SF Playhouse’s Stupid Bird f##king soars

Mar 22

SF Playhouse’s <i>Stupid Bird</i> f##king soars

In Aaron Posner's Stupid Fucking Bird, an energizing riff on Chekhov's The Seagull, a playwright laments that what he's written is just another play where nothing real happens. You can't really say the same thing about Posner's play.

Bird doesn't change the world, as the fictional playwright at one point says that theater should aim to do, but it does rattle the theatrical cage and clears away some musty clouds that hover over business as usual. It's irreverent, gutsy, funny and even moving – everything you want Chekhov to be but so rarely find in his productions.

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Why won’t Baryshnikov smile?

Jan 27

Why won’t Baryshnikov smile?

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mikhail Baryshnikov has once again crossed paths with high art. The legendary dancer has aged into a successful career as an actor/performance artist. At 66, he could simply retire. Or teach. But he continues to push himself in new directions.


This time out he is working with Big Dance Theater's Annie-B Parson and Paul Lazar to adapt to Anton Chekhov short stories ("Man in a Case" and "About Love") from later in the celebrated writer's career. But these aren't simple, straightforward adaptations. No, these are video installations. These are dance-movement pieces. These are...

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Vodka, misery and beauty: family time with Three Sisters

Apr 14

Vodka, misery and beauty: family time with <i>Three Sisters</i>

Time aches in Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s elegiac Three Sisters. The past is where true happiness lived (in Moscow), and the future holds the promise of reviving that happiness (in Moscow). But the present (not in Moscow) is just a painful stretch to be endured and lamented.

That Anton Chekhov was a harvester of human souls, and the crop he tended was ripe with sorrow, loss and, perhaps worst of all, indifference. This is readily apparent in director Les Waters’ production of Three Sisters on the intimate Thrust Stage.

There’s warmth and humor emanating from the stage as we meet the soldiers, staff and sisters in a well-appointed country home, but once we get to know the characters a little bit, it’s one big stream of thwarted desire, boredom, frustration and self-delusion.

It sounds like misery, but between Chekhov and Waters, we’re treated to an exquisitely staged, deeply compassionate exploration of mostly unhappy people.

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Marin’s Seagull: a Chekhovian reverie

Feb 02

Marin’s <i>Seagull</i>: a Chekhovian reverie

As long as we live in a world where celebrity and art continually clash, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull will feel extraordinarily timely. And as long as people are restless, stingy and full of dreams, Chekhov will continue to offer extraordinary insight to his audiences.

It’s amazing that a flop play from 1896 has become such a resonant classic. From our perspective, Chekhov had the disadvantage of writing in Russian, which means his work has to be filtered through a translator/adaptor – and there have been some big names attached to that duty. Tennessee Williams did it with his “free adaptation” The Notebook of Trigorin. Playwrights Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and Christopher Hampton have all done it as well.

Now former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Libby Appel (working from a literal translation by Allison Horsley) brings us her version (a commission of OSF) in a world-premiere production at Marin Theatre Company under the direction of Jasson Minadakis.

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Review: `Uncle Vanya’

Aug 13

Continues through Aug. 31 at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda Annie Purcell is Sonya and Dan Hiatt is Vanya in Cal Shakes’ beautiful, moving production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Photos by Kevin Berne   Beauty, boredom, brilliance imbue Cal Shakes’ Vanya ««« ½   Passion runs deep in Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, but until late in...

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Dan Hiatt on Chekhov, regret and gunshots

Aug 05

Last summer, Dan Hiatt was in three California Shakespeare Theater shows, including The Triumph of Love (above, with Domenique Lozano). This summer he is playing the title character in Cal Shakes’ Uncle Vanya. Photo by Kevin Berne Actors tend to love working on Chekhov plays. There aren’t many of them, but they’re juicy – rich in character,...

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