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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Greed not so good in ACT’s Napoli!

Feb 20

Greed not so good in ACT’s <i>Napoli!</i>

Scuzza me, but you see back in old Napoli that's...

In the play Napoli!, it's not so much "amore" as it is "controlling the market." American Conservatory Theater's new translation of Eduardo De Filippo's 1945 play eschews the Italian title, Napoli milionaria!, in favor of translators Linda Alper and Beatrice Basso's choice, Napoli!. The exclamation point might suggest a musical (Hello, Mussolini!), but it's probably meant more ironically. Naples during World War II, especially before the allies arrived, was a pretty dismal, bombed-out, typhus-infested place with no shortage of shortages.

Neither a chest-beating drama nor an uproarious comedy, Napoli! resides in an in-between zone...

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The might that is right and Shaw’s Major Barbara

Jan 16

The might that is right and Shaw’s <i>Major Barbara</i>

Might, they say, makes right, but whose might and whose right? Muddled human notions of charity, salvation, integrity and power receive a full-bore workout in George Bernard Shaw's 1905 comedy/drama/call for revolution, Major Barbara. In the American Conservatory Theater production that opened Wednesday (in association with Theatre Calgary), Shaw – especially his rather extraordinary brain – is the star attraction.

The grand and glorious space that is the Geary Theater sometimes gets the better of director Dennis Garnhum (the artistic director of Theatre Calgary), who can't always find ...

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Sam Shepard feels a Holy song coming on

Jan 12

Sam Shepard feels a <i>Holy</i> song coming on

The new year begins with an intriguing, nearly under-the-radar collaboration. American Conservatory Theater and Campo Santo have jumped into the ring formed by Magic Theatre and dubbed Sheparding America, a far-ranging celebration of Sam Shepard that promises to flare for years to come.

Co-directed by Campo Santo's Sean San José and ACT's Mark Rucker and performed in the near-round at ACT's Costume Shop, Holy Crime: Rock 'n' Roll Sam Shepard is an amalgam of Shepard texts with an infusion of live music. The prologue and epilogue come from 1969's Holy Ghostly and the big chunk in the middle comes from 1972 Tooth of Crime (which Shepard revised in 1997).

The best part of the 85-minute show is...

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ACT’s Lintel celebrates life, librarians

Oct 30

ACT’s <i>Lintel</i> celebrates life, librarians

What's the haps in Hoofddorp, you ask? Well, for a small town in Holland, things are pretty dull, actually, thanks for asking. The good news is they've got a heck of a library in Hoofddorp, complete with the Dewey decimal system and time-stamped check-out cards and everything. We know this because a former librarian – we never find out his name – desperately wants to tell us about a life-changing adventure that was triggered by something that happened on an ordinary day on the job at the library.

So goes Glen Berger's Underneath the Lintel, a solo drama now at American Conservatory Theater's Geary Theater. The inestimable David Strathairn is the Librarian, complete with mild Dutch accent (he sounds a little like Tim Conway's Mr. Tudball on the old Carol Burnett Show) and the growing enthusiasm of globe-trotting storyteller on a mission.

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Founding Fathers sing a show tune in ACT’s spirited 1776

Sep 21

Founding Fathers sing a show tune in ACT’s spirited <i>1776</i>

American Conservatory Theater opens the new season with canny revival of the 1969 musical 1776 originally produced last year at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Fla. Tony Award-winning director Frank Galati helmed the patriotic tuner in time for the presidential election (which somehow seems a lot further behind us than just a year), and now he has brought his creative team and his leading players to San Francisco along with a cast fleshed out with some lively locals.

1776 is an unusual choice for a musical and creators Sherman Edwards (music and lyrics) and Peter Stone (book) take a rather unusual approach in that they've crafted more of a play than a musical, but the dozen or so songs somehow work to add a humanizing and emotional layer to a history lesson we think we know but was actually messy and contentious and full of ominous compromise.

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