Bouncy around here: Shotgun’s Virginia Woolf howls

Oct 21

Bouncy around here: Shotgun’s <i>Virginia Woolf</i> howls

Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is famous for being, among other things, a night in the life of a querulous quartet, a four-part marital slugfest, a boozy broadside in four parts. In other words, four actors fighting, lashing out, drinking and suffering. All of that is present and accounted for in director Mark Jackson's production concluding Shotgun Players' 25th anniversary season. But it feels like there's another character here.

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Dear Comrade: No love posted in Aurora’s tense Letters

Apr 25

Dear Comrade: No love posted in Aurora’s tense <i>Letters</i>

After hosting three cabaret performances, the Aurora Theatre Company's rehearsal/black box/office space (the Dashow Wing, to be specific) known as Harry's UpStage at last beings life as a playhouse. The first play in the space, John W. Lowell's The Letters, a tense, 75-minute two-hander about abuse of power and the triumph of smart people.

Director Mark Jackson is known for his kinetic, dynamic productions, but this time out he's confined to one small office...

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Shotgun raises curtain on glorious Gant

Dec 15

Shotgun raises curtain on glorious <i>Gant</i>

From the moment you walk into the Ashby Stage auditorium to see Shotgun Players' Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Loneliness, you know something special is going to happen. The space contains space: the back of a truck has been opened up and turned into a stage, complete with red velvet curtain and strings of festival lights extending out over the audience (the gorgeous design is by Nina Ball). We're about to see theater about theater, and that's exciting.

Playwright Anthony Neilson begins in a cosmic way as our host, Edward Gant (Brian Herndon) explains that humankind is caught somewhere between instinctual beast and a spiritual being. Because we are born and live fully aware of our mortality, that makes all of us innately lonely. For the next hour and a half or so, Mr. Gant promises to ...

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Marin offers a real beauty of a Queen

May 29

Marin offers a real beauty of a <i>Queen</i>

Watching Joy Carlin work her magic Mag Folan in Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the epitome of theatrical delight. Here you have one of the great Bay Area actors offering a sly, darkly humorous, even compassionate portrayal of a woman who could easily be described as a nightmare. Carlin, like the character she's playing, appears to be a lovely older woman. But perhaps unlike Carlin, Mag is something of a sociopath. And that's a trait she's passed along to the youngest of her three daughters, Maureen, played with sinewy gusto by Beth Wilmurt.

That mother-daughter relationship is the crux of Beauty Queen, and the source of its humor, its drama and its horror. Director Mark Jackson's production for Marin Theatre Company etches that relationship with realism and a savory dash of melodrama.

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Of pleasures and Eccentricities

Apr 20

Of pleasures and <i>Eccentricities</i>

Oh, Alma Winemiller. If you had been able to shuck off the burden of having an insane mother and a stern Episcopalian priest for a father, you might have become the woman you were meant to be: Lady Gaga.

OK, that's an exaggeration, but poor Alma is just a heap of talent and emotion and expression aching for release in Tennessee Williams' Eccentricities of a Nightingale, a play with a convoluted history in the Tennessee Williams canon. The Aurora Theatre Company production of the play, directed with finesse and warmth by Artistic Director Tom Ross, makes a case for the play being if not alongside siblings like A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, then at least in an honorable spot somewhere just below.

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The Companion Piece or “I glove you whore”

Jan 23

<i>The Companion Piece</i> or “I glove you whore”

You could throw a lot of adjectives at The Companion Piece, a world-premiere creation by director Mark Jackson, actor Beth Wilmurt and their crew: wily, zany, exciting, perplexing, silly and utterly beautiful. You could throw a lot of words, but they don't quite create the picture of just what the Companion experience is.

To begin with, it's all about entertainment – the old-fashioned, shtick-'em-up vaudeville kind of entertainment. Pratfalls, hoary jokes and razzmatazz. The 80-minute show is bookended by a pasty-faced vaudevillian with spit curls and routine that sputters like a rickety but reliable old car. He does magic. He sings. He says things like, "Do you have a mirror in your pocket? I can see myself in your pants." And then he's done and trundles up to his dressing room alone.

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