Amazing women open doors in The Roommate

May 28

Amazing women open doors in <i>The Roommate</i>

There are several wonderful things about Jen Silverman's The Roommate now at San Francisco Playhouse, not the least of which is that it seriously considers the lives of two women in their 50s and their attempts to grow and change and correct what they perceive as some of the missteps of their lives. The nearly two-hour one-act play, directed by Becca Wolff, is also heartily entertaining, contains some satisfying laughs and creates a showcase for two dynamic actors to create complex characters that are full of surprises.

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Actors put some life in SF Playhouse’s Party

Jun 07

Actors put some life in SF Playhouse’s <i>Party</i>

If you've seen a Mike Leigh movie, the conversational rhythms and that true-to-life quality of nothing happening/everything happening will seem familiar on stage in Abigail's Party, a play Leigh devised in 1978 with the help of his actors (Leigh is famous for improvising scripts). Though not nearly as substantial or illuminating as some of Leigh's best movies – Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, Another Year Abigail's Party has some delightful gin-soaked moments as an older couple and a younger couple mix it up Virginia Woolf-style under the wary (and woozy) eye of a neighbor who would probably rather be anywhere but this party.

At San Francisco Playhouse, director Amy Glazer and her quintet of actors is working wonders with the subtext in Leigh's script, finding laughs that perhaps Leigh never even knew about.

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Aurora’s Heaven falls well short

Feb 01

Aurora’s <i>Heaven</i> falls well short

There's a lot to like in the world premiere of Anthony Clarvoe's family drama Our Practical Heaven at Aurora Theatre Company. Laughs come frequently, the production itself – full of light and space – is lovely and the six women in the cast are all quite interesting.

If only there were more snap, both dark and comic, in Clarvoe's play.

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Annie Baker’s brilliant, reflective Circle Mirror

Aug 08

Annie Baker’s brilliant, reflective <i>Circle Mirror</i>

At once the antithesis of drama (nothing's happening!) and a complete exposure of the theater's guts and bones, Annie Baker's has a particular genius for creating simplicity of the most complex variety.

Earlier this year, the Aurora Theatre Company got the unofficial Annie Baker Bay Area Festival off to a strong start with her Body Awareness about sexual politics in the small university town of Shirley, Vermont. Then SF Playhouse dazzled with the low-key but brilliant The Aliens, also set in the fictional Shirley, about three unlikely friends, music, death and growing up.

Now Marin Theatre Company in a co-production with Encore Theatre Company conclude the Bay-ker Area Fest with what has become her most popular play, Circle Mirror Transformation. Even more than the previous two Baker plays we've seen so far, this one feels even less like a play and more like an actual experience – something carefully captured in the real world and observed within the artful frame of a proscenium stage.

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The Magic’s Lily blooms!

Apr 19

The Magic’s <i>Lily</i> blooms!

There’s a lot of excitement burbling through the Bay Area theater community this spring. One of the reasons is the Magic Theatre’s The Lily’s Revenge, a ballsy five-hour play by Stockton native Taylor Mac.

With five acts performed in five different styles – musical theater, dance, puppets, Elizabethan-style drama – the show has a cast of nearly 40 (all local, by the way) musicians, actors, dancers, acrobats, drag queens, etc. There are actually six directors – one for each act plus one to direct the intermission events between each act. This is definitely the biggest, boldest theatrical event of the spring.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mac and Magic Theatre Artistic Director Loretta Greco for a feature in the San Francisco Chronicle. Read the feature here.

As usual, I couldn’t fit all the good stuff into the story. Here’s more with Taylor Mac.

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Marin’s Seagull: a Chekhovian reverie

Feb 02

Marin’s <i>Seagull</i>: a Chekhovian reverie

As long as we live in a world where celebrity and art continually clash, Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull will feel extraordinarily timely. And as long as people are restless, stingy and full of dreams, Chekhov will continue to offer extraordinary insight to his audiences.

It’s amazing that a flop play from 1896 has become such a resonant classic. From our perspective, Chekhov had the disadvantage of writing in Russian, which means his work has to be filtered through a translator/adaptor – and there have been some big names attached to that duty. Tennessee Williams did it with his “free adaptation” The Notebook of Trigorin. Playwrights Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and Christopher Hampton have all done it as well.

Now former Oregon Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Libby Appel (working from a literal translation by Allison Horsley) brings us her version (a commission of OSF) in a world-premiere production at Marin Theatre Company under the direction of Jasson Minadakis.

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