, Wilbur soon makes friends with his fellow critters at the Zuckerman's: the goose and gander (Nicole Riffenburgh, Ezra Moreno), who are so chatty they say everything three times; the cranky old sheep (Serena Mann) and her frisky lamb (Micah Scheff); Templeton the grumpy, self-centered rat; and his very special friend Charlotte the barn spider (a poised and graceful Camille Borrowdale). Rounding out the outstanding cast are Marissa Sanchez and Amelia Resendez as the reporter and photographer sent to cover Wilbur at the County Fair, where Charlotte weaves her magic in the words we should all aspire to — and that ultimately save Wilbur's life.

Many of the actors take on other ensemble roles at the fair, along with Alexis Brown and Raechel Robinson, and everyone comes together at the end for a rousing and well-choreographed barn dance that will have you tapping your feet and clapping along.

Director Derek Lane's decision to use a trio of narrators (Irma Gill, Sarah Burfoot, and Brianna Fergus) to provide background and continuity lets the performers focus on their individual personalities and contributions to the story. The scenery construction and lighting effectively showcase Charlotte's extraordinary talent and the animal sound effects enhance the atmosphere.

I was not familiar with Charlotte's Web before last week but you can now count me among story's legions of fans. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, as did the rest of the opening night audience. And it comes with a timely reminder to all of us that friendship can be found in the most unexpected places.

HSU's Charlotte's Web plays Thursday, March 8 and Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m., and on Saturday, March 10 at 10 a.m. Visit www.centerarts.humboldt.edu.

Opening

Ferndale Repertory Theatre develops good habits with its preview of Nunsense on Thursday, March 8 at 8 p.m. The all-female musical continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 1. Call 786-5483 or visit www.ferndalerep.org.

The Arcata Playhouse has a bevy of shows wrapped up in the Zero to Fierce Women's Festival. The five Fringe Fest offerings start at 8 p.m. and include She Said and When I Die Leave the Balcony Open on March 8, followed by The Body Discourse, Win the War or Tell Me a Story and Frank on March 9. The 02F Cabaret takes the stage on March 10 at 9 p.m; on March 11 at 2 p.m., Just Like Us takes on the issues of documented and undocumented teen Latinas.

North Coast Repertory Theatre finds inspiration in a trio of young women who discover a bawdy manuscript during the Spanish Inquisition in The Tenth Muse, starting Thursday, March 15 at 8 p.m. and continuing Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through April 1. Call 442-6278 or visit www.ncrt.net.

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