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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Holy Zuzu’s petals! Get into the spirit with Wonderful Life

Dec 06

Holy Zuzu’s petals! Get into the spirit with <i>Wonderful Life</i>

At a certain point, no matter how much you love Dickens or get your heart cockles warmed by Scrooge and Tiny Tim, you've had it. Enough already with A Christmas Carol. Some years you just need to take a Carol break and find a little holiday spark elsewhere.

This year, if you're searching for an alternative to Ebenezer and his ghosts, I recommend you head to Marin Theatre Company and spend some time with George Bailey and Clarence, his Angel Second Class. It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play takes Frank Capra's much loved 1946 film and turns it into a stage experience by transforming it into a radio play. As re-conceived by Joe Landry, we're in a Manhattan radio station on a snowy Christmas Eve as five actors play all the roles and create all the sound effects for a streamlined version of Capra's story.

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Shadows fall on suburbia in Yockey’s beguiling Bellwether

Oct 12

Shadows fall on suburbia in Yockey’s beguiling <i>Bellwether</i>

Audacious, entertaining and chilling, Steve Yockey’s world-premiere Bellwether at Marin Theatre Company goes where few plays dare to tread.

What starts out as a satiric look at suburban living – Bellwether is a nice neighborhood, we’re told over and over again, a gated community commuter distance from an unnamed big city – quickly becomes a potent family drama. A husband and wife (Gabriel Marin and Arwen Anderson) have hit some rocky ground as they and their about-to-turn-7 daughter try adjusting to suburban living.

The show becomes a crime thriller when little Amy disappears from her bed while her mom was downstairs with a neighbor and a bottle of wine. And then it turns into something Stephen King might dream up in a novel or short story. Yockey delves into the underworld of suburbia, a dark, dangerous place that balances the shiny, happy existence up top. That Yockey – MTC’s playwright in residence for the 2009-10 season – anchors the fantastical aspects of the story with his exploration of family life in the suburbs does him credit. He and director Ryan Rilette manage something very tricky here with a tone that shifts from satirical comedy to high drama to horror.

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Aurora premiere bridges gap between comedy and Collapse

Feb 05

Aurora premiere bridges gap between comedy and <i>Collapse</i>

Sometimes things collapse. Sometimes buildings and bridges, things that are built to physically support us. And sometimes marriages and families, things that are meant to sustain and bolster us, crumble as well.

Both kinds of ruin are examined – sometimes to hilarious comic effect – in Allison Moore's Collapse, a rolling world premiere at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company. The concept of a rolling premiere is essentially a collaboration, in this case with the National New Play Network and Curious Theatre in Denver and Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas.

Director Jessica Heidt's sharp, wildly entertaining production begins on rather a sly note. She has pitched her actors to an extreme level of discomfort, yet their goal is to appear perfectly normal and happy. It's a total sitcom situation – living room set and all – as David (Gabriel Marin) attempts to inject the posterior of his wife, Hannah (Carrie Paff), with fertility drugs. Their chipper anxiety about the fertility process is masking something else. We don't know what, but we sense it's serious. He's drinking too much, she's worried about being laid off from her legal firm and there's a shadow looming over their relationship.

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TheatreWorks’ slam-dunkin’ Donuts

Oct 11

TheatreWorks’ slam-dunkin’ <i>Donuts</i>

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Leslie Martinson, director of Superior Donuts, should bring together such good actors. Martinson is also the company's casting director and has been with TheatreWorks for 26 years. Some directors say that casting is more than 50 percent of directing, and that's probably true for Martinson, though she's clearly a solid director (I loved her Theophilus North three years ago).

Howard Swain stars as donut shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski, an aging hippie who can't really be bothered by life, which he describes as "a derailment." He runs his shabby donut shop and doesn't much care that the new Starbucks across the street is killing his business. For him, the business has been dead for years. Swain conveys Arthur's detachment while making us care about him. Arthur has made some rough decisions in his life, and his troubled relationship with his now-dead father complicate his emotional life as well as his relationships with his own fractured family.

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It’s alive! Death and theater

Oct 26

Two extraordinary shows are lighting up Bay Area stages, and in each of them, the specter of death hovers in the shadows. In Trevor Allen’s intelligent, compassionate adaptation of Frankenstein at the Thick House, Victor Frankenstein defies death by creating life from dead parts and cowering from the unexpected results. Over at Intersection for the Arts,...

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