Realistic portrait of the abstract artist in SF Playhouse’s Bauer

Mar 23

Realistic portrait of the abstract artist in SF Playhouse’s <i>Bauer</i>

A mysterious chapter in modern art history receives some theatrical exploration in the world premiere of Lauren Gunderson's Bauer at San Francisco Playhouse. If you've never heard of the abstract painter Rudolf Bauer, whom some considered a genius beyond contemporaries like Kandinsky and Klee, that may have something to do with the fact that the Guggenheim Museum in New York, which was built to display his work, kept them instead in the basement out of public view.

That's one of the issues addressed in Bauer, a three-person drama by Gunderson, San Francisco's most prolific and produced playwright.

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Complex Jerusalem unfolds at SF Playhouse

Jan 26

Complex <i>Jerusalem</i> unfolds at SF Playhouse

San Francisco Playhouse deserves tremendous credit for tackling Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, a multi-award-winning play in London and New York whose success hinged, in large part, on a central performance by Mark Rylance, one of our greatest working actors.

Minus Rylance's dazzle, the rambling, shambling play must stand on its own, and there's not much there there, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein.

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Joseph’s Bengal Tiger prowls the SF Playhouse stage

Oct 06

Joseph’s <i>Bengal Tiger</i> prowls the SF Playhouse stage

The last time San Francisco Playhouse produced a play by Rajiv Joseph -- Animals Out of Paper in 2009 -- the young playwright was becoming one of the hottest writers in the country. TheatreWorks produced his The North Pool in 2011, just as his Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was preparing to bow on Broadway in a starry production that featured Robin Williams as the titular caged beast.

Joseph, with his Tony Award and Pulitzer nominations, has fully emerged as an American playwright of note and his work is back at San Francisco Playhouse to launch a new season, the second in the stellar theater on Post Street.

In Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Joseph has crafted a challenging war/ghost story that wrestles with the very notion of god (or, if you prefer, God).

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Ham and jam and Camelot

Jul 25

Ham and jam and <i>Camelot</i>

I never loved Camelot, not ever once in silence. Not in the lusty month of May. Never. And I wanted to because how could you not love the work of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, the guys who created the masterwork known as My Fair Lady? I'm also genetically inclined emotionally hard wired to love anything involving Julie Andrews, who followed up her star-making turn as Eliza Doolittle by playing the placid Guenevere in Lerner and Loewe's adaptation of the King Arthur stories as told in T.H. White's The Once and Future King. But the fact is that the role of Guenevere, like the show in which she's stuck, is a big drag.

How exciting, then, to hear that San Francisco Playhouse was going to re-imagine Camelot as something darker and grittier.

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Wilson Jermaine Heredia goes from Rent to Camelot

Jul 15

Wilson Jermaine Heredia goes from <i>Rent</i> to <i>Camelot</i>

When Wilson Jermaine Heredia decided to make a splash in the Broadway world, he dove right in and created giant waves. For his performance as the dazzling Angel Schunard in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent he won Tony, Drama Desk and Obie awards and was nominated for an Olivier when he reprised the role in London.

Since that splash, Heredia has worked consistently – his most recent Broadway gig was opposite Harvey Fierstein in the Tony-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles, but for his next chapter, the 41-year-old actor has taken a road that has led him away from his native New York (he was born and bred in Brooklyn) and to a new home and a new life here in San Francisco.

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Yo, Mofo! SF Playhouse tips a mighty fine Hat

Feb 06

Yo, Mofo! SF Playhouse tips a mighty fine <i>Hat</i>

[warning: this review does not hide or disguise the word "motherfucker" in the title of the play at hand]

The comedy, the intensity and all that rough language keeps things skittering right along in the San Francisco Playhouse production of The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis. The play is this rush of plot and character and language, then the sadness and despair lands. It takes Lionel Richie and the Commodores to underscore it, but man oh man is it there.

In so many ways, Gurigis' Hat is about growing up, about taking yourself and the world you live in seriously enough to find purpose and pursue it with as much discipline as you can muster. The grown-ups in the play, let it be said, don't do such a good job on the discipline part, although most of them have (or find) some degree of purpose.

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