Wilson’s Fences hits hard at Marin Theatre Co.

Apr 16

Wilson’s <i>Fences</i> hits hard at Marin Theatre Co.

I've always been moved by August Wilson's Fences, the 1950s installment of his extraordinary Century Cycle of plays depicting African-American life in the 20th century. But the current production of the play at Marin Theatre Company under the direction of Derrick Sanders made me feel the play in a whole new way.

This has largely to do with Carly Lumbly's wrenching central performance as Troy Maxson.

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Bright and bouncy, Moon’s Sunshine radiates charm

Apr 13

Bright and bouncy, Moon’s <i>Sunshine</i> radiates charm

The song titles say a lot about what this musical is like: "Livin' in the Sunlight," "You Hit the Spot," "Sweeping the Clouds Away." If it seems there's a rosy glow emanating from these titles, that's exactly right. You'll find no more glowing show in town than 42nd Street Moon's first original musical in its two-decade history, Painting the Clouds with Sunshine.

This is a stage musical in love with movies. Creators Greg MacKellan and Mark D. Kaufmann have learned a whole lot from the passing parade of lost, forgotten and banal-to-brilliant musicals...

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To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in Wittenberg

Apr 11

To laugh or not to laugh: that’s the question in <i>Wittenberg</i>

You don't have to have a college degree to enjoy David Davalos' Wittenberg a the Aurora Theatre Company, but it sure will help.

If 16th-century academia is your thing, then you probably already know all about Wittenberg, the German university made famous as the seat of higher learning from which young Prince Hamlet of Denmark returned home after his father's murder.

Wittenberg also happens to be where Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, theologian and lecturer, nailed his 95 provocative thoughts on a church door and sparked the Protestant Reformation. And, to keep things interesting, the hallowed university happens to be where Christopher Marlowe's fictional Dr. Faustus practiced his dark arts.

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Magic’s Five Minutes misses the mark

Apr 06

Magic’s <i>Five Minutes</i> misses the mark

I loved Linda McLean's Any Given Day so much that I proclaimed it my favorite show of 2012 (read my review here). And that makes it all the harder to convey just how much I disliked her world premiere Every Five Minutes at the Magic Theatre.

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Ever the trouper, Liza still wows

Mar 31

Ever the trouper, Liza still wows

Showbiz legend Liza Minnelli, currently in the midst of a multi-city tour with her Simply Liza concert, pulled into Davies Symphony Hall last Friday for a 90-minute show that encompassed old favorites and some nice surprises.

Though the notes aren't all there and her physical condition seems to be posing her some challenges, Minnelli still knows how to work a room. And her fans are as adoring as ever. She performed much of the show from a director's chair at center stage, and watching her get into and out of the chair was a bit she milked as if it were a slapstick routine from her Arrested Development gig.

I reviewed the concert for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a sample...

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Va-va-va Venus! ACT’s Fur flies

Mar 27

Va-va-va <i>Venus</i>! ACT’s <i>Fur</i> flies

Is it just me, or is it hot in this theater?

Live theater is not usually a hotbed of eroticism – so often attempts at sexiness inspire laughs more than they do accelerated heart rates – but the Bay Area of late has been home to some theatrical sexy time. First we got hot and heavy with polyamory in Carson Kreitzer's Lasso of Truth at Marin Theatre Company (read my review here), which featured Wonder Woman's creator happily submitting to the many strengths of his wife and his girlfriend (who also generated their own heat independent of the man).

And now we have David Ives' scintillating (for lots of reasons) Venus in Fur, in which dog collars, leather bustiers, thigh-high black leather boots and degradation play significant parts.

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Crowded Fire saddles up comic Horses

Mar 25

Crowded Fire saddles up comic <i>Horses</i>

There's something very sly at work in She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange, the world-premiere from Amelia Roper with Crowded Fire Theater at the Thick House. From looking at the vivid, sharply designed set by Maya Linke, with its paper sculpture trees and angled artificial grass, it's clear this is not going to be just any walk in the park.

But that's exactly how the play starts: a Sunday in a suburban Connecticut park...

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