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Love Stories and More on Local Stages

Photo courtesy Sacramento Ballet Facebook
Richard Porter and Alexandra perform in the Sacramento Ballet's "Giselle."

Wednesday might be a conundrum for some. It is both Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day, not exactly complementary events. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the 46 days ending in Easter. It is a day of fasting and meditation. Valentine’s Day is all about romance and celebration. What to do?

Well, how about extending Valentine’s Day through the coming weekend? Restaurants will gladly take your reservation for dinner, and there’s plenty of entertainment suitable for the celebration. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the Sacramento Ballet is performing what many consider the most romantic ballet of all: “Giselle.” The local company last performed it in 2004.

“Giselle” tells the story of a frail young peasant woman who wants to attend the village’s harvest festival despite concerns for her health and her mother’s dire warning about something called The Wilits, spirits of dead young virginal women who died before being married. Well, she attends and beautiful as she is, she attracts the attention of two men. One is Hilarion, a local gamekeeper; the other is Duke Albrecht, who has disguised himself as a peasant named Loys. Giselle has a wonderful time at the festival until someone reveals the Duke’s true identity and things, as they say, fall apart. Giselle immediately becomes deeply depressed, followed by a fit of madness that proves too much for her weak heart and she dies.

In the second act, Hilarion sits by the graveside of Giselle, which is in the forest where the Willits – those spirits of virginal non-brides now including Giselle — gather and trap any man who wanders their way between midnight and morning. Hilarion realizes that it’s near the witching hour and he high-tails it out of the forest, hoping not to get caught. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t make it, the Wilits make him dance himself to death. then the Duke appears, looking for Giselle’s grave, uncaring that he’s walking after midnight. The spirits catch him, but he can see only Giselle. She recognizes him as a true love and manages to keep him alive and dancing until morn, when she must disappear with the other spirits, but he remains alive, realizing that his love for Giselle and her love for him, saved his life.

It’s a beautiful ballet, sure to touch any but the most cynical among us.

Sacramento Balled presents “Giselle” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L St. Tickets are $25-$74 (even the cheaper seats higher up offer a great view of the stage and the patterns of dancing).

For more information, call (916) 808-5181 or go to SacBallet.org.

Another Choice

Chautauqua Playhouse, out Carmichael way, offers a different take on the war between the sexes in “Beer for Breakfast,” a, uh, sort of romantic comedy, I guess. Written by Sean Grennan, it’s about a group of middle-aged buddies (friends since college, now in the neighborhood of 50) who gather for a “guys’ weekend) at a remote cabin owned by one of the men. They plan to eat chili, drink beer, pass gas and do the things guys left alone are supposed to do.

As we get to know the guys, we learn that one is a now-unemployed newspaper writer (It could happen), one is an advertising guy and one has experienced a stroke which leaves him with walking and speech difficulties (John Walck plays this difficult role perfectly, making his character both sympathetic and funny. He himself says he’s not above playing the “cripple card” on occasion.) A fourth friend, the guy who owns the cabin doesn’t show up. He’s a politician, and as we’ve come to experct from some in that profession, he’s not the greatest guy. He sends his wife in his place to deliver some bad news. Before she reveals her secret, there’s some banter about which is the stronger sex, and battle of wits and stamina ensues.

It’s not “Giselle,” but love does sort of win out in the end.

“Beer for Breakfast” is presented at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 4. Chautauqua Playhouse is in the La Sierra Community Center, 5325 Engle Road in Carmichael. Tickets are  $19-$21.

For more information or to buy tickets, call (916) 489-7529 or go to CPlayhouse.org.

A Celebration Arts Update

Celebration Arts is celebrating Black History Month with a move into its new home at 2727 B St (one of the former B Street Theater’s stages).  There will be a free Open House party 3-6 p.m. Sunday at the location. Performers and teachers with the company, the only regional arts organization devoted to the African and African-American experience in theater, dance and music, will be attendance, and there will be tours offered of the new space.

The first play in Celebration Arts’ new home will be “A Raisin in the Sun””,” running Feb. 23 to March 24.

For more information, go to CelebrationArts.net.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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