Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s Rapture

Sep 05

Porn, feminism and laughs in Aurora’s <i>Rapture</i>

There's an observation about Internet porn in Gina Gionfriddo's Rapture, Blister, Burn now at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company that is at once hilarious and trenchant. A college woman encapsulates the ease of access to porn this way: "Once you get directions from Google Maps, it seems such a hassle to unfold an actual map."

Generational differences and technology come into play a lot in Rapture, a crackling season opener for the Aurora. Gionfriddo is a smart, feisty writer who knows her way around a joke that always contains more than a laugh. She tackles the gargantuan issue of feminism and its evolution into the 21st century and comes through with a stage full of surprising, complicated characters having passionate, always intriguing discussions.

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Blood, gore, giggles galore at Impact Theatre

Mar 07

Blood, gore, giggles galore at Impact Theatre

Blood is fun – at least it is within the confines of Impact Theatre's omnibus presentation Bread and Circuses, a collection of nine short plays fairly dripping with the thick red stuff.

As you'd expect with such an assortment, there's a wide variety in style and substance here. There's also one easy-to-draw conclusion: endings are hard.

The most satisfying entries in this two-hour experience at LaVal's Subterranean include...

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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...

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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.

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Country-fried Bear offers finger-lickin’-good comedy

Aug 22

Country-fried <i>Bear</i> offers finger-lickin’-good comedy

Falling in love with a playwright whose work you're experiencing for the first time feels like Christmas morning at age 6 – giddy excitement, new toys, wonder and sugar high all wrapped up in a nice holiday package. That's what it felt like the other night at the Boxcar Playhouse watching Crowded Fire Theater Company's production of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, a new play by Lauren Gunderson, a Georgia native who now lives and works in San Francisco.

Taking her cue from the most famous stage direction in all of Shakespeare (The Winter's Tale, Act III, scene iii), Gunderson returns to the hills of Northern Georgia for a crispy revenge drama served up with salty laughs and the kind of clever attention to detail that signals the arrival of a writer to whom you should pay attention. When writers say they're going to tackle a serious subject from a comic angle, they're really just marketing a heavy drama that maybe has a laugh or two but really it just makes you want to kill yourself.

Gunderson really does just that.

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