Crowded Fire tells a futuristic Tale of Autumn

Sep 19

Crowded Fire tells a futuristic <i>Tale of Autumn</i>

Who are the good guys/bad guys? What truth lies behind smokescreens and lies? And when good guys resort to bad behavior, doesn't that make them bad guys, thus leaving no good guys and obscured truth?

San Francisco playwright Christoper Chen's world-premiere A Tale of Autumn, a commission from Crowded Fire Theater, is all about good gone bad and bad gone worse. Imagine Google, Oprah and the U.S. Government wrestling with notions of altruism and greed and you get some idea of what Chen is up to here.

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Chen causes masterful Harm in the Playhouse Sandbox

Jun 16

Chen causes masterful <i>Harm</i> in the Playhouse Sandbox

Christopher Chen’s world-premiere play You Mean to Do Me Harm features a cast that includes (from left) Charisse Loriaux as Samantha, James Asher as Ben, Don Castro as Daniel and Lauren English as Lindsey. Below: Loriaux’s Samantha (left) English’s Lindsey go for a hike. Photos by Ken Levin San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen has brains for...

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Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

Dec 28

Theater Dogs’ Best of 2016

The theater event that shook my year and reverberated through it constantly didn't happen on Bay Area stage. Like so many others, I was blown away by Hamilton on Broadway in May and then on repeat and shuffle with the original cast album (and, later in the year, the Hamilton Mix Tape) ever since. Shifting focus back home, theater in the San Francisco Bay Area continues to be a marvel, which is really something given the hostile economic environment arts groups are facing around here.

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Simple command: Catch Caught. Now.

Sep 15

Simple command: Catch <i>Caught</i>. Now.

Watching Christopher Chen's new play Caught in its sublime Shotgun Players production is, in a word, disorienting, and that's a good thing. Even clever folk who think they have it all figured out and are hip to what's going on in this mind-twisting play will experience something new here, and it may not be apparent until they leave the theater. Your trust in what is real, what is true (a major theme of the play), will likely have been somewhat shifted. The absurd things that happen to us on a regular basis and all the things we assume are true suddenly seem challenging and connected, as if we've stepped into a Chen play ourselves.

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Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in Aulis

Mar 07

Of nihilism, comedy and epic theater in <i>Aulis</i>

Award-winning San Francisco playwright Christopher Chen gets deep into existential nihilism in his latest world premiere, Aulis: An Act of Nihilism in One Long Act. That title pretty much says it all: Chen takes the premise of Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis and gives it a contemporary spin that allows for abundant comedy yet still leads to a bloody, ultimately futile end.

Chen's epic one-act receives a spiffy production from U.C. Berkeley's Theater Dance & Performance Studies Department, which seems appropriate as Chen is a Cal alum and began his playwriting career there.

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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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