Saturday, August 20, 2016


Okay, my opinion is not exactly impartial. But even I didn't expect to have so much fun at the premiere of Alias Hook last night at Louden Nelson Center!

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about Santa Cruz Parks & Rec Teen Theatre leaders Sara Jo Czarnecki and Darwin Garrett fooling around with my grown-up story for a cast of 12-17-year-olds.

But I was very impressed with the way they managed to telescope the book's action and themes in an early draft of the script they showed me.

And last night onstage, it came together with much more pizzazz than I could ever have hoped for!

There's a real thrill in seeing my characters brought to life before my eyes, not to mention hearing my jokes get laughs from the audience!  (Although, some of the biggest laughs were for funny lines that Sara and Darwin added.)

Sure, compromises were made. There's no flying, and no underwater merfolk community. The sexy Fairy Revels are replaced by a crew of cute flapper fairies doing the Charleston.

The racier aspects of James and Stella's relationship are eliminated (no doubt to the cheers of my readers over at the Republic of Goodreads, who are often shocked to find this is an adult fantasy, not written for kids). But Stella still indulges her fondness for wine!

And while James Hook's backstory is mostly cut out, the character of Proserpina, the voudon priestess who cursed him to eternal life in the Neverland, weaves in and out of the action, haunting him with his lifetime of mistakes.

There were other clever additions. I especially liked the moment when James, no longer able to play his beloved piano one-handed, rises from the bench, hand and hook moving over imaginary keys in the air, while the music playing in his head fills the auditorium.

Proud author with Aidan Brekka as Hook!
Most importantly, the heart of the story comes through intact — James Hook learning to give up the endless war games with Pan and extricate himself from the Neverland by finally growing up.

Much credit for this goes to Aidan Brekka for his brisk, commanding performance as James. He strikes just the right notes of sarcasm and despair. Sophia Alexander-Sidhom is poised and funny as Stella.

In the role of Pan (ironically played by a girl), Seyla Manzo is just as brash and bratty as she should be. And kudos to every single cast member, playing various pirates, fairies, Lost Boys and Indians, for making this show such a success.

After the show, Sara and Darwin presented me with this copy of the production's poster, signed by everyone in the cast! That was very, very cool, and I was also thrilled to meet a lot of the young actors down in front, afterwards. I said they were all great, and I meant it.

"Thank you for writing us!" They responded.

Seriously, I couldn't have had more fun!

Friday, August 19, 2016


Hey, Santa Cruzans, tonight's the night!

Alias Hook will have it's World Premiere, live, onstage, at Louden Nelson, courtesy of the spirited folks at Santa Cruz Parks and Rec Teen Theatre. These kids have been working for 12 weeks to get my book up on the boards, and tonight, we lucky local get to see the result!

Check out some of these rehearsal stills. Looks like fun!

The unsinkable Sara Jo Czarnecki, godmother of the program, has been (among other accomplishments) assistant fight choreographer with Santa Cruz Shakespeare.

So expect plenty of crossed swords, one damsel (occasionally in distress, but mostly not), plenty of pirates, fairies, and Lost Boys, and one voodoo priestess.

And, of course — the (dreaded) Pan!

Showtime is 7 pm tonight (Friday) and Saturday night, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee. Talk about an exclusive engagement!

If you've ever longed for Captain James Hook to have a chance to be the hero, this is the show for you!

Visit SCP&RTT's Facebook page for more details.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Dreamy vision of Old Hollywood dished up in Cafe Society

If Blue Jasmine was Woody Allen's homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, his latest, Cafe Society, evokes Casablanca, in tone and romanticism. True, Allen's film is set in the 1930s, not the '40s; it takes place in Hollywood and New York City, not Paris, and there are no Nazis lurking about.

But otherwise, this plays like a spiritual prequel to the classic Bogart movie, the kind of bittersweet story of young love that might come back to haunt the participants years later, after they've moved on. (It even ends up where Casablanca begins — in a nightclub.)

Beautifully shot by veteran Vittorio Storaro, at Old Hollywood locations all over Los Angeles (including the Chinese and Los Feliz Theatres, and several vintage Bel Air mansions), Cafe Society revolves around Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg).

An innocent nebbish from one of Allen's typically large, boisterous Jewish families from the Bronx, Bobby wants more out of life than working in his father's factory. So his mother, Rose (Jeannie Berlin), ships him off to her brother, Phil Stern (Steve Carrell), a hotshot Hollywood agent.

Stewart and Eisenberg: they'll take romance.

Phil assigns his personal assistant, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), to drive Bobby around and show him the town. Beautiful, level-headed Vonnie isn't interested in the glitz and glamour of showbiz; she'd rather live at the beach and eat tacos in a cozy Mexican joint. Bobby is completely smitten with her, even though she tells him she has a boyfriend.

Allen presents a romanticized vision of a 1930s that never was — except in the movies. (The same way Casablanca romanticized the wartime era, Nazis and all.) And as a confection celebrating old-time Hollywood glamour, Cafe Society is pretty irresistible.

Still, as fresh and youthful as the central love story is, this is the work of a mature sensibility, a wistful meditation on choices made that invites us to ponder what might have been. (Read more in this week's Good Times.)