A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Dec 22

A hitch in the getalong: Looking back at 2014′s best

Reviewing the shows I reviewed this year, I was struck by two things: first, and as usual, there’s an abundance of talented people doing great work at all levels of Bay Area theater; second, this was a lesser year in Bay Area theater. Perhaps the reason for the later has to do with the changes in the Bay Area itself – artists are fleeing outrageous rents,...

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Speaking words of wisdom, Mother Mary testifies at ACT

Nov 06

Speaking words of wisdom, Mother Mary testifies at ACT

Has any mother ever inspired so much and such varied art?

Colm Tóibín's Testament, now at American Conservatory Theater, is another in a long line of interpretations of Mary, mother of Jesus. In is version, which started life as a Dublin play, then became a novel before being turned into a different play on Broadway last year, Toibin is interested in the humanity of Mary, a mother first and foremost, and a citizen caught up – rather unwillingly – in a dangerous rebellion.

Directed by ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff and starring revered Canadian actor Seana McKenna ...

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Irwin and Shiner: Old Hats are the best hats

Sep 18

Irwin and Shiner: <i>Old Hats</i> are the best hats

I will be the first to admit that clowns have never been a favorite of mine. Not circus clowns, not hobo clowns, not mimes, not even a lot of commedia dell'arte rigamarole. Occasionally, however, I get it – I get the comedy, I get the poignancy, I get the masterful balance of comedy and tragedy in the pursuit of laughs. And by far my favorite clowns – the ones who do it better than just about anybody – are Bill Irwin and David Shiner.

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ACT’s epic Orphan dusts off ancient tale

Jun 12

ACT’s epic <i>Orphan</i> dusts off ancient tale

American Conservatory Theater concludes its season with The Orphan of Zhao an epic tale of revenge that some scholars think stretches back to the fourth century BCE. It's a tale as old as time, and the first act of this 2 1/2-hour show feels like a millennia itself. But once the revenge gears really start grinding, there's an interesting story here. I reviewed the production for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Simplicity, beauty woven into ACT’s Suit

May 01

Simplicity, beauty woven into ACT’s <i>Suit</i>

Simplicity translates into great beauty in The Suit, a skillfully wrought tale that originated as a story by South African writer Can Themba and has been directed for the stage by the legendary Peter Brook who adapted the story with Marie-Hélène Estienne and Franck Krawczyk.

The Suit, adapted from a previous stage version by Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon, is offered as a contemporary fairy tale in the Grimm style. A charming narrator (Jordan Barbour) tells us that this is the kind of story that could only come out of oppression (such as apartheid), but while that feels heavy and ominous (and for good reason), Brook and his team demonstrate such a light touch that we're charmed as the trio of musicians emerges.

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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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