Plenty of options for fun ahead of holiday week
By Lou Fancher
From hard-hitting stand-up to a ballet classic to meeting a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and cozying up with his latest book, Tri Valley residents have plenty of entertainment options this week.
The lineup begins Friday through Dec. 16-18, with Mike Epps at Tommy T’s in Pleasanton. The actor and stand-up comedian rides the hot rails in a show that takes aim at everyone. Let’s just say there’s nowhere to hide from the comic’s humor.
Fans might recognize Epps from his title role in the 2016 ABC television series “Uncle Buck,” HBO’s Def Comedy Jam broadcasts or from tweets about the upcoming biopic directed by Lee Daniels that will star Epps as Richard Pryor, alongside Oprah Winfrey, Eddie Murphy and Kate Hudson. Epps’ easy smile and ex-athlete physique soften his quick-paced delivery, but expect edgy, profanity-laced material that bites into race realities that we wish weren’t so terribly true.
Epps’ late, 10:15 p.m. second show on Dec. 16 invites the possibility of first attending Valley Dance Theatre’s annual “Nutcracker Ballet,” a daring choice that would provide an evening of polar-opposite performances. Wrapping up the two-weekend run of a show that last year drew more than 5,000 people, the Livermore Performing Arts Center’s resident dance company presents its full-length production at the Bankhead Theater and includes live music from the Dance Theatre Pit Orchestra.
Nutcracker is a ballet about a broken toy, but with Tchaikovsky’s soaring score, elegant and colorful costumes, beautiful lighting, local dance talent on display and soldiers and mice that fight a war that everyone wins in the end, it’s a surreal story we wish were reality.
Also on Dec. 16 — but impossible to make into a fantastic trio with the first two events — is Berkeley author Michael Chabon’s visit to Rakestraw Books in Danville. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist’s 7 p.m. appearance offers rare insight: a glimpse into the machinations behind his process and a signed copy of his new book, “Moonglow” (Harper). While ambitious folks may pack a suitcase of Tri-Valley activities into a seven-day period, that’s nothing compared to Chabon, who’s book condenses the story of an entire lifetime of an aging grandfather into the span of a single week.
As always, Chabon’s impossible cocktail of historical facts, fiction and autobiographical facts is clever mixology: gut-wrenching deathbed confessions, hilarious nighttime retirement community romps, the advent of the space program, development of nuclear weaponry and more outrageous elements fuse with characters that include real life people like Germany’s Werner von Braun and semi-fictional representations of family members with varying degrees of addiction or mental illness. This is your chance to ask the question Chabon says he is most frequently asked: “What’s real, what’s made up?” He’ll answer. Decide for yourself if you believe him.
And just to prove that a story published more than 100 years ago continues to ring with relevance, the Livermore Shakespeare Festival will present staged readings Dec. 21 of O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” William Sydney Porter’s short story — O. Henry was one of the pen names he used — read by Livermore Shakes artists along with other holiday stories and directed by Associate Artist Michael Wayne Rice, finds an intimate venue for 40 people at Swirl on the Square.
Themes of giving, wisdom, foolishness, selflessness and irony bear striking resemblance to those same ideas in Chabon’s “Moonglow.” Included for the $38 ticket price is a glass of wine or other beverage and a tapas sampler plate.