Empty Nesters explores a grand marital canyon

May 21

<i>Empty Nesters</i> explores a grand marital canyon

A marriage heads over a cliff, literally, in Garret Jon Groenveld's The Empty Nesters, a co-production of PlayGround and Virago Theatre Company and part of PlayGround's 19th annual Festival of New Works.

Luckily, the cliff in question is on the western rim of the Grand Canyon, and there happens to be a popular tourist spot called Skywalk that allows visitors to make a u-shaped jaunt on a glass walkway, with the canyon floor more than 3,000 feet below them.

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Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s Seminar

May 08

Writers’ souls crushed, hilarity ensues in Rebeck’s <i>Seminar</i>

The ego, the insecurity and the courage of fiction writers are all on hilarious and intriguing display in Theresa Rebeck's Seminar, a one-act comedy that derives laughter from pain and theatrical pleasure from whiplash-smart word play.

The premise is simple: four New York writers have paid $5,000 each for 10 weekly classes with a famous writer. They meet in the beautiful (and rent controlled) apartment of one classmate and wait anxiously for the globe-trotting famous guy, who can't really be bothered to remember their names, to pass judgement on their work.

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Actors put some life in SF Playhouse’s Party

Jun 07

Actors put some life in SF Playhouse’s <i>Party</i>

If you've seen a Mike Leigh movie, the conversational rhythms and that true-to-life quality of nothing happening/everything happening will seem familiar on stage in Abigail's Party, a play Leigh devised in 1978 with the help of his actors (Leigh is famous for improvising scripts). Though not nearly as substantial or illuminating as some of Leigh's best movies – Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, Another Year Abigail's Party has some delightful gin-soaked moments as an older couple and a younger couple mix it up Virginia Woolf-style under the wary (and woozy) eye of a neighbor who would probably rather be anywhere but this party.

At San Francisco Playhouse, director Amy Glazer and her quintet of actors is working wonders with the subtext in Leigh's script, finding laughs that perhaps Leigh never even knew about.

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Dating sharp, funny, creepy Becky Shaw at SF Playhouse

Jan 30

Dating sharp, funny, creepy <i>Becky Shaw</i> at SF Playhouse

The humor is in direct proportion to the discomfort in Gina Gionfriddo's Becky Shaw, now in its West Coast premiere at SF Playouse.

If David Mamet were good at anything other than provocation and crisp dialogue, he might write something as entertaining and as distressing as Becky Shaw, a smart, incisive and very funny play that, despite its lack of focus, makes for a beguiling evening of theater.

By lack of focus I mean that Gionfriddo doesn't delineate protagonist or antagonist. Even though the title of the play belongs to one character, the playwright's aim seems much broader – like how power works between family members, between men and women and between the seemingly weak and the seemingly strong. She's interested in highly functional dysfunctional people, which is to say, just about everybody.

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Seducing Amy Glazer (away from the stage)

Nov 28

Seducing Amy Glazer (away from the stage)

Theater folk know Amy Glazer as one of the busiest directors in Bay Area theater. But she also has a burgeoning career as a film director, which is no surprise given that she grew up on movie sets.

I interviewed Glazer for a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle pegging to the release of her second full-length feature, Seducing Charlie Barker, which is based on Theresa Rebeck's play The Scene, which Glazer directed at SF Playhouse in 2008. (Read my review of that production here.)

You can read my interview with Glazer here.

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Taking (Rosen)Stock of comic Tigers and musical Night

Jul 17

Taking (Rosen)Stock of comic <i>Tigers</i> and musical <i>Night</i>

In a recent email chat with playwright Kim Rosenstock (see full interview below), I asked her what Bay Area theatergoers might learn about her if they see both of her shows now on local stages – Tigers Be Still at the SF Playhouse and the musical Fly By Night at TheatreWorks. Her response: "It's probably better that I don't know the answer to this question."

So I will take it upon myself to answer the question for her.

First the easy answer: Rosenstock is smart and funny, and she's a talented, quirky writer. Based on the two shows available – her first in the Bay Area – she is interested in the lives of women in crisis and making choices to climb out of that crisis.

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