Shrew you, shutdown! The Taming gets it right

Oct 08

Shrew you, shutdown! <i>The Taming</i> gets it right

The word factions is uttered in a way that makes it sound like the filthiest word you can imagine. And, in these tense government shutdown days, it actually is. But when James Madison says the word, you feel it whistling through the centuries like an airborne bomb that keeps exploding every time political idiocy allows factions (it's such an easy word to say with loathing) to hijack democracy.

The world premiere of San Francisco playwright Lauren Gunderson's The Taming couldn't come at a more volatile time. Our government just happens to be in the middle of a crisis that was anticipated, according to Gunderson's play, by our founding fathers. The wise Mr. Madison did his best to avert the power of the special interests, but he compromised to keep our fledgling country steady and strong, at least to start.

Read More

Crowded Fire plays games with death in 410[GONE]

Jun 11

Crowded Fire plays games with death in <i>410[GONE]</i>

One of life's great mysteries has at last been solved. Those outdated notions of the afterlife involving harps and angels and a paternal, white-bearded God never seemed to catch up with our fast-paced, multicultural world – until now. Thanks to Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's mesmerizing and ultimately moving 410[GONE], now having its world premiere courtesy of Crowded Fire Theater, we know that the afterlife, or at least one vision of it, involves deities from Chinese mythology playing Dance Dance Revolution (an high-energy dancing video game) as a means to transmogrify souls from one life form to the next.

Read More

Crowded Fire’s Bereaved hawks drugs! nudity! absurdity!

Apr 09

Crowded Fire’s <i>Bereaved</i> hawks drugs! nudity! absurdity!

You know you've got your audience right where you want them when they're laughing at the rape fantasy being played out – rather graphically and violently – on stage. It's easy to imagine an audience sitting in wide-eyed horror as the scene, which also involves black face, goes to some surprising places.

But by this point in Thomas Bradshaw's The Bereaved, a Crowded Fire Theater production at the Thick House on Potrero Hill, we've come to expect the outrageous, the politically incorrect, the shocking.

Read More

Chen’s Hundred Flowers wins the Glickman

Jan 22

Chen’s <i>Hundred Flowers</i> wins the Glickman

This being awards season, it's nice to temper all the movie accolades with a homegrown theater award. The Glickman Award, presented each year to the best play that had its world premiere in the Bay Area, comes with a $4,000 cash prize and the honor of having your work set alongside other Glickman winners like Tony Kushner, Denis Johnson and Octavio Solis.

This year's winner is...

Read More

2012 flasback: 10 to remember

Dec 21

2012 flasback: 10 to remember

One of the things I love about Bay Area theater is that picking a Top 10 list is usually a breeze. My surefire test of a great show is one I can remember without having to look at anything to remind me about it. The entire list below was composed in about five minutes, then I had to go look through my reviews to make sure they were all really this year. They were, and it was a really good year.

Read More

Crowded Fire: Please sir, may I have some Mao?

Oct 30

Crowded Fire: Please sir, may I have some Mao?

If Apple or some other high-tech giant was really smart, really forward thinking, they'd head down to the Thick House and check out the West Coast premiere of Christopher Chen's The Hundred Flowers Project, a play that not only has a lot to say about our instantly archived society and its millions of digital histories but also utilizes technology in a fascinating way.

There's something utterly primal about the premise of this Crowded Fire/Playwrights Foundation co-production: members of a San Francisco theater collective gather to create, in the most organic, zeitgeist-melding way, a dazzling piece of theater about the life and rule of Mao Tse Tung that has deep metaphorical connection to our own times. These theater folk are pretentious – the words "zeitgeist" and "congealing" are used so often they may cause indigestion – but they're also real artists trying to create something new and interesting and meaningful.

Read More