Art imitates life at Tucson's feisty indy theater downtown, the Screening Room, which is playing "East Side Sushi," the story of a young Latina who dreams of breaking all the Asian culture barriers to become a sushi chef.
If you remember the sushi place On A Roll, a few doors east of the Screening Room, you remember the real life story of the Latino who dreamed of creating Mexican sushi -- and made his dream come true!
At the Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St., "East Side Sushi" plays at least through Thursday, Oct. 15. Buy more tickets, so it gets held over. The movie was filmed in Oakland. Here are some links with reviews:
Variety: http://variety.com/2015/film/reviews/film-review-east-side-sushi-1201598187/ ; Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-berkowitz/east-side-sushi-fusion_b_8172280.html ;Rotten Tomatoes:
photo by Ryan Phillips Fagan
Michael Woodson, center, Keith Wick (L) and Stephen Frankenfield get distracted by Texas money at LTW.

There's a whole lot of powerful preaching going on during “God's Man in Texas,” now playing at Live Theatre Workshop. But don't worry, the mini-sermons only last a few minutes each.

And most of the the time LTW's enthusiastic actors are satirizing the performances of those TV evangelists. The chosen ones who have God's ear – and will put in a good word on your behalf if you just add a little more to the collection plate.

Yet, the play has some penetrating observations about the big-scale selling of fundamentalist Christianity and the importance of dressing these spiritual advertisements in the proper imagery of the congregations who give their money freely to such lofty spiritual leaders.

The playwright, David Rambo, is said to have originally been a Los Angeles theater wannabe who became a very successful real estate agent intimately familiar with the psychology of sales pitches. All of that experience is poured into “God's Man In Texas.”

At LTW three members of the theater's A-team have been cast by director Rhonda Hallquist. Michael Woodson wearing a gray wig plays Dr. Phillip Gottschall, the 81-year-old charismatic minister who built the massive Rock Baptist Church in Houston.

Some members of the church board believe Dr. Gottschall is losing the magic touch needed to keep such a holy house of cards from collapsing. Turning toward San Antonio they invite a bright young Man of God with super-star potential Dr. Jeremiah Mears (Stephen Frankenfield) to deliver a few guest sermons at Rock Baptist.

It becomes a plot point that no one ever mentions Jerry (as he likes to be called) is actually trying out as a replacement for Dr. Gottschall.

Completing this triumvirate of men who never say what they are actually thinking is the wired-in chief of production, Hugo Taney (Keith Wick). He is the man behind the curtain, always wearing an intercom head set, always knowing what the other two are all about.

Hugo also provides comedy relief as well as some key narration to keep the story moving right along.

Part comedy and part philosophy, “God's Man in Texas” doesn't make fun of these soul savers on the small screen so much as pull back that video curtain to reveal their ambitions as being quite worldly.

Billy Graham started out as a Fuller Brush salesman we are told early on. And everybody knows that the cousin of rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis is the defrocked Jimmy Swaggart.

Unfortunately the play itself wanders off-topic now and then, failing to score as many points as it could, but this cast and director squeeze as much life out of it as they possibly can.

"God's Man in Texas” runs through Nov. 14 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Additional performance at 3 p.m. on Nov. 14. For details and reservations, 327-4242, and livetheatreworkshop.org

photo courtesy of Winding Road Theatre Ensemble

Lucille Petty, front, and back row from left, Steve  Wood, David Johnston and Clark Ray as the inquisitors.

Was Joan of Arc one of the world's first feminists? A prototype from the middle ages who shaped the difficulties women would face centuries later trying to emerge from the shadows of men?

With Christian values in America presently at their lowest ebb since the present day Cultural Revolution began, and feminist values kept at the top of today's TV news programming by one confrontation or another, it is easy enough to look back through centuries of history and measure their actions against our contemporary values.

So Toni Press-Coffman and the Winding Road Theater Ensemble have taken a fresh look at George Bernard Shaw's play “Saint Joan,” first performed in 1923 on Broadway.

Thanks to the instant insight of Wikipedia, we get a sense of Shaw's intention – to depict Joan as an intuitive, unschooled genius determined to place God above the established “rights” of kings, their armies and governments.

This is pretty heady stuff. So Press-Coffman set out to adapt Shaw's play for today's audiences who might find the playwright's dialogue more crunchy then what they are used to in their regular entertainment.

And Press-Coffman wanted to give a little boost to Shaw's well-established feminist sympathies, as well as his biting humor.

The playwright told the Arizona Daily Star she finds “Saint Joan” relevant today because “the conflict that's going on around her is the same conflict that's going on right now.”

However, these insights were difficult to discern on the play's opening night, even though the production has been crafted by veteran director Susan Arnold, and Tucson's highly regarded Lucille Petty has the title role.

There is no shortage of strong performances among the six cast members, most of them handling multiple roles. But the dialogue is complex, the labyrinthine logic pursued by Joan's accusers is so...labyrinthine.

To become engaged in the machinations that constantly swirl around Joan right from the time, at age 17, when she demands her own militia to defeat the English army on French soil does require far more than casual listening.

She must contend with several strong-willed authorities in government making elaborate charges against her. Joan's motivation in 1429 is to purify France by driving out the English occupiers. She believes this is God's intention.

Joan's insistence that her devotion outranks the authority of the Church's own leaders eventually gets her in trouble with both the king and the Church. This leads to lots of lofty theoretical dodging about, reminiscent to me of the politically driven debates high authorities must have called on centuries earlier to decide how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

As theater, the drama also becomes rather dodgy. Mostly it is a bunch of guys shouting at each other while Joan responds by refusing to be intimidated.

Exactly what a modern Tucson audience will gain from this isn't clear. Petty does what she can with a role that is not particularly sympathetic. Her accusers are not particularly sympathetic, either.

In the end, “Saint Joan” becomes one of those productions you appreciate, rather than enjoy.

"Saint Joan" runs through Oct. 25 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, at Zuzi Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Ave. Tickets are $25, with discounts. For details and reservations, 401-3626 and windingroadtheater.org